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We are pleased to present our Plan for AFS 2020-2021, A Community of Spirit and Collective Purpose. 

This plan for reimagining school in the COVID era comes from extensive research and collaboration over the past several months among administrators, faculty and staff. Our plans are grounded in research, directives and recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control, The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia Policy Lab, Pennsylvania Department of Health, Pennsylvania Department of Education, Montgomery County Department of Health, National Association of Independent Schools, other professional associations and AFS parents in the fields of public health and infectious disease.

These efforts to redesign and reimagine our program represent a significant and far-reaching investment in the experience of our students and faculty for the year ahead. We will be guided by expertise at the State level and able to transition smoothly to a next generation version of our remote learning platform, AFS Everywhere, in support of students in all divisions when needed.

As shared in a communication from Rich Nourie, our schedule for the start of the year has been somewhat adjusted due to new guidance.

  • Lower School: On campus start, Monday, August 31 at 8 a.m. with both on-campus and remote learning.
    Middle and Upper School: Off-campus start, Monday, August 31.
  • Middle and Upper School: Two weeks of remote learning from Tuesday, September 8 – Friday, September 18.

We have the following goals for the year:

  • To fully live the spirit and mission of our diverse Friends school community in our profound respect for each other and strong mutual commitment to the well-being of all.
  • To ensure the health and safety of our community through a deep sense of collective purpose both on campus and off to safeguard our own community and that of our larger region.
  • To support and sustain a vibrant, ambitious learning community that sparks curiosity, engagement and healthy growth for all students.
  • To wisely use the many resources of our community in spirit, in our beautiful campus and facilities, our financial resources and our extraordinary faculty and staff to ensure the strength and vitality of AFS this year and well into the future. 

Key elements of the plan include:

  • Safeguarding health and safety.
  • Restructuring class sections, staffing, scheduling and use of space to create small class sizes and cohorts of 12 students or less in every division of the school.
  • Establishing a strong technological foundation for learning under all conditions.
  • Encouraging extensive use of the outdoors for classes by providing tented spaces and flexible seating options for taking classes outside in temperate weather. 
  • Redesigning athletics and performing arts offerings and opportunities to ensure that movement, athletic competition and performances continue to be a vital part of the student experience at AFS.
  • Providing a robust experience for international students and local students who will not be able to come to campus for a variety of reasons. The design of our schedule, technology platforms and curriculum design have been created to support this group of students alongside their classmates on campus. 
  • Professional development and support of teachers in their essential roles in a redesigned program, including several weeks of professional learning and collaboration in the month of August. 

Additional guides from each division of the school, released in August, detail procedures and protocol as it relates to transportation, pick-up and drop-off, athletics and physical education, and daily schedule.

Lower School Reopening Details

Middle School Reopening Details  – Off-campus start, Monday, August 31 + two weeks of remote learning from Tuesday, September 8 – Friday, September 18.  

Upper School Reopening DetailsOff-campus start, Monday, August 31 + two weeks of remote learning from Tuesday, September 8 – Friday, September 18.  


Head of School Communication to the School Community on July 24, 2020

Dear AFS Families,

We  have been collaborating for months to create a thoughtful and extensive plan for the AFS community in the 2020-2021 school year that anticipates the variety of conditions that may face us with the ongoing pandemic. With this letter and the attached publication, I am pleased to share major elements of that planning and to give a sense of what the coming year may look like for our community at its best under varying circumstances. I am hopeful and eager for all that we can accomplish together as a community this year as we return from summer renewed, refreshed and ready for a new school year.

Our clear hope is to begin the school year together on campus on August 31 with all students who are able to join us and with well-supported connections both socially and academically for those who cannot. Being together on campus at the start of the year will allow us to establish relationships, routines and a wholesome and much needed sense of community, breaking the extended isolation that children have been experiencing since mid-March and setting a foundation for the rest of the school year.

To do so requires the development of a comprehensive plan for health and safety protocols both on and off campus, redesigned sectioning for small cohorts and class-sizes, new schedules for each division, an enhanced staffing plan, investment in learning management systems and technology, curriculum design work, professional learning and support for teachers and a resourceful, well-designed plan for use of our beautiful campus and facilities. I am proud to say that all of this has been accomplished and is shared in an overview in the attached publication.

Opening the year together on campus will also require that levels of community spread of the virus in our region be such that schools can safely re-open. We have seen promising trends over the past months of declining numbers of new cases in our region, but we cannot know what the next six weeks will hold. We have confidence in the Governor and state agencies that are being guided by data and science and will provide guidance and directives for our county for whether or when it is safe to open our campus. We will be fully ready to open on campus or remotely as needed.

Our plans for the year ahead are a culmination of months of research and design work on the part of administrators, faculty and staff and informed by family surveys and a large meeting of parent volunteers in June. Our research has covered nearly every aspect of school life and is importantly grounded in research and protocols from the CDC, the CHOP PolicyLab, the PA Departments of Health and Education, the National Association of Independent Schools and other associations as well as a number of scientific literature reviews compiled by various institutions. We are grateful too for the professional guidance of several public health professionals in our parent community.

We have been guided by these overarching goals for the year:

  • To fully live the spirit and mission of our diverse Friends school community in our profound respect for each other and strong mutual commitment to the well-being of all.
  • To ensure the health and safety of our community through a deep sense of collective purpose both on campus and off to safeguard our own community and that of our larger region.
  • To support and sustain a vibrant, ambitious learning community that sparks curiosity, engagement and healthy growth for all students.
  • To wisely use the many resources of our community in spirit, in our beautiful campus and facilities, our financial resources and our extraordinary faculty and staff to ensure the strength and vitality of AFS this year and well into the future.

Key elements of the plan include:

Safeguarding health and safety and mitigating risk of the virus through training of all constituencies in the virus and best practices, daily monitoring of symptoms and exposure, a strict protocol of cleaning and disinfecting, redesigning all learning spaces and offices to maintain six feet of distancing, lowering density through small class sizes and minimizing interaction between groups, and the mandatory wearing of cloth face coverings at all times indoors. Together, these practices reflect the strong consensus of the scientific community for mitigating transmission in schools and can be fully implemented at AFS.

Restructuring class sections, staffing, scheduling and use of space to create small class sizes and cohorts of 12 students or less in every division of the school. Large spaces can accommodate some larger classroom groups with distancing in the Middle and Upper Schools.

Establishing a strong technological foundation for learning under all conditions including providing new tablet-capable Chromebooks for all students from Early Childhood through 8th grade, adoption of robust learning management systems in all divisions and outfitting classrooms with technology that will facilitate connection between students on campus and off.

Encouraging extensive use of the outdoors for classes by providing tented spaces and flexible seating options for taking classes outside in temperate weather.

Redesigning athletics and performing arts offerings and opportunities to ensure that movement, athletic competition and performances continue to be a vital part of the student experience at AFS.

Providing a robust experience for international students and local students who will not be able to come to campus for a variety of reasons. The design of our schedule, technology platforms and curriculum design have been created to support this group of students alongside their classmates on campus.

Professional development and support of teachers in their essential roles in a redesigned program, including several weeks of professional learning and collaboration in the month of August.

We’re pleased to share this plan with you and also inform you that there will be future opportunities to connect with your school divisions to learn details that are specific to your student in the coming weeks. You can expect a communication from your division director on August 5 that will provide additional guidance on back-to-school plans and division-level zoom meetings are scheduled to follow for Lower School on August 6, Middle School on August 10 and Upper School on August 11, occurring at 6:30 p.m.

These efforts to redesign and reimagine our program represent substantial investments in the experience of our students and faculty for the year ahead. What inspires me is the power of this community to come together to meet obstacles, learn and grow as we collaborate on ways forward and truly care for each other in the process.

I know that there is considerable anxiety across the nation about the re-opening of schools and these concerns we understand and take to heart. When community transmission rates of the virus are low enough to allow schools to be open, we are fortunate to have the resources, campus spaces, independence in planning and a talented professional community to meet all stringent recommendations and requirements for health and safety, while providing what we know to be the absolutely essential experience of school for children. We will be guided by expertise at the State level and will be able to transition smoothly to a next generation version of AFS Everywhere in support of students in all divisions when needed.

Finally, I want to return to the importance of school in the lives of children and why it is so vital to work hard to provide that essential experience for our students. While I was in an outdoor meeting last week near the Lower School, I watched a small group of Lower School children at camp playing pirates. They were inventing an elaborate story line, chasing each other, assigning and assuming roles and being swept away by their imaginations in this spirited play. This has been missing from the lives of children of all ages for many months. Creating this opportunity for joyful, healthy growth while safeguarding their health and safety and that of their teachers should inspire our sense of collective purpose and strong commitment to each other this year.

Thank you for the extraordinary support faculty and staff have felt from AFS families through each of the challenges we have navigated together. I so look forward to seeing our community reunited, on campus or virtually, in August.

All the best,

Rich Nourie
Head of School