Through their masks you could hear the excitement and joy in the voices of teachers and staff from Crane Country Day School. Last Monday afternoon word quickly spread around campus that the first batch of COVID vaccines was available for Crane employees . . . finally the long-awaited COVID vaccines were truly on their way for educators! There was an immense sense of peace that they were one step closer to safety and would soon be relieved of the burden that had been upon them since beginning On-Campus learning last October.
When music teacher, Konrad Kono, found out that there was a vaccine awaiting him he recalls, “I felt grateful, happy, and hopeful!”
Fourth grade teacher, Stephanie Bagish, added, “Finally, I can see a light at the end of this COVID tunnel. What I’m looking forward to the most, is hugging my students! And, of course, traveling!”
Who would have thought that we would jump for joy over a vaccine, and the sore arm the day after would be considered a mark of pride, hope, and gratitude.
By the end of the week over 90% of Crane’s employees had received at least their first dose of the COVID vaccine. For a school that has been providing full-day, On-Campus learning five days a week since October, as well as an On-Line learning option, this is a significant step in the right direction.
It is amazing how quickly the vaccines arrived and were implemented. Many teachers received only a few hours of notice and were on their way to a vaccination site thanks to the efforts of Crane’s Health Administrator, Nurse Savannah Aijian. Sharing vaccine information and availability became a group effort as chains of emails were sent among Crane employees, including 5am messages to let others know that appointments were available. Teachers rallied to cover their colleagues’ duty stations so that they could get to their vaccine appointments. The glimpse of hope and sense of gratitude sparked camaraderie, and the vaccinations marked a milestone in the academic year and in the school’s history.
In the words of Head of School, Joel Weiss, “Recently, we’ve had to adapt to this COVID world, but this is not the first time that Crane has had to overcome challenges. Academics and creativity are the necessary components for a world-class education. Just as critical, grit and integrity are the key internal components when we face adversity. Despite all of the unplanned circumstances of the fall semester, Crane remains strong. The school is proud of its team of exceptional teachers, we have a highly supportive parent body, we enjoy an extraordinary physical campus, and the school has absolutely zero debt. These assets allowed us to deliver a powerful yet flexible learning model throughout the school year.”
The community spirit spread beyond Crane’s 11-acre campus and into the Santa Barbara community. Teachers across the county were meeting at vaccine sites and bonding over their shared experience.
As Crane School math teacher, Alexa Hughes, recounts, “The whole experience was almost surreal! I felt like the idea of being vaccinated had been talked about for so long, and I hadn't quite wrapped my head around the idea that it could actually happen so soon. Being in the Carpinteria Albertsons that day surrounded by friends and coworkers was hard to describe. I hadn't been inside a room with all of these people since the pandemic began so it felt almost like a social hour getting to sit and visit with everyone. It was fun to see teachers from Crane, along with teachers from Bishop Diego and Mountain View Elementary and hear what their years have been like teaching remotely and in-person. Now being vaccinated I feel like I can finally take a deep breath of relief.”
Customers at the Albertsons pharmacy stopped to express their gratitude toward the work teachers have been doing and the happiness they feel seeing teachers getting vaccinated.
“To think it had been almost a full year to the day since we shut down, and then finding ourselves together there in that space, was nothing less than pure jubilation,” shares science teacher, Christine Bouma, of her COVID vaccine experience. “The following morning the students and I cheered and celebrated this milestone, anticipating so many changes on the horizon. Although the pandemic is far from over, this feels like the first page of what's going to be a really, really good chapter.”
In the five months that the majority of the Crane community has been on campus, students, parents, teachers, and staff have become accustomed to the safety measures implemented this year, including handwashing stations, a daily health questionnaire, a full-time school nurse, plexi-glass at every desk, coyote badges around campus marking a six-foot distance, and 23 unique outdoor learning spaces. Experiential learning areas under the redwood tree, in the garden, on the tree stumps under the oaks, and in the various quads and plazas around campus have allowed teachers and students to spread out, enjoy fresh air, and look at their education outside of the four walls of the classroom, which is a key aspect of hands-on learning. Each safety protocol has been implemented thoughtfully and strategically with safety, function, and the school’s mission in mind. Teachers have been grateful to be offering their students an exceptional education whether they are on campus or at home. The school is grateful that its decisions and the precautions of Crane families have together successfully allowed for a 0% transmission rate of COVID on campus. Finally, the entire community can now be grateful that the widespread vaccination adds another thick layer of protection to our schools.
With over 90 years of exceptional experiential education, Crane School looks forward to the promising 2021-2022 school year and this new chapter. Crane will continue to offer a slightly modified two-prong approach with the vast majority of families availing themselves of On-Campus learning, while a smaller set of families in third through eighth grades continue to rely upon Crane’s On-Line learning option. As Joel Weiss describes, “I am hopeful that if we continue to wear masks, and we continue to socially distance, we will be able to slowly return to a more normal school environment.” Regardless of what the next school year brings, Crane Country Day School is ready to continue providing an outstanding education.