Back To School 2019

Welcome to our 131st School Year!

Parents and guardians should check their emails in mid-August for information from each division as well as other Back To School events and notices. Login to your Parent Portal at the Login link on the top of this page to find the complete school year calendar, online directories for faculty/staff and students and Resource links to the health portal, textbook portal and more.


Welcome Back from Allison Gaines Pell

Dear Wheeler families,

Welcome back to our returning families, and welcome to those of you who are new! We are so glad you are here.

During July, I decided to try a few things for the first time. I launched a zephyr at the Narragansett Boat Club, I stood up (at least one time) on a surfboard at Little Compton’s South Shore Beach, and I participated in an online poetry “masterclass” with Billy Collins, former poet laureate and one of my favorites. It is good practice, I think, as an educator, to put myself in the shoes of a beginner with regularity — after all, we ask this of our students every day.

While certainly, my rather humorous attempts on the surfboard might be enjoyable to recount, it was something Billy Collins said that brought me to think of Wheeler. As he described the function and impact of poetry, saying that poetry reminds us in its form of the “romance of time,” in that the structure itself often indicates that “time is running out, that we should live more, plunge in.”

Plunging in is just how I would describe the feeling of the first days of the school year, and I love that Wheeler is so defined by this sense of urgency to experience the full immensity of learning in our 2nd grade, or 6th, or 11th, or the final senior year. Every minute counts.

And so plunge in we will. We begin again this year with a varied and powerful set of experiences for our students. Wheeler students will engage with challenging and inspiring literature, create art, investigate and make scientific discoveries, advance their fluency in the (more than) 20 languages they may study, meet at lunch to discuss robotics or philosophy, draft novels, compete for championship titles and in spelling bees, sing and dance with passion, topple math olympiads, write poetry and podcasts, and produce thought-provoking media highlighting youth activism and elements of democracy. We also bring to life two ambitious programs that expand our school-wide commitment to cultivating the intellectual curiosity and self-direction of our students. NuVuX, our new optional Upper School program, and Cityside, a component of our 8th-grade program, will, in different ways, give students opportunities to identify problems and seek to create solutions, a critical practice for the more advanced problem-based study of college and certainly the world of their vocations and beyond. Our youngest learners will continue their collaborations and investigations at the Farm at Forest Fridays.

I am equally excited to share professional bios for the new faculty and staff members (see bios below this letter) and to welcome Felicia Vinces as our Director of Lower School and Vanessa O’Driscoll to her new role as Director of Middle School. Both will work with Young Un in his new role as Head of the N-8 Divisions. Look for his new workshop series, blogs, and other communications throughout the year focusing on Wheeler’s particular brand and practice of innovation.

Finally, we also return to the completion of a multi-year renovation for Hope Building, fashioned with the latest technology in each classroom, new furniture, fresh paint, and – finally – air conditioning! You will find the School’s front entry reimagined, with a new reception area and a fully-refurbished and expanded Cummings Room, outfitted to encourage connection and conversation among community members of all ages. The room will also highlight Mary Wheeler’s story and her life’s work. This update completes a sequence of campus-wide renovations for each of our academic divisions, funded in large part by a generation of families through our Annual Fund over the past 10 years, as well as by the visionary stewardship of Director of Operations Gary Esposito and Plant Manager Jerry DelSignore via our capital improvement plan.

On that note, I’d like to share some gratitude for all of those who work all summer behind the scenes to beautify and maintain our campus, who close one fiscal year and open the next, ensure our construction schedule is running on time, who update our technology and our phone system, who prepare for Alumni Weekend and other annual events, who lead and teach in our amazing Summer Camp and Breakthrough Providence programs, who design new curriculum to deepen the experience for students, who design health and wellness programs, who support new families as they move into town, who provide training on learning differences for Rhode Island teachers, who set up directories and calendars, who build pages upon pages for our dynamic new website, and so much more. Wheeler runs on the quiet but mighty engine of this collection of individuals over the summer and throughout the year. Thank you to each of them, and to all of you for your support and partnership.

Below, you will find links to the welcome back letters for each division. Once you’ve read those, checked your calendars, ordered your books, please go back to summertime for a precious few more weeks. We cannot wait to see you all soon!