Lincoln Academy Reopening Updates
A message from Head of School Jeff Burroughs
Living in a world impacted by a global pandemic has been incredibly difficult for all of us–much more than we could have predicted. While we are fortunate to be here in midcoast Maine riding out the proverbial storm, we have students and families who have been immeasurably impacted by events over these past four months. The background noise of anxiety that has been in our subconscious as a hum of unrest has taken its toll on all of us. As we make plans to rebuild the community we long for, we will keep the needs of students, faculty and staff forefront in our minds.
We need to accept the fact that our job in this moment is to take full advantage of technology, best educational practices, and what we know about building community, and deliver an education to our students that relies on a medium that is relatively new to most of us. While this is not the mode of delivery any of us would choose under normal circumstances, Lincoln Academy faculty and staff will make full use of the tools we have.
This fall we will be better at delivering our education through Canvas, our Learning Management System. We will build our courses so that they are more authentic to the environment of delivery and take advantage of best practices. We will combine these best practices with intentional personalized support for students. We will rebuild community in cohorts of students on campus, finding threads to weave through our student body so that we can stay connected to those pieces that have made LA so invaluable to our students.
Schedules for Learning
We are gratified with the response rate to recent surveys, which have been tremendously helpful in our decision making. The greatest concern for the majority of respondents is bimodal: evenly split between concerns about online learning and health and safety, which certainly reflects the country as a whole. Our planning team has worked with three options as recommended by Governor Mills’s return to school plan, supported by research into best practices, and guidance from other schools, and organizations. We will have three fully developed options for the 20-21 academic year.
1. Return to our regular fully in-person schedule.
This is the easiest for us and the one that we all are certainly hoping for. It is also the least likely based on current conditions and guidance, until there is a true change in the transmission of the virus and a vaccine has been developed and widely employed. All of the guidance for in-person instruction is still restricted by social distancing, mask wearing, and other health and safety protocols. The good news is that we know how to do this well and we have all of the schedules and rosters built so that we can move to fully in-person instruction as soon health and safety protocols allow it.
2. Fully Virtual Learning
This is the most difficult for all of us. It is new and uncomfortable, and very few of us– faculty, parents, or students–have had a lot of experience learning in a fully virtual course (although I imagine that many of us have learned something by looking up a video on YouTube, so in that sense we are familiar with the concept in practice). As you know, we made the jump to virtual learning in less than two days last year, and while I am incredibly proud of the work our teachers did to embrace this challenge, there remain many areas for improvement. LA faculty are working hard this summer to transform their traditional courses to be delivered virtually, and we believe these efforts will pay off with more engaging content, less screen time, and more opportunities for support during the weekly schedule. Additionally, this fall there will be a daily/weekly schedule that all students will follow as we have learned that routine is a critical factor in making virtual learning as effective as possible.
3. Hybrid Learning
At this point in the summer we are heading towards the third option, which is a hybrid model. Our Hybrid model employs aspects of both Virtual and Traditional learning approaches. We have two available hybrid models – one in which 1/4 of the school comes to campus one day a week and another in which 1//2 of the school comes to campus 2 days of the week. Which model we use will be determined by health and safety considerations. As many of you know, we have an older school, with many small classrooms and crowded hallways, which presents challenges for teaching spaces, transitions between classes, and ventilation systems.
As was clear in both the end-of-year and summer surveys, the aspects of school that students missed this spring were interactions with peers and the ability to get help on academic assignments, so these are the areas we will emphasize during our face-to-face time.
We will use the time on campus to orient students, especially 9th graders and new students, to ensure all are familiar with the educational tools required to access learning through Canvas, and to help students, faculty, and staff adjust to being in school with masks and social distancing requirements. We will also use time on campus to connect students with school resources including guidance for seniors and juniors, access to our wonderful social workers, and small group meetings with teachers and other key adults in their lives. We will do what we can to build the community foundations that will ground us when we are able return to campus more fully.
We do anticipate that as long as we can have students on campus in a hybrid fashion, we will offer extracurricular activities including sports. We are all anxiously awaiting the news from the MPA on the competitive and league side of fall sports, because we know that athletics is an important companion to the high school experience for many students. We plan to allow athletic participation as long as health and safety conditions and MPA guidance allows. Many students participate in performing arts programs after school, and we will find ways for them to continue in those activities as well.
Finally, I think it is critical that we all acknowledge that this is going to be hard for all of us. This is not the mode that any of us would choose, but I know that I can count on the indomitable LA spirit to help us find a way through it together. We will be flexible in all that we do, keeping an eye on serving our students, families, faculty, and staff, and creating the safest and most effective learning environment that we can. We will use the tools available to provide regular updates to the community and hold Zoom sessions for parents and students throughout the fall. Staying connected is critical during these times, and I hope you will join us as frequently as you can.
As always, I am available for questions or comments, willing to discuss individual situations and committed to continuing the proud tradition of serving the community at Lincoln Academy.
Be well and stay safe,
Jeffrey S. Burroughs
Head of School
Frequently Asked Questions About LA’s Return to School this fall
(Last updated July 28. This page will be updated regularly)