There is no way to entirely shield a child’s impressionable mind from the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic, but developing resilience and interpersonal connection goes a long way towards instilling lifelong adaptability. For students to thrive in their studies, there needs to be a sense of security fostered in an encouraging environment that builds confidence in their innate ability to achieve a goal no matter the circumstance.
That’s why boarding schools in the US offer some of the best educational settings for young students to blossom — a benefit that was made more prominent during the pandemic. It’s no surprise then that private schools have seen an increase in admissions due to the superior quality of care and valuable support in all aspects of student development. The in-house guidance that these schools offer to both boarders and day students is unparalleled in terms of quality and impact.
Here are four US schools dedicated to providing comprehensive support for students to excel in the post-pandemic world:
Garrison Forest School
Just outside of the dynamic city of Baltimore, Maryland, an expansive 110-acre campus has been educating girls into conscientious leaders since 1910. Garrison Forest School (GFS) has long been a springboard for young women to achieve courage and independence so they can mature into successful, informed citizens who are in charge of their own future.
This all-girls, boarding and day school boasts a robust residential life that plays a vital role in the overall learning experience. Boarding life, which begins in eighth grade, strongly integrates character development, global competency, and wellness to meet each girl’s specific developmental needs.
“The residential life programme at Garrison Forest School is an enthusiastic, joyful community. It provides an environment that allows our students to be successful academically and socially, while helping them gain independence and confidence,” says Jodi Blackburn, Director of Residential Life at GFS. “We are a community that promotes engagement, learning, respect for diversity and student success.”
It was the unconditional support rendered by the Residential Life Faculty throughout the pandemic that helped retain a strong communal relationship on campus where students can safely engage with each other during uncertain times. “I chose to study at Garrison because the community felt very inclusive and friendly. I felt like it was a very comfortable space for me to learn and develop my confidence,” remarks Emine L., a 10th grade boarding student.
Emine says her GFS experience has helped her cultivate leadership, confidence, and bravery, thanks in part to her active involvement in extracurriculars. “Sports have allowed me to meet more people, make friends and develop these relationships that will probably last a long time.”
GFS girls can tap into their leadership capabilities through the Prefect programme within a boarding life that consists of four dorms and 24 faculty residences. By becoming leaders in the dorm, students attain a firmer sense of self and soft skills required in life such as empathy and interpersonal communication. Boarders connect in a myriad of ways including through athletics, visual and performing arts, riding, its nationally-recognised polo programme, and GFS’ unique WISE (Women In Science and Engineering) programme done in partnership with the prestigious Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. To explore the school further, embark on a campus tour here.
Where better for girls to excel than in the oldest girls’ boarding school in the nation? For nearly three centuries, Linden Hall has welcomed motivated and dedicated girls and helped them learn to become self-advocates, engage in high level intellectual pursuits, and discover their passions. The all-girls advantage is a key component to this extraordinary programme. Here, they gain the skills and confidence necessary to become self-assured, competent adults who are prepared to make a difference in their communities and beyond. The result is a powerhouse school that provides the foundation for young women to compete in a global landscape and lead where others only dare to go.
Linden Hall girls’ morale and engagement have remained steadfast throughout the pandemic as the school stayed safely open for in-person learning. At the onset, the school quickly adapted to the new normal by continuing to offer a world-class education in a face-to-face setting. This daily in-person instruction and interaction with teachers and classmates ensured a high level of student engagement, kept learning goals on track, and strategically positioned the students to outperform their peers at other schools – all while keeping the students safe and healthy.
“I appreciate that Linden Hall was thorough and consistent in setting and enforcing COVID protocols,” says Mara Pritchard, Chair of the English Department. “It has been a very positive experience, and one where I think we all feel safe and can enjoy coming to school every day.”
Helen, an international student, is grateful for the opportunity to remain at the school in person. “I appreciate that I can continue learning in a classroom with my friends and my favourite teachers We were also able to continue to participate in important traditions on campus, like making our school-wide speeches and having fun activities like Gretna Day.” Further, Linden Hall was able to develop plans based on emerging research amid the pandemic, enabling students to safely take part in music lessons, championship-level athletics, and performances.
Well-rounded academic and residential life programmes provided the balance needed in times of uncertainty. It was a team effort, requiring the participation of teachers, staff, and the administration to care for one another and the students while remaining focused on the goals of each student.
The result of the care with which Linden Hall approached the pandemic is evident in the success of its students. Linden Hall students continued to receive admission to highly competitive colleges and universities including institutions such as Princeton, Northwestern, UCLA, Amherst, UC Berkeley, Wellesley, and Boston University throughout the pandemic.
The 140-acre campus of Solebury School in New Hope, Pennsylvania, is located just 50 minutes from Philadelphia. A co-educational boarding and day school for students from Grades nine to 12, its hallmark lies in the unwavering student-teacher relationship that helps learners thrive to their full potential.
“Solebury School and the faculty taught me to love to learn. It wasn’t a judgmental place; it was welcoming and you could find support for anything. Nothing else compares to Solebury,” says Sivan Sailor of the 2022 class.
Nowhere is this more apparent than the school’s residential life, where boarders are supported in a vibrant dorm life that welcomes all students regardless of their backgrounds. Each student is wholly cared for through advising from dorm parents and a culture that accepts the individuality of each student.
“I’m glad to be in the dorm and to be one of the adults that the girls can trust and that they can come to,” says Hanna Howe, Head of Holmquist House Dorm. “Being here in the dorm with my own kids brings comfort to the students, because having a family around you is comforting. That’s what we are here.”
Academically, Solebury students have access to experiential programmes, and may choose to focus on a particular subject they’re passionate about. They can choose from subjects such as Global Education, Social Justice, and the hands-on Tech2Serve programme where students devise solutions to social or environmental problems. To enhance the learning experience, the school dedicates Featured Weeks focusing on particular subject areas for full immersion into the lessons learned in class.
The Boys’ Latin School of Maryland
The Boys’ Latin School of Maryland is a school that exemplifies a community built on character and compassion. Each boy is known for who he is today, and all he will be tomorrow. The K-12 student body is purposely small by design so that each learner can receive the attention and care that he deserves. In Fall 2021, they welcomed their inaugural boarding class into their school, their homes and their hearts.
The close-knit community that is nurtured in the school is what enabled Boys’ Latin it to support all of its students during the pandemic, always putting the needs of the boys first. Since teachers and staff have built a steady rapport with the students, it was this commitment — on top of early preparations before the pandemic — that allowed the school to provide a top-notch academic experience when classes went virtual in Spring 2020 and allowed all students to return to in-person learning in September 2021.
“We created a climate where it was easy and felt safe for kids to reach out to the counselling office. Our small school allows us to have really strong relationships; we knew which boys we had to reach out to,” Megan Kenney, Director of Counselling, says of the support system at Boys’ Latin. Instruction time was intentionally designed to aid students in navigating the challenges of COVID-19, and Zoom rooms and discussions were held to encourage healthy conversation.
Additionally, various other initiatives were put in place for the boys to prosper at school. These include daily community time, regular check-ins to track their emotional health, and a Ninth Grade skills programme to build executive functioning and organisational skills.
The 2021-22 year marked the launch of a boarding programme designed from the ground-up that incorporates the latest innovations in both residential and all-boys education. The school community is a second family where both boarders and day students come together and participate in numerous activities and trips to foster a strong peer-to-peer relationship.
Jacob Pacheco is among those who have been transformed by the boarding experience: “The best part of living on campus and being a student in the inaugural boarding class is the relationships and close friendships I have built with the other boarders. And because we are a small school I was able to quickly form strong relationships with day students as well and quickly become a part of the Boys’ Latin community.”