Update to Academy Families — December 14, 2021

Bell tower an flag
December 14, 2021

Dear St. Johnsbury Academy Families,


After this week’s final exams, we will be on our Holiday Break. Last Friday’s Chapel was the best of the year, to my mind, because not only did Ms. Huntington present the winning sophomore bowling team with a huge trophy, and have a member of that team recite Mr. Camelio’s final “Joke of the Week” of the year (“What instrument has the best oral hygiene? A tuba toothpaste”), we also got to watch the cast of Mr. Walker’s spring musical, “Mamma Mia,” perform some Broadway quality song and dance numbers on the Fuller Stage. What a joyous way to finish!


I wanted to share a few updates and thoughts as we move into break:


  • Exam Week. We are mid-way through exam week. If you have questions or need to let us know anything pertaining to exams, please email Buffie Hegarty at bhegarty@stjacademy.org.


  • COVID-19 Update. Cases are the highest they have ever been in the Northeast Kingdom and Vermont. The new “Omicron” variant of the virus is alarming health experts around the world. We are about to go on a break, to return on January 11th. We know many of you plan to travel, so we want to ask that you please take precautions like mask-wearing if you do, especially if you are unvaccinated (the vaccine does not make you immune to COVID, but without it you are five times more likely to be infected, and 12 times more likely to be hospitalized). We would love to avoid what some schools are having to do, which is to go remote.


  • Dress Code and Raising the Bar. Many of you will have heard from your students and other sources about the gender-neutral dress code that will go into effect here at the Academy in the Spring semester, beginning January 11th, 2022. Please see the dress code below, and take note of it for the new year. Please direct questions to the Campus Life office.


Our hope is that along with more options for attire, we will have a recommitment to what the dress code is meant to encourage: a culture of respect for ourselves and our school. Let’s have neat, clean and appropriate clothes; hair clean and out of the eyes; and a renewed sense of what we expect from students as people who are part of a respectful Academy community—behavior that reflects young adulthood. I am hopeful and eager to see every student making the most of being a member of the Academy community, and part of doing that is contributing to that community positively—watching the language you use around campus, picking up after yourself, and remembering that you have the power to lift another person up just by being kind to them. Dressing well, taking that part of school life seriously, is just another way that students can contribute positively to our community, so we hope you will partner with us to help them do that.


I want to thank all of the many people here who have lifted beyond their weight this semester to keep things going: my whole Administrative Team and the Covid response team; Mr. Eaton and Ms. Choiniere, who ran most of the semester’s chapels and reflected on character, and optimism, and our responsibility to one another; the class deans, who ran class meetings in the Amphitheater (rain or shine) and the gym: Ms. Angell, Mr. Reed, Ms. Huntington, and Mr. Dussault, with help from Mr. Roberts, Ms. Lang, and Mr. LaCroix. And believe me, we would all be at sea without Buffie Hegarty and Betsy Legendre.


Everything happening here at SJA happens because somebody cares. Nothing, nothing this year has been easy. We are all looking to a New Year and hoping again that it will bring some relative ease back into our lives. Teachers have done yeoman’s work, and I will forever be grateful for their commitment and abiding love of students. So have all the people who make things work here—serving lunch, keeping us safe at the crosswalk, in the dorms, and across campus, supporting teachers, figuring out how much everything costs, keeping the campus shining, and looking after us in so many different ways. These people are always most energized by students and seeing them grow and thrive—and they have been working tirelessly for a very long time to make sure that is happening. But, of course, none of us is really tireless.


Last week many advisors shared with me what their students were most excited about right now. The overwhelming theme was REST closely followed by sleep, family, and freedom to play. Again and again they shared excitement for whatever version of rest was most appealing. Apart from at least one student who was excited about Trigonometry, and I think I’d like to meet you, most everyone was hoping to finish well, get to break, and truly rest.


So here’s to advisors, teachers, mentors, all the people who work here with such love and determination, wearing ugly sweaters and cheering each other on with beautiful, foolish enthusiasm—and to you, students, and your families—I wish for you all the rest that will get us to renewal. We have so much good work to do together, and so many gender-neutral clothes to do it in—please breathe deeply, be well, and let’s look forward eagerly to all that the New Year might bring.


Take care,


Dr. Sharon Howell



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St. Johnsbury Academy Dress Code



Our goal is for the Academy’s dress code to reflect the full breadth of our mission and values, and contribute to creating a culture of belonging and equity while urging students to take pride in the school and themselves. We wish for students


  • to have respect for themselves and others, and for the business of learning;
  • to learn to dress for the work of adult life, recognizing that there are multiple versions of “professionalism;”
  • to know that they belong in our community, no matter their shape, size, race, gender, religion, culture, or socio-economic status;
  • to take ownership of their community and its well-being, comfort, safety, and respect for all.


To achieve these goals, we believe we should offer our students options for acceptable dress during the school day by making our dress code universal and not based on gender. Instead, we use the standard of “neat, clean, and appropriate” for all attire.


Universal Dress Code

We are eager for students to look tidy and maintain a standard of dress in keeping with the tradition of the Academy, so we will not allow T-shirts, jeans, leggings, cargo pants, shorts, sweatpants or sweatshirts. We will expect clothes to be clean, not ripped or torn, not transparent, and free of words or images. 


On most days of the school year, all students will be expected to wear:


Tops: Dress shirts (with or without tie or collar), polos, blouses, turtlenecks, or sweaters. 

  1. Shirts with a flat bottom hem may be worn untucked. Dress shirts with visible tails should be neatly tucked in.

  2. Hooded sweatshirts may be worn as outerwear, but must be removed inside.

  3. Tops should have sleeves and cover the midriff.


Bottoms: Dress pants, skirts, or dresses.

  1. Skirts should be of appropriate length—not above mid-thigh

  2. Pants that are made to be belted should have belts


Hair: Hair length is not restricted by gender, but hair should be of natural color, neat, clean and out of the eyes. Facial hair is not permitted.


Jewelry: Jewelry (including earrings) will not be restricted by gender, face piercings (including nose rings) and spacers are not allowed.


Hats must be removed inside.


Task-appropriate clothing needed to conduct certain educational courses may be worn only during the meeting times of those courses.


Gear Days

If a day is designated a “Gear day,” or if a certain activity is designated “gear day dress code,” all students should wear:


Tops: Visible SJA gear of any kind, including polo shirts, T-shirts, sweatshirts, or jackets.


Bottoms: Regular dress code (see above)


If not wearing SJA gear, the regular dress code applies.


Variety Days

If a day is designated a “Variety Day,” either to raise money for a cause or for any other reason, then all students may wear jeans and other casual clothes (still neat, clean and appropriate).


There will be days that we ask students to dress somewhat more formally, such as for their Capstone presentations and other school events, as they might dress for any other formal or special occasion.


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