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Update to Academy Families — January 8, 2021

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January 8, 2021

Dear St. Johnsbury Academy Families,

 

Warm greetings as we prepare to return to school in this new year. I hope that you were able to find space for joy in the last few weeks. It has been wonderful seeing boarding students arriving in the last few days, and having athletes back for masked and distanced practices; and we are very excited to welcome all students back to classes on Tuesday the 12th.

 

I have some brief updates to share with you:

 

Schedules:

Our weekly hybrid cohort schedule will remain the same this semester:

  • Green Cohort in-person Monday/Wednesday, online Tuesday/Thursday
  • White Cohort in-person Tuesday/Thursday, online Monday/Wednesday
  • Boarding students in-person Monday through Thursday
  • All students online Friday (note: we will NOT be in-person on Fridays)

 

Students will still begin the school day at 8:00 a.m., but we’ve adjusted the day to end at 3:10 p.m. Detailed weekly and daily schedules—as well as the full semester schedule—will be available on the SJA parent plus portal and are also attached to this letter.

 

Please also note that updated individual student schedules will be available on the afternoon of Monday the 11th. Because we are still constrained by density requirements, we’re holding off on any schedule changes right now. 

 

COVID Reminders:

Please remember to do health checks in the morning before students head to school—and students should stay at home if they don’t feel well.

 

COVID case counts are up in Vermont, but we remain one of the safest places in the country—and schools remain some of the safest places in the community— because of all the precautions we take. But please know that we will be monitoring community spread and assessing our safety here on campus continually, while also continuing to follow all of our prevention and health practices (masks, distancing, hand-washing, good ventilation—including newly renovated HVAC systems in many academic buildings).

 

Clubs and Activities:

In addition to athletics, we will offer more after-school clubs and activities this semester so students can have more contact with friends and mentors who share their interests. Campus Life will roll out details about these opportunities during the week of the 18th, and we will post on the website once schedules have been confirmed.

 

Partnering for Student Success:

We remain grateful for your help as your students have faced the challenges of learning in this time of pandemic. Some students have genuinely thrived in online, hybrid learning environments; but as they have all over the world, many have also struggled to stay focused.

 

We have a better sense of this challenge after the fall semester, and our academic support team, department leaders, and faculty have been working to understand how best to help students stay connected and engaged despite distance and distortion. One way we know works is to make even more personal connections with students and families—so we will be giving special attention to that early in the semester. We’re eager to have strong partnerships in place when and if obstacles arise—or better, to be able to see those obstacles coming with our combined vision.

 

I would be remiss not to acknowledge the surreal moment we are living through in America as I write to you. On Wednesday, the Capitol building in Washington, D.C. was stormed by a violent mob as the Congress attempted to ratify the results of the 2020 presidential election. Those results have now been certified, and fortunately our message to students can be that our democratic institutions are indeed resilient. Hopefully, the turmoil will subside as transitions occur this month—but these events have shocked us all, and given our work with students new urgency.

 

For nearly a year now, our children’s experiences have been punctuated regularly by unsettling crises such as these, and have unfolded against a relentless rhythm of anxiety and mourning. So we are constantly amazed by the ways our students find to shine brightly nevertheless. They are doing beautiful art, being admitted to their dream colleges, earning accolades and scholarships, learning to build real buildings and bake real wedding cakes, making new friends who support them and make them laugh, and building strong, meaningful ties with teachers and mentors.

 

I expect that we will need to find new sources of resilience and strength in the coming weeks, and I feel sure that I speak for all of us here at the Academy when I say that one place we find that strength is in the privilege of being part of your students’ lives. Thank you for that privilege, and for a new year of partnership and hope.

 

Take care,

 

Dr. Sharon Howell

Headmaster

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