As we reach the end of another unusual and rather tumultuous year, I would like to take this occasion to congratulate students, families, teachers, the nurses and the rest of the school staff for the resilience and dedication they have shown during these very evolving times. Just as distance learning, teaching, and teleworking presented a real challenge for many in the school community these last two years, the full-scale return to school this year has also entailed its own set of joys, challenges—and Covid infections! Moreover, a global pandemic and the tragic events in the Ukraine have served as a visceral reminder that we live in a highly interconnected world, both within Europe and beyond Europe’s borders. We are none of us islands.
However, the ways in which we are part of the mainland seem to have changed rather a lot since the pandemic. Teleworking is far more normalized than before as are online chats and online/hybrid meetings. And this is very clearly also the case at our school. I think it is safe to say that APEEE Representatives—Board Members, Section Representatives, Class Representatives, APEEE Working Groups—are meeting online more than ever before and often exclusively online via WhatsApp, TEAMS, Zoom, Webex, e-mail, etc. There is nothing wrong with this, of course, and quite frankly, it seems to suit the relaxed sensibilities of our school community.
I have been in far more contact via WhatsApp chats and online meetings with far more APEEE Representatives than I ever would have been before the pandemic, and I see this as a very positive development. WhatsApp is a very quick and often quite efficient form of engaging with and receiving feedback from larger numbers of parents on an issue. At the same time, I realize that I have not (yet 😉) met my fellow new Board members in person, nor would I be able to recognize on sight many of the newer Section or Class Representatives elected in the last two years. This part feels a bit odd sometimes, I must admit! Still, it is a reality to which we have all mostly adjusted, and one that is likely here to stay. Indeed, most of the APEEE groups I am a part of have no clear plans to hold physical meetings next year and certainly not regular physical meetings. This situation holds increasingly true for APEEE dealings with the school as well.
This, I think, will be one of the great opportunities and also one of the great challenges facing the APEEE next year and in the years to come: continuing to ensure that both the “hard” services we offer (transport, cantine, périscolaire) and the “softer” pedagogical services we’re still developing meet the needs of families during highly evolving times. Concomitantly, the work necessary to meet these needs must be doable and sustainable for the dedicated patchwork of parent volunteers and paid staff that together make up the entity we know as “the APEEE.” We are none of us islands.
For the “hard” services, I believe this means being robust enough to adjust to changes in demand up or down (for example, the unexpected swell in Summer Camp enrolments this year or the need for more differentiated forms of Cantine service next year) as well as the ability to withstand to the greatest extent possible external shocks, like a pandemic or a sudden hike in food and energy prices. For the “soft” services, I believe this means finding ways to maintain and build parent and community engagement virtually as well as setting achievable goals in different areas of importance to parents and seeing these goals through largely at a distance. I imagine that the APEEE will succeed better at some of these opportunities and challenges next year and less well at others, and we will hear from parents when more work needs to be done. This is to be expected, and we will welcome your constructive feedback—not to mention any additional parent volunteers!—as we continue the work of supporting EEBIV families next year and beyond.
By way of closing, let me wish all families and the entire school community a wonderful and much-needed summer break to travel, rest, eat, swim, read, practice your hobby, or simply lie in the sun, if this is what makes you happy. For Isabelle Verwilghen, our much-appreciated Deputy Director of Secondary the last 6 years and our hardworking interim Director until the end of this school year, I wish you all the best in your new position as Deputy Director of Secondary at EEB2 Woluwe. EEB2 will be lucky to have you.
For our graduating S7s, all the best to you now as you move into the next phase of your lives and find your feet at university, a workplace, or another sort of experience that feels suitable and meaningful for you. May you live well and prosper!
Take care, everybody.
Stephanie Buus, President of the APEEE of Brussels IV-Laeken