Six-year-old Lucy Smith had a question for her mother, Lindsay, over Spring Break: what is this COVID and will it come to Brownwood?
It was March 2020, and the family was spending Spring Break in Rockport.
"No, Lucy, we’re fine," Smith, who was weeks away from being name principal at Brownwood High School, answered her daughter.
Smith said Lucy reminds her of the conversation.
"As parents, we can be so arrogant," Smith said. "We’ll be fine, Brownwood won’t get COVID, COVID’s just something that is happening in New York City. I remember saying that.
"And then toward the end of Spring Break, COVID started to ramp up across the United States and in Texas. By the time we got back from Spring Break, we had already extended Spring Break another week. I’ll never forget sitting at the dinner table the second week of Spring Break and Lucy saying ‘I thought you said COVID would never come to Brownwood.’"
Smith said she thinks the school year ended up, with all instruction being done online, "as well as it could under the circumstances. It just happened so suddenly that COVID had become such a real issue for Texas and for Central Texas and for Brown County. I think in spite of all that, we were able to offer an education to kids and finish out the year as strong as you could under the circumstances."
With the start of the new school year less than two weeks away, Smith addressed activities of groups including band, choir, theatre and the Lionettes in a COVID-impacted school year.
The band and Lionettes will give half-time performances at football games, although both groups will be seated in chairs on the track when not performing half time show.
"Everybody will get to do their stuff," Smith said. "The only difference will be the Lion Crew. They won’t be able to go on the field. But they’ll still get to do the flags on the track. For the kids, what is so good about this is, we will get to have full participation for the kids and that’s all I want."
Leaders in the fine arts areas have looked at UIL safety regulations and precautions.
"They’ve all gone above and beyond," Smith said. "Theatre has added extra regulations for their kids in terms of blocking and how far apart they’re going to stand while they’re practicing. They’re going to wear the face shields so they can still work on stage and be able to project as much as they can.
"Choir will have face masks they will use that are specifically designed for that. I didn’t even know that those things existed but they do and they will be also be social distancing in the choir room."
There will be no fall performances by theatre and choir. The hope is that both groups can participate in spring competition, Smith said.
"We’re hoping by then there will be something more in place, and maybe COVID will have died down some," Smith said. "We just don’t know what spring will bring with that."
Normally theatre puts on a fall musical. "Right now we’re not going to do that," Smith said. "We don’t see how we can do that safely within the guidelines that they have right now."
During the fall, theatre students will do a lot of practicing and will look at streamlining mini-performances, Smith said.
She said theatre director Shannon Lee has indicated she will try to find new, innovative and creative ways for the students to practice performing.
"We’re just all trying to make things as normal as possible within this abnormal time," Smith said.