April 29, 2020

Dear MA Family,

I hope that this note finds you and your family healthy at this challenging time. Thank you so much for your spirited participation in our first (and hopefully last) "virtual" Eagle Day!  It was great to see so many fun pictures of our students, families, alumni, and faculty showing their support for their team.  Furthermore, I want to thank everyone in the MA community for your flexibility and your positive well wishes as we have transitioned to our remote learning plan. I am thankful to our teachers and divisional leaders as they have worked so hard to ensure that the transition has been as smooth as possible. As with any major transition, I know that there have been some issues along the way, but I hope that you've found the school to be responsive to any concerns that have emerged. 

I am writing today with a heavy heart as I'm announcing that we will not return to campus for classes in the spring semester, and our remote learning plan will continue through the end of the school year on Wednesday, May 20.  I've been closely following the guidance issued by the Alabama Department of Public Health and Governor Ivey, and, given the latest wave of guidance issued on April 28, we will not be able to resume our regular school schedule.  The governor's order requires all schools to remain closed until at least May 15.  Given the proximity of that date to the end of the school year, I think that it is wise for us to maintain our remote learning plan for the remainder of the school year. Furthermore, it is now clear, based on the current guidance for mass gatherings, that we will not be able to host our baccalaureate and commencement ceremonies on May 21.  In previous communication to seniors and their parents, I had announced two back-up dates for those important ceremonies (June 25 and July 23).  Today, I am formally announcing that we are tentatively shifting those ceremonies to the June date, and I will continue to keep seniors and their families updated on the latest plans as we receive more guidance regarding mass gatherings. In addition, I have decided to cancel all of our scheduled summer camps for the month of June while retaining hope that we will be able to host some programs in July.

These decisions are ones that I hoped that I would not have to make.  I recognize that not resuming our regular schedule means that there will be fundamental changes in the way that this year will close compared to every other year in our school's history.  My heart breaks at the thought of the school year closing without a chance for all of our students to return to campus together.  However, we simply have to comply with the governor's order and do what is best for the health and safety of our students, our families and our community. 

I recognize that there have been a number of questions within the community about what a school decision to close our campus for the remainder of the year will mean for tuition and fees that the school has collected for the 2019-2020 school year. Please know that the school has provided credit for cancelled field trips that are not planned to be rescheduled. In addition, for families involved in any after school care, there have been no charges attached to your accounts since February.  Furthermore, we are in the process of determining the school's savings from a reduction in food costs, and we will pass along those savings in the form of a prorated per-student tuition credit to all of our families.  For families returning to the school, that tuition credit will offset a portion of the budgeted tuition increase for the 2020-2021 school year.  If your family is interested in donating your tuition credit back to the school to support the MA Fund, please complete this form. The remaining available perishable food inventory that we have on campus is being donated to students in need within the Montgomery Public School system. 

Following this communication, our division directors will reach out to you before the end of the week with specific information related to the end of the year.  Included in that communication will be divisional information about assessments, grading, supply return, end-of-year scheduling and celebrations.  

I know that we are all dealing with significant disruptions in our lives as we navigate the impact of the pandemic.  It is my sincere hope that in the midst of this challenge that you and your family have found moments to cherish.  Moreover, I hope that our students have found moments of quiet joy and reflection even in this time of uncertainty.  I know that we all long for a "return to normalcy."  However, I also think that it is vital that we take important time to reflect on what we want the "new normal"  to be when we return.  For our administration, faculty and staff, we are going to double down on our strategic goals as we move forward.  I can't think of a better time for us to continue our focus on wellness, academic support, and innovation in teaching.  I look forward to the future at MA with great anticipation!  

Our pursuit continues…

John McWilliams