|Dear Stevenson Community,
In last week’s announcement that the School would offer only remote instruction to all students in the fall semester, we promised to follow up today with further details on our updated plans for the fall, specifically relating to the academic schedule, student life and athletics. Additionally, I am pleased to inform you of a series of opportunities for you to engage with us, and each other, in the weeks leading up to the start of school.
Before doing so, we thought it important to provide additional context to the School’s decision. After the state issued new guidance for public and independent schools, which included special restrictions for schools located in counties on the state’s monitoring list (as Stevenson is), we swiftly committed to remote instruction for the fall for a number of reasons, which include:
Now, with the opportunity to focus our full attention on planning for the fall for about 45 days, we are fully confident that we will be ready and able to deliver an outstanding experience to all students come September. For a great look at what's to come, I invite you to watch this brief video.
it is the safest course of action for everyone;
there is little probability of Monterey County being removed from the watchlist in enough time to warrant a return to campus instruction before the Thanksgiving holiday, at which time we had already planned for a remote instruction session that eased travel logistics and allowed time for families to be together during a period that contains many important holidays;
even if we were permitted to return to campus instruction before November, it is likely that state and county provisions would lead to significant and recurring disruptions and campus closures; and
the lack of reliable and cost-effective testing options within the region, coupled with rising numbers of positive cases, hospitalizations, and intensive care unit admissions, presents daunting challenges to both school- and community-based mitigation strategies.
A new daily schedule
With Pirates dispersed around the world, we knew we needed to develop a schedule that would allow as many students as possible to have access to synchronous learning. To achieve this goal, our schedule will look and feel different, and undoubtedly take some getting used to for students and families accustomed to Stevenson’s “traditional” rhythm. After considering a variety of options, we built a daily schedule that preserves the core elements of a Stevenson education for the majority of students.
As a California school enlightened by a global sensibility, we believe that our students benefit greatly from being in classes with peers from different backgrounds and cultures. We will therefore conduct our classes between 2:00 p.m. and 6:30 p.m., with four 60-minute classes per day (the same as our regular schedule, with classes 10 minutes shorter as a result of feedback from students and teachers), and ten minute breaks between each class. Students will have, on average, 2-3 classes per day (based on a five or six class schedule, which is the most common class load). Advising, college counseling, student clubs and activities, athletics and other co-curricular activities will occur in the morning. The end result of this “flipped” school day is a similar length school day, with academic classes accessible in real time to students in distant time zones. As has been announced earlier, our school year will officially start on September 8, after Labor Day, and we are scheduling a number of orientation activities for both new and returning students the week prior.
Upcoming opportunities to connect
At times of great uncertainty, we know it is more important than ever to stay connected. Over the next few weeks, we have developed a series of opportunities for us to answer questions and demonstrate remote learning in action. To sign up for any of the following webinars, please log onto your Pirate Page. We will continue to add more sessions prior to the start of School, so keep an eye out for email alerts for new events and check your Pirate Page frequently.
Academic class demonstrations
Our faculty have been working all summer to develop challenging, engaging and meaningful lessons to deliver next semester. Rather than just describe our approach, we are offering opportunities for you to experience remote learning lessons from across our curriculum, delivered by our teachers. We will cap each class to 12-15 students, reflecting your child’s experience in a Zoom classroom, and you will sample the latest techniques and technology used in online learning. Be warned: there may be homework! Sign up for, among others, classes in Spanish, history, science, math, and English, as well as an exploration of brains and behavior with me!
To thrive academically, students need to feel supported, engaged, connected, and known. It is vital that we do not ignore this aspect of school life, especially at a time when we are all in danger of feeling isolated, fearful, and uncertain of the future. Erik Olson, our dean of students, is working with his team to build a program both before and during the fall semester to provide opportunities for our students and their families to connect. We know that starting in remote instruction is not an ideal way to join a new community, but we will provide numerous opportunities for new students to connect with other new and returning classmates—and, for boarding student, dorm mates—so that they feel like “old hands” well before the time we arrive on campus for the spring semester.
This Wednesday, for example, we are hosting a trivia night for new students, allowing them to meet their classmates and senior student leaders. On Thursday, our School counselor Kate Newhouse is offering the first in a series of workshops for parents, entitled "Building Resilience in Uncertain Times," to be followed by further sessions designed to enhance the partnership between School and parents as we work together to support the social and emotional needs of the children in our care.
Over the next few days, advisors will reach out to returning students to reestablish this important connection, and new students and their parents can expect a robust remote orientation that will run throughout the month of August to prepare our new families for the year to come. Additionally, current student leaders will be reaching out to connect with newly enrolled students in the next couple of weeks to help with the transition to Stevenson, and advisors will do the same once advisory placements are finalized.
Once school is underway, clubs, affinity groups, and student council will promote connection and engagement. Community Forum—our ninth grade program led by carefully selected and trained seniors, which helps freshmen learn more about health and well being, self-awareness and self-discipline, and equity and inclusion as they transition to our diverse environment—is being redesigned to be effective in a remote mode, as is our Community Curriculum programming. Also, we will adapt our Monday Night and dorm events for resident students in order to build a sense of our residential community in preparation for our return to campus in January.
Interscholastic athletics and co-curricular activities
The California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) announced that this year’s athletics calendar will be divided into two seasons, starting in January. We held a webinar last Wednesday for students and parents, on which we had over 180 attendees. We presented the Central Coast Section (CCS) plans for the season and explained how we will design the fall semester as a remote pre-season training program. If you missed this session, you can review an outline and a recording of the meeting here.
During the first week of school, students will receive fitness, strength, and conditioning workouts delivered on a daily basis through Canvas, our learning management system. All students enrolled in team sports will receive 3-day sequences of sport-specific lessons and meetings on a rotating basis by season (fall, winter, spring sports) that can be completed asynchronously. For example, an athlete that plays field hockey, basketball, and softball would receive lessons/assignments as follows: Day 1-3 field hockey, Day 4-6 basketball, Day 7-9 softball. Non-three sport athletes will have their "off-days" to use at their discretion to follow the training regimen of their primary sport. Additionally, students will receive leadership training sessions once per 9-day cycle. Each program’s head coach will host a webinar before the start of School to establish contact with players and their parents.
For those students who do not wish to participate in team sports, the director of athletics Justin Clymo ’93 is developing a “lifetime fitness” curriculum for all students to help develop healthy habits during a period of time that has caused an unhealthily sedentary lifestyle in too many children.
We are also working on a full slate of co-curricular activities in addition to athletics, including robotics, theater, and radio, and we will add more programming, such as MUN and Mock Trial, when we learn more from the organizations that run these activities. The advisors and student leaders of these programs will share their plans in online meetings prior to the start of the school year, so once again please keep an eye on your Pirate Page.
We had all hoped to be back together in person come September, and now must overcome the collective disappointment of being unable to do so until January. There are also many unknowns we cannot yet address, such as PSATs and other standardized testing, college representative visits, and specific dates for athletics seasons, but we will update you as soon as we have any information on these and other topics that arise. While we know that online learning cannot fully replace the experience of being on campus, I am confident that we will get as close to the bull's-eye as any school possibly can—by working together to develop excellent lessons, to keep students’ social and emotional growth at the front of our minds, and to provide multiple avenues for support, connection, and fellowship. Having surveyed the terrain across the globe, I truly believe that we will provide an education that will be hard to surpass, and that our students will be prepared, both academically and personally, for whatever they encounter in the months and years to come. And, soon enough, our students will be able to safely return, and pick right up without missing a beat.
Dr. Dan Griffiths
Head of the Upper Division