Dear Abrome Learners and families,
We published the first version of this contingency planning document on June 9, 2020. This document outlined our plan for how we could more safely be together during the pandemic, and allowed our community to have more certainty about what the 2020–2021 academic year would look like. It also made clear that we were going to place community care before convenience, and people before profits. We would err on the side of centering the needs of those people who were most at risk of serious illness or death: the elderly, those with certain underlying medical conditions, BIPOC communities, those without material resources.
Our approach to the pandemic set us apart. We took everything outdoors in small cohorts of Learners and Facilitators. We prevented cross exposure by keeping cohorts physically distant from each other, and never having siblings in different cohorts (no matter their ages). We also held firm to stage based standards for coming together, to include shutting down in-person meetups when we hit the highest risk stage level of the pandemic in January and February of 2021. And our focus on community care extended beyond Abrome — Facilitators, Learners, and family members were all asked to adhere to Covid-19 protocols at home, and to be transparent and honest about situations that could put others at risk of exposure.
The people who make up the community at Abrome are as unique as our approach to the pandemic. Everyone at Abrome fundamentally agrees that children and adolescents should have autonomy over their lives and that they should be treated as full human beings. They recognize that the most important things young people can learn are completely left out of schoolish curriculum, such as how to find meaning in the world, how to build relationships with others, how to manage conflict, how to discover their own interests and gifts, and how to be with and enjoy oneself. They also understand that building community and being in community with others is vital to human flourishing.
There are not many parents and guardians who trust their children enough to allow them to experience Self-Directed Education in lieu of schooling in the best of times. And Abrome’s vigilant approach to protecting one another and the public during this pandemic shrunk that pool even further. But our collective focus on community care has allowed us to navigate this pandemic year in the most admirable of ways. Not only have we not had a single infection within our community (which means we have not contributed to the growth of the pandemic in any way), we have been able to support and hold one another through economic recession and hardship, an uprising centered on rejecting police brutality and racial injustice, right wing street violence and an attempted coup, and a debilitating winter storm that left millions without energy or water.
The pandemic is not over. As of March 27, 2021, the national 7-day moving average of new cases and deaths were still over 60,000 and 1,000, respectively. While much of society is eager to “return to normal,” we recognize that “normal” was never good enough. We will be able to loosen protocols as vaccinations increase and when community spread becomes rare. Eventually, we will be able to come back together indoors, although it may be limited to vaccinated Learners at first. This continues to be a living document. Thank you for your continued vigilance, your concern for others in our community, and your concern for broader society.
With love and gratitude,
March 28, 2021