Friday Letter

April 10, 2020

Dear Parents,

With your feedback on this week's parent survey (and student feedback on their own survey), we are finally able to get some more reliable data to assess how the Distance Learning Program is going.  For the most part, it seems like parents and students feel the program is working well, and most students appear to be figuring out this new process and how to stay organized.  Fortunately, we also received information about where we can make adjustments.  At this point, there are few general changes to the Program that are required.  Most adjustments seem to be about specific classes.  I think this fact was also obvious at our last parent forum.

For this reason, we are asking that if parents or students are experiencing problems or inconsistencies--especially with Zoom Google Calendar invites, quantity of homework in a class, or communication about course details--please reach out (or have your student do so) directly to their teacher.  The teachers are eager to get feedback so that they can make adjustments to best serve your children.  Of course, not every student's experience will be indicative of a problem in the course and may be more about the unique circumstances of the individual student, but teachers will still benefit from specific feedback so that they can provide the right sort of support to those specific students.  Please also continue to contact Krista Barbour for any questions or concerns about Middle School courses or Kara Schrader for Upper School.  We have also decided not to hold further parent forums, as we believe that method of communication will be less important than 1:1 contact with staff members.

On an additional note, I deeply appreciate all of your messages of support and appreciation for the efforts of my faculty and staff to get the DL Program up and running.  I can tell you that the faculty has been working well beyond their normal hours and under the great stress that we are all experiencing right now in order to maintain the education and care of your children.  It is an unprecedented situation, and I could not be more proud of the faculty in rising to the challenge.

Likewise, the faculty asked me specifically to tell you how much they are aware of and appreciate your additional efforts (especially from Middle School parents) to help your children stay organized and productive--and during a time when you, too, are coping with your own anxieties and challenges.  That has to be overwhelming for many of you.  Never before has it been more true that we are in a partnership together, and the teachers are here to help you manage this situation as best we can.

As you know, the loss of our traditional experience on campus has been particularly difficult for our seniors.  I have had questions about whether we will have Stepping-Up and Commencement.  I tend to doubt that social restrictions will be eased enough by the end of May to make this event advisable or even permissible, and so I have been looking to the end of the summer (probably our best shot) as a fall-back date for this event.  I have queried parents of seniors about availability, as I know their children are the most deeply impacted participants for this event.  Once we have secured a date, I will send it out to the community.  Obviously, I do not assume that all staff, parents, students, or trustees will be available for that event, but I am sure you will agree that we need to do our best to send our graduates off properly.  They deserve all our efforts to achieve this, assuming we can do so while keeping everyone safe.  I can't promise that this event will happen or that it will fully resemble our usual event, but we will do our best.  I expect students will desperately want to see each other again, and the timing might be good for starting the new school year.  Please stay tuned.

Let me try to anticipate other questions you may have:

  1. We will not be holding final exams this year.  The faculty and staff agree that these culminative assessments would create too much stress in this unusual situation.
  2. We will end the semester the week of May 11-15 as indicated in the academic calendar, though we may utilize the scheduled "stop day"  (15th) as necessary to finish courses and related work.
  3. Course enrollment for the 2020-21 academic year will occur online prior to the end of the semester.  Ms. Schrader will send out information to students and parents in the near future.
  4. Presently, we hope to start the new school year on time and on campus, following whatever Douglas County Health Department directives are in place at that time.  Our new constrution is on track to finish on time prior to the opening of school!

In lieu of the Middle School and Upper School Movie Nights I had intended to hold this month, we are hoping to replicate this event in your home on Saturday, April 18th!  You will be receiving information from Ms. McCaffrey soon about 1.) Seabury parent-owned restaurants that are willing to offer curbside service if you wish to order out and 2.) the movies that I am recommending for you and your children, all available on Netflix.  (I sure hope you all have access to that platform, as that is simply the best I can do!)  I will give you a little context for the movies in next week's letter.

Finally, I have been thinking about parents a lot lately, and I am often reminded of the advice we get on airplanes: "Make sure your own oxygen mask is secured before you attend to your child!"  I am sure many of us were shocked when we first heard this idea.  I mean, who would put themselves before their children.  Of course, that directive is a wise one when correctly understood: it is difficult to care for others without taking steps to care for ourselves.  I do hope that you are all finding ways to look after your own mental and physical health.  I think we will all find that we have a buried strength and resilience that we do not generally have to demonstrate.  Hang in there!

Yours respectfully,

Dr. Schawang