Dear St. Andrew’s Parents and Students,
I write today with an important update to our plans for learning during the 2020-21 school year. On Monday, October 19, we will begin to offer students in the Middle and Upper Schools the opportunity to learn in-person full time, assuming there is not a significant change in our internal COVID numbers before then. We will also continue to offer virtual and hybrid options in both divisions as part of our ongoing commitment to provide families with as many choices as possible. In the Lower School we will continue to offer in-person instruction for all students along with our Saints@Home program for students in Pre-K3 – Grade 1 and virtual options for Grades 2 - 4. While this communication details programmatic changes for only the Middle and Upper Schools, it does contain essential information for all St. Andrew’s families. We ask you to read it closely and, if you have further questions, reach out to the division heads with questions.
Our COVID Journey - Past, Present, and Future
The latest publicly available information suggests that aspects of the global pandemic could continue to impact school operations nationwide through at least the end of the school year. While no one can predict the future, we will continue to make decisions based upon what we feel are in the best interest of our community. Since the start of the school year, we have had three confirmed student COVID cases and four confirmed employee COVID cases. While each case is a point of concern as we consider the health and well being of all within our community, we can take pride in our collective efforts to date. For that, we thank you. The health and safety protocols we put in place and the efforts of the entire St. Andrew’s community have played an important role in reassuring us that we can operate safely, even in the midst of a significant challenge.
Our goal has always been to, once again, offer full-time, in-person instruction. At the same time, our COVID journey has enabled us to imagine the ways in which learning can be customized to support a variety of learners. The process for achieving a return to full-time, in-person instruction is based on a variety of internal and external considerations, which are shared in our COVID-19 Operations Plan Level Decisions
, including the ability to make decisions that we believe are in the community’s best interest. In doing so, we are balancing both the physical and emotional health needs of our students and faculty, the needs of our parents, and many other factors. This next step is a part of navigating that balance. Taking that step and upholding our continued commitment to community safety will require a strong partnership among the school, our students, and our parents. If there is an increase in internal COVID spread that threatens to put our community at risk, and we determine it is in the best interest of our community to return to a hybrid or fully virtual model, we will do so.
The Role of Families
Our ability to continue operating under a model that includes full-time, in-person instruction will be significantly impacted in a positive or negative sense by adherence to established health protocols while students are on campus and by the choices that families and employees make in their lives outside of school. We are grateful for the sacrifices many families and employees have made in their time away from school that have supported the health of our Saints community. At the same time, we must be ever vigilant. To that end, students who are unable to follow established health protocols will be held accountable with the likely consequence being a requirement to learn virtually, potentially without a previous warning or an opportunity to modify the behavior in question. In support of our efforts, we encourage you to have a conversation with your child about the importance of adhering to COVID health protocols, including wearing a mask and maintaining distance when possible, before full-time, in-person learning is available to families on October 19.
How We Will Transition to Offering Full-Time, In-Person Instruction
The first day for which full-time, in-person instruction will be available is Monday, October 19.
Friday, October 16 will be an asynchronous virtual day for the Middle and Upper School students with students completing a series of assignments outside of a class schedule. Families who wish to have their children complete their work on campus will be able to do so in a supervised setting if, and only if, there is a demonstrated need for childcare
. Please complete this form
to request childcare on October 16. By using Friday, October 16 as an asynchronous virtual day, our Middle and Upper School faculty will be able to reconfigure their classrooms in preparation for additional learners.
How You Can Learn More
In the days ahead, Mr. Ware and Mr. Elliott will provide more information that will assist families in their decision regarding virtual, hybrid, or in-person instruction. Look for updates in the weekly division emails and on the COVID-19 page of our website.
A crucial element to our success during the COVID journey is that the school and parents work in partnership, acknowledging that the variety of opinions on the path forward is wide-ranging. To support this partnership and to help all develop deeper understanding, we will host two webinars on the evening of Tuesday, October 13. By the end of the week, Mr. Elliott and Mr. Ware will send out links for the webinars.
How Your Family Can Select Hybrid, Virtual, or In-Person
Families in grades 5 through 12 may select their choice for learning in hybrid, virtual, or in-person beginning on October 19 by completing this form
. The form will close on October 14.
Families who do not select an option will continue with their current choice of hybrid or virtual.
A family’s decision to have a child learn in a hybrid, virtual, or in-person manner will remain in place through the end of the second quarter or as long as the school feels that conditions within our community make it possible.
Questions Families May Have
Will the school’s decision to offer full-time, in-person instruction impact the ability to create physically distanced classrooms with desks at least six feet apart in the Middle and Upper Schools?
Depending on how many families choose each learning mode, it is possible that some classrooms will have desks that are fewer than six feet apart. They will be spaced as far apart as possible. Some teachers may also employ innovative strategies for learning that create opportunities for students to learn outside the classroom and, in doing so, further enhance physical distancing. Our other mitigation strategies including masks, health screenings, hand sanitizing, air filtration, and additional facilities cleaning will still be in place. In addition to the school’s mitigation strategies, one of our most effective and important tools to combat the pandemic comes in the form of the choices families make outside of school. We ask families again to carefully consider those choices as part of their responsibility to our collective health.
Why is the school continuing to offer hybrid learning if the school cannot guarantee physically distanced classrooms?
An essential element of our plan for learning has always been to give families as many choices as possible, enabling families to consider that which is best for their personal circumstances. There may be reasons why a family wishes for their child to learn in a hybrid mode beyond the need for physically distanced classrooms. As such, we feel it is important to provide that opportunity.
How does this decision fit within the context of the COVID-19 Plan Level Decisions and the Continuity of Learning Matrix?
The COVID-19 Operations Plan Level Decisions
and the Continuity of Learning Matrix
establish criteria for decision making during this COVID journey including a series of internal and external considerations. Among the internal considerations is the ability for school leadership to make decisions that it feels are in the community’s best interest. In addition, we have maintained a commitment throughout our planning process this summer and our operations this fall to provide families with as many choices as possible in terms of the learning experience this year. In the end, there are no easy answers, and, in seeking those answers, we continually consider a variety of factors related to physical health, emotional well-being, access to learning, and a desire to support the needs of everyone within the St. Andrew’s community. In many cases, these factors are diametrically opposed to one another. In this decision, we will introduce the opportunity for in-person learning while continuing to operate all other aspects of school life under the Yellow Plan described in the Continuity of Learning Matrix
. Such an approach reflects our belief that organizational planning must be clear and thoughtful while also being adaptable and forward thinking.
What will happen at the end of the second quarter?
The Thanksgiving break is a time of concern for schools across the country given the possibility of additional travel, the return of university students to their homes, and other factors that might increase community spread. At the current time, our plan is to continue with in-person instruction as long as we feel it is safe to do so. However, as more information becomes available and as we assess what is best for the community, our plans for the period after Thanksgiving could evolve.
As families plan for the upcoming long weekend and longer holidays in November and December, it is an important opportunity to reflect upon the partnership between school and families, considering the ways in which the choices families and employees make outside of school can directly impact the health of the community. Our ability to continue school operations with a full-time, in-person option will be impacted by the ability of our community to follow school health protocols and practice mitigation strategies in all aspects of our lives. We continue to be grateful for and appreciative of the efforts that many in our community are making in this regard.
Thank you for your continued partnership and support during this journey.
Head of School