Renewed commitment to community norms as we welcome back students

There’s not a lot of fun about living in the age of COVID-19. But I have to say it has been fun to have multiple “first” days of school! Of course, we had our very first week virtually, and it was wonderful to be back in class. This week brought two more “first” days for the Lower School Mustangs and Rockies as the Colorado Academy Flex cohorts were on campus. This coming Monday, CA Ninth Graders have on-campus orientation and then we have two more “first days,” when the Middle and Upper School Mustangs and Rockies are in their classrooms.

It was simply awesome to see our Lower School students back in person. As students drove in with their parents, we saw lots of smiling faces. Kids dressed up in their opening day new duds. We saw new backpacks. Teachers and staff helped direct students to their classrooms. I had the joy of walking several new Kindergartners to their classes. Everyone was excited! I look forward to next week and welcoming all of our students back. There is little doubt that in-person learning is what we all prefer. My hope is that we can continue to follow our health and safety protocols and procedures so we can remain open.

Demolition of CA’s Froelicher Theatre began this week. The New Leach Center for the Performing Arts will be built in the same location, and will open next fall.

It also was pretty awesome to be on campus as we begin the final phase of our See it Through campaign. With a few knocks from the trac-hoe, the Froelicher Theatre came down on Thursday. It’s been home to our performing arts programs for the past 43 years. The demolition is the first step in building the Leach Center for the Performing Arts. We will be in the new theater space this time next year.

This week I spoke to Middle School students about our community norms and expectations. (This is a talk I have given for the past two years to Upper School and Middle School students. I will share it with Upper School students next week.) In this presentation, I address our values and our standards. With adolescent students, we know one developmental reality is that an important part of the brain—the frontal lobe—which helps humans make rational decisions, is not fully formed. Therefore, students are prone to say and do things that aren’t representative of their character or the values of CA. Students at this age also are pushing boundaries and experimenting with various behaviors and thinking. My goal in speaking to these older students directly is to help guide them about what we aspire to be at CA and what language and behaviors are unacceptable.

This year, I spoke to the students about our expectations around inclusivity and diversity. (Here’s a link to a post I wrote at this time last year about the importance of community norms as we return to school.) We need to stand for the dignity of every person on this campus. Our language toward one another matters. We can use our language to inspire and lift up, but sometimes students can use language that demeans and makes others feel inferior. This is hurtful and actually can cause trauma. Today, I challenged students to be their best. I noted that there is no place for racism, bigotry, sexism, homophobia, or transphobia in our community. The CA culture of being a kind community is something we cannot take for granted.

Next week, expect a letter from me and our Board of Trustees that will address how CA is advancing our Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion work. It calls out some new initiatives we intend to make that build upon our foundation of honoring and empowering student voices, while advancing academic programs and improving administrative functions. We have benefited from hearing from our alumni and families of color about aspects of their CA experience. We want to ensure we meet the needs of every student, and meet this moment in American history. We are all here because we want to be part of a great academic institution and a supportive community. Any school is a human community. That means that every community is fallible. It’s okay that we make mistakes, but we must learn from them. What’s important is that we work intentionally toward fully realizing our mission and support all of our students, preparing each of them for the 21st century world.

I look forward to seeing every student return to campus and to the day when all students return as one CA student body.