Dear Heilicher Families,
Welcome back to Heilicher@Home Shared Journey, where we can track, together, progress on Heilicher staff’s planning for next year. As a reminder, these updates may include our current decision-making process on both broad and specific matters (for example, ranging from thoughts on graduation all the way to how we will reopen next year), as well as sharing my philosophy on how to approach planning and decisions in the face of significant uncertainty. Most grade-level matters will be shared by your teachers or advisors, but I see graduation as a capstone event that has symbolic and structural relevance beyond eighth grade.
I hope you continue to find this helpful and, as always, reach out to me with questions, comments, and ideas.
Current Approach To Re-Opening In The Fall
This week, Heads from 12 Minnesota independent schools met to discuss strategic and tactical collaboration as the pandemic and its fallout continue. Independent schools are uniquely positioned to adapt to complex challenges such as distance learning and future integrated schedules, due to small class sizes and independence from the larger school systems. This is why many of us feel it is important to stay in close contact, especially because each state will likely have different policies and responses to the ongoing situation.
Heilicher’s leadership team of teachers and administrators are continuing to build a plan for next year around three main concepts:
Familiarization. This can be described as: if there were a vaccine available today, we must explore what children might need, socially, emotionally, physically, and academically, upon returning to school during or after a traumatic or greatly disruptive event.
Integration. This is preparing for the most likely scenario of a return to school with no end in sight for COVID. It will entail a complex integration of state and national and campus-wide recommendations and requirements with our brand of secular and Jewish life and education. Pieces of this will have to be built later in the summer as our parameters become more clear, but right now we can organize teams and systems in order to devise a strategy for opening school under a broad array of restrictions and required safety protocols.
Continuing to improve the Heilicher@Home program for students, teachers, and parents should it need to continue for some or all of next year
Overall thinking about next year: will we open in-person and when will we know?
No one can say as of today what next school year will look like. It seems, however, that an end to COVID is not currently visible, so I am under the impression that the next few months will be all about getting society up and running again as much as possible with new health and safety precautions slowly taking hold. This will have to include a process for getting schools open and that will be an extraordinarily complex path. It’s also important to note that teachers, administrators, students, and parents will need some form of break this summer.
All of these things rolled together seem to point toward some form of opening in the fall. This would likely only be derailed if the virus becomes worse in its severity or in the extent of its community transmission, and would become easier if the virus remains steady, declines in transmission, or is fully contained or eliminated. We should be prepared for a middle of the road possibility, which entails a form of opening next year with a lot of adjustments made along the way as we all figure out how to make this new form of school work. Short of a vaccine that is widely dispersed, we should be prepared for a program in the fall that can be adjusted as precautionary measures become more sophisticated and widespread.
Our commitment, as always, is to be proactive, transparent, and put the health and safety of students, staff, and families above all else. Decisions will be made with the best information and visibility at hand. I continue to believe we should not rush to decisions until we have more information.
Ending the Year, Report Cards, and Conferences
Progress has continued on preparation for the end of the year and a calendar and timeline should be available shortly.
Graduation planning continues and will be communicated, also, over the next couple of weeks. Our strong hope is for some form of ceremony, ideally in a very safe and very distanced physical form, in early June. We will keep you posted on planning over the coming couple of weeks.
Picking Up Your Children’s Belongings At School
I don’t have much more of an update from last week. Our planning team is just getting staff into the building in carefully orchestrated shifts, so they may retrieve pertinent teaching materials and other belongings left behind. The same team has started mapping out what it might take to orchestrate getting your children’s belongings, and we will continue to update you as that plan comes together.
Thank you, as always, for your incredible support and patience.