April 13, 2020
Dear GCDS Grandparents and Grandfriends,
First and foremost, I sincerely hope that you are all well and safe at home. We are thinking about everyone in our GCDS family as we all, collectively, navigate this crisis. I wanted to share a few updates with you, similar to what we are sharing with your children and grandchildren.
Grandparents/Grandfriends Day 2020
We are saddened to announce that we will not be hosting the in-person, on-campus May 7 Reception or the May 8 Grandparents and Grandfriends Day events this year. While we are disappointed not to be able to see you all here on campus, it is the safest decision for our entire community, including you! We are determined to identify alternative ways to celebrate this traditional day so that you can still see what your grandchildren are doing in their classrooms and with their friends every day. When a plan is finalized, we will be sure to communicate it to you.
GCDS Remote Learning
On Monday, March 30, following our traditional spring break, we commenced Remote Learning across all divisions, from our youngest learners in Nursery through to our oldest students in Grade 12. The activities of an online school day largely depends on the age of the students. At a minimum, students are interacting with their teachers in both live and recorded sessions, seeing their friends, learning new material, and engaging in individual and group work. As of now and in accordance with Governor Lamont’s direction announced on April 9, we will continue Remote Learning through at least May 20, but we are prepared for this to continue longer, if necessary.
After the first week of remote learning, we surveyed our parents, students, faculty, and staff for their feedback. Over ¾ of respondents stated that their experience with Remote Learning so far was “good” or “great”. Families reported a wide range of personal experiences and needs largely around managing schedules. Some requested more “live” sessions with teachers and some wished for more schedule flexibility provided by the individual learning opportunities, while others felt the balance worked well. We will continue our efforts to strike the optimal balance in providing opportunities to connect with teachers and student peers, and to provide a schedule that is flexible enough to meet the needs of each family.
Faculty and Staff Kudos
I would be remiss not to offer my most heartfelt gratitude and appreciation for our faculty who gave up the second week of their spring break to prepare for Remote Learning. Also, in my humble opinion, we have the best Technology Team at any school in the country. They have worked tirelessly to research emerging technology platforms, test them, learn to use them, train our faculty to use them, teach your grandchildren to use them, and create an amazing Remote Learning Tool Kit for parents, faculty, and staff. In fact, our peers were so impressed with our Remote Learning Tool Kits that they are being recognized as leaders in the field on the National Association of Independent School’s website (to learn more visit: https://share.nais.org/story/10807). And since Remote Learning started, the Tech Team has been working around the clock to troubleshoot questions and concerns, resolve issues, fix devices, and more!
Community Values are Alive and Well
Additionally, we are committed to the values that make GCDS such a special school and broader community. Our administration, faculty, staff, and Board of Trustees are meeting regularly through Zoom and other platforms—this continued contact and support are vital to the health and well-being of everyone in the community. In fact, below is a picture of our all faculty and staff meeting we held ten days ago over Zoom—300 strong—together for each other, our students, their families, our alumni and their families, and our greater community.
Here are two short videos that I thought you might like to see. The first is a poem I wrote for the students to welcome them to Remote Learning. Who knew that I could still climb a tree? The second is a phone call between Jacqueline Jenkins, our Assistant Head of School and Head of Upper Elementary, and me reflecting on our first week of Remote Learning. Toward the end of the call, Jackie asked me an important question about our support staff at GCDS—our Dining Hall and Facilities teams. The Board of Trustees is committed to maintaining these employees salaries through June 30, the end of our fiscal year. Additionally, I shared with Jackie that all the food that was in GCDS’s refrigerators and freezers was donated to local organizations in Greenwich, including Neighbor to Neighbor. Additionally, our Center for Public Good continues to connect students and their families, faculty, staff, and our entire alumni community to local and regional service opportunities during the COVID-19 crisis. Please visit https://www.gcds.net/community/cpg to learn more about how the GCDS community is serving others and to see ways that you too can get involved! I am so proud of the ways in which we are supporting each other and our broader community at this time.
I deeply miss seeing the smiling faces of our students, faculty, staff, and families every day—in person. However, I am uplifted by the unwavering strength of our community and the care with which our teachers and staff put into every effort to ensure that your grandchildren continue to receive the best education possible given these unusual circumstances. Please stay safe and well. I look forward to seeing you all again in the very near future.