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No one has felt the pandemic like children. From strained social interactions to routine disruptions and missing extended family members, our youngest have had to navigate a changing landscape with more than a few curveballs. For many, school has been the staple, and BC’s independent schools have been uniquely positioned to move forward in constructive ways, often leveraging pandemic-related pivots to forge new paths to even brighter student experiences.
BRENTWOOD COLLEGE SCHOOLBrentwood College School in Mill Bay is back to its fully functioning tripartite program that places academics, art and athletics in set blocks that run all day until 6 pm, six days a week, and ensures students an interdisciplinary education without having to compromise cross-curricular activities.
“This structure really provided us with the foundation to forge ahead and offer the boarding and school experience that we thought was so essential for young people at Brentwood College School,” says Liam Sullivan, deputy head, student life. “When you think of wellness and the mental health impacts many young people faced, we are so happy that we were able to offer a sense of community that wasn’t available for many students in Canada.”
Brentwood is well-positioned to manage change, regardless of a pandemic, because it is 100% committed to boarding. “Our boarding numbers far outweigh our day population, and our whole structure is devoted to the student experience all day, every day,” Sullivan says. “Because of that, if we need to talk about change or innovate, we are all here together.”
While the end of the pandemic can’t come soon enough, the school is currently dealing with far fewer constraints than it was last year. The focus now is the vaccination program, which has been adopted and allows the rest of Brentwood’s activities to flow freely.
“There is a freedom that you feel across our campus that wasn’t there last year,” Sullivan says. “Just like everywhere, there was a depletion of positivity and energy because of what was happening, but this year feels much better and brighter.”
GLENLYON NORFOLK SCHOOLIn the spring of 2020, when all schools had to shift to remote learning, Glenlyon Norfolk School in Victoria launched GNS GO! (Gryphons Online)—a platform that allowed students to continue their learning for the remainder of that year.
Although GNS was operating full-time, in person last school year, it remains poised to be able to deliver GNS GO! again, if necessary.
“Last year, we continued to offer a robust co-curricular experience for our students,” says Trevor Mannion, director of enrollment at GNS. “We put on virtual events, live streamed or recorded performances, or simply continued to train and stay engaged while having fun through intramural sports.”
Moving forward, GNS will continue its policies around health and safety and managing communicable diseases, and it will keep the school nurse role and additional mental wellness support indefinitely.
GNS’s ability to pivot stems from its greatest asset: its people. “In many situations, our parents and guardians were unable to come to campus last year, and so they remained connected to the school through our communications,” Mannion says. “Now that they are beginning to have opportunities to come back to campus, they are more eager and engaged than ever before, and that continues to strengthen a wonderful partnership. Our students and employees have proven very resilient, and the pandemic bonded us closer together as a community.”
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