Latest from the Head of School

July 31, 2020

Dear Parents and Guardians,

I hope this letter finds you and your family well, and you are able to enjoy some quality time together over the summer holiday.

As many of you will now know, on Wednesday (July 29), the BC Ministry of Education made an announcement that, come September, all students and teachers will be back in the classroom full time.

This is, of course, excellent news, and gives us confidence that students will receive as close to a normal experience as possible.

Nevertheless, our highest priority remains the health and safety of our community, and we will continue to make common sense adjustments and follow guidance from provincial and federal health agencies. Working closely with our faculty and staff, we are actively looking at areas that include:

  • Students from Kindergarten to Grade 12 being organized into smaller cohorts (or learning groups) to reduce the number of close interactions.
  • A simplified school timetable to help ensure academic continuity and prioritize instructional time, while also reducing the number of close interactions.
  • Maximizing space in our classrooms and facilities by reconfiguring desks and furniture, and adding physical barriers where appropriate.
  • Community gatherings, including first week orientation and chapel, being reconfigured to allow for these key pieces of the student experience to remain.
  • Our Sodexo custodial team continuing to enforce the enhanced cleaning protocols that have been in place since last school year.

While we hope from now we will have stability going forward, rest assured we are also planning for any number of eventualities should the situation change.

As we near September, you will hear from school directors with more detailed information. We are also continuing to update our Preparing for September webpages throughout the summer. I anticipate my next communication to parents will be on August 14 and then every Friday thereafter.

While the 2020-21 school year will look a little different, with this news from the Ministry I am more confident than ever that it will be one full of excellence and opportunity.

In the meantime, I hope that you and your family remain healthy and well.

Mark Turner signature

Mark Turner
Head of School


July 10, 2020

Dear Parents and Guardians,

It has been an unprecedented year here at SMUS and in every corner of the world. With summer now upon us, I sincerely hope that you and your family members are safely enjoying the warmer weather and looking forward to what the next year might hold, with cautious optimism, as are we. Here at SMUS, we are in the process of adapting to the unparalleled circumstances in which the world finds itself. I wish to reassure you that we will be actively planning to reopen school in September, as close to normal as we possibly can, given restrictions that may be placed on us and common sense adjustments to some aspects of school life. After the success of remote learning over the last few months and the fact that our students and faculty were able to continue to make progress, we are confident that we can respond to changing circumstances if necessary.

We are delighted at the response to our Financial Aid Relief Fund appeal. We can now say that it has met our initial aim of ensuring that no student so far has had to leave the school because of short-term financial implications related to COVID-19.

There is so much behind us that we have achieved as a community, and there is so much in front of us to look forward to. I hope that you will enjoy your holidays, confident in the knowledge that we will do everything possible to get SMUS back on an even keel in September. To facilitate this process and to ensure that everybody can get access to the latest information, we have updated our Preparing for September webpages. As summer moves along, please continue to visit the website and check your email inboxes for communications from school directors.

For now, I hope you and your families will enjoy quality time to refresh, reflect, and prepare for the 2020-21 academic year.

Mark Turner signature

Mark Turner
Head of School


June 26, 2020

Dear Parents and Guardians,

With your help and support every step of the way, we have made it successfully to the end of the most disrupted year in the school’s history.

Last week, it was wonderful to see the return of students in groups of increasing size at both Victoria Avenue and Richmond Road campuses. A particular highlight for me, was to observe the Middle School spirit event which included a range of fun activities including "Dunk the Director", which has been recorded for future mischief-making opportunities. At the end of last week, we mustered all our collective imagination and initiative to deliver a virtual and actual Graduation Ceremony for the 160 individual members of the Class of 2020, some of them Lifers, having started their SMUS journey in Kindergarten. If one judges on outcome, these young men and women who are moving onto some of the most prestigious post-secondary schools around the world, are a great tribute to the progress that is built year-on-year throughout the grades. I also enjoyed participating in impressive virtual closing events for the Junior and Middle Schools. These occasions proved to be appropriate, dignified, and by all accounts, meaningful experiences. We know from feedback that they were greatly appreciated.

Over the last few days, I have also written approximately 250 report card comments for students in Kindergarten, our newest recruits to the SMUS family, Grade 8s making their transition to the Senior School next term, and our graduates, stepping out into the uncertain, broader horizons of university and the world beyond. In all cases, I was struck by the commitment on the part of the authors/faculty to build up and praise, at every opportunity. I believe this is one of the reasons why our students seem able to grow in confidence as each year passes by.

This week, as well as the usual end of year administration, there is a great deal of attention being paid to what our return to school in September will look like. We are encouraged that the BC School Restart Plan aims to be at Stage One, which is defined with a target of 100% of students on campus, 100% of time. As you would expect, our Restart Task Force and many others will be looking at mitigation strategies and considering the implications for boarding. We will also have to plan contingencies for moving up and down the scale from Stage Five to Stage One and back again, with all the implications for a possible return to remote learning. We will be hoping for the best, but planning for the worst and every eventuality in between.

We do know that there will need to be a flexible approach from all concerned, as it is predicted that clearer statements from the Ministry will, in all probability, be left as late in the build up to the start of the new school year as possible.

There are several things from this extraordinary term that we can take away and be thankful for:

It would be easy to see this term as a time of lost opportunity. In fact, excellent progress has been made against some of the aims of Floreat.

So, to the future. Over the summer the Board will be meeting regularly to review the latest situation in light of Ministry of Education and Health announcements. Our SLT and Restart Task Force will be interpreting what this will mean in practical terms. We will be hoping for a gradual lifting of restrictions and the possibility of a large-scale return of our boarding contingent. We do know that enrolment, particularly for day students, has held up remarkably well, at record levels in many cases.

In my address at the scaled-down, in-person graduation ceremonies which took place at our Richmond Road campus, I said to parents, “thanks, thanks again, and thanks some more." We really are most grateful for your flexibility in supporting the school to what I believe is close to the best possible outcome from the last term. Remote learning has worked but we are aware that this was heavily dependent on your support in kitchens, bedrooms, living rooms, and gardens, which were rapidly converted to become classrooms.

As previously stated, we will be hoping and planning to get as close to Stage One as we are allowed to be in September. There will need to be sensible adjustments and I am already wondering how we will replace the Christmas Assembly, which is normally a cauldron of 1,000 plus students, screaming at the top of their voices, in one confined space. Nevertheless, we do now have increased confidence in our ability to change and adapt while remaining fully committed to our guiding principles.

I do not intend to continue to communicate every Friday throughout the summer. However, please rest assured that we will communicate as we need to. The principle, ‘no news is good news’ will apply, however, I will aim to provide routine updates on the following dates: July 10, August 14 and August 21, if there are developments that we all need to be aware of.

For now, you all deserve a good break and the opportunity to spend some quality time together.

Over the course of the last few days, I have found myself using the exhortations "Vivat!" and "Floreat!" in different situations. It suddenly occurred to me that I was using Vivat to recognize the considerable achievements of the past, both short and long-term, and that I was using Floreat as an expression of hope and expectation for the future. At the end of this school year I say "Vivat," congratulations on all things achieved this year; and "Floreat," let’s hope and expect that we will continue to flourish when we return as a community in September.

Mark Turner signature

Mark Turner
Head of School


June 12, 2020

Dear Parents and Guardians,

I write at another historic moment for St. Michaels University School. I am aware that there have been many of them as we have journeyed together through the last six months.

Today as I write, June 12 represents the last day of the delivery of our formal Remote Learning Program. We are immensely grateful for your forbearance and support. By all accounts we have been able to move forward and achieve one of our main aims, which was to provide continuity of education in a virtual world. During this transition we have learned a great deal, which has become useful ‘intellectual capital’ as we plan for the future.

Next week, the last of this school year, we will see many students return to school. We hope to provide the opportunity to say goodbye, to reconnect face to face with core teachers, TAG teachers and Homeroom Advisors, to be part of spirit events, to share appropriate celebrations and rites of passage, and of course to deal with mundane locker clearance. Most importantly we will be saying ‘au revoir’ to the Graduating Class of 2020. Rest assured, we will be doing our utmost to ensure this important group of students is supported on their next steps into an uncertain world. I say ‘au revoir’ quite deliberately, because there will be opportunities for this group to come together again. Far from being the ‘forgotten few’, we aim to make them the special ones, ‘for whom the bell tolls.’

Parents’ Auxiliary

At the Parents’ Auxiliary AGM on June 11, I was able to pay tribute to President Grainne McElroy, who is stepping down after a two-year term of office that by every criterion represents remarkable success. Grainne has led by example and with distinction.

One of Grainne’s last initiatives as President was to harness the leadership and critical mass of the Parents’ Auxiliary behind the Financial Aid Relief Fund. I am delighted to report that the target of $100,000 was achieved in May, and we are on our way to further the success in June. Together and with a final flourish, I am hopeful that we can achieve over $300,000. If so, we will achieve our goal that no student should have to leave our school as a result of the current crisis. This will be a remarkable community achievement. We are most grateful to all contributors, to Grainne McElroy and to the army of volunteers who donate their busy time to supporting our school. We wish Elisa Djurickovic every success as she takes up the helm of the Parents’ Auxiliary from July 1.

And So To the Future

I will continue to provide detailed updates as we go through the summer months. These are scheduled to appear on June 26, July 10, August 21 and weekly thereafter.

Plan For September Reopening

I believe that the worst is now behind us. Our Board of Governors has been meeting and will continue to meet regularly to review the developments. Our Senior Leadership Team is now actively planning for the restart of Term 1 of the new academic year in September. I am aware that there is a growing appetite for clarity and definition. We are requesting this almost daily in our liaison with the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Education and other ISABC and CAIS schools. To summarize, we have Plans A, B and C.

Plan A. This is to open at Stage One of the BC Schools’ Restart Plan. This involves 100% of our students at school 100% of the time. There will undoubtedly be restrictions on large gatherings, which may impact whole-school assemblies and Chapel services; however, we are confident that we will be able to deliver our academic curriculum in person. At present, official messages are increasingly optimistic and confident that this scenario is a probability.

Plan B. We are developing plans so that we can operate a form of ‘bi-model’ curriculum, to be delivered if there should be restrictions placed on the percentage of students that are allowed on campus, as a result of government directives. I stress that our intention is to be on Plan A.

Plan C. Plan C is to be prepared to pivot at 24 hours' notice, back to a fully Remote Learning Curriculum, should a ‘second wave’ or localized outbreak make this a necessity by government decree.

If we are to deviate from Plan A at any stage, I will brief you in my regular updates. Our faculty and staff will be returning one week earlier than scheduled at the end of August, to ensure that we are fully trained and prepared for whatever the future brings. We know that the training we were able to complete as a whole faculty back in March, was a key factor in ensuring the success of our Remote Learning Program.

Boarding

We are aware that there is considerable uncertainty and anxiety across our boarding community, and I hope this note provides some reassurance. We are planning to have as close to our full contingent of boarders as possible. We do now know that all those crossing an international border will need to quarantine for 14 days before arriving to school. We will be providing advice and support for this, and we aim to make the 14-day quarantine as meaningful and positive an experience as possible. A portion of the accommodation costs of this additional expenditure will be reduced from the boarding fees. We may need to cap the overall number of boarders so that there is isolation capacity for mitigation, should that be required. Our day community can be reassured that having been through quarantine, all students will be safe to access our school program.

Alexis Lang Lunn, Director of Admissions, the Admissions team and Keith Driscoll, Director of Boarding and Student Life, will be providing more details to our Boarding families at regular intervals. Our Admissions office will remain open throughout the summer months. At present, we are delighted by the early response to our Boarding Mitigation Plan, which is being reviewed by various Provincial and Federal Government departments. If, for any reason, our boarding students are unable to be with us for the formal start of term in September, we will be arranging remote learning alternatives until such time that travel restrictions are lifted, allowing everybody to come together again.

Conclusion

Although it would be premature to assume we are out of the woods, it is rejuvenating to wholeheartedly engage in planning for the return to school in September. I am delighted with the way our broader community has responded to recent circumstances. There is strong evidence to show that rather than being fractured and divided by events, we have actually come through with bonds that tie us even stronger.

We are most grateful for your support as parents and guardians, and faculty look forward to sharing joint experiences in person rather than from the kitchen/bedroom/garage, where lessons have been delivered. If there is one takeaway message from this letter, it is that we are fully committed to opening in September with as many students learning on our two school campuses, 100% of the time.

Until then, stay safe and best wishes.

Mark Turner signature

Mark Turner
Head of School


May 29, 2020

Dear Parents and Guardians,

In the UK, May 20 is designated as the official Thank a Teacher Day. Michael Morpurgo, acclaimed children’s author, stated:

“So often and for so many of us, it is a teacher who changed our lives, was at our side through hard and difficult times, who lifted us up when we were down, helped us to find our voice, gave us confidence when we needed it most, set us on a path that we have followed ever since.”

Some of my own most vivid school memories were of inspiring characters, sometimes eccentric ones, who were able to lift our thoughts above the mundane. I remember, for instance, Mr. R. who regaled us with tales of battles, and heroism in the face of catastrophe and natural disaster. These stories unleashed our imagination to run riot far beyond the confines of our rather squashed and boring classroom.

I also remember the French teacher Mr. W., who brought his dog into class only for her to give birth to six adorable pups in the corner. Then there was Mrs. B., who in primary school ruled with an iron regime which required the passing of a spelling test before we were allowed out at the end of the day. Of course, she always asked a particularly difficult word to anybody who had irritated her.

Great teachers have the ability to create magic that somehow holds sway over the adolescent mind and can banish all the other distractions that may be competing for the mental attentions of an inquisitive student. Our Floreat strategic plan seeks to encourage inspiring classroom practice.

During the last few months our teachers have had to contend with extraordinary and unprecedented challenges. Back in March they had to very quickly adapt their teaching strategies to move online. Recent surveys conducted at almost bi-monthly intervals, suggest a high level of appreciation and satisfaction with the work that our teachers have done, to enable our students to maintain continuity and momentum on their educational journey. Over the course of the last few months we have heard about the heroic efforts of our healthcare workers who have provided direct care to COVID-19 patients and have helped us flatten the curve. Their achievements are deservedly worthy of acclaim and recognition. In my view; however, it is now time to cast the net wider, and recognize the many other sectors of our society that have gone ‘above and beyond’ and made, in some cases, significant personal sacrifices.

As we will very shortly be expecting teachers to prepare once again for new possibilities which will come over the horizon in September, flexibility will be key. I would like to propose that on Monday, June 1, when we blow our whistles and bang our pots and pans for healthcare workers at 7 pm, that we also think of the teachers, many of whom across our province will be planning for our phased return to school.

I mentioned our recent survey results. We were particularly delighted that of the approximately 380 parents who responded to our last survey, 85% gave a 4/5 or 5/5 to the question asking whether they felt well supported and informed. Over 50% gave top marks, 5/5 for overall satisfaction. These general statistics, together with a great deal of anecdotal evidence offered to us, making comparisons with other schools, suggest that our faculty have worked exceptionally well to make the very best of a challenging situation. Kudos!

I would like to offer very best wishes to the Junior School, who are at the vanguard of leading SMUS’s phased return to normal. On Monday, June 1, those students who wish to access it will be returning to the Victoria Avenue campus for supervision. I know that a vast amount of work has been dedicated to planning this phased return in a safe manner, and which will stand us in good stead when we open our doors more completely in September.

Over the course of the last week, I have had cause to remind our community of the most helpful and constructive ways in which we communicate as a school. Within our guidelines in the Family Handbook we stress that if you have a particular question or concern about your school, it should be referred to your Director; Becky Anderson in the Junior School, Richard Brambley in the Middle School and Eliot Anderson in the Senior School. If there is a broader whole-school issue, please contact me directly. We would encourage you to raise your questions at an early level, on the principle that we hope to prevent molehills from becoming mountains.

As we move toward September and have a clearer vision of exactly what our education will look like, we will communicate this with you. We hope that by a combination of virtual coffee mornings, updates to our website response section, and regular emails and newsletters notifying you of relevant information, that everybody will feel they are kept in the loop.

One frustration has been that very often when questioned about the future, I have had to give the honest answer: "I do not know." I appreciate how frustrating this can be; however, given that we are dealing with many factors outside the school’s control, we often must wait for information to be released from the Ministry of Education and the health authorities before being able to make our plans.

I can say that we are looking forward to September with increased optimism. Our Admissions numbers have held up strongly, and our day student enrolment specifically is currently well ahead of predictions. This suggests to me that, after we are given the green light, we can be up and running again with a rapid resumption of normal routines.

With best wishes,

Mark Turner signature

Mark Turner
Head of School


May 15, 2020

Dear Parents and Guardians,

Greetings and best wishes after a week in which the education sector, public and independent, has been considering options and planning our next steps in support of the BC Government’s plan outlined in Premier John Horgan’s statement, and given some detail by Education Minister Rob Fleming today, Friday, May 15 at 10 am. We are now on a path towards a gradual restarting of our economy and, in a phased way, the reopening of schools.

Our Senior Leadership Team has been diligently processing research data and advice from public health authorities, the Ministry of Education, school support associations (ISABC and CAIS) and our own local context with schools on Vancouver Island.

We have decided on a plan for the next few weeks which we believe is safe to deliver, provides continuity, and supports both students and parents from Kindergarten to Grade 12, in line with public policy directives.

Junior School

At the Junior School, the delivery of our remote learning curriculum will continue for all, through to the last day of classes on Friday, June 12. Surveys indicate that remote learning has settled into a successful routine which is working well given the circumstances for the vast majority of students. Therefore, we aim to maintain the continuity, momentum and stability that has been generated thus far.

On Monday, June 1, we will be extending the BC mandated provision of ‘child care’ from the current situation – the children of Essential Workers, to any student from Kindergarten to Grade 5 who wishes to access it. We hope that this will support those parents who intend to, or must return to work.

Initial surveys conducted last weekend suggest that this may be approximately 40 to 60 students. In line with public policy, access to this child care will be voluntary and the offered program will not be the pre-COVID 19 Junior School program and daily schedule. We stress that students in our care will continue with the remote learning curriculum online as if it is being accessed from home, in what is a now familiar routine. In reaching this decision, we have been guided by our commitment to the health and safety of our students and staff, along with a priority to maintain continuity of learning, and a desire to help parents begin to respond to the reopening of the broader economy.

A school-based team of senior leaders, along with the Director of the Junior School, Mrs. Anderson and her team, will now be planning specific details for an increased number of students being cared for in the Junior School building. To support this planning, we ask all parents to respond to the survey that will be sent to you by Mrs. Anderson, requesting a clear indication of whether your child will be accessing this ‘child care’ or not, so that we can allocate an appropriate number of staff, and prepare the physical space and equipment required to ensure that this partial return is as safe as possible.

Middle School and Senior School

For all Middle and Senior School students, remote learning will continue until the last day of classes on Friday, June 12. Once again, surveys have indicated the success of this method of delivery, albeit one that has been a necessary alternative we all would have rather avoided.

The week of June 15 to June 19, leading up to the formerly stated end of year, will involve a separate program to allow students to connect directly with staff and to provide a sense of closure to the school year. There will also be the opportunity for students to come to the campus on a phased basis to retrieve possessions that may still be stored in their school lockers. We will be working on plans to make this return to school experience as meaningful as possible.

In the case of boarding students, this process of retrieving belongings will be communicated by Keith Driscoll and your Senior Houseparents.

In addition, during this time, our faculty who have been focused on the delivery of remote learning courses, will also be engaging in planning that will support the preparation for September return to learning. Director of the Middle School, Mr. Brambley and Director of the Senior School, Mr. Anderson, will be in touch with details of how this program will work.

Graduating Class of 2020 (Grade 12)

It was excellent that Premier Horgan specifically mentioned the graduating class of 2020 as being particularly impacted by this crisis. We note that today’s announcement makes a return to school for a form of graduation ‘rite of passage’, a real possibility. Mr. Anderson and his team are working on what this will look like, and we understand the importance of saying both "hello and goodbye."

We will be looking at all options to support our graduates as "you go forward into a future that you can make for yourself… and into a world that will start small but will grow." (Premier Horgan)

Financial Aid

Planning ahead to the start of the new academic year, Term One September 2020

Following today’s announcement from the Minister of Education, our focus and attention will now turn to planning for the resumption of the new school year in September. We were encouraged to hear such a strong commitment to ensuring education will be returning to a ‘new normal’, whatever that proves to be. Nevertheless, our mantra in this regard will remain 'hoping for the best but planning for the worst.'

Currently our enrolment numbers have held up exceptionally well, which gives us optimism. Obviously, we would like to be in a position where we could open with the full freedom to return to the SMUS of old, which you all voted for, and which worked so well up until March 13.

Knowing that the ‘past normal’ is unlikely, our faculty and staff will be planning for a variety of educational and community scenarios, which we will share with you in due course. Additionally, we are advised to build into our planning several possibilities, including mitigations for a potential ‘second wave’ and individual outbreaks of the virus. If these events do occur, there will be a requirement for the school, and all of us, to be nimble, flexible and able to pivot at short notice.

In Conclusion

I am finding as time goes by, each week brings its own highs and lows. It seems to me that by starting to think about a phased return to normal, albeit within the numerous caveats that are always quoted, we may have turned a corner! There is at least some light at the end of the COVID tunnel.

This last week, the undoubted highlight for me was reviewing the presentations for Head Prefect positions. In this regard, I take my vote seriously and wanted to gain as much information on each candidate as I possibly could. I listened intently as each candidate gave a two-minute virtual presentation on their values and philosophy behind the responsibilities of taking on these important senior leadership positions.

The process was a wonderful reminder of why some of us have committed our working lives to students and schools. To hear outstanding young men and women outlining their visions for the future was uplifting. If I needed any reminder that things will get better, this was it. Our SMUS leaders of the future will bring courage, honesty, a dedicated sense of service and deep respect to tackling whatever problems are surging towards us over the horizons of the future.

Mark Turner signature

Mark Turner
Head of School


May 8, 2020

Dear Parents and Guardians,

Another hectic week has flown by. Over the last few days I have read a great many prosaic, and now rather repetitive briefings and updates from a wide range of officialdom. In contrast, I have also read Ithaca (1975), a poem written by renowned Greek poet Constantine Cavafy.

In the first stanza, Cavafy writes “hope your road is a long one, full of adventure, full of discovery.” The poem is about the desire to return home (possibly to what we know as normal), but also about the importance of savoring the journey, the moment. Let’s not just wish our lives away, hoping for some imaginary future. There is lots to be experienced and celebrated along the way, even in lock-down. Laestrygonians and Cyclops, angry Poseidon – don’t be afraid of them, keep your thoughts raised high.

Talking of lock-down, we all tuned in attentively to hear BC Premier John Horgan’s much anticipated announcement at 3 pm on Wednesday, May 6. This time, as well as the usual platitudes, there were some glimmers of hope that we can seize on.

Although there are still many uncertainties and questions we cannot answer, nevertheless it is wonderful to hear that the curve, at least in BC is flattening, and that we can look forward to gradual easing of lock-down restrictions in some areas in the coming months.

In Europe and the UK, many communities are celebrating the outbreak of peace marked by the 75th anniversary of VE Day on May 8. Let’s hope that we will soon be gaining momentum in the march to victory over our current foe.

‘We’ll meet again, don’t know where, don’t know when, but I know we’ll meet again some sunny day’.Vera Lynn

Sums up my thoughts very nicely. As relevant today as 75 years ago!

Go well,

Mark Turner signature

Mark Turner
Head of School


April 24, 2020

Dear Parents and Guardians,

After the launch of our Remote Learning curriculum, we have now had two weeks of this new reality. Last week’s survey, impressive attendance figures and many anecdotal comments, suggest that students have largely heeded my message given at the start of school, to be positive, resilient, and to make the most of the current situation. I quote Denise Lamarche, our Director of Academics directly:

"The implementation of remote learning has been progressing along very well across the school. The feedback from our parents, Grade 6-12 students and our faculty was positive, helpful and our divisional teams were able to take key themes and suggestions to make slight adjustments where needed. That said, we need to remind ourselves that our faculty and students are working diligently so that we can do our best to continue learning under these extraordinary circumstances, while maintaining our sense of community throughout."

On the afternoon of Friday, April 17, our Board of Governors convened their first Zoom meeting to discuss the school’s response to the fast-changing events that have impacted all of us, and to make some decisions regarding the future.

We found it helpful to frame our thinking on the basis of:

Short-term: The current Term Three 2020
Medium-term: The start of the new academic year and Term One 2020 to December 31
Long-term: Beyond January 1, 2021

At present, we have found it almost impossible to plan in detail given the factors we are dealing with are unknown, and many are well beyond our control. That said, we are optimistic that the school will be able to open on some basis in September. Whether or not we can convene before that will be dependent on the provincial government reviewing its decision of March 17 that schools should close until further notice.

For the immediate future, we have made the following decisions:

Financial Aid: Our aim is that no student should have to withdraw from the school and have their life chances limited, purely because of the impact of this current global situation. We have therefore decided to bolster our Financial Aid Program for the 2020-21 school year. The Board of Governors has approved a transfer from our Reserve Fund of up to $1 million. Whilst this is a significant sum, we would ideally like to be able to allocate more but cannot do so without risking the long-term viability of the school. With this in mind, the Advancement team will be reaching out soon so that we can rally around as a community and fully ensure no student is negatively impacted on their SMUS journey because of COVID-19.

We are aiming to be able to target our limited resources at those who need it most. If you are a family that has been severely impacted, we invite you to apply through our third-party consultant, Apple Financial. If you are already in receipt of financial aid for 2020, please contact Director of Admissions Alexis Lang Lunn at [email protected] regarding the process for reconsiderations. We ask that you do this by May 21.

Fee Deferral: The Board of Governors appreciate that many parents are committed to a SMUS education but may be suffering from immediate cash flow pressure. To alleviate this, a Fee Deferral Plan has been designed to allow a deferment or postponement in paying fees until January 1, 2021 with monthly finance charges waived. This plan will be administered by our CFO and supported by a committee which will include the Director of Admissions and the Head of School. More information regarding accessing this relief measure will be available soon.

Admissions Decisions: Despite the current situation, we are happy to report that demand for places is stronger than anytime in our school’s history. We are already technically full for September 2020 and we are over subscribed for day students at all levels. We will be flexible around confirmation of deadlines, as we understand many families are dealing – as we are, with considerable uncertainty. If you wish to discuss matters regarding admissions, please email Alexis Lang Lunn, Director of Admissions at [email protected].

Tuition Refund: Having effectively launched our Remote Learning Plan, we are aiming that a SMUS education this term will be different but equivalent. All faculty are continuing to be employed and pioneering a new way of learning. Given that our costs in the short-term will not be reduced, we will not be offering tuition refunds for this term (Term Three – April to June 2020). If we find that we will have to operate remotely from the start of school in September, we will review our tuition fees for 2020-21. The Board of Governors has considered this decision carefully. We are committed to ensuring that our school will return to normal again as quickly as possible once the current restrictions are lifted.

Impact on Boarding Students: The position regarding boarders is different. Boarding families have already paid for food, laundry, utilities, accommodation and miscellaneous costs that they will not have received. In the spirit of fairness, we will endeavour to identify the precise cost of these savings and give either a credit to returning boarders against their 2020-21 fees, or return the equivalent sum to boarding families, which includes all Grade 12 who will be graduating this year. This credit or refund will be confirmed and administered in June 2020.

The response section of our website will continue to be updated. In the meantime, the Senior Leadership Team will be actively planning for a wide spectrum of differing scenarios, including a possible return to school this term for at least some grades, which is currently part of the discussion in the province of British Columbia.

We will continue to keep you updated with our decisions each Friday.

In conclusion, our school goes into this global crisis in a strong position financially and with record enrolment. We are committed to providing support to those who need it most through the Financial Aid Program and to easing temporary cash flow pressure through the Fee Deferral Plan. With your support we can help keep key infrastructure in place to be able to leap into action again as soon as we are able.

We thank you for your continued support for our community. In particular, we thank the large number of parents within our extended community who are engaged on the front line. I speak for everyone at SMUS when I say, you have our gratitude.

I am aware that my last few communications have all been focused on responding to negative factors beyond our control. This time around I am pleased to have at least some measures by way of positive response.

We very much look forward to a time when restrictions may be gradually lifted. Until then...

Mark Turner signature

Mark Turner
Head of School


April 17, 2020

Dear Parents and Guardians,

This note reaches you at the end of our first week of delivering our remote learning curriculum. Since term reconvened on Tuesday, April 14, I know that faculty, staff and students have been working hard seizing the opportunities and negotiating the challenges of this new way of delivering a SMUS education.

So far, the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. That said, as we researched remote learning, we were told that it would be necessary to be nimble, to adapt and even to pivot, if necessary. With that in mind, I know our Director of Academics Denise Lamarche and her team were quick to plan a regular series of surveys, so that we could monitor ourselves and students on our respective learning journeys. Please take the opportunity to fill out the brief and informal survey that will come from your school Director.

We have also been impressed by the rates of student attendance – higher than they might normally be, with 100% recorded in several areas. I know that the boarding community have also gathered together for House meetings, which proved to be an excellent opportunity to meet and share with friends, albeit in the virtual realm. I have also heard reports of some inspirational lessons – even rugby and band practices are conducted at a distance. All this is new and uncharted territory. However, as I’ve said on previous occasions, this is also an exciting opportunity for the future and there will be long-term benefits, particularly around our dexterity with harnessing technology.

As mentioned before, our Board of Governors will be meeting this afternoon (April 17) for an extraordinary meeting. I anticipate sharing some plans and decisions regarding our preparation for various scenarios in my communication to you on Friday, April 24.

For now, very best wishes.

Yours,

Mark Turner signature

Mark Turner
Head of School


April 14, 2020

Head of School Mark Turner shares a message with the SMUS community as we begin Term 3 of the 2019-20 school year with a new chapter in our history: remote learning.


April 10, 2020

Dear Parents and Guardians,

With very best wishes and Easter greetings to you all.

This week, we have been moving on with preparations for the launch of our remote learning curriculum on Tuesday, April 14. We were delighted that the Remote Learning Plan – Community Guide published last week was so well received. This gives us great confidence as we embark on a new learning era for SMUS.

Last week, I spoke of our school ethos or spirit, and said I would say more about the beliefs that are the foundation of that ethos. Those beliefs are enshrined in our values that state we respect all, regardless of background, creed or colour, we appreciate honesty, even if the message is difficult to deliver, and we approach challenges with courage and conviction. Respect, honesty and courage combined, motivate us to serve our own community and those far extended from it.

So, as we face Term 3 and a new chapter in SMUS’s evolving curriculum of learning, let’s all remind ourselves of the values on which our community is built.

Over the course of the next few weeks and months we aim to regularly survey our students, to help judge progress and to allow us to adapt to ensure we are moving forward in our shared learning journey.

Thank you to those Tier One essential workers who contacted us to request support with child care. Given the numbers involved, we hope to provide a comprehensive service which we trust will allow you to focus on the urgent needs of your work responsibility.

After a Finance Committee meeting this week, the full Board of Governors will be holding an extraordinary meeting next Friday, April 17. Following that, I shall be communicating to you some key messages on how we aim to support our community and our school through current difficulties and into the future.

Floreat!

Mark Turner signature

Mark Turner
Head of School


April 3, 2020

Dear Parents and Guardians,

There is an old proverb ‘cometh the hour, cometh the man’ generally taken to mean that in time of crisis someone will step up to inspire and galvanize a response. In today’s predicament, we should of course say ‘cometh the hour, cometh the men and women’ of distinction, commitment, resolution, courage and duty. I am speaking of the Essential Workers (EWs) who are the mainstay of combating our health emergency, along with numerous other services. These are the people who will keep Canada running over the next few turbulent months.

SMUS would like to play its part in supporting Tier 1 Essential Workers to keep their focus on the challenge of the moment.

Tier 1 (highest priority): employed in Health and Health Services, Social Services, Law Enforcement, First Responders, and Emergency Response.

If you are a family of Tier 1 EWs and with children ages five to 12 and have no other options for childcare, please email Sally Green at [email protected]. We will assess the demand and plan accordingly. At present we are trying to identify urgent need. We may broaden this plan later.

Remote Learning Plan – Community Guide

Faculty and staff continue to prepare for the launch of our remote learning curriculum on Tuesday, April 14. We find ourselves excited by the prospects of offering this new way of accessing our curriculum. We will be surveying families on their remote learning experience on Friday, April 17, then on a regular basis so that we can monitor how the community is progressing. Please be sure to access our new Remote Learning Plan – Community Guide and know that further specific detail will come from your school director and faculty in the days ahead.

Other News

The Board of Governors have planned an extraordinary meeting of the Finance Committee on Wednesday, April 8, and the full Board on Friday, April 17. We continue to reach out to all our support agencies for information regarding how best to ensure continuity of education for our students, indefinitely through the spring.

When our learning community is scattered to the four winds, some might ask "What is left?" The answer is that the fundamentals never change. Wherever we are and whatever our circumstances, if we remain true to our values of respect, courage, honesty and service, we will prevail. Our values continue to give the school its ethos, its spirit. Ethos defined as...

"The characteristic spirit of a community as manifested in its beliefs and aspirations."

In my letter next week, I shall be exploring what those beliefs and aspirations are.

I have also just been to witness first-hand that faculty from Junior, Middle and Senior Schools (plus a contact from GNS) are producing 3D printed and laser cut face shields using an approved design for front line medical workers. The face shields will be printed on SMUS 3D printers, donated by the Parents’ Auxiliary.

I was also mightily encouraged to see a SMUS parent on BC Global TV news last night literally leading from the front in the fight against COVID-19. Kudos from us all. To learn, to lead, to serve.

I should like to finish by mentioning one exceptional act of generosity. A supportive parent from China, who shares our grief in the current situation, has kindly donated 10,000 medical masks and other equipment. We will ensure that these find a good home and are put to the use for which they were intended. From our whole community, I should like to pass on hearty thanks for this most significant gesture in a time of need.

In a week where bad news has outweighed the positive, this leadership and initiative should serve as inspiration to us all. Look out for more on these news items next week.

Until next Friday, stand together, stay apart and look to the future with courage.

Mark Turner signature

Mark Turner
Head of School


March 27, 2020

Dear Parents and Guardians,

Another week has passed since my last message to you. I hope you are keeping morale as high as it can be in the current difficult circumstances.

During this time, the COVID-19 news has been almost entirely bleak with further developments of the virus across the world. I do, however, take some glimmer of hope that in a few countries, infection rates are beginning to slow down. We are very grateful to those essential workers who are responding magnificently to help so many on an individual basis. We appreciate the sacrifice this involves.

While out for a walk on Mt. Tolmie, I was encouraged by a note written on a pebble placed strategically on a rock for passersby to view. It read, "stand together, stand apart." While our school remains apart, we are certainly standing together and are now considering ways to support key workers as best we can. "Standing together, standing apart" would seem to be a great motto for our new remote learning plan. We are excited to anticipate rolling this out with effect from Tuesday, April 14, as previously stated.

The Board of Governors has also set out a series of meetings through to May 1, to ensure that we are able to adapt to changing circumstances and to provide answers to ongoing key questions as best we can.

As you would expect, the school is closed as much as possible to visitors. I would, however, like to offer kudos to our administrative staff who are continuing with a business as usual approach, either here on campus as necessary or working from home. Our maintenance and grounds teams have done an outstanding job in preparing the school for the possibility of everyone’s return.

Notices

FAQs on our website will continue to be updated as necessary. Please check this resource and our website regularly for updates, before contacting the school.

We hope that you are able to spend some quality time as families even though options may be limited.

Floreat

Mark Turner signature

Mark Turner
Head of School


March 23, 2020

As cases of COVID 19 continue to rise across BC and Vancouver Island it is vital that all members of our community research, listen to and act upon the advice coming from reliable official sources in regard to:

By all doing our bit at this stage, we can help the national effort.

Despite our heightened anxiety, we are aware that there are many less fortunate than ourselves. SMUS also thanks the heroic efforts of medical practitioners on the front line and all those still operating a whole range of vital services.

Floreat

Mark Turner
Head of School


March 20, 2020

Dear Parents and Guardians,

We live in unprecedented times. Never before has the school been closed indefinitely by provincial authorities. We believe that in adversity there is also opportunity. By staying true to our values of respect, courage, honesty and service, we will get through this.

As we reach the day that was officially designated as the end of term, I am pleased to have this opportunity to write with a summary of where we have come from, where we are at, and how we are likely to proceed over the next little while. I propose therefore to use the broad structure, past, present and future.

PAST – so much has happened and so much has changed, that looking back to the start of term in January seems to be like gazing into a different era. Despite that, I think it is important that we recognize that by all our usual yardsticks, the broader SMUS community has enjoyed an extremely successful term.

In the first few weeks of January, there was much anticipation and excitement around the launch of Floreat, our 2020-2030 Strategic Plan. The feedback has been overwhelmingly positive and real momentum has already been generated. With a clear roadmap to guide us, I predict that the good ship SMUS will rapidly sail towards a flourishing future. In summary therefore, Term 1 of the 30-term duration of Floreat can be ticked off as a great success.

PRESENT – but then against all the positives this term were the first darkening clouds, as we closely monitored developments of COVID-19 around the world. There was a sense of growing concern as we could read the trends and begin to predict the impact. I can say that SMUS was very fast out of the blocks. We quickly set up a Response Committee and reached out to gain as much relevant and professional advice as we could from all the key agencies: public health, educational organizations, ISABC, CAIS and detailed medical advice from our own advisors. With Board of Governors representing numerous professions, and living both local and abroad, we were well informed. This led us to develop a raft of reasonable and proportionate measures, as the risk level gradually rose.

As you know, this culminated in the decision to close the school last Friday (March 13) and to commit the last week of term to training for faculty and staff as to how we will move forward with our remote learning curriculum, should it be impossible for us to congregate as a community at the scheduled start of term on Tuesday, April 14. I am pleased to pass on that our period of intensive training has been reported on by the Director of Academics and the Directors of the Junior, Middle and Senior Schools as a great success. Please refer to the FAQs (frequently asked questions) and address further queries as advised.

Here are some key points:

Although life will be different and everyone will need to be flexible and pull together, we believe that we can maintain meaningful learning over an indefinite period should that be necessary. We believe that there is a real opportunity for SMUS to distinguish itself in this field. During this time, I have felt particularly for our boarders, several of whom have had to change plans and then change them again. I am relieved to know that everybody is now safely either at home, with close relatives here in Canada, or in homestays. I should like to express my thanks to the numerous parents who reached out with offers of homestays, should boarders have been stranded. These generous offers to open homes at a time of increasing anxiety, demonstrates the SMUS values at their very best. In short, in the present I feel that given the range of other possibilities, we are very fortunate indeed.

We are in fast changing, uncertain times. We appreciate that all of you will be experiencing increasing anxiety from this and developing your own coping mechanisms. You must know that having been a global issue, COVID-19 is now much closer to home. As per Andy Rodford’s specific email yesterday, now on our website, one student has tested positive and it is important that all members of our extended community listen closely to and act precisely on all the latest public health advice.

FUTURE – having decided to close the school a week early, which as events have unfolded has proved to be a good decision, faculty have been able to devote quality time to preparing for our delivery of the curriculum through remote learning. In this, we have been ably led by Denise Lamarche, Director of Academics, and Dave Hlannon, Director of Educational Technology. We now feel confident that we will be able to roll out this effective curriculum as required, from the first day of term, Tuesday, April 14.

As mentioned above, BC Premier John Horgan and Rob Fleming BC Minister of Education, closed all public and independent schools indefinitely on March 17. While this is disappointing news, we are very much of the opinion that in adversity comes opportunity. We are strongly committed to preparing thoroughly, adapting quickly and ensuring our students’ education is as continuous as possible.

Please be aware that although we are bound by provincial decisions, we will be aiming to open our school as quickly as possible when the time is right. We are hoping for an earlier start but planning for the realistic possibility that school may not resume on campus before the end of June.

Within our FAQs on the SMUS website, we have tried to anticipate some of the more obvious questions that are circulating. It will however take some time for us to develop a fair, reasonable and proportionate response. We are aware that everyone has questions. In the spirit of one of our key values, honesty, we do not have all the answers just yet but we are working on it. These will be discussed in various extraordinary Board meetings over the next few weeks and announcements will be made as soon as possible.

Over the course of the coming days, we will endeavour to keep our online FAQs section regularly updated and will make further announcements as and when necessary.

In a recent presentation to faculty, I mentioned that in challenging situations I often refer to poetry. One of my favourites is contained within the Exeter Book, a collection of 9th century middle English writings, riddles and poems. In this anthology is a poem called "Deor’s Lament", in which the author lists a whole series of events, some happy, some sad, some occur on a vast scale, some are very personal. After describing each one in the verse, we hear the repeated refrain ‘that passed away, this also may.' As an optimist, and having worked in schools for more than 30 years, one cannot help but be optimistic, I am very much of the opinion ‘this too shall pass.'

With very best wishes to you, thanks for your understanding, and the hope that you will all stay safe until we can meet again as a community.

Floreat,

Mark Turner signature

Mark Turner
Head of School


March 12, 2020

Dear Parents and Guardians,

As you are all aware the situation regarding the spread of the COVID-19 virus is changing rapidly. For much of this term we have been monitoring the evolving picture through a Response Committee that has been in constant contact with the relevant heath and education authorities. We have sent regular briefing bulletins to our extended community every Friday. The strategy that we have adopted has aimed to be both reasonable and proportionate. At all times the safety and best interests of our students have been our main concern.

During this week there have been further developments. The international situation is fast moving, Glenlyon Norfolk School has closed and there is now a confirmed case on Vancouver Island. Many schools are closing in the US and travel advisories are becoming more restrictive.

Given the proximity to the end of term and after extensive consultation, we have decided to close the school early for Spring Break effective the end of the school day on Friday, March 13, 2020.

This decision will allow:

On our website we have set up additional information and addressed several questions you may have.

This term we have enjoyed a bumper harvest of successful events, with a number of notable sporting successes, a wonderfully memorable musical – congratulations to the cast and production team of NEWSIES, a great Middle School concert and the successful launch of our new strategic plan, Floreat. There has been much to celebrate, and I believe much to look forward to once the clouds of the current situation have lifted and we return as swiftly as possible to business as usual.

With best wishes,

Mark Turner signature

Mark Turner
Head of School

  • Students from Kindergarten to Grade 12 being organized into smaller cohorts (or learning groups) to reduce the number of close interactions.
  • A simplified school timetable to help ensure academic continuity and prioritize instructional time, while also reducing the number of close interactions.
  • >Maximizing space in our classrooms and facilities by reconfiguring desks and furniture, and adding physical barriers where appropriate.
  • >Community gatherings, including first week orientation and chapel, being reconfigured to allow for these key pieces of the student experience to remain.
  • >Our Sodexo custodial team continuing to enforce the enhanced cleaning protocols that have been in place since last school year.
    • Relatively speaking, compared to many parts of the world, we are safe and fortunate.
    • You have proved that we can pivot rapidly and deliver a whole new way of approaching our curriculum, even at short notice; “where there is a will there is a way.” The feedback, both through formal surveys and from the mouths of many students and parents themselves, has been positive. Congratulations to our leaders and to those of you who, like me, followed their lead.
    • Despite cancellations and postponements, some key events like graduation, staff farewells and closing ceremonies, have been delivered in an appropriate way and with meaning. Albeit, without the razzamatazz we have enjoyed in the past.
    • By all accounts our community has rallied around and supported one another as individuals. In a material sense, the fantastic response for the community wide Financial Aid Relief Fund campaign, remarkably, allowed us to achieve our aim that no student should have to leave the school because of the short-term financial implications of the crisis. I know that many of you contributed personally to this.
    • The kick start of planning for the refurbishment of the Junior School.
    • The development of a Strategic Campus Master Plan to guide future projects and deliver improvement to the Middle School and provide facilities for STEAM as well as revitalizing our heritage spaces.
    • Reconsideration of timetable options for the Junior, Middle and Senior Schools.
    • Preparation for the launch of a generative discussion around sustainability in the fall.
    • An impressive raft of CFO/HR reforms.
    • Delivery and adoption of the new Continuous Enrolment program.
    • COVID-19 Relief Plan: after the Board of Governors’ decision to allocate significant major support for Financial Aid, we launched an urgent Financial Aid Relief Fund appeal. This was generously matched by our Parents’ Auxiliary up to $100,000, which we are hoping to match throughout May. We do have the option to reconsider requests for Financial Aid, if your circumstances have changed significantly as a direct result of COVID-19. As previously stated, our aim is that no student should have to leave our school as a result of the short-term financial impact of this current situation. The closing date for applications for this relief fund is Thursday, May 21. Please email Alexis Lang Lunn at [email protected], Director of Admissions for more information. Please email Adrienne Davidson at [email protected], Director of Advancement for more information on how you might support the Financial Aid Relief Fund campaign.
    • Our Deferred Payment Plan, designed to support those who may have short-term cash flow pressure, will be accessible on request by email to Rita Lord at [email protected], Chief Financial Officer by June 1.
    1. We have started planning in earnest for a partial return to school from junior grades up, so that we are fully prepared when we are given the green light. Our planning will always be within the context of ensuring the safety of our students and staff, and we will not rush back without being fully prepared. Further information will come as appropriate, once we are able to be more specific and possibly even to identify a date.
    2. In the meantime, please continue to contribute to and return surveys sent by the school, in order that we can further monitor the development of our remote learning curriculum, and to help us prepare for possible return to school on campus.
    3. At present, it seems less likely that senior grades will return this term, however we are increasingly confident that we will be able to launch again with a fresh start in September. This is the first time that we have felt encouraged to make this form of prediction.
    • Read this article to find how our faculty is preparing for moving the classroom online.
    • The School remains closed for all routine events until further notice.
    • All holidays activities and external programs have been cancelled.
    • Social distancing
    • Self-monitoring
    • Self-isolation / staying at home
    • The need to demonstrate the highest standards of hygiene.
    • Our No. 1 priority remains the health, safety and welfare of all our students, staff and faculty.
    • Friday, March 13 – SMUS dismisses students early for Spring Break.
    • Monday, March 16 to Friday, March 20 – SMUS faculty and staff undertook intensive remote learning training – a success and opportunity.
    • Tuesday, March 17 – BC Premier John Horgan and BC Minister of Education Rob Fleming announce the closure of all BC schools indefinitely.
    • Tuesday, April 14 – SMUS prepares to launch remote learning for all students.
    • Boarding students to make alternative travel plans or arrange home stays as necessary.
    • Our faculty to devote valuable time to prepare for ‘Distance Learning’ as a pre-emptive measure, in line with the dictum ‘plan for the worst, hope for the best’.
    • Our staff to prepare for what may be to come next term, depending on the changing situation over the next few weeks and months.