Greetings from Wellesley! I am grateful to all of you who took part in our virtual sessions for families a few weeks ago. It was helpful for our team to hear the questions and ideas you have about our preparations for the 2020-21 academic year. I also wish to thank the many individuals who have reached out to all of us with your thoughts and suggestions. I am writing to share an update on our planning.
On campus, we have been working tirelessly to plan for a safe, healthy, and meaningful opening of the 2020-21 academic year. I’d like to thank all of our faculty and staff who are, like everyone, experiencing a summer like none before. Their work, optimism, and genuine care for our students and our school is inspiring. Many members of the faculty have been welcoming new families to our community and connecting with our students through our Summer Enrichment Series and other programming, and we all are invigorated and energized. Simply put—we can’t wait to work with our students again.
As you know, our academic planning committee has been squarely focused on teaching and learning when classes begin, even amidst the important considerations of health protocols, facilities preparation and other practical considerations of campus life. Based on their thoughtful analysis, we have considered multiple versions of potential daily schedules, student cohort structures and class configurations. We continue to work on finalizing these plans to ensure an experience that is academically ambitious and rich with opportunity. These details will be shared in a future communication.
Through a facilities audit and examination of campus resources in the context of the health and safety guidelines, we took a thorough look at devising ways for all students to be back on campus once classes begin. In these current late July conditions, it is clear that public health guidance will disallow that from happening, as will travel restrictions. We know that some students will begin the year in a distance learning environment; however, we also know that we will also be able to have students physically back on campus for their learning. As such, we continue to refine a hybrid model where on any given day some students will be present in class physically and others will be engaged in classes through synchronous distance learning. We are developing this hybrid model to work should we need to go fully remote at some point during the year. We will share these details of this blended learning environment with our families as soon as they are finalized.
Health and Safety
We continue to plan with the health and safety of our community foremost in our minds. With an eye on social distancing parameters, our facilities team has done a thorough review of potential teaching and activity spaces on campus. Common spaces are being evaluated and reconfigured as needed for appropriate use (e.g., lowering density) in alignment with current guidelines. We have engaged a firm to evaluate the HVAC systems on campus and are implementing upgrades to our systems to address air filter and ventilation recommendations. Sanitizing and deep cleaning protocols are being devised, traffic patterns identified, and we are procuring PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) for faculty and staff. As you know, guidance on best practices is constantly evolving, and we remain committed to staying abreast of recommendations and acting on them to keep our community as safe as possible. Please consult our for more information about our health and safety efforts.
One decision that impacts our program has already been finalized: the Eastern Independent League (EIL) Heads of School and Athletics Directors have agreed to cancel interscholastic athletics during the fall. While there will be no official EIL schedule or championships for fall 2020, individual institutions do, however, have the discretion to organize practices and to consider alternate competitions, dependent on state and local health guidelines. Dana Hall values the important role of athletics in the educational experience of our students, and we will continue to work tirelessly to support the needs of our student-athletes. Practice, skill-development, strength-training sessions and other athletic training opportunities for student-athletes will be permitted in accordance with state regulations and school policies. Although it is difficult to imagine the fall without EIL competition, this is the right decision given the existing health and safety concerns. Our goal is to resume interscholastic competition as soon as it is safe to do so. As of now, preseason tryouts have been adjusted to begin in the Upper School on September 2-4 and in the Middle School on September 8-10.
Calendar and Events
Usually, this is the time of the year when we roll out our detailed yearly calendar through our website, but this is clearly not a usual year. We will need to have flexibility in our calendar this year in order to most effectively respond to the environment that presents itself. The 2020-21 Academic Calendar that we created and shared last spring remains in effect for now, and is on our website for your planning. This includes all of the major dates of the year: when classes are in session, trimesters, vacations and holidays, etc. As you would expect, the current and future realities of COVID-19 will require us to reimagine the many annual events that would bring large groups of individuals together. Our planning around events such as Opening Days, Class Retreats, Harbor Cruise, and Family Weekend will continue through the summer and fall, and we will communicate how these events will unfold as they approach. Regardless, please know we recognize these events are important touchstones for our students, faculty and families, and we are committed to fostering these moments to build our community, even in this moment of uncertainty.
As always, thank you for your ongoing support and partnership. We know that the circumstances brought on by this global pandemic will present new challenges, and we owe it to our students to meet those challenges with determination and ingenuity. Please know how excited I am to move closer to a year of extraordinary growth and learning for us all.
Head of School