The HPA, the GOA, and Planning for Next Year 5/20/20

Dear Hackley Families,

I am writing to highlight two updates I shared during today’s HPA General Meeting. The first relates to Hackley becoming a member of Global Online Academy, and the second is a broad overview of thinking around the fall.

Before sharing the important information below, I want to start by again thanking Erica Napach for her strong leadership this year as HPA President. At every turn, Erica put the interests of the community at the forefront of her thinking and actions. And in a year when we have all been pushed apart, she - with great help from the HPA Executive Board and other volunteers - has helped keep us united and moving forward together. I am grateful for her partnership throughout the year.

Thank you again to all of our families for your partnership and support during this time. Together, we are weathering this extraordinary moment by holding true to our values and sense of community. I can think of no other place I would rather be than on the Hilltop, and I can only hope that I will see all of you here soon - perhaps for the Hilltop Parade - as we share in the joy of being part of the Hackley community.

Please stay tuned for more details on our June 4th and 5th celebrations.

Michael C. Wirtz P ’29 ’31

Global Online Academy and Planning for Next Year
One of the most significant updates from today’s meeting was the news that Hackley joined Global Online Academy (GOA). We had been in conversation with GOA throughout the fall, feeling that their mission to “reimagine learning to empower students and educators to thrive in a globally networked society” was well aligned with many of the goals in Hackley’s strategic plan, Redefining Excellence.

Established in 2011, GOA is a consortium of over 100 independent schools worldwide. Middle and high school students who attend member schools have the opportunity to enroll in online courses with students from around the world, with all courses taught by highly trained independent school educators. Member schools can also take advantage of the expertise of the GOA staff and faculty at other member schools to advance their institution’s professional development goals. Simply put, GOA is a leader in online teaching and learning and they will be a great partner as we advance our program and pedagogy. You can see the list of member schools here.

With uncertainty due to COVID-19, Hackley is preparing for the possibility of a return to distance learning next year. All Hackley teachers are enrolled in at least one GOA professional development course in July. Additionally, all teachers will then apply what they have learned to modify their curriculum for an online environment. Time spent learning and preparing during the summer puts our teachers - and therefore our students - in the best possible position should we need to be online at some point next year.

By joining GOA at this time, Hackley Upper School students can enroll in courses from their summer catalog at a reduced rate. GOA summer courses are intended for enrichment, though in limited instances, certain courses may allow students to advance through Hackley’s curriculum. Next week, Peter Sawkins will share more information on summer GOA courses, as well as the rest of our summer offerings.

I remain ever grateful to my faculty colleagues for everything they have done this spring and for the work they will take on over the summer. Our teachers continue to rise to meet the challenge of the moment, and the work they will put in this summer is a visible commitment to their students and the school overall.

Preparing Campus for Fall 2020

Understandably, there is speculation as to what school might look like in the fall. I want to share information on early steps we are taking, and highlight issues we will confront in the months ahead.

Even while campus is closed, we are readying facilities for operating the school with an awareness of social distancing. This work includes rearranging classroom furniture to maximize distance between desks, installing barriers in some offices, and developing plans to best use available square footage. Hackley differs from many schools in that we have many large venues, including Zetkov, the precursor facility to the Johnson Center that remains largely unused during the school day.

In addition, we are investing in health and safety equipment, including the purchase of thermometers, PPE, and additional wipes and disinfectants. Further, we are training staff to implement CDC-recommended cleaning procedures throughout campus, while also developing staffing plans that support additional cleaning throughout the school day.

As we have done throughout this period, we will continue to follow guidance from public health and government officials, as well as trusted medical professionals. Our goal is to minimize health issues related to COVID-19, as we endeavor to take reasonable and advisable precautions. Summer break provides an opportunity to make adjustments to our operational procedures to allow for the safe return of students and employees to campus, while also ensuring the continuity of our program.

Even so, there is no guarantee that the School will be free from the virus, and so we will prepare for that possibility as well. Ultimately, minimizing risk on campus will be everyone’s shared responsibility and that may require changes to our program and how the school operates.

Adjustments to Our Approach
As we prepare campus for the safe return of students and employees, we are giving careful thought to how we can best deliver on our mission.

Operating Hackley with a “social distance aware” approach may require temporary modifications that change the way campus feels. Restrictions on visitors, wearing masks, and taking temperatures may all play a role in conducting safe operations. Further, we may be required to restrict field trips and modify interscholastic athletics. We will provide further clarity on these issues throughout the summer.

I also recognize that we may be forced to move between on-campus instruction and distance learning, depending on conditions in our area. We have learned much this spring about distance learning experiences and we are prepared to apply that learning to further strengthen our approach along with the tools available through GOA. We intend to modify our current distance learning schedule based on previously collected feedback and our experiences this spring.

Should we need to return to distance learning for an extended period, students should expect both synchronous and asynchronous instruction. The ratio of these approaches will vary, depending on any number of factors, including grade level, learning objectives for any given assignment, and subject matter. Hackley faculty will continue to make curricular choices that focus course work on the skills and knowledge required to be successful in current and subsequent studies. As with in-person instruction, Hackley’s distance learning schedule advances our Competencies.

Despite these many unknowns, our guiding principle remains to ensure the continued safe operation of school while delivering a high quality educational program. With summer on the horizon, we have time to address the many variables and questions before us.

I remain optimistic for the fall and confident in our ability to educate and support our students while providing them a healthy learning environment alongside a healthy working environment for our employees. I appreciate the continued partnership and patience of our families during this time. We are in this together, and we will come through this together.
Michael C. Wirtz P ’29 ’31