How Keystone serves as a hub for parents

Sep 01 2023

How Keystone serves as a hub for parents

“The character of a third place is determined most of all by its regular clientele and is marked by a playful mood, which contrasts with people’s more serious involvement in other spheres. Though a radically different kind of setting for a home, the third place is remarkably similar to a good home in the psychological comfort and support that it extends.
-Ray Oldenburg

As wonderful as it has been to have students on campus over the past few weeks, it’s been equally rewarding to welcome parents back. Parents have returned for community-wide events like the Annual Cobra Cookout, more specific functions including Divisional Back to School Nights, and extracurricular activities like soccer games and volleyball matches.

Whether visiting in the evening’s record heat at the Cookout, saying hello as adults process from building to building to learn about their child’s classes and meet the teachers during Little and Lower Back to School Nights, or cheering on the Cobras against other teams, I have thoroughly enjoyed seeing and talking with Keystone parents over the past few weeks, and I look forward to seeing more parents at next week’s Middle and Upper School BTSN.

This year’s beginning has perhaps felt even more extraordinary than past years. Maybe this stems from the notion that the worst of the COVID global pandemic may finally be in the rear view mirror. (I shudder that I may be jinxing us as I write this.) Although we knew during the height of the pandemic that we missed socializing with others, it’s only since we have reconnected with other people that we truly realize what was absent in our lives during peak COVID.

In addition, the security measures that we implemented based on last year’s extensive security audit and in response to violence in schools has translated into fewer spontaneous parent visits to campus. We realize that some parents miss the openness of Keystone’s campus in past years and wish for a return to something approximating that.

Unfortunately, the completely open campus where anyone could walk unfettered onto school grounds at any time with or without a specific purpose is now a relic of the past due to security concerns.

Nevertheless, we can and want to create opportunities for parents to come on campus for organized events. For example, two years ago, Ms. Matthews instituted grade level family picnics for parents and students in the lower school. Parents of current 5th grade students have requested to continue those picnics in middle school. As a result, we will hold Middle School family picnics this year. When I advised a parent that his middle school child may not be quite as excited to see him on campus as they were in the past, the dad responded, “Who said I wanted to see my child? I want to be with other parents!”

We will continue to look for other ways for parents to enter campus and socialize with others. For years, I have wondered if schools have come to approximate what the American urban sociologist/author Ray Oldenburg describes as “third places” in his excellent book “The Great Good Place: Cafes, Coffee Shops, Community Centers, Beauty Parlors, General Stores, Bars, Hangouts, and How They Get You Through the Day.” Oldenburg defines third places as locations where people spend time bedside home (first places) and work (second places.) Think of institutions like the bar in the old TV show “Cheers”, the neighborhood barber shop, salon,or a favorite coffee shop. Under the right circumstances, schools can fill that role, albeit in a more curated way due to the security concerns in today’s world.

At Keystone, we look forward to finding ways for parents, as well as students, to be together, enjoy each other’s company, and engage in good-natured fellowship with one another. We know it may not be the most convenient since parents may sometimes have to leave work in the middle of the day, but we hope you can attend when we open the campus for events that bring us together.

On a personal note, I have greatly appreciated the opportunity to be with parents and express gratitude for the way the Cobra community has supported my wife and me as she has battled cancer since March. We have felt the care and concern of Keystone parents, and we have been profoundly grateful. Truly, from the bottom of our hearts, Betul and I say “thank you.”

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