Early on, when reliable data remained in short supply and uncertainty in abundance, Circle’s Director of Upper School, along with other key leaders, made a bold decision to move the school to an online format. That decision was made on March 11, ten days after Florida’s first confirmed case and twenty days before Governor Ron DeSantis issued a statewide stay-at-home order. By March 17th, Florida officials indicated that public school students would not return to school until mid-April at the earliest. At Circle, administrators asked their teachers to prepare for the new reality during their spring break week, which they did in time for the return to school that would not happen as expected.
Instead, Circle’s teachers gathered students on Zoom calls, adjusted assignments for a virtual environment, and presented content in creative and innovative ways by means of an online platform. Circle students would not be back on campus but would return to their studies on time and with an alternative that would leave nothing by the wayside. So it was that parents found “the transition [to be] extremely smooth and expectations clear.” To those in the Circle community, the response to COVID-19 felt almost like business as usual – an adaptable organization responding to a new challenge with deep faith in God and concern for its families and students.
Circle has always looked to God for direction. And of course he has been faithful. In truth, the recent crisis precipitated by the Coronavirus highlights God’s providential care for Circle and our families. Long before COVID-19 became part of our common parlance, Circle had adopted an online platform to enhance the communication between teachers and parents. In addition to that, the Upper School developed a team of parent-teacher liaisons to give personalized support for every student. The result of these initiatives, implemented before the crisis of the novel Coronavirus was on the horizon, was a robust and competent response to the virus that enabled our students to finish their schooling on time while completing all course benchmarks.
The online platform became the primary mode of teaching and organizing classes, and the parent-teacher liaisons provided the academic support essential to the success of each of our students. Before the present circumstances, these tools were effective enhancements to our educational model that accommodates the individual needs of our students and families. During the crisis, they became essential lifelines for families that would continue their partnership with our school in new ways.
One parent observed, “how thankful we were as a family to have started Circle this year, as our children did not skip a beat and their teachers were well equipped to move to total online learning. Thank you to your staff and teachers for always be so prepared and forward thinking!”
The response by administration at the school is truly only a small part of the story, however. The community as a whole rallied together in mutual support and encouragement. As one parent put so well, “The whole community seemed to all stick together through all of this, and that is priceless.” Circle’s exceptional teachers worked diligently to bolster the connections they had built with their students, as another parent expressed: “all of our teachers were wonderful. They went above and beyond to ensure our kids were learning and more importantly knew they were loved and missed.” As various members of Circle’s staff called our families to check in on them and pray with them, several expressed an interest in donating gift cards to help other families in need, which the school’s Director of Admissions was able to facilitate. Thanks to a personal connection with Advent Health, the school was able to sponsor charitable donations of food for healthcare workers at the hospital.
Meanwhile, Lower School chapel continued in a digital format, the school’s Student Council organized and led a student Bible study, and regular video messages of encouragement from Circle staff were disseminated to the community. Much of this did not come easy, but watching the body of Christ come together in difficult circumstances was truly inspiring. As one of our parents summed up, “We are grateful for how smooth and wonderful our children’s education experience continued to be during this time. Seeing how the school continued to wrap around our students and families during these trying times will forever be appreciated. What a wild end to our first (of many more) year(s) with Circle.”
In all of this, our greatest desire is to see God get the glory for his provision for our school and for all that he is doing in the midst of this crisis. We know that many in our country and around the world have been dramatically affected by the Coronavirus, including some in our school community. Our prayer continues to be that this scourge would cease from our land and that God would provide healing and restoration in its wake.
Scripture points to the reality that righteousness is the greatest security we can have in life. The prophet Habakkuk eloquently expresses this idea in his statement that the Apostle Paul would pick up in the book of Romans: the righteous by faith shall live. So we find that our refuge in the midst of the storms of life is the object of our faith, Jesus Christ, who bore our sins in his body on the tree to make us righteous before God. Indeed, because of what Christ has done for us, we have nothing to fear, and can declare with Jesus’ ancestor David, “the LORD is my light and my salvation, whom shall I fear?” Or again, “the LORD is my Rock and the stronghold of my life…”
Throughout the Coronavirus crisis, we remain grateful and continue to look to our Lord, who is our salvation.
We asked our families what their lasting memory will be of their students’ educational journey during the COVID-19 shutdown. Here is some of their feedback:
“The hard work and loving care put into moving the lessons online- it was a team effort and it was well done. Thank you, Circle!”
“We were really impressed with Circle and how they kept everything going so well and were such a wonderful resource and blessing to the children.”
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