For the first time in more than five months, North Shore Country Day welcomed students back into the classroom for the 2020-21 school year. The first day of lower school brought 180 children to campus Aug. 27, while 130 middle school and 215 upper school students started classes Aug. 31; about 6% of students opted to attend remotely full-time. The school is beginning the year with a hybrid model, which incorporates on-campus, in-person learning for half the day, and a robust remote learning component for the other half.
“We’ve all been waiting for this day since March,” said Head of School Tom Flemma. “Having students back on campus again, seeing their smiles and hearing their laughter made today one the most special days of my career. The kids were so glad to see their friends and teachers it made all the hard work worthwhile.”
Over the summer, NSCD faculty and administrators concurrently planned for three teaching pathways: remote learning, full-day on campus learning and half-day hybrid learning. Ultimately, administrators decided to begin the year with the hybrid model. In addition to the guidelines provided by the Centers for Disease Control, the Illinois State Board of Education and the Illinois Department of Public Health, the school’s work was guided by a group of NSCD community members, all of them experts, most of them current parents who are acutely attuned to the importance of these protocols, policies and procedures as NSCD approached the fall.
“We believe the in-person model of learning lived out through the school’s first century continues to be optimal, and we will lean toward that form of education whenever it is safe to do so,” Tom explained.
The half-day hybrid learning model is designed to de-densify classroom spaces and provide for social distance. It mitigates risk significantly by allowing smaller classes and flexible class scheduling while prioritizing in-person learning. The plan is also scalable. Should school be closed, it allows seamless transition to the remote learning model. If procedures and protocols prove effective, it may eventually allow for longer school days in some divisions.
In many ways, class size is the primary driver of NSCD’s social distancing approach and undergirds the hybrid half-day model. In the lower school, this means cohorting—essentially splitting the grades into groups of 10-14 students. For instance, there are two third grade classes, limiting the number of students each child interacts with daily. Cohort groups may change several times throughout the year.
In the middle and upper schools, students will not be cohorted, but their already small classes have been scheduled into rooms based on enrollment, ensuring that slightly larger classes will occur in the largest teaching spaces.
A number of other precautions have been put into place, which were detailed in a Return-to-School Plan, released to parents July 30. Masks are required indoors at all times, unless eating or drinking, and outdoors when at least six feet of distance cannot be maintained. Parents must complete a wellness screening for their children through an app each morning, and temperatures are checked daily upon entry.
“This will be a year like no other,” Tom said. “School will look different and feel different for every one of us for the foreseeable future, but the joy of learning and the power of community will endure, thank goodness.”
NSCD held a Fall Day of Service on Saturday, November 13, benefiting The Bloc in Chicago and Connections for the Homeless. More than 200 food items were donated on Saturday for The Bloc, supplementing what had already been collected by an upper school student-led food drive.
Earlier this month, NSCD welcomed singers, drummers and dancers from the American Indian Dance Center of Chicago (AIC), who performed for the entire school at Morning Ex. The program was a cultural demonstration in recognition of Native American Heritage Month.
The NSCD upper school troupe, The Duff Players, will perform “You want some lunch? You betcha!” on November 18, at 4 p.m. in the auditorium. The Duff Players is a cast of upper school students tasked with bringing to life a collection of third and fourth grade stories through movement, music, costumes, props and much more.
Almost 150 children received their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine Friday, November 12, during a vaccination clinic held on campus. The school partnered with the Illinois Department of Public Health to provide pediatric doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for children aged 5-11, as well as booster doses of Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer and Moderna vaccines for faculty and staff. The clinic was open to NSCD students and their families, even if siblings attend school elsewhere.
The fall John Almquist Art Gallery features the works of 17 members of North Shore Country Day’s faculty and staff. Artwork on display includes ceramics; fiber arts including felting, knitting and quilting; photography; painting; and more. The show runs through November 19.
Each year, Middle School Science Teacher Lee Block requires his eighth graders to build and launch bottle rockets. The goal of this project is to apply what they have learned during their study of Newton’s Laws of Motion.
The friendly competition is designed to see who can launch a bottle into the air and keep it afloat for the longest period of time. Students must follow specific rules about the type and size of the bottle, the design of the nose cone and fins, the parachute and the amount of pressure (PSI) pumped into it.
NSCD is a sponsor of this upcoming Family Action Network program on November 4, at 7 p.m.
For more information and to register visit the FAN website.
North Shore Country Day's senior kindergarten class recently paraded around the school dressed as monarch butterflies, singing songs and displaying their handmade wings with their parents and our community. The students learned all about monarchs through an integrated curriculum that incorporated literacy, math, science, social studies and art.
The junior kindergarten recently painted rocks with inspirational words written on them and hid them in various spots around campus for students, faculty and staff to find.
Each year, NSCD hosts the Harold H. Hines Jr. Visiting Fellowship that brings to campus a distinguished individual who exemplifies the school motto, “Live and Serve.” This year’s visiting fellow was Rajiv Vinnakota. Raj has dedicated his career to supporting students from underserved communities and to building a stronger democracy.