(August 14th, 2020) Visit this document for a detailed overview of our online programing supplemented with in-person social and co-curricular events this fall: AaC Program Fall 2020
(August 11th, 2020) With the full support of our Board of Trustees, we have decided to open remotely for the first semester. As you know, this was not an easy decision, as we desperately want to engage our students on campus, but after soliciting feedback from our immediate community, continuing to watch the spread of COVID-19, and consulting with a variety of local health and educational resources, we are confident that the safest and best decision is to have students return to school remotely while working with our community to provide safe, in-person social opportunities on and off campus.
As we follow the latest news from public health authorities–including our country’s top infectious disease specialists signaling a “troubling new phase” of the virus and its widespread presence, increased transmission rates (including in Massachusetts and Vermont), and the growing awareness around rapid asymptomatic transmission rates, including in young people—it is clear that regional and national trends continue to grow in such a direction that signals that bringing students and staff back to campus, even in a hybrid model, presents too high a risk to our community.
The decision to open in distance learning mode is not based on a concern about our ability to prepare our facilities or align with public health best practices. We’re proud of the efforts of our team this summer, and we are confident that when it is safe to return to school, we will be ready to do so. We know that we can confidently offer a rich online experience for our students, and do so in such a way that limits the risk to our families and communities. In so doing, we as a school are doing our civic duty to flatten the curve, an initiative that has proven extremely difficult for us as a nation, while continuing to provide rigorous academics and vibrant social experiences to our students.
We plan to remain in distance learning for the entirety of the first semester, through December 2020, unless there is a significant shift in the coronavirus pandemic. Difficult as this is, we are also aware of the distinct opportunities that online learning presents for our students. As we seek to best prepare them for a world that seems poised to increasingly operate digitally, our faculty and staff are excited to provide a program that continues to present students with academically challenging work, and with social opportunities that stimulate creativity and a sense of community. Our faculty has and will continue to seek opportunities for professional development in order to create a learning environment that is not simply an Academy classroom converted to a screen, but one that engages students at multiple levels, including increasing our already exceptional amount of one-on-one attention to our students. We pledge to take to heart the feedback that we will continue to garner from our students and parents as we work to consider the importance of mindfully scheduling class sessions so as to minimize screen fatigue and maximize a dynamic student experience.
In addition to teams, new student mentoring, advising, councils, and studio blocks, which will all happen online, we will be offering additional co-curricular opportunities for students to see one another on campus in smaller cohorts. We know that this year’s class of exceptional seniors will be wonderful partners in helping to shape these events, and believe that all such opportunities will allow us to form the same community bonds that lie at the heart of an Academy experience. We look forward to sharing more details with students and parents about all aspects of our program in the coming weeks.
As we prepare for this next chapter for what some are calling “the new abnormal,” we are grateful for the ongoing concern, support, hard questions, and encouragement from all of you. Please know that the three of us are always eager to hear from you via our shared email alias, firstname.lastname@example.org. We look forward to the other side of this pandemic, finding a day when we can all gather, fully face-to-face, over too many potluck dishes, and hug, and clap too much, and sing a rousing chorus of Vivat Academia, and hoot and holler. With our 40th anniversary on the horizon, we are proud of how The Academy community has proven resilient in fulfilling its mission, time and after time. There is much to celebrate and we know that, in the coming year, Academy students will yet again meet the challenges put before them and persevere.