Dear parents and students,
I write to you with our wishes for your continued safety and wellness during this COVID-19 pandemic -- and with an anticipated and promised update. In this communication, I share important, recent school decisions and also indicate where we have chosen to keep a fluid timeline. As we reflect on the third week of distance learning across the age and stage of our respective divisions, I know that our Charger students and families are working together to follow the life-saving advice of our medical professionals and state officials. The challenges are severe now so that by our profound, current sacrifices we may reduce the duration of this challenge and with far less chance of a COVID-19 return. After all, we are each of us either parents or children or siblings or grandchildren -- and very often we are families with medical professionals or families enduring financial hardship that we do not want to continue.
I want to thank you for actively supporting your children, and to thank our children for supporting you parents, and all for partnering with our teachers on the schooling component, a significant commitment made each day. It often feels as swimming in the dark can but with only one arm for swimming and one holding onto your family.
While we all continue to adapt, know we are working in partnership with area and NAIS schools while honoring the recommendations of state officials and government. Our school administration at all levels meets multiple times each week and our divisions and subject areas are conducting regular zoom meetings that keep us learning forward. We know more than ever that all schools share the same world and risks, and we understand more than ever that learning without the present human element is hard, extra time-consuming, and imperfect.
Now to the updated information, almost. I have said before that we mourn the loss of those things that remain still undone at the times we have always done them; we share this pain for our seniors and for the unique community of friends and families that do inevitably ebb and flow with moving on or moving up. What we also share is that we are right now alive, feeling well we hope, and ever more grateful for families and our health. The school decisions below were informed with respect for all such sentiments and more.
Student Learning -- Week Three Progress
Now we are fully engaged in this experiment that addresses a novel situation even as it looks to the future of what learning may become in distinctive ways; we have acquired with each week a better understanding of the interactive modes and assignments that yield better learning, higher engagement, and built-in structure.
Synchronous engagement is our preferred modality, yet it is not that simple as students' home lives differ drastically -- and especially during this pandemic. When learning on campus, we have some degree of control over the environment that makes evaluations (that ultimately arrive in the form of grades) seem reasonable and fair. Now, many parents are working from home, some family members are temporarily unemployed, younger siblings always require care, and households maybe include extended family -- and more. Some parents and relatives also work in the medical field that increases family stress.
Our educators will continue to refine best practices and meet as often as we can with your children in synchronous, daily modalities, yet beyond that goal must lie recognition of what works best or realistically for the class dynamic, the longer goal, and daily feasibility. Our US advisors who may not always teach their advisees or see them daily will work conscientiously to maintain active, caring communication.
Heritage Hall Final Exams, Term Grades, Important Dates
We will not administer final term-exams this spring in our MS and US. We will allocate previously scheduled reading and exam days back to class days to extend our learning calendar. Formative and summative assessments will simply continue for the duration with five days added.
Last day of school dates:
- Seniors -- May 8
- Eighth Graders -- May 14
- ECC and Lower School -- May 15
- Grades 5-7 and 9-11 -- May 19
We are determining the best approach for semester grading, currently reviewing options adopted by peer schools and colleges but reviewed in the light of our own culture. We will make our own final decision soon in the spirit of "doing no harm."
College Admissions / Transcript
Jeremiah Quinlan, dean of undergraduate admissions & financial aid at Yale University, recently wrote in a counselor newsletter, "Just as secondary schools take a diverse set of approaches to curricula and assessment during normal times, schools are taking a diverse set of approaches when responding to the outbreak. We expect that many transcripts will look different for at least the spring 2020 semester. Regardless of your school's decisions, we will work to understand your school's unique context and will not penalize students whose transcripts lack letter (or fully accurate or fully meaningful) grades."
Until we make our own determination consistent with our "do no harm" policy approach, I also reiterate that the desire to learn is an inherently human characteristic as you wonder about the impact of grades and learning progress in a compromised situation -- as Frost might call "a diminished thing." While we understand intrinsic vs extrinsic motivation in all areas of Heritage Hall life and learning, we are also aware that the college process and grades are major extrinsic motivators for our students and so our hope is to exhort, motivate, hold accountable, and yet remain compassionate and realistic.
We believe in the value of new forms of learning and the many introduced passions emerging during this time, but we remain mindful that the bulk of a student's performance history will endure and also performance norms will return for juniors especially -- and that colleges are mindful of it all. We will navigate our seas knowingly and our College Admissions office will duly highlight the student behind the transcript. All will understand. For current updates on the NCAA's response and changes to their recruitment and evaluation policies, click here
Graduations / Farewells / Events
We are currently looking at all possibilities for future major events even as COVID-19 and both local and national policy will guide us. Stay tuned, please.
Summer School / Athletics
Summer at The Hall is reviewing options and will continue to monitor COVID-19 guidelines. Stay tuned, please.
I told you in my last letter that I would not answer all of your questions because I cannot think of all of them from where you sit. Please continue to apprise us of questions and concerns and please also share your commendations, insights, and feelings to me or any of your division heads or administrators. You may contact me at email@example.com
Many of us are now living and working in a crisis that is a moment in history. It will not stand. We have replaced a diffused anger and fear with a spirit of cooperation, resolve, and common purpose; we have temporarily lost some forms of learning and acquired others. Here and now, I thank you for your forbearance and understanding of a challenge that for teachers and for students and families is much harder than we could have known and is a situation that nobody wanted or deserved. That said, all are addressing it with courage and compassion and planning.
The best school is the school that is best for the child, and it should be the school that prioritizes the values that our families share most deeply. I believe in the following corollary, too, for it is mirrored in so much of what we/you have always believed at our core: if there are places where we are not yet the best, we will always strive to be the bravest.
We, and specifically students reading this, are now young people so very privileged to have our unique, caring community and resources - and certainly each other. Our continued mission is to guide you to become adults where student learning privilege becomes adult significance.
Be kind, be brave, stay alone -- together,