Returning to the Red Doors: Sacred Heart Academy Looks Ahead to a Post-Pandemic School Year
Moving forward as a school community and welcoming the newest students to begin their education at SHA with confidence and love.
The Red Doors of Sacred Heart Academy Bryn Mawr symbolize love, wonder, friendship, and support—yet while the steadfast mission of a Sacred Heart education remains unchanged in over 150 years, so much has changed as SHA’s students prepare to walk through those iconic doors for the 2021-22 school year.
As the cloud of this pandemic begins to clear, parents and children have their own set of challenges in returning to “normal.” For especially little kids, the basis and memories of “normal” just aren’t there; much like the building blocks of a rich social life and independence after spending the majority of their year at home with their parents. While in-person learning for the entire school year was a plus at Sacred Heart Academy, students experienced change through maintaining cohorts, physical distancing, and less hands-on collaboration in the classroom.
“This year was filled with an incredible amount of change, and change can feel scary for anyone, but especially younger children that rely on structure, routine and adult support,” says Lauren Horowitz, Lower and Middle School Counselor at SHA. “Every child has a unique disposition, and while some children may be more flexible, others benefit greatly from knowing what to expect next, which was something we did not have readily available over this past year.”
Providing that support—for kids and their families—is crucial to moving forward as a school community and welcoming the newest students to begin their education at SHA with confidence and love. Luckily, this is something SHA is uniquely equipped to do. The Lower School of this independent Catholic school boasts small class sizes and one-on-one instruction, which help contribute to the success of the student and the development of the whole girl.
The community is strengthened with leadership and mentorship opportunities between the grades. For example, in the Big and Little Sisters program, girls in different grades are paired together to study, socialize, and encourage one another. “The supportive atmosphere is palpable, and it is wonderful to see girls from all grades collaborate academically on projects and socially when playing at recess. The student community truly looks out for one another,” says Horowitz.
While setting your child up for success by selecting a nurturing learning environment like SHA is key, Horowitz recognizes that building confidence in this time of uncertainty begins in the home. “Building confidence in families and supporting parents is paramount. At Sacred Heart, we value parents as the most important resource for a child and encourage collaborating together as a team to support your child’s needs.”
Parents are understandably grateful to simply be finishing this challenging school year, but it is important to begin the process of transitioning to school now. Horowitz suggests practicing smaller separations so kids—especially those little ones who have spent all their time with their parents this past year—can build independence. Even something as subtle as cooking dinner in another room, or having a grandparent take the kids for a couple hours, can make kids feel more comfortable apart from their primary caregivers. Summer camp is also a “return to normalcy” that will help starting the full-time school year go more smoothly.
Finally, while parents’ concerns inevitably turn to our kids, Horowitz reminds parents that our own anxiety can play a huge role—and that schools should make it a priority to ease both parents and students back in with open dialogue and understanding. “The trickle-down impact of a parent’s anxiety on their child can be significant. Parents should feel confident about their child’s placement, so that this confidence will be modeled for their child. At Sacred Heart we recognize that communication with families is key to supporting confidence to school placement.”
To help parents ease their daughters’ transitions into a post-pandemic environment in the coming months, SHA is also planning a lunchtime virtual meet on Wednesday, June 16 at noon. There, parents of girls in prekindergarten to early elementary grades can discuss how to wind down the year on a positive note, things to do over the summer to support a smooth transition, and how to support separation anxiety.
Connect with Sacred Heart Academy Bryn Mawr through virtual discovery days, kindergarten readiness sessions, virtual campus tours, and more. Visit shabrynmawr.org/admissions to learn more.
Sacred Heart Academy Bryn Mawr supports the Main Line Parent Community.