April 23, 2020
by Dr. Bill Hudson, Head of School
With the health and safety of all members of our community in mind, and in keeping with our commitment to follow the recommendation of the Governor and public health officials, I can now confirm that MPA will remain in virtual school through the end of the school year. This wasn’t an easy decision, as you might imagine. However, it is clear that it is not possible to return to on-campus school while maintaining the necessary social distancing and safety standards. I believe MPA is positioned to successfully navigate this crisis and emerge better and stronger than before. The strength of our community, the durable relationships we enjoy, our dedicated and exceptional faculty and staff, and our history, mission, and values will power us through what lies ahead.
As I said in the beginning, “first different, then better.” Modeling the resiliency we inspire in our students, we have been engaged in an ongoing process of designing, implementing, assessing, and adapting teaching and learning to meet the needs of our students. As we look ahead at the next eight weeks, modifications and refinements are necessary. The administration and faculty have taken to heart the advice of a seasoned head of school from New York City who successfully led his school in the aftermath of 9/11. He said that the ability to adapt is more important than the plan itself. I am so proud of our teachers for continuing to grow and evolve in this new environment.
It is now abundantly clear that we are in a marathon, not a sprint. With the knowledge that we will not return on campus this academic year, we have reimagined what an end of the school year will look like with the academic, social, emotional, physical, and mental health of our community at the forefront. Several changes will go into effect on Monday, May 4 that are designed to continue to engage and motivate students as the novelty of virtual school wears off and fatigue sets in.
Academically, teachers are adapting curricula, assessing in-class work and homework, and rethinking assessments and grading. Flexibility, compassion, and empathy are guiding how we provide feedback, assess, and grade. Teachers are working to strike the right balance between synchronous and asynchronous learning. Just as each student learns differently, there is a wide variety of teaching. Teacher autonomy matters at MPA and no two days look exactly alike.
Each division has created a unique iteration of the weekly schedule and educational program that will go into effect on Monday, May 4. Our collective work has been guided by feedback from parents, students, and faculty as well as research on distance learning and best practices. Modifications look different across divisions as we take into account the unique learning needs and developmental age of students. However, a clear set of common values have guided the development of the plan of each division:
- Model a growth mindset that values iteration and ongoing improvement that builds resiliency.
- Preserve and advance the continuity of learning, rigor with purpose, and joyful learning.
- Promote ongoing innovation to creatively address new and emerging needs of students.
- Enrich student motivation and engagement.
- Foster the social connections and emotional health of our students.
- Further expand opportunities for individualized attention and group social interaction.
- Provide consistency of structure and routine.
An overview of changes to the weekly schedule and educational program of each division may be found online for Lower School, Middle School, and Upper School. Division directors will provide additional depth and detail in their weekly communications.
End of Year Celebrations
The end of the academic year is typically a very exciting and joyous time as we celebrate the accomplishments of our students. We are developing plans for these celebrations—some may be entirely new, some may be reimagined, and some may need to be postponed or cancelled. In particular, a taskforce of students, faculty, and administrators are working diligently to honor the accomplishments and contributions of the Class of 2020 in ways that are student-driven, meaningful, and joyful. There will be more information to come about how you may help and participate.
At this time, summer programs are canceled in June. As we have with virtual school, we are re-imagining our summer programming and hope to begin offering classes and camps on campus Monday, July 6. We will share details as these creative and exciting opportunities are finalized.
In the midst of this crisis, there is much we do not know. Although we do not have all the answers about how severely this pandemic will or will not impact our society and our school, I want to share with you what I do know:
- We have a very strong, caring community.
- We have creative and dedicated faculty and staff.
- We have parents who consider teachers and staff to be partners.
- We have generous donors who believe in our mission and truly appreciate our faculty and staff.
- We will transcend this moment in time to discover and implement how our strengths can differentiate us in a new world context.
- We will emerge stronger as individuals and as a school community.