Our Shared Losses

This week we learned of the DeKalb County School District’s (DCSD) plan for the end of the school year. In general, GVP aims to follow their lead and calendar because all of our students and their siblings live in DeKalb County and attend DeKalb County public schools. We want to make things easier in any ways possible for our families by keeping the school schedules similar and by making sure our students can be there at home to care for younger siblings who are also out of school.  So, we have been busy this week making our own end of year plans, realizing that school will end even earlier than we had anticipated. 

Virtual schooling for DCSD and for GVP will complete by May 15. I can’t believe it is one month--only 20 school days away! Despite the seeming monotony and repetition of these recent days, time has continued to fly by for me. I can feel some sadness rising up, as I recognize that I will, for the first time in more than two decades of teaching, finish a school year without celebrations, hugs, and tear-filled goodbyes.

Not only do I feel the sadness of the school year ending so abruptly, but I feel a deeper level of loss, as I have been so far removed from our students and classes during these days of online schooling.  GVP is a school of 40-50 students and hosts approximately 40-50 adults on any given day between staff and volunteers, so we are small in size and share a small space for learning. We work together on one hallway on the third floor of the Decatur Presbyterian Church building on the corner for Church and Sycamore Streets. We generally fill five classrooms and a small library, and our administrative offices are centrally located on the same hall. I can often hear singing from music classes, laughing and shouting as students line up for and return from lunch at Agnes Scott College, and even instructions from Ms. Marjorie for a science experiment or activity. I can peek into a classroom at any time, and admit that I often do for my own wellbeing. I find that my spirits are always lifted whenever I see our students, staff, and volunteers engaged in community learning and caring for one another. I miss our school, classrooms, and closeness terribly these days and know that I will have to wait until at least August to experience that again.

I have also been thinking of the annual Tribute to Education Gala that would have been taking place at the Temple this Sunday evening. Typically, this week would have been wildly busy for us at school, as we prepared to host our biggest fundraising event of the year. We would be double-checking our lists, rehearsing our songs and lines, and I likely would have had a few restless nights of sleep, trying to anticipate the turnout and success of the event. In general, Tribute to Education has provided between 15% and 30% of the funding for our annual budget over the last 7 years. It has been incredible to watch it grow and to know that our dedicated GVP team has created this invaluable event for building relationships, celebrating, and fundraising. We have had wonderful guests and speakers at our Tribute events. Elizabeth Kiss, Michelle Nunn, Laura Turner Seydel, GVP mom Khadija Barati, and our own outstanding student alumnae have shared inspirational stories. Our GVP Chorus always sings; we honor our high school and college graduates, and the amazingly generous community in attendance raises their paddles to support our school and provide our students with scholarships. As a tuition-free private school dedicated to holistic education, we could not survive without the generosity of our growing community of support. I miss the excitement of this time and the event, but I know there will be more to come in the future.

For now, I remain grateful for all that has been built at GVP in this first decade—the mission and vision, the model, the team, the structures, and the partnerships and community—as they all contribute to our strength and sustainability for the long term. I often say that when I took this position as Head of School, I wasn’t sure about GVP’s future as a model for alternative education. Now, even in the midst of these uncertain times, I feel more certain than ever that GVP is both valuable and viable.  I am deeply grateful for the hundreds of families who have entrusted us with their daughter’s education, for the hundreds of partners and volunteers who have supported our work, and the many who have financially sustained this school. I am comforted in knowing that GVP has been built upon a committed and steadfast community of support, and I look forward to the time when we meet again for end of year celebrations, hugs, and our Tribute to Education event. 

“There are no goodbyes for us. Wherever you are, you will always be in my heart.” -Mahatma Gandhi

“The pain of parting is nothing to the joy of meeting again.” -Charles Dickens (Nicholas Nickleby)