Plans for the Opening of School

Dear Families,

I am writing for several reasons but will start by answering the question that is most on your minds. When school begins officially on September 8, the academic program will be delivered remotely using our robust COL at-Home instructional model—a comprehensive program that we have built to fully meet our Mission as a school.

On behalf of all the people at Maret who are working so hard to analyze this complex and evolving problem, I want to thank you for remaining patient while we reached this decision. Trying to provide the best possible learning experience for our children during any crisis would, by itself, be challenging enough. That task is made even more complex by the need to factor in the many health and safety restrictions required to protect our teachers and their families, and our students and their families.

Of course, all of us want to return to 3000 Cathedral Avenue and be together in real time. At Maret, we value personal connections and close partnerships that support our children. I deeply miss being with students and teachers on a daily basis—we all do. However, we are confident that our virtual program will help us maintain a sense of community until we can be together again.

Many of you shared your thoughts and concerns with me and other members of our leadership team during the two-week pause on scenario planning that I wrote to you about in my previous message. At the end of last week, Mayor Bowser announced that the District’s public schools will begin the year off campus with all instruction conducted virtually. Most of the nearby county school systems and several DC-area universities have made similar announcements. The number of cases in the region is on the rise; timely test results are almost impossible to come by; the long-term medical consequences of contracting COVID-19 remain unclear; effective early treatments are not yet available; and a vaccine is months away. It is increasingly clear that the current trendlines do not favor an immediate resumption of in-person learning.

With that as context, the COVID-19 Steering Committee met this morning and determined that we will begin the year in the COL-at-Home model. Building on lessons learned from our COL experience in the spring, we enhanced our program and published sample schedules for the Lower and Middle Schools and the bell schedule for the Upper School. For example, knowing the importance of real-time interaction, we are pleased to be able to offer increased synchronous time in kindergarten through twelfth grades. In addition, we have created small groupings for synchronous meetings across divisions.

In the coming weeks, teachers and the leadership team will continue their efforts to ensure the most robust COL possible. We will continue training for faculty and students to make them even more productive when using remote-learning technology.

Also, while I cannot promise this can happen, it remains our hope that—starting on August 24 and continuing throughout the fall—we can bring small groups of students onto campus for community-building events. (Please note: any person traveling at any time to a high-risk area must quarantine for two weeks before coming to campus.) We are also considering ways to offer a modest on-campus daycare program for those younger students whose parents are not able to monitor them at home. The health and safety of faculty and families will be the primary determinant of how (and whether) we provide these services.

I realize that you may still have questions about what the beginning of school will look like. Therefore, next Tuesday (August 11) and Wednesday (August 12), we will host a series of meetings on Zoom that will allow parents/guardians to interact with Maret’s Division Directors and members of our planning groups. I hope that many of your questions will be answered, giving you a better sense of what to expect in the coming weeks and months. More information about the Zoom meetings, including links, will be sent via email later this week.

In the meantime, if you have any questions about Maret’s health and safety preparations, please consult the updated Health and Safety FAQs on the Parent Portal.

Thank you for taking the time to complete the survey and for partnering with us as we prepare for a school year with unprecedented challenges. Obviously, this is a dynamic situation. We will continue to evaluate conditions as they evolve and make adjustments to our program accordingly. Together, I know that we can tackle these challenges with creativity; continue to find joy; and discover new ways to strengthen our community.

Marjo Talbott
Head of School


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