August 6, 2020
Dear St. Andrew’s Families,
Like you and all of my colleagues, I look forward to the beginning of the school year and renewing the relationships and learning at the heart of St. Andrew’s. I miss the joy and energy of your children, the conversations I have shared with so many of you, and the innovative and caring spirit of gathering with our remarkable faculty and staff.
Last spring, the school named three priorities that would guide our planning for the 2020-21 school year: Health and safety, learning, and community. For months our leadership team and faculty have worked tirelessly, devoting the full resources of St. Andrew’s to be ready to deliver an exceptional education for each student in the midst of an ongoing pandemic.
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 local infection rates have risen and remained elevated in recent months, that there is not yet sufficient access to rapid COVID testing results, and that experts have therefore advised us that the coronavirus continues to pose significant risks if we resume in-person instruction too quickly.
We have the duty and determination to care for everyone in our school: each St. Andrew’s student and family, and every teacher and staff member who has dedicated their life to our school. Our community members come to campus from across the Greater Washington region, and we each return home to our families and loved ones every evening. In this time more than ever, we must care for the health and well-being of every Lion. We belong, and must be responsible, to each other.
For these reasons, our Board of Trustees and I have decided that St. Andrew’s will begin the year in our distance learning model for Kindergarten-Grade 12 through at least October 9. Our medical staff and advisors will continue to monitor local health conditions and guidance, and we will inform families by the beginning of October whether we believe it is safe to begin phasing in on-campus instruction via our hybrid model. We currently plan to begin our preschool program, which is significantly smaller in numbers and has dramatically different needs from our older students, on campus, primarily outdoors, in a half-day model beginning September 8. Preschool parents will receive a separate communication next week with details outlining the program and protocols that will be in place, and we will reassess those plans as needed.
I understand that this decision will come as a disappointment to some families and a relief to others, and I appreciate the many parents who have reached out to me and other leaders to share your thoughts and hopes about the beginning of school. I deeply wish we could all be together as we begin school next month. But while our hearts long for physical community and the resumption of the life we left behind in March, the ongoing pandemic and our care for our fellow Lions compels us to wait.
Distance Learning Updates
The summer months have been very busy. While creating a new hybrid learning model for when we are ready to resume in-person learning, our academic leaders have also greatly enhanced our already successful Distance Learning Plan. In improving an already robust plan, we relied heavily on research conducted by our Center for Transformative Teaching and Learning (CTTL) and extensive feedback gathered last spring from our teachers, students, and parents. We have also made unprecedented investments in faculty professional development and cutting-edge educational technology that will improve teaching and learning at St. Andrew’s for years to come.
Our new Distance Learning Plan includes:
Expanding our K-5 schedule to include synchronous (i.e. “live”) learning throughout the school day.
Increasing time dedicated for teachers and students in all divisions to connect and meet one-on-one for personalized learning support
Launching Canvas, a highly powerful and engaging Learning Management System (LMS) that will allow teachers to more creatively and closely guide and inspire students, and help parents see and understand our academic program more easily
Enhancing how students are engaged and motivated by learning experiences and education technologies that are designed with the most promising research and strategies in how the brain learns.
While our academic program remains strong and robust when we transition to distance learning, we know that academics are just a portion of what makes St. Andrew’s a second home for our students. Those community moments, relationship building and forging connections, clubs and athletics and extracurriculars all make St. Andrew’s special. We want every student to be able to visit campus before the school year begins, and we will therefore hold small, limited, in-person orientation events. Our Middle and Upper School advisories and our Lower School homerooms will meet on campus outdoors, with full health and safety protocols in place, the week of September 1 (MS and US) and the week of September 8 (LS). We will communicate specific times for each advisory/homeroom meeting along with detailed orientation schedules for each division in the coming weeks. The school anticipates continuing these in-person, on-campus moments as much as possible while the school is following its distance learning model, ideally scaling up to include activities such as extracurricular clubs and some athletic practices.
Please remember that for your child to take place in these on-campus activities, their completed health forms must have been submitted via Magnus. Any family who has been abroad or in an area of the United States with elevated COVID infection should return to this region by August 16 to allow for a two-week quarantine period before coming to campus for orientation activities.
Opportunities to Connect with School Leaders
Additionally, we will have division-specific Town Halls for parents to give families an opportunity to hear from administrators and key staff members and to ask questions about the coming year. The Upper School Town Hall will be August 17, the Middle School Town Hall will be August 18, the Lower School K-5 Town Hall will be August 19 and the Preschool Town Hall will be August 20. All Town Halls will run from 8:30 - 9:30 a.m. and parents will receive a link next week 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. We will also share a substantial written FAQ by August 24 with an updated version of our procedures.
As I mentioned in our June and July communications, the school will be issuing credits to families for the cost of lunch service as well as shuttle transportation and extended day where applicable.
In closing, thank you for your understanding, flexibility, patience, and trust. I look forward to our in-person moments next month and 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 K-12 students can return to campus to learn and grow in a safe community.