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February 21, 2021

Dear Families,

As we are approaching the one year anniversary of nationwide shutdowns due to COVID-19, there are some encouraging signs across the state and country. Vaccines are becoming more widely distributed, and the surge of cases that we were witnessing locally from November until recently seems to be plateauing. Current Maine COVID cases can be tracked through the Maine COVID Tracker. Maine vaccine distribution may be tracked here.  These positive indicators are certainly reason to be hopeful, but a lot of work remains and we will to continue to practice vigilance and reinforce safety guidelines here at school. Updates on the latest travel guidelines will be provided in advance of spring break, but don’t hesitate to reach out to Ashley Moody, Health Services Coordinator, with questions at any time.  I am so appreciative of the combined efforts of our families, students and faculty through this pandemic. As always we will continue to try to maximize in person learning and keep the students engaged in activities. Again, thank you for your critical support of NYA.

We are just two weeks away from spring break. We will host our traditional Winter Spirit Week with some fun filled activities during the week prior to the break. There will be themed dress down days and activities throughout the week for students in the Lower, Middle, and Upper Schools. More information will be forthcoming from each division. It is a fun week and tradition for the students. We will conclude the week with an early dismissal on Friday, March 5, at 11:30 a.m., and spring break will commence immediately following.

Winter activities continue to progress. Drama was forced to make changes to their regular operation for the winter production. With guidelines prohibiting indoor singing and large group performances, a musical was not an option. However, the drama crew has put together SNL inspired skits. Mrs. Krainis enlisted the help and guidance from CBS Late-Night VP, Nick Bernstein, and with the help of Mr. Cook and Mrs. Vaillancourt filming is almost complete and editing has begun. It is going to be a great show! Also on the good news front, state guidelines have eased to allow some indoor singing.

Middle School athletic teams continue their season through this week with either regular practices or optional activities. The Middle School teams have competed in an intramural format because of COVID restrictions.  These seasons conclude this week, with individual group celebrations to be scheduled and communicated by coaches. Spring seasons are set to begin on Tuesday, March 23. Upper School athletic teams continue to practice and compete under modified schedules and guidelines. Our student athletes have impressed in early boys and girls hockey and boys and girls basketball, and Nordic action. Indoor track has been practicing, but competitions are not being hosted this season. While contests restrict spectators, upcoming, livestream, and archived links to all home games can be found on the NYA Athletics page. Away game links will be shared via @NYAPanthers on Twitter, as well as NYA Athletics on Facebook. Support the Panthers by tuning into games! Also, be sure to check out our new Athletic Scheduling page.

On February 17, we celebrated Random Act of Kindness Day. Each Middle School and Upper School student who carried out a random act of kindness had their name put into a raffle that was drawn at Friday Forum. We congratulate Sidney Bouman and Bryce Curtis who won prizes, and we hope their example generates more acts of kindness throughout our Kind Campus. We also celebrated the kindness of our faculty and staff with a surprise raffle to honor their hard work and dedication.

You are invited to attend the Parents’ Association Morning Forum on Thursday, March 4 at 8:15 a.m. The topic is the Academic Program Across Divisions. You will learn about several academic highlights in each division along with curricular work that is ongoing. Eric Austin, Head of Upper School, and Marissa Markonish, Head of Lower and Middle Schools will serve as panelists. Also serving on the panel will be NYA alums who will discuss lasting lessons from their education at NYA. A Zoom link will be sent to the community the day before the panel.

With limits on visits to campus, the Admission office continues to host virtual events. The next in the “Panther Chat” Series will be held on Wednesday, February 24 from 9:30-10:30. A group of student and faculty panelists will discuss Upper School Life. Encourage your friends and neighbors to learn more about the NYA Upper School. They may learn more about this and other events on the admission section of our website.

In addition, a reminder that reenrollment agreements are due by March 1. It is important to return these agreements in a timely manner for two reasons. First, many classes are at capacity; we can’t guarantee a space beyond this date. Second, enrolling early helps the school with program and staffing decisions. Please reach out to the admission office if you have any questions.

On The Bright Side:

The third and fourth grade class sponsored a dress down day last week. They were seeking a donation of a new toothbrush and/or toothpaste for a village school in Malawi. Third and fourth grade teacher, Ms. Gagne, traveled to this village two summers ago with her daughter, Hannah (NYA ’19), on a service trip. In addition to this community service initiative, the students have been learning about the country and region.

Maine Needs is a local non-profit whose mission is “to help individuals and families in Maine meet their basic, material needs by providing donated clothing, hygiene products, household items, and other necessities. We focus our work on those starting life over from scratch: domestic abuse survivors, asylum seekers, and those facing financial hardships.” Some of our NYA families who volunteer with the organization suggested getting our community involved in gathering donations to help support those in need in our larger community. We are holding a donation drive to gather clean, gently used donations which we will pass on to Maine Needs for distribution. Their top priorities are cold weather gear, 4T-18 clothing (especially for boys), anything waterproof, thermal underwear for adults and kids, and insulated sleeping bags for the homeless. Check out the full list of items accepted here. There are so many families in need, especially during these challenging times. We appreciate your help and generosity! Donations will be accepted until this Wednesday, February 24.

Once again, the sixth grade geography class studied Mongolia through artifacts and a miniature yurt that was set up in the Bicentennial Learning Commons.  This year, when Ms. Grady was having trouble setting it up, Jack Schaeffer ’22 stepped in and saved the day. Using his formidable math skills, Jack was able to determine the radius and circumference of the yurt by measuring the angle of the roof ring and poles, enabling Ms. Grady to correctly put up, overlap, and tie the walls together.  A few years ago, Jack’s brother Andrew ’19 had helped out in a similar way. This time, Ms. Grady will be certain to save the measurements!

February is Black History Month, and it is being recognized in many different ways at NYA. The following is just a sample of activities happening across the classrooms:

Ms. Turner’s  students have chosen a famous Black American, researched that person, and are now making a timeline of their life. Everyone in the class has memorized Langston Hughes’ poem, The Dream Keeper, and studied Amanda Gorman’s inauguration poem.

Ms. Burn’s  Civil Rights Team X-Block students are celebrating Black unsung heroes this month. Each student has researched, created, and displayed a poster for an African American unsung hero. They will honor each unsung hero by sharing their stories during weekly announcements.

Ms. Buehner’s poems this month are in honor of Black History Month. Students are discussing who the authors are, what their poem means, and then writing responses based on these discussion.

Ms. Sullivan’s students are studying the civil rights movement and reading Elizabeth and Hazel, by David Margolick, which is the story of a photograph and the two girls in it – Elizabeth Eckford, one of the Little Rock Nine that integrated Central High School in Little Rock in 1957, and Hazel Bryan, a white girl whose image becomes the face of hatred and racism.

Ms. Kanzler’s classes are researching influential Afro-Latinos in the U.S. and creating poster projects in Spanish that honor these people and their achievements.

Dr. S’s English III class just finished Frederick Douglass’s  Narrative of the Life of An American Slave and James Baldwin’s short story, Sonny’s Blues.

A great deal is being studied in Mr. Sillin’s AP U.S. History, including:

  • a study of how African-American lives both did and did not change during Reconstruction
  • an examination of white resistance to Black equality both during Reconstruction and afterwards
  • the rise of Jim Crow segregation after Reconstruction – both legal segregation as sanctioned by the Supreme Court in Plessy v. Ferguson and also informal enforcement of racial hierarchy by groups such as the KKK, actions such as lynchings, and so-called “race riots” that targeted African-American communities in Atlanta (1906), Chicago (1919), and Tulsa (1921)
  • reading Ida B. Wells’ account of a lynching in Memphis (1892)
  • examinations of ways in which laws could be neutral on their face but discriminatory in intent and effect (such as with literacy tests for voting and poll taxes)
  • a comparison of the different strategies recommended to African-Americans by Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. Du Bois for them to respond to the challenges they faced in the early 20th century

It’s time to Show Your Love for NYA!

If 500 people make a gift of any amount between now and midnight Sunday, March 7, Allen ’60 and Vicki Bornheimer GP’30 will donate an extra $10,000 to NYA. Every gift of every size will make an impact on the NYA students and teachers we love, the academic programs we cherish, the beautiful campus we value, and the advisors, coaches, and mentors who inspire us. Please join in and make a gift to help unlock an extra $10,000 for NYA. Thank you!

Stay safe and healthy. Thank you and have a great week!


Ben Jackson
Head of School


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