Our Plans for the 2020-21 School Year
Dear Seven Hills Community,
Governor Ralph Northam and the Virginia Department of Education recently issued their guidelines for schools to Recover, Redesign, Restart for the 2020-21 school year. I, along with the rest of the Seven Hills team, reviewed these guidelines and gave careful consideration to a wide variety of potential back-to-school scenarios. We are excited to announce that we have developed a plan that will allow all of our students to return to campus in September for full-time, in-person instruction, provided that there are no new directives that prevent a return to school.
Our top priority as we developed a plan for next year was to prioritize the health and safety of our community, while continuing to provide our students with an excellent, developmentally-appropriate education. We are confident in our ability to accomplish just that, but that does mean that school will have to look a little bit different than it has in the past.
Introducing… Phoenix RISE
What is Phoenix RISE?
The Phoenix RISE: Redesigning for Innovation, Safety, and Excellence program is a new way of teaching at Seven Hills designed to minimize health risks and maximize the classroom experience. Instead of a typical school day where the boys move between classrooms and instructors, students and teachers will be grouped together in grade-level cohorts. Those cohorts will stay together throughout the day for all subject matter. The designated cohort teachers will lead instruction for all curricula, though some specific content instruction will be led virtually by a teacher outside of the cohort. Akin to our Team Teaching model, this set-up will give teachers greater flexibility to integrate interdisciplinary, project-based lessons into the curriculum. Our teachers are excited about this opportunity to collaborate and innovate as they continue to provide the best educational experience for middle school boys.
Will my son still receive the same amount of instructional time in each academic area?
Yes, and then some! Students will still receive the same amount of instructional time per subject area every week, if not more. Every six weeks each teaching team will rotate to another grade-level cohort, with the exception of Mr. Parker, who will remain with Bridge throughout the year. As such, students will not be taught by the same two teachers for the entire year; instead, they’ll receive interdisciplinary instruction from four different teams of two or three teachers over the course of the year.
How will classrooms be set up?
We are in the process of modifying larger campus spaces to become social distancing-friendly classrooms. Each cohort will exclusively meet in one of these classrooms, which will most likely be the Great Hall, library, woodshop (or Bridge room), and science lab. These spaces were chosen based on their size, flexibility, individual entry and exit points, and designated bathroom access. Every room will be set up to allow for six feet of distance between student work stations.
What other precautions will Seven Hills take to minimize the risk of COVID-19 exposure?
We are actively consulting state and federal guidelines to develop a detailed “health check” plan that will ensure the safety of our community. We plan to conduct temperature checks on all students, faculty, and staff every morning at drop-off. If a student has been in contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 or is feeling ill, we will ask that they stay home and participate in classes virtually (see next question). All students and school employees will be required to wear masks indoors.
What if we are not comfortable with our son being on campus?
We will continue to provide the opportunity for any student to participate in classes through distance learning for as long or short a period of time as needed. Students will be able to virtually participate in classes in real time using a school-provided Chromebook.
Will students still have breaks? What about Exploratories? River Days?
Absolutely! We are preserving as much of our school life as we can. Middle school boys need time to get outside and move around, so cohorts will take staggered morning and afternoon breaks on campus. As for our signature Experiential Fridays, we will continue to have Exploratories and River Days, they just might look a little bit different.
I still have some questions.
There are many details that have yet to be worked out, including decisions regarding athletics and other after-school activities. Even if adjustments are needed, it is our intention to at least offer some after-school options in cohort-specific groupings. The Seven Hills team will be at work this summer to iron out all of the details. We will continue to keep you informed of our plans and welcome your feedback.
With warm regards,
Dagan Rowe, Head of School