The 2019-20 school year was filled with unexpected twists and turns, but resulted in tremendous growth and innovation.

Graded inaugurated three additional learning spaces – the Upper School Library, Lower School Innovation Studio, and Lower School Innovation Hub. Authors Alan Gratz and Peter H. Reynolds visited campus to work with students on creative writing, storytelling, and ideation. The Middle School held its first Discovery Week, during which students explored diverse interests. High School students organized a schoolwide trivia night to raise funds for the Graded Scholar Program. Graded parents made new friendships during Dinner with Strangers, a community-building event that brought them together for good food and conversation.

In March 2020, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Graded closed its campus doors for the first time in its history and transitioned to distance learning. School events, including sports tournaments, educational conferences, and graduation ceremonies, were postponed or wholly reimagined.

Despite the challenges of distance learning, Graded community members demonstrated true optimism, resilience, and creativity. Taking advantage of available technology, students showcased their work through virtual art exhibitions, poetry festivals, and music performances. Faculty members and parents participated in the first-ever virtual parent-teacher conferences and divisional convocations. Online community-building events, including baking, yoga, and craft sessions, brought Graded families together. Graded Libraries organized a curbside checkout for students and families, providing them with abundant reading options throughout distance learning. During the June/July vacation, school educators offered more than 160 different classes via Graded+, an online vacation enrichment program.

Members of the Graded community also joined forces to help those severely impacted by the pandemic. Through the PTA’s COVID-19 fundraising campaign, Graded families provided more than 4,500 food baskets to nearby low-income neighborhoods. Students organized their own social impact projects, supplying food baskets, hygiene products, and hot meals to those facing serious economic challenges. Graded’s Learning Lab launched the Graded Beyond Boundaries Initiative, aimed at supporting local public school educators with distance learning strategies and training in educational technology. The partnership, established at the beginning of state-mandated quarantine, continues.

Graded, in its 99th year, demonstrated true resilience, and as a unified community, continued to accomplish great things!


Upper School Library

In August, Graded inaugurated its Upper School Library, a learning space with more than 17,000 volumes, including print books, magazines, and ebooks, spacious study rooms and booths, and a main reading circle for class instruction. Since the inauguration of the newly renovated space, the library has experienced a 33% increase in circulated books, and the number of reserved books has escalated six-fold,* illustrating the critical relationship between space and learning. 

*This comparison was made between equivalent periods (Aug. 2018-Feb. 2019 vs. Aug. 2019-Feb. 2020).

Lower School Innovation Studio and Innovation Hub

Graded’s cutting-edge new innovation spaces were launched during the school year, offering Lower School students the opportunity to tinker, experiment, and grow. Equipped with Lego education kits, a hydroponic garden, 3D printers, VEX robotics kits, and Project Lead the Way (PLTW) materials, these spaces allow students to engage in a variety of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) activities.

Graded’s 99th Birthday

Students, teachers, and staff produced the iconic “G99” on the Athletics Field to celebrate Graded’s 99th year and begin the countdown to the centennial anniversary.

SAAC Swim Meet

In November, Graded welcomed more than 140 athletes and 25 coaches from seven schools across South America for the SAAC Swim Meet. The event took place in Graded’s new six-lane swimming pool. Athletes forged new friendships and demonstrated tremendous skill and sportsmanship. 

Dinner with Strangers

“We started as strangers, and we left as friends.”

More than 190 Graded parents participated in the first Dinner with Strangers, a community-building event. Fourteen families opened their homes to host a dinner with a unique twist: the identity of participating guests was kept secret until the night of the event. Parents were excited to make new friends and build a stronger, more close-knit community.

Dona Emilia Farewell

In December, the Graded community bid farewell to Dona Emilia, Graded’s cafeteria manager who retired after 45 years of dedicated service. During an all-school assembly, Dona Emilia was honored and showered with gifts, including student poems, Emilia masks, a scrapbook with thank you messages, and framed student drawings. An institution at Graded, Dona Emilia will be deeply missed.

Discovery Week

Middle School students were provided with an incredible opportunity for exploration and reflection. Throughout this week of experiential learning, adult mentors shared their diverse professional backgrounds and hobbies with enthusiastic students. Middle schoolers dabbled and delved into their own interests and passions, selecting from a menu of more than 20 workshops led by these mentors. Workshops on offer included capoeira, drone racing, 3D modeling and virtual reality, finance, knitting, and pixilation.

Graded from a Distance

In March 2020, Graded migrated to a distance learning platform. In an effort to remain connected, stay informed, and foster school spirit, Graded From a Distance was launched. The microsite provided information regarding health and safety, Graded communications, stay-at-home resources, as well as special community events to engage with fellow students, parents, faculty, and staff. Although not physically together on campus, community members reveled in these opportunities to convene online.

Distance Learning

In March 2020, Graded migrated to distance learning in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Teachers creatively adapted classroom routines to an online learning environment. They provided both synchronous classroom instruction and asynchronous learning opportunities, utilizing discussion forums and project-sharing platforms. To ease the transition to distance learning, Lower School teachers held daily class meetings with students, along with weekly individual meetings. In the Middle and High Schools, advisory and mentoring sessions took place throughout the semester. Faculty members checked in with students on their emotional health, helped them structure their days, facilitated lessons on time management, and provided additional support.

Annie: The Upper School Musical

Although the Upper School Musical Annie was indefinitely postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic, cast members did not give up. After settling into distance learning, students resumed practice. The online musical was unchartered territory: blocking, acting, set design – everything – had to be reimagined. At home, performers rehearsed lines with family members and recorded their parts with the assistance of earphones, mobile phones, and webcams – all with great joy and excitement. Faculty advisors provided students with the vision, spending innumerable hours watching rehearsal videos, providing feedback, and, later, editing footage and designing motion graphics. The end result was a stunningly creative and cinematic musical production of Annie

100 Eagles Ceremony

Despite the school’s ardent effort to hold a drive-through graduation ceremony, Graded’s senior class graduated from a distance. In lieu of a traditional ceremony, the 100 members of the class of 2020 convened online with their teachers, families, and friends for a special “100 Eagles Ceremony.” The unconventional event marked this milestone, and most importantly, recognized their resilience in the face of an unprecedented pandemic.