Earlier this week at the virtual Middle School Talent Show, Reed Gabhart shared how it was this time last year when we first began adjusting to virtual ways of connecting and building community, and virtual meetings, at that time, being the primary means of connecting. The Middle School Talent Shows, both this year and last year, showcased the spark, joy, and tenacity of our Middle School Wyverns. (Henry Johnson on piano is not to be missed! And neither is Molly Waggener, the last of a long line of Waggeners to perform in Middle School Talent Shows, performing vocals to rival Adele’s original while accompanied by her brother, Nate.) Upon hearing Reed’s reflection on the joy we felt this time last year in our ability to gather virtually, I began remembering how in May of 2020, there were still so many unknowns about what school might look like for us this year and what the pandemic might mean for our School community. To say this has been a school year for the history books is no understatement.
Through the support and relentless efforts of every single teacher, staff member, and administrator, and through our families’ trust and faith in our ability to deliver our Mission and Values, we have continued the important work of teaching and learning in the most joyful manner possible, whether learning remotely or six feet apart in masks. Never did I imagine we’d have directional arrows on the floors of our Progressive School where, in non-pandemic times, “Wise Freedom” often looks like free-range children, skipping through the hallways to classes. Never could I have imagined having to ask parents to refrain from entering the building without an appointment, but finally we are welcoming parents back into the building for performances and to help with lunch.
While we were ready to open in person last August, you’ll recall that we started the school year remotely based on Governor Beshear’s request of all schools in the Commonwealth. After flying the remote learning airplane that we refined and revised over the summer to start the school year, we finally opened in person on Tuesday, September 29th for families who chose in-person learning. We remained in person throughout the entire months of October and November until the Governor again asked that all schools in Kentucky close between the Thanksgiving holiday and the reopening of schools for the spring semester in January. The changes often felt like logistical whiplash. Yet, to see the adaptability of our students sitting in solo-seats, as opposed to at shared tables, working in groups, and students remaining in the same room for most of the day while teachers hurriedly scooted from room to room, their students’ learning materials organized on carts, is a change I won’t soon forget. The ingenuity, creativity, and adaptability of our talented teachers in making concerted efforts to increase student engagement and learning this year inspires true Wyvern pride.
After one “buffer” remote learning week to ensure the health and safety of our community following the Semester Break holidays, we engaged in five weeks of in-person learning leading up to the February Winter Break. While some students remained remote learners, many chose to return to in-person learning, and we’ve seen the number of in-person learners increase steadily throughout the school year. All of this is a testament to the commitment of our faculty, staff, families, and students to our protocols to keep our community safe. We engaged in one final week of remote learning for all students following Winter Break, again for health and safety reasons, after a time of vacation travel for many families. Since then, we have remained open to in-person learning, and will continue on throughout the end of the school year on Wednesday, May 26th.
Meanwhile, athletics continued, and three seasons of sports were played safely. After-School Programs like Kim Rash’s Lower School Colorguard (instead of choir) and Andrew Frechette’s Dungeons & Dragons carried on. (Andrew skillfully engaged new Wyverns in the fine art of RPGs, all the while creating community.) Lindsy Serrano kept us thinking of ways we might create a greater sense of connection and belonging for all of our students in this pandemic year that has also been a remarkable year of social change in our country. Reed Gabhart kept the theater program alive and well on both campuses and re-entered the math classroom with grace and a sense of determination to master concurrent learning. Zak Cohen forged his way through his first year as Middle School Director, leading us all to reexamine and push our pedagogy practices forward and to implement changes in the Middle School with his boundless energy and curiosity. Jen Griffith steadily held the mast of the Lower School, mentoring me as a newbie Lower School math teacher and giving me new appreciation for what it means to work as a team. As the year winds down, I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to learn alongside this tremendous faculty, staff, and group of humans who choose to call St. Francis their school community.
Looking ahead, we have several weeks of the school year remaining before we put the 2020-21 school year, and my first year as an Associate Head of School (what a year to be new in this role!) to bed. We will honor our 8th graders in our first-ever 8th Grade Retrospective (a mash-up or hybrid of our former 8th Grade Graduation and 8th Grade Class Day), and we look forward to time-honored Goshen traditions the last two days of school: Field Day for our 3rd – 8th graders, ice cream socials, and our last day (half-day) of school complete with Coach Ro’s famous slide show. While these end-of-year events won’t be exactly like they were, say, in 2019, they are much more in person and connected than they were in 2020. For that, and for all of you who make up this beautiful Lower and Middle School community, I am truly grateful.