Opening School, Fall 2020

June 19, 2020

Dear Prep Parents and Students,

This Moment

In her American Book Award-winning novel Ceremony, Leslie Silko writes, “It is a matter of transitions, you see; the changing, the becoming, must be cared for closely.” We are well aware of the many transitions afoot right now and are caring for them closely, specifically: the national conversation advocating for racial justice and reforming policing as it relates to people of color, and ensuring health while laying plans for effective teaching and learning in the coming school year in the midst of a pandemic. This letter is intended as an early-summer update on how we are effecting these transitions.

In the midst of these critical transitions, we acknowledge that Prep has both a tremendous opportunity and a profound responsibility to make the most of our unique place in the world.  Our work begins but carries far beyond the “active discourse” on campus. In sending forth prepared graduates who know their hearts and minds, we stand in solidarity with those advocating and acting for a more just and inclusive New Mexico, America, and world. Going forward, Santa Fe Prep is committed to listening, learning, and leading authentic conversations on the subjects of systemic racism and social justice. Faculty and staff are creating reading lists for each other on race and racism; identifying professional growth opportunities this summer and into next year around issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion; and much more to come. We are on a path at Prep to create a truly inclusive school community and acknowledge we have much more work to do to reach that aspirational goal.

Planning for Opening of School, Fall 2020

In late May, we established three working groups of faculty, staff, and outside experts to develop scenarios for the 2020-21 school year that prioritize health and safety of all in our community while maximizing learning and growth opportunities for our students. We have been meeting extensively across four weeks, will take a little break until mid-July, and will then jump back into the work.

  • Group 1 is identifying sanitization and health screening protocols—and securing necessary supplies—that will allow us to conduct in-person school with a high degree of safety.
  • Group 2 is exploring and identifying improvements to remote learning should we be required to move to a continuous learning model at some point in the coming year.
  • Group 3 is charged with developing a schedule and practices—including identifying outdoor classroom spaces, reimagining classroom layouts with social-distancing, etc. —that will allow us to hold school in-person.

Advising the working groups are two Prep parents with special expertise. Dr. Josiah Child manages two Emergency Room practices, one in Los Alamos and one in San Francisco, and is advising other schools and organizations on health and safety protocols in the COVID-19 environment. John Wheeler is an attorney who served as Director of the NM Department of Homeland Security under Governor Richardson. John’s prior experience includes 14 years as chief legal counsel for the Department of Public Safety.

As well, every faculty member will attend (virtually) one of several professional development offerings this summer focused on effective teaching strategies in a remote learning environment. The full faculty and staff will meet (virtually) on July 15th to share what was learned from the professional growth sessions, discuss how we intend to open school on August 26th, and outline other plans and strategies for the coming year. We hope to know much more from the Governor’s office by July 15th regarding guidelines for schools and will continue to track CDC guidelines in this fluid environment. You can expect to hear more specifics on school practices from Aaron and other senior administrators by July 20th.

Director of Athletics Todd Kurth will be reaching out to student-athletes and their parents in the coming weeks regarding on-campus summer practice schedules and policies. The NMAA has issued specific guidelines to ensure safety for coaches and players during summer workouts, which began at many schools on June 15th. We do not anticipate convening any on-campus (and purely voluntary) practices before July 1st at the earliest.

Finally, we will make a decision by July 15th about holding an in-person Commencement for the Class of 2020, currently scheduled for 10:00am on Saturday, August 8th. Our decision will be guided by health orders in place on July 15th and our desire to bring seniors, families, and faculty and staff together to celebrate this remarkable class—if we can do so in a meaningful way.

Thanks for your attention and support across a landscape of critical transitions. Both of us recognize the tensile strength of the Prep community to “get it right,” no matter the challenge or opportunity before us. We are deeply grateful.

 

All best wishes,

Jim Leonard, Head of School
Aaron Schubach, Incoming Head of School