School task force planning for next year


CLOSED FOR THE SEASON: With the current COVID-19 crisis, all classes have been taking place online and presence upon campus has been limited. If students wish to pick up things from their lockers, they must respond to an online form and sign up for a specific pre-determined time slot.

Frank Jiang

A specialized task force will handle the school’s operations for the fall semester and decide whether classes will be held online or in-person during the 2020-21 year, President Rick Commons said.

The task force is comprised of seven members: Head of Athletics Terry Barnum, President Rick Commons, Head of Communications and Strategic Initiatives Ari Engelberg ’89, Chief of Campus Operations JD De Matté, Head of Upper School Laura Ross, Chief Financial Officer David Weil ’93 and Head of Middle School Jon Wimbish.

Most of the task force’s time has been devoted to forming contingency plans in order to ensure that the school is prepared for many different situations in the fall, Commons said.

“The task force is considering the two possibilities at either end of spectrum, which are rather ultimately simple to think about: either doing what we’ve been doing on the one hand, or doing what we used to do on the other hand,” Commons said. “Those things are relatively easy to think about. It’s really everything in between that’s challenging,

Ross also said that the task force tackles a myriad of other issues, including plans to sanitize classrooms and test students’ temperatures prior to entering campus.

“We’re doing things like measuring out all of our classrooms to figure out how many kids would fit in them if you put them six feet apart, how do you create paths to the school that are one-way to try to keep people away, how would you sanitize and clean rooms in between,” Ross said. “We’re definitely far from a definitive decision right now, but [we’re] just trying to plan as best as we can.”

Commons said that the task force is not considering California Governor Gavin Newsom’s proposal to start the 2020-21 school year in late July or early August.

“By and large, we’ve been able to continue the academic experience for our students, and that’s not true for all schools in the state,” Commons said. “We also feel that our teachers and students need a break and that this has been a difficult period to sustain our focus on academic excellence and being as present as possible in an online learning environment.”

As of now, Commons said the school plans to return to school in late August, but will be ready to revert back to virtual education in the case that the coronavirus pandemic escalates in the fall or winter.