2020-21 Plan: Reopen, Stay Open

This page represents the essential information that Moravian Academy community members need to know for a successful and healthy school year during the Covid-19 pandemic. This page will be updated throughout the school year. For complete details on our reopen, stay open plan, please read through the community guide to the right. 

July 31, 2020
Dear Moravian Academy Families,

I write this week’s update to you, knowing that many of us are acutely feeling the difficulties associated with the start of this school year. I recognize the hopes and fears that you are experiencing, many of which you have shared with me and the leadership team. While this shared journey is both wearying and worrisome, I am immensely grateful for your strong support for the safety, wellbeing, and educational priorities of our children and our school.

Moravian Academy will be prepared to open for in-person school for all students. As I trust you know, this includes an understanding with families that you are best equipped to determine if your child should attend in person or remotely. This is an imperfect set of choices, I acknowledge, but we feel strongly in giving you as parents this option, knowing that each family has its own unique blend of factors. Moreover, you will be able to decide based on what is happening each day and how your child is responding. We are not asking you to make a determination in advance for the entire year. 

This is a key difference in our approach at Moravian Academy, as an independent school. While we believe generally that the benefits of in-person school are significant, we know each student is unique, each family’s situation is distinct, and Moravian Academy’s priority will be to support your decision on whether in-person or remote learning is best for your child and your family.

Health and Safety Updates
We know that providing as much information as possible in advance will help you in making these decisions. It is vital for everyone to read the Community Guide, which details our plans for reopening. This week, there are additional sections on the following topics: Cleaning and Airflow, Community Illness, Transportation, Uniforms/Dress Code, and Attendance. In addition, we are arranging for grade-level community meetings in the following weeks, where you can discuss information and ask questions.

Personal Roadmaps
We have also decided to institute a new individualized orientation process to help each student return to school, write goals, and make a plan for this new kind of school year. Parents, students, and teachers/advisors will work together to write each child’s roadmap, which will help students start the school year with confidence and prepare them to pursue goals throughout the year. It has been a long time away from school, and all students should have some additional help in preparing to return. Moravian Academy teachers and advisors will lead this process with you and your student since we know how important it is to commit from the start to maximizing your child’s learning, participation, and potential in the year ahead. 

Academic Challenge
At the heart of the Moravian Academy difference is that each student should expect to be challenged in their learning - academically, socially, and emotionally - and ultimately, they are inspired to do their best work in this environment. As you consider in-person or remote learning, we know each family will be assessing the impacts on learning and academic progress. I want you to know that we have been working on how to raise academic challenges and personal expectations, especially in remote learning, as much as we have been working on health and safety this summer. It is paramount at Moravian Academy that each student sees and understands how much is expected of them.

Expect More
All expectations will need to be re-articulated for this year, knowing that students will be learning under a wider assortment of situations, including sometimes at home and away from the helpful reminders of teachers. We understand this was one element that was underdeveloped during virtual school last spring. I am convening teams starting next week to develop these expectations, at developmentally appropriate levels, so that over the first several weeks of school we are sure each student understands clearly what is expected of them throughout the year. These expectations, expressed in pledges and learning agreements, will be built into their personal roadmaps, will be the subject of individual check-ins, and will be extended into their homes with the help of parents and families.

Overall, the pandemic continues to sharpen what we know as the difference Moravian makes. For our students, I believe much of this difference is living up to the expectations that the teachers and community have set for them. For parents, I believe much of the difference is seeing your child’s education adapt to who your child is and what your child needs most to grow and thrive. None of this is easy! It is important and worth striving for, however, and Moravian Academy shares both the difficulties and the triumphs of this journey with you.

We will have additional information available for you next week, and will update you accordingly.

Sincerely,
 
Jeff Zemsky
Head of School

Frequently Asked Questions

List of 10 items.

  • When will we know more about the school’s plan for reopening?

    The Reopening Task Force will provide regular updates to the entire Moravian community as we approach the beginning of the school year.
  • Will MA release an official health & safety plan to its community?

    Yes. Although the State of PA is not requiring independent schools to complete its Phased School Reopening Health & Safety Plan Template, we have chosen to do so. A draft of our plan has been completed and we are now in the process of honing the document as new information is released from the State. The most recent release of information from the Department of Education was distributed on July 16.
  • Will your recommendations be vetted by public health experts?

    Absolutely! We have entered into a partnership with St. Luke’s University Health Network, they will be reviewing all aspects of our Health & Safety Plan, as well as providing guidance for athletics, music/arts, chapel, dining, transportation, co-curricular programming, faculty/staff training,  ventilation, etc. This partnership gives us access to St. Luke’s engineers, environmental health & safety experts, and infectious disease physicians. We are thrilled to have entered this partnership which will allow us to open our campuses with confidence.
  • Can a student continue learning at home? What if I don’t feel comfortable with the safety provisions at school?

    Yes. Students will be able to continue learning remotely, this will be especially important for students who have health issues or other vulnerable family members, and for parents who are not comfortable with the safety provisions at school. While students are able to continue their learning remotely, please remember the heart of the Moravian experience is the in-person learning which is grounded in relationships, interactions with peers, and support from faculty and staff. Families should also understand that remote instruction will require a greater level of independence and self-accountability on behalf of the student than is necessary in the in-person classroom setting. More information regarding dual instruction will be available in subsequent community updates.
  • If our student needs to begin the academic year remotely, are we locked into that choice for the duration of the year?

    No! Your decisions regarding the mode of instruction can be fluid, based on the circumstances of your particular family and the broader local and state community. We are happy to work with families who need to move between remote and in-person instruction.
  • Will faculty and staff be ready to adhere to and enforce new health & safety protocols?

    We are certain that after thorough training and modeling of our new procedures our faculty and staff will be well prepared to enact all-new health-related protocols and procedures. Students will also learn about expectations for health and safety through detailed orientations and training. Our unified approach to training, with the support of St. Luke’s, will ensure consistent, high-level adherence to our new pandemic procedures.
  • Will masks be worn at all times?

    Students, faculty, and staff will be required to wear face coverings at all times. They will have the opportunity to remove their masks at lunch and during designated “mask breaks”.
  • Can I choose the mask our child wears?

    Yes. Families should consider masks as part of the uniform/dress code. We are working to include new MA-branded masks as part of the uniform that families can feel free to purchase. We also realize many families and employees have grown accustomed to their own personal face masks. While our masks will be available for students and employees (we have ordered 1,500), we certainly encourage you to send your student to school with their own preferred face covering.
  • What do I need to know about the daily schedule?

    A major priority of the daily schedule is to ensure it is accessible and easy to follow whether students are learning in-person or from home. We also want to be sure the schedule enables us to maintain firm control of our health & safety protocols. Drafts of the schedule for students in all grades are complete in concept. Please read this document for more information regarding next year’s pandemic Comenius schedule.
  • Will you be requesting family feedback prior to reopening in the fall?

    At the very end of the school year we distributed a survey to families asking for their responses to a few important questions. The response rate was quite small. That being said, we learned, at that point in time, our families’ top four concerns regarding returning to school were the following:
    • Health precautions inside classrooms (67%)
    • The possibility, even a small one, of a return to remote learning (50%)
    • Availability and proper use of PPE (personal protective equipment) (50%)
    • The possibility, even a small one, of a hybrid schedule (44%)
    We remain very interested in understanding the concerns of our families as we work to finalize our plans for fall. Please take a few moments to complete this brief Fall 2020 Reopening form, it will assist us in understanding your concerns and better communicating our strategies for a fall reopening. 

    We know that how each student returns to school, either in person or remotely, will be a careful decision for each family. As the start of school approaches, we will ask you to tell us about your family's needs in more detail. Part of the orientation to school process will include individualizing each student’s plan based on the information received in this needs-based intake form.

  

Merle Smith Campus

Downtown Campus