Village School finishes year of in-person instruction, graduates move on

  • Village School educator George Bennett speaks to fifth-graders and graduating sixth-graders during graduation ceremonies last Wednesday, June 9. Staff photo/Greg Vine

  • Village School Director Rise Richardson regales graduates and visitors with a story during last Wednesday's graduation of sixth-graders from the Royalston school. June 9, 2021. Staff photo/Greg Vine

  • Village School Director Rise Richardson regales graduates and visitors with a story during last Wednesday's graduation of six-graders from the Royalston school. June 9, 2021. Staff photo/Greg Vine

  • Wendy Davenport, curriculum director at Royalston's Village School, reads a farewell poem to graduates at last week's graduation ceremonies. Staff photo/Greg Vine

  • George Bennett, fifth- and sixth-grade teacher, acted as master of ceremonies for last week's graduation at the Village School in Royalston. Staff photo/Greg Vine

For The Athol Daily News
Published: 6/17/2021 1:53:10 PM
Modified: 6/17/2021 1:53:18 PM

ROYALSTON — “We’re really satisfied.” That’s how Village School Director Rise Richardson summed up the 2020-21 academic year which concluded last Thursday, June 10.

“I was talking to some parents at our final gathering,” said Richardson, “and they said that in their family they took bets on when the school would close during the school year because of how things were going. One of them bet the end of September, one of them bet the end or October, and one of them bet before Thanksgiving — and we never closed.”

In fact, the small, nonprofit private school in Royalston was the only school in the area where the student body received 100 percent of its instruction in person, from beginning to end.

We were very lucky that we did no online teaching at all, except when the firstst-second was closed for two weeks as a precautionary measure.

“They didn’t have the faith that we’d be able to endure,” Richardson added, “but we did it.”

She said the pandemic forced all school administrators to determine what was best for their students and staff. The staff, Richardson explained, spent much of August preparing the physical space for the school (tents, pavilion, seating patterns, etc.) as well as preparing for online teaching, which, she said, they dreaded.

“The fall, I think, for all educators everywhere, was a little scary,” she explained. “We always followed state guidelines and state regulations, but we never knew if that was going to keep us safe. But by January it was so clear that mask-wearing worked.

“We never had a case of transmission in the building. We had cases of families who went to gatherings and got it, then they had to stay away from the school. But we never had a case of transmission in the building, and we were really proud of that.”

Much of the credit for that can be chalked up to the school’s flexibility — and creativity.

“In the fall, we were outdoors tremendously,” said Richardson, “like all the time, because we still didn’t know yet if it would be safe to be in the classrooms. When the weather got cold, we have a tremendous ventilation system, and we went back in the classrooms with distancing and masks.

“There were no cases of flu in the building, no colds. Wearing masks really does the job.”

She said social distancing proved to be the most problematic step due to the school’s tradition of collaboration and cooperation among students.

“We kept each class separate, so the classes didn’t mingle,” she continued. “And, in our school, the classes always have relationships. They’re ‘book buddies,’ they play together at recess, there’s all kinds of relationships. And it just wasn’t fun for the classes not to mingle.

“But at least the kids got to be at school. Any time you’d hear the kids talking they’d say, ‘Yeah, but we’re in school and our friends aren’t. So, they knew what the choice was there.”

In recent weeks, however, some activities returned to normal.

“We missed a lot of field trips this year,” said Richardson. “We normally do a lot of outings. But this spring, as things loosened up, all the classes got to go canoeing at Tully Lake.

“At some point in late spring, the state said kids didn’t have to wear masks outside, and that was like a God-send. On a hot day, when kids are running around, wearing masks isn’t fun.

“And we were told that the cohorts could mingle, that the classes did not have to be separate outside. So, that was a wonderful time on the playground, where the kids were all playing together. You’d see kindergarten kids chasing after sixth-graders, and it was just really sweet to see that mingling. We missed it so much.”


On Wednesday, June 9, the Village School celebrated the graduation of seven sixth-graders. Those receiving their diplomas were (Richardson explained parents prefer not to have last names publicized): Vladia from Gilbertville, Louise and Emmanuelle from Warwick, Alijah from Petersham, Thomas from Orange, Eleanor from Phillipston, and Stashu from Athol.

Greg Vine can be reached at

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