We don’t often have the opportunity to get two opening days of a school year, but today, our first day of virtual learning, felt like “deja vu all over again.”

I woke up this morning to find a number of parent emails in my inbox. Over the past two weeks, I have received daily messages of gratitude from Colorado Academy parents who are thankful for the school’s presence in the lives of their families. Today, the messages expressed appreciation for the hard work of the school to prepare for online learning and try to restore a sense of normalcy in the lives of our students.

Drawing us in further

One parent wrote, “Mike, I don’t want to clog your email Inbox, but really wanted to reach out just to say, “Thank You.” Colorado Academy has been a wonderful community for [our daughter] and our family on many levels prior to this terrible pandemic, but the last few weeks have drawn us in even further. The cohesion, calm, planning, advice, as well as the tenor and pace of communication have been nearly perfect for our ninth grader and our family. The school’s efforts and planning to afford her a balanced approach to her education and well being during this difficult time are not unnoticed. We are all most appreciative. “

Another parent shared a photo of her daily journal in which she noted: “I am grateful for CA: for being so on top of online learning. They were ready for this and care so much about our children’s education.”

I want to thank our teachers and administrative team. The Division Principals and our Technology Department have worked hard to flip our school to an online learning community. The amount of work that has been done in a very short time is mind-boggling. The leadership team has developed age-appropriate schedules and listened to the experience of schools in the U.S. and abroad that have been in a virtual world now for several weeks. The Technology Department’s efforts to complete back-end work to prepare Zoom accounts for all the teachers and students, as well as to train our teachers has been beyond impressive.

The Communications Office has been hard at work trying to keep our families and community informed of our approach. Our Business operation has been considering multiple scenarios and working hard to find ways to support all of our employees—particularly our hourly employees who cannot work from home.

I also want to thank our teachers for their extraordinary flexibility. This is not easy for any of us. I have admired the dedication of our teachers to respond to this unprecedented moment in our history. In speaking with my colleagues, there is a deep commitment to our students and their development. We know that—as imperfect as Zoom teaching might be—our daily connections with students are so important.

Virtual classroom visits

This morning I spent time bouncing in and out of classrooms. I saw teachers patiently and calmly explaining how this process will work and what to expect. Depending on the subject and grade level, the move to online learning can be seamless. But, for some disciplines and ages, it will be harder. I heard from one parent whose Middle Schooler came bounding down the stairs after his first class with Peggy Butler, saying how much he loved the experience. I went into a Kindergarten class where students were all working on a writing assignment. I saw an Upper School English class engaging in a thoughtful discussion. Again, I am so grateful for how our community has responded.

Finally, I thought I would share a letter from an alumnus with deep connections to the school. His name is Jeff Welborn, and he was a student at CA in the 1960s, a parent of a student, and now a grandparent. He reminds of us an essential aspect of our history: the quality people at Colorado Academy. Jeff writes,

“In the end, fulfilling the CA mission is still about people, and CA is blessed with such fine people at all levels. Many years ago, when what has become the CA we know today was rising out of the military school era, the infrastructure of the school (old army barracks, run-down drafty buildings) left a lot to be desired. I remember how unfazed Frances Newton [the founding chair of the board who led the school to become a college prep school] was by those difficult physical conditions. She told us it would be the quality of the teachers that would make the school. The buildings and trappings would follow in due course. She would say that students who are inspired to learn could sit on a rock and learn from a good teacher.”

I guess we might paraphrase that concept for today—students who are inspired to learn can learn and be inspired virtually when the messages being carried by the technology come from good, caring teachers. I wish you all well in the coming weeks! Thanks for rallying, CA.