Taking Stock of 2020

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TAKING STOCK OF 2020: A Reflective Journey

No one would have predicted that the world would find itself in a global pandemic. In just two short months, the whole world was impacted by the devastating spread of the COVID-19 virus and nations quickly responded to ensure the safety and well-being of their citizens. Borders were closed, economies were shut down, people were asked to stay home, frontline workers became heroes even more so than before as the virus rapidly progressed throughout communities, and the world continues to mourn the loss of lives due to this virus. The year 2020 has tested our resilience, forcing the world to change on the fly. The impact of COVID-19 has been a catalyst for accelerating transformations in all industries, including education. Until the pandemic, not too many people in education had paid much attention to building dynamic and robust online learning ecosystems. However, in an instant, we were all in the midst of an emerging global research project – innovating, reflecting and iterating on what possibilities might lie ahead for learning. HTS was no exception to this, we have been deeply committed to evolving and experimenting throughout the years, and 2020 became the year of possibilities. John Dewey, philosopher and educator, is noted for saying, “If we teach today’s students as we taught yesterday’s, we rob them of tomorrow.” At a time of rapid and constant change, these words are resonating deeply with us. This moment in human history has proven our need to equip students with the skills to adapt and be flexible, no matter what challenges they face. We need to cultivate their confidence and personal impetus to innovate and solve the problems of the future. If ever there was a year to look back and reflect on the challenges, successes and opportunities, this is the year. It is important to note that by the end of our fiscal year, June 30, 2021, we will have made additional investments of up to $2 million in three key areas of the school: people and program, health and safety, and technology and infrastructure. This booklet provides the story of the unparalleled journey that HTS has been on this year.

Leaders in Learning


TECHNOLOGY AND INFRASTRUCTURE • Meeting Owl 360° camera and microphones for all classrooms • Additional laptops and iPads for staff and classrooms • New software licences to allow for virtual program and interactive classroom learning • Increased WiFi bandwidth at the school • Updated cybersecurity program

HEALTH AND SAFETY • PPE provided to all staff and continuously well-stocked • Isolation rooms and nursing station created to support a healthy environment • A sanitation and disinfectant kit provided in every room of the school including Oxivir wipes and spray, masks, gloves and paper towels • Two EMist machines • UV Tech Tub to disinfect technology in the school • Touchless faucets and automatic doors • Hand sanitizer stations throughout the entire school • Investments in plexiglass dividers for teachers to work with students and for staff in areas including the Front Desk and Lower School reception areas • Investment in redesigning office spaces and our Dining Hall to meet safety standards • New food services products including trays and food warming bags for delivery • Training of custodial staff to new health and safety standards • Partnering with Aramark to provide additional custodial support and management

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FINANCIAL COMMITMENT By the end of our fiscal year, June 30, 2021, we will have made additional investments of up to

$2 million.



• Twenty-five new additional teachers to reduce class sizes to less than 16, support additional programming and coverages • Creation of the Virtual Learning Hub, led by four exemplary educators supporting the learning of our students beyond the school day while collaborating with their classroom teachers • All academic programming continued, including specialist programs • A team of onsite dedicated supply teachers to cover teacher absences • Material and resource kits created to support virtual co-curriculars (e.g., robotics, sewing machines and material, certification program with The Ivey Academy) • In-house instructional leader, coach and mentor to all staff to support their professional learning • Lower School after care program • School nurses to support the physical health of our students and staff • Social worker to develop HTS’s first mental health support program

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If ever there was a year to look back and reflect on the challenges, successes and opportunities, this is the year.

Sadly, we lost and mourned one of our community members, alumnus Amir Moradi ’17, who was on-board Ukraine International Airlines Flight PS752. The Board of Governors and the Senior Leadership team further developed a pandemic response plan for infectious diseases, extending what had been used for the SARS pandemic in 2003, to reflect our current situation.

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We monitored local, provincial and federal public health agencies’ advice and directives regarding the outbreak of the 2019-nCoV acute respiratory disease. Our Senior School production of “Sense and Sensibility” hit the stage Wednesday, February 26 despite a school closure for inclement weather earlier in the day.


Our students and staff prepared to travel to Italy, Spain and France, as well as Cambodia, over the March Break. As COVID-19 spread across the globe, we took early measures to safeguard our community. It began with the decision to cancel our international trips. While we were on March Break, COVID-19 continued to spread globally and Canada’s infection rates began rising. Both national and provincial governments began implementing pandemic response plans to minimize the transmission of the virus. Ontario entered a full lockdown and schools were mandated to close. This is when HTS transitioned to a remote learning model.

As we adjusted to a new way of learning and working at home, it became clear that school was unlikely to reopen before June. Our students and teachers began to adapt and our parents were incredible supporters for our younger students who were new to online learning. A parent shared a reflection on his child in Grade 1 saying, “My son is learning to be more independent and is navigating learning online with more confidence and focus.” Although we encountered new things daily, the resilience of our students, staff and parents was illuminated and many students were thriving.

Our return from the March Break was unlike any other. We now benefited from the strategic planning that the Board of Governors and the SLT had been engaging in for years. The foundation that resulted from significant research and the creation of action plans was now implemented.

As the end of the month approached, the Senior Leadership Team began to plan for multiple school re-opening scenarios. Supported by the Board of Governors, we considered restrictions we might be faced with and brainstormed how HTS could continue to provide an exemplary learning environment.

The urgency to transition our educational programming into a meaningful remote educational experience in four days required preparing our staff and also facilitating a clear transition for our students. We executed our Business Continuity Plan, ensuring that we provided an excellent educational program for our students.

Our commitment to the pandemic response extended beyond our school campus. To support COVID-19 efforts, HTS and our food services provider, Aramark, donated, to our local food bank, all of the food in our Dining Hall that we could not keep and 4,000 pairs of nitrile disposable gloves to the Markham Stouffville Hospital. We loaned our three largest 3D printers to STEM MINDS to create visors — a component of the face shields created by the Ontario PPE Collective and donated to front-line workers in need of personal protective equipment (PPE).

Our exemplary academic program continued virtually, while also introducing student-led initiatives such as online clubs, cooking with Chef Matteo, Wellness Wednesday, advisory time and so much more. We held community Chapel every Wednesday where students and staff continued to be together celebrating and sharing.


Given the uncertainty around returning to campus and physical distancing regulations, we made the difficult decision to cancel our Summer Camp.

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Globally, voices amplified and challenged the persistent issue of anti-Black racism prevalent throughout the world. As an educational institution, we have a responsibility to do better to dismantle and reconstruct the moral and social fabric of our humanity to be more just and equitable.

We reflected, assessed and learned from our successes and challenges over the previous two months and tried to anticipate what was an unknown future. We knew that HTS was going to need to make significant investments in our community so that we would be able to open our doors safely in September. The Finance Committee, along with the Board of Governors, made early financial commitments to provide the resources required. Leveraging additional funds was necessary if we were to continue offering the exemplary programming that we are proud of. Additionally, we needed to have the ability to be agile, as we anticipated what the uncertain future might bring. HTS has always been an incredible steward of every tuition dollar. As a not-for-profit and registered charity, we devote all of our resources to our primary purpose — delivering an outstanding educational program for our learners. Tuition fees and donations are invested in our incredible programs, people and spaces. As the restrictions continued, HTS decided to pivot its Summer School program to a remote learning model. This was a great success with an increase in enrollment throughout the month of June. In fact, it was the highest enrollment our Summer School program has ever experienced.

At HTS, we are continually working towards being an inclusive community for all of our students and staff. We firmly stand against racism and all forms of discrimination and are committed to ensuring that the key principles of equity, fairness, inclusion and anti-racist teachings are integrated into all of our policies, programs, operations and practices. Some steps have already been initiated, but we know we still have so much work to do. Helen Pereira-Raso committed to further educating herself, our staff, students and community. She committed to providing anti-Black racism professional training so that our school could have leaders who reflect, listen and take actions that impact our school, community and world to be safe and inclusive. HTS committed wholeheartedly to learn and create a school that stands against racism towards individuals who are Black and all marginalized communities. In June, we celebrated our graduates and the achievements of all of our students in our virtual ceremonies, drive-bys at the school and outside of our graduates’ homes. Helen Pereira-Raso also met with both new and current parents, as we launched a pilot Parent Ambassador Program to welcome our families who would be joining our community in September.

As the school continued to grow and move forward as an educational leader, Helen Pereira-Raso hosted online Think Tanks with our students in Grades 7-11 to learn about what’s most important for them in their learning (remotely and in-person) and what we should do differently as a school.

Decisions were being finalized related to the next school year. The Board of Governors, along with the Senior Leadership Team, made strategic financial decisions to make larger investments in order for us to continue delivering an exceptional learning experience for our staff and students amidst restrictions due to COVID-19. In this time, HTS decided that a Hybrid Learning Model had the capacity to provide the greatest flexibility to our families regarding their decisions about their return to school. A hybrid model allowed our students to continue learning in community and be with their peers, despite the cohorting measures that would most likely have to be implemented.



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We launched strategic focus groups, held by Sandra Herbst, Chief Strategic Officer for the Centre for Transformative Learning and Leadership, examining HTS’s strategic aspirations. Ms Herbst met with current parents, alumni parents and alumni of HTS. This data, along with the student and staff feedback that our Head of School collected throughout the year, positioned HTS strongly as we began to navigate this global pandemic during a strategic planning year. In July, once the Ministry released its first version of its Approach to Reopening Schools plan, HTS began preparing all of the safety measures required to ensure physical distancing, PPE, the Hybrid Learning Model and remote learning. We made significant investments in our infrastructure to support more devices on our network, secure our network, increase bandwidth and purchase the tools and software required. Moreover, HTS partnered with Aramark’s Housekeeping business unit to provide additional staff, expertise, systems and training. As we looked ahead, we also made age-appropriate decisions that would best serve learners who would be both face-to-face and online. Additionally, we knew that things could rapidly change at any time throughout the school year; creating a system that could easily transition to fully remote learning was critical. We were intentional in designing a program that erred on the side of safety. Our commitment was to ensure safety protocols and screening expectations that exceeded public health’s recommendations. By the end of July, we communicated our Return to Campus plan to our community and surveyed parents for feedback and insights.

Over the years, enrollment has increased at HTS. This year was no exception. For the 2020-2021, we had our highest enrollment ever — 785 students. Interest in HTS continued to grow over the summer; however, we capped our admissions in August in order to ensure that our facilities could support the physical distancing needs and safety measures we implemented in alignment with the directives from York Region Public Health, and the Ministries of Education, Health, Labour, Training and Skills Development. Throughout the months of July and August, HTS faculty engaged in online learning modules to support their professional learning in relation to this new hybrid learning approach to teaching and learning at HTS. All staff returned in mid-August for additional professional learning, training on the new health and safety protocols and routines, program preparation and setting up their Google Classroom. At the end of August, we welcomed all of our new students to tour our campus and to meet their teachers and Division Heads, as many were never able to visit as part of their admissions experience.

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We excitedly welcomed our students, both in-person and remotely, and staff to the 2020-2021 school year under the Return to Campus plan and the Hybrid Learning Model. The journey ahead brought everyone a modicum of normalcy in the midst of this pandemic, while also acknowledging the anxiety and fears many of us were experiencing. Students and staff courageously embarked on a new school year with new tools, new approaches to learning and modified ways of life given the restrictions placed on us. Together, we were prepared and committed to navigating the challenges and opportunities that presented themselves in reopening our school. Our collective commitment to safety, well-being, joy and kindness were the gifts that would bring us together through this journey. The Hybrid Learning Model provides families with daily choice to move flexibly between remote and on-campus learning. Bringing together both our remote and face-to-face learners in the classroom setting was important to us so that all of our learners could have a sense of belonging and a community to grow in. At our first Chapel of the school year, Helen Pereira-Raso asked all students and staff to commit to the following three things; A Healthy and Inclusive Community, Excellence: Be Your Best Self, and Positivity and Joy: Be the Silver Lining. Students in Grades 7-11 came together virtually for our first-ever Community Connection Days where they participated in a massive virtual scavenger hunt with their online teams, competing against their peers, having a fun-filled time and completing interesting new challenges. We launched our Virtual Learning Hub, available to all students from Kindergarten to Grade 12 from 4:00pm to 8:00pm Monday to Friday. This virtual learning space provides students with further instruction, and support with homework and assessments. Our virtual hub educators are experienced classroom leaders and, as a team, they work in partnership as an extension to our daytime program. All Board of Governors meetings moved online, including committee meetings and strategic retreats.

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We began the month with a virtual Opening Ceremony where we honoured the achievements of our students from the 2019-2020 school year, and recognized our 2020-2021 Lifers and Prefects. Updates were made to our health and safety protocols as the Ministries of Education and Health released revised screening and testing protocols for school communities and all Ontarians. Our commitment to keeping our community healthy and safe meant that our protocols had additional safety measures above those that were mandated by provincial government and local public health authorities. Students participated in a modified Father Bob Run where they wore their House colours proudly throughout the week, and enjoyed some fun-filled competition for house points. Our Kindergarten to Grade 3 students spent time learning outdoors with Nature Nancy, exploring and playing to make meaningful connections with our natural world as part of their Community Connection Days. We were deeply proud and excited to share the HTS Character Creed with our community. HTS has four core moral values – respect, integrity, courage and empathy – these are the foundation of our Character Development program. Our students in Kindergarten to Grade 12 began their co-curricular activities, both on-campus and online. We held numerous virtual events across the school: • The Annual General Meeting of our Board of Governors • An at-capacity Career Night in the Senior School where our alumni came to share their professional journeys with our students and parents • Admissions Information Sessions and Tuesday Tours welcomed prospective families • Alumni social evenings Our Parents’ Guild developed new and creative ways to engage our community, including virtual grade gatherings for parents and decorating our campus outdoors. Our parent volunteers and Prefects transformed our beautiful campus into a SPOOK-tacular scene for all of us to enjoy.


Our co-curricular programming continued to flourish. A group of Senior School students designed and launched our first Peer Mentorship Program. This program provides opportunities for Senior School students to support our younger students throughout their journey at HTS.

Three teams of students and alumni participated in the Digital Inclusion Challenge on the quest to make digital education more inclusive, accessible, diverse and safe for all. This challenge invited teams from all over the world, and two of our teams placed in the top 30 of 150 teams!

The student Diversity and Equity Council continued to work hard to create action plans around fostering a more inclusive and anti-racist school. Students in the council are working with the Head of School and other faculty advisors to look at creating awareness, improving school policies and programs, and bringing forward an action plan for a more equitable school for all. We held our virtual student progress meetings; we received positive feedback from parents about virtual student progress meetings and being able to connect with their child(ren)’s teachers.

Our students began participating in external virtual events with their co-curricular clubs. Our Senior School Model United Nations delegation competed virtually in the annual Secondary Schools’ United Nations Symposium (SSUNS) hosted by McGill University, and a group of Senior School students competed in the DECA Regionals Online Competition, competing in written events, case study presentations, as well as examinations in the areas of marketing, finance, accounting, entrepreneurship and more.

Our student leaders collected items for the 1-2-3 Drive and our Prefects and Parents’ Guild decorated our campus inside and out to boost the holiday spirit. Our Parents’ Guild continued the tradition of the Christmas Market reverting it to an online market of vendors and fun-filled craft video tutorials from members of the HTS community. Our students and staff gathered virtually for our annual HTS Carol Service of lessons, singing and musical performances.

On November 22, our community came together virtually to honour our Founders and to celebrate all that we have become in the last 39 years at a joint Founders’ Day service hosted by both Holy Trinity Church and the school.

HTS hosted its very first virtual Showcase Night with our students who are part of the Private Music Lesson Program.

On November 25, we received notification of our first positive case of COVID-19 in the HTS community, and our COVID-19 response measures were immediately put into effect. We continued to be dedicated and committed to the safety and well-being of our community. We have never, nor will we ever, deviate from this commitment.


True to tradition, HTS closed the month of December with a virtual Christmas assembly where our community came together to spread holiday cheer to all. A new initiative this year was the creation of the HTS Christmas playlist. One of the most powerful moments was when every student and staff member shared a wish as they hung an ornament on a tree around campus.

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Helen Pereira-Raso

As we continue to navigate this pandemic, there are ideas and transformations that have been accelerated because of the pace at which we have had to adapt. Instilling the willingness to take initiative and the importance of intellectual agility to learn, unlearn and learn again throughout our lives is how we conquer an unpredictable future. Every decision made has one goal at the forefront — supporting our students to achieve their personal best, both here and beyond the walls of HTS. As I pause to reflect on what this year has brought, the following three things come to mind.

1 One thing that has not changed in this pandemic, is our commitment to invest in our students and staff because they are our WHY. At HTS, we are committed to ensuring that every learner is seen, heard and encouraged to make an impact in their communities and the world. What better reason to innovate, iterate, pivot and stretch ourselves than to grow the human potential that exists in each and every one of our learners? Every investment we make improves the learning experience of our students to prepare them for their future.

2 At HTS, we can do hard things. Navigating this pandemic and the changes to education have been difficult, but this does not mean that we have not experienced success. We have had to learn and recalibrate. Our strength as an organization is harnessing the collective intellectual skills and competencies, of both staff and students, to meet these challenges head on. This moment in our history has also awakened us to new possibilities, both within ourselves and at HTS. In fact, it has pushed us well beyond the traditional model of learning in school. We have an unwavering commitment to our Vision for Learning which states that we believe that the purpose of education is to prepare students for life.

3 When we emerge from these times, we will take what we have learned to set audacious goals for the future of learning at HTS. Over the past ten years, HTS has been on a journey to be a future-forward independent school. Innovation is a mindset that fuels possibility and is one of our organizational values. We are compelled to explore what is not yet known so that we can discern what is best for our students’ learning. This requires courage, intentionality and a commitment to excellence. Our goal, as a leading educational institution, is to inspire our students to be driven in their pursuits, make an impact in their communities (professional and personal) and be nimble as they approach a complex and rapidly evolving world.

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Leaders in Learning 11300 Bayview Avenue Richmond Hill, Ontario L4S 1L4 hts.on.ca December 15, 2020