Schoolhouse in spring

The Hope and Beauty of March Madness

by Rector Kathy Giles
Looking forward to a wonderful spring that carries with it more than its usual share of hope
March Madness – that phrase conjures up so many different connotations across a population. Quickly – and particularly if one loves sports – one’s mind runs to the end of season races and meets and tournaments – such as the New England Prep School Athletic Conference (NEPSAC) championships, where exactly one year ago, our girls’ varsity ice hockey team won the Class A Championships. Then come the NCAA winter tournaments – ALL of them, not just men’s basketball. March brings us the Grammys, Oscar-nominations, and the end of the first 100 days of a new presidency. More on the school-side, March brings the American Mathematics Contest; the One-Act plays, the winter Ballet Company performance – the end of a winter that began long ago in November, before holidays and this year, before the post-holiday COVID spikes, the siege on the US Capitol, the inauguration, and the wave of vaccine rollouts. In literature, the “Ides of March” carry special, ominous connotations; St. Patrick’s Day, and its commercialization, swings us to other extremes. And here on the grounds, it is usually quiet, with March Break signaling the end of winter and a respite prior to engaging the spring, giving the people and landscape time to renew ourselves, through a New England “mud season” into preparation for a wonderful rebirth in spring.
 
And we are indeed looking forward to a wonderful spring, a spring that carries with it more than its usual share of hope. Over the past weeks here on the grounds, we have done everything we can to keep our students safe and in-person for classes and activities. We have established the routine of securing community health to a “zero COVID” baseline, then gradually relaxing as we can while monitoring health vigilantly through that often-cited “Swiss-cheese” layered approach – saliva testing, PCR testing, wastewater monitoring, and “bubbling.” And we have been successful. While we are still eating in pre-loaded take-out containers, we are eating together in the Upper. While our seating was modified, we were in-person for the One-Acts and the Ballet Company's performance. And the coming weeks will see a COVID vaccine clinic for all employees here on March 24; students returning on March 28 and 29; plans for a robust spring of classes, arts, athletics, and ultimately, the goal of in-person graduation on May 23 at which faculty and immediate family will celebrate the resilience of the Form of 2021 and its members. From where I stand in my Schoolhouse office on this bright but cold March day, that vision of May 23 – 10.5 weeks away – is finally starting to seem like it could become a reality, if we stay the course.
 
Staying the course is the challenge we all face as we enter Year 2 of the pandemic. As anyone who has run an experiment, run a race, run a campaign, or run a program knows, there is no substitute for staying strong, disciplined, and focused right now, with the finish line in sight. Nationally, even as our collective stamina frays and college campuses go into lockdown with spring COVID spikes, we know we need to keep to the disciplines that will put the virus behind us all. For our extended SPS family, that means finding other ways to be together than coming to the grounds this spring. While we are Zoomers par excellence these days, we know that there is no substitute for being together – AND we know that we can, and we will, be together safely, if and when over the summer we can achieve the health goals our leaders articulate. So we will webinar and Zoom and do our best to connect for now, with the reasonable hope that in the not-so-distant future we will be together to celebrate with added appreciation. We know, here on the grounds, that in our year-long quest to “make every day matter” for our students, these last eleven weeks are even more important than those first eleven last fall. And we also know that gratitude is an important habit of happy people; that the many blessings of this school community have never been more clear than they are today; and that being able to look forward, with hope and gratitude, to the promise of a bright spring more than makes up for the March Madness of 2021.

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