The team at St. Johnsbury Academy has spent recent weeks developing thoughtful, responsible, and balanced plans for opening for the 2020-2021 school year in accord with the Vermont Department of Health and Agency of Education Guidance for A Strong and Healthy Start, CDC guidelines, other official and expert advice, and the good thinking that is happening across the world. It is our goal to welcome students back to campus to start the school year on August 31st, and while they’re here, to offer them the best possible SJA experience while keeping them safe and protecting our communities.

 

Our work has focused on ways to maintain and even build on the Academy’s unique daily life, culture, and mission in this unprecedented and unpredictable time. We hope you will use this special section of our website, “Fall 2020 School Opening Roadmap,” as a tool, alongside our SJA student and parent portals, to find up-to-date information and to answer your questions about our opening plans. Thank you for partnering with us for a successful fall!

 

Please feel free to send questions to me using this form.


Choose YOUR PATHWAY for THIS FALL:

Boarding student link

Students living and studying on campus.

Day student link button

This includes day students who prefer to take all classes online.

Virtual Academy button

An exciting new opportunity to have the SJA experience from anywhere in the world!

Updates to Academy Families

from Headmaster Dr. Sharon Howell

Update to Academy Families — July 31, 2020

Dear St. Johnsbury Academy Families,

 

This past Sunday, Academy staff welcomed 50 incoming freshmen to the HALO orientation program, where kids start getting to know the campus, meeting their teachers, and hearing some of the important messages we hope will resonate with them now and throughout their time here. Students gathered for a cookout-style dinner prepared by Chef Hale (where at least one new student was introduced to the wonder of bread pudding) — wearing masks when not eating, and sitting at proper distances around the amphitheater. Our evening speaker reminded us to live generously with one another, and both to be and to surround ourselves with supportive and positive people. I know the HALO teachers continued to convey these important messages throughout the week, in kind words and deeds.

 

It was heartening to see in miniature what it will look like for us this fall to welcome students in the morning with health screenings, to maneuver around campus to classes and activities safely across the school day. As odd (and challenging) as it may initially feel to stay distanced and masked, we are without a doubt adaptable creatures. Psychologists say it takes about two weeks to form a new habit; but when everyone is participating, it takes much less than that. Many of us feel new excitement and optimism about our ability to bring students back to live and learn together while still staying safe.

 

Today’s updates are brief but important.

 

    1. Read the Reopening Plan: Some of you have asked where you can find a clear description of our plan for reopening. Please try our Reopening Road Map site for an overview and up-to-date details.
    2. Governor’s Order on Reopening: We were relieved to hear that our current plan to have students arrive on campus for orientations will not have to change in order to fit yesterday’s executive order from Governor Scott that directs schools to open for instruction “on, but not before, September 8th.” The Agency of Education has assured us that we can still hold our orientations the week of August 31st, and then begin classes on September 8th.
    3. Important Travel Information: I want to share some important travel information from the COVID Response team, which highlights new requirements we will have in place around travel in order to make returning to school possible. We are asking you to limit all unnecessary travel during the school year to reduce the risk of spreading the virus. If traveling on the weekend, we ask that you consult the Vermont Agency of Commerce and Community Development’s COVID-19 Cross State Travel Information to see if the area you are traveling to requires a quarantine period upon return. Anyone who travels to the places listed in yellow, orange, or red will be required to quarantine upon their return. For those of you living in the dorms, our first students will arrive on August 7 for their quarantine. We ask that you plan accordingly to not travel anywhere that will require you to quarantine after August 7th. Note that we are requiring that families adhere to the Vermont quarantine and testing guidelines, and we want to make sure no one misses the start of school on August 31st for this reason. These policies will continue to apply throughout the semester, to assure that students will not miss school because of quarantine requirements.
    4. Parent Survey and Zoom Forum: You can still access our parent survey, and we will be sending it out by text to reach more of you; we will leave it open until next Tuesday. Thank you to those who have already completed it. We will hold a forum for parents to hear more about our plans and to ask questions about them in real-time, on Wednesday evening at 7pm. The link to the Zoom will follow early next week.

     

    School reopening remains a topic of constant conversation in the news; if anything, there are even more articles and opinions about it than ever, and the uncertainty and uncharted nature of this moment are profound. But I want to remind everyone again how fortunate we are to be where we are—and that to get back in school we need to keep being smart about taking care of ourselves and each other. As a new Vermonter, I couldn’t be more grateful to have such responsible neighbors.

     

    Thank you for reading; we’ll have more details each week about our plans, and hope these updates are helpful. In the meantime, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us via the website, email, or phone (802-748-8171) if and when you have questions.

     

    Thank you as ever for trusting us, and I look forward to hearing from and seeing you soon,

     

    Dr. Sharon L. Howell

    Headmaster

Update to Academy Families — July 24, 2020

Dear St. Johnsbury Academy Families,

 

It is a green and tranquil midsummer here on the Academy campus, even as we continue to prepare for students to arrive in just five weeks. Staff here are setting up our classrooms with the right technology, figuring out our traffic flow with “one way” signs, painting our window frames and bell towers so they gleam white, finalizing our SJA “Virtual Academy” plans, investigating outdoor spaces for teaching, and getting ready for the arrival of 50 new freshmen who will participate in the HALO pre-orientation program in-person, on campus, next week. We are most excited to have them here and to start introducing them to all they can look forward to at SJA — an added benefit is that they (and we!) will get a sneak preview of what our school days will be like when everyone is here in the fall. 

 

I have a few short updates to share today, and an invitation to share some feedback with us about how you’re feeling about the return to school.

 

First, I want to emphasize that one of our important guiding principles, alongside the absolute priority of keeping our community healthy, is that to be successful in our reopening we must remain flexible and ready to adjust our plans. That flexibility, alongside care of the community, is what will get us through the shifting realities of the COVID-19 pandemic. We are drawing this map as we go; and as we understand more about what our opening will require, and receive your feedback and questions, we may make adjustments such as the one to the schedule below. We’re also putting new structures into place that will help us to keep adapting well, keep the community informed, and make sure our guidance is easy to understand and follow.

 

1. More regular weekly schedule — In an effort to make our schedule more predictable and easier to manage week to week, instead of rotating our green and white groups every other day, we will do the following:

  1. One group will join us on campus Mondays and Wednesdays, and the other group on Tuesdays and Thursdays, each week.
  2. On Fridays, all students (except boarding students and those with specific needs) will join remotely for classes, chances to connect with faculty and advisors for office hours, and other online activities.

 

2. COVID Response Team — We have established a team of campus life, health center, and facilities staff who will be continuing to develop protocols and clear guidance for all of us around community wellness. They will be sending weekly messages to you about such health and safety measures as response to infection on campus, guidance about travel before and during the school year, mental health support, and updates from the Vermont Department of Health. The team consists of myself and:

  1. Beth Choiniere, Assistant Head for Campus Life
  2. Jack Driscoll, Dean of Students
  3. Sarah Garey, Director of Health Services
  4. Kurt Zschau, Director of Facilities

Please look for the first COVID Response Team message early next week.

 

3. Hearing from You — We are very eager to hear from you, since any plan we devise will only work with your help. We ask that you fill out this very brief survey (should take 1 minute) and share with us what you are hoping for, concerned about, and planning on for the school year. We would love your responses before next Wednesday, July 29th. Remember that you can also write directly to me through our Reopening Roadmap website. We will hold parent Zoom forums to address your questions and hear your thoughts on Thursday the 30th and Friday the 31st (time details to follow). 

 

With the deluge of news about COVID outbreaks around the country, I don’t want to lose sight of the fact that we live in a region of the country that is being lauded for its response to the pandemic; that Vermont has one of the lowest case counts in the country; and that St. Johnsbury Academy is in a county that has had very few cases since March. This is a safe place, and we can make it safer when we are diligent about doing what science tells us will stop the spread of the virus – including wearing masks, washing hands, physical distancing, and getting fresh air. I hope we can partner in doing these simple things, and be a community that stays well — if we do, we can enjoy more and more time together on campus. 

 

Thank you for trusting us, and I look forward to hearing from you and seeing you soon,

 

Dr. Sharon L. Howell

Headmaster

Update to Academy Boarding Student Families — July 17, 2020

Dear St. Johnsbury Academy Families,

 

I am pleased today to share some important details about our plans for reopening St. Johnsbury Academy safely and vibrantly this fall. Our faculty and staff teams have been working hard in recent weeks to develop thoughtful, responsible, and balanced plans for reopening in accordance with the Vermont Department of Health and Agency of Education Guidance for A Strong and Healthy Start, CDC guidelines, other official and expert advice, and the good thinking that is happening across the world. Opening schools safely is a topic of intense national and international debate right now, so we are not alone in grappling with how to welcome kids back to campus—which we are excited to do, and know is right for their continued well-being and progress—while still staying safe and protecting our communities.

 

One size does not fit all when it comes to creating reasonable plans. Much of our work has been to understand what the current crisis will require from St. Johnsbury Academy, in particular, and to adapt and interpret official public health mandates to fit the Academy’s unique daily life, culture, and mission. Our planning has been in four general areas: Health and Safety, Academic and Campus Life, Residential Life, and Communication. This letter will explain and offer details about:

 

  • The health and safety measures we are putting in place
  • Plans to reduce the density of people on campus in the fall
  • The daily, weekly, and yearly Academy schedules
  • Our hybrid model of teaching and learning
  • Plans for ongoing communication

 

We hope the plans we’re outlining here will provide helpful grounding and clarity as we prepare to come together in the fall and help you understand the path we are creating to open for the 2020-2021 school year. We have created a special section of the website, Fall 2020 School Opening Roadmap, and hope you will use it as a primary tool to find up-to-date information and answers to your general and more specific questions. We want to help make these plans as clear as we can.

 

Health and Safety

 

You’ve told us that your keenest concern is about the nature and extent of the measures we are putting in place to protect the health and safety of the community, and that is our most important guiding consideration. Our plan is to put in place and monitor comprehensive measures regarding recommended use of physical spaces and campus facilities, screening and reporting policies, and changes in on-campus behaviors, some of which are now familiar to all and some of which will require orientation and education. These measures meet and exceed the recommendations of the Vermont Department of Health, and include:

 

  • Mask wearing—We will require all faculty, staff, and students to wear facial coverings while in buildings, as well as in other settings or outside where reasonable physical distancing cannot be maintained. Adults dropping off and picking up students should wear facial coverings. Instructions for making, wearing, and washing facial coverings can be found on the CDC website. We ask that students bring their own masks, but we will be providing reusable masks at orientation and disposable masks throughout the year as they are needed.
  • Hand washing—additional hand-washing stations and hand sanitizer will be installed in classrooms, dorms, and other public spaces.
  • Social distancing—we will expect all to practice social distancing. We are reconfiguring classrooms and other spaces to allow for reasonable distancing, and analyzing what that means for our dining hall, field house, buses, and larger public spaces.
  • Limited gatherings—we will follow evolving state guidelines and consider the limitations of our physical spaces in limiting the number of people allowed to gather.
  • Use of outdoor spaces—our faculty and staff are looking at options for conducting classes and activities outdoors when possible as research shows being in fresh air mitigates the spread of the virus.
  • Evaluating HVAC systems and ventilation—there is good guidance and support for improving systems to conduct and circulate fresh air indoors.
  • Increased disinfecting and cleaning—our facilities team has already put protocols in place for cleaning and disinfecting at the recommended levels and frequencies.
  • Daily screening—all boarding students will be screened in their dorms daily for temperature and symptoms of COVID-19 before leaving the dorm—staff and faculty will continue to self-screen and report.
  • Encouraging staying home when sick—we will insist that boarding students with any symptoms related to COVID-19 be isolated and cared for in a dedicated spot away from the center of campus with private baths, proctor presence, and access to pediatric care until they have recovered and can return to school. Faculty, staff, and day students will be required to return home if symptoms are present and seek medical support from their primary doctors.
  • Testing, quarantine, and travel restrictions—we are planning to stagger arrival of boarding students within a timeframe that will enable them to quarantine according to state mandates.
  • Response to infection on campus—we are developing our response to infection on campus and will work closely with the Department of Health on those protocols. Please visit our website for information about our considerations for deciding when it will be necessary to cancel some activities, move online temporarily, or close school for a period of time. We have good quarantine space available for boarding students and will be working to “cohort” students in groups to limit contact and exposure.
  • Reduce the density of people on campus (more on this in “Academic and Campus Life Programs”)—to limit the number of students on campus per day, boarding students will attend classes every day while most day students will attend school in-person on campus every other day.
  • Traffic flow and campus signage—we are analyzing how to limit movement during the day, control traffic flow through campus, and post clear signs across campus and in buildings to help guide students to follow health and safety protocols.
  • Transportation—we will be limiting off-campus trips and most field trips.
  • Visitors—we will be strictly limiting visitors to campus.

 

The facilities group, health center staff, and campus life staff are staying abreast of current guidelines and recommendations. Many of these preparations and enhancements have already been made, and protocols are already being followed by staff and those on campus for summer programs.

 

Academic and Campus Life Programs

 

Our goal is to have all students attend school, whether on campus or virtually, every day—and we will be expecting those online to join their classes virtually in real-time, and they will be accountable for attending and engaging in class. This strategy will allow us to move temporarily fully online, or open to more students should conditions allow it. It also means that students have school every day, so unlike in the spring, they will have routines and daily required participation.

 

We plan to start our school year on August 31st, beginning with enhanced, required student orientation programming before the start of classes. During the week of August 31st, students will work with teachers and advisors to become accustomed to the new norms and expectations as well as be reminded of the standards of campus culture we will continue to expect. Academic classes will begin in full on September 8th. Many elements of the school day will remain the same, as will the contours of the fall semester schedule.

 

Please see our 2020-2021 school calendar for more important dates in the upcoming school year.

 

The past spring semester taught us a lot about what remote learning looks like, and exposed some significant issues around equity, access, and quality of experience. While some students thrived, others struggled more to adapt to or to participate in the remote curriculum.

 

Teachers have been involved in the development of the fall schedule and curriculum and are working hard to create versions of courses that are robust, engaging, and prioritize building skills and developing capacities within this new hybrid mode. Many have already worked with recognized experts in online and hybrid teaching and will continue professional development through the summer and throughout the fall semester. We also have in-house expertise in learning technology and will continue to help teachers to integrate it into their work with students. The school as a whole will:

 

  • Adapt our curriculum to a hybrid learning model—day students will attend school on campus, in person, every other day while boarding students will attend school on campus daily. Day students will be divided into cohorts, so that roughly 50% of the student body is on campus each day. On alternate days, day students will attend school online, joining their classes using a hybrid model of combined in-class and virtual attendance.
  • Offer a recognizable school day schedule with five 70-minute periods, and 4 classes per semester.
  • Prepare for courses to be taught 100% online if necessary or preferable by developing each course in the curriculum to be available on Canvas (our learning platform) and to be designed to a high standard.
  • Offer 100% online courses in the early mornings and evenings for international students and day students who may need to remain off-campus for health or other considerations.
  • Explore offering students with specific and special needs—including those in Special Education or with internet access challenges—the opportunity to be on campus daily.
  • Determine, acquire, and deploy appropriate classroom and personal technology to enable combined in-person and online learning.
  • Reconfigure, replace, or reschedule courses that are not possible to run online.
  • Provide engaging afternoon enrichment activities for all.
  • Follow the Department of Health guidelines regarding athletic competition. Although decisions about formal competition will come at a later date, we will continue to hold team sports practices, team fitness, scrimmaging, and offer other intramural modes to support the health and wellness of our students.

 

Residential Life Program

 

We saw in the spring that our residential life staff and the nature of our facilities make it possible for us to care exceptionally well for our boarding students and to keep them safe in a crisis. It helps that Vermont has been from the start one of the safest places in the country, and has both taken its responsibility to protect its citizens seriously and followed the advice of public health professionals in designing its statewide requirements for pandemic response. Our town and Caledonia County continue to be among the three or four safest places in the state.

 

We hope and believe that, by guiding students and families arriving from other parts of the country and world carefully around arrival, quarantining, testing, and other mandated health measures, we will create a safe and healthy living environment for our boarding students within our larger school community. As we’ve shared above, careful and well-understood protocols will help us to avoid spread in the event of infection on campus, and in case a boarding student should become ill, we have the capacity to provide medical care for them in isolation and then help them recover and return to school.

 

In addition to the health and safety measures we are asking all community members to follow, we are also looking to create safe conditions for boarding students and faculty. We will:

 

  • Stagger and carefully monitor fall arrivals and help students quarantine properly.
  • Look carefully at density of dorm populations to allow for social distancing.
  • Restrict off-campus travel and visitors to campus to limit exposure.
  • Configure residents and dorms into “family groups” or “pods” who can live together with some eased restrictions.
  • Provide sufficient faculty and staff support to allow students to remain on campus who do not wish to return home for breaks.
  • Create dedicated, isolated infirmary space away from the center of campus with private baths, proctor presence, and access to pediatric care.
  • Adapt food service—refrigerators in dorms will be stocked with breakfast food, and dinner and other meals will be served in safely configured spaces.
  • Food service staff will follow additional protocols for working safely, including alternating weeks of work.

 

We cherish our boarding students and all they contribute to the community, and we will do all we can to welcome them to campus in this new year. We also understand that there may be restrictions on visas and travel across borders that make it difficult or even impossible for some international students to join us. That is why we are offering fully online courses in the early mornings and evenings, adapted specifically to be comfortable for those who are not able to join us in the fall and who are in very different time zones. These courses—the SJA Virtual Academy—will be taught by some of our most creative and capable faculty, and more specific information about course offerings will follow; but we will have core, AP, and advanced courses as well as ESL available. Our hope will be that all students will be able to join us on campus as soon as possible.

 

Communication

 

Our Fall 2020 School Opening Roadmap will be our hub for communication about COVID-19 planning and response, and we encourage you to visit the site and explore the pathways differentiated for day, boarding, and online students, and also look at our FAQs.

 

We are eager to hear from you and to know what you are thinking about the upcoming year. I will explain more in my regular update about how we will provide opportunities for you to share feedback and ask questions in real-time. These will likely include a Zoom forum for parents, a dedicated comment and question area on the website, and surveys about specific issues. As is clear, there is a great deal of information that we want to share, and you can count on regular communication from me and our team about things you will want and need to know about the upcoming school year.

 

I want to thank my Administrative team, and the hard-working Task Forces for their commitment to responding with ingenuity and optimism to the changing landscape and the potential scenarios we are facing. Planning and preparation will continue throughout the summer, and we expect that some things will remain uncertain; but you can be confident that we are tackling this challenge in an ongoing and responsive way.

 

Keeping all members of our community safe remains our highest priority—all else depends on it. But we also see this as an opportunity for the special qualities of our school to shine. As we make sure that Academy students are continuing to benefit as much as possible from their time with us, and that we are continuing to fulfill our mission to help them become the best people, learners, and citizens they can be, we will also learn new ways to support and know each other. We will learn important lessons about equity, fairness, and have many more chances to understand the ways we are strong and can grow stronger. Even as we face constraints, we see ways that the new skills and abilities we are needing to learn will serve us well in the future, and give us new tools to use in teaching, learning, and life. We are busy looking for ways not just to maintain but to enhance our work in creative ways—the daily lessons, support, encouragement and joy we experience with teachers, coaches, and friends are critical and life-changing, and our goal is to start making them happen as soon as we possibly can.

 

With our thanks for your continued support and partnership,

 

Dr. Sharon L. Howell, Headmaster

 

The Lead Planning Team

Jack Cummings, Associate Headmaster

Carol Lyon, Assistant Head for Business Operations

Tammi Cady, Assistant Head for Advancement

William Vinton, Dean of Academics

Beth Choiniere, Assistant Head for Campus Life

Update to Academy Day Student Families — July 17, 2020

Dear St. Johnsbury Academy Families,

 

I am pleased today to share some important details about our plans for reopening St. Johnsbury Academy safely and vibrantly this fall. Our faculty and staff teams have been working very hard in recent weeks to develop thoughtful, responsible, and balanced plans for reopening in accordance with the Vermont Department of Health and Agency of Education Guidance for A Strong and Healthy Start, CDC guidelines, other official and expert advice, and the good thinking that is happening across the world. Opening schools safely is a topic of intense national and international debate right now, so we are not alone in grappling with how to welcome kids back to campus—which we are excited to do, and know is right for their continued well-being and progress—while still staying safe and protecting our communities.

 

One size does not fit all when it comes to creating reasonable plans. Much of our work has been to understand what the current crisis will require from St. Johnsbury Academy, in particular, and to adapt and interpret official public health mandates to fit the Academy’s daily life, culture, and mission. Our planning has been in four general areas: Health and Safety, Academic and Campus Life, Residential Life, and Communication. This letter will explain and offer details about:

 

  • The health and safety measures we are putting in place
  • Plans to reduce the density of people on campus in the fall
  • The daily, weekly, and yearly Academy schedules
  • Our hybrid model of teaching and learning
  • Plans for ongoing communication

 

We hope that the plans we’re outlining here will provide helpful grounding and clarity as we prepare to come together in the fall and help you to understand the path we are creating to open for the 2020-2021 school year. We have created a special section of the website, Fall 2020 School Opening Roadmap, and hope you will use it as a primary tool to find up-to-date information and answers to your general and more specific questions. We want to help make these plans as clear as we can, because we will need everyone to be part of making them work—your partnership and support is more critical now than ever.

 

Health and Safety

 

You’ve told us that your keenest concern is about the nature and extent of the measures we are putting in place to protect the health and safety of the community, and that is our most important guiding consideration. Our plan is to put in place and monitor comprehensive measures regarding recommended use of physical spaces and campus facilities, screening and reporting policies, and changes in on-campus behaviors, some of which are now familiar to all and some of which will require orientation and education. These measures meet and sometimes exceed the recommendations of the Vermont Department of Health, including:

 

  • Mask wearing—we will require all faculty, staff, and students to wear facial coverings while in buildings, as well as in other settings or outside where reasonable physical distancing cannot be maintained. Adults dropping off and picking up students should wear facial coverings. Instructions for making, wearing, and washing facial coverings can be found on the CDC website. We will ask that students bring their own masks, but we will also provide reusable masks during orientation and disposable masks throughout the year as needed.
  • Hand washing—additional hand washing stations and hand sanitizer will be installed in classrooms, dorms, and other public spaces.
  • Social distancing—we will expect all to practice social distancing. We are reconfiguring classrooms and other spaces to allow for reasonable distancing and analyzing what that means for our dining hall, field house, buses, and larger public spaces.
  • Encouraging staying home when sick—we will insist that students, faculty, and staff with any symptoms related to COVID-19 return home, self-isolate, and contact their primary doctor to be tested for the virus.
  • Limited gatherings—we will follow evolving state guidelines, and consider the limitations of our physical spaces in limiting the number of people allowed to gather.
  • Use of outdoor spaces—our faculty and staff are looking at options for conducting classes and activities outdoors when possible, as research shows being in fresh air mitigates the spread of the virus.
  • Evaluating HVAC systems and ventilation—there is good guidance and support for improving systems to conduct and circulate fresh air indoors.
  • Increased disinfecting and cleaning—our facilities team has already put protocols in place for cleaning and disinfecting at the recommended levels and frequencies.
  • Daily screening—all students will be screened daily for temperature and symptoms of COVID-19 before arriving on campus. Staff and faculty will continue to self-screen and report.
  • Testing, quarantine, and travel restrictions—we are planning to stagger arrival of boarding students within a timeframe that will enable them to quarantine according to state mandates. We will ask that all members of the community check the VT Department of Health Travel Guidance for up-to-date instructions.
  • Response to infection on campus—we are developing our response to infection on campus and will work closely with the Department of Health on those protocols. Please visit our website FAQs for more information about our considerations for deciding when it will be necessary to cancel some activities, move online temporarily, or close school for a period of time. We have quarantine space available for boarding students if needed.
  • Reduce the density of people on campus (more on this in “Academic and Campus Life Programs”)—to limit the number of students on campus per day, students will attend school in-person on campus every other day or some variation depending upon the need.
  • Traffic flow and campus signage—we are analyzing how to limit movement during the day, control traffic flow through campus, and post clear signs across campus and in buildings that will guide students to follow the health and safety protocols.
  • Transportation—we will be limiting off-campus trips and not allowing field trips for the foreseeable future.
  • Visitors—we will be strictly limiting visitors to campus.

 

The facilities group, health center staff, and campus life staff are staying abreast of current guidelines and recommendations. Many of these preparations and enhancements have already been made, and protocols are already being followed by staff and those on campus for summer programs.

 

Academic and Campus Life Programs

 

Our goal is to have all students attend school, whether on campus or virtually, every day—and we will be requiring attendance from those online who will be expected to join their classes virtually in real-time. Students will be fully accountable for attending and engaging in class each day. This strategy will allow us to ensure students have daily routines and commitments and will also give us the flexibility to move fully online for an appropriate period of time if necessary or to open to more students should conditions allow it.

 

We plan to start our school year on August 31st, beginning with enhanced, required student orientation programming before the start of classes. During the week of August 31st, students will be in-person, on campus, by year of graduation, and will work with teachers and advisors to become accustomed to the new norms and expectations as well as to be reminded of the standards of campus culture we will continue to expect. Academic classes will begin in full on September 8th. Many elements of the school day will remain the same as will the contours of the fall semester schedule.

 

Please see our 2020-2021 school calendar for more important dates in the upcoming school year.

 

The past spring semester taught us a lot about what remote learning looks like, and exposed some significant issues around equity, access, and quality of experience. While some students thrived, others struggled more to adapt to or to participate in the remote curriculum.

 

Teachers have been involved in the development of the fall schedule and curriculum and are working hard to create versions of courses that are robust, engaging, and prioritize building skills and developing capacities within this new hybrid mode. Many have already worked with recognized experts in online and hybrid teaching and will continue professional development through the summer and throughout the fall semester. We also have in-house expertise in learning technology and will continue to help teachers to integrate it into their work with students. We will:

 

  • Adapt our curriculum to a hybrid learning model—students will attend school on campus, in person, every other day. They will be divided alphabetically into “green and white” cohorts, so that roughly 50% of the student body is on campus each day. On alternate days, students will attend school online, joining their classes using a hybrid model of combined in-class and virtual attendance.
  • Offer a recognizable school day schedule with five 70-minute periods, and 4 classes per semester.
  • Prepare for courses to be taught 100% online if necessary or preferable, by developing each course in the curriculum to be available on Canvas (our learning platform) and to be designed to a high standard.
  • Offer robust, 100% online courses in the early mornings and evenings for those international students who are not able to join us in person for the fall semester, and also to support those day students who may need to remain off-campus for health or other considerations.
  • Explore offering students with specific and special needs—including those in Special Education or with internet access challenges—the opportunity to be on campus daily.
  • Determine, acquire, and deploy appropriate classroom and personal technology to enable combined in-person and online learning.
  • Reconfigure, replace, or reschedule courses that are not possible to run online.
  • Provide engaging afternoon enrichment activities for all.
  • Follow the Department of Health guidelines regarding athletic competition. Although decisions about formal competition will come at a later date, we will continue to hold team sports practices, team fitness, scrimmaging, and offer other intramural modes to support the health and wellness of our students.

 

Communication

 

The Fall 2020 School Opening Roadmap will be our hub for communication about COVID-19 planning and response, and we encourage you to visit the site and explore the pathways differentiated for day, boarding, and online students, and also to look at our FAQs.

 

We are eager to hear from you and to know how you are thinking about the upcoming year. I will explain more in my regular update about how we will provide opportunities for you to share feedback and ask questions in real-time. These will include a Zoom forum for parents, a dedicated comment and question areas on the website, and surveys about your family’s plans and concerns. As is clear, there is a great deal of information that we want to share, and that we will need from you—so you can count on regular communication from me and our team about things you will want and need to know about the upcoming school year.

 

I want to thank my Administrative team, and the hard-working task forces for their commitment to responding with ingenuity and optimism to the changing landscape and the potential scenarios we are facing. Planning and preparation will continue throughout the summer, and we expect that some things will remain uncertain or change. But you can be confident that we are tackling this challenge in an ongoing and responsive way.

 

Keeping all members of our community safe remains our highest priority—all else depends on it. But I want to be clear that we also see this as an opportunity for the special qualities of our school to shine. As we make sure that Academy students are continuing to benefit as much as possible from their time with us, and that we are continuing to fulfill our mission to help them become the best people, learners, and citizens they can be, we will also learn new ways to support and know each other. We will learn important lessons about equity, fairness, and have many more chances to understand the ways we are strong and can grow stronger. Even as we face constraints, we see ways that the new skills and abilities we are needing to learn will serve us well in the future, and give us new tools to use in teaching, learning, and life. We are busy looking for ways not just to maintain, but to enhance our work in creative ways—the daily lessons, support, encouragement and joy we experience with teachers, coaches, and friends are critical and life-changing, and our goal is to start making them happen again as soon as we possibly can.

 

With our thanks for your continued support and partnership,

 

Dr. Sharon L. Howell, Headmaster

 

The Lead Planning Team

Jack Cummings, Associate Headmaster

Carol Lyon, Assistant Head for Business Operations

Tammi Cady, Assistant Head for Advancement

William Vinton, Dean of Academics

Beth Choiniere, Assistant Head for Campus Life

Update to Academy Families — July 6, 2020

Dear St. Johnsbury Academy Families,

 

As I join you as Headmaster, I am eager to address what I know is at the front of our minds right now: how the Academy will manage the reopening of school this fall in light of the constantly changing landscape of the COVID-19 pandemic. I write today to share with you some important information about our planning process, to clarify when and how you can expect to hear from us as planning continues and develops, and to thank you for joining us in preparation for the coming year.

 

As you know, we have been working in task forces of faculty and staff for many weeks to understand the challenges posed by the pandemic, to respond to them with ingenuity, and to plan responsibly for a healthy 2020-2021 academic year. We are guided by three main principles: the absolute priority of community safety and wellbeing; our understanding of the importance of convening school in person; and our desire to preserve, protect, and even to build on the powerful educational community of St. Johnsbury Academy through this unprecedented crisis. Our approach is to consider how to adapt critical areas of school life to follow state and federal mandates, to interpret and incorporate guidance from professional organizations, and to collaborate with peer schools and educational experts.

 

My most important message to you today is that we are proceeding with plans to open the St. Johnsbury Academy campus to students this fall. The American Academy of Pediatrics recently advised that “all policy considerations for the coming school year should start with a goal of having students physically present in school,” and Vermont state officials have made a similar recommendation. We are taking that advice to heart, and basing our plans on the assumption that we wish to welcome as many students back to campus as possible while complying with official guidelines and restrictions as they evolve.

 

At the same time, we recognize that many of our families will encounter obstacles to arriving on campus, including visas and travel restrictions, and will need our help to continue their educational progress at the Academy. We also recognize that some in the community will be concerned about being on campus for health reasons. That is why all of the scenarios we are imagining for the fall assume some degree of remote or online instruction, and why we are preparing to offer academic and extra/co-curricular programming that is dynamic, robust, and consistent, emphasizing strong student engagement and synchronous instruction adjusted to meet the needs of our diverse population. Indeed, we will be prepared to offer programming completely online for all students should that become necessary.

 

This week and next, our task forces are completing the first critical stages of their work. When they have done so, we will share with you a complete and detailed plan for opening, including such details as staggered student returns and quarantine protocols; daily, weekly, and semester schedules; faculty professional development; enhanced student orientations; dining; dorm life; and the safety requirements that will become part of our daily routines. Following that, there will be multiple opportunities for you to ask questions, share concerns, and speak with us in virtual and written forums. We are committed to communicating with you regularly, often, and honestly; it is invaluable for us to hear from you as we plan, and we will make every effort to remain flexible enough to incorporate your feedback alongside all other considerations.

 

I believe that you are our most important partners in making the most of these extraordinary circumstances, and in keeping our students and community safe, whole, and working toward our mission. It is already clear to me that your trust in and care for the Academy is powerful, and I know that the faculty, staff, administrators, and I honor that trust deeply, and will continue to do all we can to make this year a positive experience for you and our students.

 

Yours Gratefully,

 

Dr. Sharon L. Howell

Headmaster


FAQs

What are the Vermont guidelines for the opening of schools in the fall?

Our faculty and staff have been working hard in recent weeks to develop thoughtful, responsible, and balanced plans for the opening of school in accordance with the Vermont Department of Health and Agency of Education Guidance for A Strong and Healthy Start, CDC guidelines, other official and expert advice, and the good thinking that is happening across the world.

When will boarding students move onto campus?

Please refer to the boarding section of this site.

What is the testing and quarantining plan for students?

If you are a boarding student, please refer to the boarding section on this site.

 

If you are a day student and traveling by car or walking to school, no quarantine is needed upon arrival to campus assuming you have not traveled outside of the safe counties as posted by the State of Vermont. Safe counties are updated regularly and can be found here.

 

If you traveled to an area outside of the safe counties as posted by the State of Vermont, you must quarantine at home for seven days followed by a negative COVID-19 test result, or quarantine at home for 14 days with no test before arriving on campus. 

 

Students will be asked a series of questions each morning before entering Academy buildings. If a student has traveled without quarantine, been in contact with a COVID-19 positive person, or has a fever or other symptoms, they will be required to return home until they have a negative COVID-19 test or quarantined for 14 days.  

How was it decided to split the day school population by alphabet and not by class?

To decrease the density of each classroom, we were unable to split the student body by graduation class. Because most classrooms have students from the same grade and we are required to achieve the 6-foot distance requirement, we needed to split the individual classroom student size in half. The class will run as normal, with half of the class sitting in-person, while the other half remotes in. Those students remoting in will still be active participants in the class and will need to attend at the regular class time schedule for attendance purposes.  This will also keep students on a normal schedule.

When will we know which days our student will attend in person?

We are working to finish the master schedule. Once that is complete, we will release the breakdown of which students will be assigned to which days for in-person classes for the hybrid schedule.

Can you explain how you came up with the daily schedule?

In an effort to make our schedule more predictable and easier to manage week to week, instead of rotating our green and white groups every other day, we will do the following:

  1. One group will join us on campus Mondays and Wednesdays, and the other group on Tuesdays and Thursdays, each week.
  2. On Fridays, we will go remote in the morning, offering a half day of short period, all-online classes. This will be followed by a flexible afternoon with opportunities for teachers to have individual meetings with students, or for students in sciences, arts, and/or CTE courses to come to campus on alternate weeks to work on projects and other enrichment activities. 

 

 

One size does not fit all when it comes to creating reasonable plans. Much of our work has been to understand what the current crisis will require from St. Johnsbury Academy, in particular, and to adapt and interpret official public health mandates to fit the Academy’s unique daily life, culture, and mission.

Will my day student have downtime during the online school days?

Day students studying on remote days will be required to attend their normal classes at the regular time via Zoom. The school day runs from 7:55 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. each day.  Students are expected to attend the full day and attendance will be taken.

When can I expect to get instructions on how to access the Parent and Student Portals?

Returning parents and students already have an account.  If you did not activate the account, you will be resent an email to the email address we have on file with your credentials once we have uploaded all the necessary information for the school year. 

 

New parents and student credentials will be sent when we have uploaded all the necessary information for the school year.  The credentials will be sent to the email address we have on file.

Can you suggest alternatives for those of us who live beyond the reach of cable or internet service?

The Line Extension Customer Assistance Program (“LECAP”) provides up to $3,000 in assistance to qualifying and eligible consumers who seek to extend telecommunications lines to their homes. Hundreds of Vermonters without 25/3 Mbps broadband service live just beyond the reach of current cable and other internet service providers’ networks.  

 

For more information please visit  

https://publicservice.vermont.gov/content/vermont-covid-19-line-extension-customer-assistance-program

What key dates should we be aware of and where do we find the daily schedule?

We plan to start our school year on August 31st, beginning with enhanced, required student orientation programming before the start of classes. During the week of August 31st, students will work with teachers and advisors to become accustomed to the new norms and expectations as well as to be reminded of the standards of campus culture we will continue to expect. Academic classes will begin in full on September 8th. Many elements of the school day will remain the same and we encourage you to view the daily schedule. It would be helpful to check the school calendar for other key dates.  

What measures are being put in place to protect the health and safety of the community?

We have established a team of campus life, health center, and facilities staff who will be continuing to develop protocols and clear guidance for all of us around community wellness. The team consists of:

 

  1. Dr. Sharon Howell, Headmaster

  2. Beth Choiniere, Assistant Head for Campus Life

  3. Jack Driscoll, Dean of Students

  4. Sarah Garey, Director of Health Services

  5. Kurt Zschau, Director of Facilities

 

 

Plans are in place to monitor comprehensive measures regarding recommended use of physical spaces and campus facilities, screening and reporting policies, and changes in on-campus behaviors, some of which are now familiar to all and some of which will require orientation and education. These measures meet and exceed the recommendations of the Vermont Department of Health, and include:

 

 

  • Mask wearing—We will require all faculty, staff, and students to wear facial coverings while in buildings, as well as in other settings, or outside where reasonable physical distancing cannot be maintained. Adults dropping off and picking up students should wear facial coverings. Instructions for making, wearing, and washing facial coverings can be found on the CDC website. We ask that students bring their own masks, but we will provide reusable masks at orientation and disposable masks throughout the year as they are needed.

  • Hand washing—additional hand-washing stations and hand sanitizer will be installed in classrooms, dorms, and other public spaces.

  • Social distancing—we will expect all to practice social distancing. We are reconfiguring classrooms and other spaces to allow for reasonable distancing, and analyzing what that means for our dining hall, field house, buses, and larger public spaces.

  • Limited gatherings—we will follow evolving state guidelines and consider the limitations of our physical spaces in limiting the number of people allowed to gather.

  • Use of outdoor spaces—our faculty and staff are looking at options for conducting classes and activities outdoors when possible as research shows being in fresh air mitigates the spread of the virus.

  • Evaluating HVAC systems and ventilation—there is good guidance and support for improving systems to conduct and circulate fresh air indoors.

  • Increased disinfecting and cleaning—our facilities team has already put protocols in place for cleaning and disinfecting at the recommended levels and frequencies.

  • Daily screening—all students will be screened daily for temperature and symptoms of COVID-19—staff and faculty will continue to self-screen and report.

  • Encouraging staying home when sick—we will insist that boarding students with any symptoms related to COVID-19 be isolated and cared for in a dedicated spot away from the center of campus with private baths, proctor presence, and access to pediatric care until they have recovered and can return to school. Faculty, staff, and day students will be required to return home if symptoms are present and seek medical support from their primary doctors.

  • Testing, quarantine, and travel restrictions—we are planning to stagger arrival of boarding students within a timeframe that will enable them to quarantine according to state mandates.  Day students who have visited or are traveling from non-approved counties as indicated by the State of Vermont (https://accd.vermont.gov/covid-19/restart/cross-state-travel) will need to quarantine at home prior to coming to school. 

  • Response to infection on campus—we are developing our response to infection on campus and will work closely with the Department of Health on those protocols. Please visit our Pause or Shutdown Plans below this section for deciding when it would be necessary to cancel some activities, move online temporarily, or close school for a period of time. We have good quarantine space available for boarding students and will be working to “cohort” students in groups to limit contact and exposure.

  • Reduce the density of people on campus—to limit the number of students on campus per day, boarding students and day students with special circumstances will attend classes every day while most day students will attend school in-person on campus every other day.  Please refer to the daily schedule. 

  • Traffic flow and campus signage—we are analyzing how to limit movement during the day, control traffic flow through campus, and post clear signs across campus and in buildings to help guide students to follow health and safety protocols.

  • Transportation—we will be limiting off-campus trips and most field trips.

  • Visitors—we will be strictly limiting all visitors to campus.


Other Important School Opening Information

Pause or Shutdown Plans

We have developed a range of plans based on different situations and circumstances that may require us to pause or shut down some or all school activities. A shutdown may be necessary based on any of the following scenarios:

 

  • A statewide order to close due to any number of factors that are out of our control.

 

  • The local public health department recommends a school shut down due to campus outbreak.

 

  • Infirmary bed space, including all licensed infirmary surge space, has been utilized to its maximum capacity.

 

  • An outbreak on campus where our COVID-19 cohort and quarantine spaces are maxed out.

 

  • Health Center staffing does not allow for adequate coverage of the school’s Health Center facilities.

 

  • Faculty/staff absenteeism is too high to carry out the daily operations of the school.

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Questions about our school opening plans?

 

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