May 4 – Message to community regarding 2020-21 school year

Dear Friends,

We hope you are staying healthy while enjoying this beautiful spring weather. Last week, I attended via Zoom a Fourth Grade Leadership Team Meeting to answer questions the students had regarding school and next year. As you would expect from Keystone Cobras, their questions were thoughtful and contained a great deal of insight. Sadly, their inquiries also reflected how much the students miss being on Keystone’s campus, seeing their friends and teachers in person, and reveling in each other’s company face-to-face.

I want to share with you what I told the students as well as answer some other questions we’ve received. I will say up front that there’s much we still don’t know as we plan for next year. The Keystone Safety Committee, which includes teachers, staff, and administrators, continues to meet daily; we plan for a variety of contingencies, so we will be ready for whatever may come.

As I told the students, school will begin on August 19. Depending on the recommendations of public health experts, government orders, and in consultation with other heads of school, we may open school in a variety of ways. We could start classes in person with social distancing measures in place or students wearing masks; we might have to remain in distance learning mode.

We may create a hybrid model that includes both in-person instruction combined with distance learning. We might have a daily schedule that differs from the past. Our approach could also look different among divisions. We are studying many models so we can make the most informed decision possible.

At this point, we hope to have our Outdoor Education trips for next year, but here again, this will be determined by the conditions on the ground and the most recent recommendations of experts. Decisions regarding Middle and Upper School Interscholastic Sports will follow the policies of the leagues to which we belong.

Once school is out for this year, our faculty and administration will evaluate what has worked well this spring in distance learning, and where we can improve. This will be the focus of our professional development for this summer and next fall. In addition, we will conduct a survey in late May/early June so we can receive your input.

Whatever mode we are in, we intend to provide an academically excellent experience while helping children learn ethical growth, community involvement, and responsible leadership. We will also continue to teach children how to grow socially and emotionally whether we’re in person or online.

My recent conversation with the fourth graders had me feeling a variety of emotions. I was impressed with the astute nature of their questions while being deeply touched by their attachment to their classmates, their teachers, and their school.

Candidly, I found myself tearing up as they expressed how much they wish to be back on campus. Their fears, their emotions, and their hopes and wishes reflect our collective anxieties and aspirations. Please know that in the same way our students miss school, we desperately miss them and you. It’s great to see our students via Zoom, but it’s just not the same.

As a part of our work, the Safety Committee created a set of COVID-19 Guidelines to guide our decision making process. We are sharing that document with you below.

In the meantime, thank you for your support through these difficult times. One day, we will reconvene on Keystone’s campus and learn from one another, laugh with each other, and enjoy being together. We look forward to being with you in person when that day comes.

Sincerely,

Billy

William B. Handmaker
Head of School


COVID-19 Guiding Principles

As the Keystone community adapts to the far-reaching effects of the COVID-19 virus, we remain committed to the core values in our school’s mission statement.

We will continue to provide our PK-12 students with an academically excellent education in a diverse and inclusive environment.

In addition to academics, Keystone students will learn ethical growth, community involvement, and responsible leadership on the school’s campus and via distance learning.

With these values in mind, we state these guiding principles:

  • The ultimate criterion for Keystone’s decision-making will be the physical, social, and emotional safety of students, families, faculty, and staff.
  • Keystone will design programs, schedules, and facilities to meet the developmental level of students in each division while balancing the demands of the entire school.
  • Keystone will maintain constant and clear communication with all constituencies regarding the school’s response to COVID-19.

Since its founding in 1948, Keystone has excelled by demonstrating courage, wisdom, compassion, and faith in one another. Informed by these guiding principles, the Keystone community will meet the tests of COVID-19 and its resultant challenges in the years ahead.