Response to COVID-19 and Re-Opening

August 21, 2020

Dear TJ Families, 

The excitement for opening day continues to build. Faculty returned to campus on Monday and are continuing their preparation and training for the fall term. We are counting down the days until we can be together again (whether in front of a screen or in the classroom) on September 9th. Given current local conditions, our small size, and our commitment to daily screening, masking, social distancing, and hand hygiene, we are confident that we can provide day students a safe in-person experience
 
A number of factors led us to this decision: 
  • Improving local conditions in St. Louis (you can find more information from the St. Louis County Department of Public Health’s website at https://stlcorona.com/). 

  • Our mitigation and safety procedures that were articulated in previous plans. 

  • The confidence shared by medical professionals that mitigation strategies are an effective way to reduce risk. 

  • An ongoing partnership with other St. Louis schools with medical professionals to gather and share the most up-to-date information possible. 

 
It is still our intent to welcome boarding students back to campus at the start of Q2. Boarding students should make plans to arrive on Saturday, October 17, 2020. We will then plan to keep TJ’s campus open through graduation on May 21. 

Since our previous communication on August 6th, progress has been made in several of the following areas. 
  • Please log in to MyTJS to fill out the required forms for registration—these are essential for your child(ren) to begin classes.

  • Faculty have been hard at work to ensure that we can provide synchronous learning experiences  for  students, whether they are in person or on the other side of the world. 

  • Mr. Roth and Mr. Pesek have worked hard all summer to plan a new daily schedule for the first quarter that maximizes “face-to-face” learning at times that do not create excessive hardship for students in time zones around the world. Classes will take place between 8:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. CDT with supervised, socially-distant activities between lunch and 5:00 p.m. (For example, a student in Beijing will attend class between 9:30 p.m. and 1:30 a.m.) The specifics of the schedule are communicated in the attached plan.

  • We continue to plan for the return of boarding students on October 17 and to develop plans for helping facilitate travel. 

 Some other important notes for each family: 
  • All day school families are asked to complete this survey indicating their intention to attend classes in person or online. Knowing the number of students who will be on campus each day will have a major impact on classrooms and schedule planning. 

  • Now more than ever, it is essential that members of our community—students and staff alike—stay home if they are sick or presenting any symptoms of illness (e.g., cough, runny nose, fever). With classes accessible online, no one will miss out on instruction!

  • Our Community Health Pledge will be distributed via MyTJS for acknowledgment. 

Linked below (and posted to MyTJS), please find the most updated plan for reopening. We understand that you probably have additional questions, and we encourage you to continue to reach out to the faculty and staff. As a reminder, I host weekly virtual office hours (Tuesdays at 8:00 a.m. CDT) and would love to see you there!

Sincerely,
 
Matthew R. Troutman, Ph.D.
Head of School
mtroutman@tjs.org

August 6, 2020


Dear TJ Families, 


We are grateful for the patience you have shown as we think through the myriad and complex details of planning for the 2020-2021 school year. Your feedback has been central to this work, and your encouragement has buoyed us during this process. From the start, it has been our firm desire to reopen in person and to provide a virtual learning option for students who cannot come to campus or who are not yet comfortable with being in person. We have also committed to following the guidance of local and national public-health experts. 


As of this writing, current conditions in St. Louis suggest that if school began as planned on August 26, we would be compelled to do so remotely. For this reason, we have decided to move our start date to Wednesday, September 9. In addition to gaining two weeks to monitor for a much hoped-for reduction in community spread, this decision allows us to use the time between August 26 and September 8 to set ourselves and our students up for the greatest success once classes begin. 


The faculty will have two weeks dedicated to additional training and professional development for teaching in a multi-modal environment. In addition, they will be planning online social and orientation activities between August 31 and September 4 that allow new and returning students to generate an all-important sense of community and an understanding of expectations for the new learning environments they face. 


Current local conditions have also compelled us to make the hardest decision of all: to suspend the boarding program through the end of the first quarter (boarders returning on Saturday, October 17th). Given that local conditions will remain in flux and that public-health officials may therefore mandate remote learning, we must best position ourselves to make nimble transitions between all-remote and in-person/hybrid learning. Planning for a single “repopulation” date on October 17th will not only give time for local and national conditions to stabilize (since boarding students must travel through various airport hubs around the country), it affords the school the opportunity to conduct efficient group testing, mitigates a number of risks associated with travel, and allows for the school to develop a chaperoned third-country arrival for a significant portion our international community as necessitated by the government-imposed travel restrictions. Visas for arrival to the U.S. will not be negatively impacted by this adjustment; all necessary modifications will be handled by the school.


One calendar adjustment, of course, necessitates others. Once boarders return, the campus will remain open through graduation in order to eliminate the need for travel and to provide a safe environment for residential students during breaks. Winter break will be shortened to two weeks (December 19-January 5), and spring break to one week (March 22-29), allowing us to move graduation to the weekend of May 21. This new calendar preserves the same number of instructional days.


Together we will continue to navigate the strangeness of this unprecedented year. Our highest priority is always to give our students the best academic experience with as much personal support as possible; every decision will continue to be made with the health and safety of our students, faculty, and staff in mind. Linked below, please find a rough draft of the modified academic calendar, an updated refund policy, answers to frequently asked questions about insurance for international students, and a link to data and trends from the St. Louis County Department of Public Health.


We understand that you may have additional questions, and we encourage you to continue to reach out to the faculty and staff. I will be resuming weekly virtual office hours (weekly on Tuesdays at 8:00 a.m. CDT) as of August 11, 2020 and encourage your participation.


Revised calendar of major dates for the 2020-21 academic year (as of August 6, 2020)

Refund Policy for COVID Related Closures

Insurance questions for international students 

St. Louis Department of Public Health COVID-19 website


Sincerely,

Matthew R. Troutman, Ph.D.

Head of School

mtroutman@tjs.org

July 30, 2020

 

This afternoon, the St. Louis County Department of Public Health issued a formal recommendation (linked below) that all St. Louis County schools begin the year in “as virtual of an environment as possible to protect students, staff, and families.” Throughout the planning process, we have consistently adhered to guidance from both local officials and national agencies. We have built our plans to allow for moving flexibly between remote and in-person learning, as local conditions dictate, and this recommendation requires just the kind of flexibility we anticipated. 


Tomorrow afternoon, independent school leaders will join a call with representatives from the Department of Public Health to get further clarification. Next week, we will share an update regarding the start of the school year.  


The statement from our County Department of Public Health reminds us that taking actions, as individuals and as a community, to protect our collective health and safety will be an ongoing commitment. Since March, the TJ community has lived consistently with inconsistency—but each challenge has proven the patience, adaptability, and empathy of our community. We will do this together.

 

Sincerely,

Matthew R. Troutman, Ph.D.
Head of School
mtroutman@tjs.org

July 20, 2020


Dear TJ Family,


Today I am writing to share our planning document for fall of 2020. While preparation for the new school year continues apace, we still face a number of uncertainties due to the current public health crisis. The CDC and St. Louis County Department of Health continue to modify recommendations as circumstances evolve. The ambiguity of our local and national situation requires us to design a reopening program that allows us to respond to the changing guidelines while still serving our educational purpose: to create rich and robust learning experiences for our purposefully-sized, close-knit school community. 


We had, of course, hoped to be definitive here about whether we intend to begin classes in person or online, but the situation has not allowed that. What we can be definitive about is that the schedule we have developed will allow us to move nimbly between in-person and online learning no matter what the outside world does. We anticipate that students will need to move between in-person, online, and a hybrid model of instruction at different points throughout the year, depending on the specific needs of students and families. 


The planning document (linked here as well as published to MyTJS) provides an overview of the academic program as well as operational policies and procedures necessary for resuming in-person instruction. This is a living document and updates will be made and shared as circumstances necessitate. Please look for a subsequent communication on Monday, August 3, two weeks from today, with additional information.


Before I close, I want to thank all members of our TJ family. The faculty and staff have worked in a continual state of adjustment, response, planning, and preparation since March. Their critical thinking and creativity will be central to the success of this school year. The parent body has followed us into the unknown and supported TJ’s young scholars as they grappled with the seismic shift in their lives. Finally, our students have responded in ways unimaginable. They have innovated, again and again, and they will continue to challenge—and to teach—their teachers. Without all of these efforts, TJ would not be the vibrant community that nourishes us all.


Whether we share a room or a screen next month, no principle guides us more strongly than our desire to engage students in daily dialogue about ideas that will lead them—as our mission states—to lift up the world with beauty and intellect. In the meantime, we thank you all again for your patience, your support, and your partnership.


Onward together,

Troutman signature

Matthew R. Troutman

Head of School

mtroutman@tjs.org

  • Wash hands often for at least 20 seconds with soap and water.
  • Sneeze and cough into a tissue if possible or a bent elbow if no tissue is available.
  • Avoid touching your face.
  • Don’t share drinks or food.
  • Stay home if you feel ill.