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COVID-19 Update

Head of School Sam Houser shared this email with the George School community on June 30, 2020:

George School will open for in-person instruction in the fall, provided we are permitted to do so by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, as I previously indicated. This includes bringing both boarding and day students to campus.

Having said that, I can also say that while the George School experience will be familiar in many ways, it will also be different given the public health situation that confronts the world. For example, students, faculty, and staff should expect to wear masks for some significant portion of the day. Dining services will be altered to accommodate social distancing protocols, and large gatherings such as assemblies, meetings for worship, and evening study halls will take place with different structures and in multiple locations.

I write today with further information about our planning so that you can begin to plan your late summer and fall. It remains the school’s intention to keep our announced academic calendar, knowing circumstances may dictate that we shift from in-person learning to remote learning.

To accommodate that possibility, George School will adopt a hybrid educational model for the fall that maximizes the amount and quality of time students and teachers have together, whether the students are on the George School campus or on another continent.

I am glad to say, however, that regardless of which learning scenario we engage in, George School’s academics will continue to be of the highest quality, and our community will be connected. This is thanks in no small part to the extraordinary professionalism evidenced by our faculty and staff, and the resilience and trust exhibited by our students and their families.

Please review the information on our Back-to-School web page and know that as our Pandemic Planning Team continues its detailed work, we will be in touch with additional information. We will also publish a comprehensive health and safety protocol for your reference.

While we look forward to the start of school, I am deeply grateful for our relationships—those in which we currently find strength and those being newly formed. The trust placed in the school creates so much of our spirit and character as a learning community. Our ongoing collaboration and partnership will bring George School’s mission forward, into the fall and beyond.

Planning for the 2020-2021 Academic Year

Update June 17, 2020:

George School will open for in-person instruction in the Fall provided we are allowed to do so by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. This includes bringing boarding students to campus. The academic calendar for next year remains the same. The first day of classes will be Monday, August 31, and New Student Orientation begins Wednesday, August 26. Classes are held on Labor Day, Monday, September 7.

To help ensure we open smoothly and safely, our full community, including parents and students, will need to engage in orientation activities prior to the start of school, and information about those will be sent this summer. We will provide an update about when boarders can return to campus no later than June 30.

While we intend to be open this Fall, the school is preparing for three scenarios. Plans are underway to allow George School to offer in-person, hybrid, and online instruction. A new daily schedule and hybrid-flexible mode of instruction will allow us to move among three possible scenarios as necessary:

  • Full physical presence on campus with certain constraints.
  • A hybrid situation with some students on campus and others at home, due to social distancing and travel restrictions.
  • A return to stay-at-home orders necessitating a return to a fully remote mode of instruction.

As a global boarding school, even when we can physically open, there will be students unable to get to campus right away due to travel restrictions or visa delays. Our virtual learning program will allow students to progress academically and remain connected as a community.

To accommodate the difference in services between in-person learning and online learning, the George School Board has approved a monthly online tuition rate. The online tuition rate will take effect in the event a student needs to engage in online learning for more than three weeks due to circumstances or restrictions surrounding COVID-19, including:

  • The School campus is closed due to a mandate from the local, state, or federal government, including the local Board of Health.
  • The School closes campus in its sole discretion.
  • The student has symptoms of, known exposure to, or has a confirmed diagnosis of COVID-19.
  • A member of the student’s household has known exposure to or a confirmed diagnosis of COVID-19.
  • The student or a member of the student’s household is part of a vulnerable population, and by mutual agreement between the School and the student’s family, it is deemed unsafe for the student to be on campus.
  • Local, state, or federal travel restrictions prohibit your student from traveling to the School.

As members of the Friends Schools League, we are working collaboratively with the other athletic departments to develop plans for the fall sports season. We anticipate having more to share with you later this summer.

George School Transitions to Virtual Learning for Spring Term

George School transitioned to a virtual learning model for the 2020 Spring Term in response to the COVID-19 outbreak on March 12, 2020.

“While we may not be physically together in Meeting for Worship, in assemblies, on the playing fields, in the shop, in the rituals of the dorms at night, we are still George School,” said Head of School Sam Houser. “While we may not have the physical closeness we had, we are emotionally connected and will remain so…We get to create a different kind of community that privileges the same things we value in person—the intellectual development of a new generation of young adults; and their spiritual and personal growth.”

Student and Community Support

At the beginning of the spring term, teachers and students began to use the school’s online classroom platform. In addition, a number of enhancements to community and student support were launched. Read more.

Daily Bulletin

Mindful that so much new information would be directed at students and teachers alike, members of the George School administration put together a new publication, the Daily Bulletin, delivered electronically every morning to a channel on the school’s internal platform. Two versions are designed each day–one for students, and one for faculty and staff.

Campus Access

We have closed the George School campus. Because we are a residential boarding community, campus residents, a small number of international students unable to travel because of global travel restrictions and our essential staff are allowed on campus. Vendors and the guests of campus residents are also allowed.

Day students and domestic boarding students and their families are not allowed on campus. We have cancelled third party rentals of campus properties and our athletic facilities and fields, classrooms, dorms, and all internal common areas are locked and closed.

 

Student Belongings

Essential items, such as medications, travel documents, and academic materials have been reunited with students. The Deans’ Office is coordinating the delivery of other non-essential materials. We ask for your patience as that plan is developed and implemented.

International Baccalaureate Exams

Students with questions about IB assessments are encouraged to consult the most recent information on the IB website and to be in touch with George School’s International Baccalaureate coordinator, Kim McGlynn at ibcoordinator@georgeschool.org.

Advanced Placement Exams

AP Exam Schedule

Exams will be given from May 11 to May 22. Makeup test dates will be available for each subject from June 1 to June 5. Students can take exams at home. Each subject’s exam will be taken on the same day and at the same time, worldwide. View the full testing schedule. George School faculty remain committed to preparing students for these exams. Please encourage your child to remain in partnership with their teachers through the examination period this spring. Learn more.

GS Schedule During AP Exams

From May 13 until May 22 we will change to our schedule to accommodate the AP exam schedule (with exams at 12:00 p.m., 2:00 p.m. and 4:00 p.m.) We plan to moveg to one synchronous class per day during this time. This schedule change will give students taking AP exams more flexibility to both review and focus on exams, while still keeping up with other coursework.

College Testing

Will my applications be incomplete without testing?

Both the March and the May SAT tests were cancelled, and we are waiting for the College Board decision on the June SAT. Our College Counseling team receives daily updates from colleges. Here is what we have heard:

  • From the testing agencies: There is a sense that testing agencies (SAT and ACT) will add a few more test dates to the fall calendar if demand requires. Stay tuned!
  • From the colleges: Many colleges have opted to go test-optional next year, due to these testing complications. Colleges reaffirm that testing is only one piece in a holistic process. Going test-optional next year will create more opportunities to apply, but that does not mean it will make it easier to get in. It will simply mean that the weight of the other pieces of the application will take on more importance.

Don’t miss the “College Admissions and Testing in COVID-19” on Thursday, April 16 at 7:00 p.m. A link to register for the program will be sent to sophomore and junior families on April 16.

College Essays

Should I write about my quarantine / COVID-19 experience in my essay?

When it comes to your college essay, the key is to make it uniquely yours. Many students start by asking themselves “How” am I going to write about a particular topic, when they should be asking “Why” am I choosing to write about this topic. The key is to make it your own, especially if you think it is a popular topic. COVID-19 will likely be a popular topic, but if it speaks to you to write about your experience, make it your own. In the meantime, keep a journal, reflect, and when the time comes to write, see what speaks to you.

To help our George School students with the college essay, College Counseling, in collaboration with eth English Department will host essay writing workshops in late May. Stay tuned!

Senior Week

Governor Wolf has ordered the closure of Pennsylvania schools—public, independent and parochial—until the end of the academic year.

That order requires us to postpone our senior week celebrations to a later date and to limit access to the campus until the order is lifted. We will not have a traditional commencement ceremony on campus in May.

Seniors will receive diplomas and on Commencement day we are exploring how to gather in some virtual way to celebrate. We also hope to reschedule an on-campus ceremony and an accompanying celebration to offer seniors a chance to gather and enjoy time together at a later date.

Learning Center

Students who already regularly meet in the Learning Center during the academic day can connect Learning Center staff on Microsoft Teams during their usual arrangements, based on our new schedule. We also welcome “walk-in” appointments. All students will have the ability to schedule individual video chats on Teams for study skills and content support. We also plan to resume online versions of Math Help and the Writing Center, both of which will be staffed by faculty.

Online Counseling

The school’s counseling services program is now operating online, with daily drop-in hours. Mindful that many students face time-zone issues, appointments outside of the drop-in hours can be made as well. Students can communicate with counselors by audio, video, or chat.

Grading

Students are graded on a pass/fail scale. The important thing is for students to do the assigned work and to communicate with teachers about any obstacles they may encounter while doing so. Each teacher will specify what is necessary to pass their class. If a student passes, their yearlong grade will be at least what it was as of the end of Term 2. If a student fails, their yearlong grade will be lower than their March grade.

Teachers will provide an opportunity for those students who had an A- or lower as of March to raise their yearlong grade. The quality of work needed to raise the grade will be commensurate with what would have been necessary in the traditional model, but the type of work may be different.

Gatherings

Gatherings are daily check-in groups (and other meetings as needed) designed to keep the small-group connection points of a George School education thriving. The gatherings bring together pre-existing advisory groups, which allows people to maintain existing connections while making new ones. Read about a virtual birthday celebration.

Virtual Meetinghouse

When students are seeking a dose of spiritual nurture, or respite from the turbulence of the world, they can come to the Virtual Meetinghouse. Rather than walking down Meetinghouse Hill, students can enter a new sacred space located on the internal platform used by the George School community. There they will find a newly created 360 degree view of the interior, and resources offered to help students feel more centered, more whole, and more connected.

Student Newspaper

When the staff of the student newspaper learned that George School would be moving its academic program online, they responded by bringing Curious George to an internal online platform, in order to foster community and connection and keep their work vital.