Dear Benjamin Community,
In thirty-plus years as a head of school, I have had many interesting and challenging experiences. These coronavirus days are a harsh reminder to me to refrain from ever thinking or saying, “I have seen it all.” And clearly, we have not seen the end of this pandemic and will not for some time to come.
This morning we were planning to announce that the April 16 return had been pushed to early May. As I went into my next meeting, I was informed of Governor DeSantis’s Safer at Home order for Palm Beach and other counties, extending the closing until mid-May. As I write this, we do not have details, but we are assuming that the order will apply to schools. So, unless we hear otherwise, please understand that we will not be returning until mid-May, the specific date to be communicated as soon as we hear.
Fortunately, in planning for our end of April return, we already had decided that we would add Seesaw in combination with Google Meets to expand the offerings in the Lower School. Dr. Sheehan and her faculty will have those digital platforms ready to launch on April 13, providing more options for presenting lessons. The Middle and Upper School faculty have and will continue to adjust and adapt as we master this world of online learning.
I also would like to comment on some questions I am sure have come to mind for many of you. First, the move to the virtual classroom is a new experience for most schools and teachers. Some are better prepared for it than others. No school, however, can guarantee the results. Some learning may be enhanced; some may slip. Fortunately, we are small and nimble enough to adjust. Teachers are already prioritizing curriculum. Support systems in place will be ramped up to assist students in need. And, next year’s teachers will know where they need to focus and what adjustments they will need to make to get the 2020-21 year off to a good start. Of course, this same situation will be playing out across most of the country at all grades and in all schools. In this matter, all students are part of one giant cohort- the Coronavirus kids. As are we all.
Related, we have and will continue to discuss assessments and grades and how to best handle those topics in each division. I assure you we will do all we can to ensure all of our students continue to learn and that their good efforts will be rewarded. The Division Heads will have more on this topic, particular to their divisions.
Finally, at present, we intend to complete the year on schedule. Our remote learning program fulfills Florida attendance and instruction hours requirements. We do not believe that will change. Thus, either in person or in some digital fashion, our closing day will be May 22.
Again, I thank you for your patience and understanding and hope that with the challenges you also are having family moments you will later treasure.
Thomas J. Reid