Stormy Season of Leaving: PCSing during the Pandemic

By Terri Barnes

Military families moving in the midst of pandemic conditions are experiencing a stormy Season of Leaving. For these families, a solid exit plan and good communication are more important than ever, say Amanda Trimillos, EdD, and Stacy Allsbrook-Huisman, authors of Seasons of My Military Student: Practical Ideas for Parents and Teachers.

Both Amanda’s and Stacy’s families are set to move this summer. Their permanent change of station (PCS) orders put their families in the Season of Leaving, in spite of temporary delays caused by the Pentagon’s stop-move order.

The milestones of the Season of Leaving are often set and scheduled weeks or even months in advance. Families move from anticipation of a move, to official orders, to preparation, to departure in a fairly predictable procession. For Amanda and Stacy and thousands of military families like theirs, coronavirus circumstances have complicated that process.

Plan and Communicate

“Storms can happen in any season, and this is a storm,” says Amanda. “Families might be in the Season of Leaving or getting into the groove in the Season of Growing, or even the Season of Thriving. Everybody right now is in the storm of this coronavirus, but they can still move forward by using helpful tools.”

In a stormy Season of Leaving, Amanda and Stacy say tools like an exit plan and good communication are essential. The exit plan should consider various possibilities when the outlook is uncertain, and communication keeps the family and school on the same page.

Everybody right now is in the storm of this coronavirus, but they can still move forward by using helpful tools.

~ Amanda Trimillos

“For a while, our orders were on hold, and we didn’t know if we were moving,” says Stacy. “I had my son pre-register for his high school classes here in Florida for next year just in case we stayed here.” At the same time, she planned for the upcoming move so both her children would be ready for that possibility.

Amanda’s family is moving back from Germany, with all that goes into an overseas move plus four children taking online classes at their DODEA schools.  One week her oldest daughter had four projects due—the same week the packers were scheduled, so advance planning and good communication really paid off.

“I’m so glad we were communicating often with the teachers so she could do those projects in advance,” says Amanda. “Because we found out about the assignments ahead of time, we were able to get the supplies she needed, and she was able to complete them before our packers arrived.”

Build the Binder

Another important part of the exit plan is gathering documents for a student’s Education Binder.

“At a time when we are physically disconnected, it’s even more important to stay tuned in to the tasks of transitioning out of school properly and getting ready to enter a new school,” says Stacy.

“Now more than ever,” says Stacy, “the Education Binder is the only fall-back if there is a significant lapse in time the records are received. Parents must take on an advocacy role and not let their military kids fall through the cracks. Gather as much data as possible ahead of time, and hand carry records to assure their child’s academic continuity. Hand carry them. I can’t emphasize that enough.”

At a time when we are physically disconnected, it’s even more important to stay tuned in to the tasks of transitioning out of school properly and getting ready to enter a new school.

~ Stacy Allsbrook-Huisman

Planning for different scenarios also includes different possibilities for the coming school year.

“We don’t know what back to school will look like next year,” Stacy says. “School situations will likely vary from place to place. It’s a good idea to research the situation where you are going, and mentally prepare for various possibilities.”

With the move coming up, Stacy says their family’s life is very task-oriented right now, but they are making time for fun for some necessary stress relief.

“Kids will pick up on their parents’ emotions, so we are having fun in between the serious,” she says.

Stick With the List

Amanda and Stacy suggest adding these items to any to do list for an upcoming move:

  • Gather records for your students. Amanda: “Don’t wait. Ask now for teacher-to-teacher letters from significant educators in your student’s life.” Parents can also supplement the binder by documenting any online courses or projects their students are taking, even if they are not for grade or school credit. Use screen shots or print out certificates and student work to show proficiency.
  • Plan ahead for next year’s school supplies. Stacy: “Think about what you will need if in-home learning continues next fall.”
  • Pack masks and other protective supplies for travel. Stacy: “Flying overseas or driving through various states may make it difficult to purchase supplies while traveling.”
  • Don’t forget the usual transition checklist, even in these unusual circumstances. Amanda: “Communicate with receiving schools. Find out what their outlook is for fall classes. Register your students.”

“Soon we’ll be in another Season of Arriving,” says Amanda, “and we hope the storm will seem less stormy. Even if this move looks and feels different than the last move, adjusting to a new place will present the same challenges, and some new ones. Good planning and continued communication will help us meet them.”

Terri Barnes is a veteran military spouse whose three military children attended more than twenty-five schools from Pre-K to high-school graduation. As senior editor for Elva Resa Publishing, Terri was the lead editor of  Seasons of My Military Student: Practical Ideas for Parents and Teachers.


Amanda and Stacy answer frequently asked questions about transitions during the pandemic in this article for PCSGrades.

Terri offers healthy tips for moving with kids in this article in Military Family Life.