May 18, 2020

Dear BB&N Community:

I want to begin what will be a long letter by hoping that you and your family are well. To all of the essential workers who are part of our BB&N community, thank you!! What follows is an outline of our work this Spring and a forecast of how we plan to approach next year. Of course, so much about the pandemic is still unknown, but I want to share with you our thinking and the work we are already doing to ensure that we can nimbly react to whatever reality we face next year. Please remember that I will be holding a Parent Webinar on Thursday, May 21st at 6:30PM ( Zoom link included here ), during which I will review this information and answer any questions that may remain. 

UKnighted Community
Let me start by saying that I have never been prouder of our BB&N community. Over the past two months, our teachers and staff members have done a remarkable job transitioning their curriculum and pedagogy to a totally new environment. Our students have stepped up equally impressively, adapting to the challenges of remote learning with awesome spirit and resilience. And our parents and guardians have partnered with us in a way that I know has required an incredible investment of time, energy, and understanding , especially at our younger grade levels. Thank you all!

Most importantly, I appreciate how every member of our community has committed to keeping the health and social-emotional well-being of our students, teachers, and families as our number-one priority. We have learned over the past two months that “uKnighted” isn’t just a catchy pun on a t-shirt, it’s a defining characteristic of how the BB&N community looks out for each other and leaves no member behind. Our uKnighted Community Response Team is a great example: this group of 30 parent volunteers has taken on the considerable task of checking in personally with every single one of BB&N’s 760 families to make sure everyone is doing okay and to see if there’s any way BB&N can assist if help is needed. Compassion is a quality that has been on constant display among our community—from the extraordinary response to our uKnighted Community Fund , to the hundreds of thank-you notes sent to our teachers and staff, to the assortment of uplifting letters and videos that B-11 students sent to support the Class of 2020. Being uKnighted also means staying connected, staying “together” even when isolated. For instance, the terrific response from our students to the Head’s Challenges that I post daily illustrate the energy, kindness, and joy that make BB&N so special. 

Fall 2020 Planning
As I relayed on May 8th, responses to our recent survey highlight that much is going well with BB&N’s remote learning program this Spring. Just as importantly, however, the survey responses offer us insight into improvements that we can work on for future weeks of remote learning—whether that’s only until June 2nd or beyond into the Fall. Indeed, my leadership team and I are actively planning for what Fall 2020 will look like—work that will continue throughout the summer for us, and for our faculty and staff. 

We are preparing to be nimble to adapt to whatever our public health experts and state leaders mandate with respect to safety standards, social distancing, and other requirements. While it is not realistic at this point in time to think that our school—or any school—is guaranteed to be a disease-free island this fall, our pledge to you is that we will rely on the best available evidence and expert guidance concerning the opening and operating of school. Clearly, we are going to need to partner as a full community to ensure the safest possible environment for our students, families, and teachers. 

As we see it, there are four broad scenarios that are possible for opening schools this fall: Fully Open, Open with Reduced Attendance, Intermittently Open, or Entirely Remote. It’s important to note that even the “Fully Open” scenario would involve changes from the normal operation of a school day as we have previously known it. Our Senior Leadership Team is spearheading five committees to dig in on what each opening scenario would entail for BB&N to be able to offer the optimal experience under those specific circumstances. These committees are: 1) Health & Safety, 2) Social & Emotional Wellness, 3) Academics, 4) Athletics/After School/Activities, and 5) Technology.

What is unequivocal is BB&N’s commitment to providing an excellent educational experience for our students next year, regardless of the scenario in which that learning will need to take place. Our strong desire is to have students physically present on our campuses . That scenario, of course, represents the one in which our school’s long-standing, top-notch educational reputation has been established. It is the scenario in which our teachers build close, trusting relationships with their students, where students are motivated and inspired by their peers, and where our mission of fostering “principled engagement” embeds itself in every aspect of our students’ days. 

Fortunately, these strengths of BB&N are ones that can be translated to the remote learning environment. We have taken strong steps toward that with this Spring’s program, which was not only launched on the fly, by necessity, but also conducted during a time in our world when the unprecedented stress and uncertainty demanded that we prioritize the well-being of our students above all else. If we are compelled to continue with remote learning next year—whether initially or on-and-off—it will be under different circumstances and with a much longer runway for us to prepare appropriately. As such, if remote learning becomes a necessity during Fall 2020, BB&N’s intent is to provide a more robust schedule and curriculum across all grades, to enhance the technologies and platforms used for teaching, to increase the opportunities for small-group engagement, and to expand extracurricular programming. Our faculty will also engage in a wide range of professional development opportunities this summer to build their mastery in the online teaching environment.

Summer Programming
We continue to evaluate the possibility of running some portion of our traditional BB&N Summer Camp program, based on the guidance from state leaders. In addition, we are pleased to announce that BB&N will be offering new virtual summer programs. Our plan is to provide many academic enrichment classes at no cost for all current and incoming BB&N students and for the children of our faculty and staff as well as other distance programming to continue to engage children in a wide variety of activities including arts, music, and health and fitness. Much more to come on the specifics, timing, and duration of these programs, but we wanted you to know about this opportunity as you begin to plan your family’s summer schedule amid these challenging times.

BB&N Value Proposition & Fiscal Reality
I want to take a moment to highlight the “value proposition” of a BB&N education during this time of economic instability. As I talk with both my public school and boarding school colleagues, I believe that the comparative benefits of attending a school like BB&N might never be higher than they are right now. For example, as an independent day school, we can wait longer to make decisions about the timing of our opening, our staffing model allows for greater flexibility, and our relatively small class sizes are advantageous should social distancing restrictions come into play next year. All of these factors position BB&N to adapt quickly and effectively to a changing reality while consistently providing a quality education for our students. 

These advantages notwithstanding, BB&N does face some important decisions ahead that will shape how well we will be able to sustain excellence moving forward. The Board of Trustees and I are conferring frequently on these key drivers. Number one among them is our passionate desire to keep our community whole . This means ensuring that all our families can continue to access a BB&N education. We anticipate that we will need to raise a substantial amount of emergency financial aid funds in order to provide a one-year bridge for families who are coping with the economic impact of COVID-19. As mentioned above, the uKnighted Community Fund has gotten off to a terrific start with more than 250 generous donors to date, but we are going to need to keep adding to that significantly over the weeks and months ahead.  

The second crucial element of keeping our community whole is committing to our exceptional workers—including teachers, coaches, bus drivers, and dining service and facilities staff who may not have as active a role during remote learning scenarios—and ensuring that they remain employed and compensated. Each of these individuals contributes in important ways to the excellent educational experience that BB&N delivers for our students. Picture a very possible scenario that might occur for schools like ours this Fall: one in which the school’s operation needs to “toggle” between in-person and remote learning for certain periods of time, as per the mandates that may get issued from public health and state leaders. If we can keep our workforce fully and consistently employed, then we will be able to adjust immediately and effectively to whichever scenario ensues. If we cannot, then the BB&N experience will be negatively impacted. 

As any member of our Board will tell you, these priorities are framed by the reality that BB&N has always been highly dependent on tuition income—with tuition accounting for 80 percent of the costs that we spend on the educational program each year, we are very dependent on your tuition dollars to sustain the high quality of the BB&N experience. This dependence on tuition becomes even more relevant when combined with other pandemic-related factors such as the need for increased financial aid, investment in additional technology, the loss of summer camp and external rental revenue, and potential reduction in fundraising. 

Anticipated Timeline
The good news is we have the privilege of waiting as long as possible to make a decision about how we will need to open up. We are going to prepare for each of the possible scenarios, so that we’re ready to help our students thrive under whichever conditions we face this fall. We will be sure to keep you updated on the progress of our planning over the next three months. The Board and I intend to wait until possibly mid-August to make the decision on how we will open the 2020-2021 school year, as this time frame will offer us the best chance of being able to open the school year live and in-person in Cambridge!

I want to thank each of you for your continued commitment to BB&N and its mission. It is such a privilege to be part of this amazing community which cares so passionately for the education, well-being, and growth of the children who proudly call this school home. I am so grateful for your partnership and support in this journey.

Best,

Dr. Jennifer Price
Head of School
P.S. A reminder that if you or your family are struggling in any way due to the implications of the pandemic, please let us know via this confidential form . We are ready to help in any way we can!