Over the last two months I have studied the movement and threat of the coronavirus as it has spread throughout the world. I have consulted with medical experts, educators, Trustee leaders, and colleagues from the world of colleges, universities, and boarding schools.
I have always known that what we build here at St. Andrew’s each year is distinctly human and dependent on the full diversity of the St. Andrew’s family.
We dine together, live together, gather together in Chapel, Engelhard, and everywhere in between. We talk, connect, listen, understand, and appreciate one another; we form advisee groups, dynamic classes and working groups, teams, and ensembles. We realize day by day that we comprise a multigenerational neighborhood that seeks to make change and contributions both here and off campus.
As I began to become concerned about the coronavirus, I appreciated more and more these moments that make up a year at St. Andrew’s. The boys basketball state tournament run is the latest example of the magical things that emerge each day in the community.
At the same time, through February and now March, I began to suspect that this coronavirus outbreak had the potential to disrupt our year. It represents the most threatening public health emergency of my career as Head of School.
Indeed, the spring vacation has clearly suggested that we can no longer hope to protect the community from the coronavirus; it will come to every state and region in our country this spring; it will come to St. Andrew’s. Our way of regaining control of this situation is to act before the virus arrives and seeks to spread widely through our interconnected community.
The only question now for boarding schools and colleges is how we can protect our distinctive approach to education, how we can protect adults, students, and children from the outbreak, and how we can be sure not to contribute to the medical and public health crisis spreading in our country.
For St. Andrew’s, the only intelligent and responsible approach to this unprecedented moment is to delay the opening of our community’s spring term.
We have cancelled spring sports camps, suspended our Spring Break return date from March 17 to a date to be determined, and plan to begin a virtual teaching and learning program on Monday, March 23.
Between now and March 23, our teachers will convert their distinctive classes, assessments, and teaching strategies to virtual forms with all students studying and learning remotely from home, thereby assuring the quality of our academic mission until this health crisis has passed. This transition and this teaching and learning approach will bring each St. Andrew’s teacher to a powerful and creative expression and approach to their professional and artistic skills as instructors. We will learn so much about our teaching through this new pedagogical approach. We will be eager to help support families who may not have access to internet services in their homes during this period of virtual teaching and learning.
This is a difficult decision to make as the Head of the most distinctive and human school in the country. But even as I ponder the ways we will all temporarily miss the St. Andrew’s ethos, I remember that in the process of making this transition, we are doing very important work for the state, the country, and our community.
It is clear that Delaware and the United States will face significant and overwhelming pressure to meet the needs of escalating numbers of patients stricken by the coronavirus; it is clear that actions like the ones St. Andrew’s has made will slow the spread of the virus, relieve pressure on public health and hospitals, and preserve the health and lives of community members.
In addition to the work in teaching and learning, I will be writing and speaking to the students often during the weeks we are not in session on campus, reminding them of our community values and aspirations, fighting for goodness, and updating you all on our reflections on the evolving crisis. We will keep the St. Andrew’s spirit burning brightly, even in this uncertain time.
As we move through the rest of this particular week, I want to prioritize finding places for our international students, many of whom have stayed on campus throughout the break due to travel restrictions in their home countries. If you have the room and ability to support one or two of our international students, please contact Dean of Student Life Will Robinson at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Beginning next Monday, March 16, please direct inquiries and questions to the following leaders:
- Health Services:
- Annette Rickolt (email@example.com)
- Counseling and Wellness:
- Guidance and Help for International Students:
- Academics and Academic Support:
- College Counseling:
- Jason Honsel (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Please also continue to utilize our coronavirus response page on the St. Andrew's website a resource for information and updates.
As soon as we see threat of coronavirus subside, we will be eager to bring the community back together again and to be exactly where we all love and want to be. I will of course give families planning time to book flights, trains, and transportation when we decide the time has come to return here.
As we move into this response to an unprecedented crisis, I will need your parenting skills, support, and patience more than ever. Together, we can come together to respond to the crisis with grace, creativity, humanity, and understanding. We can deeply acknowledge and understand our students’ sadness and disappointment and at the same time help them to see that in periods of complexity and crisis, we all make sacrifices for the individual and public good.
I will be in touch soon with more details for the opening of virtual instruction on March 23.