Letters to the Community
- January 8, 2021 from Blythe Everett P'14, '16: Returning to Campus
- December 18, 2020 from Blythe Everett P'14, '16: Reopening for Winter Term
- September 9, 2020: Important Information from the Health Office
- August 31, 2020 from CPC Task Force Coordinator and Dean of Students Heather Hastings
- August 14, 2020: Registration
- July 24, 2020 from Head of School Blythe Everett P'14, '16
- July 3, 2020 from Head of School Blythe Everett P'14, '16
- June 24, 2020 from Blythe Everett P'14, '16 and CPC Task Force REOPENING PLANS
January 8, 2021
Dear Marvelwood Students and Families,
First, let me wish you all a Happy New Year! I hope you enjoyed the holidays responsibly, and that our students are all now being mindful of The Marvelwood Compact and have actively committed to living a “quiet life” at home during this two-week period before our return to campus. Just like in the beginning of the school year, safe behaviors at home to ensure each individual’s ability to return to campus healthy is a vital first step towards a successful winter term together and in person on Skiff Mountain.
This lengthy letter contains very important information for families and students. Please read it carefully and reach out to our COVID Planning & Compliance (CPC) team at email@example.com with any questions. To start, let’s review the schedule and the COVID testing requirements for each student’s return.
Return Dates and Times:
Residents of Lake and Sterling dormitories return to campus between 1:00-3:00pm on Saturday, January 16.
Residents of Summit and Star dormitories return between 1:00-3:00pm on Sunday, January 17. It should be noted that Star Dorm residents should come to campus only for the purposes of COVID testing, and should not plan to remain on campus following that process or overnight.
All New Students arrive on campus between 1:00-3:00pm on Sunday, January 17.
Contact firstname.lastname@example.org as soon as possible if you are unable to conform to this schedule.
COVID Testing Requirements for Return:
All students must arrive with negative PCR results obtained through testing administered before next Wednesday, January 13. These test results should be emailed or faxed to the Health Office prior to arrival next weekend (email@example.com/fax: 860-927-2133). Boarding students will not be permitted to stay on campus without negative PCR test results on file.
A second, rapid COVID test will be administered to all students on their assigned arrival day. Upon arrival to campus, all vehicles will be directed to the Performing Arts Center where a test will be administered in the car. Students should prepare to wait in the car on the PAC circle for results which will be texted to them. Then, families may proceed to the dorm, where students must show that text to the faculty member on duty in order to be able to enter.
Only parents of new students who have completed the same testing regimen will be permitted into the dorms to help their student move-in. No other parents or family members will be permitted to enter campus buildings.
Schedules will be posted to indicate where students may go, and during what times, once they’re on campus. As in the fall, students are not permitted to enter dorms other than their own.
The entire school community will be re-tested within approximately 5-7 days after our return, and then regularly throughout the term.
Our health personnel have received the first dose of the vaccine and will get the second dose soon after the students return. It was announced yesterday that educators will be able to participate in the next round of vaccinations in our state.
The remainder of this letter reviews the continuing work of our CPC task force, which has met regularly since the end of the fall term. As we have carefully watched the continued spread and spikes in coronavirus across the country, we have evaluated many scenarios and made thoughtful, informed decisions about how to reconvene as a community and stay as safe as possible this winter, understanding that the winter weather and the new, more contagious COVID variant present additional challenges for us over the course of this eight-week term.
In order to do our very best to ensure campus-wide health, some additional precautionary restrictions will be in place for a period of time, commencing upon students’ return to school. The duration of this more restrictive quarantine-type scenario will be determined following consultation with our school medical personnel and local Department of Public Health; it may last as few as seven days, but possibly as many as 14. We are currently planning for 10 days, but will need to be flexible as conditions warrant. All students must be prepared for the reality that, for about the first two weeks, life on campus will look different than it did in the fall term.
The academic day will run as it did in the fall term, with a slightly shorter period between classes. Community Service will start later this winter, but otherwise remain largely unchanged, occurring in small, teacher-led groups on Saturday mornings. It is possible that students in some activities may be grouped by dorm for the first week or two. These activities are considered safe because student compliance with health protocols can be closely monitored and enforced.
Morning health protocols will also continue. Day students must make the Health Office their first stop of the day, before entering Star Dorm or any other campus buildings. Boarders must complete the morning health check from their dorm rooms. Don’t forget to bring your thermometer! If you need a new one, please ask the Health Office. The student dress code has been relaxed, allowing us all to focus on ensuring, and helping students remember, what matters most: wearing masks and socially distancing. For the winter term, students may wear what they choose, including hoodies, but the overall look must be ‘neat and tidy’: no loose sweatpants, ripped clothing, hats, or pajamas.
The biggest changes during this restrictive period are detailed below and involve dining, the dorms, and some added restrictions for day students.
Breakfast check-in remains mandatory for all students. In addition to two staggered lunch periods as we had in the fall, we have created two dinner shifts for the winter in order to reduce density in the dining hall. Plexiglass dividers are being installed on all tables, and for at least the first week or two, the room will be sectioned off by dorm. Boarding students have two options for dining: eating their meal in the dining hall with members of their own dorm, or selecting a grab-and-go option and eating it in their own dorm room. Because masks cannot be worn while eating, no eating will be permitted in the common rooms or other common spaces (hallways, classrooms, foyers) at any time.
Grab-and-go is the ONLY option for day students during this period. It is also the only option for employees who live off-campus or who have a member of their household who regularly interacts in person with others outside of the school community. These adults and all day students are not permitted to consume food in the dining hall during this quarantine period.
For at least the first week of school (Saturday 1/16 - Sunday 1/24), students will be assigned a dinner slot based on their after-school activity. We will be closely monitoring dining hall density and hope to be able to relax this policy after the first week.
As in the fall, students are not permitted to visit dorms other than their own. Students may congregate in small groups in common areas within their own dorms; these include the common room, the front foyer, stair landings, and hallways. Maximum capacity limits will be posted and enforced. No visitation to each other’s rooms is allowed. Food may only be consumed in each individual’s own room. Windows and outside doors should remain slightly open whenever possible; additional fans with filters will be stationed throughout each dorm, and we continue to encourage the combination of slightly-open windows and a fan in dorm rooms.
The use of large spaces like the gymnasium, theatre, and dining hall as “hang-out spots” will be limited to small supervised groups during this restrictive period.
Sports and other after-school activities will be “cohorted” by dorm hallways for about the first two weeks. Residents of each individual hallway will rotate through the various spaces and daily options as a “class” group. Coaches will offer a creative and engaging combination of fitness and recreational sport activities, yoga and wellness, board games, art, and other activities. As always, attendance is required.
Day students should remain on campus for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day activities after classes on Monday, 1/19, but otherwise are asked to leave campus right after classes (3:35) but no later than 6:00 pm each day during the 7-14 day quarantine period at the start of the term. Students who must remain on campus in the afternoon will be required to attend a dorm-specific activity, and are welcome to select a grab-and-go dinner during the first dinner shift if they will be on campus at that time. Attendance at sports and/or completion of athletic requirements from home will be waived for day students leaving before sports during this period. We will communicate with day families promptly as soon as we are able to lift this restriction.
For the first full weekend of the term (1/23-24), day students will not be permitted to participate in weekend activities. They may choose to opt in to their in-person Community Service on Saturday morning 1/23 but should plan to leave campus afterward. Those who choose not to come to campus for Community Service that day will be required to participate in a virtual service activity that morning. We hope to be able to lift this restriction before the second weekend so that all day students may pitch in on campus.
Additional dining hall restrictions apply to day students during this period. Please review the “Dining Hall” section, above.
Because we pride ourselves on giving day students as many opportunities as possible to interact with friends and faculty on campus throughout the day and over weekends, we regret the impact of these temporary restrictions on our day students and families, and look forward to our earliest opportunity to safely lift them and welcome students back to a more normal routine. Director of Residential Life Misty Jordan will be reaching out to all day student families in the next few days to answer questions and provide clarification as desired.
We understand this will be uncomfortable for some, but are convinced that a brief period of discomfort is the most responsible course in terms of ensuring the health of the entire school community before we can resume “normal” operations on campus, such as we had in the fall term. The most important thing each of us can do is to return to campus healthy, and then be extra vigilant about avoiding being a "close contact" to anyone else. The prescription for that remains the same: wear a mask properly and reliably, keep social distance of at least 6 feet, practice good hygiene, help others remember the “right” things to do, and avoid situations that appear to have potential to compromise your own health. Above all else, adopt and maintain a positive, “can do” attitude. Enduring adversity makes us stronger, and resilience is a life skill. I know I can count on all members of our community to help each other through.
Last, a word about the upheaval in Washington, DC on January 6. This has already been a school year filled with stress and trauma. The president of my alma mater, Trinity College, wrote on Thursday: “The days ahead are consequential for us as a nation, for future generations, for the world, and for history. How we respond—in demanding accountability, in repairing the breach in our society, in learning from this dark chapter and from the history that preceded it—matters. Education has the power to shine a light on truth, to inform a citizenry, and to advance understanding.” We here at Marvelwood remain committed to our responsibility to help our students make sense of the events, talk about issues in a civil manner, and express stress and frustration productively. By providing hope, reassurance, and a sense of stability and community amid chaos, we will help to empower our young people and encourage them to take an active role in building a healthier, more just future.
With best wishes,
Blythe Everett P’14, ‘16
Head of School
The Marvelwood Compact and updates to our reopening plans outlined in this letter can be found on the website.
Dear Marvelwood students and families,
Planning is well underway for our return to campus for the winter term in January, and we are already excited to welcome you back! I am so proud of our community and how everyone worked together to remain healthy and protect each other this fall. We expect that the winter weather will present new challenges, but I know that we are all motivated to have another healthy and successful term.
Please read this email carefully, as it includes very important information for both students and parents in advance of the start of the winter term.
January 4 Self-quarantine at home begins for all community members. On-campus quarantine begins and is available to pre-approved students.
January 8-12 PCR COVID-19 test obtained at home.
January 11-15 Remote instruction for all students. Schedule will be forthcoming.
January 15 PCR test results due to Health Services.
January 16 Residents of Lake and Sterling dorms return to campus.
January 17 Residents of Summit and Star* dorms return to campus.
*Day students (Star Dorm residents) return for COVID testing only; no overnights permitted.
January 18 In-person instruction resumes for all students.
Community Quarantine Expectations:
All community members are expected to begin their self-quarantine on January 4. This specifically means that we all agree to avoid any unnecessary exposure or direct contact with others outside of our immediate families. Shopping, friend visits, family gatherings, etc. should all be avoided beginning on January 4 in order to protect the Marvelwood community. Any indication that this quarantine is not being followed may result in the School disallowing a campus return.
On-campus quarantine is available to international students or students traveling back to school via airplane. These students may move into the quarantine wing in lower Star Dorm (not into their assigned dormitory room) on or after January 4 by advance arrangement. Duration in on-campus quarantine is expected to be 14 days per current guidelines, but may be subject to change. There is no charge for this option, and meals will be provided. Daily health self-checks will be required and an adult will check in on students in quarantine daily. There are two adult faculty members who live in the building.
A valid reason for this on-campus quarantine option is required, as is approval in advance. Requests for on-campus quarantine arrangements must be submitted to firstname.lastname@example.org for review and approval by December 31st, 2020.
COVID-19 Testing Requirement for Re-Entry to Campus:
A PCR test is required for all community members -- students, faculty and staff -- in advance of our return to campus. The “sweet spot” for this test is several days into our self-quarantine, but with enough time for the results to be on file at Health Services no later than Friday, January 15. There will be no exceptions to this requirement. Please check with your local testing provider, as results may take several days to obtain. Rapid antigen or antibody tests will not be accepted as a substitute for the PCR test.
A rapid antigen test will be administered to all students on their assigned arrival day before entry to dorms or other buildings is allowed. This will be a drive-up test, similar to the way we conducted testing during September campus arrival (only quicker, because we’ve gotten pretty good at these now). Students will not be permitted to enter any campus buildings without both the PCR test on file in advance and the negative rapid test on arrival day.
We have a number of new students joining us in January and, as was the process in the fall, one parent may help with the move-in process as long as they, too, have followed this same testing protocol. Otherwise, parents and family members of returning students will not be permitted inside any campus building, including dorms and bathrooms.
Ongoing Efforts to Maintain Community Health:
A second community-wide PCR test will be administered at an interval not yet determined, but within the first two weeks of our return to campus, followed by random weekly testing throughout the term.
All students and families should be reassured that our COVID Planning & Compliance (CPC) team continues to meet on a weekly basis to review new information, discuss options, and imagine and plan realistically and proactively for the challenging scenarios that we will face in the winter term. It is worth mentioning here that, due to the resurgence of the virus in recent weeks as well as the cold weather that will restrict our ability to be out-of-doors, our on-campus protocols will be tighter than they were in the fall, and routines will be different in all areas -- academics, athletics, dining, and residential -- for at least the first several weeks of the winter term. We’ll release more details of these changes in January.
The Marvelwood Compact is a critical component of our ability to gather and remain together on campus. We request that all community members -- students, parents, faculty, staff, and families -- review the Compact and renew your commitment to follow it. We remain immensely grateful for your cooperation and support.
In this holiday season, I would once again like to express my gratitude to Marvelwood’s faculty and staff for their excellent, tireless work in ensuring the best possible education for our students, to our students and families for their dedication and partnership, and to everyone in the Marvelwood community for their optimism and support for our school during this particularly challenging year. On behalf of all of us here on snowy Skiff Mountain, I warmly extend to you all our very best wishes for good health, happiness, and peace in the New Year.
Blythe Everett P’14 ‘16
Head of School
IMPORTANT INFORMATION FROM THE MARVELWOOD HEALTH OFFICE
September 9, 2020
Dear Parents, Students, and Employees,
As part of our ongoing commitment to keep you informed throughout the COVID pandemic, we write this evening, as we will on future occasions, to let you know that we have identified one positive case of coronavirus (COVID-19) on campus.
This afternoon during our scheduled follow-up testing of all members of our school community, one of our non-residential staff produced a positive result. The individual was tested in the mid-afternoon and was away from the main campus when the results came in. This individual was asymptomatic, has been directed to seek appropriate medical care as needed, and will remain off campus for a period of at least 14 days for quarantine. A negative COVID test result will be required before their return to campus.
Marvelwood has developed comprehensive COVID-19 protocols to safeguard the health and well-being of all students, faculty, and staff, and we have executed those protocols. Our contact tracers have identified all close contacts of this employee; these contacts are now quarantining for 5 days and will then be re-tested.
TESTING PROTOCOLS WORK
Every member of our student body currently on campus arrived this past weekend with negative COVID tests. All employees were screened twice prior to today’s follow-up test, and all of those tests produced negative results. Today’s re-screening produced only one positive result. Our policy will continue to require weekly testing for all community members. This re-testing is our safety net, and today, it worked.
In terms of our contract tracing, a “close contact” is defined as a person who was within six feet of the positive case for at least 15 minutes, regardless of face covering use. We have identified only a small number of our population who are close contacts to this individual; all are in the process of leaving or have already left campus and will quarantine off campus for the next 5 days and then be re-tested. No students have been identified as close contacts.
FOLLOWING SAFETY GUIDELINES AND DISINFECTING SPACES
All students and employees are required to wear a face mask, indoors and out, except in the privacy of their own dorm room or office, and to maintain at least 6 feet of distance. Masks may also be removed outside if greater than 6 feet of distance can be achieved and maintained. All of the spaces on campus, including hard surfaces, have been and will continue to be thoroughly disinfected according to our safety protocol. Additionally, tonight our cleaning contractors will be spraying a mist-based sanitizer in all affected areas. Treated surfaces are safe to touch within minutes of spraying. Please contact us if you have questions about this product.
KEEPING OUR COMMUNITY SAFE
We will continue to work in close partnership with the Connecticut Department of Health and local health officials as we strive to keep every member of our community safe and well. We remain ready to implement stricter short- or long-term campus protocols as we move forward and as we complete additional screening tests. For now, please know that we are following important safety routines, and we will be in touch with further updates as they become available.
Heather Hastings Jayne Janecek P '06, '10, '13, '16
COVID Preparedness & Compliance Coordinator Director of Health Services
August 31, 2020
Good afternoon, students and families,
I write to you today with what I am referring to as my “we mean business” letter.
As registration days and student arrivals are almost upon us, the realities and excitement of joining together on our beautiful campus are keeping us all very busy. We have waited six months for this upcoming week and are looking very forward to greeting and meeting all of you.
We are also sobered by the number of schools that are struggling with their reopenings. Spikes in COVID positive cases, quarantines due to exposures, and disciplinary actions are featured in the news. It doesn’t take much to undo months of painstaking planning and precaution.
You’ve received many communications over the summer from us; all can be found in the Forms and Information sections of our website for your review. One of the most important documents requiring your signature is The Marvelwood Compact. Adherence to this Compact is a pledge among all community members. Please read it carefully before you sign and submit it. Honesty and responsibility are among our most important core values, and are the ethical basis for how we commit to protecting and caring for each other with this Compact.
Other important highlights for you to review as a family:
- There will be no inter-dorm visitation at all. You may only go inside the dorm that you live in. This includes the foyer. No exceptions.
- Indoors, masks are to be worn at all times. The only exceptions are your own room with no guests, or in the dining hall when you are seated and distanced. Outdoors, masks are to be worn if a six-foot distance is not achievable.
- Daily breakfast check-in for all students -- day or boarding -- is mandatory during the following times: Monday - Friday 7:45 - 8:30 am / Saturday 8:15 - 9 am / Sunday 10:30 am - 12 pm.
All students, staff and faculty will be required to submit a daily health and temperature check digitally each morning via Boardingware.. Day students and off-campus employees are required to check in at Health Services as their first stop on campus in the morning, before entering any campus buildings. Boarding students and on-campus faculty may perform their own temp check and submit it from their room or home before starting their day.
Do not test the resolve of the administration to take swift action to prioritize the health and well-being of our community.
We have one shot to get this right. We must all commit to keeping each other safe as a community. Many of the precautions we have implemented may feel frustrating, chafing, or unnecessary. We are all tired of living this way. We understand all of those elements. However, if we are to succeed in our endeavors and ensure that we can stay together here on campus, it is imperative that we think, choose, and act responsibly, maturely, and with an understanding of the consequences if we let down our guard or become complacent about the weight of responsibility that each of us bears in these challenging times.
CPC Task Force Coordinator
Dean for Parents
Dean of Students
August 14, 2020
Dear Marvelwood Students and Parents,
We’re in the final phases of planning and are excited that we’ll be welcoming our students back in just three weeks. The registration schedule appears below and on the School calendar. Families may now sign up for a registration time slot (forms below). It is critical that you arrive on time for your scheduled 30-minute registration window.
Friday, September 4, 1:00-3:00pm: Prefects only
No sign-up necessary
Saturday, September 5, 12:30-3:30: All New Students
New Student Registration Sign Up
Sunday, September 6, 12:30-4:30pm: All Returning Students
Returning Student Registration Sign Up
Registration Process and Schedule (New and Returning Families)
Immediately upon arrival to campus during your scheduled registration window, all students and families should report directly to the Health Services office.
Students are required to present proof of a negative COVID-PCR test administered 7 to 10 days prior to arrival on campus. One parent may accompany their student into registration and/or the dorm, and must also present a negative test result and will be administered a rapid test on campus.
All students and any parent planning to accompany their child into the registration hall and/or into the dorm will be given a rapid COVID test at the Health Office.
While waiting for rapid test results, our Health Office staff will confirm that all required health-related paperwork has been received.
Once students/parents are cleared via the rapid COVID test, they will be issued a color- coded pass to proceed to the registration hall in the Anne Davidson Scott Athletic Center.
At the end of the registration process, students will be given their room key and a color-coded pass which will allow them into their dormitory.
Registration Process and Schedule (Prefects Only)
Immediately upon arrival to campus during your scheduled registration window, all students and families should report directly to the Health Services office.
Students are required to present proof of a negative COVID-PCR test administered 7 to 10 days prior to arrival on campus. One parent may accompany their student into the dorm, and must also present a negative test result and will be administered a rapid test on campus.
All students and any parent planning to accompany their child into the dorm will be given a rapid COVID test at the Health Office.
While waiting for rapid test results, our Health Office staff will confirm that all required health-related paperwork has been received.
Once students/parents are cleared via the rapid COVID test, they will be issued a color- coded pass which will allow them into their dormitory. Please note that there is no formal table registration process for prefects this year.
Important Reminders about Preparing for Your Registration Appointment:
- The Student-Parent Handbook has been updated with a COVID Addendum and the Marvelwood Compact and is available on the Forms & Information page of the website, along with all registration forms. Students and parents should review the handbook, addendum, and Compact, sign the Handbook Acknowledgement Form and Compact agreement, and return them to School. You’ll also find a checklist to help you organize your registration form submission.
- Families are urged to submit all paperwork via email, fax, or mail prior to arrival on campus. A checklist is on the Forms & Information page. Registration will be a much shorter process this year.
- All students are asked to submit a headshot of themselves, which will be part of their nametag. Returning students can use last year’s student ID photo. With everyone wearing face coverings, getting to know each other will be different this year, but we’re doing everything we can to make the adjustment to campus life as comfortable as possible. Photos should be submitted by Monday, August 31st and can be texted to the AOD phone (203-788-4985) or emailed to the Director of Communications: email@example.com.
Important Health-Related Guidelines about Your Return to Campus:
The safety of our campus depends on disciplined individual adherence to a set of shared guidelines designed to mitigate risk. An essential part of our reopening plan is that Marvelwood will ask all students, faculty, and staff to follow “safer at home” protocols for two weeks before arrival on campus:
Self-isolating within a reasonable driving distance of campus;
Taking every precaution for reducing coronavirus exposure for two weeks prior to returning to campus;
Returning to school without using any public transportation;
Students who typically fly to school are encouraged to self-quarantine with a friend, relative or other contact nearby.
All students and faculty will be required to provide proof of a negative PCR test for COVID-19, performed after August 23rd.
Students traveling from certain designated states are required to self-quarantine for 14 days upon arrival in the State of Connecticut. The list of ‘red states’ is updated frequently. It is our expectation that families will check the State of Connecticut Travel Advisory website and make their plans accordingly. In addition, The State of Connecticut requires people entering the state and staying for more than 24 hours to complete an online Travel Health Form, if they have been in a state on the Travel Advisory list for more than 24 hours. Failure to do so may result in a fine of up to $1000. We strongly advise families living at a distance to make arrangements for their students to quarantine inside Connecticut if at all possible.
Do not come to campus for registration if:
You are not feeling well
You suspect or know that you have been exposed to someone with a positive COVID diagnosis within the past two weeks
Your at-home COVID PCR test did not produce a negative result
Please consult the COVID-19 page of our website for up-to-date information and helpful resources, including the Frequently Asked Questions page and the Ask a Question form. As always, if you have any specific questions about the registration process or the information provided in this letter, please reach out and ask.
We look forward to welcoming you back to campus in September, and to a safe and rewarding school year!
July 24, 2020
Dear Marvelwood Families,
Since March, Marvelwood’s board of trustees, faculty, staff, and administration have been planning the ways we will return to campus for the 2020-2021 school year. In fact, we have been preparing to open school with its full residential component since the very first day we were not permitted to have students on campus. While plotting our direction forward, we created a planning task force and deputized several subcommittees, including representatives from the faculty, staff, and trustees, to gather the best current data to help us open safely and in compliance with federal, state and local regulations.
With Marvelwood’s mission front and center, we adopted these three guiding principles:
- Preserve Community: Health and safety is our top priority as we keep our community together. Community is the bedrock of our mission and our greatest strength.
- Confront Reality: Become as well informed as possible about the myriad challenges posed to our community by COVID-19. Develop a frank and accurate assessment of Marvelwood’s circumstances. Examine the advantages and disadvantages of our location and resources. What must we face? What can we change? Make decisions responsibly in the face of uncertainty and while acknowledging that decisions and plans may need to change.
- Collaborate and Communicate: This is the most important component of maintaining and preserving community. In addressing the unknown, we must always be available to, and honest with, each other.
I would like to take a moment to thank the 30 or so families who joined us for our parent webinar (which you can watch here) on Tuesday evening, as well as the students who joined the residential life Zoom meetings last night. During these presentations, we attempted to answer questions we had anticipated – and some we hadn’t – that were on your minds as back-to-school approaches. We hope you gained reassurance from these unfiltered conversations and the opportunity to see firsthand how closely and genuinely our administration works with students and families. By the end of this weekend, we will complete a significant update to the Reopening Campus page of our website, adding a great deal of new information based on our most recent decision-making. We encourage all families to bookmark the page, review it carefully and often, and reach out with questions, concerns, or requests for clarification via email to an administrator or by using the “Ask a Question” button on the Reopening page.
Please be reminded that, in the interest of preserving community health, Marvelwood’s plan is to adopt a very conservative, cautious stance at least for the opening weeks of the school year. All of us will need to adapt and do things that are uncomfortable to us, for the safety of the community and to have a shot at establishing a sustainable congregate living scenario. We ask all members to understand that every piece of our reopening plan is a moving target and subject to change as guidance and requirements continue to evolve.
Marvelwood’s core values – honesty, respect, responsibility, and service to others – could never have more meaning or a better forum for practice in our daily lives than when we gather and work to remain together on campus this school year. We will serve the other members of our school community most appreciably during this time by accepting the need for an increased measure of personal responsibility in our choices, actions, and behaviors. We will demonstrate highest possible respect for each other by complying willingly and thoughtfully with the school’s expectations and rules about hygiene and health monitoring, social distancing, and travel. Honest communication about symptoms of illness or instances of possible exposure will be of paramount importance.
Marvelwood has devoted an immense amount of time, effort, and resources to preparing a sustainable and safe reopening of school. It is our expectation that all members of the Marvelwood family will join us in our determination to keep our campus safe and to protect the collective health of our school community by signing The Marvelwood Compact. This Compact represents a promise on the part of all of us – students, parents, employees and their families – to do our best to comply with measures, guidelines and expectations established for our protection, and to support each other in meeting this goal. Marvelwood will go to great lengths to teach, model, and encourage thoughtful commitment to this Compact in recognition of the important role and responsibility all members of our community share to safeguard both ourselves and each other. You can find the Compact on our website here; please print it, discuss it together, and return signed copies to the school (firstname.lastname@example.org
Many families are being forced to make difficult decisions about where and how to educate their children this year. We believe Marvelwood School is one of the safest choices available. As always, but perhaps now more than ever, we are grateful for your partnership.
Blythe Everett P’14, ‘16
Head of School
July 3, 2020
Dear Marvelwood Student and Parents,
I hope you’ve had time to review the material from my last letter so that you are following where Marvelwood is in terms of our COVID planning for reopening the school in the fall. On June 24, the governors of Connecticut, New York, and New Jersey jointly announced a travel advisory, which requires a 14-day quarantine for visitors from U.S. states whose COVID infection rates meet certain thresholds indicating significant community spread. As outlined in my previous letter, ALL students are being asked to self-quarantine for 14 days prior to arrival on campus, limiting public exposure, and having close contact with family members only. Ideally, those traveling from outside the tri-state region will quarantine within the state/driving distance, but if that is not possible, they may self-quarantine at home before traveling to Marvelwood and limit contact with others during travel, wearing masks and practicing physical distancing and hand hygiene. A two-week on-campus quarantine option is available for those who are unable to make other arrangements; families should contact the Dean’s Office to discuss these concerns.
Marvelwood will require proof of a negative PCR test from all students (and from any parent or guardian who may wish to accompany their student through registration and/or into the dormitory), regardless of point of origin, in addition to a negative antigen test administered at registration. Our medical guidance will be monitoring updates to national and international hotspots cross-referenced with our enrollment and may make updated quarantining guidelines as needed.
To expand our regular communications with families, highlight new initiatives, and keep you informed of our COVID preparedness planning as we move through the summer, Marvelwood will host a series of virtual Town Hall-type sessions, including an informational session for international parents on July 10th, a session for parents (new and returning) on July 21st, residential life meetings for students on July 23rd, and an orientation for new families on August 4th. Students will receive login information via email on July 20th. Parents should register via the links at the end of this letter.
If your family is interested in learning more about the new Marvelwood/Mount Snow Academy Partnership Program, we’re hosting an information session on July 22nd, with representatives and a current student from Mount Snow Academy. In addition, the Office of Admission is hosting a ‘Mountain Talk’ Info session on July 29th. Please feel free to invite anyone who may be interested in learning more about Marvelwood. Registration links are below.
Meanwhile, we’re already getting excited about the new school year, and we’re directing a lot of attention to our facilities and a variety of summer projects in preparation to welcome students back to campus in September. All of the classrooms in the schoolhouse have been freshly painted, bringing an end to a project we’ve chipped away at during vacation periods over the past year. The Strategies department has moved from their outbuilding to the schoolhouse, into the large office suite that was vacated when the Admission and Advancement offices relocated across the street to their new home in the Sundt House. The new space, which will be christened the Clark Center for Learning Support, comprises four tutorial rooms, a large conference room, a spacious central meeting area, and a small resource library. The Clark Center will offer a warm and welcoming environment and is sure to become an active hub during the school year.
Our first set of weeklong “Summer Sessions” classes concludes today, with over 40 students (many from outside the Marvelwood community) learning about music recording and mixing, gardening, statistics, the history of space, and the art of war. These online sessions continue through the week of August 3; if you haven’t already signed up, hurry -- while most classes are full, a few spaces are still available. The registration link is below.
Our biggest summer project involves the Performing Arts Center. A long-awaited major “refresh” of this building has been underway since the spring and will conclude before students return to school in September. Plans for the renovation were developed under the guidance of Stephen Forneris '86, a member of Marvelwood’s Board of Trustees and a partner at Perkins Eastman Architects, a highly-acclaimed international architecture firm. The work will include dynamic improvements and upgrades to the inside of the building as well as to the façade. Our excitement at having students back on campus is heightened by the promise of our community-wide enjoyment of this beautifully refurbished building!
On the eve of the July 4 holiday, a time for remembering and celebrating the history of America, I have exciting historical news to share! Over the past year, Marvelwood has become associated with several local historical groups, including the Kent Historical Society and an organization called Connecticut House Histories, in an effort to identify the origins of the large red barn structure that sits opposite the playing fields at the entrance to campus. For many years, this structure has served the school as a warehouse of sorts -- largely as a processing plant for campus recycling and then a storage facility for athletic equipment. After shoring up the roof last year, we reached out to these local organizations for help in identifying whether the barn was old enough to be of historical significance. Following several visits to the site, experts have concluded that the “barn” is, in fact, the original circa 1806 residence of the Goodsell family, who constructed not only the dwelling itself but a complete homestead comprised of the original house, a smokehouse, a general store and barn, an ice house, a well house and a forge -- and later (around 1850) the adjacent large white farmhouse, their fancy Victorian replacement dwelling.
The fact that the gateway to The Marvelwood School is an intact 19th-century farm where one family across three generations struggled and succeeded and lived and died would seem to set it apart. Certainly, the possibilities for future study and student engagement abound. In an email to me, one of the historical experts imagined half a dozen topics right off the bat, including how to date a building by careful observation of the tiniest details. “The Goodsell barn complex is a thing of wonder; more of an agricultural cathedral, really,” he wrote with obvious enthusiasm. “How was it used? How did it evolve? In what order? And why? What explains the eccentric support structure in the ‘west barn’? It's highly probable that there are important below-ground resources on the site which a student-led archaeological survey, assisted by the Office of the State Archaeologist, might document. An examination of women's legal status in the early 19th century could be in order; they couldn't really own property, yet they were accorded very specific rights under the law upon the death of their husbands. Cornelia [Goodsell] had a whole roster of dower rights, including which buildings she was entitled to use and, of course, which bedroom was hers.” Needless to say, Marvelwood is pursuing the process of having the entire homestead listed on the Connecticut State Historic Register. Certainly, the Goodsell farm is a unique resource that has so much more to give, including the ability to further foster intellectual curiosity and critical thinking among Marvelwood's students and faculty.
In closing, Independence Day sounds the call both to appreciate and celebrate the generational fortitude of families like the Goodsells, but also to pause and reflect upon the fact that we as a nation still have far to go in order to ensure that the fundamental values and hopes upon which this country was founded -- the guarantees of life, liberty, the opportunity to achieve security in our individual and collective happiness, and that ‘all men’ are created equal -- extend, indeed, to all.
Blythe Everett P’14, ‘16
Head of School
- Town Hall Informational Session for International Parents (Friday, July 10, 9:30am EST)
- Town Hall Informational Session for All Parents (Tuesday, July 21, 6pm EST)
- Marvelwood/Mount Snow Academy Partnership Program Info Session for anyone interested in this unique opportunity (Wednesday, July 22, 6pm EST)
- Mountain Talk Info Session for Prospective Families (Wednesday, July 29, 6pm EST)
- Orientation for New Families (Tuesday, August 4, 6pm EST)
- Summer Sessions
Other important links:
June 24, 2020
Dear Marvelwood Families,
As communicated to you in last Friday’s update letter, Marvelwood’s COVID Planning & Compliance (CPC) task force and other back-to-school planning teams have been actively working to outline how school can safely re-open in person this fall. Guidance and plans from the State of Connecticut and other schools and professional organizations have helped to set out a framework for repopulation of boarding school campuses. These plans offer excellent guidance, but also allow for the fact that different schools should set forth protocols uniquely suited to their needs for the safe resumption of in-person classes and activities.
In some ways, our intentionally small size, expansive campus and remote location work to our great advantage in terms of COVID planning. But like many schools and colleges, Marvelwood is taking a number of strategic measures to allow for the maximum in-person experience for students, while also building in the flexibility to adjust our plans, if necessary, to accommodate new information about the virus, testing, vaccines, and other factors. These measures will include adjustments to our school calendar, new health protocols, increases or adjustments in residential and classroom space to reduce density, changes to our dining procedures, the ability to offer simultaneous in-person and online learning and/or to switch between these as needed, and many more. While there are still many specifics to work out, we want to share some of Marvelwood’s preliminary plans and fall dates with you as early as possible to help in your family’s planning.
Return to Campus: It should be understood that the safety of our campus depends on disciplined individual adherence to a set of shared guidelines designed to mitigate risk. In terms of our process for reopening the school, one essential part of our plan is that Marvelwood will ask all students, faculty, and staff to follow “safer at home” protocols for two weeks before arrival on campus. We will send more detailed guidelines on these protocols at a later time, but in broad strokes, this means self-isolating within a reasonable driving distance of campus, taking every precaution for reducing coronavirus exposure for two weeks prior to returning to campus, and then returning to school without using any public transportation. (Students who typically fly to school are encouraged to self-quarantine with a friend, relative or other contact nearby; see below.)
Additionally, all students and faculty will be required to provide proof of a negative test for COVID-19, taken up to four (4) days prior to arriving on campus. This measure will help pave the way for us to reassemble as a community as safely as possible, regardless of the availability of reliable viral or antibody testing, a subject which the medical community continues to debate. Certainly, if there is reliable testing available, we plan to use that as part of our reopening and ongoing school program, in addition to other kinds of screening and safety measures, like mask wearing and social distancing.
International and domestic boarding students who typically travel by airplane to school are strongly encouraged to identify a “local” contact -- a friend, family member, or other resource in the nearby area -- and to spend the two weeks prior to the opening of school self-quarantining locally. The school can work with you to help identify potential contacts. In cases where this is not possible, these students will be given the option of arriving early on campus to complete a two-week self-isolation in one of our dorm rooms. While meals and supervision will be provided, there will not be organized programming during this time. We offer this as a service only to families whose students do not have options for quarantining at other nearby locations for this two-week period. If you think you might need this option, please contact Heather Hastings in the Deans’ Office as soon as possible to review your concerns. There will be a separate charge for this service.
In addition, students who need to do so will be able to petition to remain on campus through all school breaks and/or for the winter interim period for travel limitations/restrictions and safety considerations. This opportunity is being offered free of charge.
Registration & Orientation: Families will sign up for a registration time “reservation” that will allow us to decrease density throughout the process and manage traffic on campus. Where possible, we will ask that only one family member accompany each student to registration. Students will need to present proof of a negative COVID-19 test (administered within four days of arrival) in order to register. Our current expectation is that all students will also be re-tested for COVID at registration. Faculty and student leaders will assist with move-in and room set-up for boarding students, as parent access to dormitories will be restricted. Parent meetings with advisors will take place virtually, prior to arrival. Depending on the conditions and recommendations in place at that time, a parent orientation for new families will either take place on campus or virtually in the days following students’ arrival.
In many ways, orientation this fall will be more important than ever as we focus on the operational behaviors necessary to protect our community. In August, students and parents will receive and be asked to review and sign a Marvelwood Compact, which will outline safe habits and expectations for hygiene protocols, movement around campus, travel, and communication. Faculty, faculty families, and staff will also follow these expectations. It is incumbent upon each member of our school community to work together, understand the need for these accentuated protocols, and take personal responsibility to do what they can to minimize risk and exposure and to safeguard the health of all. We will be communicating with students about this throughout the summer.
Fall Calendar: Our first day of classes will be Monday, September 7 (Labor Day). Below are details about our staggered, safe arrival, and other fall dates.
- August 22,23: International and domestic boarding students with specific travel restrictions or an inability to self-isolate within driving distance of school can return to campus to allow for a two-week period of self-quarantine.
- September 4: Student leaders arrive (afternoon); staggered registration 1-3:30pm
- September 5: Staggered arrival (by appointment) for all new boarding and day students; registration times TBA
- September 6: Staggered arrival (by appointment) for all returning boarding and day students; registration times TBA
- September 6: Orientation activities for all new students (morning); back-to-school activities on campus (afternoon/evening)
- September 7: Academic orientation activities; classes begin; all-school Labor Day picnic
- October 9,10: Midterm & ”Virtual” Parent Conferences
- October 12: No classes (all boarding students on campus)
- November 14,15,16: Fall Term Exams; term ends November 16 after last exam
- November 17: Travel Day
- November 30: IDEAS Winterim begins (online from home for most; in person for any student with permission to remain on campus)
- December 11: IDEAS Winterim ends, and Winter Break begins
- January 2021: On-campus classes resume, at a date still to be determined
Academics and the Year’s Calendar: With the above dates in mind, and acknowledging that the IDEAS winterim will be conducted remotely, with most all students participating from home during that time, Marvelwood has adjusted the year’s calendar to reflect our commitment to delivering a full “traditional” year’s worth of on-campus teaching. During the fall term, we will be able to offer simultaneous in-person and online learning and/or to switch between these as needed. While our goal is to primarily teach in-person, this “hybrid” approach will allow us to be flexible and meet the needs of students who are unable to return to campus due to travel restrictions or health issues. Our academic leadership is also working on a revised daily schedule that will incorporate considerations for updated cleaning, passing time, and lunch protocols.
Campus Life: In an effort to reduce student density in residence halls, we are reimagining the use of our dorm spaces. At least to begin the year, we will create a day student-only dorm and three boarding student dorms: one for girls, one for boys in grades 9-10, and one for boys in grades 11-12. We are also expanding the square footage of the health office, and have identified two quarantine spaces on campus, for use if needed. The dining hall will also be reconfigured to minimize density and community members will follow new guidelines for all meals.
Athletics and Afternoon Programs: One of the hallmarks of Marvelwood's education is the breadth of opportunities students have in the afternoon. Although it is too soon to know what independent school fall competitions will look like (particularly since Marvelwood competes with schools in Connecticut, Massachusetts and New York), our Director of Athletics is working with the league and other schools, actively pursuing ways to maintain competition with peer schools. They are planning for several possible scenarios, including resuming a full interscholastic athletics program, resuming a partial program, and the addition of sport-specific training, scrimmages, and/or intramurals on campus. In other afternoon activities like theatre, the hurdles for safely continuing school programs are less daunting, though again we will adhere to Center for Disease Control and local government guidelines.
Marvelwood is fortunate to be located in an isolated, rural, low-population density area of New England. We plan to capitalize on our open 86-acre campus, our outdoor facilities, and our immediate access to hiking trails, state parks, nature preserves, bike trails, ropes courses, lakes and ponds to provide a wealth of safe, engaging outdoor activities throughout the fall term and the school year.
Scheduled Breaks, Student Travel, and Visitation: All current medical recommendations, and the unique safety that our geographic location provides, suggest that keeping students on campus and in the local area will best serve our community. School-related student travel off campus (field trips, community service, weekend activities, athletics) will be restricted or canceled, and it is likely that we will similarly restrict or prohibit boarding students from traveling home for weekends, at least for the fall term. The traditional on-campus Fall Family Weekend will be replaced by virtual conferencing; we will also reduce the length of the mid-fall break and enjoy it on campus as a group instead of sending students home or off to more metropolitan areas.
Visitation to campus by family, friends, and other outsiders will also be limited, if not prohibited, for a period of time.
With much of the national conversation about COVID-19 focusing on a second wave, we are building a calendar that proactively addresses this topic while providing for needed flexibility. As such, we are planning to conclude our fall term at the Thanksgiving break, provide a co-curricular interim program for a few weeks in December, and reconvene on campus in early January. While some experts point to Connecticut’s cautious and careful re-opening as an indication that any second wave or resurgence of the virus may be “minor” in the state, we plan to maximize in-person class time during the fall term while being prepared to flip to distance learning if advisable at any point. As the weeks pass, we achieve increased clarity regarding the timeline and our ability to be in person this year, but uncertainty remains with respect to what will happen in the state or region, or what the CDC guidelines may be as we head into the winter months. It is likely we will shorten our March vacation to allow for a full two terms’ worth of in-person academics between January and the end of school. It’s also possible that we may need to adjust our planned return in January and/or extend the school year into early or mid-June.
We ask families to be flexible in planning travel for the second half of the year, as much could change between now and then. It is strongly recommended that you purchase refundable airline tickets in consideration of these possible changes. We pledge to provide any information about calendar changes in as timely a manner as possible, but reserve the right to make necessary adjustments up to two weeks before any previously-scheduled dates.
Marvelwood is confident that our blueprint for resuming traditional operations will give us the best chance of controlling our environment and being in person and on campus together. We recognize there is much we don’t know about the COVID-19 conditions that may exist just prior to and during the school year. We are outlining flexible planning possibilities to account for changes in conditions as we continue to discuss the upcoming year.
Since our announcement last March about moving to online learning for the remainder of the 2020 academic year, our faculty, administration, students and families have yearned for a return to the traditional school experience. The heart of our community lies in the relationships between teachers and students, coaches and players, roommates and peers who spring from different corners of the world and form lifelong friendships. We are all eager to welcome returning students back to campus, and to introduce new students and their families to what we believe to be a uniquely caring, nurturing, and inspiring community in which students grow and thrive.
Students’ return to campus is being designed with tremendous thought, care, and expert health advice. Marvelwood’s single highest priority is the physical and emotional health and safety of our students. As we continue to make decisions and refine our plans based on the latest health information, discussions with peer schools and experts, and the continued work of our administrative planning groups, we will provide you with updates as quickly as possible and throughout the summer. Please be on the lookout for our bi-weekly newsletters, and feel free to reach out to any of us with questions.
The CPC Task Force
Blythe Everett P’14, ‘16, Head of School
Timothy Carpenter ‘71, Chair, Board of Trustees
Mark Esposito P’11, Vice Chair, Board of Trustees
Heather Hastings, Dean of Students/Dean for Parents (Task Force Coordinator)
Caitlin Lynch P’13, Assistant Head of School
David Fiorillo, CFO
Barbara D’Iorio P’10, Executive Assistant
- June 19, 2020 from Blythe Everett P'14, 16, Head of School
- June 5, 2020 from Blythe Everett P'14, '16, Head of School
- May 29, 2020 from Blythe Everett P'14, '16, Head of School
- May 15, 2020 from Blythe Everett "14, '16, Head of School
- May 1, 2020 From Head of School Blythe Everett P'14, '16
- May 1, 2020 from Misty Jordan, Director of Residential Life
- April 24, 2020 from Blythe Everett P'14, '16, Head of School
- April 17, 2020 from Misty Jordan, Director of Residential Life, to the Class of 2020
- April 17, 2020 from Blythe Everett P'14, '16, Head of School
- April 10, 2020 from Blythe Everett P'14, '16 Head of School
- April 4, 2020 from Ms. Hastings, Dean of Students
- March 30, 2020 from Dr. Heather Hunt, Academic Dean
- March 28, 2020 from Dr. John Kennedy, Director of Counseling
- March 27, 2020 from Mrs. Hastings, Dean of Students & Dean for Parents (for Students)
- March 27, 2020 from Glenn Sanchez P'18, '19, Director of Advancement & Alumni Relations
- March 20, 2020 from Blythe Everett P'14, '16, Head of School
- March 18. 2020 from Dr. Heather Hunt, Academic Dean
- March 17, 2020 from Glenn Sanchez P'17, '19, Director of Advancement & Alumni Relations
- March 16, 2020 from Blythe Everett P'14, '16, Head of School
- March 11, 2020 from Blythe Everett P'14, '16, Head of School
- March 3, 2020 from Blythe Everett P'14, '16 Head of School & Jayne Janecek P'06, '10, '13, 16, Health Services Director
- February 8, 2020 from Blythe Everett P'14, '16, Head of School
- January 27, 2020 from Blythe Everett P'14, '16 Head of School & Jayne Janecek P'06, '10, '13, 16, Health Services Director
June 19, 2020
Dear Marvelwood Families,
Congratulations to all of our students and their families on the successful conclusion of another academic year. Even though the natural rhythms of the school year were rudely interrupted this year, and campus was far less busy than normal this spring, the routines associated with end-of-school mark a shift to a period of quiet reflection on a job well done, mixed with the stirrings of looking ahead to the challenges and excitement of a new school year, still some months away. On Skiff Mountain, the campus has settled into its majestic and serene summer greenery. Mr. Bingham can be found on the putting green most afternoons, Ms. Doss continues her intrepid forays into the woods in search of birds, Mrs. Winter is nurturing our garden into abundance, and Mr. Maizel continues to document life around Lucy’s Pond from the comfort of his hammock! I hope you’ll take a moment to reflect on those adults here who made your (or your child’s) experience this year that much more happy, positive, productive, or even life-changing. Your quiet but heartfelt acknowledgment of their efforts is appreciated.
Behind the lull that summer brings, there is still plenty of activity happening on campus. Our COVID Planning and Compliance (CPC) task force continues to work tirelessly to plan for the fall and beyond. Many details are close to being finalized; others, less in our control, will take longer to settle on. Early next week, we will be sending a letter that will provide a broad-strokes overview of our fall academic dates and preliminary plans in the areas of return-to-school requirements, academics, athletics and extracurriculars, physical/emotional health and safety protocols and expectations, and campus life planning. I know this is information that many families have been eagerly anticipating, and as promised, we will continue to update you throughout the summer.
In other news, I’m proud to bring your attention to two new Marvelwood initiatives, one for the summer and another for the 2020-2021 school year. By now you are hopefully aware that Marvelwood has launched a series of “Summer Sessions” -- nearly 30 creative and engaging weeklong courses in a variety of academic and non-academic areas including filmmaking, history, athletics, finance, academic prep, space history, baseball, law, gardening, theatre, chemistry, coding, and even Dungeons & Dragons! Courses are offered free of charge to the general public and run from June 29 through August 7. Registration priority for returning Marvelwood students and members of our recent graduating class ends today, so if you haven’t already done so, take a look at what’s available and sign up to spend part of your summer with your favorite Marvelwood faculty!
In my June 5th letter, I reflected on the world’s reaction to the spectre of pervasive and persistent racism that was prevalent in the news several weeks ago and continues, largely unabated, around the globe. At that time, I mentioned that Marvelwood will be dedicating itself to the challenge of educating our students to understand their role as leaders in making the world a safer, more accepting place, and developing concrete steps so that we can be a part of the solution. We believe that a new initiative, which we are calling IDEAS -- Inclusion, Diversity & Equity Action Seminars -- will help us to answer that call. Students and faculty will dedicate the interim period between Thanksgiving and the winter break to interdisciplinary work, embracing this opportunity to demonstrate our commitment to these values and reaffirming Marvelwood’s commitment to diversity and inclusion through education and action. Our intent is that IDEAS will become a permanent part of our annual curriculum. We are eager to build out this idea over the summer and, more exciting, to involve students in both planning and leading discussions and projects next year. We hope you will share our enthusiasm; stay tuned for more information.
To conclude, I offer a last congratulations and wishes for good fortune to the Class of 2020! We look forward to the time when we will be able to gather with you all back on campus to celebrate your unusual ascension out of the ranks of high schoolers and into the family of Marvelwood alumni. Be true to your school, and be true to yourselves.
My best to you all,
Blythe Everett P’14, ‘16
Head of School
June 5, 2020
Dear Marvelwood Families and Students,
While we prepare with excitement to celebrate the Class of 2020 as they make the short journey from students to alumni at Commencement tomorrow evening, we recognize that humans have far to go in the journey to eradicate systemic racism throughout the country and the world. This has been an exceptionally challenging week; we are humbled by its events as they have unfolded, and by our shared acknowledgment of the enormous problems that have persisted unaddressed for far too long. Racism, the “unfinished business” of American history, has no place in our society or in our world.
When major social or political events happen, young people have few outlets to discuss, process, and understand implications. School is one of those few outlets. It must be the venue, and education must be the process, to advance the fight against racism. It can seem an overwhelming and hopeless call to action. But our Marvelwood staff and students consistently demonstrate that it’s not hopeless. Our classrooms are places where diverse students from all over the world come together every day to learn, problem-solve, and tackle big questions and tough challenges. Our student leadership activities, and in particular our Cultural and Social Awareness (CASA) club, are developed by and focused on what matters most to our students who challenge our leadership to think deeply about how best to support them, to innovate, and to encourage all of us to be the best we can be. Last night, CASA sponsored a timely “Real Talk” event focusing on systemic racism and encouraging observations and reflection from all members of our school community. It was an emotional, productive 90-minute session in which participants shared feelings of vulnerability, sadness, and anger, and it was uplifting in the sense that nearly 60 people, about half students and half faculty, took an active part.
In a recent email responding to the crisis, Peter Upham, Executive Director of The Association of Boarding Schools (TABS), offered an observation that should reverberate with all educators. “Schools,” he wrote, “are fundamentally moral communities, anchored by norms and animated by patterns of behavior, that declare to their students, their faculties, their families, and the world: This is what we prize. This is what matters. Every day, your school...answers a profound question: ‘how are we to live?’ A school addresses the question in both word and deed; you and your school live out the answer in a particular style, under the charge of a particular mission. And how you do so, how you live and work together as a community, is the deepest and most lasting lesson you transmit to your students, and that they transmit to one another.”
The Marvelwood School prides itself on being a community that values and celebrates diversity as essential to the experience of our students and staff, and where no form of racial or cultural discrimination is tolerated. We embrace and respect differences as we prepare our students to become informed, empowered citizens of an increasingly diverse and challenging world. While diversity, equity, and inclusion have always been central to our mission, there is more we can do on our campus to teach, promote, and model honor and respect for all people and all differences. With that in mind, I will be approaching members of our faculty and student body to form a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion task force and to work actively to build and support a school-wide effort to ensure that we are consistently reviewing and improving our school culture and community for all of our members. We must seize the opportunity to deepen the ways in which we educate our students to understand their role as leaders in making the world a safer, more accepting place, and develop concrete steps as a school to be a part of the solution so we can do our part in helping to break the tragic cycle of injustice and violence. I thank the CASA group in particular for their role in identifying the need and laying the groundwork for this initiative, and look forward to their leadership next year and beyond.
Now more than ever, the world needs exactly what Marvelwood teaches: cooperation, courage, responsibility, empathy, self-control, and kindness. As we send our graduates out on their new journeys, we take their example and move with intent into the future. The world seems dark these days, and in many ways it is. Yet, I can say from my heart as a lifelong teacher that as long as we can come together with the commitment to think, discuss, question, imagine, and believe, we can create the space for possibility that lights the way towards the productive transformation the world demands. Difficult times like these can bring about positive action, healing, and sustained change. Working together, we can emerge a stronger school and a more unified and just society.
Returning students and families will continue to receive important updates from the school, on a biweekly basis, throughout the summer, so please keep an eye out for our emails! Meanwhile, I offer heartfelt congratulations to our Class of 2020, and best wishes for peace and health to the entire Marvelwood community.
Blythe Everett P’14, ‘16
Head of School
May 29, 2020
Dear Marvelwood Families and Students,
While graduation and other end-of-the-year events are foremost in our minds at this time here at school, our COVID Planning and Compliance (CPC) Task Force continues to think, imagine, and plan for the opening of the 2020-2021 school year. With each step we take, we reaffirm our commitment to welcoming students back to campus and reopening for the 2020-2021 school year in as “traditional” a way as possible. While elements of our programming will necessarily look different as we embark, we will continue to be a community grounded in our embrace of the Marvelwood mission, and we will continue to foster academic excellence and profound personal growth through the development of responsibility, self-esteem, and self-reliance.
The work required over the next three months is substantive and engaging--we’re used to that. We will review the lessons learned during our period of distance learning; teachers will continue to evolve our educational program; and the Task Force will further its work, committed to keeping you all involved and informed as priorities are addressed and decisions are made throughout the summer months.
Turning our thoughts to the accomplishments of the year, it is my pleasure to announce that for the third time in five years, Marvelwood is the recipient of the Les McMillen HVAL Sportsmanship Award, as voted on by Housatonic Valley Athletic League coaches and Athletic Directors. Marvelwood also won the award, named in memory of longtime league president Les McMillen of New York Military Academy, in 2016 and 2017. Sportsmanship, commitment, and pride are the foundations of the Marvelwood Athletics program. Under the leadership and mentorship of our athletic director Zach Maizel '04 and their coaches, our student-athletes have risen to the highest standards of conduct and camaraderie. We take great pride in being recognized for our sportsmanship by our league peers and competitors. Congratulations to all of our athletes and their coaches for an exceptional year!
Through our great challenges, we have in many ways seen the Marvelwood community at its best this spring. Together, students and faculty alike have dealt with adversity in the form of isolation, separation, and many other new and unfamiliar conditions that have been thrust upon us by the current pandemic. It has been a privilege to watch our community adapt, overcome, and prove their resilience every day. In particular, I recognize our seniors, who have managed the academic changes, pursued knowledge with a veracity that seems unchanged by the circumstances of COVID-19, and kept a positive attitude the whole way. They have continued to lead by example and offer inspiration, guidance, care, perspective, and support to each other and to their peers. They have proved that they have what it takes to shape the world that they are about to enter as adults. Soon it will be up to them to guide the planet forward, and I have every confidence that they will do so successfully.
It has not escaped my mind that, had the spring term not been interrupted, this evening and tomorrow we would have all been gathered on campus for Commencement. While coming together in person is not possible at this time, we are hopeful for a future celebration on campus involving and honoring all members of the senior class. In the meantime, we have planned a heartfelt and memorable series of year-end events, and will celebrate the Class of 2020 with all the energy and excitement they deserve and all the pageantry and tradition that we can muster. I invite you to share in their triumph and join us for as many of next weekend's events as you are able. I look forward to “seeing” you then.
Blythe Everett P’14, ‘16
Head of School
May 15, 2020
Dear Students and Families,
As we enter the final weeks of a challenging and unusual spring term, I could not be prouder of our collective perseverance, patience, and dedication to learning. Yet while the school year is nearing its conclusion, COVID-19 is not. With the public health crisis still underway, we are preparing for a safe fall term opening in alignment with State guidelines and protocols. While we’re not sure at this time what it will look like, we are fully committed to reopening Marvelwood School for Fall 2020.
Last week, Governor Lamont and his ReOpen CT Higher Education Subcommittee released a preliminary set of recommendations and called for us to begin to imagine reopening Connecticut’s schools and colleges in the fall. The report acknowledges that the recommendations for institutions of higher education are “relevant to boarding schools, since they face issues very similar to residential colleges.” Our plans must address a myriad of issues including the school year calendar, our dorms, the dining experience, classroom delivery with social distancing and/or a virtual component, new protocols for health, hygiene and wellness, COVID testing and containment, financial and facilities considerations, group events, student/employee travel, and many other details of our campus operations. Reporting to the State is also a requirement for the school.
Several groups comprised of teachers, administrators and trustees have begun meeting to research and plan for a variety of fall term scenarios that will give our students an excellent educational experience while ensuring their safety, well-being and peace of mind. We need to consider all aspects of the Marvelwood experience -- from the classroom, dining hall and dormitories to athletic, extracurricular and residential programming -- while keeping the pandemic and its associated contingencies and protocols firmly in mind. We continue to coordinate with State and local health departments and officials, town administration, regional and national independent school advisory organizations, and other Connecticut boarding schools to ensure a safe, collaborative approach to our reopening this fall. Recommendations, information and the scope of guidance and impact change almost daily, but it is our intent to keep families apprised of our academic, campus, and financial planning for next year throughout the summer and as important decisions are made.
Our students and their teachers did an incredible job making an emergency shift to remote learning this spring. We will take the opportunity of the summer ahead of us to examine, strengthen, and refine these delivery methods through continued practice and participation in professional development. While feedback has been significantly positive thus far, we will continue to work to ensure an even better experience for the fall term when remote learning options will need to be available. We recognize that, for a variety of reasons, some of our students may not be able to return to campus in the fall. We are exploring ways to provide them with options that can allow them to stay remote while continuing their engagement in their studies and with the Marvelwood community in new and creative ways. I can’t say enough how grateful I am to our teachers, who have embraced this new form of instruction and are already enthusiastically engaged in thinking and conversation about what it’s teaching them about teaching. Their dedication and energy is outstanding, and we thank the many families who wrote to express their appreciation last week.
Marvelwood is fortunate to be located in a rural town and geographic region of the State that offers easy access to excellent, below-capacity healthcare facilities and where the number of COVID-19 cases has been significantly contained. Our campus acreage and many areas just beyond it offer a wealth of safe, engaging outdoor activities that students can safely enjoy. We repeatedly find ourselves ahead of the curve in terms of the quality of the academic instruction and extracurricular programming we are providing to our students. And perhaps above all, the deep and abiding relationships our adults have built with students and their families provide comfort, confidence, and support in a time of extreme uncertainty.
So, we focus on both wrapping up an extraordinary year and celebrating our students and at the same time looking ahead to a new year with uncertainties and questions and doubts -- closed but still teaching and learning, isolated from each other but still working together, planning for four weeks from now and 15 weeks from now. We have some understanding of the future, but no answers because we don’t know how the context might change. In a recent webinar, a panelist suggested a change in the current vernacular; schools are not technically “closed” but “in hibernation,” meaning that the fall offers the promise not of “reopening” but of “reawakening.” We are eager for that moment, and continue to rely on your support and patience as we look for and find the way.
Blythe Everett P’14, ‘16
Head of School
Friday, May 15 College Counseling presentation for junior and their parents, 6:00pm EST
Friday, May 22 Real Talk series for students, 8:15pm EST
Monday, May 25 No classes (Memorial Day)
Thursday, June 4 Last day of classes
Friday, June 5 Prize Day, 10:30am EST / Class Night 8:00pm EST (both virtual events)
Saturday, June 6 Graduation 8:00pm EST (virtual event)
Dear Marvelwood Families,
First off, a bit of housekeeping.
The midterm closed today; grades will be available next week. Juniors and their parents are reminded to join our College Counseling webinar this evening at 6:00 pm EST. Students have also received a Zoom invitation to tonight’s Real Talk event, “COVID-19 and Xenophobia,” which begins at 8:15 pm EST.
Thank you to those students and parents who completed our recent surveys; your continuing feedback is important to us and helps us continue to shape and refine our academic, athletic, service, and extracurricular programming and how we deliver it. That said, we’ve updated our slate of Tuesday and Thursday evening activities; students should keep an eye on their emails for new links and invitations next week.
A schedule and plan for retrieving students’ belongings from the dormitories has been created. A letter from Director of Residential Life Misty Jordan is below; she will follow up directly with families next week.
The Class of 2020 task force has been working to create memorable programming to honor our seniors. Please mark your calendars for three all-school Zoom events: Prize Day on Friday, June 5 at 10:30 am EST; Class Night on Friday, June 5 at 8:00 pm EST; and Commencement exercises on Saturday, June 6 at 8:00 pm EST. More details will be forthcoming.
Now that we have settled into a relatively predictable pattern of classes and activities, thoughts have shifted to consideration of what will happen in the fall. Next week, our Board of Trustees will hold its first-ever fully remote meeting, a historic moment in what truly is a historic period in the life of our school. Our trustees are deeply engaged and focused on both their roles as Marvelwood’s stewards and their responsibility to protect our mission and ensure our long-term sustainability. We will take up discussions related to the impact of the pandemic on the school in the short, medium, and long term.
As an institution, we are in full planning mode amid what seems to be countless variables over which we have little control. While we hope in the best of circumstances to be able to resume normal operations in the fall, we can only do so if it is safe to return; therefore, it is prudent to plan for a number of potential scenarios for the coming year that vary depending on the course of the pandemic. This includes evaluating the likely, and potentially significant, financial impacts of the crisis on the school over the next 15 months. We will work diligently with our trustees, and continue to consult with and seek guidance from a number of external sources, including the Education Committee of the Reopen Connecticut Advisory Group. We anticipate guidance from that group by late May.
These issues are complicated, and the decisions are numerous and intertwined. The circumstances demand that all constituencies -- trustees, faculty and staff, parents, students, and alumni -- work together, relying on our shared love of the School and our collective good faith, patience, and understanding as we all grapple with challenges, the likes of which we have never before experienced. Nevertheless, we will weather this crisis and come out stronger on the other side; it’s a time when we can and should think boldly and enthusiastically about the opportunity for innovative and creative thinking that has been presented to us.
As the weather slowly brightens, the geese have returned to Lucy’s Pond and the trees are stretching their limbs to show off their spring finery after a too-long winter’s nap. We sincerely miss having our students with us on Skiff Mountain and continue to experience a sense of loss as we navigate the empty hallways, dorms, and fields of campus. At the same time, these young people inspire us as we see them rising to the challenge of remote learning, engaging in the life of their school, and caring for themselves and for one another. We’re apart, but they are in our hearts and minds every day.
Blythe Everett, P'14, '16
Head of School
May 1, 2020
Dear Marvelwood families,
We understand the desire to collect your child’s belongings and be packed up for the year. Based on your feedback that you would like to get this done as soon as possible, we have set up some safety guidelines and protocols that must be followed for you to come to campus in order to keep everyone safe.
Starting next week, from Tuesday, May 5th to Sunday May 10th, local day students will be able to sign up for a one-hour time slot to pack up their rooms. From Monday, May 11th through Sunday May 18th, boarding students who live close enough to be able to come to campus will be able to come to campus to pack. Parents will receive an email from me with a sign-up form. After completing the form, you will receive a confirmation email with your assigned time, a visitor registration form to fill out, and the protocols that must be adhered to. A copy of these policies is also included at the end of this letter. There will only be one family allowed in a dorm at a time. We ask that you strictly observe your scheduled time slot. Please don’t be early or late, and please vacate after 60 minutes so that there is time for us to prepare for the next family to arrive. You may not visit with any member of the faculty or staff on campus during your time here. We will have some boxes and tape available for packing but please bring your own packing materials as well as cleaning products you can use to wipe down all surfaces in the dorm room before you depart.
For families that are not able to return to campus, we have partnered with UPS who will come to the school, pack the room, and either ship or store belongings. Seniors who are going to college in the fall may provide an address later in the summer in order to have their dorm belongings shipped directly to their college campus. Marvelwood cannot set up UPS service for families. If you are interested in this service, please email Dan at email@example.com . He will be able to provide prices and describe their services to you. The UPS Store will not be able to start packing up rooms until the week of May 25th.
Should you have questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to email me. It is our hope that we can provide a safe and easy process for you to come pack your child’s belongings.
Yours in partnership,
Director of Student Life
April 24, 2020
Dear Marvelwood students and parents,
It’s been a busy third week of distance learning! As we settle into the new routine and move into our last week of classes before the midterm, I’d like to take the opportunity to share some important information and reminders, all in one place.
Upcoming Academic Dates
Bodkin Blue reports will be available next week.
Midterm concludes next Friday, May 1; grades will be released early the following week. Students will receive traditional grades based on their numerical class averages at both midterm and the conclusion of the year, but they may petition to change term grades to Pass/Fail at the end of the year.
Please remember that there are no classes on Monday, May 4. We’ll resume a regular schedule on May 5.
The College Counseling office is hosting several Zoom meetings in the coming weeks: April 24th at 6pm for seniors and their parents, and May 1 and May 15 for juniors and their parents. Mark your calendars, and check your email for more information directly from College Counseling.
Marvelwood will hold our first-ever virtual Music on the Mountain open mic event at 8:00pm EST on Friday evening, May 8. If you’re interested in performing, please sign up here. Please join us to support our talented performers!
Keep an eye on our awesome and ever-changing social media on Facebook and Instagram. There’s still time to get in on the first virtual Spirit Cup challenge! Text a selfie with your pet(s) to the AOD phone (203 - 788 - 4985) by Sunday, April 26 to earn points for your House!
Cool New Stuff on our Website
Have you seen the two new features on our website? We’ve got a live “chat” feature on the homepage that’s staffed during business hours, and an awesome new interactive virtual map of campus. If you’re missing Skiff Mountain and want a taste of your home-away-from-home, these are great ways to feel connected. Check them out and tell a friend!
Reminder to Members of the Class of 2020
Our faculty committee stands ready to support you and to work with you to create as memorable an end-of-year experience as possible. Don’t forget to volunteer! The first committee meeting will take place early next week.
Marvelwood parents are invited to join our closed Facebook group to share information and connect with each other: facebook.com/groups/marvelwoodparents
We’ve added a new feature to our eLearning page: check out the “Ask a Question” box on the right-hand side. You or your student can send us a question, and we’ll send it on to the appropriate person or administrator. As with all communication from the school, you’ll receive a reply within 24 hours.
Parents are also reminded that they may contact their administrative point person or their student’s advisor directly with questions or concerns at any time.
I have enjoyed connecting with several families via phone and email this week, and it continues to be both heartening and reassuring to hear that students are working hard to conquer the challenges of learning remotely, staying productively occupied and engaged, balancing schoolwork with their athletic and service requirements, and generally staying positive during the world’s shared dystopian crisis.
Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, 'I have lived through this...I can take the next thing that comes along.' You must do the thing you think you cannot do.” When we stare down those inevitable moments of fear and uncertainty, when we question our ability to handle the stress or the chaos, these are the moments that offer us the chance to take control, to center, and to move ahead with hope and determination. The pandemic offers us the chance to exercise and strengthen our ability to be resilient, and to gain confidence in ourselves with each step forward. Keep moving.
It hasn’t escaped our notice that this would have been Family Weekend here on campus. We miss being able to connect with parents and grandparents over a shared meal in the dining hall or on the sidelines of an athletic contest. From our homes to yours -- where every weekend is family weekend! -- be assured that we continue to think of all of you, we wish you all the best, we remain grateful for your support, and we look forward to the time when we can gather together again.
Blythe Everett P’14, ‘16
Head of School
April 17, 2020
Dear Class of 2020,
We are all saddened that we cannot honor your achievements in person at the conclusion of this school year. It is very important to us, however, that you get the celebration you deserve to mark the end of your high school career. We invite you to help us plan and organize that celebration.
Please fill out this simple survey that will allow us to begin the process and consider your thoughts and ideas. We also welcome any of you to join the committee to help plan and implement our celebration. Please include your email at the bottom of the form if you would like to serve on this committee.
With warmest regards,
Director of Residential Life
April 17, 2020
Dear Marvelwood Families,
This afternoon, I write to answer pressing questions about the conclusion of the school year. I know that these issues have been weighing on your minds, as they have been weighing on ours, and the time has come to accept the reality that difficult decisions have to be made, and that we must necessarily adjust our plans, hopes, and expectations in the wake of this global crisis.
Will students be allowed to return to campus as a group after May 20?
Given the way this health crisis continues to unfold in our region, and the many unknowns surrounding when it will be safe to loosen social distancing guidelines or to convene again in large groups, we have come to the difficult conclusion that we will not be able to have students return to campus this school year. There is simply no realistic scenario under which to do this safely, given the spread of the virus. To bring our student body back together from locations across the state, region, country and world would pose a significant potential health threat to the students, to our employees, to residents of our town, and to the state of Connecticut. Not reopening campus this school year is the responsible thing to do, even though it isn’t the conclusion any of us wanted to reach.
What does this decision mean for the Senior Service Trip, Class Night and Commencement?
Typically, seniors would finish their classes and exams a week before graduation and would visit Washington, D.C. for a four-day service trip that serves as a capstone to the community service work that has been a vital part of their education throughout their time at Marvelwood. Given that the virus has now moved into the mid-Atlantic metro regions, it would be irresponsible of us to run the senior trip. By the end of this week, the $750 fee for this trip will have been credited back to each senior’s school account.
While we anticipate and envision being able to run some sort of virtual Class Night ceremonies following the conclusion of classes, it is with deep regret that I announce that we must postpone Marvelwood’s 62nd Commencement ceremonies, originally scheduled for Saturday, May 30. This was an incredibly difficult decision to make for many reasons, the most significant being the impact it will have on the members of the Class of 2020.
How will the School support members of the Class of 2020?
A team of faculty members who are intimately familiar with senior spring activities, and Class Night and Commencement in particular, will be working together with our seniors to examine, discuss, and agree on alternatives. This team is comprised of William Bingham, Heather Hastings, Misty Jordan, Wendi Love, Caitlin Lynch, Liza and Zach Maizel, and Glenn Sanchez.
Shortly after we send this email, members of the Class of 2020 will receive a survey to help us gather their ideas and preferences. There is no perfect solution, but this is their ceremony, and we want their input. Our team is confident that we can create for the seniors a Class Night experience that delivers a comforting and appropriate sense of family and school community celebration -- an event that, in the temporary absence of a traditional graduation ceremony, will recognize the closing of one chapter and start of a new one (from high school to college, from Marvelwood student to Marvelwood alumnus). We will also work with the seniors to determine their preferences for a graduation ceremony, either virtual in the shorter term or on campus at some future time.
In addition to working with the students to plan these events, members of this team along with our School counselor Dr. John Kennedy are available for emotional support as seniors come to terms with the disappointment of an altered end-of-year scenario. We encourage seniors to reach out as needed.
How does the decision not to return to campus affect the spring term calendar and the end of the school year?
Because we delayed the opening of the spring term by just under two weeks in order to make sure our faculty were well trained to begin remote teaching, we will extend our academic calendar for all students and push the conclusion of the school year to Thursday, June 4, with an all-school Prize Day ceremony on Friday, June 5. This will mean an additional 12 days of instruction for seniors and an additional 9 days of instruction for underclassmen, thereby making up the difference of days lost at the start of the term.
How will we get our belongings from the dorm?
Once the Governor of Connecticut lifts the Executive Order directing Connecticut residents to “Stay Safe, Stay Home” and once the CDC and the Connecticut Department of Public Health ease their recommended community mitigation strategies, we will be able to assist students in getting their belongings. For the time being, however, our campus remains closed to students and their families. The Residential Life team is already planning for different scenarios and schedules regarding retrieval and/or shipment of student belongings once these restrictions are lifted; we will provide details of these plans in future communications.
If your student needs essential items that have been left in the dormitory, please contact the Dean’s Office or the Director of Residential Life.
Is the School considering issuing a partial refund for spring term room and board?
In order to provide a quality distance-learning experience this spring, as well as to allow us to resume a full slate of traditional programming once restrictions are lifted, employee compensation has and will remain mostly unchanged. Our fixed costs related to the School's physical plant remain largely unaffected as well. And while we may realize some savings in our variable costs in April and May, we have at the same time incurred some unexpected additional costs related to the pandemic and the shift to distance learning. We are evaluating the savings we may realize as a result of not having students on campus against both these unanticipated additional expenses as well as our dedication to paying our employees during this crisis. We appreciate families' patience as we and our Board of Trustees continue to assess the full impact of the pandemic on our School, and we will continue to communicate as the situation evolves.
More than at almost any other time in our recent history, this feels like a moment when we need to reaffirm our bonds and support each other as a community. Our prayers and well-wishes extend across the globe to the millions affected by the pandemic. Like us, many of you have been hard-hit by the financial impact of COVID-19. If you are having trouble making tuition payments, or if you need financial assistance related to your child’s access to our remote learning activities this spring, please contact the School. We continue to be grateful for the support of our families as Marvelwood addresses its own challenges and moves through this crisis.
To our students: This disruption is unprecedented, and you are undoubtedly having trouble balancing your personal concerns, frustration, disappointment and even anger with a greater and compelling sense of compassion for your fellow students and your fellow man. Allow me to offer an observation that many in the field of education have shared: There is no class you could have taken that will be more valuable to you than this experience. The lessons of fear, loss, tragedy, intolerance — but also courage, hope, community, science, and culture -- that you continue to learn abstractly in your studies are now made manifest in real-time. You may be focused on thoughts that this pandemic has stolen from you the celebrations and fun with friends that you have earned and deserved. In time, however, you may recognize that in fact, it may have given you a special legacy and a valuable gift: A great story. Think of the story you will tell in the years ahead, to your children and grandchildren. Back in 2020, you will be able to say, we made history.
While it is unfortunate that we cannot reunite on campus this school year, we continue to think creatively about other ways to come together. Regaining a stable sense of the future and a level of normalcy is hard to imagine right now, but these will come in due course. When they do, it will give us yet another reason to honor and celebrate this great Marvelwood family of ours.
Until then, I wish you good health and strength from Skiff Mountain.
Blythe Everett P’14, ‘16
Head of School
April 10, 2020
Greetings, Marvelwood Students and Parents,
I’m writing today with a few important updates. You’ll receive an email update from me each Friday afternoon for the remainder of the school year.
First and foremost: it’s Friday -- we’ve completed our first week of remote learning! Every subsequent week will mark another step forward in your and your children’s expanding abilities to cope, and even flourish, during this crisis. Thank you to those parents and students who responded to yesterday’s academic survey. Your feedback is invaluable and has led us to re-examine and slightly adjust our daily academic schedule. We’ll follow the current schedule on Monday; advisors will use their advisory periods on Monday morning to “preview” changes with their advisees in preparation for a move to the adjusted schedule on Tuesday. The new schedule will be shared with students and families following the conclusion of classes on Monday afternoon.
It is gratifying to see that the overwhelming response to our remote learning roll-out has been extremely positive. The large majority of both students and parents are pleased with the process, were able to connect, anticipate that the workload will be challenging but not overwhelming, and predict that they/their student can be successful in a distance-learning format. I want to take another opportunity to express my deep appreciation and admiration for our teachers and support staff, who have worked so hard and so thoughtfully to create and begin to deliver a vibrant, sustainable educational program. I also want to again thank the parents for their efforts in this endeavor. Please continue to encourage your students to attend to their academic, athletic and service requirements with good humor, patience, and a positive attitude. And of course, don’t forget that we are here for you and that you may feel free to reach out to your child’s advisor or any school administrator at any time.
In this regard, I have asked that advisors contact parents by the end of the coming week to provide an overview of each advisee’s adjustment and progress in the remote learning process. Similarly, each individual family next week will be contacted by a senior staff member who will be “designated” as your administrative point person for any concerns or observations you would care to share going forward. We value your dedication to your child’s success and well-being and continue to be grateful for our roles in this partnership.
COVID-19’s ongoing spread throughout our area forces difficult questions to be confronted and answered. I am sure many of you are already aware that on Thursday, Connecticut's Governor Ned Lamont and the State Education Commissioner Miguel Cardona announced that in the interests of public health and the safety of students, teachers, and staff, he soon plans to sign an executive order extending the closure of all public schools statewide until at least May 20. We feel it is advisable to follow both the Governor’s order as well as his continuing mandate that limits group meetings to no more than 10 people during this period. For this reason, we will not be in a position to invite students back to campus in early May, as was our hope.
I am committed to keeping the option open that we might be able to reconvene on the mountain to celebrate graduation and the Class of 2020 as planned at the end of May, while being mindful that there are a myriad of unpredictable and uncontrollable factors that will continue to challenge my confidence that it will be both safe and prudent to do so. This unpredictability, in combination with the Governor’s announcement and a continuing cautious stance on the part of the world’s health officials, suggest that it is unlikely that we will be able to bring students back to campus this school year. As a result, we will be planning for this potential eventuality; there is much to be considered and discussed, and we ask that you allow us the time to address these concerns and get back to you all with more details as we make informed and thoughtful decisions in the week(s) ahead.
I am humbled and honored to have the privilege of leading this phenomenal community. As always, please feel free to reach out with questions, concerns, thoughts, ideas, or just to connect.
With sincere gratitude,
Blythe Everett P'14, P'16
Head of School
(860) 927-0047 x1002
April 4, 2020
A checklist from the Dean’s Office, in support of student success and wellness as an online learner.
Designate your learning space - away from distractions and not in your bed. This will help you focus and maintain a healthy balance (see next tip). Consider submitting a pic to us of your learning space!
Balance is always important, but especially now. Get up and move between classes. Stretch, walk around, drink lots of water. Give your body and brain a break from screen time.
Movement is so important for your wellbeing (stress, anxiety) and also your immune system (protection from COVID-19). You will have sport requirements for your spring term sports credit, as assigned by your coaches. There will also be fun social media challenges available to try. Do them all plus a little more! Set your own personal goal for daily movement and hold yourself accountable to that goal. If you can’t get outside, be creative with jumping jacks, burpees, etc. If you can get outside, go for it!
Keep a routine. Set an alarm, get dressed, etc - follow your morning routine as though you are on campus. Be at your designated learning space, dressed, with a water bottle and maybe a healthy snack, at least five minutes before your class begins so you are ready to learn! Dress code for online learning is relaxed but please dress appropriately - no illicit substance references, etc on your shirt. You can wear a hoodie! Yay! Keep the hood down so we can see your face in class, please.
Sleep hygiene! Turn off your devices and get to bed at a decent hour.
Help your student establish a designated area for learning - it doesn’t have to be a full office/desk space. Just a table or desk in a quiet area, away from distractions. Consider which way they face so that family members can feel comfortable walking through a room without being seen by an entire math class.
Wi-fi access is turned off at midnight for all students in the dorms. Consider establishing that practice at home also.
Blue light blocking glasses - consider purchasing an inexpensive pair (Amazon has them) for your student. This much screen time is not ideal for healthy sleep patterns and these glasses block the harmful blue light.
Balance for you as a parent - it will be tempting to hover. For your own well-being, find your balance between supporting and hovering. The Deans, advisors, and faculty are all prepared to help your student hold themselves accountable during this crisis situation. Try to let that happen and know that we will all need to give each other grace as we find our way through this.
This webinar offer came through to our community: Navigating Parenting and Learning in a Remote Environment. It’s free, offered by a reputable organization and may be helpful to you.
For Students and Parents:
Resource to check often on the website: eLearning
Photos and videos are being uploaded to the archive page on the website. Check the ‘Spring 2020 Online’ folder.
Surveys will go out separately to students and families at the end of the first week. We value your feedback.
Let us know how we can help you. We are all available to support this process and troubleshoot or lend an ear when something isn’t working.
Stay safe, and be well and healthy!
Dean for Parents
Dean of Students
March 30, 2020
Greetings Marvelwood Students and Parents,
In a little less than a week, we will all embark on our online learning journey. Every member of the Marvelwood community has been working diligently for the past several weeks to get this online program up and running. This week, teachers are sending invites to Google Classrooms, testing out their newly attained Zoom skills, and running lessons with each other to ensure as smooth a transition as possible.
Along the way, we found that there were things that needed some adjustment, for example, our weekly Online Learning Schedule. This schedule has changed a little from the first version you were sent. We have reduced classes on Wednesdays to a half day. There will be a Wednesday 1 and Wednesday 2 rotation, much like what our Saturday rotation looked like in past terms. We have also added in some time for Community Service and adjusted the advisory time so that students in other time zones, especially our international students, can participate in these live sessions. Please take note of the bottom of the schedule. It shows which subjects will meet live (synchronously) on which days.
We have also decided to adjust our grading policy for the spring term to Pass/Fail. We are doing this in an attempt to increase engagement in the online learning process and at the same time decrease anxiety. Mr. Bingham, Director of College Counseling, wants to assure any anxious juniors and seniors (and their parents) that high schools all over the country are resorting to alternative means of assessing work as everyone is adjusting to distance learning. Colleges and universities will understand, especially since the majority of admission decisions will have been made by April 1st. In the event a question regarding a student's performance should arise, the schools will call us for clarification. Don't worry. College Counseling has your backs! The College Board also put out a statement recently which says, “We're heartened by those institutions that have already made clear, calming statements that emphasize flexibility in admissions at this time—encouraging students to submit as much information as they can and reassuring applicants that they will not be disadvantaged should they have to submit Pass/Fail grades for the spring, have incomplete extracurricular profiles, or miss a testing deadline”. Students and parents will have the option to petition for letter grades; more information on this process will be forthcoming.
In my last letter, I spoke about how faculty will be using Zoom to hold live (synchronous) classes. We will be recording all synchronous sessions (classes, advisory meetings, virtual office hour meetings, etc.) so that students can refer back to these lessons, or if they miss a lesson can watch them at a later date. As a result of having to record, we have updated our Media Release form. Please take a moment to fill out the required Media Release before the start of classes Monday, April 6th.
We have also created a Student helpdesk to help address technical issues that may arise. Students and parents can submit help tickets.
I know this is a great deal of information and that likely, there are many questions. I would like to give you the opportunity to ask those questions this week. On Friday, April 3rd from 6 pm -7 pm I will hold an Academic Office Facebook Live question and answer session on the Marvelwood School Facebook page. If you do not have a Facebook account, I will also hold an Academic Office Zoom question and answer session on Saturday, April 4th from 1 pm -2 pm.
I look forward to seeing you at one of the question and answer sessions. As always, feel free to email me. We look forward to “seeing” you all in classes next week.
Dr. Heather Hunt
March 28, 2020
A message for families from Dr. John Kennedy, Director of Counseling
Dear Marvelwood Families,
This global pandemic has separated people from their workplaces, their friends, and their families. Seldom have people living today experienced a crisis of this magnitude and had to alter their lives to accommodate its issues. Not only is this pandemic a threat to our physical health, but due to the fear it has generated and the consequences it has already had on our job security, it is an equally significant issue concerning our collective emotional health.
It is important to acknowledge and address the mental health aspects of this crisis, especially when it comes to our children. The self-quarantining, self-isolating and social distancing that we’ve all been practicing are crucial in attempts to slow the spread of this easily transmittable virus, and while this may be something we parents are equipped to deal with, we must remain sensitive yet firm concerning our children’s needs and desires. By being responsible and taking this seriously, we are doing our part not only to help our families and ourselves but to help the most vulnerable in our communities. By doing this, we are by no small measure saving lives and supporting our health care system as it struggles to treat the growing number of cases.
Feelings of loss, fear, confusion, anxiety and even grief are normal. Fear is a natural reaction, rooted in our fight-or-flight response that in critical situations helps us avoid danger. But when fear becomes a continual aspect of our daily lives, it can take over our minds, paralyzing our ability to take action, and consequently forcing us into psychological ruts. By finding the source of the distress, recognizing it, and subsequently understanding it, we can take control of these fearful and often negative thoughts and develop a healthier, more logical mindset. Natural stress hormones get activated in times of disaster and uncertainty. Isolation also causes humans undue stress, as we’ve been conditioned to be social animals throughout the majority of our lives. Oftentimes, the lack of even a simple conversation with a coworker or a walk downtown is enough to make most people feel anxious and unsettled.
However, the COVID-19 virus has had a very different effect on our younger population. For them, the threat often does not carry the same connotations of trepidation and instability; instead, it is causing them to feel bored, trapped, and relentlessly annoyed rather than fearful. Because of this, many young people have taken to calling it “an old man’s disease” and have continued hanging out with their friends and taking trips to the beach. For them, the call to avoid spreading the virus is not an issue of health but an issue of empathy. Despite youthful immune systems being able to fight off the disease in most cases, they are still active carriers and must be discouraged, whenever possible, from spreading the disease farther than it already has been. Thus, by sitting down and talking to our children about how the disease affects not just them, but the older community and those with compromised immune systems, we can help cement the necessary reality that quarantine isn’t intended to revoke their freedoms and keep them away from the virus per se (although hopefully, that remains a strong motivator), but to help preserve the lives of the less fortunate and infirm.
Technology has made it easier than ever to remain indoors and entertained. Netflix, video games, and iPhones can keep us occupied for hours at a time, but it would be a mistake to suggest that this is where our work at keeping active ends. Studies have found that such activities, while initially exciting, have diminishing returns and lead to decreased mental acuity after high enough exposure. We should take steps to diversify what we do indoors to provide ourselves and our children stress-free avenues for entertainment that are not based on screen time and self-isolation. New or adjusted routines will become important since the typical routines that we have grown familiar with will no longer be useful or appropriate. Deep breathing can have an immediate effect on your emotional state and there are also great meditation apps you can download. Reading, writing, family group activities, or even pursuing hobbies we haven’t had enough time for in the past are other ways to keep productive. Regular movement and exposure to nature are also shown to have a significant impact on our emotional health, so getting outside (albeit away from others) and taking hikes are a great way of changing scenery. Spend time talking with your family members about how to use their time in healthy and productive ways. Most of all, it is vital that we not look at quarantine as wasted time; if anything, we should embrace it as an opportunity to reconnect with what it is that makes us human, and the things that make us interesting and help us feel fulfilled.
This has already become a challenging time for us and we are all managing as best we can to adjust to a very novel reality. It can be scary, and there is a real threat that we need to be aware of, but there are also very specific things we can all do to protect ourselves and to help prevent the spread of this virus. There have and will continue to be sacrifices to make, but we will get through this. Be mindful of your thoughts and feelings, share them with others, and be purposeful in your actions. And as you take care of your family, be sure to take care of yourself.
Please reach out to me with any concerns you might have or for any support I can be to you and your family. I am available via phone or email and would be happy to check in with your child if you feel that could be helpful. Please also be sure to let your child know that they can reach out to me at any time.
All the best and stay safe,
Dr. John Kennedy
Director of Counseling
The Marvelwood School
March 27, 2020
We hope that this email finds you well, healthy, and safe. Staying home and following the guidelines we are given by the CDC and other agencies is the most important thing we can do right now, and absolutely fits in perfectly with one of our core values at Marvelwood - service. Our service in following those guidelines not only helps to keep us safe, but many others as well.
We also hope that you are enjoying the spring break extension but are ready to get back to learning in the new online format we’ve been building here on campus!
Academic Dean Dr. Heather Hunt will continue to be your top resource for the academic side of the spring term. Dr. Hunt will be hosting Q&A sessions next week for students and parents. Schedules and viewing specifics will be coming on Monday.
There is much more to life at Marvelwood than academics - this email provides an overview of what else we are building for all of you so that we may all stay connected.
Be sure to follow us on Facebook and Instagram for more updates and fun challenges and pictures. Tag us in your pics - we’ve been using #pterodactylsathome!
Boardingware (you knew I would start there)
All existing Boardingware leave passes have been optimistically updated for the May 5 return to campus. You should be able to see that update if you log in to Boardingware, but you won’t be able to change the existing pass. No need to worry about that for now - we will work more on that mid-April. Please email deansoffice@marvelwood with your current physical location. We will be using that information to chart and accommodate time zones for the online learning experience.
Residential (Student) Life
On Tuesday, March 31st at 7:45 pm, students are invited to “check-in” with their dorm.
How? Each student will get an invitation in their school email from their dorm head via Zoom. We will use this face-to-face time to socialize and get ideas from students about what kind of fun programming ideas you have for us to connect with each other while we are apart. This will also be a great time for all of us to get more familiar with the Zoom platform. All residents from the dorm will be invited as well as all dorm faculty. We hope to see you there!
Important action item for online learning
All students must update their media release by April 6 as we transition to the online format. No need to print - it can be done entirely online. Submit media release
During this online phase, you can (and should!) stay active and fit at home. Mr. Maizel will be offering videos and fitness challenges - keep an eye out on social media.
This Wednesday, students will be emailed information about Community Service for the spring term. This will include an opportunity to sign up for alternative projects as well as suggest any of your own ideas. Feel free to send any questions or ideas in the meantime to the Community Service Team.
College counseling for juniors and seniors will continue virtually - watch for more information directly from the College Counseling office.
Your advisee group will move to Google Classroom! The online advisee classroom will be accessible to you and your parents and will serve as a resource for all of the information here, as well as that which is sent out by email. Advisory meetings will happen daily by Zoom and are built into your class schedule. We hope this will help us all feel connected and will give you the opportunity to check-in, ask questions, and give feedback on what is working and what needs improvement.
The Dean’s Office
The Dean’s Office is establishing online guidelines and expectations for respectful and productive online learning. These guidelines will be available in your advisory classroom for advisors to review with all students. We know that you will all want to be your very best selves in this new adventure - conduct, kindness, and attendance are more important now than ever. Concerns, ideas, and questions can be directed to the Deans Office. The Deans will also be available for video and phone calls or meetings throughout the spring term for check-ins, support, or conduct and attendance review meetings.
Dr. Kennedy will be available for check-ins and counseling sessions - email Dr. Kennedy to arrange a time to speak with him.
Take care of yourselves and take care of each other - we will see you all soon!
Dean of Students
Dean for Parents
March 27, 2020
Greetings from Marvelwood! We are certainly living through unprecedented times. Our faculty have spent much of their spring breaks learning how to instruct our students remotely. "Zoom" is a word we have been saying a lot! Throughout the world, we have all had to adjust in major and minor ways, facing new challenges every day.
Many thanks to those who have supported the Emergency Student Fund, which will run for a few more days. We have raised almost $3,000, which will help subsidize the purchase of computers and other supplies for students who need assistance in order to successfully participate in remote learning. Your gift will make an immediate impact on the lives of our students, and for that, we are truly grateful.
Please join us!! Tune in at 7:45 tonight on Facebook for live-streaming from the Piper Victory Bell, where I'll be answering your questions. We'll also be ringing the bell at 8:00pm tonight and every Friday night until this crisis is over. The bell ringing is happening all over the Town of Kent, and we invite you to join us in solidarity and support of one another.
Until then, be well, stay safe, and take care of each other. Working together, we will get through this.
Glenn Sanchez P’18, ‘19
March 20, 2020
Dear Marvelwood Students and Families,
Across the country and the world, all of us are feeling inundated by a daily tidal wave of information and outreach surrounding COVID-19. While I am reticent to add to the noise, I am writing with two important updates based on discussions that have transpired in the few days since your last communication from the School.
Yesterday, we made two decisions that were difficult to arrive at but which we feel are necessary and in the best interests of the school and our school community. In response to the Centers for Disease Control’s (CDC’s) recommendation that no gathering of fifty or more people take place for eight weeks, the coronavirus projections by leading health experts, and the need for clarity in order to aid in planning for all community members, our hoped-for return date for bringing students back to campus will be pushed back until Sunday, May 3, with a return to classes on Monday, May 4. We are not the first boarding school to make this adjustment, and absolutely will not be the last. Like other schools that have not yet closed outright for the entire remainder of the school year, we continue to hold out hope that students will be able to return to campus in May and that we will be able to celebrate that moment, as well as graduation, on campus. At the same time, we remain painfully aware that those hopes and wishes may go unfulfilled.
Our original determination that we would allow our international students to return to school from their alternative spring break home of Mystic, CT on March 30 was made based on the plan that these students would be joined by their peers soon after that, and that life on campus would return to normal for all students and faculty in mid-April. Since that plan has now changed, we have reached out to our international families to urge them to either bring their students back home or make arrangements for them to join family or friends elsewhere in the US. We are helping to get travel documents, including passports or I- 20s, to the students in the next 24 hours. We had earnestly hoped to do what we could to house and care for these students, but now as we consider the possibility of them being the sole few students on campus for up to eight weeks or more, as COVID-19 continues its dogged, unflagging spread through the northeastern US, we have necessarily changed our positioning. We are certain that it is in the best interests of our international students that they be reunited with their families at the earliest opportunity.
As someone who loves this school and the magic that happens every day on our campus, I find it painful both to write these words and to imagine the campus without students. Our response team members continue to meet daily to strategize, decide, and plan as best we can given the new twists and resultant challenges that face us each day. The decisions we have made in recent days have been difficult, but our path forward has been and will continue to be guided by our deep sense of responsibility to safeguard the health and wellbeing of all members of our student body and our on-campus community.
As you are aware, a tremendous amount of planning and preparation for remote classes is already underway and will continue until all students begin their spring term classes remotely on Monday, April 6. The faculty are energized, optimistic, and eager. It will be necessary for us to adjust to some degree the time schedule of our synchronous class periods to allow students returning to Asia to participate in real-time. We ask that all students remain flexible and stay tuned.
Here are a few other updates I can offer at this time:
We are still operating as a school, albeit an altered one. We are being increasingly responsive to employees' requests to work from home and to concerns about limiting as much as possible the access to campus by those who do not live here. With the exception of essential maintenance and Business Office activities that require a physical presence, all faculty and the majority of staff are working remotely from their residences. We are also looking into adjusted protocols related to student and employee mail/packages and school and office phones and extensions.
Spring Family Weekend (April 24-25) and other on-campus events scheduled for April are canceled. At this time, we hope to be able to proceed with graduation ceremonies on May 3o. It is my fervent wish that we will be able to gather together as a school community to celebrate our seniors and all that they have accomplished and become.
In order to keep campus safe, students may not return to campus for their belongings or for any other reason. Any questions about this policy should be directed to Heather Hastings in the Dean’s Office. We understand that may pose a real inconvenience—I do not in any way minimize it—but we simply cannot have handfuls of students or families on campus at this critical moment in the pandemic. As conditions change, and certainly if we find ourselves unable to reopen the campus in early May, we will work on a plan to allow students to safely retrieve their belongings.
We have already begun the work of creating community even while we are apart. Team members are working with faculty, alumni, and student leaders to create new ways for the community to celebrate and connect. Advisors, Strategies teachers, college counselors and others who provide vital academic, social and emotional support will continue their important work with students, albeit remotely. We will also be reaching out via social media to offer imaginative ways for faculty, students and staff to gather virtually, support each other, share stories, and bond together.
There are many other questions we are working to answer, and I ask for your continued patience and understanding. Please be sure to use the COVID-19 Update page on the website as a resource.
Over the past two weeks, I have received many messages of support from students, parents, alumni, faculty and staff, and local residents, and have found myself deeply moved and inspired. The strength, compassion, and resilience of the Marvelwood community are powerful tools upon which we can rely. We are in this together, and together -- as a Marvelwood family -- we will get through.
As before, I extend my best wishes to all of you in these trying times.
Blythe Everett P’14, ‘16
Head of School
Dear Marvelwood Families,
From Monday, April 6th through Thursday, April 9th, we will be asking students to engage in remote, online learning. We remain hopeful that we can still welcome students back to campus on April 13, but we also recognize the increasing likelihood that that may not remain a realistic goal. As a result, a large team of faculty and staff have been working tirelessly to put together an engaging, supportive, and mission-aligned online learning program for our students. This email contains a great deal of information regarding this program. Please be sure to read carefully.
We have come up with a new Online Learning Schedule that is attached to this email. Important things to note about this new schedule:
- We will use this schedule for the four remote learning days Monday, April 6th through Thursday, April 9th. In the event our remote learning continues beyond April 9th, classes will be held Monday through Friday.
- The academic day will begin at 11:00 am and will conclude at 4:30 pm. This is intentional in order to give consideration to those students living in different time zones.
- Blocks that were normally 40 minutes have been shortened to 25 minutes and the hour-long blocks have been shortened to 45 minutes.
- There is an hour break for lunch.
- A 15 minute advisory period has been built into each afternoon.
- You will notice a grid on the bottom which shows a synchronous class rotation schedule. What does this mean? Synchronous learning experiences happen in real-time. For example, on Mondays, English/ESL, Math, and Strategies will meet in real-time using the Zoom video platform. (See more info below on Zoom). Most classes will meet twice per week synchronously with the exception of math, which will meet three times per week.
- Strategies will meet synchronously every day in an effort to support our students in their remote learning.
- It will be up to the discretion of the AP teachers to determine how often they need to meet synchronously in order to cover their AP curriculum.
Zoom has been chosen as the video platform faculty will use to hold synchronous learning sessions. In the week before school begins, your student will be sent an invite to a Zoom meeting by their advisor. This invite will prompt the student to download the application (available on ios and android), or a quick file on to their computer. They should follow the on-screen instructions which will allow them to enter the session. Links will be provided to each synchronous class period through your student’s Google Classroom.
Your student will have a Google Classroom for each of their classes as well as for their advisory group. Many of the faculty have already been using Google Classroom with students. As the faculty set up their Google Classrooms, your student will begin to receive invites, through their Marvelwood Gmail account, to join. They should accept these invitations. No content will be available until April 6th.
If you, or your student, would like to learn more about Google Classroom please review this Google Classroom Tutorial for Students and Parents.
Homework & Classwork
Homework will be assigned on the days a class meets synchronously, or face-to-face, via Zoom. On the days classes meet asynchronously, work (classwork) will be assigned, that your student should be able to complete during the regularly scheduled block. Asynchronous means that work is not completed during a face-to-face interaction, but independently.
Teachers will continue to take daily attendance. On the days a class meets synchronously, via Zoom, teachers will mark students present if the student logs in to the Zoom session and takes part in the activities associated with that session. On the days the class meets asynchronously, students will be assigned independent work that they should complete and turn in by the end of the class period. When that work is turned in, students will be marked as present for that day.
If your student falls ill and is unable to attend classes or complete work, please email the nurses to report them as absent. We will make accommodations and give extensions on any work for those students who may fall ill.
Please stress to your student the importance of attending and engaging during class. We recognize the new challenges posed by this transition but will uphold our minimum attendance requirements for credit. Please refer to your Student-Parent Handbook for these guidelines.
Faculty will still post assignments and relevant materials on StudentConnect. Students should continue to use their StudentConnect to check their daily attendance, find class materials, and check for missing assignments. Spring term electives will be scheduled by early next week. A separate email will come out letting students know when their schedule is ready to be viewed.
It is our hope that this email will begin to answer some of the questions we know you all have. There is still more information forthcoming. Some parents have asked if there is anything that their student can work on during that last week of the break since it has been extended. This Suggested Activities for Students by Subject, includes activities students can complete. This is by no means mandatory but is encouraged to get students back into a school mindset.
We appreciate your patience through this process, and we recognize that there will be a learning curve for some. Please feel free to reach out to me, or Heather Hastings, Dean for Parents, if you have any questions. We are here to support you, and your student, through this new online learning process.
Dr. Heather Hunt
Dear Marvelwood Families,
Like you, I have been watching the COVID-19 news develop, magnify, surprise, and alarm us over the past several days. I wish I could offer clarity and reassurance about how this virus will impact us locally and globally over the next weeks and months; the best I can do, however, is provide an update regarding the conversations and planning that are taking place on a daily basis on Skiff Mountain.
We know that you are reading or viewing the news from higher education, local/national government and school districts, not to mention professional athletic organizations and even Broadway. Likewise, our peer boarding schools have been sharing communication regarding delayed returns from spring break and online learning modules for the spring term. Over the past two weeks, members of Marvelwood’s Response Team -- comprised of myself and representatives from the Health, Student Life, Communications, Facilities, Academic, Finance and Safety departments -- have joined conference calls, webinars and video conferences with fellow administrators and team leaders from CAIS (Connecticut Association of Independent Schools), NAIS (National Association of Independent Schools) TABS (The Association of Boarding Schools), as well as our town government, regional school districts and hospitals, local health district, and members of our Board of Trustees to carefully monitor a very fluid situation.
As parents and educators, we are asking the very same questions as you: How do we best mitigate the risk of exposure? What will be the impact of COVID-19 on our spring and summer events? How can we plan for the safest possible return to campus, and when might that be? Please know that we are working in earnest, every day, to make informed and rational decisions.
As you are already aware, we have decided that our most responsible approach to the current landscape is to delay the return of the majority of our students, to train our faculty in online learning best practices, and to begin the spring term by conducting classes through a virtual learning model. To be sure, our decision was not made lightly, and it centers squarely on the health of our students as well as the entire Marvelwood community.
Unlike some other schools, Marvelwood will welcome our international students back onto campus as of March 30 and make arrangements to house and care for them here on Skiff Mountain, rather than requiring them to find other places to go. We feel this is the most compassionate response to members of our international community, many of whose families have expressed both relief and gratitude that we will look after their children in this time of so much global uncertainty.
Online classes for all students will begin on Monday, April 6. Later this week, you will receive a separate communication with details from Dr. Heather Hunt, our Academic Dean, who has been working with department heads and other faculty to plan for this unprecedented but exciting chapter in the history of Marvelwood academics! I have every confidence in our academic team and commend the work they have already undertaken. I can also assure you that our faculty are committed to ensuring that your children continue to progress along their required academic trajectories and meet their obligations this term. Be sure to check the COVID-19 Update page, which is being updated regularly, including ‘Frequently Asked Questions’ in the Academics resource folder.
Schedules for spring athletics and community service are logistically on hold for the time being. However, we are including in our discussions some innovative thinking and planning for evening academic support and office hours, regular advisory check-ins, and some additional evening programming to engage our students. We will share these details as the picture sharpens.
Our goal is to bring students back to campus on Monday, April 13th. However, as the data around COVID-19 continues to shift, our decision-making is impacted almost hourly by new information and advisories. We recognize the near-impossibility of making accurate predictions and know that there is every chance that we will have to propose a new plan, and that there is a chance that the spring term will be further disrupted, beyond April 13. There are countless “what ifs” to manage during this complicated, dynamic, and unprecedented period.
With this in mind, we continue to rely on, deeply value, and be grateful for the direct, proactive, and honest partnership we share with Marvelwood parents, students, faculty and staff; this partnership is perhaps the most critical component of our ability to successfully navigate the path “through” this unprecedented set of circumstances. I am both personally and professionally grateful for the relationships that serve as the foundation of this community and remain hopeful that we will all be together once again in the near future.
In the meantime, please continue to do all that you can to stay healthy, and don’t hesitate to contact me or our Response Team (firstname.lastname@example.org/ 203-788-4985) with questions or concerns.
Blythe Everett P’14, ‘16
Head of School
March 11, 2020
Dear Marvelwood Students and Families,
I am writing to update you on several decisions we have made today regarding Marvelwood’s response to the evolving COVID-19 situation. These decisions relate to spring term academics, the wellbeing of employees and students, and School-sponsored events.
In brief, we have extended the spring break until March 30 for faculty and until April 6 for students, with their return to campus delayed until at least April 13. Please read this letter carefully for details..
A page has been added to the Student Life/ Health Services section of the Marvelwood website with resources, contact information, and copies of all COVID-19-related letters to families.
Health and Safety Considerations, and Returning to Campus
Based on our ongoing consultation of and with a variety of public health resources, we understand that the number of COVID-19 cases in the U.S. is likely to continue to rise in the coming weeks. In a concerted effort to protect our community and preserve our academic program, we have decided on a phased approach to the opening of the spring term.
Individuals are instructed to self-quarantine for two weeks prior to returning to campus if:
They have traveled to or from an area designated by the CDC with a level 1, 2, or 3 advisory within 14 days prior to returning to campus;
They have traveled on a cruise within 14 days prior to returning to campus;
They have been in contact with a person being tested for, possibly exposed to, or diagnosed with COVID-19 within 14 days prior to returning to campus;
They have been to an area where there has been a high degree of community transmission of COVID-19 within 14 days prior to returning to campus.
No one should return to School if they are not feeling well. Students, faculty and staff should expect to be screened by the Health Office upon returning to campus.
Plans for Students: The current spring break has been extended and will now conclude on Sunday, April 5. Students will begin the spring term by taking classes remotely from Monday, April 6 - Thursday, April 9. The majority of students will not return to campus until Monday, April 13.
International students, most of whom have spent the spring break in a rental home on the Connecticut shore, will return to campus on March 30. Faculty will be back on campus by this time.
If there are extenuating circumstances that would necessitate a student’s earlier or later return to campus, please contact our Response Team, which is handling all questions and communications about the School’s response and preparedness.
Plans for Faculty and Staff: All asymptomatic/healthy faculty have been asked to return to campus on Monday, March 30th.
Administrators and staff members who have been working on campus through the break continue to follow best practices for avoiding the spread of germs, and have been advised to avoid entering public spaces such as the dormitories and dining hall.
Academic Continuity for the Spring Term
Our plan to maintain educational continuity for the spring term relies on remote teaching and learning modes as classes begin on a delayed schedule. From March 30-April 3, faculty will receive training in remote teaching and learning options.
The first day of classes will be Monday, April 6, and this first week of instruction will be conducted remotely. Faculty will be on campus, while the majority of students remain off campus.
Remote instruction will include online teaching and video tools; it may also include class assignments and homework communicated by teachers. Details on the class schedule and accessing course content will be provided in the coming days. In the meantime, please take a moment to complete a brief survey to help us in our preparations.
It is our hope that asymptomatic/healthy students will be able to return to campus Monday, April 13, and that regular classes will resume on campus on Tuesday, April 14. However, given the ever-changing landscape of the spread of COVID-19, as well as warnings and other guidance from public health agencies, government agencies and other sources, it is possible that our plans for a return date may have to be adjusted, in which case we will be prepared to continue with remote instruction.
We are working to make decisions about on-campus events involving outside guests, as well as all Marvelwood-organized events off-campus, including field trips, community service, and our spring sports schedules. We also continue to monitor the actions of other organizations whose decisions may impact students (College Board, etc.). These discussions and developments are ongoing; we will share information as soon as possible.
Although the duration of the spring break has been extended for both faculty and students, no one should look to make new travel plans based on this determination. These decisions have been made with the intent to maximize a level of protection for all members of our community that will be based on a responsible and realistic approach to travel in all forms. For this reason, we remind you to follow best practices with regard to minimizing your exposure to illness and the spread of germs. We also strongly discourage unnecessary travel on public transportation. As members of a close residential community, the choices we make may have serious implications for others.
We greatly appreciate your support and compassion for the health of our school community. We will continue to monitor the latest information on COVID-19, and we will be in touch if new information causes us to modify our plans in any way.
As always, we are incredibly grateful for your patience, flexibility, and support as we navigate these extraordinary circumstances.
Blythe Everett P’14, ‘16
Head of School
March 3, 2020
Dear Marvelwood Families,
Marvelwood continues to monitor and address the ever-changing landscape associated with the spread of influenza and the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). We are following guidelines and utilizing resources from the CDC, the WHO, and our local health department (Torrington Area Health) as well as school organizations including The National Association of Schools (NAIS) and The Association of Boarding Schools (TABS). The resources and support from all of these organizations have been instrumental in our ability to address the rapidly-evolving situation with the most accurate and up-to-date information.
In addition to the organizations listed above, we are in regular communication with our school physician, Dr. Roman Alder. A message from Dr. Alder to families appears at the end of this email.
As we do throughout the year, especially during cold and flu season, our school community proactively follows precautionary guidelines, and encourages others to do the same:
1. Wash hands often
2. Clean and disinfect as much as possible
3. Avoid close contact with people who are sick
4. Stay at home when you are sick
We have been very fortunate that, as of the beginning of spring break, we have had no confirmed cases of Influenza A/B among our students or staff.
Our planning and monitoring of the situation will continue over spring break. We ask that families contact the Health Services Department at over break if you, your student, or another member of your immediate family:
Is aware or concerned that they have been exposed to any infectious disease
Becomes ill at any time over the break
Has traveled to or from a Travel Advisory Level 2 (L2) area or higher
Has been or may have been in contact with some who was in a Travel Advisory Level 2 (L2) area or higher
If there has been suspected exposure, individuals should consider self-quarantine or may be asked not to return to campus for 14 days from point of contact. We will academically support students who cannot return to school due to illness or quarantine.
We are counting on families to be vigilant and to be forthright with the School about any of these potential scenarios. Our efforts to prevent the spread of infectious illness on our campus is paramount and guides our precautions and decision-making at this time.
In the unlikely event that we cannot open as scheduled after spring break, we are working on a plan to maintain educational continuity through remote access learning. We do not anticipate having to do this, but all schools have been encouraged to formulate a plan.
As far as we are aware, no one in our community is traveling to Travel Advisory L2 areas or higher, including Asia and Italy, over the break. Many of our international students will be staying as a group with faculty at a rental home near the shore in Connecticut.
We will, as previously mentioned, continue to monitor the situation and make adjustments to our plans and preparedness as necessary. Please expect and look out for at least one update from the School before students return to campus on March 25th.
If you have any questions or concerns about COVID-19 and/or other health-related issues, please do not hesitate to reach out to Health Services or Assistant Head of School Caitlin Lynch P’13 over the break. It should be noted that our student body has been incredibly cooperative, mature, and supportive of one another during this time of uncertainty.
Thank you, and we wish everyone a fun and safe break with their students.
Blythe Everett P’14, ‘16
Head of School
Jayne Janecek, P’ 06, ‘10, ‘13, ‘16
Director of Health Services
Dear Marvelwood Families,
As the Medical Director of The Marvelwood School, I would like to assure you that I have been working with the Head of School, Director of Health Services, and school administrators as well as monitoring all information coming from the CDC, WHO and the Torrington Health District about the COVID-19.
I have every confidence that the school is following all recommendations from all sources.
As the situation keeps evolving, so does the school’s preparedness. Marvelwood’s administration has been proactive in addressing the situation and has every intention of keeping families up to date and informed. This process will continue if and when adjustments need to be made to travel precautions or other advisories over the upcoming spring holiday or to the normal routine of the school once they are back in session. The school’s first priority remains the students and their well-being.
Dr. Roman Alder
February 8, 2020
Dear Marvelwood Families,
I write today to keep you informed about how Marvelwood continues to address the ever-changing landscape associated with the spread of influenza and the coronavirus. Given how quickly the situation is changing day-to-day, we are acting as proactively as possible to protect, assess and support the ongoing health needs of our entire school community.
We have been very fortunate that, to date, we have had no cases of Influenza A/B among our students or staff. 95% of our students have been vaccinated against the flu; if you would like your child to receive the vaccine, please contact our Health Services Office at (860) 927-5321.
Flu symptoms are primarily respiratory but often include headache, body aches, sore throat, and fever. Symptoms begin suddenly and seem to peak on days 2-3. If your child develops flu symptoms while at home, please keep them home and make an appointment with their personal physician. If a student develops symptoms on campus, our nursing staff will recommend that those who live close by return home. If your child tests positive for either Influenza A or B, they should remain home for five days from the onset of symptoms. Any student who is symptomatic but is unable to return home will be evaluated by the school’s physician, and appropriate treatment will be provided on campus.
As the World Health Organization (WHO) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) monitor cases of coronavirus around the world and in the U.S., information and recommendations are constantly changing as these officials learn more about the virus and how it is spreading. At this time, these organizations do not consider coronavirus to be an active threat in the U.S. Our Marvelwood response team is closely monitoring all updates, communicating with local public health officials and providers, and regularly checking in with neighbor schools and independent school organizations across the country.
At this time, the WHO and CDC have advised that citizens should avoid all travel to China. Be aware that travel advisories may become increasingly restrictive and/or broaden quickly to include other areas and regions of the world.
Marvelwood has been in close contact with our Chinese students and their families for several weeks and is in the final stages of making alternate arrangements for all of these students to remain in the U.S., off-campus with supervision, during the upcoming March vacation. This has required these families to modify their students’ travel plans, and we are grateful for their cooperation.
Because we recognize that any student may have plans to travel during the upcoming break, our expectation is that families will provide us with accurate details about any student who travels to China or has direct contact with anyone who has recently traveled to/from China. Even if they are able to re-enter the country following travel to or contact with others from restricted areas, these students may not return to campus until at least 14 days following said travel or contact. Marvelwood is not equipped to provide quarantine space for students who may have been exposed to the coronavirus.
As we continue to actively monitor the spread of both influenza and coronavirus, we are focused on doing what we can to prevent both illnesses from gaining a foothold here on campus. Our housekeeping staff disinfects surfaces and doorknobs on a daily basis, and we continue to encourage all members of our community to practice effective personal hygiene to curb the spread of germs. Proactively addressing student illness is an important part of our plan; please encourage your child to visit the Health Center promptly if they are not feeling well.
We will continue to provide updates as we weather the flu season and work to ensure that we are as prepared as possible to protect the health of our community.
Blythe Everett P’14, ‘16
Head of School
January 27, 2020
Dear Marvelwood Families,
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is closely monitoring an outbreak caused by a new coronavirus, ‘2019-nCoV’, first Identified in Wuhan City, Hubei Province, China. The CDC is working closely with the World Health Organization (WHO). While infections are being reported in a growing number of international locations, including the United States, it is important to know that based on current information, the immediate risk from 2019-nCoV to the general US population is deemed to be low at this time.
We are also in communication with top administration officials of both the Connecticut Association of Independent Schools and the Association of Boarding Schools about trends and practices being recommended by these organizations and/or adopted by other boarding schools.
Marvelwood’s administration and Health Office will continue to follow the CDC’s directives and track any travel advisories regarding the virus. If you have any questions about 2019-nCoV or your child’s health, please contact our Health Office at 860-927-5321 or by email.
As a reminder, we are in the middle of cold and flu season and continue to encourage the school community to engage in standard precautions:
Wash hands often.
Clean and disinfect as much as possible.
Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
Stay at home when you are sick; return to school only after being fever-free for 24 hours.
Day students who experience flu-like symptoms should remain home. Boarding students who are not feeling well should come to the Health Office to be evaluated. Boarding students who live within driving distance will be asked to go home if they become sick, and cannot return to school until symptoms subside.
With the Winter Long Weekend Break and March vacation approaching, we will reach out again if conditions change or impact travel plans.
Blythe Everett P’14, ‘16
Head of School
Jayne Janecek, P’06, ‘10, ‘13, ‘16
Director of Health Services