Update to Academy Families — October 9, 2020
Dear St. Johnsbury Academy Families,
Yesterday afternoon and evening, many of you will have had the chance to connect with the teachers of your students during our virtual Meet the Teachers conferences. I hope that in your meetings with faculty you got a sense of just how dedicated they are to the growth and development of your children — these young people in whose success we are all invested. What we’re being required to do as a school to be open, safe, and worthwhile for students is strenuous, but what I see and hear from faculty, staff, and students alike is that our time together has tremendous value — and for some students there are upsides and opportunities where we would never have expected them.
I want to update you on a few important things — including a few adjustments coming up in our calendar — and appreciate in advance your flexibility and help. We recently realized that in the course of shifting our dates for the semester, October break was written out of the fall calendar. But there’s a reason that we usually have one! So we have put some respite back into the mix, not only to have a much-needed breather but also to allow some critical campus improvements to happen while we’re out of the buildings. Here’s what it looks like.
Wednesday, October 14th: PSAT/SAT Testing day
All students except junior and senior test takers are OFF
Virtual Academy teacher conferences
Thursday, October 15th
ALL Students ONLINE for regular full-day schedule
Friday, October 16th: “In-Service” Day
Faculty write narratives and reports for midterm
Students and staff have day off
Monday 19th: HOLIDAY for all
Tuesday 20th: Quarter 2 classes begin
We will keep to the regular weekly schedule and have our morning online on Friday, October 23rd. We very much hope that this extra day of rest will help us all return refreshed for the start of the 2nd quarter.
Virtual Academy Conferences and Virtual Boarding Parents’ “Weekend” — Dean of International Students Kendra Brazeau and her team of Virtual Academy teachers will be available to meet with parents of Virtual Academy students on the morning of Wednesday October 14th. Please watch for communication about this if you are among the Virtual Academy families. We are also planning to put together a short weekend program for all other boarding parents to replace the usual parents’ weekend opportunity. We will have more details on that program soon, and will communicate about signing up so you have plenty of lead time.
Travel Options for Thanksgiving and Winter Break — we have offered some different options to boarding families for travel over the coming breaks*, but I also want to remind day families that they need to continue to follow the Vermont State guidelines on travel outside the state, and if necessary, to quarantine for the required amount of time once they return. If you do choose to travel, we will ask you to finish the remainder of the term online. The world is changing fast, so we don’t know what things will look like at Thanksgiving, but we will hope that most students will be able to be here in person up until the December break — and to do that we will need families to be attentive and to work with us on following the right guidelines and staying safe.
Students Engaging and Attending During Online Days — we’ve been having difficulty helping some students to stay engaged while joining their classes online. We want to be clear that we are requiring students to check in and be in class during the online days — even if their teachers offer them asynchronous work to complete, they need to stay engaged and be included in attendance for their classes. Tracking student whereabouts could become critical in the case of contact tracing, but we also want to encourage respect for teachers and advisors, so please help us to keep students on track during “at-home” days, and remember that they are still accountable for being “in school” on those days.
Waiting Space in Cold Weather — we are working to find solutions for those students who arrive on campus earlier and leave later than our buildings are fully open, including using the library in the afternoon and the dining hall in the mornings. Know that we are aware this is an issue, and don’t want students to be left in the cold! We will guide students to go to spaces that are appropriate so they can stay warm and even do work after school in amenable spaces.
Physical Distancing Reminder — Tuesday the Agency of Education clarified that we are still required to maintain the 6-foot physical distancing requirement even as we have moved to “Step III.” We appreciate all you’re doing to make sure that students are healthy when they get here — COVID response coordinator Jack Driscoll tells us that we haven’t had even one student arrive with a fever — and hope you will help us reinforce the messages about distancing and also proper mask-wearing…which includes putting the mask up over your nose!
Civil Discourse — as we arrive in a contentious election season and watch political events unfold over the coming weeks, I want to remind families that we are committed to creating the conditions for students to encounter history, active citizenship, political science, and cultural literacy in a way that helps them to learn from us and from each other, but without hearing personal political views expressed in ways that might discourage free and open discussion. Our teachers are especially eager to provide historical and philosophical frameworks for our students to understand what’s happening today in its full, often complex, context; and they will be doing that in a number of forums. We are putting emphasis on these respectful conversations now and will continue to do so—hoping as ever to help students to disagree productively and make their way toward facts and truth through a charged atmosphere.
It has been joyful to watch our students in athletics over the last weeks, and I look forward to seeing clubs, such as Robotics and Theater, begin their work soon as well. Thank you as always for partnering with us not just to get through the pandemic but to thrive and find opportunities for special success. Just yesterday, Nelson Eaton, son of our Interim Academic Dean Hank Eaton, won the State Championship in golf despite having to play in the pouring rain. If that’s not an apt metaphor for us all in this moment, I don’t know what is.
Dr. Sharon Howell
*Travel Guidelines for Boarding Families
Option 1: Stay on Campus
Students will stay on campus for both Thanksgiving and Christmas Breaks. They will begin the spring semester on time on Tuesday, January 12.
Option 2: Return Home for the Holiday Break Only
Students will stay on campus for Thanksgiving break, complete the final three weeks of the fall semester, and then return home or go to an approved family/friend’s home. Students may depart beginning on Friday, December 18, and return to campus in January on assigned dates that will be provided once we know your travel plans. Quarantine will be required for those students flying, taking public transportation, or coming from areas from which the State of Vermont requires quarantine.
Option 3: Return Home for Thanksgiving Break, Remain Home Until January
Students will return home beginning Tuesday, November 24 for Thanksgiving Break, and then complete the final three weeks of the fall semester synchronously for classes and exams. Synchronous classes require students to sign-in during the class time scheduled here on campus. Student will return to campus in January on assigned dates that will be provided once we know your travel plans. Quarantine will be required for those students flying, taking public transportation, or coming from areas from which the State of Vermont requires quarantine.
Option 4: Return Home for Thanksgiving Break, Return to School after Thanksgiving
Those students living in “green” areas as defined by the Vermont Department of Health may go home for Thanksgiving Break beginning Tuesday, November 24 and then return to school on Sunday, November 29. Students will attend classes and take exams in person, and then leave for Holiday Break beginning on Friday, December 18. Students returning to school must not be exposed to people from areas that require quarantine according to the Vermont Department of Health. By choosing this option, families agree to abide by the Vermont Department of Health quarantine requirements.