Baltimore School Leaders and Their Response to COVID-19 – Dr. Katrina Foster, Hampden Elementary/Middle School

In light of recent events, the Fund asked a group of City Schools’ principals to share their perspectives and experience in grappling with school closures and the COVID-19 crisis. In our first blog post of this series, Dr. Katrina Foster, principal of Hampden Elementary/Middle School, describes how the unprecedented situation has given rise to collective support and solidarity in her school’s community:

Over the past week, I’ve witnessed our world turn upside down. The public health emergency has ushered us into a new frontier, full of equal parts panic and pressure. As a principal in Baltimore City Schools, my technical and adaptive arsenal of skills were put to the test as I had to lead my school community through a maze of worries, fears, and concerns. It seems like the tasks and plans we were working on—planning for standardized testing, organizing end of year ceremonies and field trips, and conducting formal teacher observations – were instantly replaced with copying learning packets, organizing food distribution, and securing cleaning supplies for classrooms, hallways, and lockers. No one could have expected the sudden change of direction to occur, so no one knew to prepare for this. Yet, I have been both personally and professionally encouraged by the outpouring of help, hope, and humility I’ve seen by a diverse cross-section of my school’s community over the past week:

-School custodians are taking special care to clean and disinfect learning spaces.

-Students and families are picking up learning packets with the same level of energy and excitement they bring to school every day.

-Educators are figuring out creative ways to keep students engaged in the learning process.

-Community residents and volunteers are helping their neighbors, some of whom they had never met or interacted with before.

Our actions today are laying the foundation for the new normal our world is creating. Without question, there are loads of unanswered concerns that demand attention and scores of unknown scenarios that we are expected to prepare if one, some, or all of these circumstances become a part of our new reality. After all, dogged resiliency is still the order of the day, regardless of the current challenging times.

And, without question, I am proud to work as a principal of City Schools, where we are called to lead with love.