This section describes our plans for navigating the complexities of the pandemic during the spring semester. Our goal is to convey the high-level details of our approach, including the program modifications required to:
- continue to deliver first-rate remote instruction, community connections, and individualized care for students who learn from home;
- provide safe campus instruction for students ready and able to return, once it is permissible for them to do so, informed by relevant guidance from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), California Department of Public Health (CDPH), and Monterey County Health Department (MCHD); and
- pivot between these two modes, as changing circumstances may dictate.
We will update the relevant sections of this resource as needed, and notify you of those changes as they are made.
COVID-19 and California State Guidance for PK-12 Schools
Current regional and national trends are deeply concerning, and appear to bode poorly for a return in mid-January. Locally, the Monterey County health department is reporting that our county data—specifically, the number of cases per 100,000 people—sets us at increasing distance from escaping the state’s purple tier, a designation that signals that the virus is presently widespread and we are within the state’s highest level of risk. At the same time:
- new cases are rising sharply across the United States,
- hospital systems in some areas are overwhelmed, and
- the federal government appears months away from implementing the multi-layered national pandemic strategy that has delivered effective results to the people of other countries since the first appearance of COVID-19.
Additionally, many experts predict that travel and gatherings during the recent and impending holidays will result in an accelerated spread of the virus.
As per current state guidance, California counties must reach the red tier (or better) and remain in it (or improve) for two weeks before their schools are permitted to open for campus instruction for students in Grades 7-12.
Though PK-6 schools located in purple-coded counties have been permitted to apply for a waiver that allows for campus instruction, the waiver is premised on unproven claims regarding transmission of the virus between children and adults. As of this writing, the waiver process has been suspended in Monterey County owing to deteriorating conditions; should that trend continue, it seems likely that waivers issued to schools previously will be temporarily or permanently rescinded. Regardless, we believe that the waiver is at present an insufficient guarantee of safety for students and their families, and employees and their families, as well as the communities surrounding our campuses, given that the virus is widespread in Monterey County. Until the relevant supporting data is more definitive, the School will continue to err on the side of caution and not pursue this waiver.
State guidance currently precludes boarding schools from reopening their dormitories, regardless of their counties’ tier. We cannot presently forecast when the state will ease that restriction, but we anticipate that it will coincide with Monterey County moving out of the state’s purple tier.
Following the winter holiday, academic classes will resume for all students on January 4, 2021. Our current plans for returning to campus instruction take account of the potential for Stevenson families (who intend to return to campus instruction at the first opportunity to do so) to travel or receive visitors over the winter holiday in ways that increase their chances of infection. Owing to the fact that COVID-19 symptoms may take up to 14 days to appear following exposure, in even the best case scenario we will not welcome students in any of our three divisions back to campus any sooner than January 18 (which is 14 days after January 4, the date when classes will resume following the end of the winter holiday).
Remote instruction will remain available for all students
Even when conditions improve, such that students are permitted to return to campus instruction and boarding students may reoccupy the dormitories, we know that some families will prefer to keep their children at home until there is a broadly distributed vaccine. We also know that some boarding students will not be able to return to campus owing to temporary travel complications and visa restrictions.
Therefore, even when the School is able to welcome students back to campus instruction, we will continue to provide an engaging and online learning and community experience, supplemented by the robust and caring individualized support necessary for students to thrive and grow, and to build and sustain meaningful relationships with their peers and teachers.