We Gotta Get Families Back to Campus

COVID cost us a lot—as it did all schools. Gaps in social maturity, holes in academic preparation, general fatigue and divisive crankiness, all well documented in stories too numerous to count. One quiet but potentially really long-term loss that may go unnoticed in our busy schedules is the absence of chances for families, for parents and grandparents and guardians, to be around what we’re doing and to be around each other. So what’s a community to do? Make a plan, or maybe a series of plans-

Think back to our Fall Fest gathering in November. Nothing fancy, with some rides and games and food—and it was fantastic, seeing people walking the big fields out back, enjoying the all-ages moment. Then think about other times we’ve been able to do something like that. Maybe a volleyball game, or a choral concert, or … The list is not too long. But we have had those glimpses of life in full as a school.

You may notice me standing in traffic at drop-off and pickup, not really doing a whole lot but trying to keep us safe (so far, so good). One of the main treats of that easy duty for me is just seeing people connect, waving as they go by, appreciating what’s happening here at school, checking in. The fact is, with the congested roads and our congested schedules, we’re just not around each other that much, and I get it. For many households, we might be an hour away, even without construction.

What’s more, the pandemic taught us not to gather in large groups, then Zoom offered the opportunity to be somewhere without really being there. And I will forgive anyone who is not looking forward to another video call. Add to that the very real issue of this campus not offering a large space other than the gym (as we saw with head of school interviews and the big birthday program). All to say that this is no easy riddle to solve, but the cost is great if we don’t make some progress.

And the answers can be numerous. Make a point of getting to conferences on students’ progress, even if there’s no real concern—just come anyway. Or find another time to check in with someone here about how things are going. Let the good people of the Parents Association know you’d sign up to help. The Booster Club volunteers do an amazing job of feeding the crowd at all our home games. And I see parent coaches on the playground and fields after school.

How about us offering something more formal in terms of programs for you parents and guardians? We’re in direct conversation here about parent ed evenings, in person and remote, on topics of special interest, including but absolutely not limited to college stuff. Like what our elementary teachers did way, way back in the fall to shine a light on our math program. Raising kids shouldn’t be any lonelier than it has to be. Meeting as a grade level can be especially relevant, connecting names and faces to what you hear at home about school. Stay tuned for those invitations as we get the big creaky meeting wheels turning again.

Don’t underestimate, even for a minute, the benefit of connecting with the families of your kids’ friends. I know this does happen a whole lot, but it could never be too much. Is there a more important thing that any of us do than helping raise these young people and keeping them safe? We’re really one big team, however fragmented it can feel some days. There’s plenty of worry about overbearing parents with agendas creating big confrontations with school boards elsewhere in the country—that is happily just not our reality.

Ours is the challenge of making time for one another in a way that the young people in our lives will find supportive. And I know this is another preaching to the choir moment, since miraculously you’re making time to read this message in the first place. So keep caring, keep connecting, keep understanding the essential role you play in Island School’s future, and I’ll get to work on rallying some events for us this spring.

See you around,

mahalo to those of you who re-enrolled already for next year—huge help—and let us know if there’s anything we can do to support.