This spring, St. Mark's has kept its community vibrant and engaged in all areas of school life by staying connected through virtual platforms.
Certainly, as often noted on the St. Mark's website, there has been a full academic curriculum of online classes. From algebra to the arts, dedicated St. Mark's faculty have been keeping students engaged and learning has continued. But, as many 21st century educators have pointed out: "everything is curriculum." There is so much more to the St. Mark's experience than English and math, modern languages and the Classics, STEM subjects, music, visual art, theater arts, religion, and history.
Twice a week, chaplains Barbara Talcott and Katie Talcott have been leading Zoom chapel services, ably supported by James Wallace, St. Mark's director of music. Chapel talks by VI Formers have been the central components of most of these services, while students, faculty, and staff have served as readers and shared music with the school community. Every Wednesday, the Monitors host a virtual all-school meeting on the Zoom platform. Both chapels and school meetings are recorded and can be viewed on the School's online community hub. Mr. Ron Boston of the St. Mark's Technology Department has worked hard to make all this run smoothly and successfully.
Dean of Students David Vachris has been organizing weekly Zoom "check-ins" for each Form, giving St. Markers an opportunity to connect with each other as classmates. Looking ahead to next year, he has coordinated room choices for boarders and advisor selection for all students through online platforms. He has also delivered video messages to students through the regular Deans' Weekly email.
The Athletics Department has provided regular Zoom workouts, taught by the School's strength coach, Patrick Hagerty. Faculty member Heather Harwood has also offered online yoga sessions. In addition, coaches have kept in touch with their players through virtual meetings, sharing drills and exercises St. Mark's athletes can do to stay in shape as well as working to maintain the close camaraderie of the team dynamic.
There have been other forms of engagement, from both faculty and students. Science teacher Brady Loomer, for example, has been sending links to the entire school community, featuring opportunities for virtual campouts, astronomical viewing, and even interviews with astronauts—all as part of the "St. Mark's Space Program." The various affinity groups have also been connecting remotely. Meanwhile, IV Formers Padma Mynampaty and Kendall Sommers are organizing a Zoom coffeehouse, modeled after the occasional live student-sponsored coffeehouse events on campus, where members of the St. Mark's family can showcase their talents. It will be held on May 15 and recorded for future enjoyment.
Indeed, recording as many of these connective engagements is important, because many St. Markers—students, families, and alumni—are scattered around the world and in a multiplicity of time zones, making participation in real-time not always possible.
The School has held online forums for parents of students in each Form. The Admission Office, now that the 2020-2021 academic year is fully enrolled, will be holding an online information session for prospective families on May 19, looking ahead to 2021-2022. Surveys have gone out to assess the online learning program and to elicit feedback from various constituencies. The Advancement Office has been reaching out to class agents and alumni and has conducted a major online survey of St. Mark's graduates. Various alumni groups (individual graduating classes, Southborough School alumnae, and others) have been hosting remote gatherings on Zoom and other internet meeting platforms.
Plans are also in place for VI Form experiential learning work in late May, while classes will continue for all other St. Markers. Starting June 1, there will be a series of virtual events and ceremonies culminating in a very different but nonetheless engaging, respectful, and celebratory Prize Day. It hasn't been easy and it's not always perfect, but despite the challenges of these difficult times, St. Mark's remains St. Mark's, committed to the spirit of Age Quod Agis, doing whatever can be done do as well as possible. The spirit of a "school under one roof" has seen that roof expand to cover the globe, but through it all that same spirit has helped St. Mark's and St. Markers to stay connected.