On July 10, 2020, Fenn Headmaster Derek Boonisar shared the School’s commitment to and extensive planning for a return to on-campus learning for the 2020-2021 school year in a letter to the Fenn community excerpted below.
“While our planning and preparations will continue in earnest through the summer months, I am excited to share that we intend to have all students, faculty, and staff safely together on-campus when we open school the second week of September.
Two task forces of faculty and staff, with support from members of Fenn's Board of Trustees, continue to be hard at work leading our planning efforts. Our Program Planning Group has been focused on the development of our academic and co-curricular programming and experience, including how we can continue to innovate our teaching and learning generally and in response to the unique variables we will face this year as a school community. Equity also remains at the forefront of our planning, and we are coming together as a faculty and staff to review and design curriculum through a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion and anti-racism lens.
At the same time, our Re-opening Task Group has been studying and developing operational plans for how our community can return safely to campus following guidelines from health and government authorities. Both groups have been preparing for three scenarios for the fall – 1) on-campus learning with new safety requirements; 2) a blend of on-campus and distance learning; and 3) the continuation of distance learning.
The status of the virus in Massachusetts will certainly impact how schools ultimately re-open in the fall. Be assured that we will be prepared with detailed plans for each of the three scenarios, as needed. Fenn will remain agile and forward-thinking in our response to the ever-changing educational landscape, and we know that adapting quickly and efficiently to the needs of our students and families is critical during these uncertain times.
Following are some of the key principles and guidelines shaping our planning efforts:
The health and safety of everyone in our Fenn community is the guiding force for the plans and protocols we are preparing for on-campus learning. Nothing could be more important to us. To that end, The Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education is encouraging schools to aspire to six feet of distance between individuals on-campus where feasible, and this is a key goal of ours as we advance our planning.
Our Re-opening Task Group is analyzing all classrooms, public spaces, offices, and conference rooms to identify optimal spaces for classes and gatherings of certain sizes; how some campus spaces can be reconfigured or renovated to meet our unique space needs this school year; how Fenn can utilize our wealth of outdoor space on our Main and North Campuses; etc. Our abundance of outdoor space will be of immense benefit to us -- even during the cooler months, as our Lower School students and faculty have demonstrated with the success of the Wilderness Wednesdays program that had everyone bundled up and outside engaging in outdoor adventure games and play.
Many other health and safety precautions will be required on-campus, including masks that families will be required to provide for their student(s) and frequent hand washing and use of hand sanitizers throughout the school day. Additionally, we cannot stress enough how important it will be for students, faculty, and staff to stay home from school if they are not feeling well or have been in the company of someone who is ill or experiencing symptoms of concern. We will detail these requirements, as well as numerous others, in future school communications this summer.
While health and safety guidance calls for distancing and separation, community and connection remain of great importance to us as we build unique Fenn programming and experiences for the coming school year. Prioritizing social connections will be critical as we emerge from a lengthy time apart. That is why we are planning for a far more robust orientation program during the early days of school, focusing on helping students to connect socially with their peers, as well as advisors and teachers, and to develop a sense of belonging at Fenn. This programming will be equally important for our Upper School students as the September overnight trips they customarily enjoy have now been canceled due to the virus, and these have always established important early bonds among the eighth and ninth grade classes.
It is my hope that this communication provides a helpful snapshot of our goals and priorities for the coming school year and the depth of the planning we are advancing in the coming weeks. We will be back in touch with you in August to share more comprehensive plans and requirements for the school year.”