communications archive

Dear Families,

Despite having to cancel some micro cohorts due to poor air quality, the school year is off to a great start! I have been so impressed with our students. Imagine over 350 students, who range in age from 2 to 14, together in a virtual Chapel meeting. They demonstrate such a high level of respect and self-control. They know when and how to mute their microphones, turn on/off their video, raise their virtual hands, and remember to thank each other. It really is extraordinary. If you haven't had the chance to join us for Chapel, I encourage you to do so. All-school Chapel takes place on Mondays and Fridays from 8:40 to 9:00 a.m.

As I've previously shared, there are a number of factors that influence our decision to open or close campus to students. When opening campus, these same factors are considered to determine the amount of in-person learning that can be offered. We are seeing some positive movement in many of these factors and I am hopeful that we'll be able to transition to some form of hybrid learning next month. I will provide more detail about our plans during next Tuesday's Coffee with Kirk Town Hall. Please keep in mind, while I'm feeling optimistic right now, there are no guarantees that conditions will remain favorable. Our intention is to be able to provide two-week notice for any changes, but be aware there is always a chance plans may change at any time.

I want to emphasize that among the many factors influencing the decision to open or close campus is one that is completely within our collective control: STS community compliance with COVID-19 related policies, procedures, and guidelines. That means each one of us –parents, students, faculty, and staff – has an impact on community health and, therefore, how children will be educated (in-person, hybrid, or remote). Members of the STS community are expected to:

Finally, I want to thank you for your support and for being a part of the STS community. This year will continue to bring challenges, but I know together, we can weather any storm. I hope you share in my optimism and excitement for this school year, and especially in my pride for our students!

Sincerely,

Kirk Wheeler, Ed.D.
Head of School

We look forward to opening the year on Tuesday, September 8, with all-school Chapel from 8:40 to 9:00 a.m. Parents, we hope you join us!

Please visit Week One: Getting Started for instructions, and links to chapel and morning meetings.

We are so excited to have students on campus this week for micro cohort meetings!

As previously shared, one of the many factors that impacts our ability to offer on-campus learning is our collective adherence to health and safety protocols. Please carefully review this information and be prepared to follow all health and safety protocols next week.

Face Covering
  • All students, faculty, staff, and visitors are required to wear a face covering at all times, indoors and outdoors, while on campus.
  • Refer to the Washington State Department of Health Guidance on Cloth Face Coverings for more information.
  • If an individual does not have a face mask, one will be provided by the School.
  • Students may use face shields as an alternative to a cloth face covering.

Health Screening

  • Before arriving at school each day, students, faculty, and staff are required to submit a brief questionnaire using the Magnus PHR app to assess the symptoms of illness and exposure to COVID-19. (Download the app and review detailed instructions prior to the first day of school at www.stthomasschool.org/screening).
  • Temperature checks will also be conducted for all students, employees, and campus visitors upon arrival.
  • Students with symptoms will be separated from other students and will need to be picked up as soon as possible.
Physical Distancing
  • Students, faculty, staff, and visitors will practice physical distancing.
  • Floor or other markings will designate 6 foot spaces and direct traffic flow.
  • Students' and teachers' ability to distance will depend on students' ages and developmental and physical abilities.
Arrival/Drop Off
  • Arrive no more than five minutes prior to your child's scheduled micro cohort meeting.
  • Drop off your child at the east entrance only.
  • If your child needs assistance exiting your car, please park and escort your child to the east entrance of the school.
  • Parents of preschool students who wish to walk back to the field with their child may do so after completing the visitor COVID-19 screening. (Please note the visitor COVID-19 screening is different from the student, faculty, and staff screening listed above).
  • Unless assisting your child, do not exit your vehicle.

Dismissal/Pick Up

  • Arrive on time for dismissal with your name placard in your car window so it's easily visible to staff.
  • Pick up your child at the south entrance driveway only.
  • Students will be escorted from the field to their cars by school staff.
  • If your child will need assistance with entering your car, please park in the east lot or on the street, and escort your child from the south entrance of the school.

Again, it is essential that every member of our community act responsibly and follow the latest public health guidelines to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Each one of us plays an important role in keeping our students and families, faculty, and staff safe.

Micro Cohort Rosters and Schedule

Dear Families,

From our very beginning, for nearly 70 years and 11,000 daily chapels, we have collected our community's children and taught them what it means to be global citizens and young people of character. As we embark on another school year, I want to, once again, share our promise to you: St. Thomas School will be relentless in devoting our attention to each and every child placed in our care. While this year will be unlike any we've faced before, we will not waiver from that commitment. We never have. We never will.

The next few weeks will be busy ones. I encourage you to pay close attention to school emails, including STS News, which starts up again this Friday, and double check the Back to School webpage for important information, dates, forms, etc.

As we open campus for Distribution Days and micro cohort meetings, it is essential that every member of our community act responsibly and follow the latest public health guidelines to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Each one of us plays an important role in keeping our students and families, faculty, and staff safe. Strict adherence to guidelines and safety measures increases the likelihood of transitioning to hybrid learning in mid-October.

I want to thank the members of our Health Advisory Board, Mark Freeborn, M.D., Vishal Gala, M.D., and Kristina Adams Waldorf, M.D., for their time, attention, and expertise. This board has been - and continues to be - a tremendous help as we weigh the risks and benefits, and the many factors, involved with opening campus. You can read more about the Health Advisory Board in the STS Reimagined section of the website.

Finally, I hope you will join me for tomorrow's Coffee with Kirk Town Hall at 4 p.m. As always, submitting your questions in advance is appreciated and helps us to use our time together more efficiently.

Remember, our future is bright! Yes, there are challenges ahead. But it has been my experience that life's greatest challenges bring the greatest rewards. Our students – your children- are remarkably resilient. Together, we will teach, encourage, comfort, love, and protect them. And weather any storm that comes are way.

Sincerely,

Kirk Wheeler, Ed.D.
Head of School

Dear Families,

As we head closer to the beginning of the school year, I am going to resume sending a weekly update regarding our response to COVID-19. I want you to have clarity on our thought process and insights into our decision-making about how and when we bring students back to campus.

Like some of you, I am disappointed that we can't open immediately for hybrid learning. While there are indeed benefits to remote learning, and we are grateful that we can continue to provide our program remotely, we believe students learn best when they can interact in-person with their teachers and peers.

A number of factors influence the decision to open or close campus to students. When opening campus, these same factors are considered to determine the amount of in-person learning that can be offered. While not weighted equally in terms of their impact on decision-making, these are some of the key considerations:

  • Government and public health agency recommendations
  • COVID-19 activity levels in Bellevue and King County
  • COVID-19 activity levels in STS community (students, faculty, and staff)
  • STS community needs
  • School supply of required cleaning/disinfecting products and personal protection equipment, and readiness to implement physical distancing and other COVID-19 related procedures and policies
  • School's ability to comply with state and federal employment laws as related to COVID-19
  • STS community compliance with COVID-19 related policies and procedures (i.e. practicing physical distancing, using face coverings, etc.)
  • Adequate staffing levels
  • Insights from our Health Advisory Board composed of STS parents who are medical professionals. This board includes Mark Freeborn, M.D., Vishal Gala, M.D., and Kristina Adams Waldorf, M.D.

Finally, decisions are presented to the STS Board of Trustees for their consideration and endorsement.

Like many of you, I am aware of what other schools and districts are doing. In fact, I am in regular contact with a number of independent schools both local, and across the nation and the world. While there is much to be learned from other schools, I encourage you to not make assumptions such as: if this school is doing 'x,' STS should be doing 'x' too. Each school is different in number and composition of students and faculty, family needs, grade level and program offerings, facilities, finances, etc.

I am aware of a recent petition that endorses opening the school with a hybrid program. We are in agreement that a hybrid program is preferred, especially for our youngest learners. We will continue to do all we can to safely and responsibly launch a hybrid program. We simply love being with your children. Our teachers, despite well-founded concerns about their well-being, are eager to work more directly with your children.

I am also aware of multiple emails circulating among parents. In my experience, these emails almost always make their way back to school leaders and faculty, and can erode our shared sense of community. In addition to your children's physical and emotional well-being, I have a responsibility to take care of the faculty and staff as well. We all have a responsibility for each other. As always, I encourage you to speak directly with me or your Division Director if you have questions or concerns. We have provided, and will continue to provide, multiple opportunities for you to engage in town halls and grade level gatherings. Of course, we are always available for a call or a meeting as well.

As you can see, there are many layers to our decision-making. Believe me, I wish it could all be boiled down to a simple formula. I will be bold and ask for your trust and grace. I recognize I am not able to please everyone, but I hope you know that after the health and safety of students, faculty, and staff, there is no greater priority than getting students back in our classrooms.

Now, more than ever, we need to stand strong as a community. We share our common values and commitment to the three Cs: character, curriculum, and community. As we move into a school year that will be undoubtedly filled with many transitions and much uncertainty, we must hold fast to those shared values and take good care of each other.

I am pleased to share that while we will begin the school year with remote learning, students will have the option, the week of September 8, to return to campus and meet their teachers. These meetings will be in micro cohorts of up to five students and will take place outside with proper physical distancing. In addition to the initial meeting, our youngest students, Preschool – 2nd Grade, will continue to have the option to meet each week with their teacher in micro cohorts.

In the meantime, as I previously shared, we will remain in the remote learning model until October 16. We will monitor health conditions and the key considerations listed above to determine if we can transition to hybrid learning at that point.

Early next week, you will receive a link to the Back to School webpage. There you will find cohort and class placement, first week of school schedule and orientation, and a checklist that needs to be completed before the start of school.

Once again, I appreciate your trust and grace. This is a difficult situation for all involved. Guided by our mission and vision, and commitment to our shared values, I know we will get through this together and stronger than ever.

Sincerely,

Kirk Wheeler, Ed.D.
Head of School

It was our intention to begin the school year in a hybrid learning model. After careful review of the new guidelines and framework for re-opening schools, released on August 5 by Governor Inslee and the Washington State Department of Health, STS will begin school in remote learning mode..

If you weren't able to attend this afternoon's Coffee with Kirk Town Hall, you can view the recording to learn more about this decision and the plan for fall. In the meantime, we are updating the STS Reimagined plan and will share more details as soon as possible.

Thursday, August 6 | 4 -5:15 p.m. | Link to Meeting

Join Dr. Wheeler for updates and Q&A regarding the School's response to the COVID-19 and the plan to return to campus this fall.

While you will be able to submit questions using the chat feature in MS Teams during the meeting, we encourage you to submit questions in advance using this form. This will increase efficiency, allowing Dr. Wheeler to respond to more questions.

Dear Parents,

As promised in yesterday's Coffee with Kirk Town Hall, we have published STS Reimagined Part I, our plan for the 2020-2021 school year. This portion of the plan is a high-level view of our hybrid learning model (a combination of on-campus and remote learning). While we are prepared for different scenarios, given the current conditions in King County and government regulations regarding COVID-19, at this time we expect to begin the school year with a hybrid learning model.

After reading STS Reimagined Part I, I encourage you to watch the recording of yesterday's Town Hall for more insight into the hybrid model and better understanding of our process and decision-making. I know a number of questions remain and I assure you our senior leadership team is diligently working to finalize details, protocols, and procedures. You can expect to receive Part II of STS Reimagined in early August. Part II will include hybrid and remote learning plans for each division, cleaning and sanitizing protocols, health screening information, and more.

Thank you for your ongoing support and partnership. More to come soon!

Sincerely,

Kirk Wheeler, Ed.D.
Head of School

COVID-19 Information

Given the complex and rapidly evolving situation, we encourage you to visit the Center for Disease Control (CDC)Washington State Department of Health (DOH), and Public Health - Seattle & King County for the most detailed and up to date information on COVID-19.

Please bookmark this page where you will find all the updates on COVID-19 as it relates to St. Thomas School.