Dear Duke School Families,
I am writing to share calendar updates as we prepare for the second semester, beginning in January 2021.
Adjustments to the academic calendar are based on the on-going dialogues with faculty over the past three months and follow a review of the fall faculty survey. They are also based on our review of parent surveys, which 1) hail our ability to provide continuous, on-campus learning in a low-risk environment during a public health crisis, 2) request continued, thoughtfully planned learning experiences in Bridged Distance Learning (BDL), and 3) underscore concern for faculty wellbeing as they manage the delivery of dual programs. Additional rationale for our changes are addressed in this letter.
We look forward to offering a parent zoom meeting next week to touch base and share details from the parent survey, but we wanted to provide these changes to the calendar for the 2020-21 academic year as soon as possible for your planning purposes in the new year.
We plan to return to school on-campus and through BDL the week following break. However, we will incorporate a professional development day on January 4, 2021. Professional development days are necessary to keep our faculty on the cutting edge of their practice. All professional development days were changed to planning days to support our teachers, but we find we must add back a professional day to do our best work. We have designated that day as January 4, and so school will begin for students in the new year on Tuesday, January 5, 2021.
*Delayed start on select Fridays, beginning February 1, Kindergarten-Eighth Grade. Beginning February 1, 2021, we will add a delayed start to the school day on select Fridays, with arrival beginning at 10 AM and concluding by 10:30 AM on those days. This change provides faculty two hours of much needed collaborative planning time on a regular basis. All dates for delayed start or early dismissal are listed at the end of this letter.
Please also note:
We will not have a delayed start on Fridays where an early release is already scheduled.
We will not have a delayed start on Fridays when school is already closed earlier in the week.
We will offer a Zoom school-wide Morning Meeting/assembly at least one Friday per month. Students will join from home.
We will offer general resources and “warm up” activities for students to choose from and work on during the period before the start of school.
Preschool learners will maintain their regular schedule, with arrival beginning at 8 AM. Preschool will maintain early dismissal dates previously scheduled.
ERB Adjustment: Typically Duke School administers the Comprehensive Testing Program (ERBs) to students in grades 3-8 for two weeks each winter. To preserve precious instructional time with students, we will only administer the ERB in grades 3 and 6 this year, as required by state law. We will continue to offer our robust, authentic assessments throughout the year. The ERB will be administered to grades 3 and 6 February 1-4, 2021.
Shortened arrival and dismissal times. This past summer, the Division Directors created a staggered schedule, anticipating carline delays due to temperature checks and volume. We plan to shorten these times to one half-hour to add back instructional time. A new schedule will be distributed in the new year.
Rationale that Informed Our Decisions
Like many other schools, we launched a schedule in September anticipating that we might have to move to 100% virtual learning rapidly. We may attribute our long stretch of continuous days of schooling to our adherence to strict protocols. They are working. We have managed to maintain a low-risk environment for an extraordinary period of time and keep our students in school. At the same time, our successful efforts have turned our anticipated “sprint” into a sustained “marathon,” and we need to adjust course to maintain our pace, ensure the delivery of our outstanding program, and not deplete our faculty and staff. Here is what we learned that informed our decisions about the calendar for the remainder of the academic school year:
Our faculty remains committed to delivering a robust, continuous, and mission-consistent program throughout this crisis and wish to capture as much instructional time daily as possible for students in order to deliver the most robust program possible.
To maintain safe cohorting and minimize risks created by teachers “crossing over” cohorts , planning time for faculty and staff has had to be reduced by as much as 80% weekly.
Time for planning and managing the workload of teaching in dual modes remains our faculty’s greatest need. The additional early release time once per month has helped, but it is not nearly enough.
Faculty have indicated that delivering a dual learning program without adequate planning time is not sustainable, especially coupled with the strain of teaching in a crisis. A recent article in the New York Times, “Teaching in the Pandemic: This is Not Sustainable” captures shared concern nationwide.
Faculty overwhelmingly stated that a continued focus on safeguarding employees’ mental health and well-being is paramount as they continue their work amidst a public health crisis.
Duke School’s Status with the Pandemic Response
While the situation remains fluid, I want to share that we have had no positive COVID cases involving anyone who has been on campus since returning from the Thanksgiving break. Your continued allegiance to our community commitment makes it possible for our teachers to safely come to work daily and serve all our learners-at home and on campus. This would not be possible without everybody’s cooperation and diligence. Thank you!
Special thanks to our facilities and janitorial staff, who work tirelessly every day of the week to maintain our buildings, along with our faculty and professional staff, who add to their workload the constant vigilance and reminders to promote low risk classrooms and offices. Thanks, too, to our PSO and all parent volunteers who have offered to lend a hand and continue to find creative ways each week to support our teachers and staff!
As always, the Leadership Team and I are grateful for your partnership, support, and understanding as we continue to chart our course for the months ahead.
Early release days 2021 (reminder):
*Delayed start on select Fridays, beginning February 1, Kindergarten-Eighth Grade.
We will add a delayed start to the school day on select Fridays, with arrival beginning at 10 AM and concluding by 10:30 AM on those days.
Late arrival Fridays 2021: