Standing in the Storm

By Paige Stingley & Abby Dorman

It was eerily quiet the morning of March 13. What would have normally been a day of energy and excitement on campus as Valor students prepared for Spring Break was instead marked by empty halls and offices. Just hours before, schools across the state had begun shuttering their doors due to the confirmation of the coronavirus pandemic.

“I never would have thought that the Thursday before Spring Break would be my last real day of high school,” Tes Scott ‘20 recalls. “It was just a normal day.” 

The COVID-19 outbreak turned what was a normal spring semester upside down. And while the outbreak itself didn’t happen overnight, the future of the rest of the school year did.

March 12, 2020 was supposed to be an exciting day for Valor students. The girls basketball team was playing in the Final Four at the Coliseum that night, and the boys basketball team was scheduled to make their Final Four appearance the following night. The hockey team had claimed its first ever state championship two nights before, and there was a buzz of excitement and school spirit humming in the halls. 

That all came to a screeching halt as state and nationwide regulations regarding large gatherings and social distancing fell into place. Thursday, March 12, would be the last day students and teachers would be together under the same roof.

Continuing Excellence Online

Amidst all the chaos, one thing remained the same: Valor’s commitment to its vision and mission to provide students with an excellent education that kept Christ in the center. The very definition of Valor is ‘courage in the face of adversity.” Without missing a beat, Valor transitioned to remote online learning. 

Valor’s Crisis Management Team and IT Department began working feverishly on transitioning students and faculty to a temporary, online model in order to continue class instruction that unfortunately, given the official governmental health and safety protocols, was the new normal for the remainder of the school year.

“Valor was so intentional about continuing to move forward in our education, but also taking time to check on students and to make sure everyone was doing okay,” said Scott. “But the teachers were not taking this as a time to just lay back or have pity on themselves or even on us. I mean, they still pushed on us, still challenged us, but there was so much faithful encouragement and prayer, and just being there for one another. I think that’s a huge thing that a lot of my friends at public school just didn’t experience.”

For some classes, online learning required serious adaptation from normal routines. Many arts classes that relied on physical mediums for coursework made quick adjustments to engage students. Ceramics teacher Trista Clagett helped students create their own air dry clay at home so they could continue working with their hands and spend time away from a computer screen.

Arts Faculty member Kurt Muenstermann teaches theater online.

The experience didn’t stop in the classroom. Valor also integrated online chapels, life group times, and weekly devotions that were sent out to ourcommunity. Students and staff made videos of encouragement for each other, and started online prayer groups and wellness check-ins. 

“When we created the synchronous learning schedule, we wanted to maintain the core components of our culture, including Chapel and Life Groups,” Academic Dean Rebecca Thomas said. “We desired to maintain these important opportunities so that we could facilitate a greater sense of community, lessen feelings of isolation or disconnection, and facilitate better support of students.”

Safe & Healthy Environment

Behind the scenes, Valor’s facilities team continued work to keep the campus as safe as possible in preparation for a possible return at any time. That involved disinfecting and cleaning each building thoroughly while also ensuring property maintenance, oversight, and campus security. 

Campus Director Patrick Lynch praised the work of his team of essential workers, saying, “(They) provide full front desk and ancillary support to ensure our students, parents, faculty, and staff were well supported during the at-home learning period. They also extended their duties to assist in other areas beneficial to the Valor community and to honor our seniors.”

Commitment to Community & Relationships

Chase and Tyler Ganse ’20 sit next to their senior yard signs.

Perhaps one of the most devastating losses came to the senior class. The last two months of high school are usually filled with many exciting celebrations and traditions like Prom, Senior Joy Day, banquets, Senior Luncheon, and the premiere event, Commencement. That all looked different for the Class of 2020. 

Since celebrating on campus was no longer an option, faculty and staff brought the celebrations to the homes of each senior. Personalized yard signs were placed in front yards, and cookies were hand-delivered to our seniors on what would have been their Commencement day in May.

New Traditions for Class of 2020

Other highly anticipated senior traditions, such as senior presentations and senior luncheon,  became virtual, allowing friends and families across the country and even the world to join in the celebrations they otherwise would have missed.  

Tori Jankowski ’20 shows off some copies of the Senioritis newspaper.

Tori Jankowski ‘20 was inspired to create a special newspaper for all seniors to commemorate the unusual ending to their school year. In a heartfelt letter to her classmates, she wrote, “The only virus we expected was the one called ‘senioritis’…We’re allowed to mourn, Class of 2020, but we have better things to look forward to. This next chapter comes with more independence, more relationships, and more growing. This is just the beginning…”

One theme rang consistently through it all: We are here for each other. We are in this together. We will get through this. And God remains in control. 

“We were reaffirmed of the importance of connection and relationships throughout this time,” Thomas said. “So much of what we want to accomplish at Valor is hinged on relationships. While remote learning changed the way our relationships may have looked, it did not deter us from our mission and vision. No matter the challenges involved, our team remained committed to pointing students to Christ and pursuing excellence.”

That may be one of the greatest gifts of being a part of a Christian community. We have a culture where we can lean on each other, where those who are able can lend a helping hand to those who are struggling. 

On June 19, 2020, Valor held its first-ever on-campus Commencement ceremony, where 252 graduates walked across the stage, picked up their diplomas and turned their tassels, bringing an official close to the 2019-20 school year. Valor was one of the first schools in the Douglas County area to submit a variance proposal to Tri-County Health Department in order to be allowed to host a live ceremony.

Helping Hands

On March 25, Valor launched its Lending a Helping Hand campaign, committing all donations through May 8 to a hardship fund, with the hopes of being able to assist families who had been financially impacted by COVID-19. During the 40-day long campaign, the community came together to contribute more than $200,000 to the hardship fund.

“At Valor Christian we remain committed to standing by our families,” Advancement Officer AJ Kuhle said. “We saw the indomitable human spirit, glorified through the actions of over 90 givers who have stepped up with critical support in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Our Valor community provides the resolve we seek to model for advancing the vision and mission of the school.”

Looking back on the spring of 2020, we will all remember it as a time of unexpected difficulty and loss. As a Valor community, we will also remember it as a time when our staff, students, and families overcame challenges, created new solutions, and supported one another through it all. In the face of difficulty, Valor’s people rose to embody the name of our school by displaying strength in the midst of adversity.

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