Coed, independent, PK3-12th grade school in St. Petersburg, Florida.

What a Long, Strange Trip It’s Been

by Nancy L. Spencer, Head of School
With a nod to The Grateful Dead, it really has been a long, strange trip around the sun this past year. Today’s Ebytes comes almost a year to the day when our lives took a pivot and everything changed. We all have our own stories of March 2020, and I would like to share mine. 

Thursday, March 5, 2020, was the eve of Spring Break at Westminster School. The tradition was to end the winter term with a mandatory afternoon performing arts concert. At its conclusion, cars were loaded up and students headed home for their much-needed vacation. The campus always cleared out quickly. 

My date for the concert was 6-year old Riley, middle daughter of two of my dear colleagues who were themselves managing multiple family and work commitments that night. One of the best aspects of working at a school is the ability to develop relationships with the children of your colleagues, whom you get to see grow up. Riley and I have always had a special bond. We went out for pizza afterwards, and Riley was especially thrilled with her vanilla milkshake. 

My Friday was spent grading final projects and writing class comments for the seniors taking my elective course. I finished up all eight of my advisee comments by Saturday at noon. That afternoon, my husband and I headed out to pick up our 19-foot rental truck. The plan was to drive the 1200 miles from Connecticut to St. Petersburg. Our thought was that we would move both fragile and heavy items ourselves, prior to hiring a moving company to conduct the overall move in June. We spent Sunday loading up his entire art collection, boxes of books, air mattresses, dishes and other items that would enable us to live in our unfurnished house for two weeks. 

Monday morning at 3:30am, we were off. We took turns driving three-hour shifts. With an overnight stop in South Carolina (and amazement that we could find hand sanitizer at the local truck stop, whereas it was impossible to secure any back in Connecticut), we arrived in St. Petersburg on Tuesday mid-afternoon. We unloaded the truck within two hours, observing how much faster it was to clear out a moving van, as compared to the many hours and calculations that had gone into packing the truck. (And all credit for that goes to John Sandoval, my husband, whose expertise in the arena is impressive.) 

Wednesday was a day to return the rental truck, unpack to a small extent and prepare for the next full week of meeting the Shorecrest community. From Thursday, March 12 through Thursday, March 19, I had a week planned that was jam-packed with Shorecrest events: meetings, lunches, dinners, and more! With the help of Beth Vivio and Julie Meyer, my calendar was chock full of scheduled time to spend with Trustees, faculty, administrators, students, grandparents, parents and past Heads of Shorecrest. I was to experience the Relay For Life event and had tickets to the St. Pete Grand Prix race downtown. There was a Board of Trustees happy hour, lunches and dinners with faculty members and a reception for members of the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion group all set up to happen. It was going to be such a wonderful opportunity to be introduced more fully to the Shorecrest community and experience a week in the life of the School. 

One planned event that did take place was the morning coffee for parents in Charger Commons right after drop-off. It was attended by about thirty people and I remember thinking how enjoyable it was, how much I relished meeting so many parents, and how it was going to be the first of many such fun events. 

As we all now know, on Thursday, March 12, the World Health Organization declared COVID19 a world pandemic and the next day, Friday the 13th of March, Governor Desantis made the decision to move Florida schools to virtual learning as more communities shifted into a lock-down environment so as to flatten the curve of viral spread. Along with most other private schools, Shorecrest followed suit, and quickly, seamlessly, and heroically pivoted to distance learning.

With all events now online, my husband and I ended up staying in Florida for two more weeks. We assumed that if air travel was suspended, we could still drive our rental car back to Connecticut. Because all meetings were now via Zoom, I was integrated into Shorecrest administrative conversations and was a part of discussions and decisions of how best to move forward. Even after I returned to Connecticut (where my school also finished out the academic  year with virtual learning), I was a part of three-times-a-week Shorecrest administrative meetings throughout the spring months, which provided me a wonderful opportunity to work with and get to know my future colleagues prior to my July 1 arrival.

Looking back now, March 2020 was clearly the beginning of a new normal. When I consider how deftly Shorecrest was able to manage such a challenging situation, I applaud the leadership of Mike Murphy and the amazing work of the Shorecrest administrators, faculty and staff who handled this unimaginable turn of events with such grace. 

What a long year it has been, and it is with gratitude that I think of all that we have accomplished in the past twelve months. Looking ahead, I hope that everyone has a restful and safe spring vacation. 

All the best, 

Shorecrest Preparatory School

5101 First Street Northeast
St Petersburg, FL 33703
Phone: (727) 522-2111  |  Fax: (727) 527-4191

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Shorecrest Preparatory School is a private, non-sectarian, coeducational, college preparatory day school for students preschool through high school, located in St. Petersburg, Florida.