3/13/20 Online Learning

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Dear St. Michael’s Parents and Families,

Please read this letter in full. It contains critical information for an interim transition to online and distance-learning and a postponement of all school activities for all St. Michael’s students beginning this coming Wednesday, March 18, at 12:00 noon. We have added a page to our website to keep our community informed of new developments: https://stmichael.net/covidresponse/

As you are all well aware, the news of the coronavirus spread in the U.S. continues to become more urgent by the day. Already, within the past forty-eight hours since our last school-wide communication, there has been a sharp rise in reports from a growing number of states and national organizations that are enacting highly proactive measures to aid in the mitigation of the spread of the COVID-19 virus—closing schools and colleges, closing or quarantining places of worship, canceling sporting events and large public events, including recent headline decisions from the tourist industries, professional and college sports organizations, and local and state authorities to suspend or cancel altogether their large-scale services and gatherings. And the list goes on.

Again, closer to home, while the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Pima County is still seemingly low, the number of local cases nonetheless continues to rise (nine to date, since Wednesday, according to the Pima County Health Department), with a projected number of as yet unconfirmed and unreported cases that is likely even higher. Further, given the ongoing progression of the COVID-19 virus nationally and globally, it seems very likely that the ‘curve’ for the number of infections locally will in short time mirror the stark pattern we are witnessing in other states across the U.S. Healthcare systems everywhere are gearing up for an unprecedented overload of COVID-19 incidents, all requiring immediate and prolonged medical care.

With updates and recommendations for schools from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the World Health Organization, and our local state and civic authorities, I have been working around the clock with our administrative team, School Nurse, Board of Trustees, partner schools, and St. Michael’s parents within the medical field to stay attuned of reports of the spread and its current and expected impact locally. Above all, we have been guided throughout by an abiding sense of responsibility, professionally and ethically, to protect our students, staff, parents and extended family members.

Two days ago, in order to minimize the potential spread of the COVID-19 virus within our community, the prospect of transitioning to an interim online platform to provide continuity of instruction seemed weeks away. Now, the need to do so is much more urgent.

Accordingly, we will be postponing our in-person, daily school operations after our noon dismissal this coming Wednesday, March 18th, and begin transitioning to interim online learning beginning, Monday, March 23rd. With no confirmed date for return to normal school operations, we will keep all of you, our parents and families, updated. All details in regard to this interim transition to online- and distance-learning will be sent early this coming week. Please stay attuned to all emails from me, our division directors, and our teaching faculty.

During this interval, there will be no St. Michael’s athletic events, field trips, or other official student activities on or off campus, including our accreditation visit with SAES, before and aftercare, our Block Party event, field trips, alternate trips for Upper School students, and our Fine Arts Night. Again, we will provide timely and informative updates throughout the coming days and certainly throughout the interval period.

We plan at present to remain open to all families for Monday, Tuesday, and the half-day Wednesday this coming week, through 12:00 noon on Wednesday, March 18, as noted. If there is any change to this timeline necessitated by a potential increase in concern about the COVID-19 impact locally over the weekend, I will communicate with families immediately

For now, I strongly encourage all families to begin thinking about and arranging long-term childcare for your sons and daughters, assuring internet capacity at home, and speaking with your sons and daughters about the interim school closure.

In light of this sudden change, I am acutely aware of and concerned about the impact and inconvenience of an interim school closure on all of you, our families. In working with you throughout this time, I hope to provide some semblance of guidance for families who will require childcare. I believe firmly in the power of community, of considering as best we can our own interests and needs equally with the interest and needs of others. I have seen this power at work so effectively with all of you, our families, and I am grateful for your commitment and support to St. Michael’s and to one another.

On behalf of our Board of Trustees and our faculty and staff, I appreciate your ongoing support and cooperation. Please recognize that at this time it will be a challenge for me, our administrative team, and our faculty and staff to respond immediately to every email and call. We will try to bundle communication and to post updates that address the most timely questions.

We will continue to support you and your sons and daughters in every way possible, and I ask that we all maintain a healthy optimism and positive spirit, even as we encounter the unknown before us.

Brendan Sullivan
Head of School

SMS Board of Trustees
SMS Faculty and Staff