Much has been learnt since the global pandemic impacted our lives irrevocably last March. We have become particularly skilled at adapting quickly to new scenarios and impressively agile in switching directions at a moment’s notice. I think that it is fair to say that, as a community, we have mastered the ‘Covid dance’.
“Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass …
it’s about learning how to dance in the rain.”
The start of the 2021 academic year corresponded with the second wave of infections, coupled with the emergence of a new mutated strain of the Coronavirus. This led to the difficult decision being made to commence the year with two weeks of online teaching across the whole school.
Yet again, the Bridge House staff showed their collective mettle during this very disrupted and unconventional start to the school year. In addition to the comprehensive online teaching programme that was rolled out at short notice, there was an equally impressive online extramural offering available to students. From early morning live yoga sessions to ‘Fitness with Jeff’, robotics club, Pilates, a ‘Cape to Cairo’ team challenge, and a Creative Arts talent show … there was certainly something for everyone to engage in while forced to stay at home.
By February we were allowed to resume on-campus teaching with stringent Covid protocols and screening stations in place. However, even though we were permitted to be back at school, Level 3 government restrictions continued to dictate how many people could gather in a building, or even outdoors. Gradually some non-contact sporting codes were given the authorization to resume practices, under stipulated conditions.
A further easing of Covid restrictions then saw the vast majority of our students happily back in their classrooms, although we chose to maintain a blended teaching programme to accommodate students who, on occasion, were compelled to stay at home for quarantine purposes. We maintained this blended approach for the remainder of the year.
A highlight early in the second term was the annual Matric Dance. This was a very successful social occasion for our senior students and a much-needed honouring of this rite of passage for our Matric students in these tough times. Our sports and cultural activities were allowed to continue under tight guidelines and a ‘no spectator’ policy still in place.
The start of the second semester coincided with the peak of the third wave of Covid infections. Once again, we were compelled to switch back to our online teaching programme for the first two weeks of Term 3 and suspend all extramural activities. Soon after our students returned to campus, a cluster outbreak of Covid infections meant that we were obligated to send our entire Grade 9 group home for a mandatory 10-day quarantine period. This was followed shortly thereafter with the Grade 6 and 7 children having to observe a similar isolation period at home. Those whole-grade quarantining protocols proved effective in containing the further spread of the virus within the school.
Competitive interschool fixtures were eventually allowed to resume, although most schools were understandably cautious about allowing these fixtures to happen as frequent outbreaks were experienced in certain sporting codes and age groups. The start of the 4th Term saw an almost normal resumption of school and interschool sporting activities. The shift to more lenient Level 1 Covid restrictions also meant that school assemblies, Music Evenings, the Grade 7 Dance, Awards ceremonies, and the special Matric Valedictory and Ringing Out events were able to take place. A highlight of the 4th term was undoubtedly the Bridge House Golf Day that, despite the weather, saw a full house of four-balls competing for some very impressive prizes. This PA fundraiser event was a tremendous success, and much fun was had by all.
Despite the disruptive nature of this year, our diverse cultural offerings have persevered impressively. And our various outreach programmes have, amongst other things, seen the donation of blankets and warm clothing, regular volunteer work at the local soup kitchen, and enough plastic bottle caps collected for another brand-new wheelchair to be given to a deserving (and delighted) recipient.
Staff and student wellness has been a focus point for much of the year as we witnessed a global increase in anxiety levels, depression, and distressing behaviour. Both individual and wider group strategies have been implemented to address these concerns – and it is anticipated that these measures will have to continue for some time yet.
Throughout this challenging year, we have remained true to our commitment to maintain “education uninterrupted” and to stick to our scheduled school holidays and midterm breaks. Not a single school day was lost and the balance of having regular holiday time (so crucial to the mental wellbeing of both staff and students) was preserved. My gratitude goes to our incredible team of teachers, as well as our wonderful admin and support staff, without whom none of this would have been possible.
I would also like to express my sincere appreciation to the Bridge House Board and The Pelican Property Trust directors for their unwavering support and encouragement throughout the year. Special mention has to be made of our outgoing Board Chair, Mrs Mary George. What a privilege it has been to work alongside such a remarkable lady whose passion and commitment to our school has been nothing short of extraordinary. Mary has bought an exceptional skill set, valued insights and a special vibrancy to every single meeting, Zoom call, email, phone call or WhatsApp message. Thank you, Mary – you go with our very best wishes for the exciting new adventure that awaits you next year. You will be missed.
Wishing everyone a wonderful Christmas break, spent with the important people in your life – and please be extra cautious as we navigate this 4th wave of Covid infections.
May we continue to dance through everything that 2022 has in store for us.
Head of School