GCDS News - Magazine

A Joyful Return

Greenwich Country Day Tigers returned to campus on September 8 ready to learn, play, and grow together as one caring community.

 A Time to Reconnect

 In typical Country Day fashion, students bounded out of their cars and into their buildings on the first day of school. They paused momentarily for a fist bump or handshake with a division head and made their way eagerly to classrooms greeting friends and teachers on their way. Masks and COVID-19 protocols did not dampen the excitement and optimism that the entire school community felt as the new school year started.

For Head of School Adam Rohdie, it is time to reconnect as a community: “It’s time for us to build and rebuild our relationships. Our culture is defined by our connections, ties, and responsibilities to each other. This year, we are doubling down on our amazing school culture and community and we will find creative and safe ways to bring our parents, students, faculty, and alumni together.”

As part of this return to familiar times, Country Day is welcoming families back into buildings this year. Parents can volunteer in the lunchroom, and attend one-on-one meetings, special events, and celebrations. Even soft furnishings have returned to the classrooms and students are enjoying the relaxed learning spaces after a year of more rigid, distanced seating.

Whenever possible, students, faculty members, and families are encouraged to gather outdoors where masks are not required. The Middle School amphitheater behind Mr. Rohdie’s office was renovated this summer in anticipation of all of the outdoor meetings and get-togethers.

Country Day is eagerly awaiting the return of alumni to campus after a year of almost no visitors. We are hoping to have four classes of alumni per decade— classes ending in ’0, ’1, ’5, ’6—back on campus for Reunion Weekend October 15–17. See www.gcds.net/alumni/reunion for the full schedule, including health and safety protocols.

“The health and safety of students and the faculty continue to be a top priority,” said Mr. Rohdie. “We learned a lot last year about protecting ourselves and we’re using that experience to inform and plan a robust year of deep, joyful learning.”

Parent Etienne Vazquez dropped off three children to the Lower Elementary School—second grader Lion, kindergartener Lucie, and new Nursery student Marie Evers.

“The kids are super excited for the year. The school did a fantastic job last year keeping the children in school. And, we are prepared for any uncertainty because we trust the school,” he said.

207 New Students

Country Day welcomed 207 new students from 118 new families to the Old Church Road and Stanwich campuses this year. Families come from as close as Greenwich and its surrounding communities, including Westchester County, and as far away as Rhode Island, Washington State, Florida, Hong Kong, Spain, and Switzerland.

“We continue to attract mission-appropriate students and families from near and far,” said Director of Enrollment and Financial Aid Cheryl Plummer. “What these students and families share in common is a sincere appreciation for community, joyful learning, and academic excellence. Our new families are so excited to be Tigers!”

For Ms. Plummer and the Admission Office, there will be a return to routine and more on-campus tours and recruitment events this year. “Whether in-person or over Zoom, bringing prospective families together with members of our GCDS family is what our Admission team enjoys most,” she said.

“We’re looking forward to working with new and returning families to create spaces and events that celebrate our values and promote a deep sense of belonging at GCDS,” said Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Chrissy Colón Bradt.

Curriculum Guides Detail Academic Program

Behind the GCDS commitment to deep, joyful learning is careful and collaborative planning. In the months leading up to summer vacation, teams of teachers from all grade levels came together to create written divisional curriculum guides articulating Country Day’s multifaceted academic program, which challenges, inspires, and expands based on students’ pace of mastery and individual interests.

“These guides clearly demonstrate the foundational components of exemplary teaching and learning at GCDS,” said Jacqueline Jenkins, Assistant Head of School and Head of Upper Elementary, who spearheaded the initiative. “We are looking closely at the progression of a student from the youngest years to high school and thinking about what we want a graduate to embody and what knowledge and skills we want a graduate of each division to possess.”

The curriculum guides, which will be updated as needed, were shared with families at the beginning of the school year and are available on our portal.

“It is important that we are transparent with parents about what and how we teach students at each grade level,” said Ms. Jenkins, who, along with her fellow division heads, is presenting the guides to families at Parents Association Coffees this fall. “School-family partnership is essential to the holistic development of children and is highly valued at this school.”

Upper School Program, Faculty, and Facility Continue to Inspire

As the GCDS Upper School on Stanwich Road enters its third year of operation, momentum for the program, which focuses on what students need to thrive in a rapidly changing world, continues to build.

This August, the Upper School opened the doors to a stunning new building specifically designed around the academic program. It includes:

·      A two-story science and engineering center with outdoor and indoor state-of-the-art laboratories for instruction, experimentation, and independent thesis research

·      New classrooms for humanities and world languages, along with seminar rooms, and a wide range of collaborative workspaces

·      New visual arts and digital & industrial design spaces

·      A Writing Center and Math Lab

·      Studios and rehearsal spaces for our programs in vocal and instrumental music, a music technology center, and a dance studio

·      A state-of-the-art fitness facility, along with a training center, and athletic locker rooms

In addition, more than 20 new faculty members joined the Upper School this September, several of whom hold advanced degrees in their respective subject areas and come from top independent schools and universities across the country.

“We have combed through thousands of résumés to find the people who share our bold vision for the Upper School,” said Academic Dean Andrew Ruoss.

·      As enrollment in the Upper School reaches its target of 450 students—390 this year—there continues to be a significant expansion of the curriculum. More than 130 courses, many of which are at the honors level, are available for students. New offerings include:

·      More than 30 eleventh- and twelfth- grade elective courses in English and the Social Sciences

·      New Diploma Programs in Engineering and the Visual & Performing Arts, adding to the Classics, World Languages, and Sustainability Diplomas

·      Inaugural Global Academic Programs

·      Continued expansion of our elective and advanced research offerings in the Sciences and Math

·      An ever-increasing range of pathways within the Arts and Computer Science

After a hiatus last year due to COVID-19, the Upper School is excited for the return of Intersession, a 3-week-long immersive program in January where students in Grades 9–12 choose from a variety of deep-dive learning experiences. Similarly, the Senior Internship Program was limited last year because of travel restrictions. Dr. Ruoss is looking forward to more robust internships for students with the ability to travel and enter professional workplaces this January. With a class of approximately 120 juniors, the Junior Thesis Program will also expand this year as a transformative Upper School experience, in which eleventh-grade students pursue year-long original research projects across all fields of study.

“This is an exciting year for the Upper School. Many of our signature programs are now fully realized, with powerful opportunities for learning and research across all grades, nine through twelve,” said Dr. Ruoss. “The blend of tradition and innovation, unique to GCDS, is at the core of the learning community we’re building in the Upper School. We are working constantly with our faculty, students, families, and external partners to continue to imagine and refine our program.”

Game On!

Hundreds of athletes trained on the Upper School’s new turf fields, in the Old Church Road gyms, on the river, and on running trails for a two-week pre-season in late August. This is GCDS’ first full varsity year and the excitement is palpable.

“We’re here and we’re ready to compete,” said Director of Athletics Tim Helstein. “We have amazing coaches and facilities and are able to provide the best opportunities to grow in sport.”

In year one, the Upper School offered a Junior Varsity program only. Last year, COVID-19 curtailed the athletic season. Athletes played scrimmages with limiting protocols and not every school in the Fairchester League participated. In year three, with increased enrollment, GCDS is now able to offer more teams at the Junior Varsity and Varsity levels.

“We have more opportunities to offer sports at the correct level,” said Coach Helstein.