Each year, I cherish the tradition of writing Back to School messages for children, families, faculty and staff. This year, the proverbial blank page appears much bigger and the message less defined. I am pleased to share a video welcoming our community, both new and returning members, to campus and our tactical Updated Plan for Reopening and starting the 2020-21 school year at Collegiate.
This year is certainly different, but we at Collegiate believe that the moral and inspirational work at hand is critical, healing and inspiring. As such, setting the tone and bringing you close to what I believe to be true for all of us during this complex time is equally important to the logistics at hand.
Educators dedicate their life’s work to fostering the growth of what is good, purposeful and essential in our world. The faculty and staff at Collegiate are to be praised for their endless efforts to lift up and deliver our mission, no matter the hurdles. Collegiate’s mission of fostering the intellectual, moral, emotional and physical development of young people is critical work.
Our families’ partnership and appreciation for the heroic work of our Collegiate Team remains an invaluable inspiration. As we seek to live our mission as a diverse and inclusive community of learners, each of us plays a critical role. Together, let us commit to nurturing positivity, modeling respect, bestowing kindness and growing hope.
Collegiate has endured past pandemics and other challenges, and we have kept our flame burning bright to serve and grow hearts and minds of generations for over one hundred years. We can and we will bravely craft the future together as guided by our school motto: Parat. Ditat. Durat. Prepare. Enrich. Endure.
I do not associate a “good or bad” mindset with the open-ended nature of 2020-21. Adults and children are learning to accept uncertainty. I recently shared a Zoom meeting with two of our student leaders, Kate Aaronson and John Ballowe, from the class of 2021. It was late afternoon, and I felt fatigued, but seeing these two awesome Cougars energized and buoyed me! They asked how I remain optimistic and leaderly amidst all of the COVID-related challenges. I laughed and smiled. I am not sure that a single member of my family would describe me as optimistic and leaderly in week twenty-one of being “together at home” as Team Evins. After disclosing a messier version of my at-home self to Kate and John, I continued to share a belief, one I had not realized until that moment.
This pandemic, while challenging, tragic and more complex than anything I have ever lived through as a professional, has given me the opportunity to lead with a realistic and blended mindset. Personally and professionally, I feel, study and seek to understand the complexities of this time of COVID-19. As Head of School, I want to make it better for all of you, but I can’t will COVID-19 away. I remind myself that this stretch is not all good or all bad. Our children need us to help them with guiding questions. What can we do? Can we at least? What if we try?
We must take what we can do - the yes moments - and treat these opportunities as precious. It is true that we can’t come to school and welcome new Cougars with high fives and handshakes. We can’t hug friends, hold hands walking across the iconic bridge or cheer loudly in a group. Nevertheless, we can do so very much! What if we all do our very best to focus on the haves and the cans?
Perfect and the way we have always done things are not the goals. Frankly, they never should be in an evolving and student-centered learning community. Instead we should guide our children to improvement and purposeful engagement with people, ideas and community. We should hold up meaningful impact, joy and altruism as navigation points. This is our opportunity to help our children live and experience the reality in front of us. Collegiate will strive to bridge the reality and the possibilities. This is how Collegiate will ditat, enrich, the lives of our children.
Kate and John, two of our student leaders, asked questions - a catalyst for introspection and clarity. We can join our children - with helpful courage! We left the call with a shared commitment to lead and serve with feedback, truth, questions and teaming. We must reject all or nothing thinking, it will not serve our mission delivery and never has. Instead, a blend of what we can do and what we choose to do will release our potential. We, the Collegiate community, are beyond fortunate to have choices and we must not take this privilege for granted. Our spaces, professional team, Board of Trustees, volunteers and financial resources are allowing us to use time, talent and treasure to reopen our school. This is a mighty and worthwhile endeavor. We are focused on and invested in the future, our children.
What if we at least try to see what we can do together, safely, with a common understanding that we will all do our very best. This leaderly mindset is how over eighty faculty, staff, volunteers and professionals have come together to quilt our reopening plan. It is not perfect and is likely not “done” in the form that we will look back upon and say this was the way we enriched and endured the entire year. We will respond to changes and continue to learn. However, this reopening plan is our parat, preparation, for the year ahead and it is a beautiful vision for how we can come together and deliver our mission, in-person, JK-12, as over 2,000 community members who are a part of One Collegiate School, Cougar Strong.
“Hold tight to your guardrails of sleep, movement and nutrition, be kind to yourself, be kind to others, ask for help, remain open, know that the butterflies are normal and keep the faces and hearts of our Class of 2021 close to your heart as you make decisions and deliver your very best.” This is my self-talk as Head of School. I shared this with Kate and John and I share it with you. To prepare, to enrich and durat, to endure, we need to learn, model and maintain core habits of wellness.
I know that we will flourish because we have each other. This is what is inside my head and as I fill the pages of this open-ended Back to School message. May you feel the hopeful promise of the thousands and thousands of collective hours that have gone into and will continue to go into delivering our very best school year for your children. Despite the challenges and perhaps because of the challenges, we can, we will and we shall commit ourselves to being careful, brave and positive educators - ”good citizens in the widest sense” as called for by our founder, Helen Baker. We are eager to see our students and each other in-person for the start of Collegiate’s 106th year.
In closing, please remember that your commitment to being responsible citizens will help us to open School in-person. We encourage healthy habits. For two weeks prior to returning to campus, families, faculty and staff are asked to be particularly diligent - follow physical distancing, mask wearing and hand cleaning protocols, and to make every attempt to avoid high risk situations. Cover, clean and space between.
Virginia currently does not have any quarantine requirements upon arrival from travel within the U.S. If you think you may have been exposed to COVID-19 or are having symptoms, please self-isolate. An Assumption of Risk and Release, which is required for attending in-person, will be sent to you on August 10 for your signature due no later than August 21.
As you read through our plan, if you have division-specific questions, please contact your Division Head.