Its tongue lolling playfully on the ground, as if in response to the humid heat, the tire(d) dragon on the playground appears eager for someone to scramble on top of him and take a ride on an imaginary adventure. Sometimes I feel the residual energy of Green Acres students weaving in and out of the Castle or climbing atop the Mary Veronica pirate ship. Echoes of their laughter ring joyfully throughout our campus’s lush July greenery, vivid wildflowers, and butterfly bushes (already quivering with early Monarchs).
A few parents have asked about the potential for expanding our use of outside campus spaces. Part of the beauty of Green Acres is our woods, fields, creek, and student-friendly open spaces and structures (like the Gaga Pit) that invite exploration, play, and community. We are considering ways to extend the classroom through awnings, tents, and outdoor seating, and have been working with GASPA and our staff to envision age-appropriate, social-distanced activities, regardless of the on/off-campus status. As an experiential outdoor educator, I recognize the importance of our young people being immersed in nature. It is also a pillar of the Green Acres experience.
I am happy to announce the new names of our buildings, and to give appreciation to everyone whose participation offered some great options. We now present to you The Castle Building (formerly The 1-2 Building) and The Alice Mendham Powell (AMP) Building (formerly The 3-4 Building). As a newbie, I am not as attached to the previous names and am still working on getting to know the campus, its nomenclature, and special nooks and features.
On the staffing front, we are wrapping up the search for a new art teacher (Shellie Marker announced her departure in the Spring) and were fortunate to have several talented candidates among whom to choose.
A search for a new 1st grade teacher is also now underway. Jen Kaufmann, who taught at Green Acres for the past eight years as a much-beloved 2nd and 4th grade teacher, and who we anticipated would serve as one of our 1st grade teachers this upcoming year, will not be returning in the fall. I may not have gotten to know Jen well, but I know that her passion for social justice work at Green Acres has been noteworthy. Jen was an active participant in Staff SEED (Seeking Educational Equity and Diversity), SIDC (Staff Inclusion & Diversity Committee), and a variety of professional development related to this important work. Furthermore, Jen served twice as our CAPS (Capital Area Progressive Schools) representative, encouraging collaboration among like-minded progressive schools and planning events to foster that. In a departing email to staff, Jen shared: “My time at Green Acres has been such a gift to me.” Jen, I know I speak on behalf of the community when I say you will be sorely missed!
Staff have been busier than ever this summer, from packing boxes and cleaning spaces in preparation for Diener’s arrival on campus, to hopping on Teams meetings that address the many topics of virtual learning and instruction. (Regardless of our final plan, there will undoubtedly be the need for online lessons.) I have been impressed by the depth of thinking and problem solving evident in those staff giving their time and energy. The care with which we proceed reminds me of the same premise for wearing face masks: we do it not just for ourselves, but out of respect and compassion for everyone around us.
Speaking of caring, I am enjoying the opportunity to connect with Green Acres parents on my Friday “get-to-know-you” chats. (You can sign up for them here.) The bonus is seeing the students who join the call, and who are eager to impart their wisdom and perspectives. An 8th grader enthusiastically suggested that a middle school leadership idea I shared for feedback be tried starting this year. Folks have told me what the Green Acres experience has meant to them and their children. An alum (and current high schooler) on the call said that Green Acres helped boost their confidence in public speaking. Families shared how meaningful it has been for their children to learn self-advocacy, to be themselves at school, and to know that their opinions are valued at Green Acres.
Your voices matter, too, and the end-of-year feedback you shared with us about our remote program adds an important lens to our planning of remote lessons for the fall. We learned that generally, folks were happy with the timing, schedule, and frequency of classes—but it goes without saying that some wanted more classes, and some wanted fewer.
In the Lower School, you shared enthusiastic appreciation for synchronous lessons and one-on-one sessions with teachers—and many of you expressed that you’d like children to experience even more of that. Wanting more synchronous time with specials teachers was also a common theme. We learned that families generally found the Early Childhood and Grades 1–4 websites helpful, but that you’d like us to continue to find ways to refine, simplify, and streamline our communication with you.
100% of Middle School parent respondents were “very satisfied” or “satisfied” with our remote program. They also expressed the need for advisory sessions, as well for as a lunch break. Both have tentatively been built into the schedule, should we go remote. Globally, Middle School student respondents liked the daily schedule, appreciated the synchronous collaborative work as well as the ability to work independently, and shared gratitude for how their teachers made learning engaging, despite the unprecedented circumstances.
Across the board, effusive praise for our teachers—their flexibility, commitment, passion, and effectiveness—came through loud and clear. Similarly, we appreciated the same qualities in you as parents. A solid home-school partnership is always essential, and last spring demonstrated how very strong we truly are! I'm excited to continue this partnership with you as we journey through what awaits us in the fall.
We are not yet in a position to decide what fall re-entry will look like. As you know, Montgomery County health officials made a recommendation to the County school system earlier this week, and they will be addressing independent school administrators next week. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released updated guidance for schools only yesterday. And we actively are tracking a rapidly changing public health picture in our region. As we consult with healthcare professionals and listen to our teachers and staff, we are evaluating closely our own capacity to deliver quality progressive instruction and experiences in a way that accounts for the challenges that COVID-19 presents. While we do benefit from flexibility as an independent school, we must be both practical and thoughtful in our decision-making. We anticipate sharing more definitive information by the end of the first week of August. Your patience, understanding, support, and guidance are most appreciated.
Rebecca Geary (she/they)
Head of School