Friday Update – August 14, 2020

Mark Turner

Dear Parents and Guardians, Faculty and Staff,

Over the course of the last few weeks I hope that you have found time to enjoy proximity to family and friends, and some of the benefits of what our beautiful British Columbian home has to offer. To those of you overseas, I trust this finds you safe and well.

We were able to enjoy a number of memorable shorter trips to various corners of our province. For a few days we took a voyage, following in the footsteps of Muriel ‘Capi’ Wylie Blanchet. Capi was an extraordinary woman. In the 1930s, recently widowed, she packed five children and a dog into an old leaky boat and set off each summer to explore the fjords, inlets of the mainland coast. All these adventures are poignantly recorded in her memoirs: The Curve of Time. During the family adventures, Capi philosophizes about the point where our memories of the past, our hopes and dreams of the future and our current predicament all come together. In a small way, this encouraged me to think about where we are at the moment. We have gained a great deal of confidence and knowledge in dealing with current circumstances from our shared community experiences since March 14. We also have hopes and expectations about how our school can operate from September 8. In the present, our Senior Leadership Team and many other staff and faculty members are preparing on the basis of announcements made on Thursday, July 30 by Dr. Bonnie Henry, Provincial Health Officer, and Rob Fleming, Minister of Education, and SMUS will resume on September 8 in Stage 2 with 100% of students attending 100% of the time. The short delay announced by the Ministry this week does not impact our plans. Boarders will move-in on September 8 and we expect orientation on September 9, with the first day of classes on September 10. More information will come from school directors.

While I have not always agreed with our provincial leaders, in a spirit of fairness I have to applaud them for stating clearly and unequivocally that the time will come this September for all students to return in-person to school. While I know many are concerned of the risks, to my mind the risks of not seizing this opportunity far outweigh the dangers of increased transmission. So far, the student generation has accepted with extraordinary good grace the disruption to their routines, in-person friendships, social grouping, sporting dreams and diminishing opportunities.

We will be following Public Health guidelines and our own common-sense precautions, and we have plans to change course, if necessary, at any stage. Nevertheless, we should accept that risk reduction does not mean risk elimination. As we prepare our students for an uncertain world which will no doubt present them all with challenge and risk aplenty, we must encourage communities to step forward boldly and with confidence based on the solid foundations provided by our values and our experience thus far.

I have many family and friends involved in the National Health Service in the UK. I include a message they have sent to encourage all those involved in education about returning to school.

To teachers,

We were terrified.

We were not ready.

We didn’t know what was to come.

We did not want to change our ways.

We couldn’t imagine what each day would bring.

We were stressed, exhausted, overwhelmed and anxious.

…But fast forward five months…

We are okay.

We have adapted.

We are stronger.

We are essential.

We feel our worth.

We make a difference and others know it.

We are proud to go to work.

We know many of you return to work in the coming weeks and it will be scary, but we promise it will be okay.

Be flexible, be strong, be creative and be proud! You are needed and remember that now more than ever our students need your love and support.

Just thought you could use a little encouragement from some people who have felt what you feel.

Your NHS friends.

Now that we have had a road map laid out for us by provincial authorities, we will be working hard on a plan that will focus on our community coming together again. We will be using our Senior Leadership Retreat on Wednesday, August 19 and Thursday, August 20 and briefing our Board of Governors at a Special Review Meeting to be held on Friday, August 21.

All parents and students can expect to hear from their school director about what return will look like at the Junior, Middle and Senior Schools. There will also be more detail about our policies regarding many things including the wearing of masks and what life within cohorts and learning groups will actually look like. Life will not be fully normal as we will be limited in the number and type of public gatherings, there will be minimal intermingling between cohort groups and it looks as if competitive interschool sport will not be possible for the foreseeable future. We aim to be bold and creative in making the very best of the limited options that may be available.

With a growing sense of excitement around our return and many thanks to all members of our community for your continuing support.

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