Our experience with remote learning in the spring and fall, coupled with constructive feedback from surveys of students, parents, and teachers about their experiences, has helped us to continually refine an innovative learning program that ensures students will meet their designated learning outcomes in a healthy way regardless of their mode of instruction. We continue to emphasize synchronous, face-to-face learning, which can be achieved both remotely and in person. While we remain in a period of great uncertainty as transmission numbers spike across the county, state and country, we have developed a plan for the spring that will enable us to respond quickly when conditions improve sufficiently to allow the return of students to campus.
Academic classes resume following the winter holiday on January 4, 2021. Our spring semester, which is scheduled to commence on February 8, provides a natural point at which we plan to reintroduce campus instruction, should it be safe and permissible to do so. This arrangement will allow us to complete the first semester in a consistent format, and transition to a new schedule in the spring.
The new schedule, outlined below, will allow for campus and remote instruction, and contains dedicated time for after-school activities. It is important to note, however, that the current trajectory of the Monterey County data shows that there is no guarantee that we will be permitted to resume campus instruction on February 8. Our plan allows us to be flexible (see General information regarding health and safety for details).
We recognize that not all students will be able to return to campus when we reopen due to travel difficulties and visa restrictions. We also are respectful of a family’s right to choose whether they wish to return to campus or remain in remote learning until risk is reduced even further (i.e. when there is widespread availability of a vaccine). We will therefore continue to offer a remote learning option for the remainder of the academic year, and our plan for the spring semester effectively accommodates the individual choice of each student and their family without compromising the quality of their academic experience.
Should state and/or county regulations prohibit campus instruction, all students will remain in either remote synchronous or remote asynchronous mode until we have permission to resume campus instruction. Regardless of mode, we will switch to the spring schedule (below) on February 8 and remain with this schedule for the remainder of the school year.
Academics and daily schedule
Our revised daily schedule for the spring, for those students who return to campus instruction, will permit adherence to recommended safety protocols by, for example, minimizing unstructured time when students may find it difficult to follow physical distancing guidelines. It will also enable students who cannot attend classes in person to participate fully.
The spring daily schedule will allow students in distant time zones to participate in three periods out of four each day, while providing time for those on campus to participate in athletics and other co-curricular activities after school as permitted by the prevailing conditions and regulations. Our rotating schedule means that the morning class, which is challenging for some international students to attend, will rotate every other day between classes—this means any student attending the morning class asynchronously will only miss live instruction once every 8 cycle days.
Day students are encouraged to only be on campus during their scheduled classes and commitments; to be clear, they are not required to arrive until their first class period of the day, and they will be both permitted and generally expected to leave after their final class period. We will utilize software that enables us to track attendance and facilitate students’ daily symptom checks.
Day students who have significant unscheduled time due to their schedule that day will be permitted to sign out and return home (with prior approval from their parents or guardian and the dean of students’ office). For students and families who need to be on campus for the full school day (due to, for example, work commitments or other transportation constraints), the School will provide supervised study spaces that meet physical distancing and hygiene guidelines. Boarding students will be asked to return to their own dorm rooms during open study periods.
From February 8, the school day will start at 9:00 a.m. with an open study period, when students can prepare for the day ahead, or schedule meetings with teachers, advisors, or support staff (learning specialists, counselor, college counselors etc). At 10:00 a.m. every day, our community time block allows for advisory meetings and student clubs and activities. Classes begin daily at 10:45 a.m., with the first period followed by a lunch break. If a day student does not have class scheduled for the first period of the day, they will attend advisory and community time obligations remotely and should not come to campus before their first class (i.e. after the lunch break).
Community activities that would require large gatherings (such as assemblies and class meetings) will continue on a virtual platform, and we will make evening slots available for student-led club meetings. Students in distant time zones will receive priority for extra help during afternoon open study periods, as local and domestic students will have access to teachers and advisors in the morning. Classes will end by 4:00 p.m. to allow time for athletics practices and other activities to meet after school.
In order to protect student health and safety in the opening weeks of the semester, the School’s lunch service will be temporarily suspended for day students, who will join with employees in bringing lunches and snacks from home, and eating in designated areas while practicing physical distancing under adult supervision. We are adding additional covered outdoor seating for students to eat lunch while remaining physically distanced.
Additionally, students who do not have a class scheduled for the first period of the day are expected to eat lunch at home before coming to campus. We hope to reinstitute day student food service later in the semester; day families will be appropriately credited in keeping with established practice.
Our average class size of 12 students, our geographical location in an area with a temperate year-round climate, and a campus with considerable and easily modified outdoor spaces, present significant advantages when adapting our teaching spaces to meet physical distancing requirements.
Working from a requirement of a minimum of six feet between every student, and allowing for teacher movement and easy entry and departure from a room, we used advanced spatial algorithms, computer modeling, and tape measures to examine the optimal layout for each classroom and determine its capacity. Additionally, we retained Citadel EHS to examine the HVAC and airflow in our classrooms and were pleased to learn that we meet the expected safety standards in our instructional spaces, with minor modifications required in some areas. By adding covered spaces outside several of our classrooms, we can extend capacity within guidelines to allow for 5-day-a-week schooling for all our students. We are modifying smaller classrooms to allow for live-streaming of classes into a second room or outdoor, covered area, with the teacher able to move easily between the two spaces. All classrooms will be adapted with technology that will allow real-time access for students unable to attend in person.
We have reassigned and adapted large, open indoor spaces (our dance studio, the Little Theater, common rooms, the band room, Keck Auditorium, and the science lecture hall) for use as classrooms. Some classes will be conducted in temporary classroom structures (fully equipped with furniture and technology access) and other open spaces around campus. We will also encourage “paperless” classes, with digital submission of all work.
We recognize that physical distancing will be challenging for students, so we will provide adult supervision to help monitor their behavior in shared study spaces that meet all required distancing guidelines.
Stevenson’s Upper Division is fortunate in having an excellent health center staffed by registered nurses who are overseen by a licensed medical professional. The health center provides a range of school infirmary services, and is responsible for treating individual medical needs, administering medication, providing health education, and coordinating care for students that need additional health services, such as dental or optical care. The health center has a private treatment room that is used for health assessments and medication administration, as well as seven beds available to students when they are feeling ill throughout the school day. The School will implement several modifications in order to provide students and the nurses with greater safety relative to COVID-19. When School is in session, the health center is open daily from 7:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. A nurse is always on duty and reachable by phone at all other times.
Given that Spring Break is, as of this writing, about four months away, and a tremendous amount can happen between now and March 27, it is simply too soon to provide a comprehensive description of how the School will manage boarding students at that time. Provided that conditions are safe enough to allow boarding students to remain on campus, we anticipate that they will be permitted to do so, but not required to do so. The state of the pandemic at that time, which cannot be anticipated now, will determine our policies and practices regarding boarding students who leave campus for the holiday with an intent to return afterwards.