Dear Saint James’ Families,
As we begin the third week of distance learning, it is still somewhat surreal to me that I start the day without the opportunity to greet your child at Saint James’. Skipper and I miss you all!
I continue to be amazed by every teacher who has poured their heart and soul into creating distance learning experiences that are age-appropriate for students age 2-fifth grade. I am also grateful to every parent, grandparent and caregiver who is helping to facilitate at-home learning that we now know will continue until the completion of the academic year. Finally, I am so very proud of our students. Our older students are demonstrating a level of maturity and attentiveness during online learning, and our younger students are engaging in video circle times and online show and tell. The giggles and squeals we have heard through phone calls and online chats and classes bring a smile to our faces and warm our hearts.
With all of the progress we have made in the last two weeks and in all the ways we know we will grow in the coming weeks, we also understand that not physically being in the school building is challenging. Thankfully, the sense of community we have established over the school year will help provide continuity and a sense of security for all of our students, even if it is through a video chat or phone call. We are committed to doing our best to keep our students learning and growing while maintaining a sense of connection with their teachers and with one another.
We also recognize that there will be moments of anxiety and stress along the way. Many of us are working from home while also managing our children’s school day. The Board of Trustees and I are also keenly aware of the financial impact and heavy loads many of us carry as our community, country, and the world deal with COVID-19. The faculty and staff, including Father Ben as our chaplain, remain ready to help in any way that we can. Please do not hesitate to reach out if we can be of any assistance with aspects of distance learning as well as in managing emotional, health-related, or financial concerns.
We are mindful of the needs of our faculty, staff, students, and families and are seeking a balanced approach to meeting such needs. The level of investment you have made in tuition, in annual fund donations, and in our auxiliary programs through the year will help to sustain our faculty and staff and, ultimately, the future of our school.
In an effort to alleviate some of the financial burden for our families, we are offering adjustments to our tuition payment schedule. April tuition for the 2019-2020 school year for most families will draw April 10 or 20. If you would like to split the April payment, our business office can adjust it so that half will be drawn in April and half will be drawn in May. In addition, for those families returning for the 2020-2021 school year, our business office can change your first month’s tuition payment scheduled for May 10 or 20 to instead be drawn in thirds during the months of June, July and August. Please contact Erin Edwards by April 5, via email at firstname.lastname@example.org to take advantage of these options or discuss what might work best for your family.
In addition, we will continue to find ways to experience our time honored traditions that wrap up our school year like our Mother’s Day Tea, Follow Me Ceremonies, and coveted Fifth Grade Graduation and celebration. We are completely confident in our community’s ability to adapt and thrive during these challenging times and while we are in new territory collectively, we have the potential to grow in many new ways.
I continue to count my blessings every day for the amazing students, families, and faculty at Saint James’, and I also would like to thank our doctors, nurses and first responders who continue to work diligently for the health and safety of our community. Your service to us all is appreciated. Finally, as we work and learn remotely, know that your family is in our thoughts and prayers and we treasure the relationships we have formed. While we may be apart in physical distance, these relationships sustain us and will get us all through the coming days.
Stacey Irvin, Head of School
As you may have heard, Governor Northam has officially closed buildings housing public and independent schools through the end of the academic year. As SJES has transitioned into distance learning we have done so with the thought that this potential closing could take place, acknowledging that this transition is more of a marathon than a sprint. We are ready for the endurance that is needed in the days ahead and appreciate your patience as we work to do all that we can to continue both the educational, instructional, and relational piece of learning.
Over the past week, I have been continually awed by the creativity, generosity, patience, and hard work of our faculty and staff as we develop new routines and adjust to new ways of teaching. I have also been in awe of the patience, flexibility and hard work of our families as they embrace a new way of learning in the home. Never before has our ability to work with one another as educators and families been more important. This partnership has been an area of strength at Saint James’ over the years and continues to shine during this unprecedented time.
We ask for your continued patience and prayers as we work through the details of the remaining academic year. In the meantime, follow SJES on Facebook and Instagram to stay connected and please continue to correspond with your child’s teacher and classmates to help maintain our compassion for one another and wonderful sense of community.
Stacey Irvin, Head of School
As you may know, Governor Northam has just ordered all K-12 schools in Virginia to close for a minimum of two weeks to help reduce the spread of COVID-19. Saint James’ Episcopal School will be following his instructions effective Monday, March 16 through Friday, March 27, 2020.
We ask that you please be patient as we navigate this new situation as a school community. The SJES faculty and staff are finalizing plans for distance learning and business operations, and we will be in touch next week.
Thank you for your understanding. Be safe and stay well.
Stacey Irvin, Head of School
Dear School Families:
Yesterday I announced to the parishioners of Saint James' Church the decision from our diocesan bishop in response to COVID-19 to suspend all public worship services at churches within our diocese for the next two weeks. Bishop Susan was very clear that this decision did not extend to the operation of Episcopal church schools and that the decision would be left to the various schools. She continued by expressing the scientific likelihood that for many of our youngest students are actually safer in their school environment.
Here at SJES, I assure you that our head of school, Stacey Irvin, and her staff, have been diligent in gathering information from local professionals and organizations and continually reassessing with the primary determiner being the safety of students, staff, families, and broader community.
As the school chaplain, I am committed to the pastoral care and support of this community. I urge you to let me know when my care and presence is needed. Please continue to pray for our church and school communities, all those affected by this outbreak, and those tasked with using their collective wisdom to best care and protect.
Blessings and peace,
Based on updates about the coronavirus from the VDH/CDC along with the desire to keep our community safe, we recommend families begin planning for a potential disruption to school operations. Families should consider child care plans in the event school needs to close for an extended period of time. While we understand this may be difficult, as always the safety of our community is of the utmost importance.
Since our last communication regarding the coronavirus, the School has taken preventive measures, put protocols in place, and is making plans for future considerations. We will continue to stay in touch with the VDH/CDC, perform morning well checks (as outlined in our parent-student handbook,) ensure proper hand washing, and clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces. As mentioned last week, we are planning age-appropriate, remote lessons for students in the event we need to close for an extended period of time.
As always, you should keep your child home if they do not feel well. As this is a fluid situation, we will continue to keep your family updated. Thank you for your patience as we work through this uncertain time.
Stacey Irvin, Head of School
We are reaching out to provide an update on new developments related to coronavirus, and share some additional details about the actions Saint James’ is taking and planning to protect our school community. On Tuesday, the World Health Organization informed the public that the coronavirus does not appear to be easily spread by people who are not experiencing symptoms themselves. This is good news, as it means there is greater likelihood of containing the virus.
As always, the health and safety of our students, staff, and families is our priority. While the total number of coronavirus cases in the U.S. remains relatively small, experts expect this number to grow as testing increases and more individuals seek care. Currently, the key recommendations from public health agencies to prevent the spread of coronavirus are:
- regular, thorough, handwashing for at least 20 seconds,
- cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue and throw out the tissue,
- clean and disinfect touched objects and surfaces frequently and that
- students and parents with any signs of respiratory illness or flu-like symptoms should stay home.
We are in contact with our local department of public health to stay updated on the situation and take actions as needed. We will continue to perform morning well checks (as outlined in our parent-student handbook,) and teachers are modeling and ensuring proper hand washing. In addition, we are taking precautions during worship and chapel services. Finally, our custodial crew continues to clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces. Disposable wipes and hand sanitizer are available throughout the school, and we strongly encourage their use.
School office staff continues to discuss how student learning can continue should our school be closed temporarily. We are developing strategies for providing age-appropriate, remote lessons to students, taking accessibility into consideration, as well as tools for staying connected as a community. We will communicate more details around what this will look like should it become necessary.
Finally, I want to take a moment to acknowledge the impact this may have on your child. The organized worldwide response to coronavirus has been robust and generally encouraging. However, it has also been a challenge for students (and really our entire community) to process. This New York Times article gives some good strategies on how to talk to children about coronavirus without raising the anxiety of anyone involved.
As always, you are your child’s best advocate; you can keep your child home if they do not feel well. We will continue to update our community regularly and appreciate your support as we tackle these challenges.
Stacey Irvin, Head of School
"How to Talk to Kids about Coronavirus," NYTimes Parenting
How to Talk to Kids about Coronavirus, PBS Kids
Talking to Kids about Coronavirus, The Guardian