COVID-19 Resource Page

The members of Menlo School’s Response Team have been closely monitoring the rapidly developing COVID-19 crisis. For updates on this continually evolving situation, watch this page. 

School ClosureAn image of covid-19

Menlo’s campus closed this spring to enable social distancing and slow the spread of COVID-19. The closure included the suspension of all co-curricular activities and clubs (including athletics practices and games, as well as arts events and rehearsals.) Faculty and students continued their studies through our distance learning program.  We will share details of our fall reopening plans in a June Town Hall. 

For general information and scientific background on COVID-19, please visit our library resource page here

Tips on Staying Healthy

from Joan Barada, School Nurse

You can protect yourself and others from respiratory illness, including COVID-19, through common-sense preventative measures such as:

  • Avoiding close contact with those with cold and flu-like symptoms
  • Covering your nose/mouth when coughing and sneezing with a flexed elbow
  • Avoiding touching your eyes, nose, and mouth
  • Throwing used tissues in the trash and washing your hands
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  • Staying home when you are sick
  • Calling ahead before visiting your doctor, urgent care, or the emergency room if you are sick. The healthcare provider will give you further instructions. 
  • The CDC currently recommends that the general public wear cloth face coverings in public settings where social distancing is difficult to maintain, such as grocery stores. Surgical and N95 masks should be reserved for medical professionals.

A Few Words on Stigma and Resilience

In the context of this pandemic, some groups of people may be experiencing social stigma or discrimination, including people of Asian descent, people who have traveled to affected areas, and emergency responders or other healthcare professionals.  Stigma and bias are not based on scientific fact, and they hurt everyone by spreading fear and anger.  Stopping stigma is important in making our community resilient during this crisis. Everyone can help stop bias by knowing the facts about COVID-19 and sharing them with others. 

Family Support Resources

Parents and guardians are a key part of a student’s success. As part of our commitment to them and their children at Menlo, we aim to partner with parents and guardians not only during times of joy and celebration but also during times of need or crisis. Menlo’s family support programs work to ensure that all families can fully participate in the life of the school. Our team works directly with families on a wide range of issues, particularly those that directly affect student learning, their sense of belonging, wellness and various forms of personal security. We aim to promote equity and inclusion by providing personalized access to resources on campus and throughout the greater communities where our families reside.

Family Support Programs and Community Resources
Core Service Agencies

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Programas de apoyo familiar y recursos comunitarios
Agencies de servicios esenciales

Distance Learning Hub

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Family Distance Learning Handbook, Part I
Family Distance Learning Handbook, Part II: Middle School
Family Distance Learning Handbook, Part II: Upper School
Middle School Phase II Synchronous Learning Schedule
Updated Upper School Schedule

Updates from College Counseling

  • Matt Mettille sat down with three admissions professionals to talk about COVID-19 and the impact on the college admissions landscape for the Class of 2021. He was joined by Peter Hagan (Syracuse University), Kris Tesoro (University of Michigan), and Elena Wong (Drew University). Watch the video here!
  • COVID-19 FAQs for the Class of 2020
  • College Decision Updates and Waitlist Info for Seniors
  • College Counseling Info for Juniors
  • Virtual College Fair, April 23, 2020. You can attend an online college fair to help you connect with top schools around the country — without needing to leave your house. Tune in to two-panel discussions: 1.) “Tips on Creating Your College List” 2.)“Behind the Scenes: How Admissions Decisions Are Made”. And drop into virtual rooms where admissions officers from more than 40 schools will share information about their college and answer your questions, live. Learn more and register for this free event, recommended for students in grades 9-11. The event is hosted by the Coalition for College and features schools that meet the organization’s affordability and student success criteria, making them smart college choices.

  • SAT: SAT and SAT II exams on May 2 and March 28 have been canceled. For more details and future updates, visit this page
  • AP: AP exams will be moved online and shortened to reflect what students learned prior to March. Learn more here
  • ACT: The April 4 ACT exam has been canceled. Learn more here
  • What does this mean for college admissions? We are confident that colleges and universities will adjust their admission processes to accommodate applicants who wish to take the SAT or ACT exam at a later date. Remember, testing in the fall for seniors has always been an option, and it may end up being the only option for students in the Class of 2021. We also expect more colleges to move to test-optional depending on how long this pandemic lasts. Bottom line: colleges are well-aware of what is happening, and they will adapt accordingly.   Our colleagues at Compass Education Group are keeping this link updated with standardized testing news. 

Our Communications

  • June 11: Commencement and Promotion Photos Now Available

       

     

    Congratulations, Class of 2020 and 2024!

    We loved celebrating with you! Photos from Commencement Week events and Eighth Grade Promotion are now available; please enjoy browsing, and download whichever photos you wish to keep!

    Again, we’re so proud of you, and wish you all a restful, regenerative summer.

  • June 8: A Summer Message from Menlo’s Counseling Team

    Dear Menlo Community,

    As counselors in each division, we’re writing to extend our well wishes and support as we head into summer. During these uncertain times, between COVID and the racial injustices continuing to play out in front of our eyes, we recognize there will be new challenges that accompany the break from school. We want to share with you some resources for caring for yourselves and each other this summer, found at the bottom of this email. 

    Everyone’s mental health has been put to the test this spring. In particular, we can’t ignore the pain, anger, and suffering our communities of color are experiencing right now and the toll that racism takes on mental health. We also note the need for allies to help stand up to blatant injustice. Therefore, we add our voices to say that we are thinking of this community as a united whole and want you to feel empowered to keep doing the best you can for your mental health while also being a voice for equity. 

    At the same time, we want to acknowledge that this period of physical distancing has taken away many of our natural support structures, and to share our appreciation for all the ways that parents and students have supported each other through these difficult times.

    It is understandable if you’re grieving altered summer plans or an inability to connect with extended family and friends. These days of sheltering can feel monotonous and overwhelming. The control we once had over even the simplest of choices feels restricted. Be constructive with what choices you do have each day and what you do have control over. When the limitations of COVID or the sadness of inequality are monopolizing your thought process, we encourage you to return to the domains in your life where you find community, hope, gratitude, or optimism. You can stand against injustice while also caring for your mental health. It’s okay to ask for help and be vulnerable about the difficulties that arise. That openness and patience often bring out the best in each other. If you’re not sure who to turn to for help, the counseling team is always happy to provide referrals to mental health supports. Read on for resources, referrals, and support for the mental health of everyone in our community.

    Parent Resources
    Talking with Teens about Precautions with Social Interactions This Summer
    Managing Worry for Children and Yourself
    The Power of Mindfulness
    Digital Well-Being Guidelines for Parents
    Talking About Race with Your Children


    Student Resources
    Child Mind’s Institute’s #WeThriveInside: Helping Kids Through COVID-19 and Beyond
    Elemental Health’s Teen Summer Program
    Mental Health Organizations supporting BIPOC
    Black Lives Matter - Healing Justice in Action
    Safe Space  - a local organization for teens to promote mental health awareness
    Coping Skills


    Where to find mental health support
    Child Mind Institute  - Child-focused therapeutic care with no waitlist and affordable care.
    Children’s Health Council  - Learning differences and mental health services
    Elemental Health  - Teletherapy with locally trained therapists
    7 Cups  - Online therapy & free emotional support chat 
    Crisis Text Line  - Text “Hello” to 741741 for free and anonymous emotional support
    MiResource  - Locating targeted mental health support

    Lastly, know that we at Menlo are all with you in striving to share positive messaging and model calm and compassion for our students. This community is truly a connected family. As your counselors, we are immensely grateful for each and every member of this exceptional community, all of them working with their individual talents and specialties to provide hope, healing, and humanity during this challenging time.

     

    We miss you and wish you wellness and joy wherever possible!

    Sincerely, 

    The Menlo School Counseling Department
    Tracy Bianchi, Jake Fauver, and Jake Davis

  • May 31: From Than Healy: A Response to Current Events

    Dear Menlo Community,


    I’ve had the Langston Hughes poem “Harlem” running through my head for the last week. 

    What happens to a dream deferred?

    Does it dry up
    like a raisin in the sun?
    Or fester like a sore—
    And then run?
    Does it stink like rotten meat?
    Or crust and sugar over—
    like a syrupy sweet?

    Maybe it just sags
    like a heavy load.

    Or does it explode?


    I’ve had the good fortune of witnessing a dozen or so discussions of this poem in high school classrooms over the years and heard the many ways that students have sought to understand the sentiment being expressed. But lately I’ve been substituting other words for the “dream” mentioned in the opening line: justice, fairness, safety, dignity, humanity. And regardless of the word I use in that first line, I find that the answers to Hughes’ questions are uniformly “yes”. All of these outcomes are predictable results when we as a community, country, or species choose to put off for another, more just, perhaps distant day, these essential aspects of our shared humanity.

    And so it is no surprise to me today that 400 years of systemic racism and systematic violence have caused explosions across our country. But let’s not forget the other, equally painful, if less obvious, consequences of denying each other and ourselves our humanity: the withering, the festering, the stench, the crusting over, the heavy weighted sagging … all of these are similarly destructive outcomes of deferring our ideals. This hurt, and these consequences of justice and human dignity deferred, have been present long before the events of this week. 

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    Today I am crushed to write in acknowledgement that there are members of the Menlo community who are in deep pain over the murders of Ahmaud Arbery out for a jog in a south Georgia neighborhood by neighbors in February, Breonna Taylor in her home in March by Louisville police officers, and George Floyd last week at the hands of a police officer in Minneapolis while three other officers looked on. For some, the pain comes from the shock of disbelief that this kind of thing can happen in today’s society. For others, there is no shock, and the pain comes from the reinforcement of a recurring pattern of events that remind us that we have not yet conquered the racism—subtle and explicit–and hatred—subtle and explicit—that has divided us since before we were a nation.

    What I most want those hurting to hear from me, on behalf of this entire community, is this: those of us fortunate to be able to choose embrace the pain you may not have a choice about. We choose to engage with it and not look away from it. You are not alone. Once again we must stand in solidarity, we must take up a collectivist orientation and we must all be willing to sacrifice our own conveniences—including the conveniences of a clear conscience—for the benefit of the most vulnerable in our communities.

    While we are far from perfect as a school, our humility and determination to continue to learn and grow and to resist the urge to turn away from the uglier aspects of our nature as a society is truly the only path forward. The alternatives are unacceptable and involve allowing our collective humanity to wither, fester, stink, and crust over. This is not the world we dream of and it is not the world we exist as a school to imagine into being.

    We must do better.

    But I also have faith. I have faith in the words of Nelson Mandela that if hatred can be taught, it can also be unlearned. I have faith that our systems are man-made, which means they can be changed. I will always have faith in our collective humanity and that faith is especially vital in our darkest moments. And I have faith that our students, our faculty, our staff, our families, and our alumni—indeed our whole community—can be part of the solutions we seek.

    For those of you who are hurting and in need of self-care, or who would like to learn more, or who would like to take action: we have put together a series of resources for you to use or employ with your families. I would encourage you to make use of them.

     

    Take care of yourselves and take care of each other,

    Than Healy
    Head of School

  • May 13: From Than Healy: A Few Early Thoughts on Reopening

    Dear Menlo Community,


    I just finished sitting in on a thesis defense by a senior in our Global Scholars program on the success or failure of the Merida program in stemming the tide of drugs and violence in both the U.S. and Mexico. The learning on display was sophisticated, nuanced, and impressive and the support from peers and faculty alike on the video call represented Menlo at its best. Despite the heavy topic, I ended the call feeling hopeful and inspired by clear evidence of the way this marvellous school is moving ever onward with its commitment to our relationships with students and the constant message that “you can do this, even if it seems hard at first.” The more news I watch these days, the more convinced I am that an orientation, instilled at an early age, of “you can do this, even if it seems hard at first” will be required of our children as they move into the world we are imparting to them.

    I know that many of you were able to watch the State of the School video from two weeks ago and that others were able to tune into our first-ever virtual MSPA meeting this afternoon. I encourage you to take a look at the MSPA meeting and the joyful video made by outgoing and incoming council members; it’s a highlight! At both these events, I touched on some ways that we are thinking about next year. Everyone, myself most of all, would like more clarity earlier on what exactly next year will look like. And while we are in the midst of some complicated planning—more on that in a minute—what is true is that most of the critical variables are outside of our control. Whether there will be the capacity to test and trace and what form that might take, what expectations the County Department of Health will have for us, what the California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) will decide about athletics competitions between schools…the list is long and daunting. Without some of these questions answered, our choices are to attempt an educated guess at the realities we will face in the future or to prepare for multiple scenarios, and by doing so grant ourselves agility and flexibility. We have chosen the latter approach.

    With that said, this uncertainty makes it hard to share concrete plans with families now about what things at Menlo will look like in August or December or next April. But we have committed from the very beginning of this episode to regular and transparent communications with our students, faculty, staff, and parents, so allow me to attempt to shed some light on what we can guarantee and to share some of our thinking about how we might achieve the kind of agility I refer to above.

    You should know what our priorities are and that you can count on us achieving each of these priorities to the very best of our ability as a school:

    Our highest priority is the health and safety of our kids, our staff, our faculty, and our community. As important as the work is that we do here at Menlo, nothing is worth a life or the long-term health of a member of our community. We will always take a conservative approach to safety during the time of COVID. What this means practically is that we are preparing to offer an academic program that will allow students who are unable or unwilling to come to campus the opportunity to learn actively from home. We view our current infrastructure that allows a student off-campus to video-conference in through a teacher’s laptop as insufficient, and we will be upgrading the video conferencing capacity of every classroom on campus over the summer. We realize that while some students may opt not to come to campus even if it is open, we may very well find ourselves in a situation in which some students are not allowed to come to campus, either because they have come into contact with someone who has tested positive for the coronavirus or because the Health Department has mandated social distancing measures that do not allow us to have all of our students on campus simultaneously. Regardless of what we face, we believe that upgrading the experience “in class” of students at home is the right step to take at this time.

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    While we hope we will never need to put any of these plans into play, we believe it is critical that we replicate the elements of our program that we think make it what it is: promoting health, wellness, and physical activity; developing camaraderie, leadership, resiliency, good sportsmanship, humility and accountability amongst participants; honing the skills of student-athletes hoping to compete at a higher level; enhancing and promoting school spirit; and finally, mining and making explicit the ethical and moral lessons athletics have to offer us. Regardless of how our program may shift in response to the times, we are as committed as ever to offering opportunities for our students to experience all that athletics has to offer. Earl Koberlein is currently working with our program heads and head coaches to develop this program and we will communicate more about our plans should we need to invoke them. Steven Minning is working on a parallel track with the Performing Arts at Menlo, because we believe that these programs are as essential for a complete education as our academic program is. Our students have already proven that regardless of whether they’re performing live before a crowd or resourcefully creating art with digital tools, they still value the rewards of a strong Creative Arts curriculum that fosters creativity, empathy, collaboration, and problem-solving. The performance platform may change; these values will not. Look for upcoming virtual performances from our all-school Dance Concert and Upper School musical, Pippin.

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    I can’t close without thanking each of you for your support, patience, grace, and flexibility as we get through this together. I am inspired by what a community can do and be, having witnessed the ways in which we have come through this chapter of the COVID episode together.

    As always, I am here to help or support you and your families should you need me.

     

    Keep well,

    Than Healy
    Head of School

  • April 3: April Knightline from Than Healy

    Resilience in Uncertain Times

    During check-ins this Monday in my junior Advocacy group, one of our amazing students admitted what I think a lot of us have experienced: that when we first closed campus she clung to the notion that we would be back after Spring Break, but now that this will clearly not be possible, she’s been quite down about things and feeling a bit numb. I think this student’s experience is normal for many, perhaps most, of us: give us a goal to shoot for and we will strap on our resilience and gut it out until it is over. In fact, this is a very reasonable and successful coping mechanism in our normal lives.

    These are not, however, our normal lives. Circumstances have shifted and suddenly include a high degree of uncertainty and ambiguity.

    When we can’t control our situation, when there is a high degree of ambiguity as there is now, I think our raw optimism can actually get in our way. We’re facing a challenging new circumstance without a clear end-date, in which the variables of everything from “Am I safe?” to “Will the item I am hoping to find at the store be there?” are beyond our control and our normal capacity to plan is severely undermined. Under these circumstances, I fear that our normal optimism and grit turn against us and leave us feeling sad and adrift, as expressed so eloquently by the student in advocacy.

    And while I see ample evidence that our students’ creativity and interconnectedness are thriving in many ways right now, I am hearing from advocates and parents alike that a lot of our children are struggling in this way. Of course, I remain especially worried about our seniors, many of whose whole lives may justifiably feel fraught with uncertainty and ambiguity. They’re grappling with the results of college decisions that have come out in the last two weeks, as well as a lack of clarity about graduation, senior spring, and whether they will be able to be together again as a class. I am holding these children close to my heart during these times.

    This may be why I’ve been thinking a lot about one of my heroes of late. Admiral James Stockdale, distinguished naval aviator most known for being the leader of a group of prisoners of war in Hanoi, Vietnam, was one of the great practitioners of lived ethics. An actual Stoic who trained in the Stanford philosophy department before heading off to the Vietnam War, Admiral Stockdale provides us with a remarkable legacy to live up to as humans. Perhaps I am drawn to Admiral Stockdale because three of his four sons became independent school teachers, two of whom I had the good fortune of beginning my teaching career with in Monterey and one of whom is currently a fellow School Head in Southern California. More likely, I have been enamored with the approach he demonstrated to extreme adversity as it maps to our own, admittedly significantly more modest, adversity today.

    Stockdale was shot down over North Vietnam in September of 1965. Having suffered a shattered leg in the crash, he went on to endure a beating from those who found him and torture at the hands of his prison captors that would add a broken shoulder and a broken bone in his back, injuries that would stay with him for the rest of his life. From that start, Stockdale would go on to endure seven and a half years of imprisonment and torture, four of which were in solitary confinement and two of which were in leg irons. All of this puts my own current “safe at home” and “physical distancing” restrictions in their proper perspective. But as extreme as the conditions were that he endured, the lessons that Admiral Stockdale imparts to us have less to do with withstanding torture than with the nuances of handling, and ultimately defeating, the isolation and uncertainty of his condition—lessons that may be more true for us now than at any other point in our lifetimes.

    While I highly recommend learning more about Stockdale’s approach to leadership in prison (he was the commanding officer and among other things developed both a code of conduct and a secret communication method using wall taps to buoy his fellow prisoners) or about the ways in which his wife, Sybil, saved his life from a distance by bringing attention to the treatment of POWs in the international press, or about how he kept his mind fresh in isolation by reciting, from memory, the works of Marcus Aurelius (a fellow Stoic and hero of Stockdale’s), I would like to focus here on a couple of central lessons that Admiral Stockdale provides us as we collectively face the challenges of the present moment.

    One of the lessons that Admiral Stockdale leaves us, made famous by Jim Collins in his book Good to Great, relates to who survived the POW camps and who didn’t. Predictably, those who entered the prison with no hope of survival didn’t last long and were typically the first to pass on. Interestingly, those who were blindly optimistic (“We’ll be home by Christmas for sure”) were typically the second wave to die because, in Admiral Stockdale’s eyes, Christmas would come and go and it became “we’ll be home by Easter” and then “we’ll be home by Thanksgiving” and then it was Christmas again and his fellow prisoners would perish from broken hearts. Collins refers to this dynamic as The Stockdale Paradox: true resilience comes from a combination of a real discipline to confront the brutal facts, whatever they are, and an absolute and unwavering faith that one will prevail despite those constraints. 

    The other lesson has to do with Admiral Stockdale’s incessant focus on building and maintaining his community of fellow prisoners at all costs. Coming out of a brutal experience in the Korean War in which American prisoners often turned on each other in times of adversity, Stockdale was determined to create a sense that each man depended on and was responsible to the others. By focusing on each other’s health and safety, the men were better able to endure their own hardships.

    After the war, in a study of prisoners considering whether torture or solitary confinement was worse, the clear conclusion was that solitary confinement was the bigger threat to a person’s health and safety. 

    Collectively, we face an uncertain future bringing ambiguous challenges. We hear in the news that the weeks ahead may be even more difficult for our country than they have been already. We are forced to come to terms with the truth that few of us have any sense of control over the situation. As we confront the brutal facts that this school year will likely end in ways that none of us would have hoped for, we must simultaneously hold an unwavering faith that we will prevail, both as a society and as a school. Further, we must understand that “prevailing” means we look after the needs of others not only for their survival, but also our own.

    As we head off to a very different spring break than we usually look forward to, my heart compels me to share my extreme gratitude to all of you—faculty, staff, students, parents and alumni—for bonding together and bringing your best selves to these trying days. It is my great good fortune to be associated with this incredible community, especially during these heartbreaking and uncertain times.


    We will prevail together,
    Than Healy 

  • April 17: Post Spring Break Community Update

    Dear Members of the Menlo Community,

    We are now a full week back from Spring Break. This may have been the toughest week yet as we adjust to this new world of sheltering in place and seeing the toll the coronavirus has taken on the world. It was an especially tough week for our seniors, who are newly adjusting to the reality of having to miss out on the long-anticipated and much hoped for traditions that accompany this significant milestone in their lives. This week, Maren Jinnett, Tony Lapolla, and I shared a video with the senior class expressing our thoughts and providing them with some detail about the coming weeks. You can view it here  if you didn’t have a chance to see it earlier.

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    In my video address last week, I promised that we would have more details about the coming weeks. This communication will provide you with some clarity. After tonight’s email, we will begin using eNotes and zipNotes to communicate on a weekly basis, and we will continue to share significant community updates via letters like this one as needed. 

    I invite you to join us (virtually) on April 30 at 6:00 pm for our annual State of the School Address. While this may not be the medium through which I expected to share these remarks, our Board Chair Jake Reynolds and I look forward to addressing our school’s present circumstances, future, and how we have come together as a community during a year that has been full of challenges but also joy and triumph. We will follow up with more details on how to participate soon.

    We will continue our distance learning program through the end of the year. The final academic day for both divisions is Friday, May 29. Details on programming for both divisions can be found below. I hope that you and your families are staying safe and healthy. I urge you to continue to follow San Mateo County guidelines for social distancing; we have good evidence that these mitigations are working. If we continue to follow these guidelines, it is my hope that we’ll be together again sooner than later.

    Sincerely, 

    Than Healy
    Head of School
     

     

    Middle School Announcements

    Middle School Grades
    After much discussion, we have come to the decision that the Middle School will send report cards in June with a skills grid, Habits of Learning grid, and a letter grade for English, Math, Science, World Language, History and Computer Science courses. Creative Arts and PE will be pass/fail.

    We understand that you may have some concerns about whether or not your child will be prepared for the next level. This is a valid concern, shared by many parents across the country, and we want to assure you that we are here to support your students every step of the way. To help with the possible gap, we will be providing summer packets for Math, History, and World Language. English will send out summer reading as usual. If you have concerns about your child’s progress, please reach out to their teachers. 

    Middle School Placement Tests 
    The Upper School World Language and Math Department Chairs will be sending a joint letter next week with information about placement tests and dates for our rising 9th graders.

    Joanna Chu, Middle School Math Department Chair, will email 6th-grade parents regarding their child’s math placement for 7th grade during the week of May 15.

    Middle School Student-Led Conferences 
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    Eighth Grade Promotion 
    We are planning for a virtual promotion videocast, which will include speeches by Than Healy, La Vina Lowery, our Student Body Co-Presidents Chris Donnelly and Brooke Stroh, along with short tributes from their teachers, celebrating and highlighting how each 8th grader has shined in their three years at Menlo. This will be sent home with the 8th-grade Slideshow to families by email on Tuesday, June 2, the day of the Promotion Ceremony. The program, Certificate of Promotion, and written copy of the tribute will be mailed home that week as well.


    Upper School Announcements

    Upper School Schedule Adjustment
    Many students have indicated they don’t have enough time for lunch. We agree!

    Starting Monday, lunch will be a full hour long. That means afternoon classes and/or Advocacy on Fridays now start at 12:30 rather than 12:00. Please see this updated schedule .

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    Upper School Grading Adjustments (Spring 2020)
    Learning and teaching in this way is different and still very new to all of us. As we continue to experiment, we want your students to feel safe to not get it right the first time. Therefore:

    • As long as students continue to engage meaningfully in their coursework (go to class, complete all required work, and otherwise show strong student behaviors), then their Q4 grade cannot drop below the yearlong grade they earned in Q3. This means that, if they just keep doing their best, Q4 can only help them. If students stop engaging meaningfully in their coursework, then teachers will still give them an “Incomplete” with all the implications that has in a typical school year.
    • Teachers will be compassionate to students if they are struggling to turn in work on time. They will reach out to them rather than immediately impose a late penalty. We want to see their skills and so, if something is getting in the way of them demonstrating those skills, we want to help. This is not carte blanche to stop doing work on time; it is a kindness for those of us who may have very real emotions and personal challenges to grapple with as we weather an extraordinary time together.
    • Seniors who need additional time to wrap up their high school work after classes end on May 1 will have until May 8.
    • We will still offer finals in only World Language and Math, but we will follow the CollegeBoard’s example in that they will now be optional. We encourage students to take them! What could it be like to be assessed without the fear of what the grade will be? This could be a powerful experience for all of us.
    • Students will continue to have chances to demonstrate and be assessed on their skills growth in Q4. Just because their Q3 grade is now the “floor” for their yearlong grade doesn’t mean they can’t also still shine further. They should continue to put their best foot forward knowing that there is a safety net in place for their efforts. 
    • At the end of the year, teachers will still provide skills-ratings and a yearlong letter grade. The skills may be adjusted to reflect our Q4 distance learning environment. 

    Upper School Physical Education
    P.E. requirements will stay the same for the year. Anyone on the Spring sports rosters at the time of our campus closure will receive credit. Any seniors who still need PE credit should reach out to Earl Koberlein  and he can help with a plan if needed.

    Creative Arts
    The Upper School Spring musical, Pippin, will broadcast a shortened virtual performance to the school community at 7:00 pm on May 30. The Upper School and Middle School dance concerts also have creative performance ideas in the works, so stay tuned for more information. 

    Seniors
    As we shared in our recent video to the seniors, we are hard at work creating a program in May that will prioritize both mentorship and joy for the Class of 2020. Chris Young  will be rolling out details of that program starting next week, but students can broadly expect: 

    May 1:
    Last academic rotation for seniors, with G Block in the morning. 

    May 4-May 29:

    • 10:00-11:30 AM Required Life Beyond Menlo workshops
      These workshops are typically offered to Seniors in May and include everything from self-defense to navigating life with a roommate to making a meal plan on a budget. Seniors will have more than one opportunity to attend a given workshop so that if they are still attending an AP class for review, they won’t miss out on the full range of options. 
    • 11:30 AM-12:30 PM Lunch & Optional Discussion
      We’d like to foster community and casual discussion during this time. If you or a colleague or friend of yours might be interested in hosting an engaging “Brown Bag Lunch” discussion for the seniors, please let Chris Young  know. Topics might include “How I’m fighting on the front lines of COVID,” or “My unusual career path,” or more. These are great opportunities for us to gather experts from far and wide without the physical limitations of getting them to Menlo’s campus.
    • 12:30-2:00 PM Optional Senior Fun!
      Faculty and student leaders are designing engaging, community-building activities for seniors to drop in on. They may include: stargazing with Mr. Formato, baking Bread with Ms. Lax and Dr. Gamache, Movie Clubs with Dr. Longust, Ms. Jinnett, or Ms. Harris, “The Daily” podcast discussion with Mr. Schafer, storytelling with Ms. Ramsey, and more. 

    Mr. Young will be sharing more with seniors starting Monday, April 20. 

  • April 16: A Video Message to Seniors

    Dear Seniors and Senior Families, 


    Please take a moment to view this video message  about what to look forward to in your senior spring from Than Healy, Maren Jinnett, and Tony Lapolla. 

    We miss you and we’re proud of you!

  • April 8: A Video Message from Than Healy

    Dear Menlo Community,

    Please take a moment to view this important video message from Than Healy.

  • March 26: Extended Closure

    Dear Members of the Menlo Community,

    I write to you tonight with a keen sense of the toll this pandemic is taking on our community. One employee has had multiple family members hospitalized. Another has shared with us the news that a close relative recently passed away from complications of COVID-19. Families within the Menlo community have also reported testing positive for the coronavirus, and many more families are struggling with the medical, social, psychological, and economic costs of the crisis. 

    These tragedies remind us all that the crisis is real and very present in our own community. Our continued best hope for combating the virus and reducing the impact on health systems in our area is to enforce stay-at-home measures. I cannot emphasize strongly enough our collective responsibility to others and particularly the most vulnerable in our community, best done by adhering to the guidelines provided by San Mateo County Health. I would ask you to spend a few minutes reading this important update  from San Mateo County Health Officer Scott Morrow. Together we can do our part. I have the utmost faith in our community and know that you will join me in supporting these critical measures.

    In the meantime, we will continue to rally around and support those in our community who need our comfort and care. If your family has needs that are not being met, please contact us—many people and resources are here for you. 

    Shelter in Place Extended

    As you may have seen in a news conference today, San Mateo County along with five other Bay Area counties will extend school closures through May 1, which means we will extend our distance learning program until at least that date and possibly longer if necessary. While this news is likely not surprising to anyone in our area, I know that it carries disappointment for our students, teachers, coaches, and families who just want to be together again. I have no words to share that will soothe this disappointment or the accompanying worry about beloved events, rituals, and traditions, but I do ask for faith and forbearance as we work through this truly unusual circumstance together. Because the future of this crisis remains unclear, we will continue to work with our local health officials and coordinate with other schools to determine the appropriate and safe time to reopen and will communicate any updates we have as soon as we have them.

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    Updates on Academics and Student Life

    Several other important changes are in the works in academics and student life. 

    First, as seniors and their parents heard yesterday, senior projects have been suspended for the rest of the spring to enable seniors to focus on finding balance in their new routines. Our seniors brought exciting, creative ideas to the table this year, and those who can safely continue work on their projects from home can choose to do so on a completely optional basis. 

    Second, major changes are underway in how students will experience standardized testing this spring. The College Board has canceled  the March 28 (make-up) and May 2 test dates for the SAT and SAT II and will provide future testing opportunities as well as refunds. AP Tests have been moved online and shortened  to reflect the content that most schools were able to teach before March, and the College Board is offering free AP review classes on their website. Menlo has waived its requirement that students in AP courses take the AP Examination in that subject and it is now truly voluntary. While the College Board is offering full refunds for those who have registered for an AP Exam, they are not accepting new registrations for this year. For more information on AP Exams, please contact Tracey Bobrowicz

    Event Updates

    Given the extension of our closure, we have now made decisions around some of our upcoming planned events. Due to public health and safety concerns, we have decided to cancel the Special Olympics and postpone, for now, the Spring Formal. Both of these events are cherished Menlo traditions and we are saddened to have to either cancel or postpone them; we do so out of care for the participants and our commitment to protecting their health and safety. We will update you shortly with more information about the Formal.

    In Closing

    On a more positive note, and we could all certainly use more of these, I’m pleased to report that Menlo had in its reserve a good number of spare N95 masks from our smoke days, and a surplus of hand sanitizer that we’ve been able to donate, and thanks to our Menlo medical advisor, these have been sent to the appropriate medical facilities. I’m glad that we could do our part to help contribute to these critical needs.

    And finally, a note of gratitude. I am so grateful to our community for so broadly supporting us through our first ever Virtual Auction. Though there is still time to participate up until 8:00 pm this evening, I’d like to say right now that I’m continually inspired by the generosity of this community. Time and time again, you have shown that together we can meet the needs and challenges we face. As you might anticipate, the recent disruption to the economy has impacted families in all areas of the school. We are working to ensure that current families can remain in the school and that our newly admitted families can afford to come, even if their livelihoods have been severely impacted by the (temporary, we hope) setbacks we face. This makes our financial aid program more acutely important than ever this year. The critical dollars raised through our auction will ensure these students’ access to a Menlo education.

    Thank you for all you do for this remarkable school and for our broader society. Communities are defined in crisis, not in times of comfort, and I could not be more proud of my association with all of you than I am right now.

    Stay together, 

    Than Healy
    Head of School

  • March 22: Beginning Synchronous Learning

    Dear Members of the Menlo Community,

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    But then I had my moment. I looked at his face as he muttered dismissively at the staff member, literally waving her off as he did so, and I saw fear. “What if,” I asked myself, “he isn’t actually angry but deeply afraid?  How would you respond then?” My righteousness turned to compassion, everyone in line got to the checkout, and we all got through that experience together.  

    We need these moments of compassion and empathy and grace if we are to come out of this crisis with our humanity intact.  

    Tomorrow we move from asynchronous distance learning to Phase II of our plan, which will now focus on a synchronized model. As I have shared in previous communications, I am proud of and grateful for our faculty who have rallied in the most incredible ways to develop, at some cost to themselves and their families, lessons and plans for how to serve our students going forward. They, too, have family members they are worried about, young children at home that make it hard to stay focused on work, and fears and anxieties around a virus that is the ultimate “boogeyman”: invisible and scary. I am profoundly grateful to our faculty for their continued dedication. They are true heroes and I am eager to fully support their efforts as they continue to provide the best they can for our students. A common thread of feedback that I hear from them is that they miss seeing their students. They miss being with them. They miss the engagement, interaction, and laughter that comes from being together in the classroom.

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    So here is what we need: flexibility, grace and patience. As a school, this is our first time trying a massive pivot on short notice. Our distance learning handbook, intended to be a helpful guide in a new realm for many of us, has been well received AND I’ve also heard from a couple of people that it was too rigid or prescriptive: fair points. When we can get to it, Handbook 2.0 will be better than our first attempt and our 5th version of this handbook, I can tell you now, will be downright spectacular! But we are where we are. There are some things that will happen next week that will be incredible and we will have some wonderful stories to share … and some things won’t quite be where we need them to be (yet!) We hold a great deal of humility around this fact and I am working hard, alongside La Vina Lowery and Maren Jinnett, to support faculty in their understanding that we can only ask for them to do their best and to have patience if it isn’t perfect right away.  

    One of the things that I think makes Menlo a special place is a culture that is both humble and responsive. We accept feedback gratefully and hopefully gracefully and we use it to improve. In our normal state, we seek feedback and work quickly to respond to it. But I am going to ask that we take a pause on that for right now. There is a lot that we have learned already as we entered into this new land of distance learning and we will certainly learn a lot more. There will be a time for feedback from parents about how they think it is going—but that time isn’t right now. Our teachers are hyper-alert to how things are rolling out and are going to be checking in frequently with their students and also in advocacies to look for larger patterns in how we can tweak and improve. Let’s go with that feedback loop for the next few weeks and then open it up to more feedback after that so we can keep improving.  

    If we can see the angry customer ignoring the needs of others as a scared fellow traveller and stand in line for another three minutes so his day is a little better, we all have a good shot at getting through this together. The virus is not the only contagion we face: fear, panic, and selfishness thrive in an environment like this one because they trigger others toward those same base instincts. 

    But we must also remember that flexibility, grace, patience, compassion, and generosity are even more contagious. What if we dedicated ourselves to being the “carriers” of those contagions in our society? What if we modeled this for our children and this became the lesson they took from their middle or high school years?

    What would happen to the world then?

    We will get through this together,

    Than Healy    
    Head of School

  • March 16: Update on Distance Learning and Shelter-in-Place Order

    Dear Members of the Menlo Community,

    As you may already know, this afternoon the counties of San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Contra Costa, and Alameda issued a “shelter in place” order through April 7, requiring people to stay home except for activity that meets essential needs. Our understanding is that necessary government functions, healthcare facilities, and essential businesses such as grocery stores and pharmacies will remain open. Defining what is essential may not seem intuitive or clear; we think this resource from San Francisco offers some clarity. This ordinance is effective starting tonight at midnight. With this announcement, Menlo is closing the campus to non-essential staff—effectively everyone who is not involved with security and core business operations.

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    Advocates had a chance to check in with their advocacies today. By and large, the reports back were fairly consistent: Students were happy to see each other again and just talk. It is also clear that the novelty of the first few days of being away from school has now worn off. Students reported feeling restless and eager for some normalcy and predictability. We hope the advocacy can continue to be a good outlet for students to express how they are feeling and how they are responding to the distance learning program. We will closely monitor the feedback we receive from advocates.

    By Wednesday, we hope to share Part II of our Distance Learning Handbook with you. Most likely we will continue with asynchronous learning throughout the remainder of this week.

    And while we are focusing intently on providing as normal an education for our students as we are able during these strange and trying days, we don’t want to overlook the fact that this crisis is taking a real toll on families, faculty, staff, and people in our community. The behavior in grocery stores, relentless news cycle, and now this latest public health order can all contribute to a sense of unease and worry. Care for yourself, your loved ones, and your neighbors. We get through this by making sure that no one feels alone in the face of something we cannot control. Amid the charts and analyses of what is to come are also videos of fitness instructors offering classes to people on their porches and neighbors singing to each other from balconies: people finding and maintaining community even in the face of isolation. Stay together and know that we are with you as well.

    Sincerely,

    Than Healy
    Head of School

  • March 13: From Than Healy: An Update on Distance Learning

    Dear Menlo Community,

    Since the announcement of our closure on Wednesday, faculty in both divisions have been in day-long training sessions to prepare for online teaching. We’re pleased to report that the training has gone extremely well. I’m grateful to the team leaders, trainers, and our technology team for pulling this together so thoroughly and so quickly. Our faculty care deeply about their students, and I can see through their dedication and motivation a great desire to ensure that online learning be as effective as possible. They want to get this right. No doubt, we’ll have some bumps along the way, but knowing this faculty as I do, I know their commitment is for excellence and they will work tirelessly to make this experience great for our students.

    Next week we’ll continue with asynchronous learning. La Vina Lowery today sent a note to Middle School families with a bit more clarity on how middle schoolers can use their time to help create some normalcy and predictability in their day. Middle School advocates will reach out to their students via Google Meet to provide further details. Upper School students should note that, through next week, teachers follow the schedule in the daily planner to distribute course work with one caveat: Monday’s schedule will now follow that of a Day 1 (blocks A, B, C, D) instead of the professional development day we had originally had planned. Upper School teachers will communicate directly with students about how to self-pace their studies and Maren will reach out to students at the start of the week to welcome and orient them to the week ahead. 

    We will soon share with you plans for a synchronized program. We have been completing a handbook which should help you and your student navigate the daily schedule and will provide you with the details for course expectations, attendance, participation, and assessments. We hope to have that information to you by mid-week next week.

    I hope you and your family are adjusting well to the closure. It is, without question, a time of adjustment for all of us. I am wishing you a good weekend. Maybe with the expected rain, it will provide opportunities for even more family closeness.

    Be well, and look to hear from us with further updates next week.

    Sincerely,

    Than Healy
    Head of School

  • March 12: Social Distancing and Additional Parenting Resources

    Dear Menlo Families and Upper School Students,

    I hope that the transition for you all this morning has been a smooth, if unusual one. I woke today thinking of all of you and especially about the families for whom our decision will have real consequences—I know that even if our decision is the right thing, there are costs that come with it and I worry about the people that those costs fall on.

    I also want you to know that our faculty are all hard at work, online, learning and polishing the tools they will need to deliver a high-quality learning experience for our students. They are nervous, some to the point of emotion, because they care so deeply about being able to provide the kinds of learning experiences they know our students deserve. But they are remarkably game for the challenge, which is not surprising but heartening to have confirmed.

    Today’s communication will not contain any major announcements or updates (we’ve had enough of those lately!) but instead, focus entirely on how we can support you. I have intentionally included our Upper School students on this communication because I believe that they are capable of engaging in and possibly leading the discussions I will propose. It is very likely that some or all of our Middle School students are ready for this material as well, but I want to leave that in the hands of families to decide for themselves.

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    Social Distancing

    Aside from many, many emails of support, the most common response we got from yesterday’s communication were requests from students and families for more clarity about what did and did not qualify as being appropriate distancing measures. 

    As a reminder, here’s what I emphasized in yesterday’s communication: In order for this campus dismissal to have its desired effect, it must be accompanied by social distancing tactics by every member of this community. We are asking for your support in helping enforce social distancing protocols (such as these  recommended by the WHO) for the good of our community, which means no group gatherings off-campus either. While it will be tempting to try and bring friends together for social reasons, our best opportunity to get through the health crisis quickly is if we help contain the virus’s spread as much as possible. The sacrifices we will all make are effectively negated if students or families are gathering socially. Our community needs us all to work together to reduce the burden on our healthcare system and flatten the curve  of COVID-19. 

    First, I love that people are taking our charge seriously—thank you. Second, we are happy to try to provide some guidance (and we will below) but in the end, this is a moral decision that each individual and family will have to make about what level of personal responsibility they will take in doing their part to lessen the impact of this virus on the most vulnerable in our society. We strongly encourage everyone to do their own research and want to underscore the possibility that this may be a great thing for our students to take the lead on in their families. 

    What is clear is that among the things we can control, practicing good medical hygiene (washing your hands, covering your cough or sneeze with your elbow, not exposing others if you have ANY symptoms and avoiding touching your face) and social distancing measures are the very best steps we can take.

    For the most comprehensive (and long) guide to everything related to the Coronavirus we are facing, click here . For a shortcut to their summary of the research on social distancing, you can jump here  for a quick, two-minute read that should give you the basics. And if you have 26 minutes or prefer podcasts, today’s The Daily  from the New York Times may be something you find helpful (if worrisome).

    Regardless of where you find your sources of information, what is clear is that there is no single standard for what social distancing means. What we know for certain is that more distance is better. The questions we are getting about whether a study group of three is okay, or ten, or if a birthday party with only 20 guests is acceptable, are reasonable and understandable but may miss the actual standard we must be thinking about. In a similar fashion, we have heard that maintaining a 6-foot separation from others outside of the home is helpful. But in the end, it isn’t so much the number (though a lower number of people and a greater distance between them are always better) but the necessity. Some questions for the family dinner table might be: What do we think our family’s moral commitment should be to doing our part in this crisis? Under what conditions would we deem gathering with other people a necessity worth potentially exposing others to risk? What self-sacrifices will we be ready to take up, even if others around us are not making the same choices?

    My family is having the same conversation right now ourselves. For us, going to the store to buy food for ourselves is a necessity but going to the movies is not. We wrote to our seven-person Spanish class that usually meets around the instructor’s dining room table (and that we love mostly because it’s a chance to see our friends) today to see if we could move it online and if not, we are planning on dropping (and still paying the teacher for missed classes) until we feel it is okay to return. We’ve decided that staying together as a family is a necessity, so having our daughters over to our home, especially when they need some comfort, is something we will continue doing.

    But each family must make their own decisions. The only request I make is that you engage with this conversation through the lens of responsibility to others. I have deep faith in this community to make moral and conscious choices.

    Supporting Families in Speaking with your Children about a Pandemic

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    1. We encourage you to validate and then reassure. If a student is worried, we want them to know that their feelings make sense and reassure them of their safety at Menlo. On that line of thinking, it is also important to model calm reassurances and guidance if a student is expressing an inflated sense of unfounded alarm. That validation and reassurance might look like:

    I completely understand that you are worried and nervous right now because our school suddenly closed and Menlo is being discussed in the news and media in relation to the virus. So, the way you feel makes sense to me. Remember that the school has been talking about best practices for the community related to COVID-19 in class meetings and as a whole school. The school’s choice to close was out of an abundance of caution and was a part of a long-prepared plan about medical safety for this community. Their focus has been to help the Menlo community be prepared for a change in school schedules and ways of teaching and caring for one another if the school would need to take a break from everyday operations such as this. I mention that to help you to feel well cared for in a time when you might feel anxious or uncertain. At the same time, I know many schools are being extra cautious, and we are all safe right now. Currently, there have not been many cases that involve kids, and you will be back together in class eventually.

    2. Some age-appropriate talking points from NASP:

    • Upper elementary and early middle school children will be more vocal in asking questions about whether they truly are safe and what will happen if COVID-19 comes to their school or community. They may need assistance separating reality from rumor and fantasy. Discuss the efforts of school and community leaders to prevent germs from spreading. Provide reassurance that adults are working to keep you safe.
    • Upper middle school and high school students are able to discuss the issue in a more in-depth (adult-like) fashion and can be referred directly to appropriate sources of COVID-19 facts. Provide honest, accurate, and factual information about the current status of COVID-19. Having such knowledge can help them feel a sense of control. 

    3. Another strategy that is useful with kids is called “Check the Facts.” After validating, encourage them to step back, assess the situation, and ask yourself “Is what I am thinking about this situation factual?” Then direct them to proof to help them figure out if their response is fitting.

    And here are some other resources you might consider if you have the time and interest:

    We have much more to communicate in the coming days and weeks, and we will do our very best not to overwhelm your inboxes by only sending one per day unless absolutely necessary.

    We hope you are moving through this chapter well and that you will reach out to us if we can be helpful. This is an amazing community and one that is in a position to help more than just ourselves. Our mission and values call for us to develop a sense of purposes larger than ourselves: I can think of no better time than to put that ethic into play in each of our lives.

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    Sincerely,

    Than Healy
    Head of School

    Further Resources on COVID-19

      • For more information on the developing public health response to COVID-19, visit the World Health Organization’s resource page here  or the CDC’s FAQ here . You can find localized updates from the San Mateo County Health Department here .

     

     

      • San Mateo County Health now offers a 24/7 call line. Call 2-1-1 for non-emergency, non-medical information on COVID-19. You can also text “coronavirus” to 211211 for updates.

     

      • The Mental Health Association of San Francisco offers a phone and webchat non-emergency “warm line” for Californians seeking emotional support. This service is available 24/7 and is available for emotional distress related to COVID-19. Learn more here .

     

      • The Menlo Library has created a resource page here  for up-to-date information on the COVID-19 outbreak, including scientific background and reliable news sources.
  • March 11: Announcing School Closure Through Spring Break

    Dear Members of the Menlo Community,

    School Closing

    The members of our Response Team have been closely monitoring the rapidly developing COVID-19 crisis that was today officially defined as a Pandemic by the World Health Organization. As we have shared with you previously, we have been in communication with local public health officials and medical professionals that work in both national and international contexts. Finally, we have had the great fortune of having our own expert virologist in our parent body who has been incredible in providing guidance, insight, and counsel to our team. 

    Given what we know at this time, we have determined it is now time to close the School campus. We will be closing the campus to non-employees starting tomorrow (Thursday) through the end of our spring break (April 13). While we cannot predict how long the health crisis will last, we are hopeful that we will be able to resume regular classes on campus after spring break. The closure will include the suspension of all co-curricular activities and clubs (including athletics practices and games, as well as arts events and rehearsals.) 

    This decision was not made lightly. It was informed not only by our priority to protect the health and safety of our students and employees and their families, but also by our communal responsibility to slow the spread of COVID-19. We believe this is a critical moment in the outbreak when such measures can potentially impact the spread of the disease.

    In order for this campus dismissal to have its desired effect, it must be accompanied by social distancing tactics by every member of this community. While essential staff and faculty whose work requires their presence here may come to campus, we are asking that students and parents stay away from campus during the closure. We are asking for your support in helping enforce social distancing protocols (such as these recommended by the WHO) for the good of our community, which means no group gatherings off-campus either. While it will be tempting to try and bring friends together for social reasons, our best opportunity to get through the health crisis quickly is if we help contain the virus’s spread as much as possible. The sacrifices we will all make are effectively negated if students or families are gathering socially. Our community needs us all to work together to reduce the burden on our healthcare system and flatten the curve of COVID-19. 

    Moving to a Distance Learning Model

    Tomorrow and Friday we will finalize with faculty our ongoing preparations for distance learning. Faculty will begin this work tomorrow from their homes, connecting to our trainers remotely. This work will be ongoing to ensure that we can provide the best possible continued educational experience for our students during this closure.

    We will initiate distance learning in two phases. Phase one for our students begins tomorrow (Thursday) when we will introduce asynchronous learning. This means that teachers will continue with assignments through Haiku, but will not conduct formal classroom-like sessions. This phase will continue into next week. Phase two, which will begin as soon as we are able, will move towards a synchronized model in which students in both divisions will follow a daily schedule with online class meeting times.

    We recognize that there is some ambiguity here and the absence of more details will naturally bring up questions about how distance learning will work. In an effort not to inundate the community with too much information now, and to allow the School more time to get our details fine-tuned, we will roll out our long-distance plans in much fuller detail in the coming days. Our distance-learning team has been working tirelessly on our model and we are confident that we can continue to offer an exceptional program for our students—even if it is different from our normal approach. Our plans include sharing a well-written, comprehensive distance-learning handbook and you should look for that in the coming days.

    What You Can Expect from Us

    To allow Upper School teachers more time to prepare for the distance learning program, we will send upper school quarter grades and comments later this month. If this causes a practical concern for an application a student is submitting, please contact our Upper School registrar Julie Hammack and we will do what we can to be helpful.

    In the coming days, we will also communicate more with you about Upper School course selections, logistics, and new deadlines. This continues to be a priority for the Upper School but it is taking a backseat temporarily to the issues of the day.

    Many of you have reached out to group leaders about events and trips. While all in-person School-related events between now and spring break have now been canceled, we will shortly begin to review all scheduled events from spring break to the end of the year and will decide which of these events we will need to modify or cancel. We will share this information with you as soon as we have more clarity on how we will proceed.

    Additionally, we’ll soon share more details about our upcoming dinner auction. We are saddened to have to cancel our live event but hope that you will show your support by participating in our online auction. Our auction chairs and their committees remain hard at work to make the online auction engaging and successful in support of our Financial Aid program.

    What You Can Do to Help

    Help your students to understand these decisions in the context of the times. It is expected that many adolescents will feel the pain of disappointment and loss when they think about aspects of school that they had been looking forward to that are now canceled. We understand that online learning is not the same as the in-person learning they have come to know and love. And we can anticipate that some students will take this very personal impact of COVID-19 and suddenly realize the immense weight of the pandemic that they have been reading about theoretically for weeks now and it will feel like it is hitting them all at once. Be there, be present, and love your children. They may need you right now more than they are showing.

    I also ask for your patience, understanding, and grace as we adjust to the distance-learning model. Our faculty are really good at teaching in a physical classroom; with a little practice, they’ll get quite good at teaching without one. One of the great strengths of the School has always been that our teachers are constant learners themselves, iterating as they go and learning from what works and what doesn’t in their lessons. During this transition, we will benefit from that existing flexibility on their part, and I hope that we can all offer some flexibility of our own in support of their efforts. 

    In Closing

    It goes without saying that these are highly unusual times. For some of the adults in our community, perhaps many, it will be our first time experiencing something so globally consequential. And it is most certainly a first for most if not all of our students in their lives. Hopefully, this will last for only a short time before we can get back to our normal routines. It is likely, however, that this isn’t the last time in their lives that our students will experience what will feel like an unprecedented crisis. As adults, we must keep in mind that our responses to this situation will become the model for our children for how to respond to strange, unsettling times. If we can consciously model calm, determination, and a collectivist rather than an individualistic orientation, we may be teaching our students the most important lesson they will ever receive from their Menlo experience. 

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    In the meantime, stay together. Check in on each other and look out for those vulnerable humans in our community who need us now more than ever. Model appropriate vulnerability for your children so they feel safe expressing concerns and feelings when they have them. We are in this together and I know that as a community, we’ll get through this together.

    I am so grateful for your continued patience, support, and generosity of spirit, and I’ve never been more fortunate to be part of the Menlo School community.

    Sincerely,

    Than Healy
    Head of School

    Further Resources on COVID-19

      • For more information on the developing public health response to COVID-19, visit the World Health Organization’s resource page here or the CDC’s FAQ here. You can find localized updates from the San Mateo County Health Department here.
      • San Mateo County Health now offers a 24/7 call line. Call 2-1-1 for non-emergency, non-medical information on COVID-19. You can also text “coronavirus” to 211211 for updates.
      • The Mental Health Association of San Francisco offers a phone and webchat non-emergency “warm line” for Californians seeking emotional support. This service is available 24/7 and is available for emotional distress related to COVID-19. Learn more here
      • The Menlo Library has created a resource page here for up-to-date information on the COVID-19 outbreak, including scientific background and reliable news sources.
  • March 10: Thursday and Friday Schedule Change

    Dear Members of the Menlo Community,

    As the local health situation offers new developments on a nearly hourly basis, we are working steadfastly to prepare to initiate distance learning should the need arise. What our amazing faculty needs now is some additional training time for this eventuality. To respond to that need, here is our plan for the next few days which includes a reasonably significant schedule change.

     We will be in normal session tomorrow (Wednesday), and then will use Thursday and Friday as professional development days, replacing the Monday professional development day originally on the calendar. During these teacher days, co-curricular activities (athletics, arts, clubs) will continue as normal. Students in both divisions will be provided assignments in each of their classes via Haiku. Faculty will spend this time finalizing training to deliver a distance-learning version of our academic program. At this time we are unclear as to whether we will be in a position to re-open for in-person classes on Monday. The nature of the situation is changing so rapidly that we will simply need to monitor what is going on around us and make the best decision we can for our students and for our community.  

    At this time, we feel it is important to share that we are modifying the annual Dinner/Auction to an online-only event. The Auction Chairs and Development team are hard at work creatively imagining a dynamic and engaging online auction to benefit our students and the Financial Aid program. Raising funds for Financial Aid remains a priority for the School, and we hope that once we have our new plans in place, you’ll help us achieve our goals by supporting the online auction in the same ways you would have by attending our live event. 

    We deeply appreciate the patience and good-will everyone in our community has displayed during these challenging times. You can count on us to follow up soon with more information about our near-term plans for event cancellations or modifications as well as any further planned closures or dismissals. 

    We hope that you and your family are staying safe and healthy during this uncertain time, and we encourage you to continue to check online resources for COVID-19 information, or contact your health provider if you have health-related concerns or questions. A list of resources can be found at the bottom of this letter.

    Sincerely,

    Than Healy
    Head of School

     

    Further Resources on COVID-19

    • For more information on the developing public health response to COVID-19, visit the World Health Organization’s resource page here or the CDC’s FAQ here. You can find localized updates from the San Mateo County Health Department here.
    • We recommend this New York Times piece and this National Association of School Psychologists article for their valuable insights on helping young people gain perspective, an understanding of the steps adults are taking to care for them, and a sense of control in these unsettling circumstances.
    • San Mateo County Health now offers a 24/7 call line. Call 2-1-1 for non-emergency, non-medical information on COVID-19.
    • The Mental Health Association of San Francisco offers a phone and webchat non-emergency “warm line” for Californians seeking emotional support. This service is available 24/7 and is available for emotional distress related to COVID-19. Learn more here.
  • March 8: Update on Test Results

    Dear Members of the Menlo Community,

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    News of a positive result can be understandably concerning and we worry that this may add to the elements of panic and anxiety we are observing in our broader society. However, continuing to share information with our community when we have it is a commitment we will not waver from and we can only hope that you will take this new information in stride. While we are doing all we can to ensure the safety of all in our community, we understand that all families must determine for themselves their appropriate course of action. We ask that you let us know of your intentions so we can continue to monitor attendance. No student choosing to stay home will be penalized from their academic work or co-curricular activities.

    As a reminder, tomorrow’s academic schedule in the Middle School will begin with our usual advocacy check-in, followed by a normal Day 3. The Upper School will resume with a normal Day 4.

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    We look forward to seeing our students and teachers back on campus tomorrow and will be sure to update you immediately if any of our plans should change for any reason. Barring any new information, our intention is to communicate with you again Tuesday evening with more information about our long-range plans and event scheduling.

    Sincerely,

    Than Healy

    Head of School

    Further Resources on COVID-19

      • For more information on the developing public health response to COVID-19, visit the World Health Organization’s resource page here or the CDC’s FAQ here. You can find localized updates from the San Mateo County Health Department here.

     

     

      • The County of San Mateo has opened a public call center for residents with non-medical questions about COVID-19. The number is 650-363-4422. The call center will take calls from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. Monday through Friday, and use a three-way language line to help non-English speakers seeking information about COVID-19.
  • March 7: Menlo Will Reopen Monday

    Dear Members of the Menlo Community,

    Reopening Campus

    The senior administration has been hard at work for the past three days and has spent the time preparing for scenarios if this current global health crisis continues for some time. We wish we had more definitive news to report regarding our employee whose relative tested positive. As of this communication, we still do not know the results of the testing. We have, however, stayed in close contact with the San Mateo Department of Health and based on the fact that the employee is self-isolated, and that by Sunday evening the School’s deep-cleaning will have been completed, it is our position and the determination of the Department of Health that it will be safe to resume normal classes beginning Monday regardless of the outcome of the staff member’s test. There will be some modifications to campus life and non-essential events which we will outline below.

    Health Guidance

    Anyone with a fever, cough, general malaise or anything remotely resembling illness needs to stay home. At a minimum, you must be fever-free without the aid of Tylenol or Advil for at least 24 hours and must be free of any other illnesses. Students and staff who become sick at school, or arrive at school sick, will be sent home as soon as possible. We are working closely with teachers and coaching staff to ensure that no one will be penalized for missing classes, practices, or athletic events. It remains important to take standard precautionary measures against respiratory illness, including:

    • Avoiding close contact with those with cold and flu-like symptoms
    • Covering your nose/mouth when coughing and sneezing with a flexed elbow
    • Avoiding touching your eyes, nose, and mouth
    • Cleaning your hands often by washing them with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.

    For additional health questions, please contact School Nurse Joan Barada. If you have known exposure to a person who tested positive for COVID-19, or you have traveled to a country that is CDC level 2 or above, please tell Joan immediately. 

    Classes and Schedules

    Classes and school schedules will resume as normal. On Monday it will be a Day 3 for the Middle School beginning with advocacy check-in, and Day 1 for the Upper School. Teachers will spend time updating students about due dates and extensions for work that was delayed due to the closure. 

    Dining Hall

    For the health and safety of all, we are making some modifications in the dining hall. For the time being, we are suspending the self-serve stations and will be using disposable utensils. If your student depends on the salad bar or sandwich station for preferred meals, you might consider sending them with a home lunch for the short term. We will also reconfigure seating in the dining hall and are evaluating how best to keep smaller numbers in the food lines. As weather permits, we will also encourage students to eat their lunches outdoors.

    Group Gathering Policy

    Consistent with direction from the San Mateo County Health Department’s recommendations, we have also made the determination that for now, all non-essential school-sponsored group events (50 persons or more), trips that involve planes or long bus travel or overnight stays will be canceled. We will enact this policy through spring break and then re-evaluate activities that are scheduled for the rest of the year. We anticipate that scheduled athletics events will continue as planned as they will mostly be held outdoors, though we’ll evaluate this on a case-by-case basis. We are coordinating some of these plans with the MSPA leadership and will communicate which events are continuing and which have been canceled in an upcoming update. As always each family should make the best decisions they can for their children; everything in our co-curricular program is truly opt-in for students.

    In the meantime, please find a list of canceled or modified events for the week of March 7-15:

    • Monday-Friday: Writers’ Week ( Canceled )
    • Tuesday, Mar. 10: Course Selection Night for 9th Grade Parents ( A digital presentation along with supporting documents will be sent this week via emai l)
    • Wednesday, Mar. 11: 11th Grade Mom’s Night Out ( TBD )
    • Thursday, Mar. 12: 12th Grade Dads’ Night Out ( TBD )
    • Thursday, Mar. 12: 6th Grade Dads’ Night Out ( TBD )
    • Friday, Mar. 13: Middle School Knight Club ( Canceled )
    • Saturday, Mar. 14-Sunday, Mar. 15: Hackathon ( Canceled )

    Global Travel

    Given the global effects and spread of COVID-19, we have decided to cancel all of our summer Global Travel trips, including Menlo Abroad and HAND Grant travel. We are saddened to have to make this decision, but we feel it is in the best interest of our students’ and teachers’ well being. It has become clear that the right approach for us is to take a one-year pause from international travel. The primary driver for this decision is our concern that sending students into communities whose health care systems may be more fragile than the ones we enjoy here could compromise their ability to get help should they need it. While contracting COVID-19 is certainly a concern, we are much more worried that a student with more typical medical issues (gastrointestinal distress or a broken bone) would be unable to receive proper medical care due to an overwhelmed healthcare system. Adding to this the emerging logistical challenges of evacuating a student or group of students should a COVID-19 infection occur, the decision ultimately became quite easy for us to make.

    In Closing

    Clearly, we are in unusual times and the decisions we’re making are ones that no group before us has had to make. It is also worth noting that this may not be the last episode that we face as a school, county, or state, though we desperately hope it will be. You should know that should something else come up, we will respond with as much thought, care, and transparency as we are able. We will all get through this together. I am particularly grateful for the leadership of the response team made up of the members of the senior administration, Facilities Director Loren Arms, Nurse Joan Barada, and our virologist consultant. They have been working tirelessly to ensure community health and safety and to establish protocols that will allow for continued learning. I am grateful to all of you in the community for your support and patience as we wade through this uncharted territory. We understand that even with the safety measures that we’ve put into place, and our cautionary stance throughout this crisis, there may be some families who are not comfortable sending their students to school. We understand and respect these personal decisions. We will do our best to make every possible accommodation for all our students during this time.

    The teachers and I can’t wait to see you back on Monday. Please look for another community update, including additional details of modified or canceled events by Tuesday evening. I hope you get to enjoy the rest of the weekend.

    Sincerely,

    Than Healy

    Head of School

    Further Resources on COVID-19

      • For more information on the developing public health response to COVID-19, visit the World Health Organization’s resource page here or the CDC’s FAQ here. You can find localized updates from the San Mateo County Health Department here.

     

     

      • The County of San Mateo has opened a public call center for residents with non-medical questions about COVID-19. The number is 650-363-4422. The call center will take calls from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. Monday through Friday, and use a three-way language line to help non-English speakers seeking information about COVID-19.
  • March 6: Announcing Cancellation of Global Programs

    Dear Students and Families in the Menlo Abroad and HAND Grant Programs,

    It is with regret that we write today to let you know that, after a month of consideration, exploration, and reflection, Menlo School has decided to cancel all global travel programs, including all Menlo Abroad destinations as well as HAND Grant travel. We understand that this news will be disappointing for students and families, but we wanted to share this information with you as soon as we knew it so that you could make other plans for the early summer if you wish to. While we had hoped a month ago that moving our China trip to another location would have allowed our 2020 program to go forward, it has become clear that the right approach for us is to take a one-year pause from international travel.

    We hasten to add that this decision is entirely unrelated to the current closure of our campus. Rather, we have been tracking our ability to ensure student safety for weeks. The primary driver for this decision is our concern that sending students into communities whose health care systems may be more fragile than the ones we enjoy here could compromise their ability to get help should they need it. While contracting COVID-19 is certainly a concern, we are much more worried that a student with more typical medical issues (gastrointestinal distress or a broken bone) would be unable to receive proper medical care due to an overwhelmed health system. Adding to this the emerging logistical challenges of evacuating a student or group of students should a COVID-19 infection occur, the decision ultimately became quite easy for us to make. 

    What this means practically is that all students who were accepted into Menlo Abroad trips this year will be re-routed into our other M-Term programs (more on that in the coming weeks and months). Students who are rising juniors or sophomores will be given the right of first refusal, assuming continued good citizenship and health, for their trip for the 2021 Menlo Abroad program. All families will receive full refunds for any payments they have made for the program and Menlo will be absorbing all cancellation costs.

    In closing, this decision is not made lightly, but we are confident it is the right one for our students, our program, and our school at this time. Keeping students safe is our highest priority and we will always take a conservative approach when making decisions like this.

    We are, of course, available to discuss this matter further if you would like to. We thank you in advance for your understanding and patience as we all get through these uncertain times together.

    Most Sincerely,

    Than Healy

    Head of School

    Peter Brown

    Director of Global Programs

  • March 5: Thursday Evening School Closure Update

    Dear Members of the Menlo Community,

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    The senior administration continues to meet regularly and is monitoring the situation closely. 

    We hope to have more information by the end of the day tomorrow so that we can better determine if the School will reopen on Monday, as we hope it will. Should the closure extend past the weekend, we will communicate with you what that means in terms of our plans for distance learning. As news of more local school closures are being reported, we wish to remind our community that if you are experiencing any symptoms or signs of illness, you should contact your physician.

    Menlo is lucky in that we have a virologist who is a parent in our community. This parent is working closely with the National Response Team to create a vaccine to combat COVID-19. The parent has looked closely into our situation at Menlo, and has been recommending procedures we can put into place when we reopen. These include how we will operate our dining facilities, and continued monitoring of staff who worked closely with the employee whose relative has tested positive. The relationship with this medical expert has given us access to his invaluable perspective and has validated that we are taking the right steps to ensure our community’s safety. 

    In the meantime, the deep cleaning of the campus is in fact beginning tomorrow, and we expect that to last through the end Sunday.

    Earl Koberlein has been working on logistics for continuing our athletics programs. Our scheduled Nor-Cal Girls Basketball game against Bishop O’Dowd has been postponed. Earl is working with the CIF and the school to determine if and when the game can be played. The Bay Area Classic Tennis Tournament has been cancelled. We will be sure to update you as we learn more about our planned athletics events. We will continue to work hard for our Team because we are so deeply proud of how they have played, what they have achieved and also how they represent Menlo at its very best. 

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    We hope that you and your families are staying healthy and safe during this difficult time. We will update you with more information by the end of day tomorrow.

    Sincerely,

    Than Healy

    Head of School

    Further Resources on COVID-19

    • For more information on the developing public health response to COVID-19, visit the World Health Organization’s resource page here or the CDC’s FAQ here. You can find localized updates from the San Mateo County Health Department here.
    • We recommend this New York Times piece and this National Association of School Psychologists article for their valuable insights on helping young people gain perspective, an understanding of the steps adults are taking to care for them, and a sense of control in these unsettling circumstances.
  • March 4: School Closure Update

    Dear Members of the Menlo Community,

    As promised, we are writing to share details of the past 24 hours. While we don’t yet have an update on the health status of our employee, we can report that they have undergone testing for COVID-19 and are awaiting the results. We hope to know more by the end of the week. This staff member does not, we should note, work closely with faculty or students. Our thoughts continue to go out to our employee and their family for both their safety and well-being. 

    In the meantime, the School has been hard at work to put action plans in place to ensure community safety and to prepare plans for distance education through use of technology should we need them. Our facilities director, Loren Arms, has secured a company to deep-clean the campus. The work will begin tomorrow and is expected to take two days to complete. During this time, we wish to remind you that the campus remains closed, and we ask that you do not come to campus.

    Our division directors have been in close contact with teachers and have asked them to guide students on how to approach work in the next few days. In general, we hope this closure allows students to catch up on projects and assignments. We asked teachers not to load students with new work, but to use this break for a bit of downtime.

    Our counselors have been hard at work behind the scenes offering guidelines to us all on how to comfort and care for students who may feel anxious or concerned about the virus and our closure. We recommend this New York Times piece and this National Association of School Psychologists article for their valuable insights on helping young people gain perspective, an understanding of the steps adults are taking to care for them, and a sense of control in these unsettling circumstances. 

    Menlo continues to take a very conservative approach during this time and has suspended all non-essential activities. These include athletics, arts, clubs, and field trips. If you have questions about any outside-of-school participation in events, please contact the leaders of the groups involved for updated information. We are hearing that some outside groups are cautioning Menlo students to refrain from participation until the School has the “all-clear” to resume normal activity. While we do not feel that our students pose a risk, unfortunately, there’s little we can do to sway these directives from outside groups. 

    Unsurprisingly, there has been a lot of media attention surrounding the news of our closure. And unfortunately there has been a lot of misinformation circulating such as, “we hear the employee has passed away,” or “we hear Menlo is now in the clear,” or “we hear a faculty member has now tested positive for the Coronavirus.” We assure you that these statements are all untrue. Rumors and speculation are not helpful to the health of our community, and we are sharing information transparently and promptly as we receive it. Most media outlets have been incredibly supportive and helpful to the school. A few have begun to reach out to parents for comments. Please feel free to decline participating in requested interviews, and don’t hesitate to send inquiries directly to Alex Perez, our Director of Communication.

    We’ve been encouraged by the outpouring of support that we’ve received from our families. Parents have asked how they can best support the school during this time. The way this community has come together gives me great comfort; indeed, this is what makes Menlo a special place.

    We will spend the next few days continuing to work on our long-term plans in case we need to implement them and will keep you up-to-date as any new information emerges. Please look for another update no later than tomorrow evening.

    Sincerely,

    Than Healy

    Head of School

  • March 3: School Closure Effective Wednesday Through Weekend

    Dear Members of the Menlo Community,

    We have learned that a staff member of Menlo School has had contact with a relative who today tested positive for COVID-19 (Coronavirus). The School is working closely with the San Mateo County Department of Health and the CDC. Out of an abundance of caution and for the safety and well-being of our community, we have decided to close the School through the weekend. This means that all school-related activities will be canceled, including classes, athletics, arts, clubs, and planned field trips. Students, faculty, and staff are not to be on campus during this time. During the closure, we will continue to work with the health departments and will gain a better understanding of our employee’s situation. We have also engaged a cleaning service and will use the time to deep clean the entire campus. 

    We know this news may cause understandable concern. While it is not our intent to cause undue alarm or disruption to our students’ learning, the School has decided to act conservatively and in the best interest of our community members in announcing this closure. Our desire is to continue to be transparent with you and communicate what we know as frequently as possible. We will communicate with you again by early evening on Wednesday to provide any updates.

    It remains important to take standard precautionary measures against respiratory illness, including:

    • Avoiding close contact with those with cold and flu-like symptoms
    • Covering your nose/mouth when coughing and sneezing with a flexed elbow
    • Avoiding touching your eyes, nose, and mouth
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    For more information on the developing public health response to COVID-19, visit the World Health Organization’s resource page here or the CDC’s FAQ here. You can find localized updates from the San Mateo County Health Department here. For additional health questions, please contact School Nurse, Joan Barada.

    Sincerely,

    Than Healy
    Head of School

  • February 27: Menlo’s Action Plan for the Coronavirus

    Dear Menlo Community,

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    Because you may reasonably wonder, it is important at this time to assure you that we have a safety plan in place should an outbreak affect our area. Three weeks ago, with the onset of the Coronavirus news, we dusted off the response plan that we had developed for SARS and Avian Flu, updating it to ensure that we had the necessary systems in place to activate it. With the recent news of the outbreak’s escalation, we moved that plan from our back pocket to our front pocket. Given ten years’ improvements in technology, we feel very confident that, should we need to, we can deliver a distance learning version of a Menlo education. While not ideal and certainly not as effective as in-person learning, we will be ready to continue school should we need to in a quarantine environment. It’s possible that we’ll need to take a 3-4 day pause to get our feet under us and have teachers adapt their plans, but once we’ve done that we will be ready to go with some semblance of “regular school”. We’ll communicate more details with you should the need arise to activate the quarantine plan.

    We are also currently evaluating the status of Menlo Abroad summer global travel programs. We will most certainly be adjusting our planned trip to China to another location and may ultimately need to cancel all trips unless we can ensure that we will be able to keep our students safe. Peter Brown , our Global Programs director, will communicate directly with families with updates about travel status.

    If you have recently traveled outside the United States, please check with the CDC website for guidelines about affected areas, and please contact Joan Barada .

    As a reminder, it is wise to take precautions to avoid respiratory illness in the winter, including:

    • Avoiding close contact with those with cold and flu-like symptoms
    • Staying home if you are sick
    • Covering your nose/mouth when coughing and sneezing with a flexed elbow
    • Avoiding touching your eyes, nose, and mouth
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    I would also like to acknowledge that across the U.S., some people of Chinese or Asian descent are facing stigma in their communities, regardless of whether they have been exposed to Covid-19. Though there have been no reported incidents of this on Menlo’s campus, we hope our community members will offer their heightened awareness and sensitivity around this issue. 

    We will continue to monitor the situation closely and send updates. For more information, visit the World Health Organization’s coronavirus resource page here  or the CDC’s FAQ here

    Sincerely,


    Than Healy
    Head of School

Social Distancing

Social distancing means remaining out of places where people meet or gather, avoiding local public transportation (e.g., bus, subway, taxi, rideshare), and maintaining distance (approximately 6 feet) from others. This article in The Atlantic interviews public health experts about the Dos and Don’ts of social distancing. 

Event Changes and Cancellations

Events

August 25th, 2020

August 26th, 2020

August 27th, 2020

August 28th, 2020