The 2020-21 school year has been one for the history books. As we reflect on this past year, Psalm 46:1 comes to mind: “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” With God ever present in our schools, we were able to overcome so many obstacles. It is amazing, by the will of God, how well the teachers, parents and students were able to adapt to the situation we were in. With masks, social distancing, quarantining, and other unimaginable requirements, our schools were all able to open and function as normally as they possibly could.

Some of the interesting challenges this past year, such as additional lunch time and recess, which altered arrangements of classrooms and learning cohorts, have actually been a blessing. Our school personnel have learned there are other ways of doing things than how we have “always done them.” As I have been able to visit the schools this spring, I asked the principals what things they’ve been doing this school year that they might keep for next school year. Many of them have commented that having additional lunch periods sure has helped students be more attentive to their lunches and less squirrely. Another great thing teachers have learned is how effective online learning and lesson tracking can be. Students have been able to learn a great deal more at their own pace and also not miss too much academic time due to planned or unforeseen absences.

On the flipside of all of this, though, the principals are planning to put all the learning tools back in their classrooms. The hands-on learning environment is key to the success of our students and while many manipulatives have been added as the year has progressed, we can’t wait to see the libraries and alternative seating utilized again. We also look forward to much more social interaction for the students, as we know this is key to spiritual and academic development.

I know this school year has been extremely challenging for parents, with adjusting to online learning during quarantines and struggling with the mask requirements, but overall our students have come out of this school year stronger. Enduring challenges helps each of us to grow both spiritually and emotionally. As God has said, “Whenever you face trials of any kind, consider it nothing but joy, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance; and let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking in nothing” (James 1:2-4). It was too often that we worried about our students’ behavior and emotional health while following mask and social distancing requirements. However, what we have witnessed is students’ true ability to be resilient and adaptable. Teachers worked tirelessly to ensure lessens were still diverse even with all of these restrictions. They ensured many more breaks, which not only helped with the masks but also with the mental and emotional rejuvenation of our students’ minds. Our teachers cannot be thanked enough for their own perseverance and endurance during this past school year.

Never before have so many people been counting down to the last day of school. However, I think we can truly say even with the extra work and stress of the many restrictions, this school year has been successful. Students have continued to learn and grow in faith and academics. Considering the alternative that many schools throughout the state and country experienced of not being open until this spring, we were very fortunate and blessed to have been open all year long. May God continue to bless our schools as we rejuvenate over the summer and prepare a more normal school year for 2021-22.