Dear Stevenson Community,
Our Return Task Force has been working hard to integrate our experiences this spring and our hopes for the fall with guidance we are taking from public health and infectious disease experts, regional and national school associations, and peer schools around the world, as well as colleges and universities. I write to update you on our current plans for safely returning to campus instruction for the fall semester.
We have concluded that we can make the modifications now deemed necessary to safely welcome all Stevenson students back to our campuses this fall for full academic days, five days a week. Specifically, we believe we can meet present requirements for physical distancing and reduced maximum occupant load in interior spaces, and we are developing extensive plans to protect students’ and employees’ health and safety on both campuses (including our dormitories). This decision is cause for celebration and provides us all with a welcome dose of hope for the future.
As we move forward over the coming months, our decision-making will continue to be guided by our eagerness to once again be together, and our equal commitment to a safe and socially responsible return. We will continue to carefully monitor the pandemic--locally, and in all of the regions from which our students hail--and assess emerging risks rigorously and with expert help.
Our eventual success will depend in large part on clearly defined agreements among students, their families, and our employees regarding essential behavioral practices, like masks, handwashing, and physical distancing both on and off campus. You will hear much more about various dimensions of this necessary “social compact” in the weeks leading up to our return.
In the second week of July, we will distribute Planning for Our Return 2.0. This document will answer a host of your outstanding questions. We expect to then issue another update by early August, when we’ll know more about the pandemic’s impact. Here are a few notes for you to review in advance of receiving our new handbook:
Students in all divisions will now begin classes on Tuesday, September 8. This adjustment to our calendar will allow us additional time to prepare our faculty and campuses, and for our resident students’ families to make optimal travel arrangements. On this latter point, we are working with our consulting public health experts to devise safe travel and move-in protocols for our resident students. Student leaders who customarily return to campus in advance of peers will receive further instructions soon.
As a result of our later start, the school year for students in all three divisions will extend well into June 2021. Our goal is to maximize opportunities for in-person instruction while minimizing potential disruption from the pandemic in the winter, and thereby at least match--if not exceed--the average number of instructional days we have achieved on both campuses over the past several years.
To minimize the impact of travel and to allow our boarding families to be together over the holidays, the Upper Division will pivot to remote learning from Monday, November 30 (our return from Thanksgiving break), to Friday, January 15. We have crafted a special schedule and are developing curricula that will serve all students (across all time zones) during this period. The Lower and Middle Division will continue to provide students with either campus or remote learning during this period, as dictated by circumstances.
Pre-season training on campus for Upper Division students is cancelled. Varsity athletes will participate in alternative training sessions. We expect to receive guidelines regarding fall interscholastic sports from the state, county, and California Interscholastic Federation on July 20.
Health and safety
Our forthcoming handbook will have more information about how we plan to employ gateway testing; stay-at-home protocols prior to the school year; influenza shots; masks; hygiene; daily symptom checks; “low-tech, high-frequency” cleaning; and isolation, as needed. It will also include the School’s plans to support students who hail from other countries.
Before school begins, all families will participate in virtual orientation programs designed to bring everyone up to speed with relevant program modifications and divisional expectations. Lower and Middle Division families should mark their calendars now for a week-long orientation program that will be held from August 31 to September 4 (details forthcoming).
Teaching and learning
All of our teachers are developing curricula that will allow our students to toggle effortlessly, as needed, among on-campus, remote, and hybrid learning. At the same time, our IT staff is equipping our current classroom spaces and new instructional areas with technology that will ensure that all students, including those who may not be able to attend classes on campus for periods of time, will be able to learn effectively and participate in community life no matter where they are.
Synchronous instruction for all
Should the county or state mandate our return to remote learning for any length of time during the academic year, the Upper Division will institute a schedule that will enable students in distant time zones to attend many of their classes synchronously without needing to wake up in the middle of the night.
Tuition and related fees
As you would expect, tuition charges will be adjusted appropriately to take account of any time spent in a remote instruction mode, or related adjustments to our program.
Based on what we know today, we are confident that the full slate of modifications we are implementing will protect community health, allow students to thrive academically, sustain our sense of community, and uphold the distinctive elements of a Stevenson education. We look forward to sharing a detailed iteration of our current plans in early July, which will include an extensive checklist to help families prepare for the start of school.
As Stevenson has done many times before, and did so well this spring, we are meeting each new day’s challenge with determination, creativity, and an unyielding commitment to safely educating our students. Our teachers’ dedication, our students’ enthusiasm, and your thoughtful support--coupled with our comparatively small class sizes, forward-thinking approach to curriculum and instructional technology, and nurturing culture--equip us well for “that which is to come.” It is in this spirit that I close by writing, with great hope and anticipation, that I look forward to seeing you in September.
Dr. Kevin M. Hicks ‘85 P ‘29