Walking into a school today is vastly different than it was one year ago, but one Christian school is finding things to be thankful for in the midst of the pandemic.

Andrea Neufeld is the principal at Mennonite Brethren Collegiate Institute (MBCI) which is a middle and high school teaching students in grades 6-12. 

"Naturally leading up to it there's a lot of anticipation and preparation," says Neufeld. "It's been really positive to have a collaboration with Manitoba Education, public health, and Manitoba Federation of Independent Schools, and all these groups that are getting together."

MBCI is home to roughly 400 students during the school year. 

"We started out our first week very differently than we normally do. As we got off the ground we took the approach of being together with our students and tight on the teachings of protocols. Our students have responded incredibly well."

Neufeld talks about being aware of seeing students in social groups daily and the challenges of keeping them distanced.

"We always want to take the approach of respect and reminding with kindness."

Each day there have been situations that need adjusting to, with many guidelines and protocols to follow, according to Neufeld. 

"As we gather and work as a team with the staff, to take the position and posture of gratitude. We are practising that thankfulness each week. It gives us the courage and inspiration to keep doing what we do."

Neufeld has spent the last five years as principal and before that, she was the vice principal at MBCI for four and a half years. 

"Students are the heart of our work, we're here for teaching and learning. In our situation as a Christian school, we also focus on the development of faith and character."

That character has been put to the test with constant new guidelines to follow during this pandemic. 

"I start each day with the understanding of God's faithfulness to individuals and also communities and organizations. I certainly believe that God moves in this space and in all spaces," says Neufeld.

"Holding a culture in a school together is a daily work. For us, a huge part of that is the faith that we have and the core values that that brings to us that we have to call on daily."

The way they are running the school, because of the amount of space in their building, is that grade 6 through 11 students come each day and the graduating class comes every other day. 

"Praying for the continued energy and clarity, to keep responding to the things we're asked to respond to in this difficult pandemic learning time is really important," says Neufeld. "Pray for our students and their families."

One thing the school has been working on is called Campus Talks, where students connect with alumn to listen to their life-learning experiences and expertise. The program has been well-received so far.