- Middle School
- Upper School
McCallie School began its 116th year Tuesday, August 18, with an opening convocation in which Head of School Lee Burns ’87 urged the students to roll up their sleeves, keep their face coverings on, and tackle the challenges of the day in the spirit of McCallie classes that went before them.
“You’ve come here for many different reasons: to grow, to get better, to be your best selves...to understand what it means to be a man of honor, truth and duty,” Mr. Burns told the students and faculty gathered in Spears Stadium – a location that allowed everyone to maintain social distancing. “You’ve come to broaden and deepen your thinking, to open your mind and heart, to develop lifelong friendships, and experience a supportive brotherhood. You’ve come because you are courageous and in need of an adventure. You’ve come for the doors McCallie opens, for how it changes the trajectories of lives. You’ve come to be a part of something bigger than yourself.”
This year’s class of 938, including 268 boarding students, represents the largest boarding enrollment in the school’s history. The boarding students, who are in grades 9 through 12, come from 27 different states and 12 foreign countries.
The day student population of 670 in grades 6 through 12 includes 86 incoming sixth-graders from 31 different elementary schools in the Chattanooga area.
Classes for the 2020-21 year will be offered both on-campus and via distance learning. Before being allowed to attend on-campus classes, students were required to be tested for COVID-19 and undergo self-quarantine for 10 days prior to the beginning of classes. In addition, throughout the school year, students will be required to complete an online health assessment every morning before being allowed onto campus, and masks must be worn by everyone when indoors on campus.
Mr. Burns reflected upon the safety requirements when speaking to the students. “They (the safety standards) reveal the character of an institution as well. They call on us to be our best selves and give us the opportunities for doing so. When we are faced with difficulties, it’s easy to whine and complain, to make excuses, to wait or walk away or wilt, to look for others to speak up or step up, to follow the crowd, to sink to the path of least resistance or the lowest common denominator.
“But that’s not the McCallie way.
“We are a school that looks at a challenge and says, ‘Bring it on.’ We are gutty and gritty, innovators and idealists, big thinkers and brave doers, not afraid of 4th and long. We will roll up our sleeves, do the difficult, put in the work, make the sacrifices, and get it done.”
Assistant Head of School Kenny Sholl reminded the students of the “Five W’s” that will be oft-repeated during this school year: Wear a face covering, Watch and maintain social distancing, Wash and sanitize hands regularly, be mindful Where you go and avoid crowds and gatherings, and complete the Wellness checklist every morning.
He quoted Abraham Lincoln in telling the students that by obeying these Five W’s, they will exhibit the selflessness that “appeal to the better angels of our nature.”
Mr. Burns also told the students that the 2020-21 academic year will see a renewed emphasis on diversity and inclusion.
“The events of recent months, most notably the terrible murder of George Floyd but certainly of others as well, have reminded us again as a country and as individuals that we fall short and fail to live up to our ideals. We must take stock of how we as a community are living up to our values and standards, honoring the dignity of each person in our community,” he said.
“McCallie is a school of tight community and brotherhood, and yet we, too, have work to do. It is vital that every single member of our community, regardless of the color of his skin, his country of origin, his religion, his identity, attraction or orientation, his ethnic or cultural background, be treated with respect, dignity and equality. Sadly, there have been moments, oftentimes inadvertently, but sometimes intentionally, when words or actions have undermined that and even caused pain and shame and hiding for others. We must do better, and we must be more intentional, and we will. We will be talking and acting on that this year as we articulate and enact the high standards that are consistent with our mission and values. We will move forward together as brothers.”
Ricky Thomas, McCallie’s Dean of Community and Brotherhood, joined Mr. Burns and Mr. Sholl in addressing students. “We care for all our McCallie brothers, faculty, staff, and community by treating them with respect,” he said. “(That) respect means conversations and actions that will lift up and promote (all of our) human qualities.”