Each year, the Park community looks forward to welcoming approximately 400 grandparents and special friends to campus on the morning before Thanksgiving. In order to ensure the health and safety of the community this year, COVID-19 has necessitated many changes and, when it was clear this fall that our traditional Grandparents’ and Special Friends’ Day (GPSFD) would not be possible, we had to get creative to share the Park experience with our broader community.
Before the school year was even underway, we took the opportunity to connect with several peer schools to learn how they had adapted their GPSFD to a virtual format, as many had done so last spring when learning remotely. When school began in the fall, members of Park’s Administration including Assistant Head for Academics & Programs Eric Chapman, Lower Division Head Kimberly Formisano, and Upper Division Head Ken Rogers, along with Director of Alumni Relations Jamie Byron, began this work in earnest, thinking about how a special experience could be made possible for guests in this unique year. At this time, we were beginning to learn that there would be challenges associated with guests “Zoom-ing” into classes while students were on campus – grandparents likely wouldn’t be able to see their loved ones if the entire class would appear on one screen, and the masks that students wear in order to remain safe on campus were likely to create complications for virtual visitors trying to hear what was going on in class. For these reasons, we set our sights on having Virtual GPSFD on a Wednesday, when students would be learning remotely.
Like so many aspects of Park’s operation this year, creating our first Virtual Grandparents’ and Special Friends’ Day was a true community-wide effort, and would not have been possible without incredible partnership from all corners of the school. Park teachers shared generously of their time and talent to create a special experience for guests. In the Lower Division (PreK – 4), classroom teachers prepared to invite guests to their live, virtual morning meetings. In the Upper Division (Grades 5 – 8), where the complexity of the schedule was a barrier to live classes, faculty shared incredible examples of student work, projects, photos, and videos to be shared with special guests.
Virtual GPSFD would not have been possible without the partnership of the incredible Remote Learning Team – Maria Griffiths (Kindergarten), Daniel Howard (Grade 1), Giovanni Bradley-Campbell (Grade 2), Courtney Grey (Grade 3), Julie Clarke (Grade 4), Sophie Moss (Grade 5), and Pamela Penna (Director of Instructional Practice). This dedicated team of educators works tirelessly each week to ensure that students who are learning remotely are engaged and connected, and part of their work involves Virtual Classrooms, which are fun, virtual spaces for students to explore while they are learning away from Park. On Virtual GPSFD, the Remote Learning Team gave guests the opportunity to explore these classrooms, and shared a peek at what this unique year is like for today’s students.
In the weeks leading up to Virtual GPSFD, the Communications Team worked tirelessly to try to ensure that guests would have a seamless experience. Director of Communications Kate LaPine designed a beautiful webpage, with the goal that guests would have all of the information that they would need in one place, rather than having to manage different links for various events throughout the morning. In addition to the links to live classroom visits and events, guests would also be able to access a Virtual Classroom for each grade level on this page, that they were welcome to explore at any point on Virtual GPSFD.
565 guests from
35 states and
With the stage set for February 10th, we turned the corner to Virtual Grandparents’ and Special Friends’ Day with eager anticipation. Excitement grew for everyone involved as the RSVPs continued to come in from all over the country, and the world – with 565 registered guests joining us from 35 states and nine countries! Early on the morning of the event, Park’s Development Team arrived on campus to provide support for the day’s virtual visitors. The Team was available to answer questions via phone, email, and Zoom, and had a wonderful time connecting with grandparents and special friends as they virtually made their way to live classes, a “State of the School” presentation by Head of School Scott Young, and Virtual Coffees with Division Heads Kimberly Formisano and Ken Rogers. Technological questions were also expertly navigated by Director of Technology Carole Carter and the Technology Team.
Though we were disappointed not to be able to welcome Park’s guests in person this year, we are grateful for the inclusivity and accessibility made possible by this year’s virtual event. In a time when travel is not possible, Virtual GPSFD created opportunities of connection for families, and a chance for grandparents and special friends to participate in the great work being done by students and teachers this year. In future years, when we can safely celebrate on campus again, we look forward to working to ensure that our special guests who live outside of the Boston area have the opportunity to participate as well. Thank you to all of the faculty, staff, students, parents, grandparents, and special friends who made this special morning possible!