A year etched in our memories

The year 2019-2020 at Colorado Academy will go down as one of the most challenging in the school’s history. It started with such joy and promise. We had a new Athletic Center, and then we announced plans to build the Leach Center for the Performing Arts. We had record interest from prospective families. We had our Girls Field Hockey Team win yet another State Championship. We had outstanding artistic performances. There were amazing things going on in the classrooms.

And, then tragedy struck. We lost our dear friend and colleague Leslie Webster in a terrible accident. Yet, even in that dark moment, the CA community rallied together. Students wrote hundreds of cards and letters of support that had a profound effect on the Webster family. Leslie’s daughters were able to see the thousands of lives she had touched in her years at Colorado Academy. The community came together to support one another. Given that she was a Kindergarten teacher, both teachers and parents faced the challenging task of speaking to very young children about death and dying. We would all like to protect our children from life’s harder lessons. Yet, by coming together with such love and compassion, we modeled something important for every student: that ALL of our lives are important, and ALL of us have the potential to have the positive impact that Leslie had on those around her.

And, if that weren’t hard enough, COVID-19 arrived in the United States. I still vividly recall seeing the sad faces of students walking out of the Upper School on the day before Spring Break, when it was clear that this was going to be disruptive. We learned in this moment just how important school and CA, in particular, is in our lives. Our Seniors in the Class of 2020 lost a number of valued traditions and experiences. Students had to learn remotely. Parents with young children faced new pressures trying to adjust to online learning. There is no doubt that it has been painful.

At times like this, we can be somewhat comforted by perspective. Now, months later, we have seen the terrible effect this pandemic has had: more than 100,000 deaths and nearly 40 million Americans unemployed. We all felt the pain of losing just one person in our community. Imagine the collective loss of many thousands of lives.

Against that backdrop, we’ve seen protests, and sometimes vandalism and violence, strike our cities in the wake of the police custody death of George Floyd. These trying times are taking their toll.

How we rallied

Again and again, we have rallied. Our teachers deserve immense praise for their exceptional efforts to teach and sustain learning. My administrative team has demonstrated incredible flexibility and agility in thinking and moving quickly to support our students and families. Our families have been so supportive throughout this crisis. You have understood how extraordinary this is, and you have been understanding, as the school has been forced to make a variety of decisions and actions to keep people safe. To be sure, we have all sacrificed, and we have all felt more challenged than ever. We also know that this will end, and that we will resume all the great things that happen at CA. We are still hoping to break ground on the Leach Center for the Performing Arts in August. We still have big hopes and dreams for the school and realistic ways to achieve our ambitions.

Over Memorial Day weekend, I found myself watching a bunch of World War II movies. That WWII generation made phenomenal sacrifices in the face of existential threat. My generation and our children’s generation have never really had to give up anything for the larger good. Even after 9/11 and 20 years of war against terrorism, Americans did not have to ration or cut back on anything. We talk a lot about building resilience at CA and how important that learned skill is for leading a successful life. This is no longer an abstraction for us. It is very real. My hope is that our students will come out of this stronger, less fearful, more confident, and more determined to do good in the world.

I will be signing off my blog for a few weeks, but you can expect to hear from the school as we prepare for another challenging year. This virus will not be going away anytime soon, but learning won’t stop; we are going to do our best to continue teaching our students and sustain our community. Thanks always for your support. Be safe and be well.