Blessings to you and your families! Today, I am praying Ephesians 1:16-23 over our school community which beautifully says,
“I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. I keep asking that God, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom so that you may know Him better. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened so that you know the hope to which He has called you, the riches of His inheritance, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. The same power that raised Jesus from the dead and seated him at His right hand, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name not only in the present but in the age to come. For God placed all things under his feet!” Praying for wisdom, hope and a filling of His great power in you. Amen!
Preparations for the upcoming school year continue and the Fall 2020 Reopening Plan is now complete. The reopening plan was established in collaboration with members of the “Fall 2020 Reopening Committee”, consultation with health and legal counsel, guidance from CDC, American Academy of Pediatrics, and Stronger Together, and in full compliance with the California Department of Public Health (CDPH).
With the established goal of returning to in-school learning, it is important to understand we will do anything and everything necessary to:
- Obtain waiver approval which requires strict adherence to requirements set forth by the CDPH.
- Reopen for in-person learning on the first day of school and remain open avoiding any form of closure as much as possible.
- Mitigate risk for all community members. Decisions not only consider the health and well-being of students but that of our staff. We understand the reduced risks for younger children. However, it is our responsibility and priority to mitigate the risks for staff so they can safely and confidently return to in-person work.
- Remain as fluid and flexible as possible understanding that, as the situation changes, we will adjust our practices and protocols as necessary.
Understandably, the reopening plan will prompt many questions. Over the next several weeks, we will communicate more specifically on several of the topics within the reopening plan including, but not limited to: face coverings, cohort groupings, hygiene practices, physical distancing, and arrival/dismissal protocols. We recognize it will be helpful to understand how this plan will be implemented and applied throughout the school day and further communication on individual topics will provide this clarity. The MCS Fall 2020 Reopening Plan can be found on our website
In His great wisdom, hope, and power,
Head of School
Understand all guidelines and requirements for a safe re-opening
Monitor OC health statistics and facts and collect data from both staff and parents to inform decisions
Consultation with legal counsel, Western Association of Schools and Colleges (MCS’s accreditation body), and school insurance agents
Collaboration with a consortium of Christian and independent private schools
Consultation with medical experts
Complete multiple trainings: health, safe practices, workplace and employee protections
Establishment of a “Fall Reopening Planning Committee” with 17+ individuals representing all MCS stakeholders
Order necessary safety-related supplies and equipment
Completion of the school re-opening waiver released 8/3/2020. Important Note: though the waiver only applies to TK-6th grade, 7th and 8th grade parents, do not lose heart! We are working to provide in-person learning for all of our students. Additional details regarding the waiver approval and in-person learning opportunities for all students will be provided as possible over the next couple of weeks.
Prayer and seeking God’s wisdom and will above all
Fulfilling the school’s mission to “build a firm foundation through Christ-centered education” and our core values of a Love for Christ, Exemplary Academics, Whole Child Focus, Culture of Innovation, and Connected Community
Returning to in-school learning
Seeking the best interest of our students to meet spiritual, academic, emotional, social, and physical needs while also considering the best interest of families
Seeking the best interest of our staff as we understand and prioritize their health and safety needs, assumed risks, comfort levels, as well as the best interest of their families. MCS staff interests are vital and will be prioritized as we open the school. It is vital families recognize the importance of our staff’s well-being.
Protecting the long term stability and sustainability of MCS. This is temporary. Our current situation related to COVID-19 will pass, therefore we will make decisions that meet current needs while balancing the long-term interests of the school. Current decisions can not and will not jeopardize or negatively impact the future of our school.
Opening safely AND remaining open which will provide the most stability, best meet needs, and ensure the greatest success for all.
We humbly ask for your faithful commitment to praying with us and for us. There is power in a praying community and we fully recognize our need for prayer. It is vital to each of us and it binds us together in unity. And, with great confidence we trust that God answers prayers! So we ask that you, “Pray in the Spirit on all occasions, with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people” Ephesians 6:18.
We ask for your continued understanding, grace, kindness, patience, and trust. Rest assured we are working diligently on your behalf and no stone is left unturned. We fully recognize the need for clarity, information, and, as much as possible, certainty about the year ahead. It is vital that families understand our complete efforts and investment in providing information that is needed. In addition, we ask that parents know we will do everything and anything necessary to ensure our students can return to campus. With sincere hearts we ask, just as Peter did of the church, “Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate, and humble” 1 Peter 3:8.
We thank you for your commitment. Just as MCS will not make temporary decisions that could potentially have a negative impact on our long term future, we ask parents to prayerfully consider all decisions and remain committed to MCS. Our admissions team is busier than ever as we continue to enroll new students. We currently have waitlists in several grades with other grades very close to full capacity. We will continue to enroll students according to our enrollment and operating plan. As always, current families have priority for 2021-2022 reenrollment. Given the extreme interest we have experienced in the past several years to attend MCS, we cannot guarantee future enrollment unless you are currently enrolled for this school year. Please understand and trust, this is only shared to ensure families can take all information into consideration as decisions are made for the upcoming school year and beyond. We love our community and our genuine hope is that we remain together through this storm and we will be stronger for it!
Head of School
Our Head of School search has successfully concluded and we are elated to announce Heather Harrison as our next Head of School, effective immediately!
Starting in December 2019, the Search Committee, Advisory Committee, our search firm (Job Fit Matters), and an organizational consultant launched a thorough, extensive national search process which generated 40+ initial candidates. Our Search Committee and Advisory Committee were composed of current and former parents, school staff, current and past MCS Board members, and a current MCS grandparent. They met regularly and often throughout this process. After multiple rounds of interviews, the Search Committee presented the unanimously-supported recommendation to the Board that Heather was the ideal choice for the next MCS Head of School. The Board approved this recommendation with a unanimous vote. Throughout this past school year, she’s demonstrated grace, humility, excellent communication, and exemplary, prayerful leadership, all while maintaining a sharp focus on God and His direction for MCS. She’s led her team fearlessly and successfully, as evidenced by the 100% of our teachers’ intent-to-return rate for the 2020-21 school year.
Heather brings 19 years of distinguished experience in education to this role, including 10 years of teaching, and 9 years of administrative leadership experience. She has served as Middle School principal at MCS since 2013, and most recently has also served as Interim Head of School after obediently answering God’s calling to that role in August 2019. She has a deep love for MCS, and she has clearly demonstrated her strength as a godly, prayerful leader during this school year which has presented many significant challenges. Heather holds a Masters degree in Education from Vanguard University. She and her husband Josh have three children: two MCS alum daughters Buze and Marta, and one current student son Elijah in Kindergarten. Josh is the co-lead pastor at Canopy Church and Heather serves in ministry with him.
Our Board’s focus has been and remains selection of a godly leader, revision of Board governance/policies and investment in building a high-trust culture. These efforts are intended to develop a lasting working partnership between the Head of School, Board, administrative team and staff and to maximize school leadership longevity. We’re committed to continuing a godly and supportive relationship with Heather and her team, laying out clear expectations and providing guidance and resources as needed. Importantly, our approach remains steadfast in maintaining MCS’s mission to build a firm foundation through Christ-centered education. Accordingly, we’re confident that His school is on a solid path with a strong strategic plan that’s been formulated in partnership with school leadership and staff.
We are deeply grateful for the support, feedback, and prayers we’ve received from the community throughout this search. Thank you!
Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.
1 Peter 4:10
We’re sincerely appreciative of the time and energy that our Search Committee and Advisory Committee members have put into this rigorous process: Mark Nowlin (Co-Chair), Ruth Sanchez Kobayashi (Co-Chair), Marc Aneed, Tim Bahadoor, Lewis Brewster, Bob Bernatz, Clifton Chang, Melinda Choi, Jennifer Crowell, Sharee Pfaff, Jim Harmon, Aaron Hudy, David Giunta, Keven Kroehler, Susan Morehouse, Chris Stratton, Eleanor Tang, and Mitch Vance.
MCS Mission Prevails through COVID-19 Pandemic
On March 12, MCS announced a proactive school closure in an effort to stem the spread of the novel coronavirus, COVID-19. In the weeks leading up to this decision, teachers and students were being prepared and trained to transition our TK-8th grade students to a full-scale remote learning program, which put us in a strong position for the closure. Within 72 hours, our administration, teachers, and IT team successfully launched the plan. Rooted in our Core Values, our remote learning program allows all MCS students to continue progressing through the 2019-20 school year in spite of present circumstances, connecting our MCS Community in Spirit and purpose as we walk this unprecedented journey together.
The MCS Mission is now more important than ever. Whether remote or in person, our staff is “building a firm foundation through Christ-centered education” in the hearts and minds of students. We are harnessing the power of Next Generation technology to ensure that each child’s academic and spiritual growth continues uninterrupted during this season.
Parent Preparation Key for Remote Learning
Preparation of MCS parents was paramount to a successful transition to home learning. Through a dedicated webpage, we provided parents with a central place to locate all necessary resources, including Daily Schedules, Community Updates, Enrichment Class Board, and 14 Helpful Tips for Supporting Remote Learning. Our parents have expressed their gratitude for the level of prayerful, intentional care provided by our staff during this sudden shift to home learning.
Foundation of Next Generation Technology is Springboard
Because of our historically strong integration of technology within academic programming, the vast majority of our students were well-equipped to make the transition. Middle School in particular had a solid foundation of student-ownership in learning via Schoology and a 1:1 iPad program, allowing for the switch from on campus to off to transition more smoothly. We quickly integrated the Zoom video-conferencing platform to support our instructional needs in all grades, while elementary teachers walked students through the process with loads of patience and TLC.
Continuation of MCS Exemplary Academic Program
To-date, every student has been equipped with the necessary technology and resources to continue learning pathways in all subjects, including enrichment classes for Whole Child instruction. Our specialist teachers created a phenomenal Enrichment Learning Board with videos, lessons, and options for students to supplement their core curriculum each day.
Students have been provided with daily schedules that require them to login to a video conferencing platform for lectures, group discussions/activities, and more. Their daily school schedule is supported by teachers who are dedicated to building relationships with each student, including 1:1 facetime and small group instruction with students who need extra support. In fact, our Student Support Program, which provides vital academic support for many students, is in full swing with study sessions and individual check-ins scheduled throughout the school day.
Parent feedback to our Remote Learning Program has been tremendously positive! Social media comments, emails, and texts have poured in with supportive feedback on the homefront. Passionate about their students, our teachers have been burning the midnight oil to build a program that is engaging and comprehensive as well as fluid and responsive to the present quarantine.
Prioritizing Spiritual Enrichment
MCS teachers and administrators have gone above and beyond to partner with parents and ensure students are including time to pray, worship, and study God’s word.
Our Bible teachers are producing a video curriculum for TK – 5th grade, as well as teaching two interactive middle school Bible classes every week. In addition to studying God’s word in the classroom, teachers are continuing to start each class with prayer, and incorporating times of worship when possible.
Daily Devotionals are being offered to students and parents. Each day, a new morning devotional is posted so that families can begin their day with encouragement and teaching from God’s Word.
Maintaining Connection as an MCS Community
MCS will not be deterred in our efforts to build community during this challenging time. In addition to providing daily devotionals, we’re leveraging our social media to maintain a connected community. We recently launched MCS Community Challenges which encourage families to share short videos of themselves participating in challenges like sharing something they’re thankful for or showing off their best dance moves. To read up and join the challenge, click here.
Even our Parents in Prayer committee has embraced the remote concept, and they are continuing to meet online weekly, lifting up prayer needs within our school community as well as requests for our nation and our world.
Coming soon will be “Acts of Service,” an opportunity for MCS students to be the hands and feet of Jesus, salt and light, to the hurting community around us. Our staff will provide practical ways for them to serve and encourage their neighbors and the world, even while social distancing.
Without question, this has been the biggest global crisis of the Century — yet as a Christian community, in all communications, we encourage each other to continue looking to Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our Faith. We may not know what will happen next, but we know that HE knows, and we can find comfort and peace in that simple yet irrefutable fact.
Dear MCS Community,
The impact of last weekend’s tragedy is profound and the heartbreak, felt across the community, families, friends and schools, runs deep. God’s Word clearly tells us that we are to carry each other’s burdens (Galatians 6:2), love each other deeply (1 Peter 4:8), devote ourselves to praying for each other, meet one another’s needs (Acts 2) and, if someone falls, we are to help them up (Ecclesiastes 4:10). We want to be a community of believers that actively lives out these callings. It is with this heart that we invite the entire MCS community to participate in Koinonia Color Day next Friday, February 7th.
The Greek word, koinonia, can be translated as community. However, it is more than a word. It is an intention to be in communion or fellowship with one another in a manner that jointly meets a need and unifies the body of Christ. Our Koinonia Color Day will reflect this unified heart to demonstrate love and prayerful support to families and schools directly impacted by loss. We are hopeful that the entire MCS community will participate in the following ways:
- Support with Color Dress: As a grade level, wear the colors of the schools in our community who have experienced the loss of students, parents, and staff. The entire school will assemble for a picture at 8:10am which will be sent with a loving message to our brothers and sisters at these schools.
- TK-1st: Red for St. Margaret’s Episcopal School
- 2nd – 3rd: Blue for Ensign Intermediate
- 4th – 5th: Gold/Yellow for Harbor Day School
- Middle School: Orange for Orange Coast College
- Support with Prayer: By far, this is the most important thing we can do! Following our school wide picture, all students will return to class and be led in a time of community prayer by their teachers. In addition, all parents are invited to attend Parents in Prayer starting at 8:30am in the ASP room to pray together. How beautiful it will be to have our entire community praying, at the same time, for our brothers and sisters.
- Support with Generosity: Students are encouraged to bring in a cash donation of their choosing on this day. Teachers will collect funds which will be donated by MCS to the MambaOnThree Fund created by Vanessa Bryant to honor and support loved ones of the seven other victims of the tragedy.
Let’s be a community that carries burdens, loves deeply, and prays faithfully. Let’s be a community that stands with the hurting, responds willingly to meet needs, and humbly lifts one another up. Let’s be koinonia! Please join us so that we, the entire MCS community, Reflect the Son to those who desperately need to experience God’s comfort and the nearness of Jesus.
Interim Head of School