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UPDATE FOR FAMILIES — May 22, 2020

Update for Families                                                                                          22 May 2020

Dear Academy Families,

One week left!  I hope you can all see the light at the end of this long remote learning tunnel, and that you are able to take a moment over this long weekend to realize just how much you have accomplished and learned—not only about academics or course work, but about yourselves and our school community and how to push through hard times alone and together.  I want to begin by saying again how much I appreciate your cooperation and perseverance with us through these last months.  I will probably write you once more, maybe twice, but I want to make sure I start with that note of gratitude.  I believe if we do not express gratitude for people and good things in our lives, we risk losing them, and I never want us to lose the things and relationships that have brought us through this time together.

I have a surprising number of items to include in this update, given we have only four days of classes left, but many are reminders and clarifications of previous updates.

End of Semester Schedule

The schedule I explained last week is already underway with Humanities and Social Studies finishing up their assessments today.  Math will have just started its assessment today.

The rest of the schedule will go as follows:

Tuesday            May 26             Math

                                                Language

Wednesday      May 27             Language

                                                English

                                                Science

Thursday          May 28             English

                                                Science

Friday               May 29             Advisory Check-in

During this time, students might have other end-of-course assignments, but they should not be learning new material.

Materials Turn In

By the time you receive this, seniors should have picked up their cap and gown and yearbooks and should have been able to turn in all of their materials and technology.  Please remember that seniors can purchase their Chromebooks for $100.  Seniors who missed the pick-up/drop-off times can get their caps, gowns, and yearbooks in Colby Hall and drop off their materials and technology there as well.

For underclassmen, materials can also be dropped off in Colby Hall, starting next Tuesday. We ask that students coming to Colby have self-screened for any symptoms of COVID-19, wear masks, and obey all physical distancing guidelines.  Please remember that those students who are returning to the Academy next year can keep their devices over the summer; this is suggested especially for those who will need it for the Credit Recovery Program.

Credit Recovery Program

The Credit Recovery Program will launch on July 7 and will serve those students who have been at least somewhat engaged throughout the fourth quarter but have not yet received credit for core courses.  The program will be run by case managers, each with no more than six students who will have varying degrees of work to complete.  Case managers will be assigned by area of expertise as much as possible, and they will shepherd students to completing works that demonstrate proficiency regarding the essential standards of the various courses.  The program will last through the month of July, and students who have not demonstrated sufficient proficiency will not receive credit at that time.

More information about who is eligible and how they can apply will be coming after we see the end-of-semester grades and attempt to resolve any incompletes during the first half of June.

Graduation

Our plans continue to take shape, and an outline of the events is attached to this update.

My main message here is that the health and safety of all in our community is our main concern.  In talking with the Secretary of Education, I came to understand that one of the main health and safety concerns for these events, and the reason for restricting the size of gatherings, is the fear of graduations spawning other events that will result in more infections and further spread of COVID-19.  He emphasized over and over that we need to take all precautions being suggested by the Department of Health, especially the social distancing and crowd size restrictions.  As of this writing, the allowable crowd size remains at 10; however, I still believe we have a good chance of it being raised to 25 by June 1.  All of our plans are assuming a crowd size of 25, and we have a Plan B for both June 1 and June 2 if the size remains at 10.  I will let you know as soon as possible if we are making the shift to Plan B.  That shift will involve each advisory receiving diplomas separately (instead of paired with another advisory), thereby lengthening the day on June 1 (new times will be sent out ahead of time).  It will also require families to pare down their total number to 7, the number for graduation tickets we usually apportion for each graduate, for June 2.  I will have more information about June 2 later in this update.

As for the event on May 31, everything seems to be well in place.  The video is being created, the permits are secured, and the drive-in movie apparatus is scheduled.  Even the weather looks like it might cooperate (keep praying!), but we have a rain date that we will announce if we need it (it will be May 30 or June 1).  Some reminders that you will have heard on the Zoom call or have read in other updates. (And a big thank you to Beth Choiniere for filling in for me, and my apologies for missing that chance to see all of you!)

  • The time to start arriving in the fieldhouse parking lot is 6:00.  The parade will start at 7.
  • We are limiting the parade to only cars in which a senior is a passenger or driver.  Other passengers can be family members, or another senior as long as they are from what the Governor calls a "trusted household."  Only these personal vehicles (no large trucks or vans) carrying seniors will be allowed on the soccer field to view the video.  We have barely enough room for all of the cars that we expect, as we have to park them six feet apart.  A reminder that all occupants must stay in the vehicle.
  • Other spectators can watch the video online on NSN or from the parking lots behind the fieldhouse.  We ask that all spectators stay in their cars.
  • During the parade and parking, those students not able to be at the event in person will be shown the Last Dorm Chapel video.
  • The whole event, from the start of the parade to the fireworks, will last between 3 and 3.5 hours.

As for the event on June 1, assuming that the number is raised to 25, all will go as outlined in the attached document.  A few key details bear highlighting:

  • Graduates will be screened as they come in.  We ask that graduates who have a fever or are showing any of the signs of sickness, especially those connected to possible COVID-10 infection, forego this ceremony.  The same goes for students who have traveled out of state and have not had their 14 days of quarantine as recommended in the Department of Health guidelines. 
  • Again, I want to emphasize what the Governor and the Secretary have repeated ly stressed: the key to keeping infection rates low is a community-based response that is based on trust.  We need to trust each other to use our best judgment and cooperate with each other to ensure each other's safety.
  • During the ceremony, which will take a total of 25 minutes, graduates will need to wear masks.  The only time that they will be able to remove them is once they are up front, ready to receive their award or diploma.
  • Students who are overseas and/or cannot attend in person will have their names read and their pictures displayed on a screen both for any awards they receive and for their receptions of their diploma.  Caps and gowns have been mailed, and while some seem to be hung up in customs, we hope all will receive them for June1.  Diplomas will be mailed after the June 1 ceremony.

As for the June 2 event, again, assuming we can have more than 10 people present, we are asking that families limit their group to 15.  Given the overwhelming response to this opportunity to celebrate as families, we have to limit each time slot to five minutes, and we have to increase our staffing for managing the event and disinfecting the area.  A few aspects of this event bear highlighting as well:

  • The family group needs to be limited to 15, and we ask again that these be members of what the Governor calls a "trusted household."  This request is made for two reasons: to allow easier contact tracing if an infection is discovered later and to protect our event staff, who will come in contact with potentially nearly 1000 people.
  • Again here I renew my plea for cooperation and for self-screening, for at this event beside the staff mentioned above, there may also be vulnerable adults.  We ask that anyone who is showing any signs if sickness or infection, or who has traveled out of state and has not quarantined for 14 days, forego this ceremony.
  • Because of the tightness of the schedule, any whole family photos will have to be taken outside of the fieldhouse.  We will do our best to keep things moving so that there is no waiting in line.

As I have said, we are awaiting final confirmation that our plans will be allowed, but we feel very confident about the plans for May 31, and we think odds are good that we will be able to hold the June 1 and June 2 events as planned.  I promise to update you as soon as we know and will send another update next Friday at least.

As next Friday might be my last update of the year, and I will not be able to see most of you in person, I want to begin to express my thanks for all you have done to make my years educating this student body so rewarding and fulfilling.   Even in these hard last months, I have been encouraged by your perseverance, support, and goodwill.  As always, I have seen you in partners in education, but never more than I have during this time when our creativity, flexibility, commitment, and endurance has been tested.  Your strength has been inspiring. Thank you for all you have done and are doing, and here's to four more strong days!

Sincerely,

 

Tom Lovett

Headmaster