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Dedham Country Day is monitoring the COVID-19 situation carefully and is taking proactive measures to ensure the health and safety of every member of the community under the guidance provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The usual supports to our community which include our school nurse, psychologist, technology team, division heads, and our head of school continue to be in place for guidance and help. And for navigating the days ahead, our COVID-19 Task Force is meeting regularly and will be posting updates, announcements, and additional resources to this page.

2 Announcements displayed.

  • April 21 COVID Update

    Dedham Country Day will continue with its distance learning program through the end of the academic year pursuant to Governor Baker’s recent announcement for the continuation of remote operation for all schools in Massachusetts through the remainder of the school year.
    Read More
  • March 25 COVID-19 Update

    Pursuant to updated directives for public and private schools by Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker, DCD will remain closed until May 4, 2020, to help prevent the further spread of COVID-19. Please visit DCD's COVID-19 Resource page for information on DCD's transition to online learning.
    Read More
Archive

Letters to the Community from Allison Webster

List of 16 items.

  • June 4

    Dear DCD families,

    As we head into the summer, one unlike any we’ve ever experienced, I know we’ll all be thinking ahead to what the fall will bring. And I’m quite confident that at the highest level, our priorities and goals are the same - to provide the best academic program and community experience possible while ensuring the health and safety of our students, faculty, and staff. Despite the many unknowns that lie ahead, we’re confident we can meet these objectives, even if it takes some new methods and new approaches.

    Commitment to our Mission

    Regardless of how our education is delivered in the fall, I can assure you that we will hold fast to our mission and provide a program that is challenging, inclusive, and engaging. We continue to keep our students at the very heart of this process and are steadfast in our resolve to develop children and young adults into lifelong learners. Undoubtedly, there are skills in resiliency, independence, flexibility, and fortitude that they are gaining right before our eyes. Planning for all Scenarios While we would love to have a definitive plan for the fall in hand, there are many decisions currently out of our control. As we await guidelines and requirements from the CDC, Board of Health, and Commonwealth of Massachusetts, we are actively preparing for three possible scenarios in the fall:

    1. On-campus schooling with enhanced safety measures in place
    2. A hybrid approach with periods of on-campus schooling and periods of distance learning
    3. A comprehensive distance learning program for an extended period of time

    As you can imagine, each scenario presents unique challenges from a multitude of angles, but we are fortunate to have time (three months of summer), knowledge (through numerous teams working together) and resources (from experts in medicine and public health, distance learning, peer schools, AISNE and NAIS) to guide us down each path. We are learning from those around us, as well as those worldwide who are months ahead of the U.S. in reimagining school life. We also have a community of exceptional faculty and staff who are eager to make the 2020-21 school year the very best it can be.

    Timeline and Decision-Making

    So when we will know which scenario DCD will follow? First and foremost, we must await decisions from state and local officials, which we expect to be available in late June or early July. That information will inform our final decisions, which we expect to share in the beginning of August. Between now and then, we have three leadership teams meeting regularly all summer to strategize and formalize plans concerning health and safety, academic curriculum, space and facilities, technical resources, financial considerations, and other key priorities. These include the DCD Administrative Team, the Board of Trustees, and the COVID-19 Response and Planning Team, whose members include:
    Leslie Bowen, Director of Communications
    Nate Buffum, Head of Middle School
    Mark Epker, Chair, Board of Trustees
    Ali Fernandes, Chief Information Officer
    Carla Haith, Head of Lower School
    Phil Holden, Director of Facilities
    Emilie Liebhoff, Assistant Head of School and Director of Admissions
    MaryEllen Maloney, Head of Primary School
    Emily Osinube, School Nurse
    Katie Ouellette, Special Assistant to the Head of School
    Sara Payton-Stone, School Nurse
    Charles Rudnick, Director of Advancement
    Bob Santry, Chief Financial Officer
    Allison Webster, Head of School

    Working closely with Dr. Michael Cocchi, our school physician, we are confident we will make the decisions that will best serve our community. We will keep you informed of any and all developments throughout the summer and welcome your questions as the summer unfolds.

    Health and Safety

    Our course, our primary concern is the health and safety of our students, faculty, and staff, and many steps have already been taken to plan and prepare for campus re-entry, whenever that time comes. In addition, we recognize that when DCD’s campus reopens, there may be students with special health risks, families who need to quarantine due to exposure, and extenuating circumstances that will affect participation in daily activities. We are considering all of this as we plan for the coming year and are committed to serving all of our students.

    Faculty Professional Development

    When our distance learning program began in March, none of us imagined it would last for the duration of the school year. Now, we have the luxury of ample time ahead of us to better prepare our ideal curriculum through a range of delivery methods across all grades, and a range of materials. In addition, our faculty’s personal experience has provided a critical understanding of remote learning successes and challenges. This summer, our faculty will participate in a variety of professional development offerings including online courses, workshops, and webinars, and have access to innumerable readings and podcasts to best inform their curricular planning and amplify their technical expertise. Summer professional development is not new for our faculty, who regularly engage in opportunities each year to enhance their experience and learn new skills. What differentiates this summer, is that all will be working towards similar goals to ensure we are well-aligned in our curricular delivery, and as prepared as possible for the uncertain year ahead.

    Access to Campus

    As has been the case all spring, our offices will remain open virtually all summer. Our administrators and staff will access their campus offices on a modified schedule and can be best reached initially by email or by calling the main school number 781-329-0850. The campus remains closed to current students and families, as well as visitors. In addition, as you may know by now, we have decided not to open the DCD summer camp. If you find school items to return in the coming weeks, please contact Laura Martinez at 781-329-0850, and we will make arrangements for you.

    We look forward to being in touch later this summer and communicating with you once we have more information to share. If the reopening decisions were ours to make, we could finalize the plan for the school year now, as we typically do heading into the summer. We’ve all had lots of practice living with uncertainty these last months, and unfortunately, we have some more weeks of practice ahead. We are eager to find out what parameters will guide our fall, and please know we will work within those to create the best possible experience for our students and families. Enjoy the summer, and thanks again to all of you for your partnership and commitment to our school and community.

    Warmly,


    Allison

    P.S. In addition to varied professional development opportunities this summer, our faculty and staff will be collectively enjoying these selected group reads: New Kid (Jerry Craft), So You Want To Talk About Race (Ijemoa Oluo), Writers and Lovers (Lily King), Permission to Feel: Unlocking the Power of Emotions to Help Our Kids, Ourselves, and Our Society Thrive (Marc Brackett), and Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams (Matthew Walker). We welcome you to join us by reading one (or several!) of our selections as well.
  • May 14

    To DCD Families,

    As we continue to grapple with the impact of the coronavirus, we write to share some actions the school is taking to ensure that we are in a position to fulfill our mission and maintain our full program, both in the short-term and over a longer horizon. While these are challenging times, and the decisions are complex, we’ve been inspired that the process of charting this unexpected course has also reaffirmed the core values that drive DCD.

    We are simultaneously making plans to maintain appropriate staffing to continue delivering a meaningful educational experience during distance learning as we prepare for the return to in-person learning, when we are cleared to be back on campus. We are proud that DCD has chosen to avoid any layoffs or furloughs, enabling all members of our faculty and staff to benefit from the safety and security of their employment during a time of economic and medical uncertainty.

    To ensure that we can continue supporting our faculty and staff at a level consistent with fulfilling our mission, DCD applied and was approved for a loan in the second round of the Federal Government’s Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), part of the coronavirus relief package passed by Congress in April. The PPP provides small businesses and non-profits with the resources they need to maintain their payroll, hire back employees who may have been laid off, and cover applicable overhead expenses. We feel so fortunate that this program is available to us and that we are qualified for it.

    The Board of Trustees voted unanimously to seek the support of this program due to the economic uncertainty that lies ahead. As I mentioned in an earlier communication, we anticipate a loss of revenue from a variety of sources during the remainder of the academic year. In addition, with Governor Baker’s announcement that schools in Massachusetts will remain closed for the remainder of the year, questions as to whether our summer programs will be able to operate, and the timing of our return to campus in the fall subject to future state guidelines, DCD will most likely feel the economic impact of the coronavirus even more in the coming months. It is important that we plan for the most difficult scenario while hoping for the best. Accordingly, we concluded that a PPP loan would put the school in the strongest possible position to maintain staffing at appropriate levels.

    We appreciate the support you’ve shown for DCD during this challenging time, including the many adjustments to your home life due to the distance learning program. As we mentioned at the outset, these are complicated decisions warranted by complicated times. But I’m sure you will agree that taking steps to preserve DCD’s most valuable asset — our incredible faculty and staff — is straightforward and goes to the heart of our school’s values and mission of giving every child a meaningful and balanced educational experience.

    Please don’t hesitate to reach out if you have any questions or concerns.

    Warmly,

    Allison D. Webster, Head of School
    Mark Epker, President, Board of Trustees
  • April 21

    Dear Families,

    I’m sure by now you have heard Governor Baker’s announcement that schools in Massachusetts will continue to operate remotely through the remainder of the school year. This news is disappointing to us, as I’m sure it is to you as well. I’m writing to give you an update about how we will manage the next number of weeks of distance learning, and how we will continue to work towards the goals we hold for spring at DCD.

    Thanks again to all of you and to our faculty and staff for the work that has been done collectively to build DCD’s distance-learning program. We are pleased that our current program is meeting the needs of the large majority of our students and families, and we will continue to refine our program based on the feedback from students, teachers, and parents.

    Continued adjustments, like some additional asynchronous assignments in Middle School, and a bit more caution about screen time for our youngest students, will be part of the next version of our distance-learning plan.

    We are also working hard to consider how we tend to other important aspects of our school, like community-building and creating closure for students. For example, the planning for a virtual DCD Fair is well underway. In addition, eighth-grade advisors are working with families, students, and administrators to re-imagine the eighth-grade culminating activities, including graduation. While the needs of the eighth-grade class are especially important, please know we are considering the question of how we create closure at all grade levels. Endings matter, and we know all of our students deserve the opportunity to end the school year in a way that celebrates their hard work, adaptability, and accomplishment. As we finalize plans for culminating activities, we will share more details. Because we still have more than a month before the end of the school year, and because the situation has been changing so quickly, we’d like to let more time pass to help us understand what may or may not be possible in June.

    Our Board of Trustees and the Finance Committee have also been working in collaboration with the administrative team on important issues related to DCD’s finances. Because of the incremental nature of our closings, coming weeks at a time, our costs as a school have not changed significantly; our usual staff and faculty have remained in place, and they have been working tirelessly on behalf of DCD’s students. There are some aspects of the budget that have seen decreases as a result of the closure (e.g., at the time of this letter, we have not needed to purchase 14 days of food), which could potentially lead to net cost savings. If that materializes, we will communicate separately about a possible food rebate/credit or any other savings we can pass on to families.
    Of course, much of our planning is also focused on our next school year. Congratulations to our wonderful admissions team and the many people who play a critical role in helping families learn about our school. We had a very strong admissions yield, and our enrollment is robust for next year. I’m grateful to all of the families who connected with our prospective students and parents, helping them to see the value of a DCD education. At this point, we are planning for an on-campus opening in September and will be following all state guidelines to ensure the safety of our community while fulfilling our mission and meeting the needs of our students.
    I’ve found the collective work of our DCD community inspiring in these past weeks, and it lifts my spirits to see our community at its best. Like many of you, I’ve also had times when I am discouraged by the magnitude of the challenge our world is facing or scared for loved ones who are elderly or work in health care. So what keeps me hopeful during this time?

    The character strength of hope is notable not just for the ability to focus with determination on a goal, but also for the adaptability it generates. People who are hopeful find numerous pathways towards a goal and are not easily deterred when they hit obstacles. I have been so touched by the hopefulness of DCD’s families and teachers during this time. All of you have helped us find numerous pathways towards the goals we hold as a school, and your strength and adaptability make me hopeful about our ability to sustain an extraordinary school and community for our students, now and in the future.

    Warmly,
  • April 16

    Dear Families,

    Your thoughtful responses to last week's survey, in addition to student and teacher feedback, were incredibly beneficial and enabled us to further refine DCD's Distance Learning Plan. I was delighted to see from your feedback how much is already working well, and how your children continue to feel deeply connected to DCD’s teachers, their learning, and their peers. As we continue to navigate these new waters in the weeks ahead, we welcome your additional feedback to help us continually improve the program.
    At your convenience, please feel free to share your impressions in this short survey.

    In addition, I welcome you to join me tomorrow morning between 7:15 and 7:45 am over Zoom to share your thoughts and celebrations, or simply enjoy some company over coffee. Click here to participate and if a password is required, enter coffee.

    I look forward to hearing from you soon.

    Warmly,
  • April 11

    Update on Distance-Learning Program from Allison Webster
    Dear Families,
    With the first two weeks of distance learning behind us, I wanted to share some thoughts about where we are and some changes you can expect to see moving forward.
    We received nearly a hundred responses to our survey concerning the first seven days of distance-learning instruction. This distilled feedback informed our conversations during Thursday’s Professional Day and your perspectives were augmented by both student and teacher feedback.
    We had two goals for our Professional Day: first, to celebrate the many bright spots that have occurred over the past two weeks so to elevate and build upon the things that are working well; second, to reflect upon the suggestions we received from all of you to help us further refine our distance-learning plans.
    We celebrated many moments of connection with students, their joy in being together, and the fact they were able to engage in meaningful ways with content, even from a distance. The past two weeks have also included successful virtual admission events, parent coffees, finance committee meetings, and topical parent gatherings, such as last week’s session with DCD School Psychologist Erin Albert, Staying Sane While Staying In.
    The distillation of these positives is both simple and beautiful: relationships are at the heart of learning. The bright-spot moments emphasized how much learning and relationships are intertwined; a child’s passion for a topic is almost always amplified by a relationship with someone else who mirrors and reflects that passion and connection. Fueling these moments and connections is an important focus for making our distance learning work well over time.
    Some of the feedback we received provided a clear perspective of the majority of parents, and other pieces emphasized a divergent range of needs. For example, over three-quarters of the households felt that children had made a successful transition to distance learning, and about three-quarters felt the workload was just right for their child. At the same time, some households were eager to maintain the current level of synchronous (live/online) learning, while others had completely opposite views, wishing that distance learning looked much more like a typical academic day with screen-based classes and connections throughout the day. Of course, both perspectives are based on what works for an individual child and family.
    As we distilled what will work for the collective, we’ve made the following adjustments:
    • The Middle School schedule will continue largely as is, with some slight adjustments to the timing of classes (mostly to ease conflicts in scheduling specialists across the school as we increase synchronous instruction in the Lower School and Primary School). Middle School will keep the current balance of synchronous and asynchronous class time.
    • The Middle School will add elective options to its X Block to allow for important additional connections for students, such as Student Council and clubs.
    • The Lower School will adjust the balance of synchronous and asynchronous classes across the board, so grades 1-5 will all have three synchronous touchpoints each day. The touchpoints may include a Zoom check-in, synchronous small-group work, and a synchronous specialist class. On another day, the three touchpoints may be a Zoom check-in, some office hours for students, and a synchronous academic class. There will be some variation in how homeroom teachers utilize their synchronous blocks, and this will allow flexibility in meeting the need for small groups, full groups, and one-to-one time.
    • PreK and kindergarten will offer more synchronous touchpoints as well. PreK has added three additional weekly Zoom meetings with specialists to complement the twice-weekly Zoom call with homeroom teachers. Kindergarten has added three additional Zoom meetings with specialists, along with small-group instructional Zoom meetings and one-on-one time.
    • We are in the process of planning one-on-one Zoom meetings with eighth-grade big buddies and their kindergarten little buddies.
    • The Parent Association will begin offering programming to bring parents together in informal ways.
    • Division heads will offer office hours for those who want an opportunity to connect.
    • We will start offering a Morning Movement class from 8:00 to 8:30 a.m. on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday for Grades 1-5. Details will be posted on the online learning page.
    • The Middle School has already started regular Zoom assemblies, and we will do the same with the Lower School in the coming weeks.
    • I will continue offering a weekly morning coffee via Zoom for parents.
    I’m sure we’ll make other adjustments along the way as we continue to figure out the ideal balance of school programming and lessons so families are not overwhelmed by too much content. I appreciate your patience and partnership as we continue to figure this out together in the changing landscape, especially as we work to meet such a wide range of needs. Please continue to use our distance-learning webpage at bit.ly/DCDstayingconnected for class schedules and additional program information.
    Finally, I want to thank all of you for the time you are taking to share your appreciation with faculty and staff. One note from a parent this week emphasized her appreciation of the fact that everyone employed by DCD also has a personal life, commitments, families, loved ones, and the work of tending to all of that while simultaneously teaching her children. I’ve never been more proud of our faculty, staff, and administration for their dedication, skill, and adaptability, and I know you join me in thanking all of them. Please know that there is also a lot of appreciation flowing from the faculty and staff to all of you for the way we are working together to support and educate DCD’s children and adolescents.
    One parent shared a 30,000-foot view of what our students need and what they are learning, and I know you’ll appreciate the sentiment as much as I did. She wrote,
    I have said this before to others but it bears repeating here - all of our kids will be fine - they will ultimately be where they need to be academically but more importantly we want them to be where they need to be emotionally and this experience is teaching them what we think of as the most important skills - RESILIENCY, GRATITUDE, AND COMPASSION.
    Thanks again to everyone in our community for all you are doing to help our school continue to thrive.
    With appreciation for our resilient, grateful, and compassionate community,
    Allison D. Webster, Head of School
  • April 7

    Dear DCD Families,
    As we enter our second week of distance learning, we'd like to ask for your feedback about the experience so far. We recognize the significant adjustments that you've made in your lives and those of your children -- adjustments we've had to make as a faculty and staff as well -- and we deeply appreciate everything you're doing to make it work.
    While we've done our best to build a program that continues providing students a strong educational experience in a new online environment, we know there have been some challenges along the way. Your feedback has enabled us to make some adjustments this week, and by continuing to gather information we hope to further improve the experience for you, your children, and our faculty.
    Our survey will take just a few minutes to complete, and will provide helpful information in our planning process for the weeks ahead. As you will see from the options provided, you can complete the survey in aggregate for all of your children (if you have more than one child at DCD), or -- if you have time -- you can complete the form separately for each child. The second option obviously provides us more actionable data, but we welcome your feedback in either form.

    We’ll have an opportunity during Thursday’s Professional Day to share and discuss all of the survey data we receive by Wednesday evening at 5:00 PM, so thanks if you are able to find time in the next 24 hours to complete this survey.
    Thank you again for your partnership as we continue this new and unexpected journey together.
    With warm wishes for you and your families,
    Allison D. Webster
    Head of School
     
  • April 3

    Dear Families,
    I can still vividly remember my early days at home on Beacon Hill, over twenty years ago, when we had our first daughter, Isabelle. Days would pass where item after item went undone from my “to do” list, whether exercising, completing a work-related goal or a house project. Some days, basics like showering or the most rudimentary cooking went ignored as well. After about a month of days like this, I had an epiphany while lamenting all I was not getting done. I realized that I was getting something major done each day, and in fact, it was the most important thing – caring for our daughter. I feel the same way right now, as I wrap each day late with more on my “to do” list than I am able to get to each day. I know teachers and all of you feel the same way in this time, where the demands on us are beyond what we can accomplish each day.
     
    And yet, I’m writing to you at the end of week one with enormous pride in our school, gratitude for our teachers, and appreciation for our partnerships with families. The most important things have been done. We’ve reconnected our DCD students after a two-week break. We’ve launched our classrooms in a new platform. We’ve stayed in partnership with each other and taken care of each other as a community. And we’ve learned from our beginning and already started to make adjustments. Rather than ending the week focused on what more we wish we had done, I hope we can all step back and appreciate the herculean task we have undertaken and how much everyone in our community has contributed to its success.
     
    While there have been many high points this week, we know there have also been some challenges, and we appreciate the feedback you’ve provided. Some of the adjustments we are working on for next week include the following shifts: an increase in synchronous class time and office hours at some early elementary grade levels; the ability for some families to have additional devices from DCD to better dedicate devices to individual children; adults from DCD promoting enrichment activities since we hear that teachers asking children to engage in those works better than parents making the same request; all working to streamline communication; the PA finding more ways for families to connect.
     
    In an effort to continue gathering information about what is working and what we can improve about the distance-learning experience, next week we will send out a survey asking you to provide feedback. Please look for the message and make sure to complete the survey so we can continue to adjust our program.
     
    Tomorrow we will distribute the first Weekly eNews of our distance-learning program, which will feature highlights and special moments from the week as well as upcoming news and information — we hope you will enjoy seeing how our community is remaining connected and continuing to learn and grow!
    I hope you will join me in taking a deep breath, knowing that we got through the first week with many successes, and find some time to relax and decompress over the weekend. It is imperative in this unusual time that we work to create moments of true restoration, claiming an “off” switch in this life that has been very “on.” Here’s wishing you all a weekend of family time and peace, and we look forward to resuming our journey together next week.
     
    Soul legend Bill Withers passed away today. Start your weekend with five minutes of "Lean on Me" and appreciate all you did this week for the many who leaned on you, and know that we are here if you need to lean on us. We’ll lean on each other as a community, and that will help all care for DCD’s students and adults in the weeks ahead.
     
    Warmly,
     
    Allison D. Webster, Head of School
  • April 1

    Dear Families,
    Thanks again for all of the support you have provided your child during our launch of distance learning. I know there have been some wonderful moments, like discovering how well some content translates to a digital platform or seeing students’ joy when they can connect with each other during morning meetings over Zoom. At the same time, we know there have been some challenges, as is to be expected in these early days of moving our program and school to the virtual world.
    One of the most common concerns we are hearing from families is related to the number of devices it takes to keep a family living, learning, and working from home. We have heard from some of you that it’s a challenge to not have a device that is dedicated to your child. We hear you, and we are writing to let you know that we will distribute additional DCD devices to help meet this need.
    Before sharing details about our plan for distributing devices to families that need them, I’d like to rearticulate the goals we have been pursuing by not distributing devices to students in grades 1-5. While a typical DCD day on campus involves a portion of time utilizing a screen for learning, a more significant portion of the day takes place away from screens. Our concerns about giving out devices were that it might burden families who would then have yet another reason for screentime discussions with their children and that the presence of devices would end up driving our teaching towards more screen-based lessons. While we value all that technology adds to our program, we know it is important, too, that students have many moments of learning and interaction away from a screen. Please know that we are still working towards this goal of balancing screentime with other types of enriching activities while implementing our distance-learning curriculum.
    Beginning on Monday, April 6, we will distribute devices from outside of DCD’s main building, while following a process that maintains the clear social-distancing guidelines that are in place. Chief Information Officer Ali Fernandes will send a separate communication later this week to families requesting a device that will outline details for pick-up.
    What is your next step? Evaluate whether or not your family needs an additional device. Even in these early days of distance learning, I’m sure many of you are finding ways to work within the number of devices you already have in your homes. If this is the case, please do not request a device at this time. If you need more access to technology in your home, please submit this form to request a device for your child by Friday, April 3, at 12:00 pm. Please remember that the same policies about DCD technology that apply on campus will apply off-campus, including our Acceptable Use Policy and the expectation that families will pay for devices that get broken while in their care.
    Thanks to all of you for your partnership as we launch this new endeavor. In our discussions as faculty and staff, we keep returning to the purpose and goals behind all that we do and continue adapting our teaching to meet those objectives. Your feedback is helping us refine our plan and shape the weeks ahead. Thank you all for bringing that feedback forward with a genuine spirit of partnership and collaboration, since we are in this together.
    Warmly,
     
  • March 31

    Dear Families, Teachers, and Staff,
    Can you believe I am pining for carpool right now? As we wrap up this first day of school, I wish I had the opportunity to be at carpool, see each one of you, ask about your day, and hear from kids about what it was like to re-engage with school. I’m sure I’d hear a range of answers, from fun to overwhelming to joyful to easy to just right. I loved joining some Zoom calls this morning and seeing the delight children took in being back together.
    Today was a day when our wildly skilled and expert teachers all started school like a fleet of new teachers, none of them ever teaching remotely as their primary method of instruction before today. And all of you, expert supporters of your children, did so today while simultaneously tending to other commitments, other children, workplace demands, and household demands. Kudos to all of you for the work and adaptability that went into today’s launch. I am truly grateful.
    What’s next? I know today was a busy day for everyone, and we genuinely want your feedback about how things are working. At the same time, I think the best thing we can all give ourselves is an evening of rest. The tweaks, celebrations, and modifications to what we have launched will be just as relevant in the morning. I’d love to give things a couple of days to adjust before we jump into assessing how they are working, and we will be in touch later this week about a survey. As we said from the start, we’ll inevitably work together to find the right balance, and that balance will not be the same for every child and every family.
    For now, I think it is essential that we all practice having an “on” and an “off” switch during this time. I hope everyone can get some rest, enjoy some family time this evening, and trust that we will continue to partner together to make the distance learning meaningful for children, workable for families, and sustainable for our faculty. Thank you all, and we look forward to being in touch again soon.
    Warmly,
  • March 30

    Dear Families,
    We are launching our distance learning program tomorrow morning, Tuesday, March 31. Click here to view the distance learning landing page created for families and students to use as a resource in the weeks ahead. Learning plans are posted for each grade along with FAQs and resources for families, enrichment curriculum, and DCD expectations and guidelines.
    Distance learning will look different than classroom learning, but the objectives are the same. Using these resources will allow students to continue learning while still participating in our community and deriving strength from each other.
    We will continue to share updates by email and through our Weekly eNews each Saturday morning. Grade-specific instructions will be updated regularly on our PK-8 Division Learning Plans page. Past communications related to COVID-19 can be found by visiting our COVID-19 Updates & Resources page.
  • March 26

    Dear Families,
    We are grateful to have all of you as partners in the weeks ahead as we begin distance learning. Reopening DCD—even virtually—will be a comfort to us all. I know you share my disappointment that schools in Massachusetts, including DCD, cannot physically reopen before May 4th according to yesterday’s order by Governor Baker. I’m sure you also share my commitment to making your child’s DCD experience as strong as it can be this spring.
    Towards that end, we have been hard at work on a plan for distance learning at DCD, and we look forward to sharing it with all of you. We will do so at the end of the day on Monday, March 30, after we finalize some details during our virtual professional day with faculty. You and your child do not need any special preparations to be ready for our launch on Tuesday; your child already brought home key materials when we closed for spring break. The one new request we have is that every family has access to Zoom, and below you’ll find details if you are not familiar with this platform.
    I’ve created this short video to explain to students how DCD is approaching this new remote learning experience. We’ve also created a FAQ document to answer common questions about distance learning. So how are we thinking about distance learning at DCD? Distance learning is an opportunity for our school to fulfill its mission and values, but using methods that work when we are away from campus. The purpose of our virtual interactions is threefold: to further each student’s learning in the most meaningful way possible; to find ways to participate in, build, and celebrate our community; and to support each other in these uncertain times.
    Your children are learning from our current situation, separate from their learning in school. They are learning how to manage disappointment and fear; they are learning how to be community-minded; they are learning how to adapt to challenging times. Finding a way to make the best of a difficult situation is a capacity that will serve them well in the future. Knowing our students (and all of you), I’m confident that they will bring a spirit and energy to distance learning that will make it as positive as it can be, and for that I am grateful. We are realistic about the challenges ahead as whole families try to live, work, and learn under one roof 24/7. Our hope is that the content from DCD can provide some creativity, generativity, and purpose for your child, along with a connection to their peers and teachers, in a way that helps during these challenging times.
    Special thanks to the many administrators, technology team, and teachers who utilized the two weeks of spring break to reorient our brick-and-mortar school to one that can live virtually in all of our homes. This was an enormous undertaking. We’ve talked to schools that utilize only online platforms, connected with parts of the world that are further into the COVID-19 crisis to learn from their experience, engaged in online classes, and learned from other school communities. We are now confident of two things: we are launching a plan that will work well for our students right now, and we are committed to providing constant review and refinement of the plan. I’m grateful for the creativity, can-do spirit, and hard work of the many who helped us make this transition.
    More on Monday and we look forward to “gathering” soon.
    Warmly,
  • March 20

    Dear Families,

    This morning I’ve already seen a cartoon with Waldo walking alone, captioned: “Where’s socially-distanced Waldo?” Another meme read, “I hadn’t planned to give up quite this much for Lent.” Morning headlines tell of no new COVID-19 cases in China, growing cases in NYC, and a first vaccine trial. Such is a morning of news and commentary that was unimaginable just a few months ago. We have long said that a DCD education prepares children for a future we cannot predict. This fact is more poignant now than ever as we face together the challenge of our uncertain time.

    While much is unknown about the months ahead, the list of things that we do know is long as well: we are a loving community and will do everything in our power to stand by and support each other through this challenge; we are a nimble group and can adapt as needed; we are able to find bursts of joy and community in ordinary moments, even if they occur remotely; we are a diverse group of people with wide-ranging interests and beliefs, and treat other with kindness and respect. These strengths are the powers that will fortify us. Together, these characteristics give us the capacity to adapt and find new ways to build our learning community and sustain the strength of our school.
     
    No school has all of the answers at the moment, but I know of no school better positioned than DCD to re-envision how to sustain learning and community, strengthen our connections, and make a meaningful experience for all of our students in our DCD community. Our children will remember this moment for their entire lives, and COVID-19 will be their generation’s version of 9/11, or “Where were you when JFK was assassinated?” When they look back on this time, I want them to remember us as a model for how a community pulls together and stays true to its mission and values in a challenging time. I am always grateful to lead our school, and especially so now as I see the opportunity ahead of us to be at our best while we weather something difficult together.
     
    I’m writing to share some of the decisions our Administrative Team has made about the weeks ahead and to provide you and your children with some resources.

    • We have set April 13th as the tentative date for returning to campus. Schools are picking a wide range of dates for a plan to return, but none of us has enough information yet to choose a date with confidence. My hope is that this date provides some clarity and expectation for the short term, and will give us time to gather more information as we plan for the remainder of the spring.
    • Our distance learning will begin on March 31st, one day later than we were originally scheduled to return from break. This will give our faculty additional time on March 30th to plan and coordinate our efforts. We will also use April 9th as a Professional Day for faculty to collaborate remotely and revise any of our strategies. Anticipating the need to adapt, based on what we are learning, is one of the ways we can ensure we offer the strongest program and experience to our students.
    • Information about our distance learning will be distributed on Monday, March 30th. This will also include an updated school calendar. (For example, we will still plan to be “off” of school on Good Friday, April 10th.) All campus events between now and April 13th have been canceled. If you were hosting an event, feel free to offer a remote version of it.

    Our hope is that each and every one of you feels the support of DCD during this time. School psychologist Erin Albert has gathered 
    some resources for families in case you would like to utilize these resources during the break.
     
    I’ve made a short video for students to help them navigate the current time. I imagined what I’d say to them if we had our normal morning assembly, and this video captures those ideas (it also kept my daughter, Isabelle entertained for an afternoon while she functioned as director, grip, videographer, etc).
     
    How can you help?
    • Please try to capture another week of spring break. Students need the rest, the time to consolidate the learning from last semester, and the “downtime”. I know that it is a challenge to capture this feeling of rest in our current moment, but your continued efforts to carve out some time away from the news and engaging in activities they enjoy will serve our students well.
    • Reach out to each other. If you know of someone in our community who may be especially challenged by the situation we are in, please connect. Your relationships with each other – and the way you support each other – will be a key part of us sustaining the strength of our school.
    • When we resume, please be ready to be patient with us as we learn and adapt. If any of us believed online learning was the best method for children to learn and grow, we would not be working at DCD. We believe deeply in our connected, hands-on, social, group way of educating children, and we expect we’ll adapt as we determine the closest we can get to this pedagogy, while we are physically apart.
    • Help us redirect institutional resources towards managing this unprecedented time. The sooner we are able to close this year’s Annual Fund, the sooner that institutional time and energy can be directed towards other tasks. No need for the post office, since you can give here.
    • Stay well. You know all the pillars by now, and physical distancing and handwashing will help keep our community – and those around us – safe. As we've said before, please be sure to let us know if you or any of your family members have been diagnosed with Covid-19 by contacting the school's Health office at health@dcds.net.
     
    We will be back in touch on March 27th with additional updates, or sooner if we have new information to report. Our Administrative Team and Executive Committee of the Board met by Zoom yesterday. I’m so grateful for their support, and for all of you, as we work collectively to build the best spring possible for all of our community.

    With appreciation,

    Allison D. Webster
    Head of School
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  • March 16

    Dear Families:
     
    We wanted to make sure you knew that yesterday, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker ordered that all public and private K-12 schools in the Commonwealth suspend in-person instruction by close of business on Monday, March 16 and "shall not re-open for normal operations before Monday, April 6, 2020." (For the full text of the governor's statement, click here.)
     
    As we previously advised, we will be in touch with any additional information about DCD's plans this Friday, March 20. For now, we wanted you to know that DCD's physical re-opening will be delayed until at least April 6th, per the governor's order.
     
    I hope the unexpected family togetherness of this crisis has given you some solace in the midst of an uncertain and rapidly changing outside world.
     
    With warm wishes,

    Allison
  • March 11

    Message from the Head of School
    Dear Families,
    I’m writing to let you know that we will begin our spring break tomorrow, Thursday, March 12th at 3:00 p.m (All middle school students will also be dismissed at this time.) Our Extended Day Program will remain available until 6:00 p.m.

    Faculty and staff will use Friday, March 13th to further prepare for the possibility of utilizing distance learning after the break. While we still hope we will resume school in person on Monday, March 30th, the current trajectory of the coronavirus makes this uncertain, and we want to be as well-prepared as possible. Of course, we will be monitoring the situation closely during the break.
    Our current plan is to send our next communication to you on Friday, March 20th. This will allow us some time to see how the cases in our community progress, as well as respond to guidance from state and local agencies. Of course, we will notify all of you immediately if we learn that we have a case of COVID-19 in our DCD community. If you or someone close to you has a confirmed or suspected case of COVID-19, please let us know at health@dcds.net​.
    Some of you will be traveling during the break. We will continue to follow the CDC guidelines that require individuals to self-quarantine if they have traveled to Level III countries. If you travel to a CDC-Level III country (currently China, South Korea, Italy, Iran), federal guidelines will require you to self-quarantine for 14 days upon return to the United States. We ask that you let us know if you travel to a Level III country or if someone you've been in close contact with becomes ill as a result of the virus (please email us at health@dcds.net​).
    Time away from school is always a source of learning and solace for kids, from the quiet moments they have engaging in projects of their own design, to time at home navigating relationships with siblings or friends, to new places they may explore.

    In our current time, our students are also learning from us about some of life’s most important lessons: How do we orient ourselves to remember that other people matter, and take actions that serve our community as a whole? How do we manage situations that are stressful? How do we adjust when we are disappointed by an outcome, like a canceled vacation or plan? While I wish we had different circumstances to teach these lessons, I know that our children will grow from their experiences in the weeks ahead and learn from the model all of you provide.
    I look forward to writing again on March 20th, and until then, be well.
    Warmly,
    Allison D. Webster
    Head of School
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  • March 10

    Message from the Head of School
    Yesterday morning, when Italy went into near lockdown over COVID-19, we spent our morning assembly celebrating our hardworking middle-school athletes. We heard from their delighted coaches about the way grit, the capacity for teamwork and hard-earned skills shaped the season. Such is the confusing world we all share at this moment, where the ordinary and the extraordinary are unfolding in parallel. At the moment, life at school feels normal and peaceful, and yet vigilance and preparations continue as COVID-19 becomes an increasingly realistic presence in our lives.

    I would like to update you about our efforts to keep our school and community safe, and the impact COVID-19 will have on some upcoming school events.

    Grandparents' and Special Friends' Day
    After careful consideration by our administrative team and coronavirus working group, we have decided to cancel this year’s Grandparents’ and Special Friends’ Day, scheduled for Friday, April 17.
    I know this news will be disappointing to many, as we treasure this special annual gathering of multiple generations of our community. It certainly is for me. However, after reviewing recent guidelines by the CDC for high-risk groups, as well as advice by infectious disease experts for these groups to avoid travel and large gatherings, we concluded that the potential health risks to our older guests outweigh the benefits of holding the event this year.
    Our Grandparents' and Special Friends Day' Planning Committee is already exploring other opportunities for grandparents and special friends to connect with their students, so please stay tuned for more details. In the meantime, we look forward to welcoming everyone back to campus next year for our 2021 Grandparents' and Special Friends' Day -- if you want to get a jump on the planning, save the date for Friday, April 16, 2021. We will be contacting all grandparents and special friends, but please also share this with your guests.

    Other Upcoming Events
    To ensure the safety of everyone in our community, including campus guests, we will not hold Friday’s Lower School Visual and Performing Arts Assembly. As an alternative, we will record each part of the performance by video during the course of this week, and we will post it as a “virtual assembly” to enjoy over the vacation.
    We have also made a decision to cancel tomorrow’s grade 4 and 5 field trip to the Boston Symphony Orchestra. We learned that nearly 1,500 students are scheduled to attend the indoor activity. In an abundance of caution, we will not participate.
    Building Maintenance and Ongoing Care
    Our facilities and kitchen staff are working diligently to keep our school as safe and sanitary as possible. As usual, a member of the faculty or staff is seated at each lunch table to serve students, minimizing their interaction with serving plates and bowls. We are also working on a plan to further assist children at the salad bar. All students are being asked to use hand sanitizer before and after each meal (if they have not just washed with soap and water), and are directed to wash their hands at various points during the day.

    To help curb the spread of germs, faculty and staff are assisting facilities by wiping down door handles, the backs of chairs, and anything else that may need a heightened level of cleaning in classrooms during the day. This, of course, is in addition to our nightly thorough cleaning of the facility. There are sanitizing wipes available on each floor, and disinfectant spray is being made available as needed. The cleaning staff has increased the frequency of cleaning and disinfecting classrooms, bathrooms, and common areas. We will be doing a thorough cleaning of the campus over the break.

    Common Sense Guidelines
    Thank you for all you are doing to help minimize the spread of the virus by following some common-sense guidelines:
    - Keep any children with cold or flu-like symptoms home, even if their symptoms seem mild. Any signs of respiratory distress (cough or difficulty breathing) should be monitored with extra diligence.

    - Wash your hands, and your children’s hands, often, especially after being in public places.
    - When reporting any school absences for illness, please be sure to email the Health Office directly (health@dcds.net ) to report your child’s symptoms and illness so they can monitor outbreaks.

    Upcoming Travel
    If you are traveling over March break, please make sure to check alerts issued by state governments (thirteen have announced emergency measures as of this writing) and international advisories listed on the CDC Travelers' Health page. If you travel to a CDC-Level III country (currently China, South Korea, Italy, Iran), federal guidelines will require you to self-quarantine for 14 days upon return to the United States. We ask that you let us know if you travel to a Level III country or if someone you've been in close contact with becomes ill as a result of the virus (please email us at health@dcds.net ). We will work with you to determine a plan for returning to school that ensures your health and safety as well as that of the whole community. Please let us know if you have any questions or concerns.

    The situation is evolving daily and we will continue to keep you updated on developments. The safety and well-being of our students, parents, faculty, and visitors is our primary concern. Thank goodness for DCD’s mindfulness curriculum, since it is helping all of us stay calm, focus on the present, and know we have the skills and strength to manage any challenges we face in the weeks ahead.
    Sincerely,
     
    Allison D. Webster
    Head of School
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  • March 3

    Message from the Head of School
    Dear Families,
    Like all of you, we have been following the news about the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) and its impact over the past weeks with both empathy and concern. While the recent briefing from the CDC emphasized that there is not currently a coronavirus pandemic in the United States, we appreciate that the situation is changing rapidly. On February 25th, the CDC advised American businesses and organizations to begin preparing for the possibility of a larger outbreak within the United States. I’m writing to let you know about the steps we are taking at DCD to prepare and to remind you about the important role each of you plays in keeping our community well.
    Monitoring and Daily Maintenance:
    Given how quickly this situation is evolving, we are monitoring the outbreak daily and heeding advice from the CDC, local health officials, and AISNE. Our administrative team -- working in conjunction with an expanded team for coronavirus response -- is ready to respond and communicate as the situation develops. Our building has always been professionally cleaned and disinfected on a nightly basis, including all classrooms, bathrooms, and common areas, and we are consistently cleaning all technology equipment (i.e. laptops, iPads, etc.). Additional hand sanitizer and cleaning products are on hand for classrooms as well.
    School Attendance:
    If your child is not feeling well, please be extra diligent in monitoring them. Students should be kept home if they demonstrate symptoms of any communicable illness, including colds and digestive upsets, until they are no longer contagious. Obviously, any signs of respiratory distress should be monitored with extra diligence. Specifically, students should stay home until they are fever-free for 24 hours without fever-reducing medications, symptom-free (vomiting, diarrhea) for 24 hours, able to tolerate a normal diet, and participate in the daily demands of the classroom. Clearance to return to school by a pediatrician is required following an absence of three or more school days.
    When reporting any school absences for illness, please be sure to email the Health Office directly (health@dcds.net) to report your child’s symptoms and illness. This will ensure we are properly tracking any communicable illnesses (flu, vomiting, strep throat, etc.) across grade levels.
    March Break Travel:
    We recognize that many families will be traveling during the upcoming March break. If you are preparing for upcoming travel, we ask that you visit the CDC website. Please monitor and follow the recommendations regarding travel to countries and areas within the U.S. designated as “level 3”. These are regions where travel should be avoided.
    Common Sense Health Guidelines:
    The likelihood of illness from influenza in Massachusetts continues to be higher than the likelihood of illness from Covid-19. The precautions that help prevent the flu will also be effective in reducing the likelihood of infection from coronavirus:
    • Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If you do not have access to hand washing, use alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
    • Avoid touching your face, especially your nose, eyes, and mouth.
    • Stay home if you are sick.
    • Avoid people who are sick.
    • Sneeze into a tissue or your sleeve, but not your hand.
    • Don’t share drinks or food with others.
    • Get plenty of sleep and stay hydrated.
    Potential School Closure:
    While unlikely, we recognize the possibility that we may need to close school for a period of time. Preparation is underway to ensure that, where appropriate, remote instruction can be offered to provide continuity in students’ learning and a continued sense of connection and community. Our technology platforms are already in place to support remote instruction, and our faculty and staff will continue their preparations for this option should it be unsafe to assemble on campus.
    Psychological Health and Support:
    Children and adolescents will respond to news of the coronavirus with everything from mild interest to alarm. If your child is feeling anxious about the virus, remember the important role you play in setting a tone of calm and reassurance (i.e. noting how fortunate we are to live in a region with world-class hospitals and medical care). If your child is anxious, make sure they are taking a break from the news and give them an opportunity to talk about their feelings. Also, help them stay in the present with mindfulness activities or distractions. At times, taking action can be reassuring to children, so a step like preparing some favorite activities so they can enjoy planned indoor fun will allow them to feel some control over the situation. The New York Times offered this piece about how to talk to children about Coronavirus, and the National Association of School Psychologists has shared this article.
    Additional Resources:
    The National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) has taken an active role in gathering resources and advising schools about preparedness. Below you’ll find a number of the links they suggest as resources:
    • The WHO website is an excellent resource for information about the virus as well as general information on the coronaviruses family of viruses; this very brief video explains the virus, and this brief infographic includes best practices for prevention of infectious disease including coronavirus.
    • This interactive from Johns Hopkins University provides details on the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19, total deaths, and the number of people who have recovered, by city.
    DCD is 117 years old, and over decades our school community has navigated many challenging situations, from war and economic melt-down to illness and loss. The strength of our community, and our profound care for each other, has always provided solace, support, and strength in both times of challenge and times of joy. I know all of you - like me - will find strength in our DCD community now and in the future.
    As always, I’m happy to talk further if you have questions or concerns.
    Warmly,
    Allison
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