Dear GNS Families,
To begin, I’d like to once again offer my gratitude for your willingness to work with us throughout these unprecedented times. I’ve lost track of all the examples I’ve witnessed of the amazing community we are all a part of at GNS, and I’ve so appreciated all of your emails and constructive feedback. As you know, we are partners in your child’s education, and this unique connection endures through graduation and beyond. Thank you for everything you do in support of our school.
At this time, I’d like to share with you our plans for the school in the upcoming months.
June 2020: Safe Return to Campus JK to 5
We have created a “Return to Campus Task Force” that is working with our provincial and national independent school associations to develop strict protocols that will allow a safe return to campus for both students and staff. Our provincial association, the Independent Schools Association of British Columbia (ISABC), has been working closely with public health authorities and member schools in creating these policies. We are also working with Island Health to customize the Safe Return to Campus Plan for GNS. The mental and physical safety of our community is our number one priority. Jean Bigelow, our Junior School Principal, has been working with faculty and staff at the Beach to develop a program that combines some of the best elements of the previous on-campus experience with some new ideas that recognize our current circumstances. Jean has reached out to all JK to Grade 5 parents and students to learn which families are planning for their children to return to campus and she will communicate the full Safe Return to Campus Plan by the end of next week.
Middle and Senior School
In recommending a one-day a week return to school for Grades 6 to 12, we recognize that the government is trying to address challenges faced by many public schools across the province where systemic limitations have meant that online learning has not been delivered in the same manner as at GNS. Our Chromebook and laptop programs have meant that our students could meet with their teachers and peers each school day following their regular timetable. Without technology like that, many schools have only been able to interact with students in a very limited way.
Our plan is to continue to deliver our GO! distance learning program to students in Grades 6 to 12 until the final day of classes on June 18 in the Middle School and June 16 for the Senior School. We feel this maximizes the teaching and learning time available to students in a way that a part-time return to campus could not. Any attempt to introduce one-day-a-week attendance for 20% of the student body, as would be required to maintain social distancing, would drastically reduce the ability of our teachers to maintain the same level of strong student-focused learning they are currently able to offer.
Grade 5 Celebration
To mark this important milestone, we plan to personally deliver to each Grade 5 student’s home their book award and PYP certificate on June 19. This will allow us, in a socially distanced way, to thank the Grade 5s for their leadership and wish them the very best as they move on to their next learning adventure at the Middle School.
Grade 8 Celebration
We are planning an exciting way to recognize the transition from Middle School to Senior School. In the next few days, Grade 8 families will receive a ‘save the date’ message with further details about this important celebration.
Graduating Class of 2020
On May 6, Premier Horgan made special reference to the fact that the graduating students of 2020 are being uniquely affected by this crisis, and I couldn’t agree more. A committee of Senior School staff, with the help of our Grad Prefect Polina Vitrouk and Alumni Coordinator (and GNS alumna) Zan Plews, are actively researching and planning different ways to celebrate our grads in safe but meaningful ways. High school graduation is an important rite of passage, and we will honour this special occasion in the best way possible. The details of our plans will be shared with our Grade 12 families next week.
Planning for September 2020
In addition to their planning for the June return to Beach Drive, the Return to Campus Task Force is also researching and creating plans in anticipation of the resumption of face-to-face instruction for all grades in September. Acknowledging that this will not mean a return to the “past normal,” we are planning for a variety of scenarios, the details of which will be shared with you in due course. One factor is determining how to make the best use of all the space available to us on both campuses while keeping the health and safety of everyone in our community our number one priority.
Planning for September 2020 for International Families
There are a number of additional considerations for our international families to consider when planning for a return to school in September. We will be sharing FAQs developed specifically for international students and their families early in the week of May 25.
One thing that has been made clear by the Ministry is that we must plan to be nimble and flexible during the next 12 to 18 months. Should another school closure be mandated by the Provincial Health Officer during the 2020/2021 school year, we are confident we will be able to respond quickly. We have learned so much in the last several weeks, and we have a dedicated team of experts working to refine our distance learning for all grades to make sure that GO! 2.0 will be even more robust and inspiring if we need to call on it again.
At the Middle and Senior School, the Academic Council and the Curriculum Leadership Team will develop plans to ensure continuity of learning for all students in the event we need to pivot back to distance learning on short notice. At the Junior School, classes on campus will be organized into a six-period per day timetable that will be maintained if we must return to distance learning. This is similar to the model the Middle School has been using very effectively over the last two months.
In early April we sent an email to families outlining the steps the school has taken to provide additional financial support if required as a result of the pandemic. This includes more flexible payment options, increased financial aid and the opportunity to apply for short-term temporary assistance. We also extended the due date for next year’s tuition from May 29 to June 15. If you have any questions about our financial support options, please contact Chrissy Raniseth att firstname.lastname@example.org
or 250-370-6820. Invoices have now been uploaded to your child’s profile in Blackbaud, and payment is due by June 15. If you have any questions about the invoices or how to access them, please contact Karen Leach at email@example.com
Beach Drive Campus Construction Update
In last week’s GNS News we shared a video
highlighting the exciting progress being made at the Junior School. Things are moving very quickly and, according to our contractor, we are now ahead of schedule. There is even some discussion about the possibility of moving into the new Main Building this September! I share this with you very cautiously, as a number of things need to happen to make this a reality. Regardless, I can assure you that we will be moving into the new building by Christmas.
I appreciate what a strange and challenging time this continues to be for all of us, and I want you to know that we have a plan to safely and effectively continue providing a first-class educational experience for all our students, whether in-person, online or in a hybrid-model as our circumstances require. Your child’s safety—physical, emotional and mental—will always come first. We are so privileged that your family has chosen us for your educational journey, and we all look forward to continuing that journey together.
Thank you for your ongoing support.
Incoming Head of School