As I write this, we are coming to the end of our fourth week of online learning. Highlights certainly include the special guests Bob Bertke has set up to visit the music performance class – like last week’s session with Tom Blankenship of My Morning Jacket. Bob’s got a slate of additional exciting guests from various aspects of the music industry lined up for the next few classes, as well! In other classes, students are reading Shakespeare together, engaging in remote lab activities, and generally moving along with their academic business. I send out Morning Meeting emails each Monday and Wednesday, complete with the recorded poem at the end because we always close Morning Meeting with a poem, and we meet in Advisee Groups on Fridays to keep those connections.  

All that said, we certainly know that this is a struggle for students. Even in the best of circumstances, adolescents struggle. And even in the best of COVID isolation circumstances, their lives are far from ideal right now. We understand that and we continue to think of ways to try to engage them.

One topic that we discussed on the parent coffee yesterday afternoon was our plan to assign letter grades as usual for this semester’s courses (rather than moving to a pass-fail model). There are several reasons: it better reflects the reality that fully half the semester was in-person; it is helpful for students working hard to get their GPAs up for college applications and KEES money (for juniors, this is the last semester of grades that colleges will see before they apply); and as the National Association of Independent Schools has pointed out, it is a way to keep students somewhat invested in what’s going on. We’re asking students to dial in (literally and figuratively) so that teachers can honor the effort they put forth in doing so and reflect that in their grades. Teachers are moderating assignments and expectations; they understand the mental and emotional struggles that students may be having during this time.

I think it’s helpful for students to look to the future, given the difficult reality of the present, and one aspect of that in recent days has been registration for the 20-21 school year! Our Registrar Alissa Shoemaker and I met with the 10th and 11th graders last week and with the 9th graders in their FHS class; as well, all AP teachers have held individual meetings for students who are interested in taking their courses next year. We’re excited to begin offering dual-credit courses with UofL in English III and Precalculus next year; I sent information about that to parents and students recently but if you have questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out.  

As well, we’ve begun looking at alternate Graduation, Senior Luncheon, and Prom dates in case those May events cannot be held as planned – specifically the last Fridays in June and July for Graduation and the Wednesdays prior for Senior Luncheon and Prom. Once we confirm with venues and know more about May, we’ll get specifics to parents and students.  

There are many things about the COVID situation that are difficult, and for the SFS faculty and staff, a huge one is not getting to see your children every day. (I realize you may also find it difficult that we don’t get to see your children every day!) We worry about them and we wish we could be there for them in a more real way than the distance permits. Please reach out – to me, to Terri White, to teachers – when you have concerns or when we might be able to help with something. We’re here for them and you.