April 1, 2020

Dear Oakcrest Families,

I pray that this letter finds each of you and your families very well as we continue to navigate the days and weeks of this singular spring. Thank you for the support and understanding you have shown as we try to communicate our vibrant, personal Oakcrest experience to your daughters, despite the obvious limitations we face. I can’t help but observe that this “all community effort” resembles the unfolding of spring—layer by layer, requiring time and patience, and eventually beautiful!

The last time I wrote to you it was as yet unclear if and when we would be able to return to school. As of Monday, March 30 with Virginia Governor Northam’s executive order, we know definitively that we must continue distance learning for the remainder of the school year. Miss Black, our Dean of Faculty and Curriculum, has been diligently eliciting and receiving feedback from faculty, students and parents. Based on this, and working closely with our Master Teachers, she has made adjustments to our plan which should facilitate order and at the same time allow the teachers to provide the essential content and skills necessary for your daughters to learn in order to advance to the next level of study.

We hope that this modified distance learning plan continues to allow flexibility while providing opportunities for essential “live” conversations among teachers and students. We will follow this plan beginning on Monday, April 20 after the Easter break.

Daily Schedule

  • Students are recommended to follow the attached distance learning schedule.  This remains entirely optional, given that each family has developed its own rhythm for distance learning and working remotely.
  • This schedule allows for ample time between classes for transitions and set up as well as an enrichment period from 9:30-10:25 am for attending online Mass or to spend time reading from our enrichment list. 
  • The “Event” portion at the end of the day (2:30-3:00 pm) will be reserved for Homeroom meetings or other school events as announced. If nothing is scheduled on a given day, this is open time for students and faculty.  
  • Teachers will coordinate according to our internal master schedule when they would like to offer a live classroom experience.  This will minimize conflicts with scheduling and maximize student availability. 
  • If a student’s attendance is required, however, these classes will be recorded and posted on OakcrestConnect, so students can watch them on their own time if that is more convenient for them.
  • On average, each class will last for 30 minutes.  All teachers will hold office hours throughout the week.
Student workload

  • Our goal is to limit screen time while recognizing the need for being present to each other remotely.
  • For the sake of peace and flexibility for families, teachers will not assign a specific time that an assignment is due on any given due date.
  • Students are expected to submit their homework in a timely fashion, to show good effort in their work, and to communicate proactively with their teachers.
  • No homework will be required over the weekends.
  • To honor the genuine work of our students during this time, Quarter 4 assignments will be graded as normal, with an understanding that assessments will likely be fewer and more streamlined.

  • The Academic Year ends on Friday, May 29. The question of Final Exams is being studied, and we will share the plan with you when it is completed.
  • The last day of classes for seniors is May 18.
Credits and requirements

  • All Middle and Upper School students who have registered for PE credit this semester will receive it by fulfilling the workout routines assigned by our coaches. Please do this on an honor code basis. You do not need to fill out any paperwork to receive PE credit.
  • Required Service Hours: We consider the service that our students are rendering in their homes at this time to be more than adequate to fulfill our yearly service hour requirement. All students will receive service hours on their transcript this year.  No paperwork needs to be submitted.
  • Middle School technology classes: The daily technological skills the students must use during this period of distance learning substitutes for the Technology class, which will not meet for the remainder of the year. The Quarter 3 grade will be reflected as the student’s Semester II grade.  Ms. Noorbakhsh has posted optional resources for the eager student on the OakcrestConnect class page.

We would like to help our families who face limited technology resources at home, given the presence of multiple children including college students. We have approximately 40 laptops that we would be happy to lend.  The laptops are currently being prepared for home use and they will be ready for distribution starting Monday, April 6, 2020. If you would like to borrow a laptop, please complete this brief Google Form to reserve one and to select one of the available days/times to pick up your laptop from the school.  They will be distributed on a first come, first served basis and must be requested by a parent. If you have any questions, please email Matt Buonocore at mbuonocore@oakcrest.org . If you need assistance with technology tools, please contact Roger Porres at rporres@oakcrest.org .

A number of parents and students have understandably asked about our plans for year-end events, which in a normal school year mark our calendars from mid-April to early June and give us the opportunity to celebrate so many aspects of our school life, from achievements in arts and academics to enjoyable, bonding moments. We want you to know that we are studying creative ways to accomplish the goal of these events, even when we cannot hold the event as we know it. We will keep you posted.

Graduation clearly holds a special place for our whole school community and for that reason, we are working on scenarios. We will be communicating with you as this work advances and guidance about larger gatherings becomes clear in the weeks ahead. We are hoping we can hold Graduation in the month of June, even if there needs to be some necessary adjustment.

To return to my analogy of spring, we look forward to bringing you more great layers of the Oakcrest experience as we go forward together. For starters, I hope you can join me this Friday, April 3 for our first virtual Head of School coffee starting at 8:30 am, live from DC!  Here is the information you need to attend.

Or Telephone:
+1 929 205 6099; or
+1 312 626 6799; or
+1 669 900 6833  
Webinar ID: 513 795 933

As you know, our faculty and staff read The Boys in the Boat last summer. I shared one of my (many) favorite quotes with our faculty and now I share it with you: To see a winning crew in action is to witness a perfect harmony in which everything is right....That is the formula for endurance and success: rowing with heart and head as well as physical strength. 

Count on my prayers as I count on yours!
Warm regards,
Mary T. Ortiz, Ph.D.
Head of School