On our July tour of north-west BC, my wife Kathini and our 9 year old daughter Poppy and I spent some time in Prince Rupert (the most northerly Canadian city on the Pacific coast). Whilst exploring we came across the war memorial in front of the City Court House (built in 1952). To mark the locating of unmarked children’s graves at former residential school sites across the country, shoes, candles and gifts surrounded the war memorial. “Our glorious dead” and “their name liveth forever more” – inscribed on the monument – took on a different, poignant and challenging significance in front of the court house, the symbolic centre of justice in the region.
I’d like to take this opportunity to welcome back our returning students after their summer break and to extend a huge welcome to all our new students and staff.
For many of you, this is a new campus and new adventure with fresh challenges to face. There will be moments when you are lost, unsure and a little wobbly over the next couple of days and weeks as you learn the rhythm of Shawnigan. But we are here for you.
On Saturday night, I gave an address in Marion Hall to the Grad Class of 2021.
I decided against a formal address and instead chose to deliver a slideshow capturing the year gone by from A-Z. This academic year has indeed been utterly unique and I sought to capture the unique experience of our Grade 12s.
There has been a definite buzz in the office of my Executive Assistant, Cheryl Miranda, all week. Staff members have been coming and going and I sense a growing excitement as this Saturday’s dinner for the Grade 12s approaches.
Here at Shawnigan we talk about “Pride” – with the Rev Jim Holland leading the way on this – with the focus on encouraging and taking pride in the uniqueness of each individual in our community. At all times, we seek to celebrate our differences within the guiding and inspiring framework of our values, the 4Cs of Shawnigan: Curiosity, Compassion, Community and Courage.
Last Friday, I found myself sitting with Teacher Paul Morris in the Biology Lab listening to our advisees present their SOUL Seeking projects.
We were simply blown away by the range of the projects: from fashion design to a skateboarding video, from fitness and nutrition to fishing fly patterns. We chose a Grade 12 student as the representative of our team to head into the semi-finals against others. She had coordinated a kindness campaign by encouraging students to write to veterans and pensioners during the pandemic.
As many of you know, we made the decision to cancel Spring Break and combine terms 2 and 3 in order to protect our campus bubble and the education of the children in our care. It has undoubtedly been a period of sacrifice for all (including for parents who may well not have seen their children from January through to May) but I like to think that history will judge us kindly in terms of the decisions we have made as a boarding school through the course of the pandemic. Each day, I am struck by the resilience and adaptability of the students and the extraordinary commitment of our staff. Never has a home-away-from-home experience been more important and we have done our best to create a supportive environment for the students.
Looking back on the week gone by, five things in particular have made my heart sing:
1. On Monday evening, the Grade 12s who started at Shawnigan in Grade 8 came to the garden at the Head’s House for the re-imagined Five Year Dinner. There was laughter and stories galore, and Matt Clinton-Baker, Assistant Head – Student Life and a five year man himself, gave a moving and heartfelt speech to the students.
It gives me great pleasure to welcome you all to ShawMUN and to extend a Shawnigan welcome – virtually – to this year’s delegates, drawn from Costa Rica, California and BC.
I would also like to thank, at the outset, the Secretary-General (Ainsley F.), the Director-General (Justin L.), the Committee Directors, and the Committee Chairs, drawn from different schools (who will be moderating debate throughout the day).
We have been living through an extraordinary moment in history.
Further to my letter of Tuesday March 30th, I would like to provide an update on our recent COVID-19 exposure case. Over the last several days we have been in touch with the Island Health contact tracing team to ensure that we continue to maintain our COVID-19 protocols and monitor for any further risk in our community. I am pleased to report that, as of today, there have been no further suspected cases reported and the affected employee is resting at home and managing their symptoms.
The student-coordinated mixed soccer championship kicked off last Sunday. The staff team, representing Portugal, surprised the student spectators by winning their first two games of the tournament. Fitness was low from the staff but students seemed stunned on the pitch and on the sidelines by the Galácticos-inspired passing, penetration and clinical finishing of the old-timers. It was also noted that staff around campus on Monday were plagued with injuries and that we have needed to extend our squad for round two this Sunday!
A letter from the Head's Office for parents of Grade 12 students about the plans ahead as we look to our end-of-year celebrations.
Dear Parents and Guardians of Grade 12 students,
Congratulations on having guided your child all the way to Grade 12! We are so pleased to announce that we plan to provide our Grade 12s with a wonderful end-of-year experience including an evening on Saturday May 15th with a formal dress-up dinner event as well as a House focused Graduation Ceremony on Saturday May 29th. We have a Grad Committee of staff and students committed to providing a memorable experience for our deserving graduates while adhering to protocols set by the Ministry of Health. We also appreciate the support of the Shawnigan Parent Association.
It has been another exciting week on campus as we draw to the end of Term II of the academic year and step into Term III. There is a real sense that spring has arrived on campus and students have been buzzing about their adventures up at Mount Washington. We have had three groups up there this week which has done wonders on the health and wellness front.
I have found myself down at the Crewhouse docks twice this week. Yesterday, I was there to see rowing crews in every grade heading out on a treasure hunt around the lake. Their navigation skills and endurance were tested and they returned (a little wet from the rain) having rowed further than they have probably rowed before in an afternoon session.
Last weekend, I called one of my school friends, Guy, to catch up. Based in Putney, London, and with three children currently at home with the UK again in lockdown and schools closed since the beginning of January, I was reminded how fortunate we are to be open here at Shawnigan and delivering in-person and on-campus education. His son is in Grade 10 at Winchester College, our alma mater, but has spent the last two out of three academic terms stranded at home and learning by Zoom. My weekly Zoom calls with boarding school heads across Canada and independent schools in BC are a reminder of the challenges others have been facing with school closures and one BC independent school (with boarding) having to close down its senior school earlier this term for a number of weeks.
The weekend launched with our Lunar New Year Celebration with Asian cuisine, a concert of music and dance, and then a surprise fireworks display above the playing fields. I woke up on Saturday morning to find a lovely email from a Grade 12 Kaye’s student thanking the staff contributors to the program.
In order to support student health and well-being, we have created a special program for this weekend. During this time, there will be no homework for the students and an emphasis will be placed on rest, relaxation and participation in exciting activities delivered safely.
I am delighted to report that following our annual Board Retreat – which was held virtually over three days at the end of last week – Shawnigan’s Board of Governors has unanimously voted in full support of Project Future, our strategic plan for the next two to three years. Their support enabled us to formally launch Project Future on February 1, 2021 – the 135th anniversary of the birth of our School Founder, C.W. Lonsdale.
Greetings from the three day Virtual Board Retreat! Throughout our time of connecting and strategizing, the governors have been discussing the exciting ambitions and objectives that are arising out of Shawnigan’s Project Future – our strategic plan for the crucial next two years. The priorities identified in Project Future will safeguard the School, allow us to be nimble and innovative in uncertain and disruptive times, and serve as a springboard into the decade ahead.
It seems a little surreal that this week’s Chapel service is being beamed into your places of isolation – from the boarding houses to a hotel in Victoria, from your homes on the island to other safe and secure locations across BC.
2020 is behind us: thankfully.
I wonder if you were packing a time capsule for 2020 to bury somewhere on campus, what defining Shawnigan items would you put in it? And what, in a hundred or a thousand years’ time, a visitor from another planet or archaeologist would interpret from your selected items?
We acknowledge with respect the Coast Salish Peoples on whose traditional lands and waterways we live, learn and play. We are grateful for the opportunity to share in this beautiful region, and we aspire to healthy and respectful relationships with those who have lived on and cared for these lands for millennia.
Shawnigan Lake School is an independent co-educational boarding school for ages 13 –18 on Canada’s beautiful West Coast. Our diverse, interdisciplinary and innovative programming helps shape the next generation of global leaders.