March 23, 2020
Dear USJ Families,
We have shared much in the way of preparation for what is now upon us as a nation and a school community, and the purpose of this communication will be to share specifics as we move toward a new phase in education and in school life, at least in the short term, at USJ. We want to walk you through our thought process as well as concrete details concerning next steps, so please read this in its entirety.

This pandemic brings with it many challenges. We must understand that some difficult decisions have been made, and most certainly, there will be more to come. The safety of our families must come first, so at least in the short term, we have cancelled all school activities, meetings, practices, and on-campus gatherings through Sunday April 5. As for the USJ prom which was scheduled for Saturday, April 4th, it has been postponed. We are hopeful the prom can be rescheduled at some point in the future. We will be carrying on the business of school and have a plan in place for virtual learning. Please see details later in this communication. 

We did extend Spring break for two days, but we are now prepared to continue school via virtual learning, and we know this will require a shift in mindset and much in the way of effort, patience, and flexibility by all of us. 

First, we must establish the correct mindset. Once we have taken care of student safety, let us remind ourselves of the urgency to continue the education of our children. We cannot afford to extend a break from learning any longer. Gaps will emerge quickly unless the school and parents partner to make this a priority. This is not about merely earning a grade or getting “credit” in a class, or just doing the work to advance to the next grade. We must be focused on the intellectual growth and positive habit-building that is necessary to educate our children. To do this in this manner will take a redoubled commitment from teachers, parents,and students alike. This initiative will bring with it challenges, some of which we have not even considered, and will require daily monitoring and communication. 

Second, let’s talk action steps and specifics. Fortunately, we are a one-to-one school, and the overwhelming majority of our students have devices and access to the internet at home. They are familiar with on-line work, google classroom, teacher email and submission of work, checking grades via Netclass, as well as other platforms for on-line learning. This does not mean there won’t be problems, but we are in a much better place than most schools in America, be they public or private. Our teachers have been preparing for this day, and they have plans in place to deliver lessons/instruction as soon as we go “live.” 

Instructional services, via google classroom, will begin for every class and teacher on Wednesday, March 25. Students need to login to their teachers’ google classroom pages by Wednesday morning for further instructions. 

On Monday, March 30 we begin the USJ Online Academy. Students will participate in structured learning led by their teachers as they progress through their daily class schedule. We will use the following template for Middle and Upper School. Classes will begin at 8:30 am, students are expected to follow the class schedule below daily.
Lower School teachers have developed their own class schedule which they will be communicating with their respective families.
 
Every teacher will be working to ensure every student receives manageable lessons and work that coordinates with each subject’s curriculum. Every teacher and class’s needs will be different, and certainly all lessons and assignments may not look the same. Students will be required to log-in daily beginning Wednesday morning, participate in activities and complete daily assignments. Submitted work will be assessed, grades and daily attendance will be recorded, and teachers will be available during the day to answer questions and offer assistance. This will most definitely require additional parental support and monitoring. We are in this together, and we must all be learning leaders to navigate this with our children.

Our first recommendation is to make sure your child’s laptop is operational and they can access google classroom. We will have tech support available on campus by appointment Tuesday. Students can email Ryan Joyce (rjoyce@usjbruins.org) to schedule help for Tuesday. He is also available for assistance through a virtual help desk following that. We will have campus open for Middle and Upper School students to retrieve any needed belongings from their lockers on Tuesday from noon to 3pm only.

Again, campus will continue to be closed through Sunday, April 5. We encourage you to continue to practice social distancing with your families and honor the CDC recommendation of keeping gatherings to groups no larger than ten. We strongly encourage communication to take place via email or telephone. This will take a disciplined and concerted effort on all our parts. 

School leadership is in the process of meeting to develop contingency plans as it relates to extended closures and the impact they may have on school activities such as athletics and graduation. Much more will follow in the days to come. For now, please continue to stay positive and encouraging. Continue to be proactive and helpful as it relates to initiating the virtual learning program with our students and teachers. Again, we are in this together, and we will be stronger as a school community as we navigate what we shall see as an opportunity to unite and grow our students during these challenging times. Thank you for the opportunity to partner with you in the education of your children. Stay tuned.

Sincerely,
Stuart Hirstein
Head of School 
Don Roe
Head of School Elect
Associate Head of School