Headmaster’s Newsletter

Update to Academy Families — January 29, 2021

Bell tower an flag
January 29, 2021

Dear St. Johnsbury Academy Families,


Greetings on a frigid Friday; I hope all are settling into the semester well. Our outdoor activities are a little tougher in this weather, but I still see folks running by my office and have new appreciation for their fortitude!


An opinion piece by David Brooks in today’s New York Times sums up the feelings of most responsible educators during this pandemic: students need to be back in school, together, with teachers and mentors, being cared for in all the ways we have promised to care for them. I am ever more grateful to our faculty and staff for their commitment to SJA students. With their determination, creativity, and tremendous collaborative capacity, they have created an environment where we can be in person safely. You should know that all of our work right now is focused on providing those things that successfully engage the intellects and interests of students, and we are particularly sensitive to the trends that show students struggling just to feel part of something real.


A few updates:


  • Afternoon Study Halls—will begin again this coming Monday, 2/1, in the library from 3:15-5:00 p.m.

  • Attendance—We continue to find too many students not coming to school in person on cohort days, or not joining their classes on Zoom. We’re grateful for your help with ensuring your student is in class and checking in when and where they are supposed to.

  • February and April Breaks—Resident students will remain on campus unless their homes are in Vermont for both the February and the April Breaks this year. Specific plans for breaks will follow, and please contact Jamie Ryan in Residential Life at jryan@stjacademy.org, or the CRT at COVIDResponseTeam@stjacademy.org with questions.

  • The Hair Code—Just as our dress code has not changed, neither has the part of the code pertaining to hair. These are hard times to get a haircut, but if there is hair covering your student’s eyes, we ask that you do so—given our masks, we’d love to see at least the upper part of your student’s face whenever possible. Along those lines—the pandemic has not hindered shaving, and our dress code still requires that you do this, boys, with enough frequency and diligence that robust facial hair does not appear. That is: No Beards, guys.


I’ve started popping in on senior advisories in the last two weeks, and I want to thank Matt Stark, Johnna Kendall, and Pat Kinsella’s advisory groups for spending a few minutes with me and sharing your interests and much good news about colleges, scholarships, local job opportunities, and other important decisions.


We are hopeful that the state of Vermont will continue to help us take proper precautions against COVID-19, offer prompt and helpful testing—and eventually provide vaccinations. There is mounting evidence that students are not getting the virus in school, and Vermont continues to be one of the safest places in the nation. There is still uncertainty about athletics competitions, but our teams are practicing and scrimmaging and clearly having a lot of much-needed fun.


As always, please reach out with questions and concerns, and we will try our best to answer and address them.


Take care and stay warm,


Dr. Sharon Howell


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