June 25, 2020
I hope you are all settling into summer routines and enjoying some quality family time. It has now been close to four months without students on campus, and we miss them now more than ever. As I reflect on this past spring, I am incredibly grateful to our students, faculty, and families and proud of the resiliency, innovation, and flexibility demonstrated by the entire community.
As challenging as this past year has been, we’ve seen silver linings and learned lessons that can guide us as we plan for the next school year and beyond. To that end, I want to take this opportunity to share North Yarmouth Academy’s intention to open campus safely to our students this fall with a full, five-day per week schedule. While we will need to make necessary and prudent adjustments to mitigate health risks, our intention is to create the best environment possible for our students to learn, grow, and engage within the current public health conditions.
As we plan, the safety of our students, faculty, and staff is our guiding principle. Our plans follow recommendations from the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and draft guidelines contained in the “Maine School’s Return to Classroom Instruction Framework.” These are the same guidelines that all schools are following. NYA is in a better position than many schools to resume on-campus learning because of its model and commitment to small class sizes. With an average class size of 14 students, NYA is uniquely positioned to open safely, while other institutions may not be able to accommodate their full populations on campus at the same time. Larger schools may require split schedules for students, where only a portion of the student body is on campus at once, limiting valuable in-person instructional time.
Early on during this pandemic, the Academy developed several administrative teams to address the COVID-19 response and the plan for reopening campus. These teams address all aspects of health and safety, program and student life, and school operations to guide our process for reopening campus. The following is an update on each of these guiding principles:
- Health and Safety: All decisions will be made with the health and safety of our students, faculty, staff, and families at the forefront. Our health and safety efforts are aligned to mitigate the risk of the spread of the virus on campus. These efforts include:
- Regular screening of students, staff, and invited visitors with the aim to keep any individuals with symptoms away from campus.
- Practice social distancing. This will take many forms. Our Health and Safety Team has recently completed an analysis on the capacity of each classroom per CDC guidelines. This is where NYA benefits most from small class sizes.
- Increased cleaning and disinfecting practices that will be in place throughout campus.
- Additional steps designed to stop the spread of the virus. These will include education about keeping sick students and employees at home and good hygiene practices like regular handwashing.
- Continuity of the Program: A highly individualized and challenging program in a supportive environment is what we do best as a school. We believe it is most important for the education and well-being of our students to deliver this education on campus. We further recognize the challenges that campus closures present for families that are trying to return to work. We remain incredibly proud of our community’s transition to remote learning this past spring. While we are committed to opening in the fall, if circumstances dictate, we will be prepared to pivot and seamlessly transition back to remote learning for any length of time. My May 22 email also addressed the possibility of hybrid options. While we are confident we will not be required to offer a staggered or split schedule for our students, we continue to invest in technology. This investment will position us to offer hybrid experiences for members of the community that may need to shift to remote learning temporarily.
- Continuity of Operations: At the onset of the pandemic, all elements of our school operations adapted. The business office, admission office, development, alumni, and facilities departments have all demonstrated great flexibility in the current environment. While COVID-19 still presents many challenges for the Academy, we have weathered them well through prudent planning. The admission office continues to field inquiries and will soon reopen campus for in-person tours following safety guidelines. Some grades are full, while spots remain open in others. The development office shifted to a virtual Soirée and is looking to finish off a strong spring by June 30, the end of the fiscal year. Without summer programs and the Yarmouth Clam Festival, the facilities staff is able to tackle additional projects this summer to ensure campus is ready for the safe return of our students this fall.
While we are confident in NYA’s ability for a safe return to campus, we also recognize that many uncertainties still exist. We will remain flexible and ready to adapt as health conditions dictate. There is still a long way to go before we return to normal, but under the circumstances, we will leverage the unique characteristics of NYA to create the best possible outcome for our students and families. We will continue to follow official guidance very closely and will regularly communicate with each of you as plans continue to develop over the course of the summer.
We are committed to supporting our faculty, students, and families as you navigate these challenging times. As always, please reach out to the school if we can be helpful in any way. I appreciate your support of NYA.
Most of all, I look forward to seeing each of you back on campus in September.
Head of School