NYA campus from above

Summer Update from Head of School, Ben Jackson

July 30, 2021

Dear Families,

I hope you are having a great summer with your family and friends. There is still plenty of summer left to enjoy, but we have been busy on campus with summer camps and planning for the 2021-22 school year. NYA Super Summer Day Camps and NYA Hockey Camps have been busy, hosting over 200 campers most weeks, and will continue into August. The Admission Office is hosting tours and engaging prospective students for the coming year. I am pleased to share that NYA will be at record enrollment by opening day, September 7, 2021, and there are still some spots open in select classes.

On Friday, July 23, you received an email from Mr. Austin or Mrs. Markonish on a series of items relating to scheduling and the opening of the school year. The Facilities Department is working on multiple projects to prepare for the opening of school. As we look towards the fall, I wanted to take this opportunity to update you on NYA’s planning, important dates, introductions of new members of the faculty and staff, and health and safety planning.

We look forward to seeing everyone in September. After well over a year, it is a relief to get back to many of the activities we enjoy and to interact more with others. However, we are still in the midst of a pandemic and will continue to make decisions in the interest of the health and safety of our community. A major goal is to develop policies that will mitigate the impact of positive cases on our students and to avoid interruptions of in-person learning.

The Maine State CDC and Maine DOE no longer issue direct guidance to schools, rather Maine schools have been directed to follow the policies of the U.S. CDC guidance for COVID-19 prevention in schools. As you may know, the U.S. CDC recently revised these guidelines and issued additional guidance this week.

Since April, 2020, NYA’s Health and Safety Committee has met multiple times to review guidelines and establish NYA policies. The work of this committee continues as we adjust to shifting guidance from state and federal agencies. Because guidance is frequently changing, NYA safety protocols have not yet been finalized for September. The committee will review these new guidelines in the coming days and any subsequent guidelines or revisions that may be established. In the coming weeks, we will update you with our plans for the opening of school. The following plans are a few we are ready to share:

  • Screening: We will no longer conduct morning wellness checks for students. Rather, we request that students “self-screen” prior to school. If they exhibit any symptoms, they should remain home.
  • Frequent hand washing is one of the best ways to mitigate the spread of the virus. We will continue to promote good hand washing habits, and hand sanitizer stations will still be available throughout campus.
  • We will continue to use proper ventilation systems throughout campus.
  • While we no longer have stringent occupancy restrictions, and will have more free flowing student traffic throughout campus, we will still encourage distancing whenever possible.
  • We are required to follow the CDC protocols for contact tracing and quarantining. These policies have changed significantly and we are instituting policies to minimize the need for quarantining for close contacts.

The following are of note:

  • Vaccinations: Vaccination for eligible staff and students is the most effective way to limit the spread of the virus and return operations to normal as soon as possible. NYA does not require students or faculty/staff to be vaccinated, but we strongly encourage those eligible to be vaccinated. If you have questions, I encourage you to consult with your physician. Vaccinations not only help mitigate the spread of the virus, but vaccinated individuals are exempt from quarantine when identified as a close contact. Information on vaccines may be found here.
  • Pooled Testing: NYA will participate in the pooled testing program as offered by the Maine DOE. The pooled testing program is another way to limit the spread of COVID and limit the need for quarantining for those participating in the program. This program will help ensure that our students, faculty, and staff can return and remain in school for the entirety of the school year. Participants in pooled testing will have further protections from the need to quarantine if deemed a close contact. More information on pooled testing will be forthcoming from NYA Health Services Coordinator, Ashley Moody, along with a consent form for families.
  • Masks: As many of you are aware, additional recommendations were made this week on the use of masks in schools. We will review this guidance and communicate clear mask policies for indoor and outdoor activities in advance of the school year. Final decisions on all health and safety protocols will be made in accordance with the most up-to-date CDC guidelines, and we will communicate these before the school year begins.

Forms: Another vital step to prepare for the new school year is to make sure you have completed all the necessary Family Forms. It is essential that all required forms are submitted prior to the start of the school year. Upper School students will need their forms completed prior to the first day of athletic preseason on August 16. Health forms are critically important, and no students will be permitted on campus without the Annual Health Information and Authorization for Health Care Form. Please contact NYA’s Health Services Coordinator, Ashley Moody, with any questions regarding health forms.

Homestay Program: We are seeking an immediate homestay placement for a vaccinated international student (a senior who has been at NYA since ninth grade) in a home in the NYA community. An ample stipend is provided to the hosting family. Please contact Sagaree Sengupta/Eliot Grady at homestay@nya.org for more information.

Important dates:

  • Monday, August 16: Preseason begins
  • Friday, August 27: Lower School Family Picnic
  • Wednesday, September 1: Middle School and Upper School New Student Orientation
  • Wednesday, September 1: Ninth Grade Orientation
  • Tuesday, September 7: Convocation and First day of School
  • Thursday, September 9: Lower School Parent Night
  • Tuesday, September 14: Upper School and Middle School Parent Night
  • Friday-Saturday, September 17-18: Homecoming Weekend
  • Tuesday, September 21: New Parent Evening (4:00-6:00 p.m.) This is a new event to welcome and meet families new to the school. We look forward to seeing you all on campus “under the tent” for a new family reception.

Please join me in welcoming several new members to the faculty and staff:

Gretchen Bergill will serve as Director of College Counseling. Gretchen brings close to 30 years of experience in college counseling and college admissions. Prior to joining NYA, she served as the Director of College Counseling at Kents Hill School in Kents Hill, ME. Prior to her tenure at Kents Hill, Gretchen served as Associate Director of College Counseling for 13 years at Phillips Exeter Academy in Exeter, NH. She also served as Director of College Counseling at the Sage Ridge School in Reno, NV. Gretchen earned a BA in American Studies and French from Colby College. She began her career working as an Assistant Dean of Admission at Colby College. Join me in welcoming Gretchen to NYA.

Jess Violette has accepted the position as STEM teacher in the Upper School. Jess earned her BS in Biochemistry from Bates College and her MA in Secondary Education from the University of Phoenix. Most recently, Jess was a science and math faculty member at Hebron Academy. Jess brings extensive experience teaching math and science, along with science experience in the private sector. Jess has taught math at NYA in the past, and we are thrilled to have her back at the Academy.

Jessica Trahan has accepted the position to teach second grade at NYA. Jessica earned her BA from the University of Miami. She most recently served as a fourth grade teacher at Briskin Elementary School in Hollywood, CA. She has additional classroom experience in kindergarten and first grade. Additionally, she has served as “tinkering teacher” for grades 1-4, a curriculum focused on designing and creativity. Jessica is pleased to return to her native Maine with her family. Please join me in welcoming Jessica.

Caroline MacDonald has accepted a lead primary position at NYA. Caroline studied English Literature and Sociology at Weymouth College in Weymouth, UK. She earned her Primary Teaching Diploma from the London Montessori Centre in London, UK. She brings over 20 years of experience in early childhood education. Most recently, she served as a Lead Teacher at the Cumberland Cooperative Nursery School. She also served as Director of the Oakhill Montessori School.

Sara Brooks has accepted the position in the Upper School Spanish faculty. Sara earned her BA in Secondary Education-Spanish from Towson University and her MA from the University of Massachusetts. Most recently, she taught Spanish at the Chesapeake Public Schools. She has held additional positions as an ESL teacher. We welcome Sara’s family as they move from Virginia to Maine.

Julie Balsamo has accepted the position as Primary Assistant, working with Ms. Leslie. Julie earned her BA from Boston University. She is currently working towards her MEd in Educational Leadership from the University of Maine/Farmington. Most recently, Julie taught high school English at the Edward Little School in Auburn, ME. She was also a primary teacher at the Ipaster’s Primary School in Spain.

Emily Harrison has accepted a position as an Assistant Toddler Teacher. Emily earned her BS from the University of New England and her MS in Occupational Therapy from the University of New Hampshire. Most recently, she served as an occupational therapist in West Palm Beach, FL. She has also been published in the Open Journal of Occupational Therapy. Emily is also a proud alumna of NYA’s class of 2011.

Marti Morton has returned to NYA after a year hiatus to take on the new Lower School enrichment position. This will include teaching physical education and sciences in grades primary through four. Welcome back, Marti!

We will continue to be in touch with updates throughout the month of August. Don’t hesitate to reach out with questions regarding the start of the school year. We look forward to seeing you all in September.

Ben Jackson
Head of School