Pivoting to the new normal. The year 2020-21.

The 2020-2021 school year saw Churchill Academy swept up, once again, in the marathon struggle to contain and get past the pandemic. Provincial COVID-19 protocols and guidelines for health and safety made the school’s seventeenth year another memorable one. Last year, during the COVID-19 outbreak our community adapted to emergency remote learning and learned to “mask up” in pandemic times. Over the most recent year, students, staff and families adapted to the “new normal” and, confronted with the third wave, pivoted back to online learning to end the year. We are learning to be flexible and resilient as the Academy pivots back-and-forth. Through it all, we have come to depend, more and more, upon each other.

Our school, as students, teachers, and parents well know, is one of the Halifax Region’s best kept secrets – a small school serving learning challenged students and supporting them while they find their wings. This year, Pandemic Year 2.0, demonstrated our capacity to adapt to the twists and turns, fears, anxieties and unpredictability of a pandemic. Our Annual Report provides us with an opportunity to rise above the “new normal” and begin to embrace the future. Our theme “Soaring to New Heights” captures well that aspiration.

Starting in September 2020, students, staff and families learned to live with and embrace in-person school under a new set of COVID-19 health guidelines. Our 9 – page set of protocols, developed by our Head in collaboration with provincial authorities, emphasized our commitment to provide a “student-centred learning experience with strict adherence to public health guidelines.” With only 78 students and small class sizes, we met or exceeded the requirements established by the Education Department and Public Health. Students and staff adapted to new routines for arrival and departure, social distancing, limited indoor movement, frequent handwashing, eating lunch in classrooms, and outdoor exercise breaks. Everyone coped remarkably well, most of the time, and outdoor play provided an outlet to relieve that ‘bottled-up feeling’ under such conditions.

The Pandemic played havoc with our usual schedule of community-building and fundraising events. The Welcome Back BBQ was cancelled and replaced by a brief “Welcome Back” session on Zoom. Our annual Churchill Academy Golf Tournament, co-sponsored with O’Regan’s, was postponed and then morphed into a truly unique “Virtual Charity Golf Tournament” held from December 17 to 28, 2020. That little project, spearheaded by Peter Fardy and Sean O’Regan, generated lots of fun participation and netted some $34,000 in funds for the school. The Annual Auction, normally held in April, was rescheduled for July 2021 and turned out to be another fundraising success. Lead volunteer Roger King, President of King Supplements, and Sean O’Regan, organized a fantastic live event at Brightwood Golf Club and an online auction which generated record proceeds.

The third wave hit Churchill Academy in the Spring of 2021 and everyone had to pivot back to emergency remote learning. Our Head of School provided clear, consistent and steady leadership, made more challenging by the absence because of illness of Vice- Principal Dave McNeil. The past year proved once again that when adversity strikes, our staff and parents pull together for the sake of our students. Our mettle was tested, once again, in 2020-21, and Pat and his staff worked tirelessly to keep our students as engaged as possible and on the right track. It was a tough year with all the uncertainties and changes. Maintaining our enrolment is a testament to the enormous contributions of our staff in guiding us to calmer, more predictable waters.