Building Community While Remote
By Paul Hagen, Director of Student Well-Being and Vickie Baldwin, Director of Institutional Advancement
Eastside Prep has always been a place where community is prioritized. We know that community is foundational to learning and that we cannot achieve our mission and vision without building and maintaining close relationships with students and families. While the ideal of community-building has been with us since the school’s founding, this fall poses new challenges (and opportunities) as we work to create meaningful community.
Creating Community with Students
The advisory program is the foundation of community building for students. This fall our advisory program is focused on making connection, creating community, and uniting as EPS Eagles. Advisors work with counselors to create meaningful social-emotional learning as well as fun, interactive games.
School communities are often strengthened organically with students talking over lunch or in the hallways between classes. Unfortunately, this is more challenging when remote. To overcome this challenge, we have created opportunities for students to connect informally in mid-day clubs (typically on Thursdays), during lunch discussion groups, and by participating in virtual social events.
Finally, we are piloting small gatherings of students outside on campus and at area trails to create in-person opportunities to connect and build community. These activities will be limited to ten students at a time with two faculty chaperones and will require social-distancing and mask wearing (you can find more details in this briefing).
Creating Community with Parents and Guardians
Of course, parents and guardians are an integral part of our EPS community as well, and community building has become even more of a priority this fall since we cannot gather in our usual ways.
The main focus of our Parent Association is to create community among parents/guardians and to create connections between home and school. Our first PA general meeting of the year (held virtually Thursday morning) had almost 130 attendees and helped provide those important connections to the school and among parents. (More information from that meeting is provided below.) The grade level representatives for the Parent Association are hard at work creating social opportunities for parents within their class. Most classes are holding one to two opportunities each month and are geared at helping parents make social connections.
Eastside Prep is also sponsoring grade-level based opportunities for parents and guardians. The divisions are each holding grade-specific parent meetings to discuss topics specific to those grade levels. These meetings differ from the PA-sponsored meetings in that they are focused more on school topics (rather than social). And finally, Dr. Macaluso holds Head’s Table meetings each fall. These meetings are also grade-level specific and with only about 20 parents in attendance, they are a great opportunity to learn more about Eastside Prep and independent school education. (Plus, who wouldn’t like the chance to hear what’s on Dr. Macaluso’s mind on topics like trends in education and the future of EPS.) While these virtual opportunities don’t replace the in-person gatherings we would all prefer, they are foundational in sustaining our community until we can meet again.
Even though we are apart to start this school year, we can create and maintain our strong, resilient, and caring EPS community!