On September 3, Head of School Clair Ward officially marked the start of the 2021-2022 school year by presiding at the traditional outdoor flag-raising ceremony, the first held in person since 2019 due to the coronavirus pandemic. “Welcome back!” Ward told the excited students and families gathered around the flagpole. “I am thrilled to see you all here at Shore in person once again.”
With many in the audience wearing masks as protection from the continued threat of COVID-19, the ceremony looked different from the way it usually does. Still, the in-person occasion represented a dramatic improvement over the previous school year, when the Shore and American flags were raised in an entirely virtual event. At that time, fears of the COVID-19 pandemic were at their peak, and Shore had implemented across-the-board measures—masking, hand washing, social distancing, outdoor classrooms, student cohorts, and constant indoor ventilation to name just a few—to keep children and employees safe, and school in person. Unfortunately, those precautions also meant that families were prohibited from visiting campus, putting a temporary end to the many on-campus events that families usually looked forward to attending.
This year, as children return to five days a week of in-person school, many of those same safety measures remain in place due to the continuing spread of the coronavirus in the community and around the nation. For example, families must complete a comprehensive health self-screening for their child through a mobile app called MyMedBot each day before coming to Shore. Once at school, children wear masks the majority of the time indoors unless they are eating or drinking; masks are not required outdoors. COVID-19 surveillance testing of the entire student and employee population occurs weekly, and certain spaces on campus including the Dining Hall and Trustey Family Theatre may be used only at 50% capacity.
But now, with vaccination against COVID-19 a reality for adults as well as middle schoolers, it was possible to welcome families back to campus for the traditional start to the school year. Dressed in magician’s garb, complete with a wand, cape, and voluminous hat, Head of School Clair Ward used the occasion to speak about the “magic” of Shore. “I am dressed like this because I have been inspired by all of the magic that happens here at Shore. I don’t mean the magic of card tricks. I mean the magic of making a new friend, the magic of helping someone who is sad, the magic of a great book, the magic of learning something new, and the magic of getting older.”
Ward concluded, “I know that we can create so much magic together this year.” She then called ninth grader Andrew Gould to the podium to assist Director of Facilities John Borden in raising the American flag followed by the Shore flag high above the cheering audience. Ward shared her best wishes for a happy and successful school year for all, before dismissing students to return to their classrooms. Families, no doubt grateful for the perfectly sunny conditions, lingered after the ceremony for a last wave as their children headed off. Students, perhaps equally grateful to be reunited with their Shore classmates after the long summer break, hurried to find their friends to officially begin a magical —and much more “normal”—new school year.