Around this time last year, we were gazing into crystal balls – in the form of public health assessments and CDC recommendations – trying to pin down a commitment for how we could approach the new school year.
It’s daunting, even now, to think back and remember how little information we had, how little certainty anyone had, how little firm guidance was available. Guidelines and restrictions from the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE), which were expected in July, remained less than clear in August. We made our very best possible plan – prioritizing, health, safety, and program and doing our best to sustain community connectivity. We listened, we learned.
By the time we opened in September on a hybrid model, we honestly thought we’d be fully remote by Thanksgiving. Each week, each month that we stayed open was a success. Somewhere along the way, though, the new routines became normal. We adapted. Transitioning between in person and remote learning became natural, seamless. We evolved.
How many times did I hear the question, “When will we be back to five days a week?” For some, the question was raised with anxiety over the possible consequences of return. For others, it was fed by an urgent desire to see kids learning together, in classrooms, as normally as possible.
Schools are human organisms, composed of individual lives, personalities, opinions, wants, needs, ambitions, and perspectives. The unifying thread that makes Park more than just a random assortment of personalities and agendas gathered at 171 Goddard Avenue is our shared commitment to our mission, and to working together towards our collective aspirations.
We may not all always agree, but we can hope to join in shared commitment to a set of aspirations. We shape the kind of community we want to be. In this year, a big part of that involved working together with patience, resilience, and a trust in the fact that school leadership was making the best possible decisions under a set of unprecedented circumstances entirely out of our control.
Did we make perfect decisions? Perhaps not. Did we make the best decisions we could make, with the available resources and information? I think so. Have we supported a vast learning agenda while keeping children and adults safe? Absolutely.
While we took care of health and safety, we also launched our Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Implementation Plan, and continued driving that essential work forward. There is so much more important work to be done, and we look forward to a time when the demands of COVID will no longer consume so much of our bandwidth.
With all we have accomplished, and all we have learned, despite the ongoing uncertainty of the environment, I am extraordinarily pleased to be able to say, “Yes, we will be on campus five days a week next year, PreK-8, starting with the return to school in September.”
As noted in our recent Fall 2021 Update, it’s difficult to make hard and fast commitments to plans within a context that is ever changing, and we will continue to be guided by the priority we place on community, academic program, and health and safety. We are excited by the possibilities that a return to something that feels “normal” will allow.
In addition to having all students on campus every day, we look forward to some greater flexibility in the ways they can interact. We are looking forward to expanded opportunities for students to pursue and discover their passions – creatively, athletically, artistically, and as leaders in the community. In the case of the Upper Division, we look forward to doing all this in brand new classrooms and thoughtfully designed spaces to support collaborative learning. We can’t wait to see students making these new spaces their own.
I couldn’t be prouder of our students, teachers, and staff for all they have accomplished this year, nor more grateful for all everyone has done to ensure that Park is still “Park” – a place of joyful learning, active engagement, and thoughtful community. Congratulations to all for a job well done – and best wishes for a well earned rest as we prepare for the adventure ahead.