With the promise of warmer days finally on the horizon and the most challenging days of the pandemic beginning to drift further away in the rearview mirror, I offer this “portal,” a view (from the new foyer in our ARts/Gym Connector) of one version of our imagined new gym. While it shows an exciting hint about our new campus projetcs, it provides a view of the future while we also celebrate and look forward to returning to campus after March break this spring. The following, extracted from a recent community letter outlines our plans to return to more normalcy on campus during the warmer days ahead and provides an update about our capital campaign and plans for construction next year.
This is Buckingham Friends School’s 227th year of providing a values-based education to children with a concern for educating the whole learner, developing personhood, and forging a regard for others and the importance of community. We remain true to our mission as a Friends school and interest in developing each child’s abilities as a student, attributes as a person, and the personal fulfillment in becoming the best version of themselves. It has been another year unlike any that any one of us has experienced. When I consider just how well we have done thus far, and recognize the strength, resilience and resolve of this close-knit community of educators and families, I cannot help but think that the spiritual dimension of the school has provided quiet strength and support in ways we may never truly know or be able to measure. The BFS community has weathered many significant challenges before – a civil war, two world wars, a pandemic, the great depression, other diseases such as polio, the start of the civil rights movement, political upheaval at home and around the globe, and an economic crisis a decade ago –to name a few. Throughout them all, the school survived, remained resilient, relevant and vital, and emerged stronger and better able to move forward as the result of the resolve, fortitude, and vitality of the BFS community and its commitment to the children and the school’s mission and vision. As has been the case again this year, I feel that we have been able to draw from this well of history and the strength of our predecessors, and I am confident that the children have experienced and learned something from our current community that will impact the entirety of their lives as individuals, community and family members, and citizens.
Just as we have restored the practice of going to the Meetinghouse for our central experience as a Friends school – Meeting for Worship – other important and significant traditions are being planned for the spring:
- Plans are underway for each class to work together as an ensemble and to prepare performances and/or presentations. From class plays and theater experiences to iMovies to presentations steeped in the study of History, we eagerly anticipate celebrating these moments when every student has the opportunity to find and share their voice with others.
- Associate Head of School Rossana Zapf and the faculty have been busy making arrangements so that we can send students in grades Five through Eight on signature class trips this spring. This year, the Fifth and Sixth Grades will travel to the Pocono Environmental Education Center, the Seventh Grade will go to Wallop’s Island (over) and the Chincoteague Bay Field Station in Virginia, and the Eighth Grade will participate in the Global Explorer’s Program at Heifer International in Maryland. A generous donor has contributed funds to each class account so that the cost of these trips can be kept to a minimum. Expect to hear more from Rossana and the class teachers soon.
- It will be exciting to witness our Middle School intramural sports program and Upper School Lacrosse and Softball teams take to the fields after March break. We can all look forward to supporting our children and attending Lacrosse and Softball games.
- We can all also look forward to celebrating the special talents of students and others, to experiencing the unique character of our supportive community, and to beaming with broad smiles as we attend a BFS talent show.
- Warmer days will reawaken our weekly Lower Sing, a well-regarded tradition and time for community-building, fellowship, and rousing renditions of much-loved songs.
- Our Annual Auction – currently planned as an in-person event – will provide a meaningful opportunity for connection while attracting everyone’s support for our community and our financial aid fund. “Imagine…As we grow together” will take place on Friday, April 1st at Holly Hedge Estate. A vibrant community impacts and enhances the quality of the educational experience for all of our students, and a strong and well-supported financial aid fund is essential to achieving these goals.
- BFS’s Spring Frolic will be held on Saturday, April 30th. Attendance at our Fall Frolic this year set records, and it is our hope that we can exceed those numbers as we come together as a community to visit with one another, prepare gardens for spring and summer, rake leaves and remove the remnants of winter months, attend to trails, plant new trees, and enjoy sharing food and making new and strengthening old friendships.
- Soon, we will begin finalizing plans for this year’s Track and Field Day, an all-school, all-call event and day filled with games, activities, races, food and fun, and more. School spirit will be on full display, as will be plenty of “blue and grey!!
- We are already beginning to think about the end-of-school traditions that have been BFS’s way of honoring and celebrating community and our 8th graders for many years. There will be a final assembly for the community – a time of expressing gratitude to everyone and to honoring and thanking those members of the school who will be departing this year. Each graduate will paint their hand on the historic bell outside of the original school house and select the location of their brick in the patio outside the main building – to be placed during the Brick Ceremony. Graduation will provide a ceremony when reflections about BFS will be shared, we will listen to music and remarks from students and community members, and each Eighth Grader will be presented with their diploma. Since the close relationships between teachers and students at Buckingham Friends School is at the core of the educational experiences and all that we value at our school, each Eighth Grader will be individually recognized by a member of the faculty.
As our Capital Campaign continues during the “quiet phase,” and with gratitude for the strong and early support from the Board and other contributors, the activity in preparation for campus projects to begin has very much been in the foreground. Collaborating with faculty and community members, Centerbrook Architects have created exciting plans for a new, detached Science building, a new Gym with a connector (to include a new kitchen and elevator) to the Arts building, and the expansion and renovation of the Middle and Upper schools. These new facilities will offer much to our community, supporting our vision for advancing the quality of our programs, providing increased and improved spaces for teaching and learning, and retaining the aesthetic and special character of our campus – with ample space for connections with nature and space for play. It is with special appreciation, and while feeling the care and support of Buckingham Monthly Meeting – over 227 years and in recent times – that we acknowledge their participation, oversight, and approval of our plans.
After thorough searches, we have hired a contractor, an owner’s project manager, a site development engineer, and others. They are working well together to plan for construction and how we will provide for the safe use of our campus next year when the Science building, Gym, and connector are built. We are appreciative of our relationship with Buckingham Township during this planning phase, and we are working to address a few longstanding site issues before the permitting process – which may delay the beginning of construction past our current hoped-for start date of late summer. We expect the new buildings to take about a year to complete, with BFS once again utilizing the auditorium as an indoor PE facility (we are seeking an alternative location for next year’s basketball program), and look forward to renovating the Main building during the summer of 2023.
I encourage us all to feel proud to be members of the BFS community at this time in the School’s story. This is truly a time to feel proud. We are the beneficiaries of all that previous generations of BFS community members did to envision, build, and provide for us. This is our opportunity to care for this storied place, to provide responsible stewardship, to attend to the needs of the campus, facilities, and endowments, and to leave the school better than we found it – positioned to thrive and flourish today and for generations to come.