Let me begin with a “Thank You.” I have been overwhelmed by the energy and goodwill that has gone into our virtual pivot, and I am grateful for the many messages of support as we’ve made the most significant transition since the school’s startup in 1997.
We recognize that the coronavirus pandemic has greatly impacted you as well – personally and professionally, socially and emotionally. As families juggle the many pressures that are part of our new reality, I do hope that you are finding a few moments of joy. I do believe hope and happiness can be found, even among the most difficult of times.
Let me apologize at the start for the relative length of this email. There is a lot to cover, and I believe it best to have it all in one place, rather than spread out among so many other items in your inbox.
After careful consideration, we have determined that we will finish T3 virtually. Even if there is a loosening of social distancing guidelines in the next month, we recognize that circumstances within some families will make a return to normalcy difficult this spring. We want to ensure that our core academic program is completed in the least disruptive and most equitable way possible. While we continue to hold out hope there may be opportunities to physically gather in late May or early June for socialization or celebration, any such activity will be voluntary.
We know this news is disappointing, especially the disruption of cherished end-of-year traditions. We are disappointed as well. We are confident, though, that we can all work together to create safe and special moments that will be remembered for years to come. We will communicate more details about May and June celebrations in the coming weeks.
Reporting Academic Progress
There has been quite a bit of conversation locally and nationally regarding pass/fail grading in the time of coronavirus. Since the start of T3, we have been grading using our normal metrics, and we do not see a compelling enough reason to alter course. We are proud of the efforts put forth by students to own their learning, and we believe reporting on work done this term using traditional grades is feasible and fair within our context at Cary Academy. For a more thorough explanation of our rationale, please see the attachment with this message.
Like most businesses, the school has incurred a number of unanticipated financial impacts resulting from the coronavirus, especially as it relates to a sharp drop in ancillary (non-tuition) income that directly supports the academic program and general operational expenses.
Over the last few weeks, several families have inquired about whether we will be offering partial refunds of dining fees. While we have some costs that have already been accrued, we do wish to credit families for food not paid for by the school this term. We have calculated that amount at $200 per student. More details forthcoming.
We recognize the stay-at-home order and subsequent economic shutdown has impacted the finances of many families. Cary Academy wishes to be as responsive and flexible as possible during this uncertain time. Families wishing to discuss the need for a more flexible payment plan or potential emergency tuition assistance should reach out to our Director of Admissions and Financial Aid Heather Clarkson (firstname.lastname@example.org). We will be considering requests on two deadlines, May 15 for June 1 decision and June 15 for July 1 decision.
Next School Year
At this time, we expect to open the 2020-2021 school year as planned on August 12. The health and safety of our students, families, and employees will remain the priority. This spring we have been working through a variety of operational strategies to ensure a safe environment on campus. At this point, start-up timelines for competitive athletics are unknown.
Experts following the virus have advised that we consider the potential for future stay-at-home orders should the virus re-emerge in fall or winter. As part of our contingency planning, we are exploring some adjustments to regular school scheduling and curriculum delivery that would allow for a smoother transition to virtual learning next year – should that be an unfortunate necessity. None of our current plans include adjustments to the already published vacation calendar.
We remain grateful for your partnership and your flexibility as we move forward. As you may have seen from a recent announcement, our leadership team has arranged for open, weekly online chats covering a variety of topics. We look forward to seeing many of you in those sessions as we seek to navigate this new world together.