An Independent School • Grades 5-12

by Bernie Noe, head of school 

I love that summer is just around the corner. We have reached the time of year when we have noticeably more daylight hours! By the time I finish my early morning run at Green Lake, the sun is coming up over the lake.

In my final Inside Lakeside piece this year, I want to share a few thoughts about how I believe the school has weathered the COVID-19 pandemic. Like many in the world, we were surprised last year by the velocity with which everything shut down. During the last week of February 2020, I was in Philadelphia at the National Association of Independent Schools conference, and independent school leaders from around the nation were discussing the spread of the virus in the United States and whether a pandemic would be declared. The following week, Lakeside closed the campus for in-person learning for what extended to ten months!

Initially our faculty struggled as they learned how to teach remotely while also learning how to keep themselves safe as information about COVID-19 continued to develop. But by this September our faculty were among the best in the country at remote teaching. I am proud of the teachers and our divisional leadership, all of whom worked so hard to become skilled remote teachers and are now mastering the intricacies of hybrid teaching in classrooms with socially distanced and masked students.

Everyone — faculty, staff, and administrators — stepped up in their respective areas. Bryan Smith took on COVID-19 health and safety officer responsibilities; Amanda Darling developed our COVID communications strategy; Jamie Asaka and the student support team launched a program to ensure students were getting care; and the facilities department got our portables and moved furniture all over the campus from week to week. In every area, everyone stepped up. Was it all smooth? No, there were some strong disagreements about how to proceed with reopening, but we kept making decisions and kept moving forward.

The students, and parents and guardians, also leaned in. When the students returned for substantially modified in-person learning, we heard not a negative word from them about all the new restrictions. And parents and guardians have also been overwhelmingly supportive of all the changes and pivots of the year.

So, my takeaways:

  1. Ours is a strong school community that will pull together in a crisis.
  2. The school is about so much more than an academic education. I know that we must continue to be excellent academically, but what the students most missed in remote learning was community — their friends and near friends and all those casual day-to-day interactions that make our lives rich and meaningful.
  3. Athletics matter so much to our students. I knew they mattered a lot, but when we were applying the concept of the bubble (entirely my mistake), one-third of our students in both divisions decided not to return to campus so they could  participate in sports not sponsored by the school. And now that athletics have resumed, those practices and games are the highlight of the day for many of our athletes.
  4. Everyone will find workarounds to do what they believe is important to do for our students, such as delivering lunches to classrooms during hybrid learning and getting students who need bus transportation to school onto a bus while meeting social distancing requirements.
  5. We are all more flexible than we think!

So, good parents and guardians, those are my takeaways to date. I would love to hear yours. Please send them to me if you have time. Thanks!

Have a great summer, everyone. And I will see you all next year!!

Bernie Noe is Lakeside’s head of school. You can reach him at Head'sOffice@lakesideschool.org and 206-440-2714.