Principal Peyton Chapman can't escape the challenges of the present as a new school year begins at Lincoln High in Portland.
Yet the focus of the veteran school administrator is also on the near future: the new Lincoln structure is one year from opening. Speaking Aug. 31 to Pearl Rotary (where she's an honorary member), Peyton confessed to anxious days and sleepless nights as students returned in masks and with social distance protocols.
"We have a problem: we're in an outdated building...the original bathrooms haven't changed since 1950." The portable classrooms that surround LHS are better sized than the small classrooms in the original school. HEPA filters are in every room.
"We feel okay to open classes safely," she observed...but quickly admitted: "We do have a heightened anxiety in our teachers." And the 1,500 LHS students?
"Students want us to be very safe and careful...in an environment as normal as possible." Additional support personnel is available, specifically for students with Covid-era mental health challenges (suicide among them).
Peyton supports the return of Portland Public Schools to in-person teaching. The last year of virtual learning impressed her that "the risks of not having kids in school is higher."
She added later: "It was hard last year, lots of trauma." Now in her sixteenth year at Lincoln, Peyton shared that most in the community support education decisions (typically made by state, county, and local government officials). But not all are in agreement. The prevalence of social media has changed communications...and too often negatively.
She shared one challenging call she took during school closings: "Resign now. If you can't get the kids back in school, then we will."
A resignation is not happening, her audience in the Ecotrust conference room (and virtually) could sense. The return of spectators at football games brings glimpses of normal school life. "The Sound of Music" will return to the LHS auditorium next spring--"masked or unmasked," she promised.
Peyton looks forward to the new school opening and a tour she offered to her fellow Rotarians. She saluted PPRC for its social justice initiatives, for the book club, and for the ongoing support of students. The club's reach-out over the last two years to McDaniel H.S. (formerly Madison) also has her clear support.
Succinctly put: "I love this club."