By Claudia Bayer, PA President
THE WORD ‘COMMUNITY’ immediately brings a sense of belonging and connection. It feels good even if we don’t always understand why. The reason it is such a powerful concept is because at its core, community is about support. People helping people—usually in selfless ways—with the simple goal of a greater good. Something we could not complete individually, but through the combined efforts of many, magic can happen. That is the essence of the EPS community. We are all singularly focused on creating the best educational experience we can for our children and students. That goal is the bond of our community. It is a goal that is complicated, nuanced, and full of unexpected challenges, sometimes as massive as the current pandemic. Regardless of circumstance, our ability to succeed depends on continuing to be an active, collaborative, and supportive community to our school.
Fostering this kind of community is an integral part of the Parent Association’s mission. Who could have predicted at the start of this school year that the spring trimester was going to be such a fundamental change to how we deliver our curriculum, interact with our students, and keep the school operational and developing? So, as our school continued to do what it does best, and our students diligently pressed forward adjusting to the new way of learning, the Parent Association (PA) had to rethink how we stay connected as parents—to each other and to the school. Our community would go from exchanging smiles and an open-door policy on campus to making appointments and ringing a virtual doorbell to join a video conference from our homes. These changes were all met with an amazingly supportive, patient, and flexible parent community.
OUR COMMUNITY WOULD GO FROM EXCHANGING SMILES AND AN OPEN-DOOR POLICY ON CAMPUS TO MAKING APPOINTMENTS AND RINGING A VIRTUAL DOORBELL TO JOIN A VIDEO CONFERENCE FROM OUR HOMES.
To keep parents informed, our PA Head Class Reps created and organized ways to host virtual grade-level coffees. They trained and supported each group of Class Reps to schedule and host these get-togethers over multiple days. These meetings were warmly welcomed as there was an eagerness to connect and see familiar faces. Parents shared stories and exchanged ideas to help each other cope with new realities, leading to laughter and togetherness. Parents also provided valuable feedback to Class Reps and to the school, which helped tremendously to support EPSRemote. Many of our parents continued to be creative at staying connected on their own time with the very popular happy hour and challenging trivia/game nights, where we learned who the trivia buffs and competitive individuals are within our ranks. Together, these shared experiences ultimately make our community bonds stronger.
THANK YOU TO OUR EPS FAMILIES AND THE WORK THE PARENT ASSOCIATION DID TO HELP CREATE A SUPPORT STRUCTURE THROUGHOUT THE SPRING. A LOT HAS HAPPENED THIS YEAR AND OUR COMMUNITY WILL CONTINUE TO EVOLVE, CHANGE, AND GROW.
Growing our community of course includes making new families for the 20-21 school year feel welcome. The PA Hospitality Team created the EPSConnects campaign, which gathered a small group of parent volunteers to reach out to each individual family on a personal level. The families of ninety-eight new students were welcomed into our community with long conversations ranging from how things work and personal experiences at EPS to simply getting to know one another. These informal conversations were an essential beginning to bringing these families into our parent community. There’s also a hope that through time and regular interactions, these families will make lifelong friends that continue well beyond our kids’ time at EPS as has been our son’s alumni experience.
The PA also joined with Cheryl Miller, Director of Enrollment Management, to host virtual Block Parties in an effort to reach all parents and students in our local communities. It was impressive to see the level of engagement and sharing of experiences from our current EPS students. It was also a great opportunity to “meet” new people and gain insight into new places in my own neighborhood, proving that nurturing community goes well beyond the walls of EPS.
Fostering our connection to the school would not be complete without the community support of our faculty and staff. The PA Appreciation Team facilitated a number of ways to share thanks to the faculty and staff, which began with the home delivery of Girl Scout Cookies and ended with an incredible outpouring of appreciation through personal emails, handwritten notes, and video submissions. This gave the encouragement greatly needed to refuel our faculty and staff as they continued to create new ways to deliver the curriculum and engage our students. And finally, parents provided endless support to your own children. From creating a home classroom to encouraging exercise, and even trying to take on the irreplaceable role of Chef Gilbert—our parents are an amazingly resilient bunch.
With that, I say thank you to our EPS families and the work the Parent Association did to help create a support structure throughout the spring. A lot has happened this year and our community will continue to evolve, change, and grow. We’re adding new families, new processes and new ways to meet and connect, all with the goal of creating a better learning environment for our students. It’s never clear what the future holds, but we have some experience that even when something huge and unexpected happens like our current pandemic, we have the bonds to help us not only keep going but do so effectively and maybe even with a little style. We should be proud of our community and I look forward to what’s ahead.