This page is designed as a hub for the Abington Friends School community regarding the COVID-19. All updates will be posted to this page, unless emergency communication is required.
Governor Wolf has announced various measures to slow the spread of coronavirus in the state. Beginning Friday, March 13, 2020, all schools in Montgomery County, including AFS, will be closed through the end of the school year. All AFS sports and extracurricular activities are also cancelled during this timeframe. On Monday, March 30, our comprehensive educational program program, AFS Everywhere, launched for students and families.
Dear AFS Families,
I hope this letter finds you well. The beautiful spring weather and the renewal of the natural world it brings is welcome in this time of challenging separation from each other. I remain inspired by and grateful for the strong spirit of the AFS community over the past several weeks. Faculty have brought innovation and creativity in bringing AFS Everywhere to life, students have shown resilience and grace in adapting to unprecedented change in their daily lives, and parents have been heroic in juggling multiple roles at home while being wonderful partners to the school community as we make our way through this time together. The depth of talent and spirit throughout our community, coupled with healthy perspective and care for each other are wonderful to witness on a daily basis.
Throughout the many efforts to plan for a transformed spring at AFS in our program and the many important events of May and June, we are also engaged in comprehensive planning for the 2020-21 school year. We know that we will continue to need to adapt to changing conditions in the coming year and are building a sturdy foundation in several key areas from which to do so. The work is well underway and we will be using the weeks and months ahead to research, plan and give careful thought to the coming year.
We are generating several approaches to the 2020-21 school year knowing that this situation is fluid and we may be under the direction of government and/or health officials at various times during the year. There are a range of possible scenarios, including: an open campus with new practices and measures to ensure health and well-being; periodic closure when students would enter a period of a further-developed AFS Everywhere program; or an adjusted on-campus schedule to support social distancing measures.
From the outset, it is important to identify our core priorities for the 2020-21 school year. They are to:
- Provide the deeply relational, spiritually grounded and vibrant learning experience that is distinctive to Abington Friends School under all conditions.
- Safeguard the health and well-being (physical, emotional and spiritual) of students, faculty, staff and families when campus is open or periodically closed.
- Stay grounded and intent in our mission, Quaker values and institutional integrity as we adapt to changing conditions.
- Optimize all resources to ensure both the present and long-term strength and vitality of Abington Friends School.
- Keep strong the trust, confidence and deep appreciation for AFS as a Friends school community among our faculty and staff, families, prospective families, alumni, Abington Monthly Meeting and our supporters.
Each of these priorities is essential for the experience of our students and families in the coming year and in maintaining the strength and vitality of our community for many years to come.
Several working groups of faculty, staff and administrators are now at work on key elements of this planning and this work will continue through the summer. You may hear from members of some of these groups as they will be reaching out to families for perspective and feedback. We’ll share a progress report on this planning, along with any decisions already made for the coming year by the end of the month, with updates during the summer and before school begins.
- Developing practices and protocols to ensure the health and wellness of the AFS community while on campus.
- Ensuring academic excellence for all age groups across varying conditions.
- Building systems of support and resources for faculty.
- Building flexibility in our calendar to maximize time on campus next year.
- Adapting performing arts and athletics programs to be robust under varied conditions.
- Supporting our international students.
- Optimizing financial resources for ongoing strength and vitality under all conditions.
- Developing a robust communication plan to keep our entire community connected and as well-informed as possible as we adapt together over the next several months.
- Read a fuller account of each area of planning here.
I feel confident about the capacity of this outstanding professional community to do this important, extensive work on behalf of students, families and faculty and staff. They inspire me every day in their commitment to the AFS community, hard work and deep affinity for our mission and values.
We are fortunate to be planning for next year from a place of strength. We’ve had an outstanding admission season, with 101 new students already enrolled, a full 51% increase in new students compared to this time last year, and attrition from AFS has been very low this year. We have an extraordinarily strong faculty and staff and a lot to look forward as we work on the initiatives developed during our strategic planning. But, we also know that there are significant economic challenges ahead for families and for all independent schools. It will be important for us to be able to keep enrollment strong by being responsive to families who are facing disruptions and to provide a richly engaging and ambitious AFS education at its best in the coming year and beyond.
This is a challenging time for all of us and I feel it keenly, and with great responsibility, as the head of this outstanding school community. I often say that we enjoy an invaluable freedom as a Quaker, independent school, but it is a freedom not to do whatever we want, but to discern and do what’s best in light of our mission and deep commitment to our students. I am confident that together, our community will thrive in the 2020-21 school year. I look forward to sharing an update later this month and as planning continues in the summer months.
Dear AFS Community:
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,
Dear AFS Community:
Governor Wolf just announced in a press conference proactive measures to slow the spread of coronavirus in the state and particularly in Montgomery County. Starting tomorrow Friday, March 13, 2020 all schools in Montgomery County, including ours, are closed for two weeks at which time a decision about re-opening or remaining closed for another period of time will be made. All sports and extracurricular activities are also cancelled starting today, through the end of Spring Break.
We were able to gather all students in each division to gather their books and all materials needed for the foreseeable future. I fully support the decisive action taken by Governor Wolf and I know that we will successfully manage these challenges and opportunities together.
Faculty and staff will continue to use the days ahead to collaborate on AFS Online, our plan to keep school open virtually to provide ongoing learning and community with students should the campus remain closed beyond our Spring Break. Your Division Director will be communicating in days to come to update on this planning effort.
Despite the unusual circumstances, our students went off to Spring Break a few moments ago with joyful spirits and I wish all families well for meaningful time together over Break. May you read, ride bikes, enjoy the outdoors and each other’s wonderful company. I hold you all in the Light for your ongoing wellness and good health. We can take hope in knowing that these challenges will eventually pass and our community will only be made stronger by meeting these challenges well.
Dear AFS Families:
As we continue to follow the development of the coronavirus news in our region, we also have continued to adapt our plans and responses as a community. I am grateful for the goodwill and grace people in our community have shown to each other – families, students and faculty staff – as we have navigated this uncharted path together. As of today, we have had no known exposure to the COVID-19 virus in our community.
Here are important decisions that we have made to ensure the strength of our community and our educational program through the weeks and months ahead:
First, we’ve made the decision that Spring Break will begin for students and families after school ends on Friday, March 13, three school days earlier than planned. This will allow for our professional community to have three days of uninterrupted time together to devote to developing AFS Online, our program for advancing learning and maintaining meaningful connections for students should our school be directed to close for an extended period of time this spring. I am grateful to faculty and staff for embracing the project of preparing for distance learning. It is both a significant challenge and a creative opportunity to explore curating resources that will enrich and engage our students if they are away from school. And this collaborative curricular work may well spur new approaches in teaching that will benefit our program well into the future.
We hope to return from Spring Break as scheduled on Monday, March 30. We regret any inconvenience that this change in the break causes families. With the benefit of having had no snow days this year, having the time to devote to important curricular work in this unusual circumstance is invaluable. Over the break, we will also extensively deep clean and disinfect the school.
Following recommendations of public health officials, we have cancelled or postponed large gatherings and events such as our Kicks for Cancer Tournament and this weekend’s Open House. The large Robotics competition at SCH has been cancelled. Other cancelled or postponed events include curriculum events such as Second Grade Egypt Night and the First Grade Heroes Breakfast and Assembly. We share our students’ disappointment for these missed opportunities, but are grateful for the very real learning and leadership experiences they have provided even without the culminating events. We are looking at other creative ways to share some of this good work. Avoiding exposure to larger crowds from varying communities limits exposure and the opportunity for the spread of illness and we will continue to evaluate and make decisions about events going forward.
As long as we continue to have no known exposure to the COVID-19 virus, we expect school to be open as it has been, with modifications to large gatherings and trips as has been our recent practice. If we experience exposure, we will be following the protocols and directives of our local and national public health officials and will communicate any incidents and responses promptly to the entire community. As stated in my last letter, If your child is better off at home due to any medical vulnerabilities while school is in session, please contact your division director so that we can do everything we can to support your family’s decision.
In the meantime, we encourage families and community members to continue to practice consistent preventive measures as outlined in previous communication. The concept of “social distancing” has become more prominent in prevention this past week, recognizing that the virus does not travel beyond six feet from an infected individual. Continuing to avoid handshaking and being mindful of maintaining space where feasible can be helpful in keeping our community healthy. We continue to ask that families keep children home who are sick and be especially attentive to fever, coughing and shortness of breath that can be symptoms of COVID-19 that appear 2-14 days after exposure. Please contact or see a doctor to evaluate any risk of infection and communicate any incidents to school so that we may respond as needed.
On Friday of this week, Division Directors will be sending their own letters to share division-specific news and perspective.
While we need to pay necessary attention to these issues, I am pleased to report that school remains a truly joyful, energized and buoyant community in the day-to-day. This morning from my office, I heard the music of energetic middle school children working on a project in the Library with Toni Vahlsing and it made me smile with gratitude for the spirit of children learning in a wonderful school like AFS. I will happily return to writing letters about life in our community shortly after our break.
All the best,
Centers for Disease Control – Facts, FAQs, Situation Summary
World Health Organization – Information on the pandemic
Montgomery County Coronavirus Resource Page – Local Information, Testing Registration
CDC Information on How to Protect Yourself
After Spring Break, on March 30, we launched AFS Everywhere, our comprehensive educational program that will sustain vital connections for students, families, faculty and staff. The Abington Friends School campus is closed, but our community, our relationships and our learning life are 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.