For many of us, COVID-19 will be one of the defining moments of our lifetime. Right now, the world is delineating time in terms of pre-COVID and post-COVID. It has completely, fundamentally changed many of the societal norms we have known all of our lives, and taken away some of what we enjoy.
St. Peter’s School is not an exception to this phenomenon. When we were forced to close the building suddenly in March, our resolve as a community was tested. And we believe that we came out on top, despite all the obstacles of quarantine, distance learning, and the “new normal” that we all had to accept seemingly overnight. Our spring of challenge was followed by a summer of continued precautions and civil unrest. We spent the last few months as a community having hard but necessary conversations about who we are and who we want to be in the future.
Six months later, much has changed but we are still seeing the effects of COVID-19 in our community at large and must face our next challenge: reopening in-person school while the pandemic continues without a clear end date in sight and with ever-changing guidance from health departments and local authorities. Preparing for our reopening has been no small feat and we have made huge strides to get to where we are today:
- We have hired a full-time nurse, Valerie Hill, to help guide us in caring for our community Reconfigured our building layout through a series of construction projects to create socially-distanced classrooms
- Purchased large quantities of cleaning and sanitizing supplies with the goal of keeping our community physically safe
- Expanded our cleaning services to include a full-time housekeeper and a daily service to thoroughly sanitize the building each evening
There is also a social-emotional aspect of reopening that must be addressed. Our children left this building in mid-March with no notice, and many have not seen their friends in months. They then faced a summer with no camps and many of their typical routines completely altered, and they reentered a school building that was vastly different from school as they remembered, although recognizing the many traits that made St. Peter’s feel so special.
To address their mental health needs, we have implemented the CharacterStrong curriculum across all grade levels. We want to give our students the tools and coping mechanisms they need to thrive in the current environment.
The social unrest of the last six months must also be addressed and it is impossible to do so adequately without looking at our history. We will be using the Pollyanna Racial Literacy Curriculum to examine our history and present day conditions to help our students understand the events, people, places, and movements that led us to where we are now. We recognize that education and schools have not always been balanced when it comes to how we teach our students and that the lens with which we examine our world has not always included diverse perspectives. In 2020, it has become clear we must rectify this situation and address injustices both past and present. We believe that education is the best way forward through many of our social problems and we want our students to receive the best education possible.
All of these additions and improvements are being made at a time when enrollment has temporarily declined as students and their families have been forced to alter their living arrangements, relocate out of the city, or have made the decision that in-person school is not right for their family at this time.
This reality brings us to the question of what role fundraising plays at SPS at this time. Independent schools have always relied on fundraising to “close the gap” between tuition and operating expenses; the plain fact is that during this pandemic, that gap has the potential to be wider than normal.
Fortunately, members of our community who wish to help us succeed during these challenging times have approached us with offers of support. We are grateful for their encouragement and hope that you will consider joining them by making a gift to St. Peter’s School if you are able to do so at this time. No matter the size of the gift, it is a vote of confidence in our abilities to succeed in educating children as we have for nearly 200 years.