We are thrilled to announce that Saint Thomas Choir School will be opening the 2020/2021 school year with a temporary residence at the Incarnation Center in Ivoryton, CT! Fresh air, a large, idyllic campus and most importantly, the ability to learn, sing, socialize and play together in the safest way possible.
We have been spending the last two weeks of our school year at camp at the Incarnation Center for decades. Thus, it was a natural thought when we began our scenario planning for 2020/2021 to consider this familiar campus as a possible, temporary home for our school while we wait out the COVID crisis.
Our re-opening plan is predicated upon the idea of the school being a self-contained, germ-sharing pod in which the school will take a number of precautions at the beginning to establish the pod and then will be able to remove some of these restrictions, allowing the boys to play together, learn together, and sing together. We feel that, under the current pandemic conditions, this plan is be the safest way for us to bring our community back together in person, and will provide the best experience for our students and teachers.
We will also be able to provide a robust musical experience for the boys under Dr. Filsell’s direction, and plans are underway to establish a schedule that offers the choristers the opportunity to perform in several services each week for our pod-community in Connecticut under the oversight of a chaplain, helping the boys to stay connected to Saint Thomas Church Fifth Avenue and helping them to continue the tradition of musical excellence upon which the Choir School was founded over 100 years ago.
In formulating our plans, a Fall 2020 Scenario Planning Working Group was assembled of school administrators, faculty members, and medical personnel. The Working Group has been meeting once or twice each week since early May to discuss scenario planning. Members of the Working Group have focused on different areas of school life, and have spent hundreds of hours reading articles, studies, and governmental guidance; speaking with infectious disease experts, pediatricians, and school medical personnel; working with experts in risk management and in school legal issues; attending many webinars produced by NYSAIS, NAES, NAIS, OESIS, NATS, OneSchoolhouse, NEASC, and the Klingenstein Center; meeting individually with over fifteen heads of other independent schools; and meeting frequently with other key stakeholders in the Saint Thomas community. The goals of our planning are to be prepared to educate the students safely regardless of how the pandemic shifts, and to be able to provide a positive educational experience to our students consistent with our mission and our values.
All of the conversations generally during the COVID-19 crisis and particularly in planning for Fall 2020 have served as powerful reminders of how strong and resilient our community has proven to be, and of how lucky we are to have such a talented, committed group of educators and dedicated, engaged families and students.
We have divided the academic calendar into quarters for this upcoming year, and will re-evaluate the plan in advance of each quarter. After our time at Incarnation Center and a two-week vacation, we will either be transitioning back to New York City if health and testing conditions allow us to do so, or making a planned transition to distance learning.
As always, all of our plans throughout this pandemic are subject to change at any time: flexibility will continue to be our watchword as we monitor the ongoing medical developments, health conditions, and government requirements to make sure that we are keeping our community as safe as we possibly can.