Imagine being a child during COVID-19…

 In Special Appeals

If you have felt scared during this crisis at some point, imagine how frightened a child must feel. No school, no playdates, no birthday parties, no visits to grandma — it is a tough time to be a kid. Children look to adults for a sense of safety. Fortunately, in September, Tucker Maxon was able to reopen onsite, giving our students much-needed stability, connection and in-person instruction. The last eight months have been quite a journey.

I want to be very direct with you… Tucker Maxon is facing the most challenging year in the school’s history.   We are open in-person, but due to COVID-19, we anticipate ending this fiscal year with a significant loss. Can you please make a gift today to help the school survive this pandemic? We cannot do this important work without you.

In March, when Governor Brown closed Oregon schools, our teachers sprang into action, organizing textbooks, laptops, and even personalized selections from the school’s library for each student. Teachers spent spring break rewriting curriculum for their new virtual classrooms. Our IT manager scrambled to distribute laptops with cameras to staff, and ordered headsets with microphones. KGW News even featured Tucker Maxon as a model of distance learning.

As you know, distance learning is far from ideal for children and teachers.While challenging for most students, online classes were particularly difficult for students who are deaf and hard of hearing. Over the summer, 91% of Tucker Maxon parents told us they needed school to re-open onsite. In June, we got permission to operate Tucker Arts Camp as emergency childcare, prioritizing children of essential workers. Camp opened on June 22, helping us test our new health and safety protocols. We are pleased to report that in eight weeks of camp, we had no cases of COVID-19. This success gave us confidence that we could safely reopen school this fall.

In addition, over the summer, our new HVAC system was installed. The timing was incredibly fortunate. We campaigned the state legislature for $500,000 over two years ago, long before anyone had heard of COVID-19. We replaced our 67-year-old heating system with a new, state-of-the-art HVAC, which features much better ventilation and filtration systems to help us keep staff and children safe.

Meanwhile, Principal Jennifer Carver and I drafted a health and safety plan to reopen the school. The uncertainty was palpable. Parents feared an entire year of lost education. Staff wanted to know if they still had jobs. When Portland Public Schools announced schools would not open in person, Tucker Maxon found a way. In late August, we obtained Oregon Department of Education approval tore-open the school.

Can you please make a generous gift this holiday season to help educate deaf and hard of hearing children during the COVID-19 pandemic?

The effort it took to reopen safely on September 15 was monumental. Tucker Maxon is one of the only K-5 schools in Portland to reopen in-person. We hired new staff members, including teachers, educational assistants, floating subs, and a new Audiologist. During staff orientation, when we thought things could not get any worse, wildfires put one-third of our staff under evacuation orders. With the air quality so bad, the new HVAC system was essential. As an extra precaution, we purchased 15 in-room HEPA air purifiers for every classroom and office.

School looks a lot different this fall. Each classroom has a maximum of ten children. Each class arrives at their own separate entrance. Teachers wear specially-designed face coverings and check students’ temperatures. Children wash their hands in class immediately upon entry and frequently throughout the day. Masked students sit at physically-distanced desks rather than our typical group tables. When a child needs to go to the bathroom, a staff member escorts them, and then sanitizes after each use. Students spend as much time as possible outdoors, under four large canopies we purchased. Music and art are now taught exclusively outside.

While school looks different this year, Tucker Maxon still provides the vital connection, education, and fun children need during this difficult time, especially children who are deaf and hard of hearing. However, providing all of these safety measures is expensive. In order to open safely, we had to hire additional staff to serve fewer students based on the state’s COVID restrictions. That means costs are up, while tuition revenue is down. We estimate increased staff, PPE, cleaning supplies, air purifiers and filters, etc. will cost us an additional $156,000 this year. Can you please help us cover these extra COVID costs?

Tucker Maxon is facing the most significant crisis in its 73-year history. Over 50% of our funding come from donors like you. We receive no government funding. We cannot do this important work without your support. We are grateful for your past gifts. Can you please make a gift today to ensure Tucker Maxon emerges from this crisis stronger than ever?

Click here to make a gift today.

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