March 14, 2020

Dear TSS Families,

As it has become clear from many recent announcements, TSS will need to remain closed for the indefinite future. While current circumstances suggest that the closure will last a minimum of two weeks, we believe it is in our community's best interest to remain flexible in how we approach our timeline to reopen. While our primary concern is everyone's health and safety, providing our students with the learning opportunities they need and deserve to continue their academic growth is critically important, too.

First, all of the faculty, staff, and administration appreciate the gravity of closing school at an unexpected time. Many of our teachers and staff will have children home from school too over the coming weeks, and we are mindful of the delicate balance to juggle professional and personal responsibilities while trying to support remote academic engagement. Likewise, we realize that this time may also come with some disappointment for our students, who might feel they are missing out on new learning experiences, friends, and social engagement. Moreover, the entire team recognizes the unique academic needs of our students and value the limited time we have with them each year. 

Like our instructional approach with students, we are a proactive community and began implementing steps in response to COVID-19 starting in January. Because there are so many unknown variables, our team worked to develop a multi-tiered approach to address a variety of scenarios. Before deciding to close, the faculty and administration worked closely to develop an Online Instructional Plan (see below) for providing resources, materials, and engaging activities to reinforce skills and continue opportunities for student learning. Each weekday morning, beginning this coming Monday, March 16, teachers will post classwork in Google Classroom and be available in the early afternoon to respond to questions or provide support. Also, each child's Advisor will be available by email in case there is a specific concern or need for additional support. 

This online plan will be an excellent opportunity for all of our students to receive additional practice and reinforcement. However, since there is no replacement for direct instruction, the second component of this plan will be adjusting our schedule after the school reopens to accommodate added instructional time to help offset missed classroom time. 

If the current closure extends beyond two weeks, there are additional steps we will implement to address the concern we all share about the time our students will miss from school. Once we have a more definite sense of the timetable between reopening school and the end of school in June, we will be in a position to share the specifics of our approach. While we are all eager to return to school, it seems like we may not have a clear understanding of timing until some more information becomes available. Nevertheless, the options we developed provide for a wide range of conditions.

Compared with many years in recent memory, schools in the northeast are ahead with instructional days as a result of a mild winter. In response to previous weather-related events, like Hurricane Sandy, and typical winter weather, we anticipate 5-7 bad-weather days each year. We account for those when we plan our regular academic calendar; this winter, we only used one of those days. Likewise, our number of scheduled instructional days exceeds most other area independent schools by two weeks, so we start from a stronger position than most in addressing the vital consideration for the time our students need in the classroom. Even if we close for several weeks, our students will continue to benefit from additional opportunities to practice skill development with added layers of academic engagement implemented over time while still receiving a similar amount of active instructional time after we reopen.

As we transition to an online instructional platform, for the first time as a school, there will likely be some bumps in the road. In anticipation, we designed a simple, straightforward, and explicit approach to help reduce confusion, minimize anxiety, and maximize this upcoming period of time. More information about the instructional plan is below this note. You will also receive an email in the next days from Dr. Kathleen Gallagher or Dr. Hallie Buckingham with more information specific to Lower and Upper School students, respectively. In addition, your child's Advisor will be available as a resource , and you may email your child's Advisor directly if you have specific questions. We will work proactively to communicate to reduce confusion and uncertainty. While it will not address every concern, there is a FAQ resource posted below. A ll communications to our TSS community, including resource links, can be found on our website as a dedicated COVID-19 page under the Parents section.

In closing, we appreciate all of your patience, support, and partnership during this time. We look forward to updating you again soon. In the meantime, please be safe and let your children know we miss them but look forward to returning to school as soon as it is safe to do so.

Warm regards,
Ben Powers