Marin Academy is tracking news and information related to the spread of Coronavirus (COVID-19) and how it may impact our community. This page provides information and resources for MA families and will be updated as the situation evolves.
- August 24, 2020: Welcome to the 2020-21 School Year
- August 9, 2020: Important Update on the Start of School
- July 17, 2020: Email from Travis: COVID Update
- May 29, 2020: Email from Academic Dean: Last Weekly Update
- May 22, 2020: Email from Academic Dean: L4L, Week 6 Student Email
- May 20, 2020: Email from Travis: A Look Ahead at the 2020-21 Academic Year
- May 8, 2020: Email from Travis: Notes from the Circle
- April 18, 2020: Email from Travis: Notes from the Circle
- April 10, 2020: Email from School Counselor: Support to Help Manage Student's Emotional Health
- March 30, 2020: Email from Travis: Notes from the Circle
- March 23, 2020: Email from Travis: Notes from the Circle
- March 16, 2020: Email from Travis: Notes from the Circle
- March 16, 2020: Email from Travis: Important Safety and Social Distancing Responsibilities for Students and Parents
- March 6, 2020: Email from Travis: Coronavirus Update
Dear MA Students and Families,
Welcome to the 2020-21 academic year!
Much of our summer has been spent waiting and wondering. How will school start? When will something different happen? Who can we see? What will tomorrow be like? I’m sure, like me, you are feeling a mix of emotions. On the one hand, this year begins in a momentous time in history, one we will likely talk about for the rest of our lives. On the other hand, we welcome a return to routine and purpose. We’ll meet with teachers and classmates in virtual classrooms, we’ll juggle schedules and assignments, we’ll get involved in co-curricular activities. In a nutshell, it will feel very much like high school—students and teachers will meet each day to discuss, explore, think, write, and solve in a learning community that seeks to ignite each student’s passions.
But more than that, we are poised and prepared as a school to meet inevitable uncertainties with resilience, grit, and creative thinking. This has always been the MA way.
Assessing the Present, Charting the Future
We recently surveyed our faculty and staff as well as our students and families to gauge their readiness for the school year ahead. I’m deeply grateful for everyone who took the time to provide us with your comments and suggestions. The vast majority of our community is looking forward to a return to school as soon as it is safe (and permissible) to do so and with the right health and safety protocols in place. You’ll be hearing more about these protocols and preparedness in the weeks ahead as we build upon the work accomplished over the summer with an expanded team of people that now includes administrators, faculty members, and students. I am also pleased to announce that we’ve hired Gayle Masada, a registered nurse, as our COVID-19 coordinator to help us in the work of ensuring the health and safety of our community.
Many of you also encouraged us to find safe ways to bring small groups of students to campus during the fall L4L quarter to help students maintain a sense of connection with the school and to prevent social isolation. We hear this loud and clear. At orientation, students have learned about the many ways they can engage and get involved with their classmates, teachers, and advisors in the first quarter. We are also hosting a Zoom session on September 2 at 6:00 p.m. for parents/guardians to discuss their role in supporting student emotional well-being during remote learning. And you’ll hear more from the leadership team as we work through the complexities of opening campus to certain groups. The health and safety of students, teachers, and staff is our North Star in all of our decisions.
Planning for an Eventual Return to Campus
Like all of you, I hope to return to campus as soon as possible. How will we make this decision? It is complex, involving dynamics both within and beyond our control, including state mandates, the robustness of testing in Marin and surrounding counties, campus readiness, and where we are in our learning cycle. In other words, is it Safe? Are we Ready? Does it make Sense? (SRS)
Once we are closer to a date to return to campus, we will share our Return to the Circle protocols. These protocols will be based on the most up-to-date guidelines from the Marin County Office of Education, Marin County Public Health, California Department of Public Health, and the CDC, as well as input from medical professionals and learnings from other schools and universities. I am grateful to the expanded team of administrators, faculty, and students who will be involved in making these protocols effective and practicable for our community.
Keeping You Informed
As the school year gets underway, we want to continue to communicate frequently and openly as we find ourselves on paths that are both familiar and unfamiliar. I’ll be scheduling Zoom calls in the first few weeks of school for both new and returning families, with updates on virtual learning, our return-to-campus planning, and an opportunity to answer more of your questions. We have also scheduled a Town Hall with students on Friday, September 4 at 3:00 p.m., to continue the important conversation around systemic racism and to ensure we are leaning into our vision of a diverse, equitable, and inclusive community.
We begin this year in momentous times: a global pandemic, addressing systemic racism, and the challenges of a Presidential election year. The journey ahead requires our partnership and commitment to community, now more than ever. We will work together to find solutions with empathy, curiosity, and flexibility. We stand by these MA Competencies; they will guide our decision-making as we partner to create another meaningful year of learning and evolving at Marin Academy.
Dear MA Families and Students,
I’m fortunate that I live within walking distance to the Marin Academy campus. Today, I stopped by the school garden for the first time in weeks. Figs, apples, plums, and persimmons are thriving in the school garden, and the next round of strawberries are ripening. Sunflowers tower in the SIC garden. Nature persists as do we.
Much has changed in these few weeks. This is the nature of life and decision-making in the midst of a pandemic that moves quickly and impacts each of us in very different ways. The governor’s announcement on July 17 has placed new restrictions on every public and independent K-12 school in Marin County and other counties in California on the watch list. Data trends tell us that the virus is still too prevalent in Marin and the Bay Area, causing many schools and businesses to reassess or retract re-opening measures. Daily, we see evidence of what happens when schools and businesses reopen too quickly—a spike in new cases and hospitalizations.
This new mandate by the State of California as well as our review of the data have led us to the decision to begin school at Level 4 Learning (100% remote) and remain at that level through at least the first quarter (October 16).
This difficult decision requires us to hold two contradictory truths: returning to in-person instruction is best, and doing so would pose health risks given current data trends. First and foremost in our decision-making is the health and safety of our MA community—students, employees, and families. We are justifiably concerned about the spike in COVID-19 cases in Marin and the Bay Area, that testing is still not widely available, and that test results aren’t obtained quickly enough.
It boils down to this: the likelihood of individuals in the MA community testing positive or spreading the virus at this stage of its trajectory presents a real health risk.
With an all-virtual Q1, we minimize health risks and the disruptions that seem likely, such as sending cohorts home if a member tests positive for COVID-19. We give ourselves another six weeks to monitor the pace of the pandemic in our community. More importantly, we afford ourselves the opportunity to take a gradual and safe approach to our return to campus at the time when the virus is better controlled and testing is easier and faster to obtain. For example, if and when circumstances allow, we want to find safe ways to bring small groups to campus so we can teach, learn, and practice the new health and safety protocols that will become part of our school experience when we do return.
Although I am heartbroken that we cannot return in person at this point, we are poised and prepared to provide an exceptional virtual learning experience for all of our students. At MA, we believe that education at its best incorporates experiential learning with intellectual rigor and global citizenship. We strive to create a learning community in which adults and students are engaged and connected — with each other and with the world around us. That’s our ‘why’, and it remains constant. Only our ‘how’ is changing. These are the steps we are taking to deliver on our educational promise:
We’re making remote learning highly effective.
We are confident that remote learning will be a very powerful way to engage and to connect. While teachers have worked hard to envision and plan for teaching in the L2L mode we had hoped for in August, starting with L4L will allow for more student group work, collaboration, and connection, given the health and safety risks that are present now.
Based on feedback last spring from students, faculty, and parents/guardians—as well as ongoing research and information shared by other institutions (local, national, and international)—we have made adjustments to our L4L instructional design. That is, L4L in the 2020–2021 school year will take the best parts of the spring experience and incorporate these learnings and your feedback.
We’re developing forward-leaning skills in remote learning.
I’m confident in this pedagogical approach in large part because of our remarkable faculty. Our teachers have spent significant time this summer redesigning our entire curriculum. They have been online learners themselves in a course on the best practices for online learning, supplementing this required learning with additional professional development and consulting in competency-based learning, developing community in virtual settings, caring for the well-being of all students, and continuing to focus on creating equitable and inclusive classrooms.
We’re investing in new technologies.
We’re launching a new Learning Management System, Canvas, that is far superior to the MyMA platform we were working with last year. Teachers have been meeting in small groups up to twice a week since the start of summer to get up to speed with the new platform, and we are genuinely excited about our new-found functionality in this realm. Teachers are building out robust course pages, and students will find that regardless of which level learning is occurring, all of their work will be consolidated in a single location and that they are able to Zoom with classes, submit work, and access a “to do” list of their asynchronous assignments all in one place. We’ve also equipped classrooms with enhanced audio and video technology for the moment when we do return to campus.
We will continue to help students thrive in all the ways MA is known for.
We know school this year will feel different for students, whether we are learning virtually or back in the classroom with new safety protocols in place and conditions permit. We’ll continue to offer ways to connect and feel supported as we travel unfamiliar paths together. Even in L4L mode, students will meet weekly with their advisors in small groups, have monthly class meetings, and join twice weekly all-school assemblies—via Zoom. Student clubs will continue to meet virtually, as will the student government. There will be virtual art shows and performances, as well as virtual wellness offerings such as yoga, mindfulness classes, and online workouts. Virtual events for parents will include new parent coffees with me, parent education, and Zoom meetings on a variety of topics. I am also looking at other ways to connect with our students, given our virtual presence. Everything that makes MA a great place to go to high school will be on offer — just in a format that respects COVID-19 concerns.
Since the onset of this pandemic, I’ve promised to communicate openly and frequently, sharing the best information as I have it. I will continue to do so as new information emerges. And now we need your feedback. We want to hear what you anticipate about remote learning, an eventual return to the classroom, and what ideas you might have for ensuring the best possible educational experience for our students. Please take a moment to complete this very short survey by August 7. Your input helps shape our decisions and provides feedback on the equity and educational effectiveness of our approach for the 2020-2021 school year.
I am looking forward to the start of school in spite of how different it will be. I’m confident that our learning community will lean into these new challenges with empathy, curiosity, and intellectual flexibility as we always do. Please refer to our updated FAQs for more information.
With gratitude and optimism,
Dear MA Students and Families,
In my June 26 letter to parents and guardians, I promised to share with you today our return to campus guidelines and other decisions about the start of school.
Since I sent that letter, our decision-making landscape has changed significantly. On July 3, Marin County was placed on the California watch list due to a spike in COVID-19 activity. On Wednesday, the Marin County Office of Public Health changed their guidance for reopening schools, pushing back in-person instruction. Today, the State of California mandated that all schools in counties that are on the governor’s COVID-19 watch list may not begin in-person instruction until the county has been off the watch list for 14 consecutive days. While our hope was to start classes in person, we will likely start school at the Level 4 Learning level, and continue in that mode until restrictions are lifted and guidelines evolve. I will be communicating with you more details in the coming weeks.
Since the first outbreak of the pandemic, our shared goal has been the health and safety of our students and employees. The developments of these past few days have put into very sharp relief for me just how important it is for us all to take personal and collective action to help slow and limit the spread of the coronavirus. We know what to do. Wear masks. Practice physical distancing. Wash our hands frequently. We are all deeply eager to return to campus in person. Now it is up to each and every one of us to take responsibility so we can help make this happen. It starts by doing our part to help slow the spread of COVID-19 in Marin County.
This time has been exceedingly difficult for us as a nation; it has been a challenging set of circumstances in which to lead an independent school. That said, I’ve been encouraged by the enthusiasm and intention with which all members of our community have embraced these new and unfolding challenges. I’m also grateful for the fact that MA is well-poised to navigate the unfolding challenge of COVID-19 for the foreseeable future. First, we have exceptional faculty who have dedicated themselves this summer to extensive professional development in online and flexible learning modes. They are joined by talented administrators and dedicated staff members who are working diligently to ensure educational excellence for all of our students while protecting the health and safety of our community. Second, our campus affords us great flexibility for physically distanced in-person learning, both inside and outdoors. Finally, we have developed an incredibly robust plan for Instructional Continuity that will allow us to pivot quickly and intentionally between different learning levels as the pandemic evolves and guidelines change. In fact, our four-level learning framework and new quarter on/quarter off schedule positions us well for this very moment—and others to come.
We feel confident, well prepared, and nimble. And while we would very much love to welcome you to campus with open arms at the end of August, please know that we will welcome you with open hearts.
We will continue to communicate openly, honestly, and frequently as new information emerges.
- What level will we start at next year?
- What protocols—like mask wearing or temperature taking—will be in place next year?
- What will happen with athletics and co-curriculars?
- Seniors can come to campus today (Friday, May 22) between 2:00 and 4:00 p.m. or tomorrow, (Saturday, May 23) between 10:00 a.m. and noon to pick up their cap and gown, yearbook, and a couple other special surprises. Please drive in the Circle, up to the porch at Foster Hall, wearing a face covering. You will not exit your car.
- 9th–11th graders can come to campus tomorrow (Saturday, May 23) between 12:00 and 2:00 p.m. or Tuesday, May 26 between 3:00 and 5:00 p.m. Please drive in the Circle, up to the porch at Foster Hall, wearing a face covering. You will not exit your car.
- Classes will start the week of August 24th as originally planned. Orientation for new students, sophomores, juniors, and seniors will take place the week of August 17th.
- Our schedule will be built to flex. We are prepared to meet the challenge of intermittent and unpredictable closures based on the trajectory of this pandemic, as well as the possibility that illness or immuno-compromised health may keep some students and teachers away from school for extended periods. We are building a schedule designed to minimize the impact of these inevitable disruptions in terms of scheduling, grading periods, workload demands, and assessments. Classes may be held face to face, or in a hybrid model, or in 100% virtual mode as circumstances warrant. The important thing to know is this: every day’s class schedule will remain constant even if the learning mode may vary.
- We will use our spaces differently. When we return to campus, we will do so in a way that complies with the most current guidelines and requirements for minimizing the risk of COVID-19 exposure for everyone in the MA community. This may include social distancing, minimizing overall campus density, grouping students and teachers into smaller classes, frequent sanitization measures, deep cleaning between groups, scheduled use of cafeteria and library, and re-envisioning our larger group gatherings such as class meetings, tutorials, and assemblies.
- Financial assistance will be available to families that need it. We recognize that the COVID-19 pandemic has created significant economic disruption for our community, and we expect more students will need tuition assistance in the coming academic year. Marin Academy has set aside additional funds for tuition assistance in order to meet the demonstrated needs of our students and families.
- Routines will be messy or nonexistent, things may feel very out of sorts, and productivity may be at an all time low. And that’s okay! The anxiety of the current situation is a lot for us all to manage, and giving ourselves and our children permission to prioritize our mental health is so important. Reassure your teens that everyone is struggling to adjust to this new reality.
- I find it helpful to focus on this rare and uninterrupted family time. Years from now, our children won’t remember the schedule they had during these strange months. However, they will remember how their families made them feel loved and gave them a sense of safety in a time where so much is uncertain and unknown.
- Self care. Don’t forget to take care of yourself and your own needs. It may be tempting to put ourselves aside to care for others in our family, especially when we see that our children are struggling. However, prioritizing our own mental and physical health is just as important.
- Create a safe space for your student to talk, if they want. Let them know that you’re here to talk with them whenever they feel ready, and allow them to determine when and if they want to engage. You might say something like “I know this is all really difficult and overwhelming. I’m here if you want to talk about it, and it’s also okay if you don’t want to talk.” Give them the choice and space to decide what feels best to them.
- See something, say something. If you are worried that something deeper is happening and you’re noticing changes in sleeping/eating patterns and behavior, name your worry. Again, no need to press them to open up, but letting them know that you’re worried might help them feel seen. You could say “I’ve noticed that you aren’t sleeping a lot these days and I’m worried. If there’s something you want to talk about, I’m here. And if you don’t want to talk, that’s okay, though I will probably check in with you about how you’re feeling because I love you and I care about you.” You can let them know that there are other supports available (school counselor, another trusted adult, outside therapist) available to them if they would feel more comfortable speaking to someone else.
- Work to validate and not solve. When your students come to you with a social, academic, or personal issue, I imagine most parents are ready with a list of amazing suggestions to help. However, for many of us when we’re feeling upset or anxious, we just need to talk and have someone hear and validate our feelings. Let your teen know that you completely understand their feelings, and that you’re feeling frustrated too. Let them know that they’re doing a great job balancing all of these new challenges and that if they want to talk through ideas of ways to manage this time, you’re here to help them brainstorm.
- The importance of naming feelings. Right now, emotions are running high and when your teen yells at you, lashes out at their sibling, or won’t come out of their room (all ways of externalizing their emotions), they might need your help in naming what’s happening for them. Simply saying “It sounds like you’re angry that you can’t see your friends, and I totally understand that feeling” can help calm them down and reduce their anxiety.
- If you need to reach the school during this time of closure, please email email@example.com instead of calling.
- If your child will be absent please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
- If you have a concern about your student please email Lynne Hansen.
- Please do not call the school during this time and leave voicemails, communicate through email only.
- If your child will be absent please email email@example.com, and if you have a concern about your student please email Lynne Hansen.
Challenge Success Workshop: Navigating Remote Learning for Families
Many families are concerned about the impact that remote learning will have on their child’s academic journey and what role they should play along the way. If you were not able to attend this Marin Academy workshop, please see the resources below including a recording of the 45-minute webinar with Challenge Success that explores practical tips and guidelines for what families can do to best support student well-being and engagement with learning right now.
- Video: Navigating Remote Learning for Families
- Additional Tips and Resources
- Q&A Videos from Denise Pope Sorted by Topic
Marin Academy Family Community Action
We can continue to feel connected through service, and there are ways we can support our community partner organizations at this time.
MAPA Recommendations for Support in the Community
Our MAPA community of parents are always tirelessly working in a myriad of ways to support members of our community. During this pandemic, there are many ways to get involved and volunteer to support your neighbors, the elderly, and those communities that are hardest hit. Below are some ways you can get involved:
MA-Affiliated Businesses and Services to Support