March 14, 2020

COVID-19 UPDATE

PLEASE TAKE THE TIME TO READ THROUGH ALL OF THIS COMMUNICATION CAREFULLY AND THOROUGHLY

Dear MA Family,

The COVID-19 situation in the state and our community has evolved quickly over the past two days.  As you have likely heard, not only did the Alabama Department of Public Health confirm the first case of COVID-19 in Montgomery, but Governor Kay Ivey also announced the closure of all public schools in the state from Wednesday, March 18 until April 6. Furthermore, the Alabama High School Athletic Association has suspended all athletic practices and contests during this same period of time as well.

Our MA COVID-19 Planning Team has continued to monitor this situation carefully.  Our highest priority is the safety and well-being of our students, faculty and staff.  Therefore, MA will cease all on-campus classes, practices, activities, athletic contests and scheduled events until Monday, April 6.  We will reevaluate the situation at the end of March and notify everyone of subsequent plans.

Despite the campus closure to public events and gatherings, the school will continue its academic operations through a remote learning plan that will be implemented beginning on Wednesday, March 25.  Our faculty and staff will need both Monday, March 23, and Tuesday, March 24, to prepare to implement our remote learning plan. The plan will vary by division, grade level, discipline and may evolve over time. Lower School Director Sarah Housley and Middle and Upper School Director Tony Jordan will communicate about schedules, course explanations, and expectations, including attendance procedures and guidelines for the student work environment, during the weeks of remote learning. 

As we requested in the previous communication, please email our IT Department should you not have reliable internet access in your home.   Please know that, while our plan moving forward will rely on technology in age-appropriate ways, we have chosen the term "remote learning" intentionally instead of a technology-specific label such as "online classes" or "e-learning."  This choice reflects our belief that authentic learning beyond the scope of the traditional classroom will not always rely on technology.  We will seek ways for students to engage in learning using a variety of instructional modes and while also remaining physically active.

We recognize that there are students who were unable to retrieve all of their class materials from campus before leaving for spring break on Thursday.  In many cases, materials needed for class may be distributed electronically. However, we will communicate a plan to grant small groups of students access to campus after spring break so that any materials needed for remote learning may be retrieved.  

During the campus closure, we ask that you restrict your in-person social interactions. Campus closures are only effective if they limit the types of interactions that contribute to the spread of the virus.

I know that there will be many questions that will emerge about what is going to happen at school in the weeks to come.  All of the faculty, staff and administration at MA will be working to answer those questions as they emerge. I ask for your patience as we deal with an evolving and complex situation that is requiring difficult decisions surrounding the coordination of many different community needs.  I am confident, though, that we will get through this together. We will remain in touch with additional updates in the days to come so please continue to check your email regularly.  

In the days to come, I encourage you to use these moments of uncertainty to really take stock of the relationships and values that are really important to each of us.  Rather than giving in to fear, I encourage all of us to use this time to connect with family, to check on neighbors, to think about the needs of others. When possible, take time to read, play board games, and avoid being sucked into the incessant 24-hour news cycle.  Yes, it is important to follow what is happening around us. We need to stay informed with facts and abide by the important recommendations of public health officials, but we can also use this time to nurture our relationships, and find joy and love in each day.  

Our pursuit continues…
John McWilliams