Senior School Information

This page has been left for reference but is no longer being updated. For the latest information for Senior School families check our Senior School September Information page.

Sent to Senior School families on May 8:

Dear Parents and Guardians,

I trust that you have been enjoying the recent spell of nice weather. I am writing today to provide you with a very brief update as well as this Parent survey link (link provided in email). Please take a moment to provide us with your thoughts as we consider the second half of the final term.

We have settled into a routine at the Senior School. We continue to strive for the new normal by looking at ways to manage screen time for our students with how we structure our lessons. We feel the students are responding very well to the challenges in front of them and they have shown a great deal of resilience in the face of adversity.

You will see in your calendars that next Friday marks the beginning of our long weekend. Our holidays are set for Monday, May 18 and Tuesday, May 19 and there will be no classes on those dates.

On Wednesday, Premier John Horgan provided all of us with a message regarding British Columbia’s plan to gradually re-open. I want to assure you that we are monitoring this closely and already have a working group planning for possible eventualities, both in the immediate future, as well as the longer term considerations for the reopening of school in September. As we confirm our plans, we will update our community and there are a few questions in the survey that will help inform this planning.

Next week, you can look forward to a communication from our Director of Academics, Denise Lamarche, who will share an update on our approach with respect to assessment and reporting in a remote learning environment. In particular, this has been a topic of concern for our Grade 11 and 12 students.

Final course marks will be based on Term 2 report card marks, plus evidence of continued growth during remote learning. This means that students have the opportunity to improve their standing over the course of this term. Provided students are engaged with us and completing their work to the best of their ability, marks will not decrease from the Term 2 report. Of course, should there be academic issues, we will reach out to you directly and if you have any academic concerns, please feel welcome to contact your child’s teacher directly. As always, our goal is to support our students in the best way possible.

I will next write to you when we have confirmed details surrounding the end of the term unless more pressing matters arise. Of course, if you have any clarifying questions, please send me a note and I will do my best to answer.

Best Regards,

Eliot Anderson
Director of Senior School

Sent to Senior School families on April 24:

Dear Parents and Guardians,

It feels as though we have been in this phase of remote learning much longer than the nine days that have gone by since we began on April 14! Nonetheless, here we are at the end of our second week. I believe that we are settling into a bit of a routine and finding some degree of solid footing beneath us.

This past week we held live grade meetings with over a hundred students each and it was fantastic to see everyone so keen to engage with us and their peers. Extra-curricular pieces like these will continue to be a focus for us in the weeks ahead as it is clear that the students are very interested in restarting this side of school life. To this end, some clubs and all councils will begin to hold meetings to provide the students the opportunity to connect in a more social setting.

As you know, last week, we sought feedback from our parent group as well as the students. The attached file provides some commentary to the four common questions that were asked at the Junior, Middle and Senior School.

More specifically from our Senior School parents, we heard concerns around excess screen time and a heavy workload for our Grade 11 and 12 students. This feedback was echoed in our student survey and we will be working at addressing these specific concerns in the immediate future. Our hope is that as we seek to find a new understanding of what is achievable for our students from a workload perspective, a better balance of screen time will be attained. Having said that, we feel that an increase in screen time is inevitable given the current situation so we will be encouraging students to find ways to break away from their devices and are asking them to communicate clearly with us if they are finding this challenging.

We also recognize that this is an even more challenging situation for our students who are not with us in the Pacific Standard Time zone. Access to live teaching is more difficult and we will be working to enhance delivery of lessons to better engage our students in this situation. We have moved our ELL lessons into time slots where these students have better access and we trust that this has been beneficial.

You can anticipate another survey from us on Friday, May 8 so that we can re-evaluate how things are going from your perspective at that time.

We were scheduled to host a parent information evening regarding course planning for the 2020-2021 school year and we promised to find a way to provide you with this information remotely. Our University Counseling department has been busy planning a dedicated website, an informative webinar and three time slots of live question and answer sessions dedicated to help our students and parents with their questions about course selections and academic pathway planning. The resources will be coming to you directly from the University Counselling office next week and you can put a placeholder in your calendar to attend one of the following question and answer sessions if you wish: Monday, May 4 at 7 pm PST, Tuesday, May 5 at 1 pm PST, and Wednesday, May 6 at 9 am PST.

There is little doubt that our graduating families have many questions around our end-of-year ceremonies and the planned celebration on June 19. Please know that we share your concerns and are committed to honouring this class of graduates in the best way possible. Like all schools on the west coast of Canada, we are in the middle of planning a variety of contingencies based on a number of factors that are outside of our control. Next week, graduating students and families will receive a brief survey from us so that we can better inform our decision-making process and to ensure that we hear from all facets of the class.

I wish you and your family a restful weekend and you can expect to hear from me next on Friday, May 8 unless there is pressing news that I need to convey prior to then.

Kind Regards,

Eliot Anderson
Director of Senior School

Sent to Senior School families on April 17:

Dear Parents and Guardians,

At the end of our first week of remote learning, I thought I would send a very brief note to say thank you for your understanding and support of your children as they navigate this new way of learning and to provide you with a few updates as well as a link to our Parent Survey.

Having been in the unique situation of being able to “drop-in” on a number of different classes over the course of the week, I have been very impressed with the level of engagement of our students and with their positive approach to the work being delivered. What is also clear to me is that they miss their friends, they miss their teachers, and they miss this community. Certainly, this is hard for me to see and hear and I have great empathy with how hard this is for them to navigate. With this in mind, and with a growing sense of confidence in the delivery of our remote academic program, we aim to begin introducing more community building events as the weeks move along. Next week, we will be hosting live grade meetings on Tuesday morning as a first step down this path.

As promised, we are very interested in gathering your feedback as well. Please use the link in the letter sent to parents for a survey that we have created in order to give us a bit of insight into how things are going for you at home. Please take a moment to let us know your thoughts so that we can continue to adapt to this new environment. We aim to have this information collected by 9:00 pm on April 19 so your timely attention is appreciated. As you might expect, we are continuing to plan for next year. To this end, we are asking students in grade 9, 10 and 11 to complete their course selections for next year in the SDS. In the coming weeks, our Academic Advising team will be meeting with their students to help them confirm their registrations by May 6. This process informs how we construct the timetable, so it is important that we have as much information as possible from the student body. Students will be receiving helpful resources and a slide show from their grade specific Google Classroom next week so they should watch for those updates closely. We will also endeavour to make these resources available to you next week in lieu of our course selection evening. In the meantime, here is the link to our Course Handbook available on the website. For specific questions about your child’s academic pathway, please feel welcome to reach out to their Academic Advisor directly. They are available for virtual meetings every day.

As the weeks move along, we will keep you apprised of any new developments that bring clarity to the many questions that are left hanging for us. Having said that, please feel welcome to reach out to me or anyone on the team directly should you have a pressing question and we will do our best to answer.

Once again, thank you for your support this week and for your feedback. It is very much appreciated.

Kind Regards,

Eliot Anderson
Director of Senior School

Sent to Senior School families on April 9:

Dear Senior School Parents/Guardians,

I hope that this letter finds you and your loved ones well and in good health.

As you might expect, this holiday has been rather different for us as we have been busy preparing for the launch of our Community Remote Learning Plan. In this document available online, you will find more specific details of how this will unfold on the Senior Campus.

Of interest to you might also be the Ministry of Education's new website dedicated to helping parents navigate this new environment.

It goes without saying that these are uncharted waters for us as educators and so we have put forth our best effort in adopting programs and creating policies that we believe will best serve the interests of the students in our care. Of course, our top priority is their safety and well-being and the all-important concept of the SMUS community. We aim to put these first with the belief that with a solid base in these areas, success will follow on the academic front.

A university professor once told me that the best lesson plans provide the foundation from which great teachers can springboard into deeper learning. His point was that good planning allows teachers to pivot and take a new approach with a good safety net underfoot. This is our hope for our remote learning plan. In fact, we have every expectation that this plan will look very different when we reach the end of this experience. With this in mind, we appreciate your feedback and understanding as we work through the evolution of the term with our students.

Now more than ever, the relationship between the school and our parents will be crucial to the success of our students. With the loss of regular in-person connections with their teachers, our students will need to become even more autonomous in their learning. This will be a challenge for them, and we will need your support in helping them learn how to approach this work. Studying from home will present new challenges and distractions that they will need to overcome and setting them up for success early on will be a top priority. To this end, we have provided some suggestions in the Remote Learning Plan so please do set aside some time to review these in detail with your child(ren).

The last month has shown us that decision points arrive upon us very suddenly and so I thought it would be good to update you on a few cancellations to alleviate any lingering questions:

  • Course Selection Information Night
  • Grade 9 Out-Trips in May
  • Grade 10 Expedition Days in May
  • All outdoor education trips
  • Wellness Week and the associated April 21 SPARK Nigh
  • Alumni Weekend

There are many more events in the future that are currently on hold and we will update you as soon as we reach important markers along the way.

Just prior to the break, we were working through course selections for the 2020/2021 school year. This process is continuing, and we will be providing resources for you to help with this in lieu of the planned course selection evening originally scheduled for April 16.

Today, all students will receive an email very similar to this one asking them to complete a few tasks in their Google Classroom prior to Tuesday. It would be helpful if you could prompt your son or daughter to set aside sometime over the course of the weekend to ensure that they are prepared for the start of the week. As their teachers have been working hard over the break, it may be that they have a few emails in their inboxes to sort through to ensure that they are correctly enrolled and ready to go in all of their classrooms.

Of course, we remain committed to the overall development of our students and stand ready to support them in the best way that we can in this new remote environment. Please feel welcome to contact any one of us directly should you have any clarifying questions along the way.

Warm Regards,

Eliot Anderson
Director of Senior School

Sent to Senior School families on March 20:

Hello Parents, Guardians and Students,

I hope that this email finds you in good health and in good spirits. Certainly, these are trying times for everyone so please know that SMUS is sending positive thoughts to our entire community.

Our teachers have been very focused this week in their preparation for remote learning. We feel most fortunate to have had the week to plan and prepare and we are ready to begin on April 14. The Ministry of Education has closed schools indefinitely and so we fully expect to launch remote learning on this date.

Here are a few key points for you to be aware of:

  1. Google Classroom will be our platform for delivery. Please ensure that you are ready to connect through this suite of products. If you reside in a country where Google Classroom is not accessible, we are developing an alternate plan for you.
  2. All of the classes in your current timetable will be offered remotely after Spring Break.
  3. Teaching and learning will look and feel differently. Please be open and ready to try new things and to learn and grow with us in this new environment.
  4. Students will be expected to regularly engage with their teachers and school community using the online meeting and collaboration tools we provide.
  5. All classes will have set schedules where teachers will be accessible and live remote classes through Google Meet will be held. Online class sessions will be recorded for students who may be out of our time zone.
  6. Students will receive details about their new timetable in early April and their schedule will be updated in the SDS.
  7. For our AP students: Recently, the College Board announced they will not hold traditional AP exam sessions at schools and that they are planning for online testing. More details will be forthcoming on April 3. This means that we need to wait and see when the new testing dates are scheduled. For our students, this means that any work assigned over the Spring Break, can be put on hold while you focus on following the recommendations of your local health officer. We will provide updates as soon as we are able to and you can also check the College Board’s website for details
  8. For our graduating families, we continue to consider our plans for the Graduation Ceremonies and Gala. All funds collected for the gala will be 100% refundable in the event we need to cancel. We will update you as information becomes available and we reach decision points in the weeks ahead.

It goes without saying that there will be hurdles for us to clear in the weeks ahead and many uncertainties for us as teachers and for our students as learners. However, as we walk down the path towards remote learning, we feel confident in our abilities to deliver the curriculum and are buoyed by our understanding of the capabilities of our students.

This is merely a snapshot of the work that has been done already and we realize that there are still many questions left to be answered. Having said that, please look for a more detailed communication on April 9 which will encompass more of our planning, our expectations for our students and our opening schedule for the week of April 14.

Until then, be well and enjoy the Spring Break in the best way possible in our new socially distanced world.

Warm Regards,

Eliot Anderson
Director of Senior School

On Behalf of the Senior School Operations Team.