Friday Update – June 26, 2020

Mark Turner

Dear Parents and Guardians,

With your help and support every step of the way, we have made it successfully to the end of the most disrupted year in the school’s history.

Last week, it was wonderful to see the return of students in groups of increasing size at both Victoria Avenue and Richmond Road campuses. A particular highlight for me, was to observe the Middle School spirit event which included a range of fun activities including “Dunk the Director”, which has been recorded for future mischief-making opportunities. At the end of last week, we mustered all our collective imagination and initiative to deliver a virtual and actual Graduation Ceremony for the 160 individual members of the Class of 2020, some of them Lifers, having started their SMUS journey in Kindergarten. If one judges on outcome, these young men and women who are moving onto some of the most prestigious post-secondary schools around the world, are a great tribute to the progress that is built year-on-year throughout the grades. I also enjoyed participating in impressive virtual closing events for the Junior and Middle Schools. These occasions proved to be appropriate, dignified, and by all accounts, meaningful experiences. We know from feedback that they were greatly appreciated.

Over the last few days, I have also written approximately 250 report card comments for students in Kindergarten, our newest recruits to the SMUS family, Grade 8s making their transition to the Senior School next term, and our graduates, stepping out into the uncertain, broader horizons of university and the world beyond. In all cases, I was struck by the commitment on the part of the authors/faculty to build up and praise, at every opportunity. I believe this is one of the reasons why our students seem able to grow in confidence as each year passes by.

This week, as well as the usual end of year administration, there is a great deal of attention being paid to what our return to school in September will look like. We are encouraged that the BC School Restart Plan aims to be at Stage One, which is defined with a target of 100% of students on campus, 100% of time. As you would expect, our Restart Task Force and many others will be looking at mitigation strategies and considering the implications for boarding. We will also have to plan contingencies for moving up and down the scale from Stage Five to Stage One and back again, with all the implications for a possible return to remote learning. We will be hoping for the best, but planning for the worst and every eventuality in between.

We do know that there will need to be a flexible approach from all concerned, as it is predicted that clearer statements from the Ministry will, in all probability, be left as late in the build up to the start of the new school year as possible.

There are several things from this extraordinary term that we can take away and be thankful for:

  • Relatively speaking, compared to many parts of the world, we are safe and fortunate.
  • You have proved that we can pivot rapidly and deliver a whole new way of approaching our curriculum, even at short notice; “where there is a will there is a way.” The feedback, both through formal surveys and from the mouths of many students and parents themselves, has been positive. Congratulations to our leaders and to those of you who, like me, followed their lead.
  • Despite cancellations and postponements, some key events like graduation, staff farewells and closing ceremonies, have been delivered in an appropriate way and with meaning. Albeit, without the razzamatazz we have enjoyed in the past.
  • By all accounts our community has rallied around and supported one another as individuals. In a material sense, the fantastic response for the community wide Financial Aid Relief Fund campaign, remarkably, allowed us to achieve our aim that no student should have to leave the school because of the short-term financial implications of the crisis. I know that many of you contributed personally to this.

It would be easy to see this term as a time of lost opportunity. In fact, excellent progress has been made against some of the aims of Floreat.

  • The kick start of planning for the refurbishment of the Junior School.
  • The development of a Strategic Campus Master Plan to guide future projects and deliver improvement to the Middle School and provide facilities for STEAM as well as revitalizing our heritage spaces.
  • Reconsideration of timetable options for the Junior, Middle and Senior Schools.
  • Preparation for the launch of a generative discussion around sustainability in the fall.
  • An impressive raft of CFO/HR reforms.
  • Delivery and adoption of the new Continuous Enrolment program.

So, to the future. Over the summer the Board will be meeting regularly to review the latest situation in light of Ministry of Education and Health announcements. Our SLT and Restart Task Force will be interpreting what this will mean in practical terms. We will be hoping for a gradual lifting of restrictions and the possibility of a large-scale return of our boarding contingent. We do know that enrolment, particularly for day students, has held up remarkably well, at record levels in many cases.

In my address at the scaled-down, in-person graduation ceremonies which took place at our Richmond Road campus, I said to parents, “thanks, thanks again, and thanks some more.” We really are most grateful for your flexibility in supporting the school to what I believe is close to the best possible outcome from the last term. Remote learning has worked but we are aware that this was heavily dependent on your support in kitchens, bedrooms, living rooms, and gardens, which were rapidly converted to become classrooms.

As previously stated, we will be hoping and planning to get as close to Stage One as we are allowed to be in September. There will need to be sensible adjustments and I am already wondering how we will replace the Christmas Assembly, which is normally a cauldron of 1,000 plus students, screaming at the top of their voices, in one confined space. Nevertheless, we do now have increased confidence in our ability to change and adapt while remaining fully committed to our guiding principles.

I do not intend to continue to communicate every Friday throughout the summer. However, please rest assured that we will communicate as we need to. The principle, ‘no news is good news’ will apply, however, I will aim to provide routine updates on the following dates: July 10, August 14 and August 21, if there are developments that we all need to be aware of.

For now, you all deserve a good break and the opportunity to spend some quality time together.

Over the course of the last few days, I have found myself using the exhortations “Vivat!” and “Floreat!” in different situations. It suddenly occurred to me that I was using Vivat to recognize the considerable achievements of the past, both short and long-term, and that I was using Floreat as an expression of hope and expectation for the future. At the end of this school year I say “Vivat,” congratulations on all things achieved this year; and “Floreat,” let’s hope and expect that we will continue to flourish when we return as a community in September.

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