Maggie Betkowski ’21
In the past, Parents’ Weekend has been an event hosted by Mercersburg Academy to allow parents to visit campus and live a day in the life of their children. Parents would attend classes to see what and how their children are learning, eat in the dining hall to experience Mercersburg’s traditional family style meals, and watch games on the weekends to support their children in their fall PGA.
Normally, Parents’ Weekend occurs in the fall. However, this year, it has been moved to the spring. Assistant Head of School for Student Life and Culture Chris Howes says, “We moved Parents’ Weekend to the spring due to COVID. In the fall we were still navigating this new form of schooling and it was too much for everyone to try and organize Parents’ Weekend.” He says that now that administrators have more experience with running a school during a global pandemic, they were able to organize a virtual Parents’ Weekend.
Not only are school administrators tasked with the difficulties of having a virtual Parents’ Weekend, but teachers now have to find new and innovative ways to engage parents through a screen. Howes says, “Our adults really care deeply about doing a good job, so they want to make sure this is a positive experience for everyone, and that takes time and effort; especially, when it is something new and has never been done before.”
In the past, science teacher Dave Holzwarth has had parents participate in a physics lab activity for his classes. This year, he is creating a video of his physics students working in the lab for parents to see as well as editing a video called “Who’s Upside Down?” which features students’ ideas of how to gauge perspective and frames of reference in physics.
History teacher Emily Parsons says that this year she pre-recorded two class sessions so that parents can see her different teaching styles. “I’m going to try to put them together so that parents get an idea of the learning that their kids are doing and my teaching approaches,” she says. It is a challenge trying to engage parents when they are not experiencing the class in person. Parsons says, “You can never replace a video with a real class experience. I hope they see the class dynamic and how their kids are interacting with their classmates.”
While Parents’ Weekend will look very different from how it has historically, the Mercersburg community hopes that parents will enjoy seeing their children in their school environment, even if it is virtually. Howes says, “Parents have really wanted to be here and connect with this place that their children love, so it has been hard for them to be closed off from that.” He hopes that while this virtual experience may not feel normal, it will at least help ease some of the stress and anxiety parents have been feeling this year.