“Send us now into the world in peace; and grant us strength and courage to love and serve you with gladness and singleness of heart.” - The Book of Common Prayer
On Thursday, May 21st, 2020 at 10am, St. James held a special graduation ceremony for its fifth graders. Because of the coronavirus pandemic, the school administration chose to host a virtual graduation with a “drive by” presentation of candidates outside of the school on Convention and Fourth Street downtown. Twenty-six graduates and their families joined the faculty and staff in watching a pre-recorded video ceremony for all to enjoy together. The ceremony followed a traditional prayer service format from the Book of Common Prayer, with readings, songs, and prayers led by teachers and fifth grade students. Interim Head of School Michael Kuhn gave a homily focusing on the bittersweet emotions at graduation and the idea of ascension.
At the end of the ceremony, each student was driven by family members through the school's carpool route one last time, to a stopping point near Bishops Hall. Rector Chris Duncan led each student out of the car down the sidewalk to receive a graduation certificate and a gift from the school, and to take a picture. Then, students returned to their cars and rode with their families to park in the church parking lot to wait until all graduates were called.
St. James Episcopal Day School ends in 5th grade, making this graduation ceremony and the fifth grade year particularly important milestones in the life of the school. Typically the fifth graders take a class trip to Houston in the spring before graduation, but this year’s trip had to be cancelled because of the COVID-19 outbreak. The fifth grade class raised money for their trip throughout the year through fundraisers including monthly donut and pizza days and a family bingo night in the fall. Although they were sad to miss their class’s trip, this year’s students opted to donate of the money they'd raised to the school by funding three special gifts: a sun sail over one of the outdoor play areas at school, two refillable water bottle stations, and painted inspirational messages on a stairwell in Werlein Hall. Thus, the Class of 2020 will be remembered not only for their intellect, their friendships, and their unusual graduation ceremony; they will also be remembered for the incredible generosity and patience they showed their school. The students will be missed by their younger classmates along with the faculty and staff at St. James, but we all look forward to witnessing the great things they do in middle school and beyond.
Congratulations to St. James alumni graduates in the class of 2013! We are proud of all of these college-bound seniors for their accomplishments and future plans. Check out their Senior Spotlights below:
For parents with children in preschool, school closures bring about a unique set of challenges. Without new places to visit or new friends to interact with, young children can grow restless and irritable, and so can their parents! Many parents are also trying to work from home, so they need plans for keeping their toddlers and preschoolers occupied while they answer emails and phone calls. Children ages 2-4 are not expected to be practicing time tables, reading independently, or writing in journals, but they still need activities to keep their little minds and bodies growing.
The St. James Early Childhood Development Center is continuing to provide an exceptional education for our students during the COVID-19 closure, while also being highly flexible and optional to meet the needs of each family. Our teachers post daily Morning Meetings, read-alouds, interactive videos, and lesson plans that highlight early childhood skills and concepts in our SeeSaw online learning platform. Thanks to SeeSaw, our First Year students can sing along to the Bumble Bee Song with Ms. Donna and Ms. Chandra, Second Year students can watch and listen to Ms. Laura read Mouse Paint to them, and PreK-3 students hear their teachers sing their names during their morning “We’re Glad You’re Here Today!” song, as if they were sitting on the classroom rug. Daily lesson plans include links to stories on YouTube, counting games, fine motor skill challenges, and more. This week, the ECDC teachers even dropped off supplies for egg dyeing at each child's house, as happy gifts for the students they love.
Instruction is asynchronous, meaning parents have the ability to decide if and when their child will do the activities, without the pressure of attending class at a certain time. Second Year parent Molly Israel said, “With both parents still working full time, we don’t follow the lesson plans to the letter, or finish every suggested project, but we like the flexibility to carry out the activities when it works for us. The look on Stafford’s face when he sees Ms. Laura (or DeSha or Janine) is priceless and melts my heart. Our favorite videos, like the butterfly song and morning prayer, are played over and over at Stafford’s request.”
ECDC director Janine Borne also shares resources and optional activities daily through the HiMama app. These resources such as a Color Scavenger Hunt or a Fruit Taste Test can be downloaded and printed easily, and most use items found around the house like cardboard boxes and cotton balls. All instructions are stored in HiMama for parents to access even after school reopens on rainy days, sick days, or long weekends at home.
While we miss seeing their precious faces on campus, we hope our students and their parents still feel loved and enriched by St. James during these unprecedented times. For more information about openings in our First Year, Second Year, or PreK-3 classes for next year, contact Admissions Director Julia Spaht at firstname.lastname@example.org.
With care in mind for our students, faculty, staff, and all our families, St. James Episcopal Day School is following the recommendations of our Diocesan Bishop and the Louisiana Governor's Office to close our buildings until we are directed otherwise. In response to this, we have shifted our learning into our students' homes, giving instruction via distance learning, offering prayers through video chapels, and keeping in touch with one another through technologies appropriate for our children.
We have taken the following steps to ensure we are supporting our parents and students during this time:
We are aware of the stress school closures place on many of us, especially those who are trying to work while tending to our families and often working in the same shared space. As we work through the challenges, our school leadership will continue to help keep our community of parents, students, teachers, and faculty connected. The St. James’ community will pull through this together. We are so grateful to all for taking on this challenge and believe that our school will be stronger having gone through this together.
St. James Episcopal Day School third through fifth graders have been busy reading the Louisiana Young Reader’s Choice Books for 2019-2020. The book list includes 15 outstanding books that are age appropriate for our young readers. The students participate by reading at least three of these books. In January students vote for a favorite from the list.
School wide voting happened last month, when the students had a the opportunity to cast their ballot using electronic voting machines from the Office of the Secretary of State.
The top three books chosen included third place winner The Princess and The Peas by Rachel Himes; second place winner Wedgie and Gizmo by Suzanne Selfors; and the top choice in first place was Wishtree by Katherine Applegate.
Congratulations to all of our students for participating, including the students pictured who went above and beyond the three book reading requirement!