Parent FAQs

A school is a complex organization of relationships, rules, traditions, and assumptions. Here, we have collected some of our parents more frequently asked questions. We welcome additional questions. Have a question you would like to submit? Send it in!

What is SAS's philosophy on homework?

At SAS we prefer to think of assignments, at least at the upper school level, as out of class work, rather than homework. This work is an important component of the educational process. It helps to reinforce the work done in class, establishes self discipline, and fosters a sense of intellectual independence.

Recognizing our students' busy schedules and the need for individual and small group help, work periods are built into the daily schedule. The number of work periods increases with each grade level: sixth graders have one, seventh graders have two, eighth graders have four, and upper school students have eight. Work periods are a valuable tool and, when used effectively, provide students time during the school day to engage in out of class work.

If a student finds that the amount of out of class work is insufficiently challenging or problematic given their other obligations, we encourage the student to speak to their teacher or advisor.

Is it my responsibility to keep up with my child's schoolwork?

Generally, no. As students enter SAS, we want them to start taking personal responsibility for their work and assignments. If we see a problem developing, we will inform you. If you are a parent of a younger day student or an older child with organizational challenges, you may want to simply ask “What do you have for homework tonight?” If your child seems confused about what they’re expected to complete, encourage them to check FACTS where all assignments should be listed. Our houseparents will do the same for our boarding students. We encourage you not to do for your child what they can or almost can do. It is through that struggle that they will grow.

How will I know how my child is doing in school?

You will receive updates on your child’s progress eight times a year and even more often if any problems develop.

Mid-Quarter Reports for Middle School students provide 2-3 sentences about the content of the course followed by a 5-6 item checklist of learning and behavioral expectations. Student performance will be evaluated on a 1-4 scale for each item. Grades on quizzes, homework, tests, etc. will be included.

The Director of Middle School reviews mid-quarter reports and quarter narratives and works closely with middle school teachers and advisors to identify students who are having academic difficulties. If your child is having academic difficulties, you'll hear from the teacher, Director of Middle School, or your child's advisor to discuss strategies.

Mid-Quarter Reports for Upper School students provide a detailed progress report generated by FACTS that will allow you to see all grades received so far in the quarter and the assessment of all homework assignments. If your child has a current average under 75 in any class, you will also receive a comment from the teacher.

Quarter Reports for all students will include information on what the class has been doing, narrative comments on your child’s performance, and a grade for the quarter for Upper School students and Middle School students in Upper School courses (math and language).

The Academic Dean reviews mid-quarter reports and quarter narratives for Upper School students and works closely with teachers, advisors, and residential house staff to identify students who are having academic difficulties. If your child is having academic difficulties, you'll hear from the teacher, the Academic Dean, the Learning Resources Coordinator, or your child's advisor to discuss strategies.

We encourage you to look over these grade reports with your child or, if your child is in residence at SAS when the report arrives, schedule a phone or Skype call with your child to discuss the report. Look together at trends regarding organization, completing assignments, participating in class, performance on quizzes, etc.

I've contacted my child's teacher, how soon can I expect a response?

Our teachers are expected to respond to parent communications within one business day. Please keep in mind that we keep our teachers very busy with classes, coaching, and residential duties which may, at times, delay their response. If the situation is an emergency, always feel free to contact the Administrator-on-Call (AOC) 931.636.4720.

How does SAS encourage internal motivation in my child? How can I encourage my child's internal motivation?

At SAS, we believe that real change comes from within a person, and that change requires process, hard work, patience, and perseverance. Until genuine interest -- the one true motivator -- kicks in, we ask our students to trust us and to trust that all that we ask of them - attendance, attention, out-of-class work - is important. We know that every class will not be inspiring, but that habit and hard work are important both before and after a student finds inspiration. Students are encouraged to embrace hard work and trust that gratification will come. We strive to help students find pleasure in work and in work well done.

When a child appears to be unmotivated, our first goal is to determine whether their lack of motivation is disinterest or inability. It is easy for a child to feign indifference to mask what may be a learning challenge.

As a parent, the most difficult part of this process is patience. Try to recognize and encourage the interests your child does demonstrate. Avoid putting too much emphasis on external motivators such as grades, rewards, and, even, your praise. Rather than praising your child, use words of encouragement. Studies show that telling a child, "You must have worked hard on this" is a better longterm motivator than saying, "Wow, this is really good" or "You are so talented."

Ways to Encourage Internal Motivation

  • Help your child to establish achievable and measurable goals.
  • Have your child record his or her goals.
  • Communicate with your child's teachers and advisor to be sure that the goals are realistic.
  • Revisit your child's goals together regularly and readjust as necessary.
  • Offer encouragement, rather than praise.
  • Encourage your child to be resilient. Even for those who are motivated and inspired, achievement is 99% hard work.

Why is my child's backpack so heavy?

Every instance of overloaded backpack syndrome is a little different. If your child's backpack is too heavy, it could be that your child:

  • does not want to use their locker and decides instead to carry everything all the time.
  • is afraid of forgetting materials needed for homework and packs everything in their backpack after school.
  • happens to have homework requiring lots of heavy books and supplies.


  • Encourage your child to take a few minutes at the end of the day to think about what materials they really need for homework.
  • If your child does forget something essential for a night's homework, don't encourage a "bring everything home all the time" solution.
  • Encourage your child to use lunch periods and work periods to work on homework. Completing homework for even just one class can really lighten the load (literally and figuratively).
  • Keep track of the number of occasions when a given night's homework requires lots of heavy books and supplies. If that number becomes excessive, let us help you work on an individualized solution for your student.

What is a parent's role in course selection?

Middle School students’ only choice in classes is the language they choose to take. Your child will make that decision, although we encourage you to discuss the pros and cons of their options.

Each spring, Upper School students will work with the Academic Dean, the College Counselor, and their advisor to choose their courses for the following year. If you have concerns about the courses that have been chosen, we encourage you to contact the Academic Dean in the spring. At the beginning of each semester, there is a two-week drop/add period during which students may be able to make changes to their course schedule.

Why is the SAS dress code what it is? Why don't you have uniforms?

We believe that preparation for college and life requires more than academic work. It is also learning, among other things, to make good decisions with regard to healthy choices, time management, and appropriate dress. Our dress code encourages students to think about their day and dress appropriately. Students are expected to dress in a manner that reflects their activity. Our school dress asks that students be neat, clean, and able to participate in indoor and outdoor activities. Formal dress, as defined by the Handbook, is expected for presentations and special Chapel events. 

How can I help my child to make friends at school?

In addition to their classmates, students make strong friendships through the afternoon programs and clubs in which they participate. These friendships often span grades. Encourage your child to be involved at school and to attend arts and athletics events. If you are a day family or live within driving distance, persuade your child to invite a friend to spend a weekend day or a night with your family. Ask your child to invite an international student to spend the holidays with your family. If your child is an Upper School student, day or boarding, encourage them to participate in Weekend Activities.

If I have questions or concerts whom should I contact?

It's best to start with your child's advisor when you have a concern. The advisor can address the issue or help you to identify who can.

What is the best way for me to get to know other parents and/or my child's friends?

Your child benefits from having classmates from across the country and around the world, but it can sometimes present a challenge for getting to know their friends and their friend’s parents. If you live nearby or are coming to visit, plan to attend events on campus and athletic contests. Volunteer to help with on-campus activities like assisting with the concession stand and SAS Fund phonathons or off-campus as a parent admission ambassador. Offer to host a gathering for SAS in your home or hometown, a great way to get to know current families, alumni, and prospective families in your area.

What is the school's book purchasing and buyback policy?

In an effort to provide our families with more flexibility, convenience, and competitive pricing for book purchases, SAS uses MBS Direct for book purchases and buybacks.

The online book store opens in July. Families are expected to purchase their child's books from MBS Direct before the school year begins. Boarding students may have books shipped directly to the school.

The MBS Direct Book Buyback Program is done at the end of final exam week. Books eligible for buyback can be dropped off, along with the EZ Drop Buyback Quote, in the Simmonds building.

Questions? Contact Assistant to the Academic Dean Shawna Midgett.

My child wants to invite a boarder home, what do I need to do?

Contact the Academic Administrative Assistant (931.598.5651) to issue an invitation and arrange logistics for check-out and pickup. Be aware that when a boarder is in your care school rules apply both to the boarding student and any day students present. We expect students to have adult supervision.