I hope you had a good Thanksgiving break. I really appreciated having time to unplug and enjoy cooking, reading, taking long walks, and the beautiful late fall weather.
Eric Heilman, Maret’s Director of Institutional Research, spent much of the weekend analyzing responses from faculty, and students in Grades 6 through 12, to the survey we sent out last week. The goal was to evaluate the relative strengths and weaknesses of the COL Hybrid model vs. the COL at Home model. As I read the tabulated results and the many accompanying comments, I was struck by the notes of appreciation from students to their teachers, expressing gratitude for all of the support for both academic needs, as well as social-emotional health. The teachers, in turn, noted the resilience and the grace displayed by students as they deal with the trials and disappointments caused by the pandemic.
The results of this survey have helped to inform our decision around how to move forward for the remaining two weeks before Winter Break. Brief highlights and plans for the rest of 2020 are summarized below for Grades K-5 and Grades 6-12. I will host a virtual meeting next Monday, December 7, the details of which are provided at the end of this message.
It is clear that our youngest students have the most critical need for in-person, on-campus education. Happily, a growing body of data shows that these students both face and pose the lowest COVID risk. Therefore, students in Grades K through 5 (who have not traveled to high risk states in the past 14 days) will return to 3000 Cathedral Avenue from next Monday, December 7, through Friday, December 18. This is conditioned on low numbers from this week’s round of testing (see below). Chris Appleby and Dominic Redd will send more details soon to parents of students in these grades, together with a brief quick survey asking for confirmation of each student’s choice between COL Hybrid or COL at Home for this 2-week period. Once you elect either option, we ask that you not change the status unless there is a pressing reason to do so.
Survey results for the upper grades revealed a few clear themes. Students who returned to Maret for hybrid instruction enjoyed being on campus, felt safe, and appreciated the new safety procedures and took them seriously. Their teachers, meanwhile, valued the opportunity to build in-person relationships; being together produces wonderful energy. However, whether they were Frogs, Toads, or entirely virtual learners, students found the all-synchronous class schedule more challenging than it had been under the original, fully virtual COL at Home plan. A significant number of students (about 17%) remained entirely virtual during COL Hybrid and often found it difficult to stay connected.
Interestingly, both student and faculty survey responses acknowledged that elements of the COL at Home program, including more manageable levels of screen time and opportunities for individual support, are advantageous for all students. Thus, the feedback is clear that COL Hybrid needs some fundamental changes: less synchronous time, more closely matching the COL at Home schedule; better integration of students in the classroom with students working at home; improved sound systems so teachers can continue to ensure that all voices can be heard; and additional strategies to promote better connections for everyone.
Our conclusion is that the best way to ensure a quality experience for students in Grades 6 through 12 during these last two weeks of classes before winter break is to remain in COL at Home. At the same time, we will resume on-campus athletics and hold more in-person and virtual events to provide the social interactions students need. Liz Hall has sent out the options for Upper School athletics. Grade Deans will follow up soon with more information about on-campus activities. Assistant Head for Curriculum Development Maria Lopez has already convened a team to work out adjustments that will address the identified issues with our COL Hybrid plan.
Post-Winter Break Plans
As we announced previously, we will be entirely virtual until after the Inauguration, taking into account expected travel by families and faculty members over the winter holidays—although we will continue to offer childcare to students in Grades K through 5. We also plan to offer a wider range of virtual community events across all grades during these weeks. After Inauguration Day, our plan is to reimplement an improved COL Hybrid model for all grades.
Safety Measures and Testing This Week
Maret’s COVID-19 team constantly monitors various health metrics; if those metrics take a serious turn for the worse, we would have to revisit plans to resume on-campus learning (Grades K-5) and in-person events (Grades 6-12). A very important reminder: anyone who has traveled to a high-risk state as designated by the Mayor of the District of Columbia may not come to campus until 14 days have passed from the date of your return. I quote from the District’s Coronavirus website: “Per Mayor Muriel Bowser's November 23, 2020 update, Hawaii is the only state not considered high risk. Virginia and Maryland remain exempt.”
FiveMedicine will perform another round of testing on campus this Friday (December 4) and Saturday (December 5). All students and faculty who plan to return to campus for any reason between December 7 and December 18 need to be tested and can register starting now. We suggest Lower School students test on Friday but please try to avoid a time that is during an afternoon class. We will continue to share information about test results in a timely fashion; note that you can now keep abreast of cases in the Maret community by visiting our COVID-19 dashboard.
We feel fortunate to report that, as of now, we have seen no evidence of COVID transmission on the Maret campus. We greatly appreciate that you continue to follow our guidance and protocols, which are ever more important. As always, the health and well-being of every member of our Maret community remains the highest priority. Anyone who feels ill, or who displays symptoms of COVID-19, should remain home and contact their doctor. Please keep Maret’s nurses updated on your health and your child’s health.
Conversation with Marjo
Please feel free to join me and other members of our COVID Task Force on Monday, December 7 at 5:00 p.m. We will review the 500 plus survey responses that Eric Heilman has analyzed with our leadership team, as well as our plans for moving forward in the New Year.
Thank you, as always, for your patience and understanding as we continue to deal with this unprecedented year.