Headmaster's Thoughts: October 2020

Welcome to my Headmaster’s Thoughts for the new school year. They are normally lighter than this piece, and usually, I aim to make you smile. But not these, because I am writing them in our second week.  There are not many schools opening “in a regular manner” as we are. “Regular manner” means that we will have classes at the normal school times five days a week for the whole year (if possible).  We are also offering our parents the choice of keeping their children home and Zooming into each class where two cameras are available to each teacher so that those at home can see the smart board (and other members of their class) as well as the teacher. Some schools are offering less than five days a week, and others are going completely online with Zoom or an equivalent distance-learning model. We are opening fully and in compliance with all the guidelines of the CDC. Optimism is a great quality, and we have been preparing for months. With good fortune, we can pull this all off. By the time you read this piece, you will know more if this effort is successful.
Our feeling was that we should do everything possible to try to present a normal York Prep school experience in an abnormal time. About twenty percent of our parents are keeping their children home, and, given all the unknowns, that is completely understandable.  We see ourselves as an institution that offers a service, namely excellence in education. The majority of our families want their children to get that service by coming to school, and some want their children at home. So we are going to continue to do our very best to provide what they wish.
I am impressed that our teachers and staff are all coming in. They know that we are taking whatever precautions we can, but they also know that there is an added risk in coming to work.  Each day will be a small triumph over the virus, and, if we can be open until a vaccine is produced and distributed, we can be proud. It is, of course, too early to tell.
What is a school if not a community that tries to do the best for its members? We exist to serve our families. We have made numerous changes and, most importantly, have added to our faculty numbers with the result that we have smaller classes and socially-distanced students. Every day we make additional adjustments (today, September 21st, we added five more bike racks). It is a learning process, to say the least. I am extremely grateful to the parents who have written in with their support. Thanks!
Our young people have had their lives turned upside down. They have been isolated for too long in the most social time of their lives.  They still cannot enjoy the full dimensions of teen friendship. They cannot (and should not) go to parties, or hang out in close groups. If that happens, then our school will not be open very long before a case of COVID appears. But, as we try and respond responsibly to what our community wants, we have to rely on our families and faculty protecting this optimistic opening by keeping their children (and themselves) safe after school.
These are indeed difficult times. I look forward to the day when all this is behind us and our children can hug each other, as they normally do, and say that York Prep did everything it could to give them the structure and learning that they needed. I also look forward to the day that I can aim to give you a smile when you read my Headmaster's Thoughts.
Ronald P. Stewart
York Prep