Leadership and school spirit, not the coronavirus, surged on NDCL’s campus this week as students and staff stepped up to implement the health and safety protocols, enabling NDCL to offer in-person instruction for 95% of the 710 students.
During orientation sessions on August 25-26, Principal Mr. Joseph A. Waler shared a story with students about a telephone conversation he had earlier this summer with a person who doubted that any school re-opening plan could work with teenagers.
“The caller kept telling me, ‘Kids just won’t follow the plan because they just don’t follow rules.’ And she wondered what we were going to do when you failed to follow the protocols,” Mr. Waler said.
“To be honest, that conversation really aggravated me because the caller was describing a school and students I don’t know. I told her that we’re not here to create a bunch of followers.”
“NDCL’s mission is to educate leaders, not followers. And I’m counting on you to step up to lead our community through this pandemic. It’s not something that I or even all the adults together can do by ourselves,” Mr. Waler challenged the students.
“If we have any chance of continuing in-person teaching and learning, all of us need to take the lead.”
And that’s exactly what has happened. When classes resumed on August 27, students adapted quickly to the necessary and sometimes frustrating changes in our school-day routines, including wearing masks, taking temperatures, using desk shields, disinfecting surfaces, and staggering dismissals.
To maintain physical distancing in a fun way, NDCL is treating the cafeteria like an event center, with students being called up to the serving line table-by-table. NDCL is playfully calling the cafeteria the Poulos Party Center, named after Assistant Principal Mr. Chris Poulos. Many students are also eating lunch outside at new bistro-style umbrella tables that fill the courtyard, now known as the Poulos Patio.
Mr. Waler credits NDCL’s successful re-opening to the students’ leadership as well as to the careful, deliberate preparations of the faculty and staff throughout the summer. For example, teachers met for 10 days before the first day of classes to learn safety protocols and to share effective strategies for meeting the academic and socio-emotional needs of students, including the 38 who join us every day for live-streamed instruction.
“As the signs throughout our building say, we are in this together. And together we’re leading our school through these challenging times,” Mr. Waler concluded.