SPA is tracking news and information about the spread of COVID-19. We have created this page to keep the SPA community informed about school operations.
SPA has moved to distance learning and will continue in this mode at least through Friday, May 1.
To SPA families,
As you know, the unprecedented challenges of the moment require that SPA embrace the world of distance learning. On Wednesday, April 1, your children will meet with their teachers and advisors and classes will start on Thursday, April 2.
While developing a curriculum for distance learning, several questions informed our deliberations. What are the essential skills and knowledge that should be central parts of courses and classes? What are the quintessential features of SPA’s pedagogical approach that should inform our classes? How do we finish the year and ensure that our students are ready for promotion to the next grade? How do we embed our community’s mission, rituals, and routines in this new phase of school?
Answering these questions has pushed our faculty and leadership to dissect our curriculum and ask searching and fresh questions about who we are, what we do, and how we do it. Their work has yielded impressive results. We have retained the sturdy heart of the SPA experience.
Studying and learning in the virtual classroom will be a collaborative and challenging experience, where students will continue to develop their skills as critical thinkers in a collaborative setting inspired by a challenging curriculum. The program is framed by a somewhat familiar schedule and a very familiar culture, both of which will enable us to sustain and nurture supportive relationships between teachers and students which are a defining ingredient of our school.
Preserving as much continuity between our program in distance learning and school as we traditionally know it will be crucial to our success. Students will continue to receive grades, and teachers and the academic leadership team are evaluating different approaches for assessing and understanding students’ progress. We will evaluate students in ways that will offer them the best and fairest opportunity to demonstrate what they have learned while working from home.
In the attached teaching guide, you will see references to synchronous and asynchronous learning. Synchronous refers to teachers and students working together in real time in one-on-one tutorials, class meetings, or in small groups. In the Lower School, synchronous learning will be introduced over the first two weeks, during which time teachers will work with students through videoed lessons and activities on Seesaw. Synchronous meetings and classes will be virtual versions of experiences that are hallmarks of SPA’s program. The same will be true of asynchronous sessions, which refer to students working independently at the direction of the teacher and with resources provided by the teacher. Distance learning will include important components of off-line asynchronous learning opportunities, much like the homework we customarily assign to students.
Based on our experience as educators, advice from colleagues around the country, and research in neuroscience, we elected not to replicate our traditional class schedule. For any of our students, consecutive days of hours in front of a computer screen would be counterproductive and unhealthy. Students’ schedules will be a blend of class meetings, small group gatherings, and individual tutorials with teachers, all of which will be supplemented with homework assignments.
Social networks and friends are vital components of a student’s life at school. Helping students remain connected to their fellow students and SPA in customary and familiar ways will also be important. We have included different opportunities for students to gather as a community. The definition and configuration of these meetings will vary by division: there will be assemblies in the Lower School; advisories and divisional meetings in the Middle School; and advisories, assemblies, and clubs in the Upper School.
SPA is frequently the hub of our students’ social world and we want this to continue. Students who feel a sense of purposeful connection will be healthier and much more inclined to enthusiastically embrace the academic opportunities and challenges that await them.
SPA is ready to embark on its first foray into distance learning. I hope that the virtual rendition of SPA will provide comfort and certainty for you and your children in a time of social tumult. This will be an iterative process. We will adapt and change our model as we learn the best way to bring SPA into your home. I encourage you to consult our new Distance Learning website, created to provide you with a comprehensive overview of the program, or to contact your division principal or me directly if you have questions.
I appreciate your support and know that our strength as a community will be a decided asset in the months ahead. Take care and I trust that you and your families are safe and well.
Bryn S. Roberts
Head of School
- From the Head of School: Child Care Survey: March 25
- Update from the Head of School: March 24
- Update from the Head of School: March 13
- Update from the Head of School: March 15
- Update from the Head of School: March 11
- Middle and Upper School Planning: March 6
- Lower School Planning: March 6
- Update from the Head of School: March 2
To the SPA community,
As we are now in the second week of this most unusual and challenging Spring Break, I write this morning to update you on our plans for our school schedule in the coming weeks and months.
SPA will move to a distance learning model during the week of March 30 and will continue in this mode at least through Friday, May 1. Please note the following regarding next week’s schedule:
- The first two days of the week, Monday, March 30 and Tuesday, March 31, will be planning days for the faculty.
- On Wednesday, April 1, there will be class meetings for Lower Schoolers and advisory meetings for Middle and Upper Schoolers.
- On Thursday, April 2 and Friday, April 3, we will begin our formal distance learning classes in all three divisions.
Many more details about the specific structure and timing of distance learning plans in each class, grade, and division will be shared by the principals later this week. The principals will also provide updates on the many activities, performances, and events that would normally take place in April. Our plans after May 1 will depend on how the COVID-19 situation evolves over the next month, but we are prepared to continue our distance learning framework through the end of the school year should that be warranted.
Our teachers and academic leadership have been working diligently to develop and refine our distance learning programs. The process of converting SPA’s rich curriculum and community life into a distance learning model has been both challenging and interesting. We are mindful of the need to include those signature pieces of our culture and pedagogical approach that make our days at school so compelling.
As we know from our independent school colleagues who have been engaged in distance learning for several weeks now, this will be an iterative and flexible process. Our practices will most certainly evolve in the weeks ahead, as we learn more about the most effective ways to communicate with your students and you in the online space.
The care and thought that our faculty and academic leadership have invested in this work in the last few weeks is a testament to what makes SPA an exceptional place to learn and teach. I have no doubt that our community will meet this challenge with all the talent, curiosity, intellect, and good cheer that has always defined us as a school.
There is much that we do not yet know about how the virus will impact our community and our world, but we remain committed to doing all we can to support you, your students, and our staff as this unprecedented situation unfolds.
Once again, I thank you for your support and I trust you are staying well and safe.
Bryn S. Roberts
Head of School
To all SPA families,
As we conclude our final day at school before Spring Break, we continue to monitor the COVID-19 situation closely. As of today, we have no information regarding confirmed cases of the virus in our community, and our student absence numbers remain low. We are in regular contact with the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH), and are following their recommendations as well as the guidance of the Centers for Disease Control with regard to our school operations.
The looming question on everyone’s mind is whether we will resume school after Spring Break. We have not made a decision on the possible move to distance learning, but we are prepared to follow all guidance issued by the MDH regarding school closure to mitigate the spread of the virus. In the event of an extended campus closure and move to distance learning, we will inform the SPA community immediately via our normal notification channels, which include email, text message, and postings on the SPA website and social media.
In addition, please keep the following information in mind over the break:
- All campus activities scheduled over Spring Break have been canceled. This includes athletic practices and games, rehearsals, facility rentals, and all other on-campus activities. Please contact your coach or the event organizer if you have questions about specific activities.
- We urge you to monitor the health of your family very carefully in the coming days and weeks. Should there be a positive diagnosis of COVID-19 in our community, the MDH will contact us and we will share that information with you as soon as we are able.
- In the interest of time and community health, we encourage you to inform us if anyone in your immediate family or household receives a positive diagnosis of COVID-19 over break. Please let us know as soon as possible by emailing your divisional attendance line: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, and firstname.lastname@example.org. These email accounts will be checked regularly over Spring Break.
The uncertainty that we are all experiencing is the natural consequence of an unprecedented situation that has many unknowns. Here at school, we are focusing on what we do know: that we have no confirmed cases in the SPA community so far; that the virus is not highly dangerous for most healthy people and, thankfully, seems to affect children the least; and that our faculty have the tools to continue with the important work of school during a potential extended closure. We are also grateful that the timing of our Spring Break allows us the time to prepare for what may transpire in the coming weeks and months.
As always, we want to thank you for your continued support and understanding as we navigate this extraordinary situation. We wish you all the best for a safe and healthy Spring Break.
Bryn S. Roberts
Head of School
To all SPA families,
Like many of you, we watched Governor Walz's briefing this morning carefully and are mindful of the recommendation that all Minnesota K-12 schools close until March 30 to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. We are fortunate that the timing of this closure overlaps with our own Spring Break and thus has no immediate impact on our schedule and planning. We are also aware that the situation is fluid, and that it is possible that this closure will extend beyond what the Governor mandated this morning.
SPA's academic and administrative leadership have been in conversation today following the Governor's briefing and will remain so throughout Spring Break. As of today, we plan for school to resume on March 30. We will continue to monitor the situation and will of course keep you apprised of any changes in our plans. In the meantime, I encourage you to:
- Continue to follow all recommendations from the Minnesota Department of Health regarding social distancing and health measures to mitigate possible community spread;
- Continue to monitor your family’s health, and contact SPA as soon as possible through your divisional attendance line if you or anyone in your household receives a positive diagnosis of COVID-19;
- Continue to monitor your email and other communication channels for updates about SPA's plans moving forward.
It is difficult to predict how the Coronavirus will evolve in Minnesota. Much may change over the next two weeks and the inherently unstable nature of these times will require patience and flexibility. Even as travel restrictions and advisories have led many of you to cancel your Spring Break travels, I do hope that you and your family will enjoy the break over the next two weeks.
As always, I appreciate your support.
Bryn S. Roberts
Head of School
To all SPA families,
Before our community disperses for Spring Break, I want to update you on the actions we are taking in light of the COVID-19 situation, and what we might expect when we return from Spring Break. We have created this dedicated page on the SPA website as a location for all updates and communication regarding our COVID-19 plans and preparations.
Travel over Spring Break: We know that many SPA families plan to travel during Spring Break. We encourage our families to follow the safe travel precautions outlined by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) as well as the guidelines to avoid nonessential travel to countries listed on the CDC website as Level 2 or 3. The CDC recommends that travelers returning from these countries spend 14 days in home quarantine, the length of time for COVID-19 symptoms to develop. This CDC recommendation is designed to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in the United States, as there is no vaccine or medication to treat or cure COVID-19. Should your family make the decision to travel to one of the countries on the CDC Level 2 or 3 list, we urge you to heed the recommendation to keep your child(ren) at home from school and extracurricular activities for 14 days following your return.
Campus cleaning protocols: As I mentioned in my earlier email to you, SPA has comprehensive hygiene and cleaning protocols that are implemented by our cleaning company, ABM. Cleaning staff is increasing attention to frequently utilized surfaces such as doors, door handles, stair handrails, and tables, and will be using specialized equipment in the coming days for additional disinfecting. We are assessing additional cleaning protocols to be implemented by ABM on both campuses over Spring Break.
Preparation for distance learning: The academic leadership and faculty are preparing to shift in-class teaching to distance learning, relying on the technology tools at our disposal, in the event that SPA is required to close in response to the spread of COVID-19. The pedagogical approach will vary by division and discipline, and our goal is to provide smooth integration into distance learning should the need arise. We will know more in the days and weeks ahead. Our team will continue to monitor the situation closely over Spring Break, and we will notify the community as soon as possible should a move to distance learning be warranted.
Our preparations also include discussions with faculty, coaches, and other employees regarding support for students who may be absent from school for prolonged periods; alternative plans for large community events in the spring; and evaluating our communication tools for keeping families updated about developments. As with all health-related absences, we will help any student keep up with their studies during time away from school. Please contact your division principal or Dr. Cindy Richter, Assistant Head of School for Academic Programs, with academic questions or concerns.
As always, I thank you for your support as we continue to work through these unpredictable circumstances.
Bryn S. Roberts
Head of School
Dear Middle and Upper School families,
As Mr. Roberts’ recent email indicated, we’ve continued to monitor the progress of the COVID-19 outbreak and its possible impacts on our community. Like many schools across the country, we’ve given special attention to the question of how we might continue delivering curricular content to students in the event of a multiple-day school closing.
After many conversations -- and much careful observation about how comparable schools are planning for the potential of school closings -- we’ve decided to develop a distance learning plan that could be implemented if needed.
The good news is, Middle and Upper School teachers are already quite adept at supporting students remotely via email and the various collaborative tools offered by the Google Apps for Education Suite. Our teaching practices involve technology that could be easily adapted to deliver educational content and mimic in-person instruction. While we very much hold that the classroom experience is the optimal experience, we feel confident that in the event of a multi-day school closing, we could continue to keep students engaged and supported in meeting our curricular objectives in innovative and thoughtful ways.
Preparing a distance learning plan takes time, however.
As such, we are reaching out to share that next week the Randolph campus (both MS and US) will be adding two additional late start days in order to ensure that faculty have the necessary time to develop a plan that would keep students on track in the event of a school closing.
We ask that families plan for the following:
- Wednesday, March 11th will remain a late start day, with a start time of 8:45 am. (Day 2)
- Thursday, March 12th will now be a late start day, with a start time of 8:45 am. (Day 3)
- Friday, March 13th will now be a late start day, with a start time of 8:45 am. (Day 4)
Middle School families can expect that there will be morning supervision on Thursday and Friday starting at 7:30 am.
Upper School students can still expect to follow the same rituals and practices of late start days next Thursday and Friday, meaning that campus will be open at regular hours, even if classes do not begin until 8:45 am. Students who do not have a class first block will still be expected to sign-in. Teachers will not be available before 8:45, as they will be in faculty meetings.
These late start schedules allow us to preserve class time in a familiar structure and with a negligible impact which still allows valuable collaboration time for teachers.
For those with students at the Lower School, there is no change to your daily schedule next week as the needs and structure of that division are very different than those of the MS and US. Please know that the Lower School is also working on a distance learning plan using the robust content delivery infrastructure already in place.
The COVID-19 outbreak is proving to be a spectacularly fluid situation requiring patience and flexibility from all community members. I hope you will join me in thanking our teachers for all the extra work and thought they are putting into planning for this distance learning plan that we hope we will not have to implement. I know they are grateful for the time to plan and grateful to the parent and student community who support these efforts.
We will, of course, continue to be in contact as our plans evolve. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to your division principal if you have any questions,
Virginia Andres, MS Principal
Max Delgado, US Principal
Dear Lower School Families,
Please see the email (copied above, "Middle and Upper School Planning") that was just sent to the parents/guardians of Middle and Upper School students regarding the plans that those divisions have enacted to help prepare for the possibility of distance learning- a proactive response to the COVID-19 outbreak. While this is the right plan for those divisions, the Lower School will maintain a regular schedule next week. Given that our existing tools and infrastructure for remote learning are robust and the needs of Lower School students differ from those of Middle and Upper School students, along with all the special events that will be happening throughout the week, we found it best to maintain the regular schedule.
Please know that in the event of a multi-day school closure, the Lower School will have an age-appropriate distance learning plan at the ready, utilizing Seesaw, Google Apps for Education, and other familiar apps that have already been downloaded to student devices. Like other schools currently preparing distance learning plans, we are hopeful that we will never have to use it, but our priority is to promote continued student learning while being responsive to fluid and ever-evolving situations, such as what we may face with COVID-19.
Please contact me directly if you should have any questions with regard to this information.
Holly Moten Fidler, M.Ed.
Principal of the Lower School (K-5)
St. Paul Academy and Summit School
To SPA families,
As the world watches the latest developments in the outbreak of COVID-19 (Coronavirus), our administrative and academic leadership teams are focusing on possible impacts on our community. As always, the health and safety of our students, families, and staff is our primary concern.
The leadership team has been in conversation about the outbreak since late January, when the decision was made to cancel our Upper School trip to China over Spring Break. We are monitoring updates from global, world, and local health organizations with regard to our remaining Spring Break trips (to Germany and Spain), and to our own policies and procedures on campus. Advice from the following organizations has been particularly helpful:
- The Center for Disease Control (CDC) 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) Situation Summary and Travelers' Health updates;
- The World Health Organization (WHO) daily update on the outbreak;
- The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) Coronavirus information page, including their recommendations for schools, colleges, and universities;
- International SOS, a leading travel and security company.
SPA has comprehensive hygiene and cleaning protocols, and we have instructed our cleaning staff to pay increased attention to frequently utilized surfaces such as doors, door handles, desks, and chairs. We will continue to adjust these protocols as the situation warrants.
Lastly, we are aware of the number of upcoming community events where large groups will gather. At this point, no changes are planned for any of these events, but we will continue to evaluate the situation and will keep the community informed of any changes.
What you and your child can do:
- Please do not allow your child to attend school or come to campus if they are ill. Any student who is not feeling well or who has symptoms of any illness should stay home. In cases where more than a day or two is missed, we will work with you and your student to develop a plan for covering missed work.
- The CDC’s recommendations on hand-washing are clear and helpful. Please urge your child to wash their hands frequently and vigorously.
- Please ask your children to sneeze or cough into their elbows rather than into their hands. Nor should students share cups or water bottles.
- Please report any illness your child experiences, including those over Spring Break, to your divisional nurse or health assistant.
- If your family travels abroad over Spring Break, please be mindful of your family’s health and possible symptoms upon your return. This is particularly important if your travels take you to areas where COVID-19 is more prevalent.
This can be a frightening time for our students, especially younger children. News reports can be intimidating and confusing, as can casual conversations among the adults in their lives, or even seemingly trivial chatter among friends on the playground. Please speak with your children about COVID-19 and help them to understand their fears. You may find the following articles helpful:
- How to Talk to Your Kids About the Coronavirus (healthline.com)
- How to Talk to Your Anxious Child About the Coronavirus (psychologytoday.com)
SPA is marshaling all of its resources to support and protect the school community as we respond to the challenges posed by the spread of COVID-19. Should you have specific questions or concerns, please contact me or your division principal. Thank you for your support and attention.
Bryn S. Roberts
Head of School
St. Paul Academy and Summit School
1712 Randolph Avenue
St Paul, MN 55105
- What is COVID-19?
- What are the symptoms of COVID-19?
- How does COVID-19 spread?
- How concerned should I be as a Minnesotan?
- How big could this outbreak get?
- COVID-19 is a viral respiratory illness caused by a coronavirus that has not been found in people before.
- COVID-19 is not caused by the same coronavirus that caused Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) in 2003 or Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV) in 2012. However, it is in the same family of viruses.
- Because this is a new virus, there are still things we do not know, such as how severe the illness can be, how well it is transmitted between people, and other features of the virus. More information will be provided when it is available.
- According to CDC, patients with confirmed COVID-19 have had mild to severe respiratory illness with symptoms of:
- shortness of breath
- Some patients have had other symptoms including muscle aches, headache, sore throat, or diarrhea.
- Based on what has been seen previously as the incubation period of other coronaviruses, CDC believes that symptoms of COVID-19 may appear two to 14 days after exposure.
- Symptoms are similar to other respiratory illnesses that are circulating, such as influenza, so experiencing these symptoms alone does not necessarily mean you need to be tested for COVID-19. Additional criteria will help your health care provider decide if you should be tested, such as:
- If you have history of recent travel (within past 14 days) from an affected geographic area. Affected geographic areas can be found at CDC Coronavirus Disease 2019 Information for Travel.
- If you had close contact with any person who is a lab-confirmed patient within the past 14 days of symptom onset.
- If you are hospitalized with something like acute respiratory illness or pneumonia without another explanation (e.g., influenza).
- This virus probably originally emerged from an animal source but is now able to spread from person-to-person.
- It’s important to note that person-to-person spread can happen on a continuum. Some viruses are highly contagious (like measles), while other viruses are less so. It’s not clear yet how easily COVID-19 spreads from person-to-person.
- Patients who have been identified with COVID-19 in the United States have traveled to an area in China where the virus is circulating or have had contact with a known case.
- When person-to-person spread has occurred with other coronaviruses, such as MERS and SARS, it is thought to have happened mainly via respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes, similar to how flu and other respiratory diseases spread. Spread of SARS and MERS between people has generally occurred between close contacts.
Take the same precautions recommended for avoiding colds and flu:
- Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water.
- Stay home when you are sick.
- Cover your cough.
- Based on reports from places where it has circulated, COVID-19 presents a range of illness. While many cases may be mild to moderate with symptoms similar to colds and flu, some cases may be more severe.
- The risk of severe illness seems to be higher for older people and those with underlying health conditions. As health officials and care providers learn more about the range of illness, we will share this information. See CDC: People at Higher Risk for COVID-19 Complications for additional guidance.
- MDH works closely with health care providers to evaluate whether patients meet CDC criteria for testing. We consider any new infectious disease a serious concern and we are in close communication with CDC.
- There is much more to learn about how this novel coronavirus spreads, and how common it is to have mild disease or severe disease. Investigations are ongoing.
- Health officials are working hard to learn more about the virus, and it is still too early to make any predictions about this outbreak.
- With more attention and awareness, we'd expect to see the case count go up. Fortunately we have a strong, multi-level public health system in place to monitor for illness, and help people avoid becoming ill.
- Information and recommendations will be updated as we learn more in the days to come.
- Learn more at What MDH is doing: Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19).
Distance learning resources
Public Health resources
- The Mayo Clinic's overview of COVID-19, including symptoms and how to work with your doctor or health care provider if you feel ill.
- CDC COVID-19 Situation Summary
- CDC Traveler's Health Updates, including the latest information regarding countries with Level 2 and Level 3 warning levels