July 16, 2020
Dear St. Andrew’s Families,

Since May, we have been preparing for two different scenarios – distance learning, and a hybrid model with students learning both on and off campus. We have continued to refine both models to ensure a quality education for each student as we respond throughout the coming year to an evolving public health environment. In both scenarios, our top priority is to support the safety and well-being of our entire community of students, faculty and staff, and families. Today’s letter is an update on our planning for the 2020-21 school year. We will make a final decision around how to begin the school year and share it with families the week of August 10. In the meantime, we are continuing to pay close attention to current guidance from state and county health officials, as well as the CDC, as the health status of our region evolves. 

Last spring, St. Andrew’s faculty and students collaborated to make our distance learning experience successful. We have spent recent months using research and feedback from our faculty, students, and parents, to further improve our distance learning plans and we are prepared to implement them when necessary. The hybrid learning model allows distinct advantages for our community, namely the in-person relationships that teachers and students can form with each other and which facilitate their learning and growth. We are hopeful that public health conditions will support our implementation of the hybrid model in the fall, and want to share the details of what that will look like for our students and families. 

The hybrid model permits students to learn either on campus with rigorous social distancing standards, or remotely. Every classroom on campus will have a camera focused on the teacher so students not physically present will have the ability to participate in class synchronously. This will allow students, families, and faculty and staff with medical concerns to be able to learn, teach, and work remotely throughout the pandemic, while facilitating safe, in-person learning for everyone else. To achieve proper social distancing in all of our classrooms and other campus spaces, we plan to limit the number of students on campus each day, using the following methodology:

  • The size and sectioning model for our Lower School will allow us to invite all LS students to be on campus each day.
  • We hope to be able to invite all sixth grade students to be able to learn on campus each day.
  • To accommodate the larger enrollment and fully departmentalized schedules of grades 7-12 within a socially distanced model, we anticipate students in those grades rotating between on-campus and distance learning on a weekly basis, with one-half of students in grades 7-12 learning remotely each week. This will allow every student in those grades to regularly experience science labs, art studio time, and safe and sustained in-person learning and relationship building with their teachers and fellow students.

This hybrid model will also help us support student clubs and other extracurricular activities. Our sports leagues, the ISL and MAC, expect to make an announcement next week about when and how interscholastic athletics might resume, and we are currently planning a variety of options for our fall teams. Unfortunately, due to health and staffing reasons, we will not be able to support an extended day program in the Lower School or Middle School during the first trimester. We will revisit this issue in the fall, but during the first trimester, students in those divisions will be expected to leave campus by 4 p.m. each day. Finally, due to the rotating on-campus schedule, the school will arrange to appropriately credit families in grades 7-12 for prepaid services such as lunch and transportation.

When school begins on September 8, if we are in the hybrid model, there will be numerous new health and safety protocols in place for our students, employees, and families. Please be mindful of the CDC and Maryland travel advisories which include a required 14-day self-monitoring period at home for international travelers. You can read in more detail about the work of our Health and Safety Taskforce by clicking here. These procedures will continue to evolve not just before the start of school but whenever warranted during the school year. Included in these protocols are:

  • Rigorous nightly cleaning/sanitation of all work spaces.
  • Daily health questionnaires (completed via Magnus app) which will require temperature checks and screening questions before students/employees come on to campus
  • Wearing face coverings indoors (except during socially distanced lunch times) and while outside when in close proximity to others.
  • Dining areas used for “grab and go” food distribution, with students eating in small groups in designated low-density areas.
  • Outside visitors to campus limited and only allowed as warranted.

Over the next several weeks we will continue to refine specifics around our learning plans and physical plant needs to ensure that we can welcome back students and faculty in the safest possible manner, whenever that may be. This includes:

  • Floor markings placed to indicate proper physical distancing.
  • Adhering to physical distancing best practices in classrooms.
  • Hand sanitizer dispensers available throughout every building.
  • Closing or reducing use of indoor communal spaces and increasing safe use of outdoor spaces, including tented areas and additional Adirondack chairs around campus

All of the preparations and precautions described above depend on every member of the St. Andrew’s community acting responsibly to protect their own health and the health of their fellow Lions. We are in this together as a community, and as a school we expect each student, family, and employee to use good judgement and proper health measures both on and off campus. In this way we will uphold a social compact that safeguards and respects the health and safety of every member of the St. Andrew’s community.

Every August, students in the Middle and Upper School, and parents in the Lower School, sign the student handbook. This year, the handbook will contain a section on expectations of the community during the pandemic. Following those expectations will be a requirement for students and adults to be able to come to campus.

Tomorrow, a survey will be sent out that will ask families for their intentions around coming to campus if we are operating in a hybrid model. Families will be asked whether they expect their child(ren) to attend school in person when public health conditions allow vs. learning remotely daily. This survey is non-binding but it is critical for proper planning and staffing that we receive a response for every student.

We are hopeful that in September most of our students will be able to return to on-campus learning and relationships. As we prepare to make a decision the week of August 10 about how to best begin the school year, we will continue to follow guidance of appropriate health officials and refine both our hybrid and distance learning plans. Until then, we hope you continue to stay healthy and safe and enjoy the summer months, and we remain grateful as always for your patience and understanding.

Robert Kosasky
Head of School
David Brown
Assistant Head of School
St. Andrew's Episcopal School |  8804 Postoak Rd.
Potomac, MD 20854  | (301) 983-5200