November 20, 2020

Dear Lab School Families:

What a joy it has been to have many of our students back on campus during our hybrid pilot! While we acknowledge that some families have not been able to participate in in-person teaching and learning thus far, we know that the students who have been on campus have benefitted from the opportunity to engage with teachers, staff members, and peers. I have enjoyed the opportunity to greet our students (and families) at drop-off and pick-up, and to see and hear our students enjoying being together at the Foxhall and Reservoir campuses.

Your Feedback Requested
We have learned quite a bit about how to provide a safe and effective on-campus environment for students and teachers, knowledge that will enhance our efforts in the second half of the school year. To that end, we are asking for your participation in this third pulse survey, which offers the opportunity to provide feedback about the hybrid pilot. Please complete the survey regardless of whether your student participated on-campus or virtually. While we hope that you will complete the survey prior to Thanksgiving break, it will close on Tuesday, December 1st.

Plans for December
When we last communicated about our hybrid plans, I forecast that after Thanksgiving we would return to virtual teaching and learning until after the Winter Break. We know that this was difficult news to receive in October; however, with the regional and national surge in the virus metrics, we are confident that this is the safest and most appropriate course of action. 

We have seen many other independent schools and public school districts pivot in this direction in recent days and weeks. Health experts are warning us that even small holiday gatherings (regardless of travel) are likely to result in additional community spread, and local officials are bracing for the impact of college students returning to the area from other parts of the country. 

I have spoken individually with a number of parents who have expressed different points-of-view on this question. Please know that I value and appreciate all of your perspectives. In concert with our Board of Trustees task force and administration, I have given careful consideration to this decision, consulting with medical experts both locally and nationally. 

In the end, we believe that remaining virtual until after Winter Break is in the best interest of our community in terms of safety and student experience. In addition to the good work that our teachers and students will do together virtually in December and early January, we will also use this time to analyze your feedback. This will allow us to make tweaks and improvements to our plans so that we are poised to provide the best possible on-campus and hybrid learning environment in 2021.

We look forward to seeing all of our students back in their virtual classrooms after the Thanksgiving Break – Tuesday, December 1, 2020.

Plans for January
The obvious next question is “When will we return to campus?” The answer is as soon as possible while prioritizing safety and well-being. We cannot predict what will happen with the virus through the month of December; however, after Thanksgiving Break, we will be actively planning for a return-to-campus in January. 

We anticipate phasing in our return by division, as we did with our hybrid pilot. We are likely to bring elementary students back first, followed by intermediate, junior high and high school students. We will do another round of mandatory COVID-19 testing for each division prior to returning to campus. For your planning purposes, you can anticipate a return-to-campus sometime in mid-January for each division. As always, these dates will be dependent on the virus metrics at that time.

While I know it is challenging not to have a definitive date for our return-to-campus, there are a few dates in January that we do know for certain. As always, we will not have classes on the Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday, 1/18. Regardless of whether we have begun our return-to-campus, we will be virtual in all divisions on Tuesday, 1/19. And, we will not have classes on Inauguration Day, Wednesday, 1/20. 
We continue to work with the public school districts to provide them up-to-date information about our on-campus plans for the second semester, so that we can assist with coordinating the jurisdictional transportation that some families rely on.

In December, we will reach out to families who may want to use our Fleet Bus service, to provide information about cost and schedules. Please know that we will do our very best to provide these services in the second semester, but that we are dependent on the bus service’s abilities to meet the needs of our community.

The Spirit of Thanksgiving
While this message has been filled with specific logistical information, I would be remiss if I did not take the opportunity to reflect for just a moment on this season of Thanksgiving. 

This fall has been like no other I’ve experienced in my time as an educator. In addition to grappling with the impact of a global pandemic, we have wrestled with the implications of a divisive and tumultuous national election and the continued necessity of confronting the realities of injustice. Our community has also suffered the unexpected loss of an amazing colleague, educator and person. This year has been and continues to be challenging and, at times, overwhelming. However, in the midst of it all, there is still the opportunity for thanksgiving.

When our daughter was young, my husband and I instituted a nightly ritual. Before beginning dinner together, we went around the table and each shared one specific thing for which we felt grateful. We have continued this tradition of sharing a nightly “gratitude” for almost twenty years. On the most difficult days, I’ll admit it can be hard to find one specific thing to be grateful for from the previous 24 hours. But we stick with it. Always, when I really stop and think, I can identify some small, specific thing for which I am grateful.

In recent days, I have been grateful for the simple pleasure of hearing children and teachers laughing together, and the happiness inspired at drop-off when I ask a child, “Are you ready for a great day?” and am answered with a resounding “Yes!”

On a truly personal note, I have been inspired by this professional new beginning. I can say, unequivocally, that I love this school, and feel honored to be a part of this community. My gratitude for today is that I get to work with all of you.

Wishing you a restful, simple, and peaceful season of Thanksgiving,
Kim Wargo
Head of School