A recent edition of the Toronto Star’s Private School Section included an article that focused on how private schools have adapted to the pandemic. through innovative programming while helping students find silver linings during a challenging time. Basilian co-sponsored Holy Name of Mary College School is among the schools featured in the article. In the article, entitled “Bringing virtual education to life," freelance journalist Liz Beddall wrote:
The ability to find opportunity in challenge is an exercise that is equally familiar to the students and faculty of Holy Name of Mary College School, an independent Catholic school for girls in Grades 5 through 12. Since the early days of the pandemic they have embraced a school-wide initiative called COVID Silver Linings, which sees the entire school community challenged to think of at least one recent and positive thing that has come of what has been a very difficult situation.
The ‘what’ of what we’re aiming to provide here at Holy Name of Mary College School has never changed. “We’ve just pivoted on the ‘how’.
“We recognized that there was a lot of focus on what the girls haven’t been able to do since the pandemic began,” says HNMCS’ Head of School Carrie Hughes-Grant. “We wanted to, as a school community, shift our mindsets and ask ourselves regularly, what have we done during this unique time that we would have never done otherwise?”
While the answers of the school population have varied, they may well have included such examples as enjoying a school-wide virtual campfire, participating in a global summit they would otherwise have not been able to attend, or establishing deep connections with other students in virtual clubs who they might have never met on campus.
“Something I’m quite grateful for is that because we’re a Google school, our students were already familiar with the online world at the outset of the pandemic,” says Hughes-Grant. “We’re a one-to-one school, so all our students and our teachers have a laptop,” she says. “We’ve always taught them that technology can be educational but also fun, so that preparedness allowed us to quickly pivot our delivery to virtual classes.”
Hughes-Grant emphasizes that this rapid adaptation did not mean she and the school’s administrators chose to sit back. Instead, they decided to focus on the well-being of the students, their families and of the faculty itself – ensuring that everyone was taken care of as their learnings carried forward. “One thing we did right off the bat was change the students’ timetables to allow for more flexibility beyond their focused classroom time,” she says. “We were fortunate to have already completed 80 percent of the curriculum at that time and we had the ability to slow things down.”
Since that time, a deep sense of community and care has prevailed, and even resulted in such student-led initiatives as a shared school hashtag that reads #InThisTogether. “The ‘what’ of what we’re aiming to provide here at Holy Name of Mary College School has never changed,” says Hughes-Grant. “We’ve just pivoted on the ‘how’.”