Newton Country Day began the 2020-21 academic year with Opening Week September 8-11. While things look a little different this year, the joy of being together remains.
Welcome signs, balloons, and cheers warmly greeted our students as they embarked on the new year. The week brought 71 new students to NCDS; a group of bright, enthusiastic girls eager to challenge themselves, take risks, and forge new friendships. Newton’s student body represents nearly 50 cities and towns in Massachusetts.
In small cohorts, girls participated in outdoor orientation activities, reviewed social distancing guidelines, and were introduced to their designated learning spaces with exciting new technology.
In preparation to safely open for the new school year, girls were strategically placed in cohorts in one of 93 instructional spaces, created to ensure all students are six feet apart in class. Although NCDS welcomed all students back to campus, the classroom experience had to be accessible for everyone, as some students would be participating in distance learning, either short-term or long-term. The summer was spent equipping these classrooms, and reimagined teaching spaces, with updated technology including:
Large audio-visual high resolution Clear Touch Interactive panels or Epson smart projectors.
Meeting Owls, 360 degree Zoom-integrated cameras, that use artificial intelligence to spotlight the classroom speakers so that students learning from home can engage with the entire classroom.
Visual Presenters, containing a document camera and writing board, to help teachers share content with their students.
These tools are critical to prepare for a seamless transition should everyone be required to switch to distance learning. Less visible, but equally important, wireless network bandwidth, the electrical system, and network infrastructure were all upgraded, with new wireless access points installed.
Monday, September 14 opened with the Mass of the Holy Spirit, at which the community prayed for the Holy Spirit's wisdom and guidance for the year. Mass took place in Newton’s Chapel with a few teachers in attendance, while students and the remaining faculty and staff watched a live-stream in cohort spaces.
During his homily, in reference to the new school year, Fr. Terry Devino, SJ said, “This will be about making sure that we never, ever, lock the doors of our hearts. For love wants to live within each and every one of us. Today, and every day, may your good and your generous hearts be filled with the love of God and be filled with God’s Holy Spirit.”
Following Mass, the Class of 2021 gathered in the Sunken Garden for a modified Ring Ceremony. Seated 6 feet apart, Mrs. Hodges read the name of each member of the senior class as she stood and placed her class ring around her neck. Once all members were standing, Sister Rogers blessed their rings.
In the afternoon, the seniors led a socially distant Blue Silver Induction. The Class of 2021’s parody of “Teen Beach Movie” was shown in cohorts before new members of the community were inducted to the Blue or Silver team, celebrating by running across the Lower Field. On Tuesday, September 15, students had their first full day of classes. While the technology, social practices, and traditions at Newton may have been changed or modified, what makes NCDS special is intact.