SJA News


MESSAGE TO FAMILIES — MARCH 20, 2020

As we come to the end of this unsettling and unprecedented week, I want to update you on the state of things as we enter our first fully operational week of online education and a closed campus.  First, our campus remains safe and healthy; we have no known cases of infection, and I hope that you and your loved ones have remained healthy and safe as well. 

Academically, we spent the week trying to contact each of you by email or phone and have tried to distribute materials to every student either electronically or physically.   We still have roughly 40 packets of material waiting to be picked up in the front of Colby Hall.  We will continue to try to contact those students and/or their families to see if we need to drop off the materials at home or if they can be picked up.  We are also getting a much better handle on which families do not have reliable internet access, and a number of service providers have stepped up to help expand the online access in our region. 

As we have piloted some online instruction, we have learned what modes of delivery work better than others and how much support students need in completing certain types of assignments.  Students should have been contacted by each one of their teachers and their advisors.  We will be seeking feedback from them as to how much time assignments are taking at home.  We realize that we cannot replicate or expect the same amount or type of work that we would if school were open.  Even in my English class, I cannot expect to replicate the 70 minutes of class time and the 45 minutes of homework each day.  Our expectation is that students will spend 30-60 minutes working on each class on average each day.  Some assignments are longer term and will require a different work schedule to complete. 

We are increasingly aware that families now have several people (elementary school children, high schoolers, college students, and parents) all trying to complete work at home and sometimes with limited resources.  Our hope is that students will communicate openly and honestly with their teachers about their online experience and that teachers will make adjustments and provide more scaffolding as we get better at gauging the types and amount of work to assign.

On campus, we have limited the number of people at work each day and have restricted access to buildings, trying to practice good physical distancing.  We have also restricted our boarding students to campus, limiting their trips off campus to only necessary ones accompanied by a proctor.  All of these steps, meant to keep us safe and healthy, have created an eerie quiet on campus, and they have highlighted the need to reach out and stay connected with each other as much as we can while remaining at safe distances from each other.

We have also tried to help each other stay healthy by providing a resource on Canvas called SJA Self-Care, which offers a balanced approach towards physical, mental, and emotional health.  Our hope is that this program will help create a virtual community that will help us all be resilient during these unpredictable times.  This resource, designed by our nursing and counseling staff, is also augmented by three Train Heroic programs designed by our fitness staff to help athletes train at home.

We recognize that much of this move to online education can feel impersonal, and we are trying to reach out each week to each student through a personal phone call.  In a similar effort, we are adding student photos to Canvas, and more teachers are conferencing with students online and over the phone.

In the days to come, we will try to enhance our communications by giving parents and guardians access to their students' Canvas courses so they can see what is assigned when.  They will only be able to see the work done (or not done) by their particular students, but we think this access will be helpful as we all try to manage our work schedules in these new circumstances.

We continue to work with area schools and agencies to make sure people know where to get food.  We continue to operate our Friday Community Meal Site as a grab-and-go service, and most recently Kingdom East has announced that they would distribute meals at Lyndon Town School from 3:30-6:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.  Please contact your local districts for their distribution plans.

This next week marks the first fully operational week for this new normal, and we suspect we will learn much about the student experience and how to better communicate by the time I write you at the end of the week.  As always, we appreciate your support of these efforts and your patience as we continue to learn how to provide the best online experience we can.

 

Sincerely,

Thomas W. Lovett

Headmaster