Like other schools around the world, our school has been affected by the global COVID-19 pandemic. We have not only managed this upheaval, we have responded effectively, and students are thriving despite the disruption to in-person learning.
While our school history spans over 25 years, I just want to go back three months to the beginning of March 2020. COVID-19 was not yet declared a “pandemic” but it was clear there was a strong likelihood we would not be returning after spring break. In anticipation, we revised and updated our contagious disease policy, created a new exposure control plan and developed our first distance learning plan.
Our first Distance Learning plan (1.0), launched April 1 following the provincial shut-down of schools, was very similar to our pre spring break class schedule with a few modifications: homeroom classes shifted to begin and end the week and we instituted a mandatory quiet, screen-free time during the lunch break for students and teachers. The expectation was that students and teachers could interact and communicate at a scheduled time but students could also do work at their own convenience. After four weeks we conducted a comprehensive survey to see how we could improve our new world of distance learning.
Distance learning 2.0 launched on April 27 and lasted five weeks. Academic classes took place before noon and were reduced from three to two classes as we wanted to reduce screen time, workload and stress. Off-screen breaks throughout the day became mandatory because we recognized screen fatigue was rampant. A daily study hall was introduced and physical and health education classes were scheduled twice a week. We also introduced “Passion Pursuits” as we understood that physical distancing presented an amazing opportunity to grow and learn in individual and innovative ways. Finally, this phase introduced online social and interest clubs on Fridays.
As B.C. flattened the curve and the province allowed in-class learning, next came distance learning 3.0, launched June 1. We now had to operate simultaneously in two worlds: providing distance learning and in-person instruction. We also had to meet the stringent Worksafe BC Education Protocols for returning to operation. Our survey to parents indicated over 90% were ready for a return to school (most other schools saw a return of approximately 30% of students).
June 1 to 5 saw each class in the school for one day a week. It was an exciting opportunity for students to reconnect and became a reference for the school as to how to manage distance learning, in-person instruction and all the related safety protocols. As per tradition, the second week of June is dedicated to the grade nine Masterworks presentations. Only the grade nine class, the presenters family and the advisors were able to watch the presentations live due to gathering restrictions. However, others were able to watch a YouTube live stream. It was amazing to watch the 18 ninth graders present and defend their topics and we all noted that there was not even a slight dip in the quality of the presentations.
IPS begins the year and finishes the year with whole school camping and adventure programs and this year will be no different as we have an exciting week of safe outdoor fun for all the grades next week that will include camp games, kayaking, wall climbing, hiking, and even the traditional “solo” camp for the grade nines.
Over these past 12 weeks the IPS faculty and staff have worked extremely hard to ensure that we were fulfilling our mission to equip, inspire and cultivate the humanity of our students on a daily basis.
Just some of our accomplishments include: conducting more than 700 Google Meets, including whole-school assemblies. Creating weekly whacky workouts. Writing French job resumes and conducting accompanying virtual job interviews. Creating French cooking videos. Creating “up-cycling” projects using recycled or unused materials from home. Making musical and visual parody videos, creating COVID shopping outfits and designing an instrument in art class. Designing windmills and experimenting with kitchen chemistry in science. Debating over Google Meets for PR and seminar classes. Creating an Earth Day video campaign. Investigating Biomimicry in design class.
I am so pleased with the way our small, independent school has managed this pandemic. Early on, I read a quote that “A Crisis Is a Terrible Thing to Waste.” I do think our school has done a remarkable job taking advantage and learning from this experience and I am confident that we will actually come out of this stronger, more versatile and better able to meet the needs of our students.
Should you have an interest in learning more, please contact us as we are still accepting applications in all grades for the 2020-21 school year.