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.
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.
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.
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.
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