Melissa Soderberg, Head of School
December 14, 2020

Dear Columbus Academy Families,
While I am ready for the year to come to an end, the productivity of our students, faculty and the school – at a time when we really could have chosen a different path – has been so heartening that I hope we all take a moment to savor it. December ends with a sense of purpose and accomplishment even as the perniciousness of isolation hangs around us.

On campus this has been a fall of fits and starts, and there is no possible way we could have held school in-person without our dedicated families adjusting to the patterns that life in a pandemic created for all of us. Even when we lost electrical power last week, parents smiled as they found themselves back in carline moments after dropping off their children for the day. Thank you for working with us to provide the best possible schooling for all students!

The truth of the matter is that come January all the forces at play in 2020 (complicating our lives and trying our spirits) will still be with us. While a vaccine will become available, the socially distanced classroom with masked participants will still be our safest practice. As we know from the most recent tragic death of Casey Goodson Jr. here in Columbus, racial strife and social unrest remains in our city and continues to shape our lives in grappling with the racial history of the United States. Least predictable among the forces that have impacted our lives particularly this past year is the economy of our region and how the world will ultimately be affected by it.

Given what is ahead next semester, we are going to plan our re-entry to school with a sensitivity to the dangers vacation brings to our in-person class plans. First, we are offering convenient free COVID-19 testing on campus December 22nd for all faculty/staff, students and parents. In addition, a lane will be devoted to the Columbus Academy community from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. on December 28th at Primary One, 3433 Agler Road, in Gahanna. Soon we'll be writing to you about a January date on Agler Road as well. While testing will not be required, it is strongly encouraged. We have school nurses Beckie Hoagland and Janet Fireman, who planned this in cooperation with Franklin County Public Health and Primary One, to thank for making it free (insurance is accepted, but no out-of-pocket costs regardless of anyone's ability to pay) and available to all our community members.
At the start of January, we will focus on the same four conditions we did at the beginning of school for a safe return to campus. In two of the conditions, we are secure in school protocols and teachers experiencing effective classroom health and safety management. We get most concerned about having students in-person when we feel that their lives outside school are filled with high COVID-risk social activities and travel – underscoring each family’s need to put on-campus education first in their order of priorities this winter break and choose to participate only in safe, low COVID transmission activities. As we did over Thanksgiving, we expect that if you travel to a high-risk area (within our state is okay even though Ohio is now listed), you and your family will be quarantined for the recommended 14 days. I will be writing to you over vacation to confirm our January 4th opening of 50% MS and US capacity in-person and 100% LS on campus unless we believe it is safer for us to change those plans.

This morning, when all of “Google classroom” was on the fritz (nationwide) just minutes before our upper school students were supposed to sit down to their first exams, I was reminded not to ask what else could possibly happen? As I have heard others comment, it is so-on-brand for 2020 to throw a wrench into whatever protocols we need to be just right – and the best we can really do is to continue to take deep breaths. 

The New York Times cooking blog recommends that we all “Cook Through This” as a solution of how to stomach the winter months with COVID spreading, and I am planning to take them up on the suggestion.

Take care of yourselves, and I look forward to reconnecting in the New Year!