Distance Learning Program Update
The updated daily schedule puts a greater emphasis on community and connectedness while we are away from campus.
Dear Members of the Pomfret School Community,
I hope this finds you well, having had the chance to celebrate a safe, healthy, and enjoyable holiday. In my December 15 communication, which announced the delay of our return to campus until after Spring Break, I promised you an update describing the design of the distance learning schedule we will follow when the winter term resumes on January 7.
Today, I am pleased to share this update with you. Our new daily schedule builds on the success of the academic schedule we have been following since Thanksgiving, but with a greater emphasis on community and connectedness. In devising this model, we have also incorporated the lessons learned from the spring 2020 distance learning period.
The basic academic formula will remain the same:
- We will continue to hold four 40-minute synchronous class blocks each day, Monday through Friday. Consistent with the current schedule, each course will meet two times per week, and most students will attend two or three classes per day. In response to student feedback, we have increased the passing time between classes from five minutes to ten minutes.
- We will continue to hold space for study hours in the afternoon between 2:30 and 4:30 p.m. EST. In general, we expect each student to spend approximately 60 minutes per class meeting working on asynchronous course material.
- Teachers will continue to host evening shadow blocks for students who are unable to join synchronous classes in the morning, though we have eliminated afternoon shadow blocks due to lack of use.
- Teaching faculty will continue to offer extra help sessions at mutually agreed-upon times that work for both the student and the teacher.
We have added new opportunities to connect as a community:
- Senior Chapel will take place on Monday mornings from 10:10 to 10:50 a.m. EST. Students will gather in advisory groups to watch seniors deliver their Senior Chapel Talks. Mr. Fisher will be in touch with more information about how this is going to work.
- Athletics and afternoon activities will take place on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday from 1:00 to 2:00 p.m. EST. Next week, Mr. Sheehan will invite students to register online for one co-curricular program, which they will attend for the remainder of the winter term. Program options include traditional winter sports, several spring sports, the winter musical, and yoga, as well as a few new activities.
- Dorms will meet on Wednesday evenings from 8:30 to 9:30 p.m. EST. Your dorm parents will host these meetings. A reminder: all students, including our day population, are assigned to a dorm unit.
- We will come together for a Community Gathering from 12:10 to 12:50 p.m. EST on Fridays. This will serve as a kind of fun flex block for us. One week we might enjoy a concert together, the next it might be a special guest. Some Fridays will also host senior chapel speakers.
- Advisory groups will meet on a weekly basis. Your advisor will schedule this meeting based on what works best for the group.
Looking ahead to spring
In my last communication, I wrote: “Assuming local and national Covid-19 conditions have improved, our plan is to onboard students beginning on March 19 and resume in-person learning on March 22.”
Since then, several parents have inquired about the specific metrics and thresholds we will use to make this determination. Is it the number of daily cases per 100,000? What about the infection rate? Or maybe it’s the positivity rate? These are good and fair questions, ones that we have begun addressing with our medical director, in conjunction with state and local health agencies. As those conversations resume after the holidays, we will be sure to keep you fully informed.
The good news is that there is strong reason to believe that these conditions will have improved enough for us to bring students back to campus in time to resume in-person classes on March 22. Current Covid projections for the late winter and early spring look encouraging. In addition, we will have the ability to be outdoors more regularly, and based on what we are hearing from the governor of Connecticut, our teachers should have had their first vaccine by the end of January or early February. Even as you read this, we have already begun planning for a safe March return, and I am going to do everything in my power to make sure it happens.
Finally, I want to answer a couple of your questions about the winter term financial credit. Some parents have asked if they can collect their credit in the form of a refund check, while others have inquired if they can donate their credit back to the School. In both instances, the answer is Yes. If you would like to receive a check instead of an account credit, please contact the Business Office. If you would like to donate your refund back to the School, please complete this short form and our Advancement Office will handle the rest.
Wishing you and yours a very happy and healthy start to the new year.
Head of School