Head of School Community Email: Important Summer Updates

Head of School Community Email: Important Summer Updates

The following information was emailed to families of new and returning students on July 22.

Dear Thetford Academy Families & Students, 

I hope you are well and finding time to enjoy some of your favorite summertime activities, despite the travel and activity restrictions we are all dealing with.

 Planning for the fall semester continues intensively here at TA, and I am writing with some important updates. Thank you to everyone who completed the recent surveys sent to new and current TA families earlier this month. Your responses provided key data and input in the planning process – and will continue to do so as we further develop our program and structures for the fall semester. 

Here are key elements of our plan for the fall semester program that I can share at this stage of the planning:

  • The TA campus will open for the start of school on August 26. (Update as of July 28: we are awaiting VT Governor Phil Scott’s executive order regarding a start date of Sept. 8 and will revise our plan as needed.)
  • Families will have options to send their child(ren) to school for an on-campus experience either 2 days per week or 4 days per week. Families will also have the option to not send their child(ren) to school and connect with the TA program from home.
  • The primary method of instruction will continue to be a remote learning platform; this will provide maximum flexibility for students, families, and the school and allow for the hybrid model where some students are on campus and others are at home.
  • For the on-campus experience, students will be in small ‘learning pods’ of approximately 12 students and 1 teacher. See more details below.
  • The on-campus experience will be a shorter amount of time (approx 4-5 hours) instead of the typical 7 hours. Details are still in development.
  • Wednesdays will have a different focus and format than other days of the week, like the approach we used April-June this past quarter. All students will have a 100% remote experience on Wednesdays, with no students on campus.
  • The on-campus experience will include maximizing use of the outdoor resources of the TA campus.
  • All students will require their own personal laptop for school use, either TA-issued or family provided. TA is prepared to check out a Chromebook laptop to all students who need one.

Updates related to extracurricular activities and other services:

  • Afterschool athletics will continue in some format; details are still in development.
  • Bus transportation and lunch service will both be available; details are still in development.

For campus safety-related details and logistics, including daily health monitoring, please refer to this document from the TA Safety Committee.

Additional details regarding the on-campus experience:

  • For the on-campus experience, students will be in small ‘learning pods’ of approximately 12 students and 1 teacher. The teacher will serve as a learning coach for the students in their pod. A helpful analogy is the one room schoolhouse used in rural areas in past generations.
  • The ‘learning pod’ structure will provide students with support for their academics, socialization and skill building, the opportunity to collaborate with classmates, and a ‘home base’ at school as they experience their classes remotely.
  • Students will be grouped by grade level in the learning pods.
  • Grade levels will be assigned to designated rooms and zones on campus and will have minimal or no access to other indoor spaces.
  • Outdoor spaces on the TA campus will be used for a variety of activities, including learning, eating, and recreation breaks. Existing outdoor spaces will be enhanced with tent structures.

Information on off-campus programs available to juniors and seniors:

  • River Bend & Hartford Tech Centers: Both tech centers will be in session for fall semester. We are still waiting on program/schedule details from each of the centers. We will work with our TA students who are enrolled at one of the tech centers to ensure they can participate. At this time, we think the TA fully remote (at home) option is probably the most compatible with participating in a tech center program, but we are open to working with individual students and their families to arrive at a plan. We are also committed to providing transportation to tech programs, as we have traditionally done.
  • Hypertherm/Fuji STEM Internship Program: We are hopeful that this off-campus, job-embedded program will take place as planned. We will know more next week and be in touch with students who are enrolled. At this time, we think the TA fully remote (at home) option is probably the most compatible with participating in this half-day off-site program, but we are open to working with individual students and their families to arrive at a plan. We are also committed to providing transportation as needed. Please note: If the Hypertherm/Fuji internship is available as planned, we will be recruiting more students to participate. Currently there are 4 spots still available; contact School Counselor Mark Pichette for more details.
  • Dartmouth College Classes: This is still an unknown. If Dartmouth classes are unavailable to students who were hoping to enroll in one, the TA counselors can work with students to seek an alternative, such as an online class through UVM.

Next steps:

  • I invite you to join at one of three online information sessions I will host next week: Tuesday 3:00-3:45pm, Wednesday, 12:00-12:45pm, Thursday, 9:00-9:45am. Please fill out this form to RSVP
  • We will record these sessions as well and make them available for parents who are not able to participate.
  • We will send home a form next week for families to indicate which TA option they are requesting for their child(ren) for the fall semester: a) on-campus experience 4 days per week, b) on-campus experience 2 days per week, or c) continuing with remote learning based at home. The form will be sent via email as well as in paper format to home addresses. 
  • The deadline to return the form is Wednesday, August 5.

I know this is an incredibly confusing time of change and uncertainty, and for many it is creating a lot of stress and anxiety. I appreciate your patience, resilience, and adaptability, as we strive to shapeshift the school experience to meet the needs of our community in ways that engage our students in purposeful learning and are safe for all. Thank you for working with us and trusting us.

We are in this together!

Carrie Brennan, Head of School