December 18, 2020

Dear All,

It is hard for me to believe that it was 14 months ago that I was offered and accepted the opportunity to join this amazing community. I imagined my first faculty/staff meeting, my first morning dropoff, my first parent coffee: none of them looked quite like what I had pictured! But, I can earnestly say that my work and interaction with this community have underscored my original joy and excitement at the prospect of serving as Lab’s Head of School. 

As we break for what I hope will be a peaceful, restful, and healthy Winter Break, I want to express my deepest gratitude to this community for your partnership in the work of educating our children. I have truly never worked in a place that has such singular alignment around a shared mission. Our teachers are dedicated, caring experts. Our students are inspiring. And our parents are passionate and supportive. 

I am writing today to provide an update on our return-to-campus plan for January. Since the Tuesday following Thanksgiving break, we have been working to analyze the feedback we received from parents, faculty/staff, and students in order to make the second half of this challenging school year the best it can possibly be. 

This e-mail contains a lot of important information, but the most pertinent dates are:
  • Lab Community COVID Testing: January 7th and January 21st
  • Return-to-Campus:
  • January 11th and 12th: All Elementary, and Intermediate Teams 1&2
  • January 13th: Jr. High and HS (Virtual Plus)
  • January 14th and 15th: All Elementary, and Intermediate Teams 3&4
  • Plan for January and beyond: varies by Division (schedule)

I have provided links to several additional documents provided in the body of this communication, including this FAQ in order to answer some of the questions you may have. 

Plans for the Second Half of the School Year: The Details
In my last communication of November 20, 2020, I forecast that we would return to campus in mid-January in a staggered approach. I am sharing the details of our current plan with you today. The Board COVID-19 Task Force will meet in early January to provide final approval for us to proceed with these plans.

In January, the School will conduct two rounds of mandatory COVID-19 testing for all members of the community who will be returning for on-campus teaching and learning – January 7 and January 21. This testing will provide a “snapshot” of the positivity rate of our community, particularly as it relates to our region at large. It is important to remember that PCR testing (the most accurate testing available) provides a “point-in-time” result, and should not be seen as a substitute for the comprehensive risk mitigation efforts that are in place. You will receive more information about logistics for this testing in a separate e-mail.

The January plan for each division is detailed below and summarized in this one-page document.

Week of January 4th
  • All divisions will return to virtual teaching and learning on January 4th.
  • All faculty and staff and students who will be in-person in January participate in mandatory COVID testing on campus, Thursday, January 7th.
  • Please note: If you plan to travel during the Winter Break, see FAQs for updated information regarding quarantine and testing requirement.

Week of January 11th
  • Elementary: Students in all 4 Academic Clubs will return to campus on January 11th for 4 days of instruction. Wednesday will be Virtual. 
  • Intermediate: Students will return by team the week of January 11th for 2 days of instruction (Teams 1 and 2 – Monday and Tuesday; Teams 3 and 4 – Thursday and Friday). Wednesday will be Virtual.
  • Junior High and High School: Students will return for Virtual Plus activities on Wednesday, January 13. (Schedule TBD by division heads).
Week of January 18th
Some of these dates were previously announced in the 11/20 communication for all divisions:
  • Monday, January 18th: School closed in observance of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday
  • Tuesday, January 19th: All divisions will be virtual. 
  • Wednesday, January 20th: School closed for Inauguration. 
  • Thursday, January 21st: Mandatory COVID-19 testing for all engaged in on-campus work.
  • Elementary: Students on campus Thursday, January 21st and Friday, January 22nd.
  • Intermediate: All students virtual on Thursday, January 21st and Friday, January 22nd.
  • Junior High and High School: All students virtual on Thursday, January 21st and Friday, January 22nd.

We will provide an update on logistics for how we will manage testing on the 21st with virtual and in-person learning for students taking place.

Week of January 25th
  • Elementary: Students on campus for 4 days of instruction. All students are virtual on Wednesday, January 27th.
  • Intermediate: Teams 1 and 2 on campus on Monday and Tuesday, January 25th and 26th. Teams 3 and 4 on campus Thursday and Friday, January 28th and 29th. All students are virtual on Wednesday, January 27th.
  • Junior High: 7th grade students on campus on Monday and Tuesday, January 25th and 26th. 8th grade students on campus on Thursday and Friday, January 28th and 29 th. All students are virtual on Wednesday, January 27th.
  • High School **Tentative Plan: The Orange Group is on campus on Monday and Tuesday, January 25th and 26th. The Green Group is on campus on Thursday and Friday, January 28th and 29th. All students are virtual on Wednesday, January 27th. (**Note: Groups may shift in composition and number of days on campus may change based on students’ declared intention to return for on-campus learning).
The Rest of Third Quarter: February and March
While we do not anticipate making significant daily schedule changes during the third quarter, we may add days on campus for various groups if physical distancing requirements permit. We will continue to evaluate and improve our ability to serve both on-campus and virtual students. Individual divisions will continue to consider the best use of Wednesdays, and the possibility of after school opportunities and cross-divisional connections for students.

Beyond Third Quarter
We will continue to monitor the changing public health landscape, including access to the vaccine, as we make decisions about our operating conditions for fourth quarter. We will share plans for fourth quarter as they evolve, and definitely prior to Spring Break.

Virtual Accommodations for Students and Faculty/Staff
During the first week of January, we will provide additional information about the third quarter and our on-campus plan. At that time, we will ask parents to make a decision about whether your child(ren) will attend school in-person or virtually. 

We have some faculty/staff who, due to a health-related condition, will continue to teach virtually. We have worked with a number of faculty members to address child-care needs successfully. Division heads will share information about which teachers will be teaching in-person or virtually in the early January timeframe. 

Daily Health Check and Community Agreement
We will continue to ask that all students and faculty/staff complete the daily health check every school day, regardless of whether the individual is on campus. As a continued part of our risk mitigation efforts, we ask that you carefully review our Community Agreement. It is important that each of us practice appropriate risk mitigation in our lives outside of school in order to provide for the health and safety of all in our community. We will continue to emphasize the importance of these practices for all community members, and will continue to follow up on any individual concerns about adherence to these measures.
Roles of the Faculty-Administration Task Force and the Board Task Force
I am grateful to the members of our faculty-administration task force for their work since Thanksgiving to analyze feedback from constituents and make suggestions for improving the experience of students and teachers during the second half of our school year. 

I am also grateful to our Board of Trustees for its work and support during this time. In June of 2020, the Board appointed an ad hoc committee to provide oversight for administrative-level decisions regarding the conditions under which the School would operate in 2020-21. This committee has met on a periodic basis since June to consider and approve our recommendations, including the decision to begin the school year virtually, the decision to introduce our hybrid pilot in October-November, and our decision to return to virtual teaching and learning from Thanksgiving to Winter Break. This oversight is an important part of the Board’s fiduciary responsibility for the School, and we are fortunate to have dedicated board members who care deeply about the well-being of our institution, our community, and the individuals who make up that community. The Board Task Force will continue to provide this oversight until operating conditions return to normal.

Feedback – Constituent Surveys
We are grateful to the 286 parents and the 155 faculty/staff members who completed our constituent surveys. In addition, division heads collected feedback from students at each level. I have provided a few high-level slides from the parent and faculty/staff survey that provide insight into how our community perceives the work of the School. At our next parent town hall, I will share additional insights gleaned from the narrative responses. 

January Parent Town Hall
Please save the date for a Parent Town Hall on January 7, 2021 from 3:30-4:30pm. In this meeting I will share more details from the surveys, as well as provide any new updates that we have about January and beyond. In addition, Dr. Peter Warfield, our consulting physician, will join us for the meeting to address any health-related questions and provide insights on the coming vaccine. Please reach out to me or your division head with any questions you would like Peter or me to discuss in the meeting. 
Appreciation and Wishes for A Peaceful, Well-Deserved Break
I appreciate the opportunity to be a part of this community. I appreciate our shared commitment to the children in our care. I appreciate the concern for each other in challenging times. I appreciate the extraordinary efforts of each person at Lab to meet the challenges of this moment.

I wish each and every one of you a peaceful and joyous Winter Break. I wish you time to recharge your batteries and time to connect with those you love.

With warmest regards and with hope for a better 2021,
Kim Wargo
Head of School