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April 12, 2020

Dear Families,

As always, I hope that you are all staying safe and healthy. Throughout this pandemic, we have followed the recommendations of the state and Federal Government and the CDC. On Wednesday, the Maine Department of Education, with the support of Governor Mills, issued a recommendation “to begin planning for remote learning for the remainder of the year.” While planning for this outcome, NYA will continue to remain nimble and ready to return to campus if circumstances allow this to happen.

At challenging times, the very best in people shines through. That may sound cliché, but it is so true of all the amazing people in our community. Our teachers are demonstrating their creativity and are learning new methods that will be valuable when we do return to regular classrooms. Students have also been innovative and flexible with their learning. Further, it is really great to see how our students are connecting and supporting each other. Among the many silver linings is how we are learning so much about ourselves and how families are getting closer through so many shared, unique experiences. It doesn’t mean this situation is easy to navigate for anyone, and it can be particularly difficult for some. There are many people here at school to support your children and family. This includes teachers, advisors, and administrators. For those that might need extra support we have our school counselor, Mrs. Hould.

As shared in last week’s newsletters, Mrs. Hould is presenting a new wellness theme each week. The weekly Health and Wellness initiative kicked off this past week with the theme of kindness. Our NYA community was encouraged to practice intentional acts of kindness and observe the positive impact it can make on others and ourselves. This coming week, the theme is resilience and how we can cultivate and practice resilience during challenging and uncertain times. Visit the Healthy Mind & Body web page for details.

We are now a few weeks into remote learning. Mrs. Markonish and Mr. Austin shared a thorough and thoughtful background on NYA’s remote learning philosophy in last Sunday’s newsletters (links to the newsletters can be found under Communications on our COVID-19 Response webpage). I want to reiterate a few of these points. While planning for remote learning, we had two key goals in mind. The first was to deliver as much continuity in the program as possible to the students, and second, to maintain and promote social connections. In planning, we had the benefit of learning lessons from many schools across the country and globe that implemented remote learning before we did. We balanced these lessons with NYA’s mission and culture and developed a schedule that we felt accomplished the right balance for students. Having a schedule different from our regular school schedule is reflective of the different dynamics of a remote learning platform, not lessened expectations. The actual schedule varies from division to division, but the same general principles apply. The schedule combines synchronous experiences for the students to engage with one another and their teacher. This provides both direct instruction and fosters interaction at the same time. Additional asynchronous experiences exist where the students have work to complete and times that they can reach out to teachers for additional support. This helps promote independence, keeps the students engaged, and reduces screen time. Further, different nuances of instruction exist in the classroom that may not exist online, and the new environment requires teachers to engage students differently. While you can’t ever fully replace the classroom experience, the transition has been going well thus far. We remain flexible and will make changes as necessary. We have already reacted to teacher and student feedback by making small adjustments in some divisions. As we remain ready to adapt, we are interested in your feedback as well. Please take few minutes to address these brief questions in this brief parent survey. We will also send a survey to Middle and Upper School students via email.

We greatly miss having the students on campus. The in-person interactions, on campus activities, and athletics are missing. That creates a void for many students, and I am thinking about them every day. This takes on even greater meaning with the class of 2020. This group of 48 seniors and post graduate students is a truly remarkable group. They have demonstrated great leadership as a class and injected school spirit at music, theater, and athletic events the entire year. Most of all, they have a positive spirit that has permeated the entire community. We are working with the class on the many milestone events of their senior spring, and we remain committed to hosting an on campus graduation when the CDC gives the okay, even if it takes place later in the summer. It will not only be a great opportunity for the students to gather together as a class, it also creates a great opportunity for our entire community to gather together to celebrate these amazing students. More information will come as we are able to fully develop these plans.

We hosted our first remote Friday Forum this week. It was a test run for when we renew our Senior Speeches on April 24. It was wonderful to connect as an Upper School (Middle School will have their Remote Forums on Wednesdays). We had a few announcements and even an appearance from Friday Forum regular, Te’Andre, to spread some birthday cheer.

Middle and Upper School students will be working with advisors this week to sign up for next year’s courses. Mr. Austin and Mrs. Markonish will email students with additional information and instructions. Parents received an overview of the process in the March 8 newsletters and can contact advisors with any questions.

The Yarmouth Chamber Board of Directors and staff (after consulting with local town officials and specialists), voted to cancel this year’s Yarmouth Clam Festival. Although we understand their decision, we will miss having the festival on our campus. The Parents’ Association would like to thank their new Clam Fest booth co-chairs Anne Snow and Jessica Lynch for the all the work they have done to prepare. We look forward to seeing all of our volunteers next year.

Important calendar updates:

  • Monday, April 20: No School-Patriot’s Day
  • Tuesday, April 21: No School-Lower School Conferences, MS/US Professional Development
  • May 15-Virtual Soirée
  • June 3 – Last day of classes for toddler to eleventh grade students. NOTE: There will be no year-end exams in the Middle and Upper Schools.

We are excited to offer a virtual NYA Soirée for all to attend on Friday, May 15! For 36 years, the NYA Soiree has supported initiatives at the Academy that directly impact our students and teachers, enabling our community to reach its full potential. From STEM education to the Kauffmann Program in Environmental Writing and Wilderness Exploration to the new Learning Commons, the impact has been wide. By continuing our efforts online, we can positively impact this year’s initiative for financial aid and faculty support at a time when they need it most. We hope you can join us for this livestreamed, engaging event for our community. Be on the lookout for registration information coming soon.

The Learning Commons is complete! The final furniture deliveries were delayed due to the Coronavirus, but I am pleased to report that they were delivered and installed early last week. These included the book shelves and circulation desk. A video was sent last week and the space looks terrific! Here are some photos that were taken last Thursday. It will be a wonderful resource for students when they return to campus. The Upper School students had a quick tour during Friday Forum.

We had a great kick-off to NYA Summer Camp registrations in March, and many camps are quickly filling up. We continue to monitor the newest developments regarding COVID-19, and safety is our number one priority. We hope that as we move past the worst of the outbreak, we will be able to run our whole calendar of scheduled camp offerings. Should we be forced to cancel any camps due to the virus, camper families will receive a full 100% refund. We would like to extend our Early Bird pricing of a $25 discount from April 15 to May 1. NYA also offers an additional 10% discount to families who sign up one camper for two or more sessions at the same time. We will keep you updated with any changes to the NYA Summer Camp program. If you have questions, contact Mary Goodrich.

Mission Spotlight

Laundry Landscape by C Wright

Shark, Octopus, & Green Sea Turtle by C. Wright

Ms. Christa’s Lower School Art class took advantage of things that were around the house. The class began spring semester by making a landscape out of an unusual, but ordinary material that everyone has in their home – laundry! This “Laundry Landscape” art lesson was for the elementary students of the Lower School in grades 1-4, whose assignment was to create one of the following: a landscape, a seascape, or a cityscape using a selective list of colorful clothes, blankets, and towels. The students planned their ideas to create some truly clever works of art! In some pieces, colorful socks turned into brightly colored tropical fish, shirts and shorts became houses, and a white t-shirt rolled up tightly placed behind a lumpy gray washcloth appeared to be Portland Head Light! Students put a lot of effort into this imaginative project, and by looking closely at each piece, a whole new world of Laundry Landscape art comes to life!

Last week, the Maine Principals Association made the difficult but necessary decision to cancel all Upper School spring sport seasons. We understand the wide-range of emotions that accompany the loss of spring seasons at both the Middle and Upper School levels. While we cannot replace what would have been, we are committed to finding creative ways to celebrate our student-athletes, coaches, and programs throughout the next couple of months. Be sure to follow @NYAPanthers on Twitter to see these stories and receive up-to-date information about our athletic community.

In the absence of organized after school activities, we encourage our Middle and Upper School students and families, to check out the “Get Moving” section of our Weekly Wellness plan! (It’s just after Ian Ramsey’s videos.) Here you will find strengthening, cardio, and weekly activity suggestions to stay active and healthy. Lower School students receive their regular physical education activities from Ms. Adams and Ms. Marti. There are many additional resources on the webpage.

In anticipation of warmer weather and the ability to get outside more often, please note that our athletic facilities remain closed to the public in an effort to adhere to CDC recommendations and the stay-at-home order currently in place here in Maine. We cannot wait to re-open our campus facilities and enjoy the hustle and bustle of having the community enjoy each of them.

Again, thank you for your support and commitment to NYA. Be well, stay healthy, and take care of one another, and to those who celebrate it, Happy Easter and Happy Passover!


Ben Jackson
Head of School


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