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Rooted In Legacy

COVID-19 Open Letter to The Piney Woods School Family

April 16, 2020
By Will Crossley, President

Dear Piney Woods School Family,

We find ourselves in unprecedented times, confronting a truly global epidemic that is disrupting nearly every aspect of our lives. Here at Piney Woods, we confront new and uncharted challenges too, with uncertain outcomes. I find great fortitude in the fact we are facing these challenges together, as we have for many years, and I am confident our resolve, resilience, and resourcefulness will bring us through this moment in our history. 

Last week, we announced that our students would continue remote learning through the close of this academic year, and that campus housing will be closed to students until further notice.

Many of you are aware of the myriad adjustments and changes we have made to respond to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Some of those decisions were fairly straightforward, like quickly transitioning to online learning for our students. Other decisions proved to be quite difficult, but ultimately necessary, like furloughing members of our staff until we are able to fully reopen our campus. We have made these decisions not for today, but to benefit future generations. It is ever present for me that we stand on extraordinary shoulders.

And yet, I would be remiss if I did not reiterate how particularly difficult, disappointing, and distressing this time is for some members of our family, particularly the Class of 2020. These scholars have excelled for several years at Piney Woods and again this year all of them have been admitted to college. Still, they will not be able to experience the customary end-of-year activities or ceremonial commencement of their post-secondary journeys. Our daughter is among those who will miss out on these milestone events, and it pains me and other ‘graduating parents’ to think about what they may lose.

Even in this brief moment of sorrow, we nonetheless appreciate what we can gain together. In this temporary age of social distancing, we are finding new ways to stay connected and involved, using an array of apps--and even old school technology like phones--to reach out to members of our family currently spread out across the globe. Treasuring these connections is important, as is recognizing the precious sanctity and solitude our campus provides.

This pandemic is far from over; we have many long weeks, and perhaps months, ahead of us. Piney Woods too is far from over; we are undergirded by the many long years and sacrifices that precede us. And, how we rise in the aftermath of COVID-19 depends upon us.

Two weeks ago, I showed one of our new farmers the preserved original site of our school, including the log cabin and final resting places of our founders. While there, I was reminded that together we have overcome Jim Crow, the 1918 flu pandemic, the Great Depression, two world wars, and more. At every turn, our success has always been made possible by the support of others. Today’s challenge is new, but our tenacity to withstand it is intently part of who we are. 

A few days ago, as we prepared our farm for Spring planting, the same new farmer reminded me that “to plant a seed is to believe in tomorrow.” This axiom  has driven our work since 1909. We do this work by investing in tomorrow’s scholars. Our student scholarship fund is significantly oversubscribed, but your support can help us close the gap. Please consider planting a seed with us by making a gift to our scholarship fund today at One hundred years from now, when our successors reflect upon “our” legacy, your gift will have made the difference.

With immense gratitude, I thank you for your continuous support of The Piney Woods School.

Sincerely and humbly yours,

Will Crossley, President

Tags: COVID-19

Overcoming COVID-19 Requires Commitment

March 26, 2020
By Will Crossley, President

I felt some anxiety about writing this letter because the impact of COVID-19 initially felt so overwhelming. A few days ago, however, I took one of our new farmers to visit the founding site of our school.  There, standing next to the cedar tree where the first student learned to read, my commitment was renewed. I realized our mission of freedom through education means as much today as it ever has. 

With this backdrop, I write with gratitude for how you and donors like you have allowed our response to COVID-19 to be decisive and effective. Amid the uncertainty of COVID-19, we remain committed. We have modified access to our campus, but innovative learning  continues for our students. Here’s how:  

  • On the advice of health professionals, we have temporarily closed on-campus student housing, except for international students – faculty remain on site too;  
  • Our students, who were already using online curriculum materials, were able to transition to distance learning from their homes throughout the nation; and, 
  • Our faculty – true heroes in this transition – established video conference “classrooms,” revised protocols and expectations, and conducted tutorials for parents and students. 

When classes resumed this week, students seamlessly adapted to the changes. Our transition was designed, incubated, and executed in less than a week because of donor support like yours. Three years ago, you helped us launch a 1 to 1 technology program, providing a laptop to every enrolled student. Donor support spurred advancement that expanded our campus WiFi access and upgraded software systems. We firmly believe that distance learning holds much promise for our students. 

What’s coming next? The financial impact of COVID-19 challenges our ability to continue the work that we have pursued for more than a century. We need further investment in technology, which is now  essential to keep pace with distance learning requirements. Many of our families report layoffs and personal financial disruptions that no longer allow them to meet their parental contributions. As we enter the final quarter of our fiscal year, an existing gap in our oversubscribed  student scholarship fund is growing wider.  

At the founding site of our school, I was reminded we have overcome Jim Crow, the 1918 flu pandemic, the Great Depression, two World Wars, and the 2008 recession. At every turn, our success has been made possible by the support of others. To withstand today’s pandemic, we need your help. Please consider helping us close the gap by supporting our scholarship fund today. One hundred years from now, when our successors reflect upon our legacy, your gift will have made the difference. 

With deep appreciation, 

Will Crossley, President 

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4/16/20 - By Will Crossley, President
3/26/20 - By Will Crossley, President

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