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A crane raises the structural steel for Berger Hall while Cary Academy's campus is under construction.

CA Curious

Welcome to the 25th Anniversary Year at Cary Academy!

August 12, 2021

While we are still dealing with the impacts of COVID-19, our first day of school was a joyous celebration of community — something we have not felt in almost two years. 

In 25 short years, Cary Academy has established a reputation as one of the leading schools in the country. While we don’t put much stock into rankings and such (we believe each school should be measured by its mission-fit for current students), we are very proud that our alumni report a high degree of satisfaction with their time at Cary Academy — both from a career and personal perspective. 

In our most comprehensive survey of 331 alumni, 87% indicated they would recommend CA to a friend. In addition: 

  • 98% of respondents indicated that CA had a positive or strongly positive impact on the development of their critical thinking skills, and 90% said the same thing about CA instilling a passion for learning. 
  • For those who had already graduated college, 85% said they were satisfied or highly satisfied with their current profession. 
  • And finally, and I believe most importantly, 93% of all respondents said they were satisfied or highly satisfied with their quality of life. 

During this momentous year, our 25th, it is important to give thanks to the school’s founders — who set this glorious school in motion and still help guide us today. Cary Academy was established through the generous philanthropy of Dr. James H. and Ann Goodnight, and John and Ginger Sall. They envisioned a college preparatory school that would serve as an engine for student-centered, technology-rich instructional innovation embedded in a liberal arts tradition. Our school’s inspiring and inclusive culture stems from its powerful founding mission to be a diverse learning community committed to discovery, innovation, collaboration, and excellence.

Cary Academy opened on August 18, 1997, with 244 students in grades 6-10. We quickly reached an equilibrium of 680-700 students that lasted for quite some time. During last year’s admissions cycle, we received applications from students attending 161 different schools around the region and country, and we enrolled students from more than 65 different schools! We opened our doors on August 11, with 785 students, 55% of whom identify as people of color and nearly 15% of whom are receiving some form of financial assistance. 

Cary Academy has grown over the last several years, in part because fewer and fewer students choose to leave the school before they graduate. Our attrition rate is one of the lowest in the country. As such, we’ve needed to expand in our Upper School to make room for a cohort of new students each year, who bring essential insights, interests, and talents to our community. 

We have much to be proud of during this anniversary year, and we stand in a position of strength to build an even stronger school moving forward. As I mentioned in my opening remarks to students at our Move Up Ceremony on the first day of school, Cary Academy is an amazing place — but each year, we must do our part to build new community and reinforce our special culture. Our school history gives us a proud heritage, but it is built up anew with each generation of families and students who pass through our doors. 

One alumni, in a recent survey, highlighted how special this is … 

The seven years at Cary Academy really defined my personality and who I am today. The biggest impact was being in a community of other students who were the right combination of intellectually curious, ambitious, and passionate. Many of these people are still close friends.”

We are grateful that you have chosen Cary Academy, and we look forward to a wonderful and unique school year. 

Written by Dr. Mike Ehrhardt, Head of School

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Sixth-grader shares vaccination experience, hopes with national audience

May 14, 2021

How does it feel to be one of the first young people in the world to receive the COVID-19 vaccine? That’s exactly what MSNBC’s Chris Jansing asked Sophie Holland ’27, during a live interview conducted from Cary Academy’s campus, yesterday afternoon.

“I just really wanted a way to help out all of the community and a way to get out of this pandemic, so that we can all be safe and go back to normal lifestyles,” Sophie told Jansing.

Sophie – who participated in a double-blind vaccine trial of 12- to 15-year-olds conducted by Duke University and Pfizer-BioNTech – appeared with her father, Thomas Holland, MD. Dr. Holland, a hospital physician and infectious disease specialist at Duke University Medical Center in Durham, has been working on COVID-19 since the early days of the Coronavirus pandemic, leading in-patient clinical teams caring for COVID-19 patients while helping other infectious disease experts better understand the virus and the health emergency it posed.

Hours prior to the interview, Sophie was “unblinded,” receiving word from vaccine trial officials that she had, in fact, received two doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, rather than the placebo. Sophie says she’s looking forward to spending time in person with close friends, now that they can receive the vaccine.

Written by Dan Smith, Digital Content Producer and Social Media Manager

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Spring in North Carolina can be wonderful!

April 29, 2021

In speaking with Middle School Head Marti Jenkins about this week’s Fun Fest activities – rife with bouncy castles and bingo — she said: “This is the first time in over a year that things have felt normal.”  

Indeed, the transition to Yellow Mode has brought a sense of joy, and normalcy, to the routine of school and rituals of spring. Even against the backdrop of ongoing challenges, there is a sense of hope and optimism that very much matches the season. Watching the kids run, and jump, and laugh, on the MS Field lifted my spirits in unexpected ways. It felt right to smile, and maybe for a moment, look forward to better times ahead.  

Of course, one of the reasons to be optimistic for “better times ahead” is that we do not expect to rewind and return to “normal.” While the pandemic and racial reckoning have been isolating and painful, they also have been instructive. We will honor the pain by growing from the experience(s) and doing some things differently, and better, going forward.  

Now, it might be a bit too early to outline precisely what those things are … but I feel quite confident that Cary Academy will start next school year stronger and more committed to our mission than at any time in our 25-year history.  

As a school, I am proud that we have moved our programs and strategic plan forward this year against any number of odds. We’ve put renewed emphasis on student wellness, reimagined how we structure and use time, and leaned into new ways to further experiential learning. Together, these efforts have offered new avenues for our students to exercise agency, leadership, and choice. At the same time, we’ve also reconfirmed and strengthened our commitment to being an anti-racist organization, institutionalizing important ways to genuinely listen, understand, learn from, and support one another.   

While we’ve struggled like every organization and every community this past year, we’ve also learned that we are individually and collectively resilient. Our community is comprised of deeply caring people who want the best for our own families, our school, and our world.  

And our collective patience and goodwill, while stretched at times, never snapped. I cannot overemphasize how important—and, frankly, remarkable–that has been. While there have been plenty of opportunities for Monday morning quarterbacking this pandemic, our families put their trust in CA. Fighting the virus has been hard enough; thankfully, we never started fighting each other. Given the times in which we live, this is greatly appreciated. Thank you, all!  

I’m looking forward to closing out the 2020-2021 school year in the most typical way possible, and planning ahead for a new and improved “normal” for 2021-2022. 

Written by Mike Ehrhardt, Head of School

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April 1, 2021

It is official—spring has sprung. The rain over the past week has done its job. The grass is green, and the buds on magnolia trees have bloomed. Students and faculty can be seen on the quad with their computer in hand, looking for the best spot to work and still see the image on the screen. 

It is during this time of year that the Information Services (IS) department typically starts to shift its focus to closing out the current year and prepping for a wide array of summer projects – and this summer is no exception.  

This summer’s projects include virtualizing and updating aspects of the phone system; working with a variety of vendors during the US renovation to relocate or install equipment; and, of course, launching the fifth cycle of our device programs for students and employees.  

In a typical year, thinking through the logistics of these projects and the long list of items to check is what would typically be occupying my mind. Of course, this is no typical year.  

Instead, over the past week, my thoughts have been consumed with a 220,000-ton container ship and the Suez Canal. Never would I have guessed that a vessel carrying goods from all over the world would give me pause, but there she was– the Ever Given, and her over 20,000 containers–occupying a large portion of my mind.  

I started thinking about the containers on-board. What is in them? Where are they going? Do any of them contain materials that may slow down manufacturing in the technology sector? What about all the other ships that are stuck waiting? Do their containers have something that would delay our device refresh schedule? The list of questions went on and on. 

It may come as no surprise why this ship has caught my attention. Call it leftover procurement wariness from the fall, when the unforeseen–and entirely outside of our control—impacts of COVID-19 wreaked havoc on supply chains. Effecting nearly every industry, shortages had us scrambling. Schools and businesses worldwide vied for various limited inventory, from webcams to cleaning supplies.  

As we begin to see light at the end of the COVID tunnel, we also see a supply chain that has likely been forever changed. Changes to how we live, work, and learn that may have seemed transient at the time—an increase in a mobile workforce, virtual learning, and video communication tools—are genies out of a bottle, likely here to stay. What might have been construed as a mere inconvenience before– a backorder or delay in a product—can now profoundly impact the procurement and distribution of devices worldwide.  

Which brings me back to the Ever Given and the ships that were delayed because of it.  

Truth be told, while this specific event might not directly impact us, it is a symbol of the many and compounding elements that have made this year’s planning of our summer and its projects atypical.  

As we have moved through selecting and launching our 2021-2022 tablet program, concerns about the sheer quantity of orders and caveats regarding limited availability have become an asterisk in all communications. 

Vendors have had difficulties procuring demo units for customers—including CA. Those that have offered them have done so only for a short window of time–a few days for IS and a few key stakeholders to demo the unit before requiring its return to meet high customer demand. Sadly, this has made it challenging to involve our broader community in the decision-making process as we have in past years.  

Once a device is chosen and preliminary tasks completed, the devices will be ordered. Normally when IS takes a sigh of relief and enjoys the calm before the storm–when tablet collections begin and all the new machines arrive. Not this year.  

Until the devices arrive, we will be rooting for companies like Intel and other manufacturers who make various device components. We will cross our fingers in hopes that supply chains will meet mounting demands. And, of course, we will cheer at the news that the Ever Given has finally made its way out of the Suez Canal.  

In the meantime, be on the lookout for communications regarding repair schedules for our existing devices, collection dates, and distribution of the new machines.  

And rest assured, vagaries of the market and supply chain aside, I am confident that CA will start the 2021-2022 school year with a machine that fits our needs.   

Written by Karen McKenzie, Director of Technology and Innovation

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A member of the CA faculty receives an injection at the CA COVID vaccination clinic

Community

Cary Academy hosts COVID-19 vaccination clinic for Triangle-area educators and other front-line workers

March 10, 2021

On Friday, March 5, in partnership with Health Park Pharmacy, Cary Academy hosted a coronavirus vaccine clinic in the Center for Math and Science gym. In addition to CA faculty and staff, CA invited members of the Cary Police department, an RTP-based firm that manufactures syringes for vaccination, and faculty and staff from thirteen Triangle-area elementary and secondary schools: Bright Horizons, Cardinal Charter, Carter Community School, Central Park School, Cresset Christian, Dream Academy, LatinxEd, Mills Park Elementary, Neal Magnet Middle School, Reedy Creek Elementary, Research Triangle High School, The Raleigh School, and Wake Young Women’s Leadership Academy.

“The question of where to go and how to arrange a vaccination is made a lot easier when we’re able to offer vaccinations – not only to our own employees, but other educators and community members,” said Dr. Mike Ehrhardt. “And we’re really grateful to all the partners that helped make this happen.”

By the end of the day, 450 school staff and faculty, front-line workers, and at-risk individuals from Durham and Wake Counties received an injection of the Johnson & Johnson single-dose COVID-19 vaccine from the Health Park Pharmacy team and their volunteer vaccinators.

If you are a healthcare professional interested in volunteering to help distribute vaccines during future vaccination clinics in and around Wake County, contact Health Park Pharmacy nurse manager Lauren Crotty.

Written by Dan Smith, Digital Content Producer and Social Media Manager

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Looking ahead to a new ‘typical’

December 10, 2020

Every year about this time, we circulate a draft of the next year’s academic calendar before finalizing it in January. It is an opportunity to give our community a heads up so they can start thinking about the coming year and a chance to solicit feedback. Over the past several years, there have been no changes to the calendar once the draft has been posted. 

However, this year, I want to draw your attention to a fairly significant change to the Thanksgiving and Winter Breaks and explain a bit of the background. Please indulge me with what will no doubt be the longest “calendar explanation” you’ll ever read.  

For those who would prefer just the highlights of the significant changes:  

  • Thanksgiving Break for MS students: Wed Nov 17 – Fri Nov 26 
  • Thanksgiving Break for US students: Mon Nov 22 – Fri Nov 26 
  • Winter Break for MS students: Mon Dec 20 – Fri Dec 31 
  • Winter Break for US students: Mon Dec 20 – Wed Jan 5 

If that gives you a headache: take an aspirin, rest your eyes for a moment, and read on for a more detailed explanation.  

It all starts with semesters vs. trimesters 

This year, the Upper School switched to a semester academic schedule, while our Middle School remained on trimesters. This may seem odd, and it is worth a more in-depth explanation.  

When the school was founded in 1996, a great deal of thinking went into building around a trimester schedule. Two significant advantages stood out. 

  • Assessment and Stress: Trimesters were viewed more favorably than semesters because they gave teachers and students more exposure to material before a grading period (which traditionally came at the quarter mark). CA has always believed in the intrinsic motivation of learning and wanted to institutionalize that by having fewer times when we give report cards and focus on grades – three as opposed to four times a year.  
  • Planning and Recoup Time: Another key feature of the trimester schedule was the ability to build in a two-week break for students at the end of a marking period. Importantly, several of these days have been used by faculty as professional days to close out one term and collaborate on curriculum and activities for the next term.  

Changes in the Upper School 

As a part of our strategic planning process, the Upper School has made several changes to their program to enhance student choice – giving them more chances to “own their own learning.” These changes started even before the strategic plan with the introduction of the Path Program in the social sciences department, which introduced a selection of topical, trimester-based history courses in the ninth- and tenth-grade years. This has expanded in other grades to new trimester-based selections in English, world languages, PE, and fine and performing arts. 

Not only are these choices beneficial in helping students delve deeper into areas of interest, but they also give students more flexibility and variety in course selection and more ability to craft their own unique narrative about their educational journey. That sense of self-awareness and ownership is so important as students apply and prepare to transition into college – where even greater choices and decisions await.  

However, there have been two significant tradeoffs to adding so many trimester based courses into the schedule:  

  1. First off is that a trimester is not that long, and it can be a challenge to find opportunities to dive a bit deeper into more complex material or build off of earlier aspects introduced in a course.  
  1. Second, all of these trimester courses end up on the transcript – introducing waves of grade anxiety that didn’t exist when nearly all our courses were year-long. In essence, these new courses did the exact opposite of what we chose the trimester calendar for all those many years ago … to reduce stress and unnecessary focus on grades.  

Finally, a smaller but not inconsequential factor is that, as we’ve expanded our opportunities for choice and experiential learning, more and more students are blending outside courses and programs into their learning journeys. They may be taking online classes with the Global Online Academy or the VHS Collaborative or participating in place-based programs such as High Mountain Institute or the School for Ethics and Global Leadership. All of these programs operate on a semester calendar, and meshing them with our trimester system has grown more complex as more students pursue more programs.  

While we are only in our first year of the semester calendar, early feedback has been positive. When discussing grade anxiety, it is also important to note that, with the change to semesters, we have not adopted quarterly report cards. We do report “mid-term grades,” which we also did at the mid-trimester level. These are important check-ins but very different than a report card.  

All told, these changes are unique to the Upper School. While the Middle School has adopted more choice within their courses, they generally still remain year-long, with grade check-ins three times a year. The trimester system still fits the needs, and the program set up in the MS quite nicely.  

So, what does this mean for the calendar? 

This background can be helpful in understanding why we have shifted the breaks in the calendar. The addition of a week of instructional time for the Upper School does two critical things. First, it gives more balance to the first-semester and second-semester courses. Second, it takes away the momentum killer of a two-week break right before semester end, rather than at the end of the trimester.  

The breaks also take into account the now different divisional needs for planning/professional time.  

We recognize that this might prove slightly inconvenient for some families with children in both divisions. However, we hope that, given enough advance time for planning, it will be manageable.  

You will notice that we made no changes to the two-week break in the spring. That break does fit nicely as a mid-point break for the US semester.  

Finally, a preemptive answer to some lingering questions 

We suspect that you may have two other questions regarding next year’s calendar: 

Will the start times remain the same? 

Yes. We implemented new, staggered start times as both a pandemic and wellness initiative. We believe the sleep research is strong, and will continue with these new start times next year. We will reassess again a year from now, when we get a better sense of potential impacts on travel time and athletics.  

Will Flex Days remain? 

Yes. We appreciate the flexibility (pun intended) families have shown as we roll out some new programs this year. We’ve learned a lot, and we expect the program and the communication will continue to improve.  

We will communicate a much more detailed Flex Day calendar in the spring. The calendar will look different; we expect that some flex days will be used for more academic purposes once we can get everyone back on campus (such as days where all classes meet for shorter periods or some classes meet for makeup/review sessions).   

That was a lot, and we are open to feedback. Please feel free to send it to me directly.

Written by Mike Ehrhardt, Head of School

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Global Learning Continues

October 29, 2020

September 15th was an unhappy day for me.

That’s when I had to share the sad news with current sophomores and their families that—having already canceled the world language exchange trips for the Class of 2022 back in March—we would now have to cancel the trips for the Class of 2023, as well. While the announcement likely did not come as a surprise given our current global health crisis, there is still a feeling of disappointment and loss for all involved.

On a brighter note, however, two recent student events have reminded me that while our world language exchange program may be on hiatus, global learning is still very much alive at Cary Academy, and is even expanding in some exciting new directions!

Two weeks ago, I had the opportunity to observe an outstanding example of global learning in action as 7th-grade students participated in an “on-campus field trip” for the Migration Collaboration. This yearlong interdisciplinary project gives students a chance to explore the immigrant experience first-hand through multiple, meaningful interactions with people of different backgrounds and perspectives living in the Triangle area. The aim is to help 7th graders develop a sense of cross-cultural awareness and empathy, reflect upon how privilege works, and learn to be positive changemakers in our local community. 

It was heartening to observe the energy and engagement of our 7th-grade students as they met with guests from six different local organizations that support immigrants and refugees. And I especially appreciated the fact that one student has already taken the next step in her 7th-grade global learning journey by organizing her own student-led Flex Day workshop—inviting four local immigrants to CA to tell their stories. Wow!

A second excellent opportunity to witness global learning in action came to me in the form of an invitation to hear a group of Upper School students present an ambitious (but do-able!) proposal to organize and host a global youth forum at CA. These Upper School students, who this past January attended the Youth Forum Switzerland hosted by the International School of Zug and Luzern, spoke quite eloquently about the value of connecting with peers from other countries for collaborative exploration of some of the world’s most pressing issues, from racial justice to climate change. They outlined a plan for a smaller-scale virtual forum next spring that would begin with a guest speaker each day for exposure and inspiration and then move into break-out sessions focused on action and involvement. 

As with the 7th graders, it was inspiring to see the energy and enthusiasm of these Upper School students as they pitched their idea, and the hope is that they will be able to bring their proposed virtual forum to fruition during the upcoming Discovery Term.  Wow again!

These two student endeavors in global learning got me thinking about the full range of school and community-based learning experiences we offer at Cary Academy to build self-awareness, cultivate empathy, encourage responsibility, and inspire lifelong civic engagement. Having an open mind while actively seeking to understand the cultural norms and expectations of others, and leveraging the knowledge gained to communicate and collaborate effectively in diverse environments—these are the pillars of global competence! 

While our world language exchange program is a key component of our global learning effort, there are many other components, as well. The schoolwide Dialog Across Difference initiative comes immediately to mind, together with a host of other offerings sponsored by our Center for Community Engagement.  

That said, Upper School world language teachers are also working hard to ensure that our students continue to have opportunities for global connections through their world language studies, even while the exchanges are suspended due to the pandemic. Plans are in place for students to interact with peers from our partner schools where possible, either through written correspondence or through virtual Zoom sessions. We are also engaging students in a number of other virtual opportunities for authentic interactions in the target language, like the “Meet a German” program sponsored by the Goethe Institut, virtual tours offered through WildChina, and Zoom chats with local Spanish-speaking residents in connection with Hispanic Heritage Month.

Though the cancellation of the exchange trips remains a disappointment, it is possible to find a silver lining. In the absence of the exchanges this year, we are finding the time and space needed to develop and launch some new global learning programs, like the youth forum now on the table. Along the same lines, the exchange hiatus has created the time and space for the Upper School world language team to revisit the structure of that program and consider how we might provide new opportunities for students to use their second-language skills to connect with people and ideas beyond our own borders. The focus to date has been upon school-based reciprocal exchange experiences, but perhaps the offerings could be expanded to include language immersion opportunities in other contexts, such as environmental studies or community service. And perhaps students could be more directly involved in planning and implementing these adventures.

Global learning is not a singular course or experience at Cary Academy, but rather, a series of experiences across grades 6-12 involving growth over time. I wish I could wave a magic wand and bring back our world language exchange trips this year, but at the same time, I find comfort in knowing that the larger global learning journey at CA continues even in the age of COVID, with students increasingly taking the baton! 

Written by Martina Greene, Dean of Faculty

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The joys of an (ir)regular routine

September 24, 2020

Next Tuesday — after 29 weeks, or 148 days to be exact – we will have students on campus for regular coursework!

OK, so maybe “regular” is pushing it. Nothing about the last six months (or the coming six months) could fit within a reasonable definition of regular. 

Let’s just say it will be a great to have students back on campus on a more regular basis. That’ll work. 

In addition to feelings of relief and excitement, the next few weeks will also be a little uncertain as we adapt to new routines and refamiliarize ourselves with in-person learning (or some facsimile). As we’ve shared quite a bit about health and safety expectations recently, I won’t belabor the point here. Other than say: Be mindful that just because we are returning to school doesn’t mean the pandemic is over. We are learning to adapt to living in the world during a pandemic, and in doing so we must remain vigilant. 

With that important reminder out of the way, what I really want to talk about is how we can embrace our new reality and manage the loss that we feel as the pandemic continues. 

The restart of on-campus learning does not mean that things will spring back to normal anytime soon. Some traditions and experiences that we’ve come to associate with school in general (class bonding trips) and Cary Academy specifically (world language trips) have disappeared. Other traditions may be continued in some form but altered in such a way as to be unrecognizable. (Yes, the incoming 9th graders did sign the welcome books during small advisory orientation meetings, but this is traditionally done during a raucous opening convocation with the whole Upper School.)

However, the change in our routines does not in any way diminish the validity or power of new experiences and relationships. This can be hardest on us adults, who are maybe a bit more set in our ways and feel more acutely the loss of experiences we had wanted for our children. I felt this last spring when I took a middle-of-the-night-call to assist in evacuating my own college-age son from his study abroad experience in the Czech Republic. As winter turned into spring, all of us holed up in our house, I was pained for what he didn’t get to experience. But while I was stuck focusing on what I had wanted reality to be, he adapted much more quickly to the disappointment and moved on. He has his own memories and stories about his experiences – and, in his telling, rather dramatic evacuation – that are powerful and poignant. 

When we look back on the pandemic, and the adjustments and sacrifices we have had to make, this will be a powerful moment in the lives of our children. It will be their moment. Unique. A test of their resilience and fortitude. They won’t remember what didn’t happen, but instead what did happen – how they laughed, cried, got bored, made a friend, got in fight with said friend, learned something new, missed a deadline, got embarrassed by their parents, had their dog loudly pass gas during a Zoom class meeting… You know, the stuff of life.

While we may layer on our hopes and dreams for our children, this is their only reality. 

This is our reality, too. 

And we are going to have a great year together.

Written by Mike Ehrhardt, Head of School

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The Privilege of Play

September 3, 2020

It was Monday, March 9, and I was sitting in Dr. Ehrhardt’s office. The baseball and softball teams had just returned from their annual spring training in Orlando when I heard the news: 

“We are likely going to have to quarantine the baseball and softball coaches and players for two weeks because you traveled into a hot zone.”   

I sat, waiting for the punchline. It never came.   

Within the week, the quarantine expanded, ultimately extending to all teams. Soon after, the CA community, the state, and the entire country shifted to stay-at-home mode. Virtual instruction and social distancing became the new norm. As days turned to weeks, hopes for a quick resolution to the pandemic–and of salvaging some semblance of a spring athletics season– faded. 

Tom Keifer of Cinderella (‘80’s headbangers rejoice) wrote his power ballad “Don’t Know What You Got (Til It’s Gone).” While he certainly meant it in a different context, it is a sentiment that nonetheless captured what we were collectively feeling.  

Simple, everyday pleasures—those that we typically take for granted–were suddenly out of reach. The freedom to go to restaurants, to hang out with friends mask-free, to play a simple neighborhood game of pickup basketball: gone. In their place? A new sport of hunting for paper products at Harris Teeter.   

The loss hurt. Quickly, we began to miss the social and emotional connections afforded through interactions. In my world, those bonds are forged by playing sports. And I know that I am not the only one that has spent these last several months itching to get CA athletics back underway.   

With the worldwide scientific community focused on COVID-19, we’re beginning to learn more about this virus–about how it spreads and how to identify it by its multitude of symptoms (fever, persistent cough, shortness of breath, sore through, even the inexplicable loss of taste or sense of smell, just to name a few).  

Armed with this knowledge, we’ve found ways to mitigate our risk, to make adjustments to our lifestyles to keep us safer. We maintain social distance, wear masks, and stay attuned to our health, all sharing in a collective effort to keep our community healthy.  

And dare I say it?  As a result, we’re starting to regain something that feels like (approximates?) normalcy. Okay, okay, perhaps it is a “new normal,” but we’re taking steps in the right direction.  

Thankfully, those steps have also led us on a pathway back to athletics.  

While nothing can be deemed 100% safe right now, the fall athletics season has several factors in its favor that enabled our athletics association—the NCISAA—to green light seasonal practices. Fall athletics are mostly outside, where research tells us the risk of COVID transmission is far lower. We can focus on ways to minimize contact through socially-distant drills that focus on skill-building and emphasize strength and conditioning.  

As a community, we’ve talked a lot about resiliency. We teach our students to lean into challenges to discern the learning opportunities, to reframe them in positive ways that allow us to grow. Athletics during the pandemic is no different. Our fall season may be less than ideal, but there are positives here to recognize.  

In some ways, philosophically, this pandemic is forcing us back to important basics. With the pressure of winning and a drive for championships temporarily on hold, we’re returning to the purest form of sport: of simply training and playing for the love of the game, for a desire to improve oneself, for fun and camaraderie, and for physical and mental health (and a much-needed break from the virtual world).   

It’s the right approach—and one that is filling a crucial need for our students.  

I recently touched base with sophomore Amy Snively, after our first off-season softball workout. Her report?  “It felt so good to get back out here.  Just to be around other people is so nice; it was great!”  

A few weeks later, during 8th-grade orientation, I asked students why they played sports. The number one answer, “it’s fun!” was followed by “I get to be with my friends,” “it’s good for me because I get to exercise,” “I like to compete,” and “it teaches me sportsmanship and how to be a leader.”  

Our coaches recognize and understand the vital role they will play in affording these essential opportunities.  As we head into the fall season, the time has come to hit the reset button and reflect upon those values that are fundamentally important to players and to focus on rebuilding the mental, social, and physical wellbeing of our student-athletes. 

Rest assured, when Chargers do get the green light to take to the competitive field, they’ll be in good mental and physical shape to do it.  And, there is (tentative) good news there as well (*knocking wood*).  

Through protocols outlined by the National Federation of High Schools (NFHS) in coordination with medical professionals, there is growing hope that we can eventually “return to play” while minimizing the spread of COVID.  While the situation is fluid—changing quite literally by the day—it currently looks as though we may soon be able to kick-off the competitive season for low contact sports. We will launch medium-risk (higher contact) competitions once Governor Cooper moves us into Phase 3 or we receive updated guidance from NCDHSS.

As with all things right now, when we do return to competitive play, it will look a bit different. In addition to the now-standard protocols—daily temperature and symptom checks, consistent disinfection practices, wearing masks unless engaged in physical activity, and maintaining social distance—you will likely see some additional protocols and precautions that are the results of lessons learned from other groups and clubs this summer. Students will also have the ability to opt-out of competitive play if they are uncomfortable with that level of contact, while still participating in practices and other team-building exercises. 

In the meantime, as we wait to see what the fall season will hold, we’re happy to welcome our athletes back to CA–to witness their joy, to celebrate their hard work, to share in the fun, and to connect with each other. Personally, it’s been a privilege to be back patrolling the fields and watching and working with students.  After a long, quiet summer, the campus feels alive again.   

Written by Kevin Jones, Athletic Director

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