First -- I want to thank all of you who’ve shared some very helpful information concerning the coronavirus (COVID-19) and the links to learn more - it’s helpful. Also, some of you have shared your own perspective on the current situation and, although I might not be able to reply to each email, please know that I’ve seen your note and appreciate the input.
Second -- in the days ahead, at or about this time of day, I’ll try to share with you, via an “Update from the Head of School” communiqué, the latest “need to know” information from my colleagues (particularly Mrs. Grasseschi, our Lower School Director, and Mr. Joseph, Villa’s Middle School Director) and me concerning any new developments, schedule changes, etc. Hopefully, one, consolidated, administrative update message will streamline communication. Your child’s teacher will continue to share class/student specific information with you as necessary, but via the “Updates” you’ll be able to get the “big picture.”
You are undoubtedly aware that a number of independent schools, like Villa, have decided to suspend face-to-face instruction and are implementing long-term remote instruction protocols. To my knowledge, none of these schools have confirmed cases of the coronavirus in their community but have taken these measures in an “abundance of caution.” Every school head has to make the best decision for their own community and I can respect those who’ve made this difficult choice for their school. However, Villa Academy will continue to follow the advice from the Center for Disease Control (CDC); the Washington State Department of Health and the Public Health Office of King County and Seattle, most of which I have shared with you previously.
In a faculty meeting this morning, I was asked, “Under what conditions would Villa Academy suspend classes and begin remote instruction?” Here is what would prompt me to close Villa Academy:
• A general recommendation by the Public Health Office of King County and Seattle, that schools should close; this is their current recommendation, however: “Public Health is not currently recommending that schools proactively close unless they have a confirmed case of COVID-19 in a staff member or student.” Additional information from the Public Health Office can be found here.
• A student or staff member tests positive or has been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19. As you may recall, over the last few weeks, there have been some positive test results for Influenza A & B, but none for COVID-19. As per our protocol, my colleagues in the Main Office have let the community know about the Influenza test results.
• A significant reduction in staff; Villa’s faculty and staff are its most valuable resource and I have let my colleagues know that they can stay home and/or develop other work arrangements if they are in the at-risk group and feel unsafe. If at any point we do not have the faculty and staff to deliver a quality education, we will need to close.
Villa will return to a normal class schedule on Tuesday, March 10th; however, mindful of all that we’re doing to minimize risk, I think it is now prudent to postpone non-essential, large gatherings on campus until a later date. Therefore, this week’s/weekend’s production of “The Little Mermaid, Jr.” will be postponed to a date yet to be determined. Similarly, the Fourth Grade’s "Model House, Open House" will be postponed until a later date. Both programs are popular and draw a large crowd of visitors to campus - but I think it is wise to move them back to later in the term. Finally, Friday’s Middle School Ski Bus activity has been canceled and will not be rescheduled, for the same reason.
As Mr. Joseph and Mrs. Grasseschi indicated in their communication to you on Friday, I want to share the results of some of the planning that occurred today should we need to close school. In the event of a closure, the broad structure below will guide our implementation of remote learning.
• On the first day of a school closure, students would not have work assigned during the day.
• If school is closed for multiple days, assigned work and learning activities for the following day will be communicated to students and/or parents by 4:00 p.m. the afternoon before.
• Assignments and learning activities will vary based on the age of learners and across subject areas. All teachers will work to balance the use of digital resources with more traditional and creative activities such as reading, building, creating or problem-solving.
• The amount of assigned learning activities and/or assignments will vary by age. Families should anticipate these daily instructional/work time ranges:
• Preschool through 2nd grade, 1-2 hours
• 3rd through 5th grade, 2-3 hours
• 6th - 8th grade, 3-4 hours (depending on your student’s work pace, focus, etc.)
• If closed for multiple days, classroom materials or library books could be made available to families for pick up in the Rainbow Theater during specific times.
I fully appreciate that each Villa family is unique and that some may have family schedules or situations that’ll make remote instruction quite challenging. If we “get there,” please communicate with my colleagues and me and we’ll do our best to make a difficult situation more manageable. Home-school partnership is the key!
Similarly, the structure or delivery of remote instruction and learning may change and evolve as we learn/adapt together. We’ll see what’s working and where modifications may be needed. If changes are necessary, we will certainly communicate any variations as quickly and clearly as possible. Again, partnership is key!
I appreciate your patience and good will during this difficult time and urge you to reach out to my colleagues or me should you have additional questions.
John K. Milroy
Head of School