August 20, 2020
Dear Rochambeau Community,

Like you and all of the teachers and staff at the school, I look forward to the beginning of the school year. To me “back to school” means seeing the families, students and my colleagues who have been at Rochambeau for many years and welcoming all the new faces who have recently joined our community. It is always exciting and I am always energized by the opportunities a new year of learning brings and knowing that I will be able to see students growing and learning from September through June.

We have known for some time that this school year was going to be unlike any other we have experienced. For months our leadership team and faculty have worked tirelessly, devoting their full attention and resources to be ready to deliver an exceptional education for each student under each of the three scenarios we presented in June so that we could be as prepared as possible for the 2020-2021 school year. As many of you know, we have worked through numerous iterations of these plans as we have received guidance from health officials and input from students, parents and staff.
Key Considerations
Given the ongoing shared risks that COVID-19 poses to our school community and larger society, our reopening plans must be grounded first and foremost in health and safety. We must acknowledge that US infection rates are higher than we hoped they would be when we started planning in June, that there is not yet sufficient access to rapid COVID testing results, that experts have therefore advised that the coronavirus continues to pose significant risks if we resume in-person instruction too quickly, and that a significant portion of our community does not have the confidence they need to come to school on a daily basis.

We have the duty and determination to care for everyone in our school: each Rochambeau student and their family members, but also each and every teacher and staff member who is so dedicated to our school. Members of our community members come to our campuses from across the entire DC region and from diverse populations; many of you travel extensively or are in contact with people who travel and each student and staff member return home to their families and loved ones every evening. In times such as these, more than ever, we must care for the health and well-being of everyone in the Rochambeau community.
Beginning our 2020-2021 School Year
Guided by the reasons above, I have proposed and our Board of Trustees has approved that Rochambeau will begin the year in our distance learning model for MS - 12th grades (previously referred to as Scenario 1: Full-Time Distance Learning) until at least October 5th. We have also decided not to offer Petite Section (PS) classes until at least October 5 as our youngest students have dramatically different needs from our older students that distance learning cannot handle.

Our medical staff and the extraordinary group of health advisors the Board has pulled together from the community to advise on this situation will continue to monitor local health conditions and guidance, and we will inform families by the end of September whether we believe it is safe to begin phasing in on-campus instruction via our hybrid model (“Scenario 2: Hybrid On-Campus and Distance Learning”).

I understand that this decision will come as a disappointment to some families and as a relief to others, and I appreciate the many parents who have reached out to me and other school leaders to share their thoughts and hopes about the beginning of school. To be honest, I am disappointed as well and I wish we could all be together as we begin school next month. But while we all long for physical community and the resumption of the life we left behind in March, the ongoing pandemic and our care for all who are part of the Rochambeau community compels us to wait.
Distance Learning Updates
The summer months have been very busy. While preparing a new hybrid learning model and making significant investments in the infrastructure, our school directors, under the leadership of our Academic Director Mr. Philippe Vanhille, have also greatly enhanced our Distance Learning Plans. In fact, you will see a system that looks very different from the online experience that was utilized in the spring. With the benefit of the time off from teaching in the summer and informed by the extensive feedback gathered last spring from our teachers, students, and parents, our academic team has revised the entire schedule, protocols and time management to better meet the needs of our students and give them the tools they need to succeed at the high standards that have always been a hallmark of Rochambeau. We have also made unprecedented investments in faculty training and technology that will improve teaching and learning at Rochambeau for years to come.
Highlights of our New Distance Learning Plan
For All Grades (MS - 12th grade)
  • New technology learning platforms to enhance flexibility in learning formats and improve communications: Brightspace, Zoom, and more
  • New classroom technologies: smartboards, laptops, 360 web cameras, video projectors
  • Extra support for vulnerable learners and non-native French speakers
  • Increased synchronous instruction for all grade levels

For Primary School (MS - 5th grade)
  • 5-day school week with 4-day/1-day scheduling to facilitate class groups with subject area specialists, groups, and options
  • Increased whole class instructional hours (synchronous instruction)
  • New format for break-out sessions
  • Small groups focused on oral expression
  • Regular individual meetings
  • Daily Office Hours opportunities
  • Daily instructional hours between 8:30 am and 3:00 pm, followed by office hours (optional). Daily start times vary by grade: MS and GS - 9am, 1st - 5th grades - 8:30 am.
  • Mid-day lunch breaks for 90 min

For Secondary School (6th - 12th grade)
  • Full day schedule organized around scheduled synchronous and asynchronous sessions
  • Teachers are responsible for defining the framework of the asynchronous sessions (individual and group assignments and individual support for students who need it)
  • In a daily schedule including 6 periods, 4 will be synchronous
  • In a daily schedule including 8 periods, 5 will be synchronous
  • The total number of assigned class periods will vary by grade and options selected
  • Each synchronous class lasts 50 min with a 10 min break between each period
  • For each 2 hour class, 1.5 hour of synchronous work will be scheduled with a 30 min asynchronous period for individual or group work
  • Daily instructional hours between 8:30 am and 3:20 pm, with some additional class times between 3:40 and 5:20 pm to accommodate subject options (not daily)
  • Mid-day lunch breaks for 1 hour
  • New chromebook devices for Middle School (starting in October due to sourcing delays outside our control)

High School specifics: (10th - 12th grade)
  • Full course schedule will be maintained including core subjects and options to position students well for college admissions and Bac success and honors
  • Distance learning schedules will be adapted from traditional in-person instructional schedules to reflect differences in online learning times as compared to in-person. Notably, where some high school students might be scheduled for 38 hours of on-campus instruction, sustaining 38 hours of screen time learning would be neither necessary nor effective.
  • Preparation for 11th and 12th grade Bac exams will receive the attentive focus of teachers and academic support team
  • University Counseling team will continue to prepare students and guide families in their application process with individual and group meetings as well as virtual visits with representatives of top universities
Information meetings for families
We know that this is a significant change, which will have a different impact on different grade levels, and that you may have a number of questions. Therefore, our new Proviseur, Xavier Jacquenet, our academic Director, Philippe Vanhille and our academic team will be hosting virtual assemblies for parents on Monday, August 24th to walk you through the relevant information for your child. 

  • Nursery school PS: Monday, August 24th at 4 pm
  • Nursery school, MS and GS: Monday, August 24th at 8:30 am
  • Elementary school, grades 1 and 2: Monday, August 24th at 10:30 am 
  • Elementary school, grades 3, 4 and 5: Monday, August 24th at 2 pm
  • Middle school, grades 6 and 7: Monday, August 24th at 1 pm
  • Middle school, grades 8 and 9: Monday, August 24th at 3 pm
  • High school, grades 10-12: Monday, August 24th at 9:30 am

Parents will receive a link to the appropriate meeting soon along with a form to submit questions ahead of time. Your questions and input have helped us to clarify our approach, and we look forward to talking with you.

To give you a sense of what to expect before these meetings, you can see the sample schedules for distance learning for each division by clicking here. To read more information about key considerations that are shaping the the Distance Learning Program and schedule organization, click here for a brief overview. In the coming weeks, you will receive an updated version of your child’s specific Distance Learning Schedule.

This is a time that requires adaptation and creativity from all of us. I have been so proud to see so many teachers commit to making this new format work and want to assure all that the school is committed to the professional development and support for teachers to make remote learning as successful as possible.  
Financial Credits and Adjustments
We recognize that the current health crisis and economic condition may be causing financial hardship for some of our families. In addition, the timing of this announcement may have impacted your ability to make plans for the start of school. The following modifications are therefore available for families who need some additional support or time.

  • Extended Tuition Deadline for August: To provide time for families to better understand our 2020-2021 Back to School plans and the Distance Learning Program, we are extending the deadline for payment of tuition and fees until August 28. Withdrawal requests received before August 28 will be processed without any penalty.

  • Petite Section (PS) Credits: Specifically for our Petite Section (PS) families, you will be credited for any tuition payment that was to be applied to the September instructional time. This credit will be automatically processed; no action will be required on your part. (Refunds will be issued if tuition is paid in full or withdrawal is requested.)

  • MS, GS, 1st and 2nd grade families: We had previously announced that you would receive a prorated 30% tuition credit for any week of instruction that took place only in a Distance Learning environment. These credits will be processed to reflect the 4 weeks of Distance learning in September; no action will be required on your part at this time. (Credits will be issued towards future tuition balance; Refunds will be issued if tuition is paid in full or withdrawal is requested.)

In closing, thank you for your understanding, patience, and trust. I know that the teachers and staff join me in wishing that we could start this year in-person, but I have been heartened by the extraordinary efforts that have gone into planning during this pandemic and I continue to look forward to a positive beginning to the school year. In the meantime, we will continue to monitor the region’s public health and prepare for a time when our students can return to campus to learn and grow in a safe community.

Best regards,

Hélène Fabre, Executive Director