Shelley Brown P ’32 ’33 ’37
In March 2020, my boys were in kindergarten and prekindergarten, and our baby was six months old. My oldest was looking forward to swimming with his kindergarten classmates when they returned from spring break; my middle son was practicing his lines for the upcoming prekindergarten play, “Pete the Cat;” and my youngest was loving every moment of his daycare setting. It slowly became clear that none of those activities were going to happen in the way we imagined (although “Pete the Cat” did happen virtually, which was quite the feat for the prekindergarten teachers!), and that life as we knew it changed.
I remember walking into the school building during the summer of 2020 to reimagine school – a school where students were socially distanced yet engaged and a school where students were masked yet smiling. We made it through that school year, and it was actually easy compared to the next school year, where words like quarantine, learn from home, and isolation took over our daily conversations about teacher and student absences.
Flash forward to the fall of 2022 where I have a third grader, a second grader, and a Little Jag student. My Little Jag, a child who has lived in a post-COVID-19 world for most of his life, is in a classroom that supports connecting young children with the outside world. His class even embarked to the main Columbus Metropolitan Library branch within the first month of school, a place that he has never been to because COVID-19 halted so many experiences that we took for granted with my other two children. My oldest two sons are talking non-stop about skiing at Mad River in January – yet another experience that stalled for two years and is finally returning to Wellington.
Here we also stand, in the new doors of a new wing that will welcome new early childhood classrooms, special area spaces, and a shared learning commons with middle school on the second floor. The entire wing of classrooms is designed to build community within the classroom spaces and within the division. During the height of COVID-19 restrictions, I remember wondering if building a wing of connection was such a good idea; what if we were to live in pods forever!? Now we know that is not the case. Time and time again, research supports the positive learning outcomes when students learn how to work in a small group, collaborate to solve a problem, and effectively use time management skills when working on projects. The space was designed for this purpose, and thankfully, we are back in a place where our building can help shape the important work of preparing students for tomorrow’s world.
As we do our final walk-throughs in the new building, I can imagine the space coming alive. Prekindergarten students playing next to kindergarten students in the Brisk Commons, second graders flipping crepes in the new kitchen space, garage doors connecting kindergarten classrooms to the commons, a shared playscape for all early childhood and lower school students to play and explore together. The building invites collaboration, connection, and laughter.
As for our older students, the new science lab, art studio, music room, and foreign language room will be dedicated spaces to support the special area content that deeply complements and connects our homeroom learning. The experiences of skiing, fourth grade camp, and field trips are back and better than ever! The new wing will support academic learning and new programming such as lower school LEAP Days.
The full circle moment for me will be to watch my youngest, my “COVID-19 baby” visit the commons and experience school as it should be experienced after many altered moments from his childhood. It will be the same moment for many of our early childhood students, and I can’t wait to see their smiles as they explore the nooks and crannies of a space that was specially designed for them. A collaborative and community-focused space that was designed at a time when social distance was the norm.