By Middle and Upper School Director of Studies Sven Carlsson
Earlier this week on zoom, Head of Upper School Justin Brandon shared—to a virtual Student Government packed with students—the plans for what may well be the final US schedule of the 2020–21 school year. The creation, iteration and development of this schedule is a picture of the interconnected nature of Parker school life, which has somehow become even more true during the pandemic. In true Parker fashion, US students asked where student voice was in the development process (a prior meeting between Brandon and the student-led Senate), how remote students were being centered and included in the design and implementation (auspiciously, the focus of the faculty meeting just one day before and something at the forefront of teacher and administration minds for quite some time) and where student-athletes might store their sports equipment (found and created spaces by Athletics Director Bobby Starks and the US Office to be publicized in the near future).
While the complexity of designing a new schedule for the largest (and oldest) division in the school is noteworthy, one of the most interesting, unsung parts of this endeavor is how many people it took to make it possible and harmonious. It is, in effect, a symphony played by multiple orchestras simultaneously. Were Lower School Dean of Student Life Ashleigh St. Peters and Lower School Coordinator Gretchen Kaluzny not building and updating the spreadsheet that governs the usage of both the tented portions of the Anita (and Webster) lot and the open portion of the lot, were Middle School Assistant Kiri Youngquist not recording the times that MS students were having lunch and recess in the Courtyard, were IS and MS colleagues not willing to change the order of their classes to make the schedules of our hard-working cross-divisional faculty fit the new, five-day US schedule, and were our Maintenance department not vigilantly keeping our air circulation systems going, moving desks and chairs and preparing numerous rooms in exact accord with numerous specifications—designed to make each individual space safe and most conducive to teaching and learning—it would have been impossible for the US choir to use the Courtyard (after the Monday, April 19 return); impossible for US teachers to meet with individual students during shared free periods in the Webster lot (without overlapping with Kindergartners riding bikes or middle schoolers enjoying lunch); and impossible for our nine sophomores, juniors, and seniors in Sculpture to imagine, design and build 3D expressions of form that channel the emotion of the past year as well as provide a creative, focused and technique-heavy release.
This is to say nothing of the teachers, assistants and staff who are daily supervising lunch and recess, recording temperatures, finding supplies and coordinating/providing last-minute coverage to ensure that our students are safe, cared for and free to engage in the act of learning. As grateful as we are to our spaces, some of which are currently used by LS, IS and MS for recesses (whose times differ by grade and, within grades, by section/class for medical safety reasons) and will be likewise shared and experienced by the students of the US later this month, we are even more grateful for all the Parker people who are making each day possible through their effort, love and sacrifice. Describing Parker at its founding in 1901, Marie Kirchner Stone wrote that “The concentration on community differentiated the Parker School, whose goal was creating a more just, humane, and egalitarian society.” To the assistants, faculty and administrators continuing to concentrate on and make possible community at Parker in 2021, we say thank you! And to the students making adjustments and the parents supporting their children as they adjust, we say thank you!