On Friday, March 13, 2020, we said goodbye to our Summit families for spring break. Little did we know that it would be a long (almost) six months of empty hallways at our beloved school. The rest of the school year (and beyond!) would be one for the memory books. Teachers pivoted immediately to virtual learning. Enrollment and tours essentially stopped. Summer camps came to a screeching halt with only a few transitioning to virtual camps.

In pandemic times, we implemented pandemic measures. We applied for the first round of PPP loans so we didn’t have to furlough staff. We drastically reduced tuition to salvage enrollment to ease the burden so many of our families were feeling, to reduce attrition, and to attract new students. A beloved teacher chose to stay home with her family, and we cut our seven classroom school to six to cut costs. We tried everything we could to care for our families and staff, and still keep our doors open.

Two weeks before the start of the new school year, we offered a no-cost Return to Learn Academy to close the learning gap that resulted from the sudden shift to virtual learning in March. To the excitement of students and parents, we prepped and prepped, with staff putting in extra time to get the school ready and implement safe lunch procedures. We bought hand sanitizer, masks, shields, table dividers, and social distancing stickers, and we made our Summit hallways one-way! 

On July 1, 2020 we were flooded with enrollment inquiries and they have not stopped! We filled seats while keeping appropriate social distance in our classrooms, dusted off and dragged in old student desks, and purchased additional tables to create a safe ‘new normal.’

On August 10, 2020, two days before Summit’s Return to Learn Academy was set to start, our staff gathered for teacher training and last-minute tweaks to their classrooms. That same day, we were hit by the derecho. We huddled in our school’s tornado safety locations as sirens blared outside. When we emerged, our entire neighborhood was littered with debris. Our school sustained roof and fence damage, shattered windows, flooding, and our beloved huge oak tree in our playground had been ripped from the ground.  Summit’s rental house adjacent to our playground had lost its roof and was damaged beyond salvage. Our monarch butterfly tent had blown away, and our playground canoe was nowhere to be seen – later to be found in a yard three houses away! 

The clean-up began immediately with staff picking up what they could before rushing to their own homes to face yet more damage and destruction. Suddenly, school needed to be pushed back again, this time to September 3, 2020 as staff and our families helped with the massive clean-up efforts of our school while also cleaning up their own homes and neighborhoods. 

2020 was a year of many firsts. It was the year of mask wearing, drive-by graduation parades, town hall and board meetings on Zoom, an online Celebrate Summit concert fundraiser, the birth of the Summit Series with live-streaming bringing us speakers from all over the world, Covid-19 vaccines, and virtual LEGO League competitions, where both of our teams advanced to state!

Silver linings were aplenty, as we have had little illness in the school and no Covid-19 community spread. Those who believe in our mission have SHOWED UP! We are forever grateful to those who cut and removed our fallen massive oak tree, ground stumps for us, and coordinated every single step of our rental house demolition and rezoning, and the safe re-housing of our tenants. Families donated five Owls meeting systems to our classrooms so that we could improve virtual learning – these have been a game changer for those wishing to learn at home in these uncertain times. A donor purchased quality picnic tables to ensure we could be outside as much as possible with our learning and eating, weather permitting! Our supporters have done everything they could to keep us going and ensure we come out of this stronger than ever.

We are beginning to appreciate the fruits of this labor. Our school is bursting at the seams, with all but one classroom full! We have the happiest teachers, staff, students and families at Summit that we have EVER had!  We are all truly thankful each and every day for the gift of being in-person this year, excluding one week after Thanksgiving break where we proactively pivoted to virtual learning. We have exceeded our census to pre-pandemic levels and continue to grow. We will reopen our 7th classroom in 2021 and our enrollment for next year is already at 97 students – just 10 short of our budget goal of 107! Please share with your friends and family that we have openings in our PreK/K classroom, and 2nd and 4th grades. And we are offering a full in-person summer camp program again this summer (reminder there is a 10% discount in March)! We have so much to be thankful for and to celebrate!

We are so appreciative and grateful for our faculty and staff, students and families who have adapted alongside us, offered assistance and continued supporting us every step of the way. We are the epitome of the tiny but mighty community school. We continue striving to empower each student to exceed their goals and to be inclusive to all. We are Summit!

Summit has emerged from the last year stronger and better than ever, but we need your financial support to keep heading in the right direction. We still need to raise $35,000 in order to meet our $100,0000 fundraising goal for this fiscal year. We rely on your generous donations now more than ever! Please help us to raise $20,000 of this by April 15! To simplify the giving process you can go to summitschools.org/giving/ to make a secure online donation today. Thank you for considering a donation to Summit to ensure we continue our recovery from this unprecedented year! 

With sincere gratitude,
Paul Pressler, Head of Schools/Principal
Larisa Bickel, Director of Business & Operations
Paly Afridi, Board of Trustees, President

P.S. Please feel free to reach out to us if you are interested in exploring the Student Tuition Organization (STO) that can offer more tax benefits to the donor. Also keep in mind the changes to donations made by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.