Everywhere you turn these days it seems someone is talking about “returning to normal,” or to “the new normal,” or pointing out that maybe, the old “normal” wasn’t all that great. Surely, we all yearn for a return to daily patterns not shaped by concerns about COVID-19, yet we also recognize that elements of our new ways of doing things have their benefits. We recognize, too, the value of our resilience, of prioritizing flexibility, and of extending grace and empathy to others. We want the best of “normal” back, yet without giving up the benefits gained from looking at the world around us with fresh perspective.
As I reflect on this first half of the 2021-22 school year, there are so many bright spots made all the brighter because of the creativity that made them possible. We gathered as a community on October 15 to celebrate Park’s past, present, and future, and the event sparkled with the joy of being together, belief in Park’s potential, and hope for Park’s future. Pulling off such a celebration, safely, required us to think differently about what it means to join in community, and it made us value the opportunity all the more.
Our student athletes returned to the fields in interscholastic play. Here too, we had to get creative — for instance, no more gathering in locker rooms to change before and after games, so now students come to school dressed for their games, and experience the bump in school spirit that comes with all that Park Green filling the hallways. And with winter approaching, we are thrilled for more interscholastic competition with hoops and hockey.
Thespians have returned to the theater as well, rehearsing and performing The Hobbit together, in person, after a year of virtual performance. For weeks, the question remained, “Will we be able to perform for an audience?” There, too, with a little fresh thinking, we realized we could — by hosting more performances for smaller audiences providing proof of vaccination. Different, but the applause still rang true, and the curtain calls beamed with pride.
Rarely has the perspective that every “challenge” is truly an “opportunity” resonated more strongly. The energy on campus is vibrant and positive as we rise to opportunities. Booster vaccines were approved and we rose to the opportunity by making on campus boosters available to all employees. Vaccinations were approved for children ages 5 to 11, and we rose to the opportunity to offer on-campus vaccinations for all eligible children in the community. Families rose to the opportunity by quickly filling every available spot, and we rose again to secure additional spots to accommodate the eager demand.
In our Park Portrait, one of the competencies we prize is “Creative Problem Solving.” Our Upper Division embodied this so well in designing the wonderful Fall Festival that closed out October. Themed dress days for all students, PreK-8, as well as faculty and staff through the last week of October resulted in some very impressive shows of spirit. Upper Division leaders built further on this energy, engaging students in a seemingly endless series of games, competitions, and fun, culminating in a first-ever Upper Division Movie Night with pizza and s’mores and a 40-foot screen on the main field. It was a resounding success in every possible way – and it happened because people rose to opportunity. And while we could not find a way to host Grandparents’ & Special Friends’ Day on campus this fall, program leaders have worked creatively to celebrate the season with Ensembles performances on December 16 and an all-school Winter Festival on December 17. Before we head off on Winter Break, students, faculty, staff, and families will come together to enjoy a community sing-along of joyful winter songs and, of course, a Park favorite: “Children, Go Where I Send Thee.”
Creative problem solving is what we do at Park — together.
In every corner of campus life, people are joining in the effort to rise to the opportunities we share. Thank you to all for being part of the effort. As we approach the year end holidays and the well-earned break we will enjoy, I encourage us all to take the time to appreciate all the opportunities ahead.
Rarely has the perspective that every “challenge” is truly an “opportunity” resonated more strongly.