2020 was always going to be a milestone year. It was the end of a decade. We brought the UPrep strategic plan to its conclusion. New leadership joined the UPrep community.
Then the global pandemic and tragedies of black lives hit, and 2020 became significant for unanticipated and unwelcome reasons. I have been so proud of our school community through this all. The best qualities of our teachers, staff, students, and families have come forth in the face of adversity. Everyone has risen to the challenge.
When it became clear that COVID-19 infection posed a major threat, we planned decisively and pivoted quickly to close campus and move school online. While we didn’t know it at the time, our experience teaching intensives online during January snow days served as a useful, early test.
Once the first weeks passed, and it became clear that we would be online for a while, we adapted to our new reality and delivered an online school experience that was decent, given the nonexistent timeframe to prepare.
This summer, the strength of our culture of professional learning has been on display, as all teachers have attended external workshops on teaching online, our own staff have offered 15 internal workshops, and the school has supported everyone to evolve their curricula for the fall. The result will be a richer, fuller experience in online school for as long as it’s needed.
Schools have experienced these three stages—pivot, adapt, and evolve—over the past six months. As events continue to unfold this year, we may need to repeat this cycle, hopefully in smaller degrees than the spring.
Black Lives Matter has mobilized people to identify what they can do to support racial justice in our community. We listened to our own students share their experiences in a discussion panel in the spring. We quickly added new learning materials to the summer professional development program. We are planning additional learning and program changes for this coming year.
The national education community has never before been so focused on addressing the same problems. As a result, the network and professional development conversations have been numerous, rich, and specific. Schools are tending toward action as much as their resources allow. Our memberships in national organizations and networks have been so valuable as we have learned and shared with each other. It’s been particularly great to see different approaches and recommendations, which help situate our plans within the regional and national landscape.
Looking forward, we have developed a promising reopening plan, which we will use to return to campus, with appropriate health measures, when it is safe to do so. This could take place as soon as October 5. Whatever this year throws at us, we will continue to respond with resilience, hope, and togetherness, for the sake of our students’ learning and emotional health during this tragic time.