Dear TMS community,

It has been a busy week filled with Marin Health & Human Services (MHHS) public health updates, Marin County Office of Education (MCOE) recommendations, and finally, Governor Newsom’s announcement today. I am going to summarize the main points in this email, and what they mean for TMS. I will also include links so you can explore these resources further.

I know many of us are feeling uneasy with the shifting landscape under our feet, and that questions about the start of the school year have intensified over the last few weeks as COVID-19 cases have spiked in Marin County, other Bay Area counties, and throughout California. I am also fully aware of the ongoing and complex national debate about schools opening for on-campus learning, and the obvious priority of health and safety for the entire community. I want to assure you that TMS has a comprehensive plan that will adjust to the needs of the moment. 

Next week, I will be sending out a video presentation of the TMS plan for you to watch at your convenience. I unveiled this plan on Wednesday at a faculty/staff meeting, and yesterday during a parent focus group meeting. While the plan does not answer every possible question or deal with every detail, I believe that the essential facets of the plan will help TMS navigate the changing conditions we’ve had recently, and the ones that are certain to come. I want to express my deep gratitude to the TMS Reopening Committee, which has been working tirelessly on our planning for the fall.

On July 2nd, I wrote a note to the TMS community saying that we were anticipating being able to open campus to all of our students for four days a week of in-person learning. What we have learned this week, however, is that the COVID-19 situation has changed, and the beginning of our school year will look different than anticipated. To put it simply: TMS will be fully online to begin the school year. Our first day of school will still be Tuesday, August 25th, and all classes and meetings will be held virtually. 

Here’s what has happened this week that has produced this change:

On July 15th, MHHS and MCOE recommended that schools should defer on-campus learning until after Labor Day (with an earliest possible start to in-person instruction on September 8th), and that in-person learning should return with a gradual approach. TMS will follow this recommendation. Here is the press release in English and in Spanish

On July 16th, Dr. Matt Willis gave a public health presentation that was particularly focused on the question of schools returning to in-person instruction. I encourage you to watch if you can. 

On July 17th, Governor Newsom announced that schools and school districts may reopen for in-person instruction only if they are located in a local health jurisdiction (LHJ) that has not been on the county monitoring list within the prior 14 days . As you are probably aware, Marin County is on the monitoring list. If you would like more detail from the California Department of Public Health on this update and reopening guidelines, please look here

To further summarize the Governor’s order, California schools must do remote learning if any of the following apply:

  • The school’s county is on the monitoring list
  • The school’s county has been off the list for less than 14 days
  • There are cases of COVID-19 in multiple cohorts within your school
  • 5% (or more) of students and staff have tested positive within the past 14 days

The reality of requirements 1 and 2, above, is that we do not know when TMS will be able to return to in-person instruction . We will aim to return at least some students to campus on Tuesday, September 8th, but there are many factors that will play into that possibility. To that end, the other important recommendation from MHHS and MCOE is that schools use a “gradual approach” in returning to on-campus learning in order to ensure proper health and safety standards. What this will mean, exactly, we don’t yet know, but it will likely require that TMS bring cohorts or small groups to campus gradually following the “go ahead” from public health. The reality is that our return to on-campus instruction will take longer than anyone would like, and I think it is highly unlikely that we’ll be looking at an all-school return on September 8th. What I am promising is that we will open safely, and that we are aiming to have students back as soon as it is safe to do so. 

I want to assure you that our faculty and staff have been preparing for this possibility, and that we have been taking measures to improve and strengthen our online learning program and technological infrastructure since virtual classes began running in March. You will see more on this topic in the coming weeks before school starts. I realize there has already been a lot of information in this message, so we will wait on that. 

I also want to include a letter from history teacher Kristy Dell. As she will outline below, Kristy will be taking a leave of absence this coming school year. We will miss Kristy greatly, as a beloved teacher and colleague. She has promised to maintain her ties with TMS throughout the year, and to help support the teacher that will take on her classes. I completely support Kristy’s decision and wish her and her family all the best, and I look forward to her return to the TMS faculty in the future. On the hiring front, we are already well along in the process of finding a qualified replacement to fill Kristy’s rather big shoes, and I am hoping to make an announcement about her replacement very soon. In the meantime, please join me in wishing Kristy and her family well.  

Finally, I’ve also included an updated timeline, below, so that you have an idea about how we are planning for the coming weeks. 


  • Week of July 20 - Information about our schedule and reopening presented to our community.  

  • July 24th, 9am - Ben will host a Q&A on Zoom about TMS reopening plans (Zoom link); RSVP with Question Form to come.

  • August 7 - Individual schedules sent home to students and their families (email).

  • Week of August 10 - PAS Boot Camp for 9th grade PAS students (TBD - 9th Grade PAS families, please wait for an update from TMS).

  • August 14 - Detailed info about campus health & safety procedures sent home (email).

  • August 17-19 - College Application Academy for 12th grade students (likely to be online--details to come).

  • August 17-21 - Faculty/Staff work week (online). 

  • August 25 - First day of school (online).

  • September 8 - Possible return to campus for *some* students (conditions permitting)


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Letter from Kristy:


To the TMS Community:

As many of you know, my son Benjamin was born with a rare birth abnormality that required surgery and many hospitalizations in his 5 years of life (including a recent hospitalization a few months ago for double pneumonia). One of the lingering effects of his condition is chronic lung disease and other respiratory issues and, as I'm sure you can imagine, we have been in constant contact with his doctors on how best to protect him during the coronavirus pandemic. Unsurprisingly, the doctors have recommended that we limit his exposure as much as possible at this time. As such, my husband and I have decided to homeschool Benjamin (and his older sister, Lydia) for the upcoming school year and for me to take a one year leave of absence from TMS. This is not a decision we made without serious thought and deliberation. It leaves me with a very heavy heart to have to step away for one year as I love TMS, our community, and teaching, deeply. But, given the gravity of my son's medical condition, I know this decision helps position us to do everything we can to keep Ben healthy. TMS will be seeking a very qualified teacher to take my classes this year to do both virtual and in-person learning, as the situation demands. I plan to still be a part of TMS this next year as much as I can in order to support whoever will be teaching my classes, and to keep close to the community. I am so very grateful to Ben Griggs and TMS who has been unbelievably supportive throughout this entire decision.

Kristy Dell

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Thank you, TMS, for your patience and understanding as we all navigate this rapidly-changing situation. This delay to in-person learning is disappointing news for all of us, as we miss our friends, colleagues, and students. It is my hope that starting the year online will allow us extra time to slow the spread of COVID-19 in our community, so we can all come back stronger and safer, and hopefully with less interruption to our important work in the future. In trying to look at the positive side of this delay, I also realize that this development only helps us to further enhance our preparations, allowing us to better ensure a safe to campus when we are able to do so. Recent developments are also a crucial reminder that fighting this virus is our collective responsibility, and that we must each take the precautions that are within our individual power to protect our collective well being. I am heartened that through it all, we have been able to maintain our sense of closeness and community, even at a distance.  

We’re in this together TMS!  

All my best,

Ben