This email is NOT an April Fool’s joke (though I welcome wise cracks about its author).
After consulting with our internal and external medical experts, deliberating on our Administrative Team and communicating with our faculty and staff, we are happy to share with you that we will welcome back to campus and regular classes all students who wish to return, 4 days/week — on April 20 in the Middle School and starting May 3 in the Upper School. As you know, our Pre- and Lower Schoolers have been on campus 4 days/week since August, and our 5th graders have been back since Monday at 100% capacity.
Fridays will continue to be utilized for one-on-one connections with remote learners, independent learning for all students, grade-level meeting time for teachers and (in the Upper School) remote classes.
As you know, we have been cautious, conservative and methodical about every major change we've made this year. This decision grows from an increasingly clear scientific consensus; as a nation and as a school community, we now know how to use strict protocols to prevent viral transmission even with full attendance on our campuses.
Our plans follow the updated recommendations of the CDC, NCDHHS and the Duke-based ABC Science Collaborative. The recent changes in CDC guidelines — in particular the reduction in minimum distancing between students from 6 to 3 feet in many situations — make full occupancy a practical reality in our two older divisions. The Pre- and Lower Schools will look for opportunities to unite divided classes for special lessons or events but maintain their current floor plan.
We are also buoyed by the rising prevalence and availability of vaccines. While vaccination does not necessarily change our conscientious enforcement of safety protocols, it certainly changes our level of confidence about the potential risks involved.
We recognize that these changes will require a fresh round of planning, dozens of logistical decisions, new habits and expanded duties for teachers. We have begun to plan everything from pedestrian traffic to bathroom density to rainy-day lunch locations to cohort-combined lessons to the continued integration of students who choose to remain remote. Our teachers have now worked tirelessly for more than a year. With this change, we take on a new challenge and a heavy lift - knowing that more days on campus for more students can benefit the mental health of our students and the fabric of our community.
Knowing that this message will generate a thousand questions, we ask for your patience as each division and department adjusts and refines its policies and protocols. In the coming weeks, our division directors will share the specific implications of these changes — including the options families will have in terms of attendance and when they’ll have the chance to communicate that choice.
While we have already identified several opportunities to bring non-essential personnel on campus, we will continue to restrict guests and enforce strict health and safety protocols. Parents will be able to access the campus only for select special events.
All these plans depend on the course of the pandemic remaining stable or continuing to improve. As has been the case all year, we will be prepared to quarantine individuals or groups or pivot to a hybrid or even fully-remote model if necessary. We will continue to consult regularly with our medical advisors. We will continue to take great care with our masks and other protocols. We will continue to do everything in our power to maximize our academic learning, our human connections, and our community health and well-being.
Chag sameach and Happy Easter to all those celebrating this week!
With gratitude to all of you and eagerness to take another significant step forward,
Head of School