All That We Gained

Head of School, Dr. Jessie Barrie
I heard a staffulty member state earlier this week, “This year has been five years long.” I think many of us have felt this same sentiment frequently over recent months. As we prepare to wrap up Bosque School’s 26th year, I am filled with reflections on the challenges, but most importantly, the accomplishments that we have experienced as a community. 

Last summer was defined by scenario planning with administrators, trustees, and BPA leaders. We spent hundreds of hours in our various COVID Task Forces planning for the different contingencies that we imagined we could face in the year to come. The time we spent comprehensively building out the various scenarios was invaluable and enabled us to smoothly transition between models as necessary,  making minor adjustments in response to new data. I remember the significant disappointment we all felt when we realized that we would need to start our school year in remote teaching and learning. That disappointment was swiftly replaced with joy when we hosted our community-enhancing drive-through supply pickup. I can still remember how much my face hurt from smiling through my sweaty mask and seeing our students’ joy of being back on campus—even from the confines of their cars. 

Our pivot to hybrid on September 14 was filled with anticipation, anxiety, and extensive planning.  We mapped out traffic flow patterns, set up screening procedures, added cleaning supplies to classrooms, wrapped drinking fountains in saran wrap, zip tied lockers, rented storage containers to store overflow furniture to create space for social distancing, and hired TAs to help support the extensive staffing logistics. We filmed our Bobcat walking through a day in the life of a Bosque School student following our new COVID-safe practices, and then braced for what we assumed would be a logistically chaotic first day with students back on campus. We expected that the launch of our new screening procedures would take hours, and we all looked around in amazement when the last car left the drop-off line at 8:10 am—right on time. Yet again, our planning and our community’s commitment to productively engaging with whatever needed to be done to bring our students safely back to campus shone. I will never forget the happy faces and pure joy of our students (and families) each day as they arrived at drop-off. 

I recall the heaviness of our (earlier than hoped) pivot back to remote teaching and learning in November. Our last day on campus was, coincidentally, once again a Friday the 13th. COVID-19 case and death counts were rising alarmingly, and I remember feeling such sadness and concern about how long we might be splintered again as a community. 

After eleven weeks, we were able to bring our students back in their hybrid cohorts on February 1. Once again, the joy and energy of our community was palpable. Much to my surprise, many of our students seemed to have grown exponentially over those 11 weeks apart! Within a month of students returning, our staffulty was able to receive their COVID-19 vaccines. As a leader, seeing the relief of our staffulty from the vaccine clinics we had arranged gave me the first true feeling of accomplishment in such an arduous year. After our first staffulty clinic, our associate pharmacist gave me a vial of the Moderna vaccine. Today, it sits on my desk as a meaningful daily reminder of the importance of perseverance.  

The highlight of the year for me was our pivot to having the majority of our community back on campus for four days a week starting March 29. This was the first time that some of our students had ever met new classmates in person, when many students returned to campus for the first time in a year, and when our campus finally regained the real buzz of our community. As we hosted vaccine clinics for our 18 years and older students, and then, just yesterday, our 12 years and older students, the promise of a school post-pandemic came into view. One of the high points of the four vaccine clinics we have held on campus was seeing our Medical Reserve Corps (MRC) students working so competently with our associate pharmacist. They have traveled to vaccine clinics across the state, served on the front lines of history, and contributed to New Mexico being first in the nation in vaccine administration. 

Over the past month, I have felt immense joy as we have finally been able to provide our students the stage and space to shine in all of their accomplishments of the past year: the incredible senior art portfolio show;  our undefeated 6th grade basketball team winning the APIAL championships; our senior class presenting their thesis work in colloquium the past two days, the Class of 2021 accepting admission offers to outstanding colleges and universities worldwide and receiving more than $12 million in merit aid;  our 7th and 8th graders engaging so meaningfully in their ME|WE Diversity Conferences; our thespians displaying supreme creativity and talent in their outdoor productions of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee and Macbeth; our staffulty coming together to celebrate the accomplishment of navigating the constant pivots of this year and honoring the incredible contributions of our departing colleagues. These are just a few examples, but the achievements are endless. 

With so much focus on what has been lost over the past year—and most notably the lives of those loved by members of our community—I also want to honor all that has been gained at Bosque School: the heroism of our staffulty to adapt to constantly changing conditions, to stand in support of their students even when it brought anxiety of the implications to loved ones, to teach in an almost impossible model of dual remote and in-person needs; the resilience of our students to continue to show up as learners, as friends, as leaders, as community contributors, and with integrity that bolsters the health and wellness of our community; the commitment of our families to stand in support of our COVID-safe practices through their actions both on and off-campus, and for their trust in our school’s decision-making throughout the pandemic; and the engagement of all of our constituents that led to us surpassing our engagement and dollar goal for our recent Founder’s Days celebration in honor of Bosque School’s past, present, and future. 

Bosque School, like the whole world, will be forever touched by the experience of navigating the COVID-19 pandemic. As we come to the conclusion of this year, I am overwhelmed with gratitude for each and every one of you. You helped stand in support of our school, students, and staffulty in ways that have highlighted Bosque School’s commitment to Challenging Education, cultivating community, and mission “to create transformative learning experiences that empower a diverse community of students to lead lives of intellectual curiosity, personal integrity, and compassionate contribution to a more just world.” 

I wish you all a summer that restores, reconnects, and refreshes you and those you love. I am honored to have walked this path with you.

With love,

Jessie Barrie, PhD
Head of School