On this final day of classes, I want to start by recalling our school-wide theme for the year “Come, Let us Gather.” Oh, the irony! This year, we set out to celebrate our community and strengthen connections through new spaces and programs. And, I’m proud of what we accomplished as a school.
We opened our transformative new Student Center, celebrated Bryn Mawr’s first Daisy Day, launched Baltimore’s first all-girls pre-kindergarten program, and started our new homework-free Period Four Experiences (P4X). Together, we marveled in the magic of Cinderella and cheered as the Mawrtians brought home championship titles in basketball, ice hockey and squash. We came together for service days, community rallies, House activities, and special events, big and small. Of course, all of that was before spring break!
Then, our world changed. As a community, I think we have learned that Bryn Mawr is much more than a physical place. I am immensely proud of how the faculty, staff, families, students and alumnae have come together to address the challenges we are facing—the creativity, innovation and resilience we have seen as a school is inspiring. This academic year is one we will all certainly remember.
Now, it is time to look ahead. The senior administrative team, along with operations and health advisors, are actively planning for the 2020-21 school year. As stated in previous communications, we are preparing to return to campus in person as soon as it is feasible to do so. I assure you that no matter the situation come August, we will be prepared to deliver the excellence in teaching and learning that are at the heart of a Bryn Mawr education.
To help guide our thinking and decisions, we have formed a 2020-21 Reopening Team, co-led by Associate Head of School Elaine Swyryn and Assistant Head of School for Finance and Administration Sharon Wolford, to coordinate the school program, campus logistics, and health and safety scenarios for the upcoming year. Together with the Directors Council, our Board of Trustees, and the COVID-19 Task Force, we will focus on six principles: health and safety, student experience, programmatic integrity, community, flexible infrastructure and financial sustainability.
We recognize that public health guidance will likely prevent us from entering next year in our usual way and know that we must remain flexible in our approach. To that end, we are developing several scenarios and know that it may be necessary to toggle between them throughout the year. In all of these scenarios, maintaining a strong distance learning program for students who cannot make it to campus will be essential. The scenarios we are preparing are fluid and as follows:
- Continuation of Distance Learning: Although this is not the option we want, we are prepared to deliver a Bryn Mawr education for every student learning from home if circumstances require this approach. We promise to honor our mission, continue to inspire and challenge our students, and keep our community and connections strong for as long as this model is required from a public health standpoint.
-Return to Campus with Strict Social Distancing: If health and safety guidelines allow for in-person instruction, we would start with this on-campus model. We are fortunate that Bryn Mawr’s spacious campus is home to more than 20 buildings, several outdoor classrooms and numerous portico areas, all of which are very helpful when envisioning this scenario. This approach will likely require static groups of approximately 10 people (e.g. 8-10 students with 1 or 2 teachers, staying in one space). If we must limit the number of students on campus, we would likely prioritize the return of our youngest learners first. For older students, it is possible that some academic instruction would remain online, with on-campus time spent for social-emotional activities, science labs, and other programs that thrive best in a community or classroom environment. This model will likely require students, faculty and staff to wear facial masks and practice physical distancing measures at all times.
- Return to Campus with More Flexible Social Distancing: When we are able to return to regular class sizes, we envision this approach will allow our full student body to be on campus at the same time and resume as much of their daily schedule as possible. This approach will still prohibit large group gatherings/meetings and require traffic-reducing measures in libraries, hallways, and other common areas. In all of the above models, visitors will not yet be allowed on campus.
- Regular On-Campus Experience: This, we know how to do! When we are ready for this model, we will welcome our full community back to campus and resume our regular calendar and schedule. Of course, until there is a vaccine and/or treatment for COVID-19, we will always work to mitigate any potential health and safety risks to our students and employees.
No matter the situation, our goal is always to build on and strengthen our academic and co-curricular offerings, prioritize our community connections and keep the wellbeing of students at the heart of our program. As such, all faculty members will participate in significant professional development this summer to consider their curriculum and pedagogy for each of these possible scenarios.
At this time, we do not have firm plans for changing the days or hours of the school program or calendar. Please know that any decisions would be made collaboratively with our tri-school partners and with input from the parent community and medical advisors. As we gain greater clarity from public health officials and make any major decisions this summer, I assure you, we will communicate! We intend to do so before the end of June, again in late July and early to mid-August with any relevant updates regarding the 2020-21 school year.
In closing, I am deeply grateful for your partnership and support throughout this spring. We are focused on a positive year ahead with each and every student at the center of our planning and decisions.