Winter Term Information for Phillips Academy Families

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Head of School Letter

A Letter from Head of School Raynard Kington

July 10, 2020

Dear Phillips Academy families,

I hope you and your students are staying healthy and well during these momentous times. Thank you for the kind greetings many of you have shared as I begin my own Andover journey. It is truly a humbling and extraordinary moment in education. I speak for our senior team in expressing gratitude for your patience and understanding as we continue to develop our reopening plans. We look forward to welcoming students during the 2020-21 school year.

I know that the coming months will be difficult for everyone, everywhere, but I have truly been inspired by the members of the PA community who have come to see the challenge we face as a way to live our motto, non sibi. In numerous discussions I have had over the last six months about the pandemic, I have been struck by how often the conversation pauses at the realization of a simple conclusion: our success as a community and as a nation in responding to this pandemic rests on the ability of each of us to willingly sacrifice things that are personally important in order to serve the common good. Each of us will assume some responsibility for making sure we as a community live up to that challenge.

I write today to share our plans to open school. We are well aware that we are the last of our peer group to do so, and that has been intentional. Over the last three months the senior team has engaged deeply in analysis, scenario planning, and consultation, with the goal of defining how to reopen Andover in the safest manner possible and with a public health framework as our guide. During this time our proto-plans changed in response to the evolution of the path of the pandemic, especially in the past few weeks as virus surges occurred across the country. Leadership in COVID times does not mean announcing the first plan, rather it requires taking the time to assess the dynamics of the pandemic to define the most responsible plan.

Our plan is conservative. It aligns with the de-densification approach that many colleges and universities are employing this fall. We will start the year welcoming a small cohort of students, with confidence that we can provide a safe environment where they will thrive. While we recognize the impossibility of creating a completely risk-free environment, our plan includes multiple layers of protection and mitigation. We will use the first few weeks of school to stress-test these systems. Once we have determined their capacity to support a larger population, we will invite additional cohorts. As COVID-19 continues to reaffirm its unpredictability, we must remain nimble in our ability to shift course at any moment.

In developing these plans we have incorporated guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), state and local health authorities, the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education “School Reopening Guidance,” Governor Baker’s phased “Reopening Massachusetts” plan, and the Massachusetts Higher Education Group’s “Safe on Campus” reopening framework.

We know you are eager to make informed decisions, and hope that the information provided here will guide your discussions in the days ahead. Please know that the July 24 commitment date—when tuition becomes due and deposits become non-refundable for the coming school year—replaces the previous commitment date of July 15. In addition, we are planning to hold a Zoom Town Hall Webinar for families on Monday, July 13, at 8 p.m. ET. Further information will be forthcoming.

We have organized our evolving plans into the following areas: Community Health and Wellness; Academic Experience and Key Dates; Living on Campus and Day Student Information; College Counseling; Academic Year 2020-21 Program Options; and Comprehensive Q/A.

As you review these plans, please keep in mind the following:

  • Our goal is to welcome back all students over time in the safest possible manner. We will begin by inviting senior boarders (class of 2021) and junior boarders (class of 2024) in early September. We are confident that our most experienced students will create a positive community environment for the newest members of our Andover family. We’ve all been asked to sacrifice in the face of challenge, remain patient, and support one another. This is a non sibi moment for seniors to redefine what it means to lead and to apply their Andover knowledge for the common good of the community. We are excited to welcome the juniors to begin their Andover journey among peer and adult mentors who are ready to guide them.
  • We will monitor health conditions to determine when we can welcome lower boarders, upper boarders, and day students to join on campus. Once we have completed a few weeks with students on campus, we will assess systems and our capacity to welcome more students safely.
  • We respect that in these times some students may prefer to remain members of the Andover community remotely. We are aware of the challenging travel restrictions that our international students face. We want to assure those students who are waiting for their turn to join on campus that they will be included in school life and community from the start of orientation. Our online programming has been comprehensively redesigned to deliver the Andover experience to all students.
  • Education around our public health/campus health guidelines is paramount. Prior to the beginning of classes, we will hold an online orientation for all students. We encourage families to do some or all of this training together. Among the topics covered will be our public health style of living and learning.
  • Over the summer we will stay in touch with you to provide updates as our planning progresses and especially if we need to amend our path. Next Monday’s Town Hall Webinar will be an opportunity for our team to respond to your questions after you have read our plans in full.

The faculty and staff are eager to return to the rewarding work of teaching, learning, and engaging with students. The method of delivering education will look dramatically different at every institution this fall. What will remain firmly intact at Andover is an unwavering non sibi mindset and a devotion to excellence in all that we do.

Sincerely,

Raynard Kington

Head of School