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Community Letter from Headmaster Scott Nelson

Dear RCDS Families,

I hope you and your loved ones are well. As our students and faculty continue to impress and inspire us through their work during RCDS@home, it is important to pause and take stock of all that is happening for all of us. The abrupt transition to online learning represented uncharted waters for school communities around the world. I am proud that the Rye Country Day community—students, families, faculty, and staff alike—has risen to the challenge with its signature dedication and energy.

It is not lost on me just how momentous this transition and adaptation are. From teaching and learning to daily life, we are all learning new ways to do things, rethinking the way we have been doing them, and navigating continuous change. It can be daunting and exhausting, but out of challenge comes opportunity. I am working to be mindful of this every day. This difficult time has shown me just how much we can accomplish, even under extraordinary duress. Whether it is Upper School students meeting with computational biology experts or the Rye Mayor via Zoom, Middle School artists making evocative art about the changed and quiet world they see out their windows, or Lower School students donning superhero masks and capes in an adorable reminder of the bravery of even our youngest community members, we are carrying on.

There are a number of questions about the coming weeks and months, and what all of this means for Rye Country Day School. Right now, I'm afraid there are still unanswered questions, but I do want to update you on our thinking around a few key events and thoughts about the future:

  • Will the RCDS campus remain closed for the rest of the school year?
    Earlier today, Governor Cuomo extended his order for school closures through the end of the academic year. This news is desperately sad, but not surprising. Many of us, administrators and faculty included, have spent the last few weeks preparing for the seeming inevitability that campus would not open again this school year. All along, I have asked us not to make decisions before we are required to do so, but rather, to plan so that we are ready when decisions are made. As of today, the decision is now made. Rye Country Day's campus will remain closed for the remainder of the academic year. That said, Rye Country Day School is very much open and in session as we continue to deliver the School's mission via RCDS@home.

  • What are our plans for end-of-year events?
    With Governor Cuomo's decision today to close schools for the remainder of the academic year, we will now focus on creating virtual end-of-year celebrations and events. Efforts are under way to gather creative ideas and input from the seniors and their parents. This is a very difficult topic for everyone involved as we are all grieving the loss and disruption caused by this pandemic. While planning is still in process, we do know: 1) The senior class will gather in-person at some point on campus for a graduation ceremony. Even if it is not until mid-summer or next fall, we will make certain that this happens. 2) We will do something virtually during the scheduled Grade 8 and Grade 12 graduations and Grade 4 moving-up ceremony. 3) We will make sure that the Class of 2020 knows how important they are to the School and how proud we all are of their many accomplishments and contributions to our community. They have shown an incredibly positive spirit and real resilience during these challenging times. They deserve a very special celebration!

  • What is going to happen with summer programming? Will Mini Camps happen? What about June Camps? Summer Session? ACTION?
    I assume the Governor's recent orders mean schools are closed through the public school calendar, which is late June. In anticipation of this possibility, we purposefully held off on Mini Camps and June Camps registrations. We will now work with Mini Camps Director Nicole Leath, Athletic Director Wendy Haft, and the division principals to see if Mini Camps and June Camps can be adapted to distance learning in some format.

    Governor Cuomo indicated that a decision about school closures for the summer will be made by the end of May. The RCDS Summer School can happen on campus or online, if necessary, using distance learning; therefore, we are continuing to accept registrations for Summer School courses. We know there is interest in taking some Upper School required courses, such as Health and Introduction to Computer Science. In addition, Summer School Director Kyle Mitschele is looking to add more academic enrichment courses.

    Academic ACTION is an academic enrichment program that Rye Country Day offers to students from neighboring public middle schools. We intend to run this program on campus or online, depending on the Governor's decision regarding school closures.

  • What about next year?
    We know that many colleges and universities are announcing plans for next fall as we speak. We are in the fortunate position of not needing to make such decisions right away. But, rest assured, we are discussing and preparing plans for multiple scenarios. Most important at this time is that we get through the remainder of the 2019-20 school year on strong footing. This summer, we will assess where classes ended, what was not covered, and where we need to start next fall. We also will take stock of all that we learned during RCDS@home and develop plans for next year. We will have medical, educational, and technology advisory committees informing our decisions, and whatever we do, we will do it thoughtfully and with our students' wellbeing at the center. Our greatest hope is that we will all be together again in person come fall. If this is not possible, we are fortunate to have the time this summer to plan and prepare so we can flexibly innovate and quickly implement solutions around technology, schedules, class size, and health/safety measures in order to maximize the on campus experience.
We will continue to work hard, meet the challenges ahead, and thrive as a school community. I have enjoyed seeing many of you during our weekly Coffee & Conversations hosted by the Parents Association, and I hope many of you will join us today at 3:00 p.m. (See yesterday's e-mail from Rosa Perkins for the Zoom information.).

In the meantime, remember, we are in this together, and we will get through this together. In the days and weeks, and even months to come, we will remain connected and we will continue to support one another. And, we will look forward very much to that wonderful day when we will be together in person again.

In partnership,

Scott A. Nelson