After 12 weeks of in-person classes, St. Andrew's-Sewanee School moved to online learning 10 days before the previously scheduled plan. The move was prompted by positive cases among the school’s non-residential population.
“When we began the school year, an expert in the field told us that we had all the right protocols in place, but that they would be shocked if we made it past Labor Day without a positive case,” said Head of School Karl J. Sjolund. “We beat those odds by 10 weeks, and that is a testament to our community’s commitment to physical distancing, face coverings, and handwashing and the school’s move to more outdoor learning and regular on-campus COVID-19 testing.”
SAS received great feedback from its parents and students when the school was forced to pivot online quickly in the spring and is even more prepared for online learning now. “Over the summer, our teachers were provided with additional training for how to teach online,” explained Academic Dean and Assistant Head of School Kelley Black. “These will not be merely video classes. They will be a combination of synchronous and asynchronous learning planned for the necessity of an online environment showing the same commitment to personalized and deep learning that characterizes a SAS education.” In addition to a significant investment in faculty training, the school has put in place additional technology to help teachers and students have the best experience possible.
While a few cases might not trigger a move to online learning for other schools, SAS is a small and very interconnected community. “As we looked at who would need to quarantine in the coming days, we saw that our middle school and upper school students interact, each teacher interacts in multiple roles with many students, and our day and boarding population is interwoven,” said COVID Coordinator Dan Monahan. “This deep connectedness is a hallmark of our school, and why we kicked off our COVID protocols in the fall with the motto, ‘We’re in this together.’”
SAS boarding parent Celeste Herbert expressed her appreciation for all that the school has done, “I've yet to hear of another school that handled the sudden shift to virtual learning as well as SAS did last spring. With that knowledge, we approached this fall with the reassurance that the flex from in-person to online learning could be done quite seamlessly. The heartbreak the students faced by shifting virtual a bit earlier than anticipated is a true testament to how fortunate they have been to have remained together in-person for 12 weeks. While my daughter may be fearful of the remaining unknowns of this pandemic, the one thing we know for certain is that SAS will continue to put the health, safety, and intellectual engagement of our children first. Balancing today's challenges may not always feel like joy, but we remain grateful to be able to walk that line with such a lovely and loving school community. Thank you!”
SAS was scheduled to go online on November 24 in advance of the Thanksgiving holiday and remain online through the end of the semester. The second semester is scheduled to begin on January 11 with a week of online learning as boarding students return to campus to quarantine and the entire school population is tested in anticipation of an in-person start on Monday, January 18. All boarding students have been given the option to remain in-residence for the entire school year, an option gratefully accepted by many of the international families.
The school has only a few spots for spring enrollment but is now accepting applications for Fall 2021.