Dear CA Families,
As I write to you today, our world is still grappling with the great challenges that COVID-19 has created. Indeed, the situation in many places has unfortunately grown considerably worse since my last letter. I offer my sincere condolences to those of you who have suffered illness or lost loved ones to this pandemic. This disease has caused extraordinary pain, stress, and dismay on so many levels. We must all find ways to focus on hope and the prospects of the recovery that will come, and the opportunities that any crisis presents to assert our powers of caring and goodness. We hope you are leaning on and helping those around you.
Over the past months, I have had the privilege of speaking with many parents and guardians and heard firsthand the courageous and determined ways they are facing this remarkable situation. I admire the resilience of our CA community and know we can and will get through these difficult times. They will not last forever, and we believe we can be stronger on the other side of this crisis.
Here at CA, we have been challenged too, but above all have been inspired by the faith you place in us and our duty to live up to the bond of common trust that is the heart of this extraordinary learning community. As you can tell from the struggles nationally over this fall’s educational plans, CA is itself confronting questions unlike any we might ever have imagined facing before. As we do this work, we are prioritizing safety, the values of CA, and the profound learning experience that defines CA. We know that education, and CA’s type of education in particular, matter deeply to the lives of our students and to their families and especially so now.
With all the moving pieces that are affecting educational planning in this dynamic situation, I do not have as much information to share yet as I would have liked and which I know you crave. I apologize for this. But I want to tell you today what we have decided thus far. If I might paraphrase a member of our Board of Trustees, we are trying to make an unpredictable time as predictable as possible by sharing what we can as those decisions are made.
One of the toughest decisions has been around the boarding experience. We have looked at this matter with excruciating detail and sought every possible option that could make it work, from testing options to hallway renovations, staggered residential schedules to massive changes in campus life. We have finally accepted the cold reality that the current circumstances make it impossible for us to safely house a cohort of students on campus this fall. We deeply regret that this decision has proven necessary, and we hope you understand that, as much as we would prefer to have our boarding students in CA’s houses, we have to put safety first. We are committed to providing our boarding students with an engaging and rigorous learning experience, even as they will not be here in person. We are hopeful that we will be able to welcome boarding students during the spring semester and we are pursuing every path to make that happen.
We are still in the midst of formulating our exact plans for fall opening, including critical questions related to teaching in-person. Having stressed this important caveat that our plans are still underway, I want to share with you that to every extent possible we intend to reopen campus for day students. We also would welcome boarding students who can participate as day students (i.e., if they live or can live nearby or within commuting distance). We are working to resolve our plans as fast and as thoroughly as we can, and I will let you know our final decision no later than mid-August.
I can also share that our faculty have been working tirelessly in preparation for the fall and are building an academic program that is creative, robust, and exciting for every student, no matter whether we are able to welcome students back to campus by day or whether students will learn via technology. Specifically, we have reimagined the CA academic schedule to develop Short Term at Concord, or STAC, a modular-style schedule that allows deep engagement with a few subjects at a time, guided by our faculty in the same caring, personal way as ever. The STAC model will make the most of the common waking hours across our diverse student population and multiple time zones, allow flexibility for the unique circumstances of learning from home or commuting in new ways, and offer engaging classwork as well as opportunities for connection and rejuvenation. You can learn more about the dimensions of this program on our new Healthy Concord website.
The Learning Experience
The circumstances of this pandemic have brought out yet more ingenuity from our faculty, who have been taking in-depth training in designing courses that help students make the most of the learning experience whether they are attending class in person or joining that same class from remote locations. In whatever mode a student will engage with our faculty and staff this fall, we are determined that they will each find the same thoughtful attention to detail across the entire learning experience. You know our faculty and staff, and you know how seriously and personally they take this mission. In addition, we are working on plans to offer activities outside of academics as a way of more closely replicating our typical extracurricular program.
The Concord Pact
Everyone who learns or works on campus this fall will also have special responsibilities to one another as we cope with this pandemic as a learning community. With these shared obligations in mind, we will be asking all students and adults who will be on campus this fall to commit to the Concord Pact, a community agreement that will have specific language in which we each formally acknowledge our responsibility to one another. We will share this pact with you shortly and will also post it on Healthy Concord.
In order to make additional decisions for the reopening of school, I am also asking you today to play a critical role in our last stage of planning. Next week, we will be sending a survey that will help us to understand your plans and expectations for your children’s education in the fall. Several weeks ago, we gathered responses from a similar survey, but we know that as the virus has asserted itself in so many areas around the country and the world, your perspective may have changed. When we send this questionnaire, please respond to it in a timely fashion so we can better understand your plans and expectations in this moment.
I will be in touch again over the coming weeks with more details about other critical pending matters for this fall. Meanwhile, please visit Healthy Concord for more details than I have covered here, and please make a point of checking this site regularly, as we will continue to update information there. In addition, we have created a central landing point for your specific questions and concerns. Please email email@example.com so that we may direct your question to the best member of our leadership team for quick reply. (Starting with this letter, we will also post translated versions to the website in Mandarin, Korean, and Spanish. There will be a slight delay in the availability of these translations.)
We will also be offering Zoom calls so that families can ask questions and share their thoughts with us:
As expeditiously as we can, we will move through the many decisions required to give you full information for this fall. We are profoundly grateful for the trust you are placing in us as we navigate through this crisis. I know that together we can guide your student through this challenge and give them a renewed gift of great confidence and a sense of possibility into the bright days beyond.
Take care and be well,
Head of School
Dresden Endowed Chair