Friday Letter 2020-2021
THE WEEK AHEAD:
* Sat 12th: Vars XC @ Wamego Country Club: Boys 11:15 am, Girls 12:00 pm.
* Mon 14th: Girls MS VBall vs. Veritas Christian @ BSA, 5 pm
*Girls Vars VBall vs. Burlingame & Onaga @ Onaga HS, 5 pm
* Tue 15th: Picture Day
*Boys Vars Soccer vs. KC East Christian Academy @ YSI, 4:30 pm
*Girls MS VBall vs. Oakhill Day @ BSA, 4:30 pm
*Girls Vars VBall vs. KC East & Veritas @ East Lawrence Rec Center, 5 pm
* Wed 16th: MS XC Meet vs. Pembroke Hill @ Lewis Park, 4 pm
* Thurs 17th: Girls VBall vs. Cair Paravel Latin School @ BSA: MS 5, JV 6, Vars 7 pm
* Fri 18th: Boys Soccer @ Maranatha Christian Academy: MS 5, HS 7 pm
* Sat 19th: Girls Vars VBall Tournament @ Hiawatha HS, 9 am
My Director of Facilities texted me last night to assure me that he would have the flags at half-staff this morning. Having been out of the loop with national news, I asked him what I had missed. My failure to have 9/11 on my mental map (for the first time since it happened) is a pretty good indication of how intense this week has been!
Now that we are back on campus, I want to remind parents that we will use the Douglas County Thursday updates to determine whether we will be in session for the following week. Douglas County rates have risen, but we are still in Yellow, so we will be on campus next week. Next Thursday, I will keep my eye on this site and notify you immediately about the status for the following week. This gives our teachers three days to revise curriculum for Connected Learning should we need to return to that program on the following Monday.
I also promised a weekly tally of stats that I expect will interest parents, and this data will also be relevant to decision-making about remaining on campus in the future.
9: # of students out sick at any time this week (for any reason: migraine, congestion, nausea, hives, etc.)
0: # of students/staff who are presently positive for COVID
0: # of students who are in quarantine/monitoring (having been around a known positive case or required due to travel)
25: # of students in Seabury LIVE
Congratulations to our two National Merit Scholar Semifinalists: Lyle Griggs & Peter Westbrook. These seniors are among the top scoring 16,000 students (or the top 1%) of the more than 1.5 million seniors in the country who take the PSAT. Congratulations to these students!
Tuesday 15th is Picture Day. Thank you to our photographer (and parent) Steven Hertzog for working an extended shooting schedule so we can keep kids from grouping up. Betsy has reached out to Seabury LIVE families about scheduling photos between 4:15-5 pm on that day. 6th-11th graders should wear dress code. Seniors should bring a dark suit & tie w/ white shirt or a dark blouse.
Tuesday's orientation was one of the most exhausting days most of us have had working at this school--and not just because most of us did not sleep well the night before! With Middle School students in the morning and Upper School students in the afternoon, we went through the entire day's schedule (in accelerated fashion) and reviewed the new protocols with students several times. It was a lot of information for students to assimilate. But by the afternoon, we were ready to start our first day of classes.
I would not have chosen overcast or rainy weather for our first days of morning screenings, but you work with what you get! The car line has moved much faster than I expected--thanks both to parents for following a staggered arrival schedule and to our staff for moving the process along. What tends to slow us down is when students have not completed their rSchool screening. Parents, you can help us out a great deal by asking your children if they took the screening when you leave the house.
Morning meeting is something of a hybrid between in-person and online. The meeting is telecast throughout the building with teachers projecting the daily Zoom meeting in their classrooms. A prefect leads announcements, and when a student or teacher needs to say something, they are filmed on camera in their individual classroom and projected across the building. After morning meeting ends, the teacher opens their course Zoom meeting so Seabury Live students can attend and then class begins.
Using my 1st period class as an example, I only have one student in LIVE that period, and her face is projected on the screen while she can see wherever my tripod camera is pointed. (This has been a learning process, of course, and my LIVE student kindly asked me early in the class if I could turn the camera so she could see her classmates and not the dry erase board that I was no longer using!) Different teachers may follow a different approach with Seabury LIVE, especially since classroom methods inevitably vary based on discipline. I found the process has been fairly straight-forward on my end, though I have asked Mr. Kellogg to order conference microphones that can improve audio so online students can hear classroom discussion a bit more clearly.
Passing periods and breaks are probably the trickiest part of the day because children and adolescents are very social creatures, and they have a gravitational pull to be together. Most of the time, they are doing a good job in hallway passing and congregating at break time. I talk to staff and students about "adaptive distancing," which is my phrase for capturing how personal proximity functions in a social place such as a school. We necessitate 6 ft distance in classes where students are in static positions for extended amounts of time, but in flex times during the day when we are traveling or briefly standing in places, more variation in distancing is possible. Students tend to figure this out pretty quickly--they just need a nudge on occasion to move a bit further apart. Managing this throughout an entire day is different than navigating a single instance with one other person. Our main objective is to create an evolving awareness in students so they can increasingly self-adjust.
For lunch, some students stay in the same room and others move to new classrooms, but all students wash their hands before eating. Ms. McCaffrey and Mr. Rios created lunch and handwashing assignments, and I was amazed on Wednesday to see the students move through this choreography for the first time as if they had practiced it for weeks. I am in the commons for lunch, and several groups enter this space to wash their hands; if you have seen one of Ms. Lawrence's music concerts, you know the sort of traffic patterns I am seeing. In my experience this week, I have been reminded how capable these kids are of adapting and following directions.
Dismissal is sorting itself out. I was concerned about this part of the day, not knowing how easy it would be to get students to their vehicles--and knowing that the car line could get lengthy! Opening both lanes of the parking lot helps a great deal, as does the patience of parents (thank you!). I was surprised to find that most students are picked up and gone within 10 minutes.
All in all, I am very pleased with this week and especially with our students. They have readily complied with a very lengthy set of procedures that require adaptation to different spaces. I have not had a single problem with a student wearing a mask. Indeed, even when they go outside and are at a proper distance, they choose to continue wearing their masks. Based on my inquiry, they seem to be grateful to be back on campus, though there are moments of anxiety with some students, which is quite understandable. I believe the students feel the intense focus of the adults on campus, and they are doing their best to comply. We just all have to remember that this is not a perfect process and we are not robots. We just have to do our best.
I really appreciate the support of parents and the hard work of faculty and students this week, but most importantly, I offer my deep gratitude to the administrators and staff who are running the morning screening, supervising passing periods and breaks, distributing lunches, and facilitating a speedy pick-up--and all the while trying to find time to do their regular jobs! As I am sure you know, we are giving this effort everything we have to give, and the positive response from the students makes it worth it.
But let me say with more meaning than ever in my life: TGIF!
THE WEEK AHEAD:
* Sat 5th: Vars VBall @ McLouth HS, 1-3 pm
* Mon 7th: Labor Day, No Classes
* Tue 8th: Return to Campus Student Orientation
* Middle School (6-8th grades): 8-11:30 am
* Upper School (9th-12th grades): 12:30-3:30 pm
* Senior Orientation: 3:30-4 pm
*Vars Soccer vs. St. Mary's @ YSI, 5 pm
*Vars VBall Tri @ BSA vs. Lebo 5 pm, KCC 7 pm
* Wed 9th: Classes Resume On-Campus
* Thurs 10th: MS VBall vs. Northland Christian Schools @ BSA, 5 pm
*VBall vs. Bishop Ward @ BSA, JV 5:30,. Vars 6:30 pm
* Sat 12th: Vars XC @ Wamego Country Club, 9 am
As I announced yesterday, we will be returning to campus next week. The Douglas County Reopening Guidance materials for schools includes a color-coded phased system (Green, Yellow, Orange, Red) that reflects percentages of positive tests and new COVID-19 cases in the last 14 days, though they take other factors into account as well. Yesterday afternoon, they announced that we are still in "Yellow." Moving forward, I will be using this phasing system as one metric for determining whether we are on campus or in Connected Learning. (In other words, if I learn on a Thursday that we have moved to "Orange" or to "Red," we will go into CL the following week.) Once we have returned to campus, the other major trigger that could move us into Connected Learning would be numbers or patterns of infection in our community that would cause me to believe that our students and staff could be at unwarranted risk if we remain on campus.
Starting next week, I will be including in every Friday Letter a scorecard that communicates specific data, including numbers of students/staff absent due to sickness (not necessarily COVID-related), presently positive for COVID-19, in quarantine/monitoring for symptoms, and in Seabury Live. In order for these numbers to be meaningful, I ask that our parents and staff be forthright with Betsy in explaining the reasons for student/staff absences. Please know that we will not share the names of specific individuals, except when required to communicate information to the DG Health Department.
I won't repeat the information about on-campus orientation from yesterday's email, but I am going to attach a more detailed schedule for our Tuesday orientation as well as the Student Version of the Return-To-Campus Plan for your convenience. The on-campus daily schedule (which starts on Wednesday) is at the top of the Plan.
Parents, in addition to the rSchool screening that students will complete each morning, you need to ask your child every morning if they have any of the symptoms listed in the Plan and on the rSchool app. NO STUDENT MAY COME TO CAMPUS IF THEY ARE SICK.
Betsy sent a sign-up to help us create a morning drop-off schedule. If you haven't done so yet, please follow this link and select a drop-off window.
Parents with students in Seabury LIVE, I have attached the slide show from our Tuesday orientation meeting. Also, we discussed the importance of keeping students connected even though they are off-campus. If you would like to give us permission to share your student's names with other families who have students in Seabury LIVE, please communicate that information to Ms. Czarnecki at email@example.com.
It has been a while since we have had athletics on the Week Ahead. Part of our safety protocols that will allow athletics to occur this year is the limitation of spectators for games. Each player will be given two wrist-bands that they may give to spectators, allowing us to provide appropriate distancing for attendees. Otherwise, competition will be closed to all but players, coaches, and officials, and all individuals will be required to wear masks. For the foreseeable future, we will not have a student fan section. However, fans can have unlimited access to all games in the Seabury Dillon Gymnasium by signing up for NFHS Live Stream. See the attached flyer for details!
Thanks to BSAP President Eliza Bullock and VP TiaEisha Green for their efforts to lead our parent organization. They still need parents to sign up for committees, so please do so at https://www.signupgenius.com/go/10c0d4cafa623a4fac43-bsap. Help is especially needed with Grounds and Arts committees.
Also, the primary source of funding for BSAP is our grocery card program. You create a standing order for grocery cards (the same amount you would spend regardless), and the school gets a kick-back from those stores. Free money. Now is the time for sign-up! I would encourage you to "Set it and forget it!" by placing a recurring monthly order. The deadline for ordering is the 15th of each month.
Place your orders here: https://www.seaburyacademy.org/resources/bsap.cfm.
Contact Barbara Bosché at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
I hope you enjoyed the Curriculum Night videos from our teachers (though I know many of you will wait until the weekend for that). I miss seeing parents on campus for this event, but I hope you find the asynchronous experience to be convenient for your schedules.
Finally, we all know school is going to look very different this year, but I expect the students will be relieved to be back. We will need to be patient next week as students learn and habituate themselves to new expectations and routines. Hopefully, by next Friday, they will feel comfortable with a new rhythm and we will have worked out the kinks in this new system, both on campus and on Seabury LIVE.
Thank you all and have a good Labor Day weekend!
THE WEEK AHEAD:
- Tue 1st: Seabury LIVE Orientation meeting, 7 pm
- Thurs 3rd: Curriculum Night (asynchronous)
- Mon 7th: Labor Day, No Classes
- Tue 8th: Return to Campus Student Orientation (ANTICIPATED)
- Middle School (6-8th grades): 8:00-11:30 am
- Upper School (9th-12th grades): 12:30-3:30 pm
- Senior Orientation: 3:30-4:00 pm
- Wed 9th: Classes Resume On-Campus (ANTICIPATED)
As of today, I will be including students as recipients of the Friday Letter. (Yes, I pity them.) Students, I am including you so you may see the Week Ahead schedule and be informed about school issues. However, you are not required to read these letters.
As we are nearly a week away from Labor Day, it is extremely vexing to me that I have to put the qualifier "anticipated" next to our scheduled return to campus. You may know that Douglas County Unified Command published recently a set of reopening guidelines (recommendations, not requirements) for school reopening that is color coded Green, Yellow, Orange, and Red. (For larger schools, Yellow suggests a return to a "hybrid" system, but for a school our size, a full return to campus would still be possible for us at that level.) Largely due to testing of returning KU students, the number of COVID tests and subsequent positive results prompted the County to push us from Green to Yellow yesterday afternoon. (I will admit to using some choice words when I saw that.)
As I have noted previously, I don't want to be confined by any numerical metric, as the exact circumstances in the community may not be fully captured by general percentages. However, I am watching these numbers closely, and I need to wait until next week to make a final decision about the timing of our return to campus. I have made no secret that I think it is very important to get our students and teachers back into the classroom. That is my second highest priority. My first priority is looking after the health and well-being of our students and staff. That is a responsibility that weighs on me. Once again, I strongly urge all parents (especially of older students) to convey the seriousness of following our published off-campus expectations for good hygiene, proper mask usage, and physical distancing. This would be a good time for our students to have a tight curfew and maybe get attached to a multi-season TV show on Netflix...anything to keep them home.
We will be hosting a Zoom orientation on Tuesday for students and parents who have signed up for Seabury LIVE. (This session is ONLY for those families; all other parents need not attend.) In the meantime, if you have any questions about this program for remote attendance when we return to campus, please reach out to Sonja Czarnecki: email@example.com.
This year, Curriculum Night will be an asynchronous event. Teachers are presently creating short videos which will include information about the courses your children are taking. On Thursday night, we will send out links to those videos so you can walk through your child's schedule and enjoy these presentations at your convenience. Every year, at the end of this event, I hear the same thing from parents: "I wish I could have taken these classes when I went to school."
I mentioned in last week's letter that I am looking for parent volunteers to support general supervision of students this year. You won't have to wield more authority than is comfortable for you. If you think you could be available from 8-8:30 am, 3:15-4 pm, or 4-4:15 pm (times when I expect many parents will be dropping off or picking up their students), please let me know! Thank you!
At morning meeting on Monday, we will show students how to sign up for health screenings in the rSchool app. Students can save time by downloading that app (which can be found in Self-Service on their iPads).
Connected Learning on Campus (CLoC) is available all next week from 1-4 pm. CLoC provides a supervised environment for students to work on campus (masked, socially distanced) in a small-group study hall-like setting. Please contact Ms. Czarnecki if you would like to know more.
I want to encourage you to sign up for the BSAP (Bishop Seabury Association of Parents) page on Facebook. The BSAP page is a place for Seabury parents and guardians to share resources, build connections, provide support, and offer opportunities to help out in the school community.
Have a good weekend!
* Sun 23rd: New Parent Orientation, 4:30-6 pm
You get a lot of emails (especially as school opens!), so the Friday Letter is an important way to streamline communication. I will assume that all parents will read these letters each week, as information here may not be repeated elsewhere. To create ease in reading, I bold-face the topics in each paragraph. (Sorry that today's is so long....)
First, and most importantly, Betsy sent paperwork to parents at the beginning of the summer to be completed and returned. Many families have not returned that paperwork. I am attaching those documents, and they MUST BE COMPLETED AND RETURNED BY AUGUST 31ST. Feel free to return by scan, mail, or personal drop-off during business hours. Just make sure they are in by the deadline.
I hope your children have had a good first few days of classes. I always anticipate a few bumps with technology, Zoom invites, or communication, so please encourage your child not to worry if there were any snags. We will get into a rhythm quickly. Also, we know students get a lot of emails this first week, but those should taper off now that we are up and running.
We will have an on-campus New Parent Orientation for you on Sunday, 23rd in the Commons with masks and appropriate distancing. This will be an opportunity to learn about the school's processes and ask questions. Parents who already have children at Seabury (in addition to a new student) do not need to attend. The parking lot will be finished (though striping may not be, so parking could be a creative process). If construction fencing is down, feel free to use the main entrance; otherwise, use the gym entrance.
We still have dress-code apparel and athletic wear available at the clothing exchange. Feel free to visit the 8th grade hallway on Sunday 3:30-6 pm to grab what you need!
If you have decided to enroll your child in Seabury LIVE instead of having them return to classes on campus and you have not notified Ms. Czarnecki, please do so ASAP: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Our Chess program will be online this year--both practices and tournaments. If your child is interested in participating, please reach out to Coach Steve Robinson at email@example.com and let him know your student's name and grade. Once a roster is formed, a practice schedule will be developed. Presently, Coach Robinson is planning on one weeknight practice and one weekend practice, and everyone will be expected to attend one of those practices.
Curriculum night generally happens during the first full week of classes and is an opportunity for parents to follow their child's course schedule, meet teachers, and learn about class content and objectives. I am disappointed that we have to reschedule that event, but we will be planning an online asynchronous event for the near future. Stay tuned!
I am deeply indebted to all of the parents who have helped us with a variety of tasks over the summer, from assembling desks for classroom distancing to overseeing the clothing exchange. Thank you VERY much for your time and work! And thanks to our staff members and administrators who have been working ceaselessly over the last few months to prepare for this new school year. It has been an incredible and important team effort.
On that note, I am looking for a handful of parent volunteers to help us with general supervision of students this year. You won't have to wield more authority than is comfortable for you. These are moments where I expect parents may be more likely to stop on campus: 8-8:30 am, 3:15-4 pm, and 4-4:15 pm. I will be working with BSAP to see what sort of help may be available. Let me know if you are interested.
This morning, I joined our construction foreman, our architect, and key staff for a final inspection of our building. The parking lot will be finished tomorrow, the scaffolding will be removed from the stone facade, and the fencing should disappear soon. I am looking forward to walking onto the finished campus on Monday!
Have a good weekend!
Please find attached the updated Return to Campus Plan for the 2020-21 school year.
I know this has been a difficult and very strange time, and parents across the country are weighing the risks in either keeping children isolated at home or sending them to on-campus education. I have heard heart-breaking stories of young students who have cried at the idea of staying online and others due to the anxiety they feel in returning to campus. And this is over and above the usual nervous energy that new students experience when preparing to attend a new school. The heightened anxiety throughout the media right now has made this conversation even more confusing. Most large schools are struggling right now to figure out how to return to campus, even in a hybrid system, and unfortunately, our smaller schools get swept up in the wake of that debate.
As I have noted before, we have a tremendous advantage right now in being a smaller independent school. The same benefits that bring families to our school in a typical year are even more vital to our success during this pandemic. Quite simply, our more manageable class sizes and our newly remodeled facilities allow us to create the conditions that allow for a return to campus five days a week with mitigated risk. However, the ability of my staff to maintain those conditions and allow us to be on campus requires the total commitment of students, parents, and staff to the basic principles of the attached plan.
I need to be very clear that any student who does not take this situation seriously or is unwilling or unable to follow the very basic expectations of distancing and consistent, proper use of face masks should not attempt to return to campus. I think all of us have seen enough examples of ignorance or thoughtlessness in the larger community to know what I am talking about. When we are back on campus, we will be graceful and precise in educating students and correcting any honest mistakes--we don't wish to shame or embarrass anyone. However, if I find that any student simply cannot follow the expectations outlined in this plan (willfully or not), I will require them to attend classes remotely and will not allow them back on campus until such time as I believe they are capable of conforming to our expectations. For this reason, I need all parents to have a serious and direct conversation--specifically about social distancing and the wearing of face masks--with their children to determine whether those students are prepared to return to campus or remain online when the time comes.
We have outlined the Seabury LIVE program in the Return to Campus plan. Knowing that some students will not be ready or able to join us in person when we return to campus, we want to make sure that all students have access to education and continue to be involved in the community. Seabury LIVE is not synonymous with Connected Learning but is an option for students to watch and listen to classes (and, when possible, participate in class discussion) from home. This option will require a certain degree of student independence and/or management by parents. Also, we cannot have students moving back and forth from on-campus work to Seabury LIVE due the difficulty of keeping track of students. So we are asking that parents commit to being on Seabury Live for a minimum of two weeks, giving us advance notice (as outlined in the plan). For those families who would like to have their children in Seabury LIVE when our campus reopens, we ask that parents reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org by Wednesday, August 19th. You can also contact Ms. Czarnecki in the meantime if you have questions, and we can also answer questions at the parent forum. (See below.)
We are hoping to return to on-campus classes after Labor Day if conditions continue to allow us to do so. We have tweaked the schedule: on-campus orientation is planned to occur on Tuesday, September 8th with classes beginning on Wednesday 9th. Of course, we will make the final determination a bit closer to that date.
I invite all parents to attend the parent forum next Monday, August 17th from 7-8 pm. Here is the Zoom invite:
Join Zoom Meeting
Meeting ID: 874 0629 6673
Finally, I want to emphasize my deep appreciation for the support of parents and your understanding regarding the complexity of this situation. The challenges that have been presented to schools right now are staggering. Once again, I have great confidence that the attached plan and its overlapping levels of protection that will allow us to mitigate risk on campus, even in the event of a COVID-positive individual on campus. However, we will all need to be flexible as we begin this school year and institute this plan, and I appreciate the work of all of us--parents, students, teachers, and staff--in making this work!