Opening School 2020-2021

October 30, 2020

Over the past several weeks, our leadership team has been monitoring local and national COVID-19 trends, reaching out to several peer schools and organizations for insights and advice, and working in faculty committees to design and evaluate new hybrid models. We have several significant updates, explained in detail below.

Hybrid Implementation Date and Health Data: As we all know too well, the nation at large, New Mexico, and Santa Fe County are experiencing record-breaking levels of COVID-19 infection, test positivity rates, and hospitalization rates. All factors are significantly above the gating criteria established by Governor Lujan Grisham.

These factors concern us. Taking into consideration winter weather (causing people to spend more time indoors) and possible out-of-state travel by Santa Feans and Prep community members during the upcoming holidays, we have scheduled the start of our hybrid model for Tuesday, January 19 after a two-week online start to the second semester following Winter Break.

The commencement of our hybrid start is planned, but we will not be able to implement this model (more information below) unless we see a decrease in local COVID indicators, specifically test positivity and transmission rates. Also, if the regulatory environment becomes more restrictive, this mode will not be possible. This is daunting, but fortunately and importantly, we do have some control over our outcomes. All of us, as Prep community members and citizens, need to continue our personal attention to maintain COVID mitigated behaviors, especially during Holiday gatherings, and avoid unnecessary travel.

Hybrid Structure: We have designed a hybrid model that rotates our students in two grade-level couplets (7-8, 9-10, and 11-12). Each grade couplet rotates through a week of on-campus instruction and two weeks of online instruction at home. This model meets the current 25% room occupancy requirement and has many advantages over other hybrid models, including pedagogic unity, relatively small cohort groups, weekend opportunities for deep cleaning, and two-week increments of time off-campus should a student or community member become symptomatic and need to quarantine and test.

The online-only option will still be available to the approximately 15% of our students who selected this option. Additionally, some students may need to attend some of their courses virtually due to atypical course selections in their schedules. Please note some of these classes need to be taught in non-traditional spaces indoors (gym, commons, lunchroom, etc.) and tents (when weather conditions allow). The positive news is that we have enough indoor space on campus to facilitate physically-distanced all-indoor instruction when dictated by the weather. More information on the grade couplet model and our on-campus COVID mitigation protocols will follow in the last weeks of the semester.

Balancing public health in the region, the health of our students and faculty, and our lofty academic and programmatic goals is not easy, and we appreciate the clear support and deep engagement shown by our families. In the remaining weeks of the first semester, we will continue to challenge and engage our students in robust online learning and offer sports practices and Day Pausa activities as long as it is deemed safe to do so. These activities build connections with and between our students and faculty and encourage the strong community bonds that make Prep a special place.

Together, we will get through this challenging time and each of us will have much of which to be proud.