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2020: A Year We Won’t Soon Forget by Sally Heit

Welcome to Fall 2020! What a crazy spring and summer our community and nation have experienced. I don’t think that any of us could have predicted or even imagined in our wildest dreams a year such as this. We hope this newsletter finds you and your loved ones well and safe.

Hope School ended the year congratulating our teachers and students on a job well done, and finishing the year with virtual preschool, kindergarten and 8th grade graduations, something which was a first for many schools across our nation. Teachers went above and beyond to make these milestones special which included graduation hats and personal stories for each student in preschool and kindergarten; using the school bus, Principal Mrs. Okabayashi, all three middle school teachers, and I (Sally Heit) hand-delivered diplomas and gift bags to every graduating 8th grader. We intended to make the biggest deal possible about their special day and honor their achievement. As difficult as it was to not hold graduation in the Sanctuary, we were able to create a video for families and friends to watch together the night of graduation that had all the ‘feels.’ If you missed it on Facebook, you can watch it here (bring Kleenex). It was bittersweet to say farewell to the 20 graduates, many whom we have known since preschool, but ultimately we knew they were ready to move on to the next stop in their academic journey which were to such schools as Seattle Lutheran, Kennedy, Holy Names, West Seattle, Chief Sealth and Gonzaga Prep.

Summer began with a bang as our staff prepared to host five weeks of summer camp with Summer Camp Director, Christina Figgins, at the helm along with her capable staff. It was a bit challenging to keep up with the constant changing protocols and design activities that didn’t promote close contact between students but still entertaining for preschoolers and kids up to fifth grade. But, after months of being at home, the campers were so overjoyed to be back in a familiar environment, seeing their friends, making new ones, and getting creative that wearing masks all day, keeping away from each other and sanitizing until their hands were dry was not too high a price to pay to experience a bit of normal. We’re happy to report there were no COVID-19 cases!

With summer camp well under way, Mrs. Okabayashi and her reopening task force began planning how we were going to reopen school for the fall. Or should we? The team met every few weeks to discuss that question as well as many others. They compared notes, made plans and figured out what kind of design would work for Hope students and their families, and yes, they prayed (a lot). This was one of the busiest admissions season I have ever experienced; as parents were calling every day to find out what our reopening plan was and did we have room for their student. After much research, deliberation and meticulous planning, Mrs. Okabayashi announced our reopening plan August 11th, just over three weeks before the first day of school. In a newsletter to parents she wrote, “At Hope School, we recognize that schools are a fundamental part of the infrastructure of communities. Schools play a critical role in supporting the whole child – not just with academics, but also with social/emotional needs, physical development and health, and spiritual development as well.”

We would be reopening with preschool through grade 4 in-person five days a week and in a hybrid model for grades 5-8 (two days in class with live-streaming from the classroom to those at home).  Students also had the option of going 100% virtual. COVID-19 training for all staff followed as teachers began to rethink how learning would look when we came back to the classroom. New technology was purchased, curriculum adapted, and classrooms completely emptied of non-essential furniture to make room for students to be six-feet apart. Thanks to careful planning, we stocked up on personal protective equipment, air filters for every classroom, and were blessed to be able to call upon a Hope Church and School member who works at Fikes Products to partner with them in the electromagnetic sanitizing of our entire school once a week on top of other sanitation protocols.

How is it going thus far? So well! Hope has been open for over a month and the staggered start times, daily morning COVID-19 screenings complete with temperature check, required mask wearing of staff and students, along with the help of our families has kept our campus safe and COVID free. That isn’t to say we are out of the woods by any means, but day by day we thank God that our students and staff are healthy and we can remain open. We are grateful for every day. Please keep us in your prayers in the months to come that we can continue to serve our students and be a light for our families during this difficult time.

New Technology at Hope

Anyone tired of Zoom calls yet? Zoom fatigue is a real thing these days as has become one of the primary tools of communicating with each other in our personal and business life. Hope School is no exception; Zoom is a tool we use daily to live stream from the classroom to students at learning at home. As we discussed how best to meet our student’s academic as well as social emotional needs, we realized very quickly that we needed our virtual learners to feel as much a part of a real classroom setting as possible.

This year Hope welcomed Roger Davenport, a Hope parent and our new IT Specialist, who has played an integral part in setting the school up to support our students in class and online. Now, all students have an iPad that they can use in class and at home and TV monitors are set up in each classroom so that teachers can see and interact with each remote learner. Two cameras and microphones are focused on the front of the classroom to capture the teacher and SmartBoard for direct instruction so students at home see exactly what students in class are seeing live. Some of the teachers also use headsets to magnify their voice so everyone can hear.

Teachers have incorporated online learning components within our curriculum: using Good Classroom; created individual sensory and math manipulative kits in kindergarten; reimagined how to do science experiments by pairing up a student in class with one online for collaboration; and are using helpful apps such as Notability, BrainPop, Screencastify, and Quizlet to support learning. Get a quick glimpse of our classrooms this year!

The Eagle Excellence Fund at Work

At the 60th Anniversary celebration in March, Hope School introduced the Eagle Excellence Fund which supports five key areas: Academics, Staff, Technology, Student Life and Affordability. The generosity of alumni, parents and friends of Hope was astounding and a wonderful start to supporting and sustaining these five pillars that positively impact our students. Now, more than ever, your tax-deductible gift will ensure that Hope remains ready and able to continue the valuable work our teachers and staff are doing every day, virtually and in the classroom.

Thanks to gifts from alumni such as you and current Hope School families, Hope was able to purchase new math curriculum over the past summer for grades K-8. We were due for a curriculum update and chose to upgrade to the new “Math in Focus” curriculum from Houghton Harcourt Mifflin. The new materials allow us more online access which is important for our students who are learning at home this year, as well as providing a rigorous math education for all our students. Thank you for your contributions to the Eagle Excellence Fund!

Donate to the Eagle Excellence Fund

 

Skills for Wellness by Emily Tanis-Likkel, Electives teacher

(Previously published in the October 6, 2020 Words of Hope.)

I am so delighted to be teaching Skills for Wellness to grades 5-8 this year at Hope. It is crucial for schools to prioritize social and emotional learning, now more than ever. The curriculum we are using is based on the skills of Dialectical Behavior Therapy. In the first few lessons the students have been learning about moving from all-or-nothing thinking to honoring all sides of a situation. Stress can amplify all-or-nothing thinking and if your family is feeling stressed, you are not alone! This makes honoring all sides of a situation even more important.

A dialectic is when two opposing forces are both true. For example, “online learning is hard and it is getting easier.” Both can be true at the same time. We can honor different points of view and multiple perspectives by seeking to understand where others are coming from. We can strive to ask others about what they are trying to say and not make assumptions. We can communicate our own intentions when we think we might be misunderstood. We can accept that different opinions can be valid, even when we don’t agree. I asked Skills for Wellness students, “What is something we can say to someone with whom we disagree?” The chat function in Zoom quickly populated with statements like:

I will try to understand.

Tell me more about why you think that.

I see it differently and hope we can still be friends.

I understand how you feel and I stand with you.

A well of wisdom resides in our kids. The students each reflected on a recent experience of a time when it was difficult to see both sides of a situation. They wrote about how they could honor the other person’s point of view even when they didn’t see it the same way. We can recognize that we are all doing the best that we can and we can practice wellness skills for increased emotional resilience and healthier relationships.

 

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