On Tuesday, September 8, SPA welcomed its students in all three divisions back to school. In the Lower School, Grades K-5 are starting the year in a hybrid model, with a transition to full-time in-person learning planned for early October. Middle and Upper School students are beginning their year in Distance Learning, and will move to a hybrid model at the end of September. Both transitions will depend on the rate of COVID case numbers in Ramsey County as set out in the state of Minnesota’s Safe Learning Plan, which SPA is following closely.
“This first month will be an opportunity for us to re-acclimate ourselves to the texture of school and to adapt to the new protocols and routines imposed by the challenges of living with a pandemic,” says Bryn Roberts, SPA’s Head of School, who notes that before this week, students and teachers had not been together on campus since March 13, 2020. “We will use these early weeks to define ways of learning and teaching that will shape our school life for the foreseeable future,” Roberts says.
The many changes to school life put in place due to the pandemic are outlined on SPA’s comprehensive Return to School website. The school’s pandemic protocols were designed in close partnership with Dr. Paul Anderson, a HealthPartners physician who serves as the school’s medical advisor. SPA also worked closely with HGA, its long-time architecture partner, and MMC, a mechanical engineering firm on the many upgrades to the school’s physical plant, including significant upgrades to HVAC systems on both campuses. All students participated in on-campus orientations during the week of August 31, which familiarized them with the revised schedule, facility updates, and health and safety protocols designed to mitigate risk during on-campus learning.
An enormous amount of work and planning went into the school’s reopening plans and so far the work is paying off. “It’s been a long time since the kids have been in school,” says one parent of a third-grader, who asked his son about the first day of school this week. “He replied with ‘best school day of my entire life!’,” says the parent. “Thank you to all the SPA staff in putting in countless hours to prepare for this unconventional start to a school year...it clearly was a success!”