June 24, 2020
Dear CRMS Community Member,
We have been actively preparing for the start of the school year. We believe that our two-phased reintroduction plan, which was articulated in
our most recent communication
, gives the school community the best opportunity to welcome students back for in-person instruction. We recognize that the pandemic—with its unknowns and uncertainties—has produced a wide range of emotions. I hope that this letter provides as much direction and assurance as reasonably possible at this time by outlining our preparations for the opening of school. You can expect additional updates throughout the summer as the situation evolves. We will continue to monitor and solicit the advice of experts in the fields of public health, medicine, and education.
Over the final weeks of the spring, we conferred with local and state officials, including Governor Polis’ education policy advisor and COVID-19 response team leader. The result of those discussions was the submission and subsequent approval of a reopening plan that we drafted for all the boarding schools in Colorado. An important element of that plan is the state now views the school as the place of residence for its boarding students; this agreement ensures that a boarding student will not be required by the state to leave campus and may remain throughout the entire academic semester. All families will be pleased to hear that while the state has reserved the authority to execute broad-reaching executive orders as they did this past spring, they plan to give greater autonomy to schools, counties, and regions within Colorado to make decisions based on the presence and prevalence of the virus. Additional dialogues with Garfield County’s public health officials have been wide-ranging and have shaped our thinking for the coming year by giving us insights into best practices, important resources, and perhaps most importantly, establishing a collaborative and supportive working relationship between our entities.
Our preparations for fall have been motivated not only by feedback we have received from families who wish to return to campus in September, but also by our belief in experiential, relationship-based educational principles. We not only value in-person learning, but we also understand that it is central to the Colorado Rocky Mountain School experience.
As we prepare for next fall, two principles guide us regardless of whether we are in a pandemic or not:
1. Managing the risks associated with powerful growth and learning experiences that are a part of a school experience that values community living, active participation by all members in the outdoors, and experiential learning. In doing so, we will support and protect the community health so that our students are in a position to develop socially, morally, emotionally, intellectually, and physically.
2. Fulfilling the promise of our mission that students will be a part of a learning environment that allows them to discover their potential to excel as an individual, actively contribute to their community in a meaningful and relevant way, and to thoughtfully participate in the larger communities of which they are a part.
Throughout the summer we will be making modifications to our campus and existing program that will maintain a sense of community and connection, as well as provide an environment that will allow students to be on campus for in-person learning.
Some of the modifications include: revisions to our academic and annual schedule, carefully designed strategies around health screening and testing, multiple quarantine sites on campus, updated policies on access to campus and residences, and a substantial remodel of our dining hall’s food service area.
To read an overview of the CRMS COVID-19 Operating Plan as well as to learn about various response levels to changing circumstances related to the pandemic for 2020-21, please
Colorado Rocky Mountain School has the distinct advantage over many schools to pivot its resources and prepare for the fall, but these plans will only be effective if we are attentive to our health and behave in a way that takes into account the health and well-being of others.
Please take time to read the
2020-21 School Year Preparations and Policies
we have outlined here. We will be sharing additional details throughout the summer, but it is essential to share this information with you now.
Our goal is more than simply starting school in the fall; it is to remain on campus and engaged in in-person learning throughout the school year. We believe that a vibrant community is the best possible scenario for our developing adolescents.
When appropriate, we will provide remote access to our educational program through Canvas for students who cannot begin the year on campus due to travel restrictions or for those who may need to isolate or quarantine during the academic year.
While I hope that this letter has provided some guidance and clarity in such an uncertain time, there remain a few things we simply do not know at this date. For example, we are currently waiting to solidify our plans for the second semester. Additionally, our current plan is to have larger community gatherings outside, but with current county-wide social gathering restrictions, we do not know whether this will happen and if/when we might be able to return to our traditional All-School meetings in the barn. Absent an outdoor gathering, we can still continue to do virtual versions (i.e., All-School meeting via Zoom) similar to what we established in the spring. Similarly, we don’t know if we will be able to gather for Family Weekend; we are currently planning a virtual format to ensure we are ready to pivot in this direction if necessary.
The difference between this fall and this past spring is that we are now better prepared to support a healthy and vibrant learning community. We have established strong communications channels with both the state and county and as an independent school, we have the capacity to deliver the school’s program in the way that we see fit as long as it is not at odds with the health and safety of our community. The CRMS campus possesses two acres per student with buildings that naturally disperse the students and reduce population density (as opposed to a single, large building) and an active program that is oriented towards the outdoors.
We are looking forward to the coming school year. Yes, it will be different than in past years, but that difference, we believe, also comes with a wonderful opportunity. It will require that we bring our best selves, that we give greater attention to ourselves and those around us, and that we gain an appreciation for what it means to be an important member of a larger community for which we are actively responsible.