Ensuring Educational Continuity in the Pandemic

Ensuring Educational Continuity in the Pandemic

Safe and EffectiveEducational Continuity Plan

Frequently Asked QuestionsSchool-Based Hybrid Learning

Our PlanCommunication from Head of School to McLean School Parent Community

November 16, 2020

Survey responses from teachers, parents, and students confirm our understanding that in most cases McLean’s teaching approaches this fall–both school-based hybrid and home-based–have been serving our students well. The earlier surveys told us that home-based learning was working well, and last week seventy percent of the 277 parents and guardians responding reported that their child’s educational experience improved since moving to hybrid instruction. Seventy-two percent reported social-emotional benefits. This is an extraordinary testament to the hard work, creativity, and perseverance of our teachers and the staff and administrators who support them, as well as to our students and families. All of us are shouldering burdens unimagined a year ago, and I am deeply grateful for your support and understanding as we navigate these challenging times.

The surveys also reflect growing unease about the safety of our community. While we are fortunate that all confirmed COVID-19 cases at McLean have occurred out-of-school, and there is no evidence of transmission in school, the rate of infections is spiking nationally and regionally. New cases in our catchment area, which spans eleven counties plus the District of Columbia, have reached levels where the State of Maryland calls for “limited or no in person programs” (as distinct from “hybrid instruction,” which was recommended at lower case rates), and which CDC characterizes as “highest risk of transmission in schools.”

While we have successfully implemented CDC’s five key mitigation strategies (plus more), thereby substantially reducing the likelihood of transmission at school, we cannot entirely eliminate risks. Next week college students will return home and families will travel or receive visitors for Thanksgiving, beginning a period of heightened transmission that will extend through the holidays. It is hard to wrap our minds around the risk. Since January, we know of 11 million Americans who have been infected. One million of these infections have occurred in the last six days.

We have therefore made the difficult decision to return to home-based learning on Monday, November 30, immediately following Thanksgiving break, and to stay in that mode through Friday, January 8. This will provide time to quarantine following each of the major holidays, and for testing in early January before we gather again in person. We plan to return to school-based hybrid instruction on Monday, January 11, with the option for families to continue in home-based instruction, as currently offered. In early January we will review public health indicators, as well as McLean community test results, in order to determine whether we need to extend our period of home-based learning. A more detailed schedule appears at the bottom of this letter.

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Home-based instruction will follow the weekly schedules used earlier this fall. Upper School Physical Education and Athletics will continue out-of-doors on a modified schedule to be announced by the Athletics Department. For everyone coming onto the campus, we will continue to require COVID-19 testing roughly every two weeks, and perhaps more frequently with rapid tests in the near future. Test results for this week are due by Wednesday for students coming to campus before Thanksgiving break, and we will offer on-campus testing again on Wednesday, December 2. Testing will resume in early January for those wishing to return to school-based hybrid instruction on January 11, with drive-through testing available on Sunday, January 3. Details and sign-up links will be provided separately.

Over the last several weeks we have reaffirmed how important it is for students to be on campus, interacting with their teachers and peers, and we know how disappointing and disruptive this news will be for many students and parents, as it is for us as educators. While we will look forward to having students and teachers back in January, our survey results confirm that our home-based instruction works well for most students, taking advantage of McLean’s intrinsic strengths, including our favorable teacher-to-student ratios, our one-to-one technology program, and our expert teachers, counselors, and specialists.

We know from earlier in the fall that some home-based students need extra social-emotional and organizational support, and we are again prepared to serve them. We also know that home-based instruction takes a toll on many of you, as parents and guardians, who need to balance support to your children with doing your own jobs and handling other responsibilities. We have been providing enhanced virtual programming related to parenting and home-based education, including through our Community Education Series, our Cecily’s Advocacy Conference, and our Mindfulness Program. We’d like to hear from you if there are other ways in which we can help.

Thank you for entrusting your child’s education to McLean. Please stay safe over the holidays.

With deep gratitude for your support and understanding,

Michael Saxenian


Key Dates

November 23 – 24 K-8 No School – K-8 Parent Conferences
School-based Hybrid Instruction for Grades 9-12
November 25-27 K-12 No School – Thanksgiving Break
November 30 Home-based Instruction for K-12 Students
Professional Development Day Canceled
November 30 – December 18 Home-Based Instruction for K-12 Students
December 2 On-Campus COVID-19 Testing
December 14 – 18 First Semester Exams for Grades 9-12 Students
December 18 – January 3 Winter Break
January 3 On-Campus COVID-19 Testing
January 4 K-12 No School – Professional Development Day
January 5 – 8 Home-Based Instruction for K-12 Students
January 11 School-Based Hybrid Instruction Resumes