Back to School and Ready Again

Welcome balloons decorated the entrance, and music was in the air when students arrived on campus for the first day of the 2021–2022 academic school year. “The Bluetooth speaker was positioned outside, near the Activity Center, during morning carpool,” described Interim Director of the Lower School Robyn Nichols. “As teachers on duty opened car doors, students and parents heard the sound of music, and they loved it!” 

Each divisional director aimed to make the start of this school year extra special in different ways that were not possible the previous year due to the coronavirus pandemic restrictions. Middle and Upper School orientation and community-building activities were essential parts of the back-to-school effort. “We worked hard to get them connected quickly,” said Upper School Director Don Paige. 

Often, the most gratifying moments involved reintroducing parts of school life that had been halted. Middle School Director Brian Lamont explained, “The ‘special’ part was returning to most of our regular orientation activities. It made a huge difference being able to spend the first few days with our usual interactive advisory games.”

 The attentive planning and care involved throughout the 2020–2021 school year led to success with in-person and remote learning options, all of which provided a foundation to build upon and prepare for this year’s full return to in-person learning. “We know more about what works, we know more about how to stay healthy, and we know how important it is for students to be on campus,” said Paige. 

Lamont is especially pleased about the expanded use of the Middle School facilities. “The opening of the Peterson Middle School last year gave us the space we needed to offer in-person learning every day of the week. We spent the year figuring out how to make it work and looking forward to a time when we could use the spaces as they were designed and intended. This has felt like our second first year in the building. While we haven't yet been able to gather everyone in the Commons for a Town Meeting, we have been able to explore and troubleshoot many other areas — from the project spaces to our proximity to the Upper School.”

Though there are limitations still to contend with, optimism blended with reality is the general approach to moving ahead. “There is no doubt that COVID continues to impact the School in various ways,” said Nichols. “Our goal for this school year is to take one day at a time and extend grace toward our students and to each other. This year, students are able to interact with their peers in other classrooms within the same grade, which is a huge contrast from them remaining in the classroom for the majority of the day last year. Also, rather than students being assigned to an area on the field and required to play within their assigned space due to physical spacing requirements during break and recess, they are running, climbing, jumping rope, and playing basketball and kickball this year. It continues to be a joy to just watch them be kids!”