|December 31, 2020
Dear Stevenson Families:
I hope that your winter holiday is providing some opportunity for rest and reflection despite the unavoidable fact of the pandemic—which sadly for some in our School community has resulted in life-changing misfortunes such as bereavements and the loss of employment. If you are among those confronting especially hard times, please know that we are eager to be of help, whether that means lending an empathetic ear, starting a “meal train” (wherever you are in the world), or providing financial support from the School’s Hold Fast Fund. And if you are one of our many parents or guardians employed as a frontline worker—in health care, emergency services, or another essential sector—thank you. We are grateful for and inspired by your dedication and sacrifice, especially now with so much at stake.
While national and regional data continue to trend largely in the wrong direction, and the coming months may prove to be quite dark, we are heartened by the early stages of national vaccine distribution, a development which invites us all to begin looking forward to better days to come even as we increase our vigilance. In that spirit of guarded optimism for the future, I write to provide an update on our current planning for the remainder of the academic year by answering some of the most common questions we’ve received over the past several days.
When will campus instruction resume?
Remote instruction begins for all students on January 4. Given the increasing prevalence of the virus locally, and resulting state and county restrictions, it now seems quite unlikely that campus instruction will begin as soon as January 18, which was the earliest possible return date we identified in our most recent plan, issued on December 1. We will continue to provide regular updates as circumstances develop.
Yesterday, Governor Gavin Newsom released State Safe Schools for All, a broad framework for resuming campus instruction for California’s PK-12 students. Though this is a welcome step forward, especially for families with children enrolled in schools that have not been able to provide effective remote instruction, it does not include many key details. It does stipulate that schools located in counties reporting an average daily case rate of more than 28 cases per 100,000 people will not be permitted to return to campus instruction. For reference, this week Monterey County is at 59.3/100K (adjusted case rate) and 85.2/100K (actual rate), and those numbers appear to be rising steadily rather than declining. [It’s not yet clear if county public health officers will be directed to use the adjusted rate or the actual rate.] We will be certain to let you know as we learn more.
Rest assured, we too are eager to resume campus instruction--for those local and boarding families ready and able for their children to return--as soon as it is safe and permissible to do so, and we are ready to swiftly effect a staged return to campus instruction once conditions improve. To be clear, conditions will most likely be improved by both a broad distribution of the vaccine and a substantial decrease in the local prevalence of the virus (as calculated by the state and county). We are optimistic that we will see improved conditions this semester, such that campus instruction will resume this year, though probably not as soon as we would all prefer.
Why are some other schools open?
To the best of our knowledge, there are no high schools in Monterey County currently open for campus instruction. Many, including Stevenson, are providing opportunities for safe, structured outdoor fitness training designed in keeping with state and county guidance for such activities.
Many of the day and boarding schools around the United States that opened for campus instruction this fall with little to no documented incidence of COVID-19 are located in states that experienced a low prevalence of the virus through early November. Infectious disease and public health experts generally attribute schools' success or failure in this regard to the prevalence of the virus in the communities that surround those schools, and to their luck, as well as to their efforts to protect health and safety. Sadly, this fall California experienced much higher risk conditions than many of those states, and Monterey County spent most of the semester in our state’s highest tier of risk. This is why the state issued guidance in early September that prohibited all boarding schools in California from opening their dormitories. Some boarding schools did not observe that guidance, yet were subsequently granted exceptions permitting them to remain open when the state reiterated that guidance to schools early this fall. We anticipate that this guidance will be rescinded as conditions improve, allowing us to welcome our boarding students back into the dormitories.
Up until recently, PK-6 schools located in counties that occupy the state’s purple tier (representing the highest prevalence of the virus, and therefore the highest level of risk) could apply for waivers to provide campus instruction. Stevenson did not apply for that waiver for reasons that you can review here. Currently, deteriorating conditions in Monterey County have resulted in a temporary suspension of the waiver process. Once improved conditions permit the reinstitution of the waiver process, or the state implements its new process before then, we will consult with our team of experts (which includes regional and national leaders in epidemiology and public health), as well as our board of trustees--as we have done continuously since January. A number of factors will be considered before moving forward, including the local prevalence of the virus, the availability of testing (which schools using the waiver are directed to conduct regularly), and the vaccine’s availability to our employees. Our decision-making will continue to be guided by our commitment to protecting the health and safety of our School community.
Why will daily schedules change in the spring semester even if we begin with remote instruction?
The lower and middle divisions’ daily schedules remain essentially the same. The upper division’s daily schedule will be altered slightly. Please go here to review information regarding all divisions’ daily schedules.
Will tuition be discounted during the period of remote instruction? If so, when will we receive our discounts?
As we have explained previously, tuition is discounted during the period of remote instruction. You can review our approach here. As noted above, we intend to resume campus instruction for families ready and able for their children to return once it is safe and permissible to do so. As such, our plan would be to finalize the blended total tuition charge for this academic year in June. Once that amount is determined, we will provide families the option to receive either a credit towards next year’s tuition or a refund for the discounted tuition amount based on family preference and other circumstances. On a related note, and as a reminder, in our December 1 planning materials we announced that tuition for the coming school year would remain what it is now.
When campus instruction resumes, will interscholastic sports be offered?
That depends partly on the California Interscholastic Federation (CIF), which has yet to make a definitive ruling, and our own risk assessment, which cannot be completed until we are closer to determining a firm date for resuming campus instruction. Though we value interscholastic sports and miss them as much as our student-athletes and their families do, we will evaluate any plan put forward by the CIF and our local leagues in terms of our primary commitment to the health and safety of our students and employees.
As remote instruction continues, will the School continue to offer safe, structured outdoor fitness training?
Yes, and click here in order to learn more and register.
What are the School’s plans for graduation?
We are sincerely optimistic that conditions will improve with more than enough time left in the spring semester to not only welcome students back for campus instruction and nourishing social experiences, but also to provide both our eighth graders and seniors with festive (if perhaps somewhat modified) graduation ceremonies on campus.
Our community’s shared discipline in trying to meet each day with resolve, trust, and good humor has been--and will continue to be--a key ingredient in our relative success. As I have written previously, we must do our very best to keep to the course we have chosen since we began to navigate the pandemic last January: work hard and together, stay safe, take care of our kids and one another, tell the truth without slant, count our blessings, and celebrate small victories. It’s so much easier to say than it is to do, but our fierce commitment in this regard has made us an even stronger community, and will inevitably earn us the right to be proud of what we have achieved.
Best wishes to all for a safe, healthy, and joyous new year.
Dr. Kevin M. Hicks ‘85 P ‘29