Friday Update – June 12, 2020

Mark Turner

Dear Parents and Guardians,

I write at another historic moment for St. Michaels University School. I am aware that there have been many of them as we have journeyed together through the last six months.

Today as I write, June 12 represents the last day of the delivery of our formal Remote Learning Program. We are immensely grateful for your forbearance and support. By all accounts we have been able to move forward and achieve one of our main aims, which was to provide continuity of education in a virtual world. During this transition we have learned a great deal, which has become useful ‘intellectual capital’ as we plan for the future.

Next week, the last of this school year, we will see many students return to school. We hope to provide the opportunity to say goodbye, to reconnect face to face with core teachers, TAG teachers and Homeroom Advisors, to be part of spirit events, to share appropriate celebrations and rites of passage, and of course to deal with mundane locker clearance. Most importantly we will be saying ‘au revoir’ to the Graduating Class of 2020. Rest assured, we will be doing our utmost to ensure this important group of students is supported on their next steps into an uncertain world. I say ‘au revoir’ quite deliberately, because there will be opportunities for this group to come together again. Far from being the ‘forgotten few’, we aim to make them the special ones, ‘for whom the bell tolls.’

Parents’ Auxiliary

At the Parents’ Auxiliary AGM on June 11, I was able to pay tribute to President Grainne McElroy, who is stepping down after a two-year term of office that by every criterion represents remarkable success. Grainne has led by example and with distinction.

One of Grainne’s last initiatives as President was to harness the leadership and critical mass of the Parents’ Auxiliary behind the Financial Aid Relief Fund. I am delighted to report that the target of $100,000 was achieved in May, and we are on our way to further the success in June. Together and with a final flourish, I am hopeful that we can achieve over $300,000. If so, we will achieve our goal that no student should have to leave our school as a result of the current crisis. This will be a remarkable community achievement. We are most grateful to all contributors, to Grainne McElroy and to the army of volunteers who donate their busy time to supporting our school. We wish Elisa Djurickovic every success as she takes up the helm of the Parents’ Auxiliary from July 1.

And So To the Future

I will continue to provide detailed updates as we go through the summer months. These are scheduled to appear on June 26, July 10, August 21 and weekly thereafter.

Plan For September Reopening

I believe that the worst is now behind us. Our Board of Governors has been meeting and will continue to meet regularly to review the developments. Our Senior Leadership Team is now actively planning for the restart of Term 1 of the new academic year in September. I am aware that there is a growing appetite for clarity and definition. We are requesting this almost daily in our liaison with the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Education and other ISABC and CAIS schools. To summarize, we have Plans A, B and C.

Plan A. This is to open at Stage One of the BC Schools’ Restart Plan. This involves 100% of our students at school 100% of the time. There will undoubtedly be restrictions on large gatherings, which may impact whole-school assemblies and Chapel services; however, we are confident that we will be able to deliver our academic curriculum in person. At present, official messages are increasingly optimistic and confident that this scenario is a probability.

Plan B. We are developing plans so that we can operate a form of ‘bi-model’ curriculum, to be delivered if there should be restrictions placed on the percentage of students that are allowed on campus, as a result of government directives. I stress that our intention is to be on Plan A.

Plan C. Plan C is to be prepared to pivot at 24 hours’ notice, back to a fully Remote Learning Curriculum, should a ‘second wave’ or localized outbreak make this a necessity by government decree.

If we are to deviate from Plan A at any stage, I will brief you in my regular updates. Our faculty and staff will be returning one week earlier than scheduled at the end of August, to ensure that we are fully trained and prepared for whatever the future brings. We know that the training we were able to complete as a whole faculty back in March, was a key factor in ensuring the success of our Remote Learning Program.

Boarding

We are aware that there is considerable uncertainty and anxiety across our boarding community, and I hope this note provides some reassurance. We are planning to have as close to our full contingent of boarders as possible. We do now know that all those crossing an international border will need to quarantine for 14 days before arriving to school. We will be providing advice and support for this, and we aim to make the 14-day quarantine as meaningful and positive an experience as possible. A portion of the accommodation costs of this additional expenditure will be reduced from the boarding fees. We may need to cap the overall number of boarders so that there is isolation capacity for mitigation, should that be required. Our day community can be reassured that having been through quarantine, all students will be safe to access our school program.

Alexis Lang Lunn, Director of Admissions, the Admissions team and Keith Driscoll, Director of Boarding and Student Life, will be providing more details to our Boarding families at regular intervals. Our Admissions office will remain open throughout the summer months. At present, we are delighted by the early response to our Boarding Mitigation Plan, which is being reviewed by various Provincial and Federal Government departments. If, for any reason, our boarding students are unable to be with us for the formal start of term in September, we will be arranging remote learning alternatives until such time that travel restrictions are lifted, allowing everybody to come together again.

Conclusion

Although it would be premature to assume we are out of the woods, it is rejuvenating to wholeheartedly engage in planning for the return to school in September. I am delighted with the way our broader community has responded to recent circumstances. There is strong evidence to show that rather than being fractured and divided by events, we have actually come through with bonds that tie us even stronger.

We are most grateful for your support as parents and guardians, and faculty look forward to sharing joint experiences in person rather than from the kitchen/bedroom/garage, where lessons have been delivered. If there is one takeaway message from this letter, it is that we are fully committed to opening in September with as many students learning on our two school campuses, 100% of the time.

Until then, stay safe and best wishes.

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