On Thursday, June 2, for the first time in at least four years, we were notified by local law enforcement authorities that the area around the school was being secured as the result of a shooting at Belmont and Laramie. When that happens, our procedure is to call for a “Code Blue”, which means all students in their classrooms, away from view, all doors are locked, lights are out and everyone is quiet. It’s a serious drill, one that our students take seriously and which is designed to make sure there is a safety margin which protects students from harm.
Of course, everyone was already on edge because of the Uvalde shootings. Not knowing exactly why there is a code being called can also be scary. This has become an unfortunate reality of school safety in our time.
One of our teachers, Mrs. Saunders, in second grade, tells her class a story every year about a time when, as a little girl growing up in St. Louis, she learned a Bible verse from a Sunday school teacher. It was Psalm 56:3, “When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.” One day, while at home playing with a friend who lived next door, there was an earthquake. The dishes in the china cabinet were rattling and falling and the house was shaking. Both girls were afraid, and Mrs. Saunders kept saying, over and over, the King James version of that verse, “What time I am afraid I will trust in thee.”
Every year, she teaches that to her class, telling them the story about the earthquake, and about another time when she and Mr. Saunders were huddled in the downstairs bathroom of their town house in Texas during a tornado. She had her blanket and her Bible with her, and was saying, over and over, “What time I am afraid I will trust in thee.” So when the code blue was called on Thursday, one of her students recited Psalm 56:3.
As it turned out, the shooter had already been arrested by the police, so the code blue did not last for a long time. But afterward, students shared what happened in their rooms while it was going on. Most were calm, some prayed, some just read something or did some work quietly, and most of them were assured in knowing that God knew what was happening and he had things in his control.
Completing a Challenging, Difficult but Exciting Year of Academic and Spiritual Growth
Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. Philippians 2:3-4
This was our theme verse for the school year. This was the second school year we have completed since the pandemic first affected us back in 2020 and we are very thankful to God that we have been able to hold classes and have students come to campus. Our students have been greatly blessed by in-person learning. The effects of more than a year of “e-learning” are only now being felt by educators and schools in most states where students missed as much as a full year of in-person instruction, as they did in Illinois. As the damage is being assessed, it is turning out to be far worse than anticipated or predicted, to the point where most states are having to re-align course objectives because students got so far behind.
Our assessments indicate that MCA students did not suffer any ill-effects as far as their academic progress was concerned, through the pandemic. Being here in person was a major factor in that achievement. We prepared in advance, adding time to the school calendar in order to have days available in the event we had an outbreak of COVID in the school. We followed the health department protocols and mandates. We experienced one period of time when we had multiple COVID cases in the student body at one time, but it was over a holiday break and we were able to buffer its effect by extending the length of the Christmas vacation with a week of E-learning.
It was preparation and implementing of the pandemic protocols and mandates that helped determine which scripture we would choose for our theme. People had differing opinions about every aspect of the prevention of the spread of the virus, which made it difficult for those of us in school leadership because we are caught between those opinions, and what the law requires us to do. While private schools enjoy a high degree of independence and autonomy in Illinois, we are not exempt from any health and safety procedures, including those which may be mandated by the City of Chicago, or the state of Illinois, during an emergency declaration. Our operating permits depend on our compliance.
Also, in serving our student and parent community, we must take into consideration the perspectives of everyone, and work to achieve some kind of balance. A large percentage of our parents work at jobs related to the medical profession, or in a hospital or medical institution and the vast majority of those people wanted us to implement the same precautions in the school that their health care employer had in place. Beyond mandates, we also want to make sure the environment in the school is as safe as we can make it, and sometimes that means setting aside our personal preferences for someone else’s benefit. I was not surprised that, knowing we had some parents who weren’t always on board with the requirements of the mandate, they understood and complied with what they were asked to do, looking after the interests of others.
Our students also exhibited maturity and understanding when it came to things like having to wear a mask. For some, it became a means of expression, as all kinds of masks came out, the majority of them being for their favorite sports teams. As an old song that was popular many years ago says, “winter was a long time passing.” Many of our students were immune to COVID because they had it over the holidays, while other students were vaccinated when they were eligible. Between the two, we managed to get our immunity up and finish the school year without any more pandemic issues.
Connected to our scripture theme for the year were chapel messages which focused on the same theme, that our testimony of faith in Jesus is visible in the way we treat other people. There are a lot of ways to practically apply that, the first grade class did this one day by coming back from chapel and writing about what they were doing to treat their classmates in a good way that was pleasing to God. Maybe there will come a year when we have no students who get written up for disciplinary problems, but at least, during the pandemic, we haven’t had anyone teased about wearing masks when everyone else wasn’t. Our students handled this very well. We’re looking forward to our scripture theme for next year.
It Was a Year of Blessing
Sixty students, new to the MCA campus, joined us this school year. That, in and of itself, was a blessing. All the bright new faces, students who were a little shy at first, but got to know everyone quickly and who are now looking forward to next school year, added to the blessings we experienced. Many of them had not been in a classroom since the winter of 2020. We have seen new friendships and relationships made here, and we have seen students who are growing and developing in their faith.
We are getting close to that many new students for 2022-23. It appears, at this point, that our enrollment will go over the 200 mark for the first time in five years, and that is a blessing, along with financial stability and having the school remain “in the black” for the duration of the year. We can now look forward to doing some things that have been needed for a while, including increasing salaries and expanding programs.
In your email, before the end of this month, you’re going to receive a short narrative about what to expect as the next school year approaches. It will be called “Looking Forward to 2022-23” and will briefly describe what your child’s classroom will be like next fall. Our teachers aren’t actually “on duty” over the summer, but they will return your emails or texts if you send something out as quickly as they can. We are also updating the parent-student handbook for you, based on things we have learned in the past, and you will have an electronic copy of that sent to you as well.
Join us in Praying for God’s Blessings on Our School in 2022-23
Now to him who is able to keep you from falling, and to make you stand without blemish in the presence of his glory with rejoicing, to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, power and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen. Jude 24
We have been blessed by God and continue to depend on him for our blessings. Please pray for MCA, that our next school year would be one in which our students make academic progress and are discipled, gaining spiritual growth and maturity.
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