A look back at this school year and a look ahead

May 21 2021

A look back at this school year and a look ahead

For this week’s blog, we are reprinting Mr. Handmaker’s letter to parents reflecting on the past year and looking ahead to the coming school year.

Dear Parents,

As we head toward the end of the school year, graduation and a well-deserved summer break, I’d like to take a moment to look back at this unforgettable year and look ahead at what school will be like in the coming year. In the same way we ask our students to assess themselves critically, evaluate what they’ve done well, and seek out areas for improvement, we should practice ongoing reflection and strive to do better.

Our goals

When we restructured our operations last year to educate children during a pandemic, we focused on five goals we believed were fundamental to our school community:

  1. Support Families
  2. Invest in and improve on distance education
  3. Ready campus for re-opening
  4. Maintain Enrollment
  5. Expand resources to meet the times (infrastructure and headcount)

How did we do according to those goals?

As part of our goal of Supporting Families, we:

  • Increased tuition assistance by 73% and created the COVID-19 Relief Fund.
  • Turned Distribution Day into a community gathering event.
  • Created photos of 85 students so families could celebrate their First Day of School.
  • Created and distributed yard signs to our seniors and kindergarten students last spring and this spring.
  • Made the Upper School talent show Stone Soul a virtual event so students could share their talents with others.

To maintain excellence and improve on distance education, we:

  • Surveyed families and older students, and made dramatic changes in all divisions based on your suggestions. Our faculty and staff worked to provide a teaching and learning experience that your children deserve.
  • Supported our teachers with technology and training.
  • Maintained traditions like the Halloween parade, Valentine’s Day festivities, International Day, Fiesta Day and the Little School’s Pony Day.
  • Worked with students to develop new opportunities for creative expression and community building, such as the Earth Day Recycled Art competition.

Perhaps most importantly, we brought all of our students back as soon as we could while keeping them and our faculty/staff safe. All year, we did not have a single case of COVID transmission on campus.

To maintain enrollment, we were able to work with parents and keep nearly all our families. As a result of our efforts and the commitment of our families to Keystone, about 98% of our students returned from last year.

In preparing our campus and expanding resources, we:

  • Quintupled broadband on campus.
  • Created outdoor class spaces.
  • Added staff to help supervise students when teachers held class remotely.
  • Added maintenance staff to help with extra cleaning procedures.

The results:

Our community came together in the face of the challenge from the pandemic, and as a result, we stayed strong.

You stepped up and supported our Annual Fund efforts, helping us exceed our goal significantly, both in dollars raised and participation. Thank you so very much! We will continue to need your support in the years to come.

Alumni stepped up in sharing their experiences. They joined us for Alumni Day; visited virtually with the 4th Grade Leadership class; and came together via Zoom. Here again, thank you!

Most gratifying, your children stepped up, too. In this time of distance learning and maintaining physical distance while on campus, they grew in confidence, independence, and autonomy.

Meanwhile, we developed partnerships to create opportunities for students, including:

  • UTSA/NASA STEM collaboration titled eVidence-based Opportunities to Learn
  • Aerospace Related Engineering (VOLARE) for classes and internships.
  • Development Office Internship program for Upper School students.
  • Overland Partners – developing internships for students.
  • Trinity University – summer classes at 50% tuition.
  • Upper School students meeting virtually with representatives from HEB, San Antonio Food Bank and SA Works to discuss professional life skills.

Lessons learned

We learned many lessons from the pandemic that we’re going to continue:

  • More activities outside. Our new outdoor pavilions have worked great as spaces for classrooms, physically distanced gatherings and places to relax, and our students thrived outside.
  • More livestreaming, such as Halloween and College Announcement Day.
  • Occasional Zoom meetings. We will continue to use it as an option for meetings and get-togethers.

Next year

Depending on local health conditions, CDC guidelines, and the rate of vaccination in San Antonio and at Keystone, here’s what we are planning for the 2021-2022 school year:

  • Children will start on campus. Only those with severe medical issues or those who test positive for COVID may continue to work remotely. This will be determined on a case by case basis.
  • Masks may continue, particularly early in the school year. There may be a different practice between indoors and outdoors.
  • Students will maintain 3-foot distance between each other.
  • Competitive sports will resume.
  • Outdoor education trips will take place. Juniors and seniors will go in the fall, and other students in the spring.
  • Master Plan: We are overhauling our master planning process and incorporating lessons from the pandemic. We hope to share the plan in the coming school year.

There’s an old adage that adversity doesn’t build character, it reveals it. This past year has revealed the character of the Keystone community to be resilient, creative, and determined.

Despite all the challenges — a pandemic with occasional quarantines and isolation, distance learning, physical distancing, cancelled plans throughout the year, a snowstorm and a freeze that shut down the campus and cancelled school for a week — you stayed strong, focused and committed. Your support allowed this community to not only survive the year, but to excel. For that, we can all be grateful and proud. Have a great summer and we look forward to seeing you here in August.

With sincere gratitude and appreciation,


Billy Handmaker
Head of School

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