I know that we all are finding our footing and grounding as we settle into this period of physical isolation in order to slow the spread of the coronavirus in our region. It helps to know that we are doing so for an important collective purpose – keeping our families healthy, protecting the vulnerable and seeking to lighten the burden of dedicated health care workers.
It is now clear that these measures to slow the spread of the virus will need to continue for some time into the future in order to be effective. With that knowledge and with the directives of the State for school closure, I am writing to confirm that the AFS campus will be closed for an indefinite period of time, perhaps even to the end of the school year. The time frame remains uncertain, but it will likely extend for weeks. If we receive the clearance to re-open campus, we will do so joyfully and with the rush of fresh energy and eagerness that we usually see at the start of the year.
I share this news feeling keenly the disappointment I know that so many of us feel at the loss of being together on a daily basis and the community events that so enrich us. I feel particularly for our Seniors. With hope of a return to school in time, we have moved all significant Senior events and major performances to late May and early June, including the Prom, Senior Recognitions, Academic Recognition Assembly, spring drama performances and concerts. We have kept the important Lower and Middle School Moving Up celebrations in place and are similarly ensuring that their concerts and performances are schedule near the end of the school year. We will share those revised calendars soon so that families may plan around the new dates.
After Spring Break, on March 30, we launch AFS Everywhere, our comprehensive educational program that will sustain vital connections for students, families, faculty and staff. While the campus is closed, our community, our relationships and our learning life will remain very much open. To ensure a vibrant ongoing learning experience for our students, our faculty and administrators have worked creatively, collaboratively and with clear purpose to create a distinct and engaging schedule for each division of the school.
The AFS Everywhere experience will include regular online lessons, but also provide opportunities to write, read, create art, engage in music and physical activity. It will also invite students to “off-line” learning experiences as well during this time away from campus, embracing our affinity for experiential and independent learning. We know how critical simple connection can be at a time of relative isolation. Our teachers thrive and are driven by this desire to connect; relationship is the essential medium for learning and the heart of an AFS education. Please know that this spirit will remain central during AFS Everywhere.
I am so proud of our faculty and inspired by their work on this program. Later this week, letters from each division director will share more detailed information about AFS Everywhere. We will be assessing the program week-by-week, refining it to best meet the needs of students and families. I look forward to all of the lasting good that will come of this work and to witness what we will achieve together as a community.
Finally, I want to remind everyone in our community of our Community Cares Committee, a group of parents and caregivers who reach out to AFS families in need during times of hardship, providing meal service and other ways of relieving daily burdens. This is a time of hardship for many families and we hold all those affected in the light. If your family is in need at this time or you know of a family with needs, please fill out this form to notify the Committee. You can also contact Sloane Waldman, our wonderful Director of Parent Engagement, if you would like to volunteer for the Community Cares Committee.
I know that this time of isolation is hard, managing life at home with children while balancing myriad challenges from work and concerns for family members. I have great faith that AFS families, faculty and staff will meet this time apart with hope, resourcefulness and a grounded spirit. In the spirit of a letter written by the president of Vassar College, let us always keep in mind the things that are not cancelled: care for each other, the awakening of spring in our midst, the power of the arts to move us, and the resiliency of our friendships, character and community, even at a relative distance.
We are planning creative ways to connect and gather as a community virtually and I look forward to “seeing” you in various ways over the weeks ahead. In the meantime, be well and take care.
All the best,