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2020-21 Annual Report | Letter from the Head of School

Thriving Despite a Pandemic

If 2019-20 was a school year in two parts, pre-pandemic and pandemic, then the 2020-21 school year was the year of the pandemic. An entire year where all facets of the school were colored by COVID-19. Yet, the Solebury School community found a way not to just survive, not to just get by, but to thrive. This success was born of hard work, resilience, grit, determination, and especially belief—belief that what we do at Solebury for our students and families is so important, so meaningful, that despite all the obstacles offered by a pandemic, we needed to offer our students as rich and robust an experience as possible. 

As the 2019-20 school year ended, we formed a fifteen-member task force to think deeply about all aspects of the coming year. The task force met frequently throughout the summer and into the school year. Some members initially thought they signed on for a couple of months on the task force, one ruefully renaming the group “The Eternal Task Force.” TETF labored on, week by week, to tackle topics big and small as we sought to provide our students and their parents with a Solebury education/experience. 

TETF’s meetings were long, and there were strong personalities in the group, with equally strong points of view. In many ways this was a year-long professional development experience for everyone involved, with two givens always hanging over us: first, regardless of disagreements, decisions had to be made, and second, TETF never had all the information needed to make comfortable decisions. There were always too many unknowns, yet the clock kept ticking and decisions had to be made. When I think about 2020-21, I will remember the exhaustion of making weighty, daily decisions, and I will always be proud of the laborious work a handful of people engaged such that Solebury School could thrive while keeping everyone safe. Exhausting yet satisfying, all in the same moment. 

And what does thriving during a pandemic look like? Our classes, hybrid in-person and virtual to begin the year, then virtual over the winter trimester, pivoting back to hybrid for the spring trimester, were all synchronous—students and teachers interacting in real time with one another. Community activities continued, either outdoors or virtually. Online book clubs, dances, games, and contests were held—all opportunities for our students to participate with their friends, to make new friends, and to continue to build bonds with their classmates. Our residence halls never closed—not over spring break 2020, not for the summer of 2020, not for any breaks, long or short, until June of 2021. There were always boarding students on campus. The Advancement office continued their work of building Solebury’s relationships, reputation, and resources, including a virtual auction—the largest single fundraising event annually at Solebury School—that set a new record for online funds raised to support Solebury. The admission office Zoomed to more school fairs in the United States and abroad than ever before, working toward what was ultimately a record high enrollment for Solebury School as we opened the 2021-22 school year. 

And, our Seniors—fifty-eight young people whose final two years of high school were profoundly changed by COVID-19—walked up to the outdoor stage on the rolling grounds of Solebury School’s new property, removed their masks, received their diploma, and with a handshake from me and the traditional photo opportunity, graduated as members of the Class of 2021. They achieved what so many classes before them had obtained, a quality education, lasting memories, and an in-person graduation, outside, with family and friends. Did they overcome more adversity than the ninety plus classes before them on their way to graduation? Hard to say, and in some sense the answer matters little. They did overcome, they did persevere and they did graduate. 

I could not be prouder of how Solebury School weathered these past two years—it took the proverbial village for the school to make this journey successfully—and all of those listed in this report are part of that village and our success. Your support, in all ways, was and is critical to all that we achieve here on the corner of Phillips Mill and School Lane. I hope you share my pride in these accomplishments and the satisfaction of knowing Solebury continues, despite all challenges, to provide a quality education and a meaningful experience to the young people who make their journey with us and I thank you for your ongoing and critical support.

Tom Wilschutz
Head of School

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