Headmaster's Study

A Letter from the Heads on the Start of School

Dear Parents and Caregivers of Beauvoir, National Cathedral School, and St. Albans:

For educators, the early days of August are always a time when our minds begin to anticipate the resumption of classes. We look forward to being back in our familiar hallways, seeing our beloved students, and engaging in the work that we love so much.

This August has been no different. We await the start of the 2020-2021 school year and reconnecting with your amazing children with great eagerness.

What is different this August is, of course, the backdrop of COVID-19. The threat the pandemic poses to our school communities needs no explanation here, except to note that students, teachers, coaches, staff members, and administrators have all been affected in some way by this virus.

Throughout the summer, our schools have focused on how, in light of COVID-19, we might bring students and teachers back to the Close in safe and responsible ways.

We are writing today to share with you how our schools intend to open school in the coming weeks. Our plans differ, but they share a commitment to safeguarding the health and safety of our shared community and a desire to get children back on campus for at least some activities, provided that sufficient measures are in place to mitigate the risk of spreading COVID-19.
  • NCS and St. Albans will start the school year on Tuesday, Sept. 1, with a week of orientation and community-building sessions to help students get to know each other and their teachers. We are hoping these can be both virtual and in-person; any in-person activity would take place outside, with small groups of students taking turns on campus. The second week, classes will begin through remote learning. The following weeks we would continue with all academic classes online. We also would begin actively to look for opportunities to augment remote learning with on-campus activities, so that we may safely bring small groups to campus as soon as possible and allow students to better connect to one another and to their teachers. The two schools would reassess the public health situation in mid-October with the hope of a transition later in the school year to the hybrid models of in-person classes and remote learning announced earlier this summer.
  • At Beauvoir, the Early Learning Center (ELC) will open on August 31 for Beauvoir faculty and staff only, and orientation for all other students in ELC, and Pre-Kindergarten through Third Grade will take place the following week. Each grade level will have a specific “Meet your Teacher” day, when students will spend a scheduled morning or afternoon on campus with class cohorts, meeting classmates and teachers, learning and practicing some general safety routines, and more. The week of Sept. 14, Beauvoir will launch its Contingency Plan 1 (Half-Groups Campus Learning), with four days of on-site or remote-learning instruction and one day of remote learning for all. A simultaneous remote-learning option is available for students based on their families’ personal circumstances or as mandated by the school’s health and safety protocols. The evidence and research with very young children, particularly under the age of 8, point to a clear need to make returning to school safely a priority. Beauvoir is able to do this while meeting or exceeding the guidelines for reopening schools issued by national and local health officials. For more details on Beauvoir’s return to school, please reference the Comprehensive Communication Guide for Beauvoir Families.
Over months, our schools aimed toward starting the school year on campus, with everyone together. Thanks to the tireless help of more than 100 faculty, staff, administrators, Governing Board members, and parents, with input from physicians and public health experts, we made significant improvements in health and safety preparedness, and we adapted our educational plans to meet a wide range of scenarios. As a result, our school buildings are ready and waiting for us to open the doors to all.

Nevertheless, the same national and regional trends that have resulted in many local public schools beginning distance learning have convinced us that the two schools serving older students should open in this phased manner, starting with what we think of as a “remote plus” model and, we hope, later in the school year transitioning to the hybrid models. Beauvoir, with its younger student body and different classroom staffing model, is in a different posture that allows it to open in its hybrid model now. In assessing whether and when we can progress to the next phase of opening, STA and NCS and the experts who advise us will continue to focus on metrics in D.C. and the surrounding counties that include new cases reported, the testing positivity rate, the effective reproduction number (the average number of new infections caused by each infected person), and cases per 100,000 population. Beauvoir will continue to use those same metrics to adapt to one of its four contingency plans to match the current regional situations as needed.

The Beauvoir, NCS, and St. Albans faculty are fully prepared and committed to educate our students and build the strongest sense of community, whether our community members are in person, all together, or participating in remote learning.

We know that you will be interested in further details about your school’s plans, including the health and safety procedures we are implementing. We will individually follow up soon with additional information. In the meantime, stay safe, stay home, and join us in looking forward to a successful academic year.

Cindi Gibbs-Wilborn    
Head of School
Beauvoir School
Susan C. Bosland
Head of School
National Cathedral School    
Jason F. Robinson
St. Albans School
Located in Washington D.C.,  St. Albans School is a private, all boys day and boarding school. For more than a century, St. Albans has offered a distinctive educational experience for young men in grades 4 through 12. While our students reach exceptional academic goals and exhibit first-rate athletic and artistic achievements, as an Episcopal school we place equal emphasis upon moral and spiritual education.