Head of School Updates

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Dear Valley School Families,
Below you will find a longer than normal communication that highlights our planned summer communication, preliminary reopening plans, financial considerations, our values, important dates, and our final week event notices.  I encourage you to read through the document carefully as we complete the 2019-20 school year and communicate our preliminary plans to begin the 2020-21 school year.  
As we prepare for the culmination of our 2019-20 school year activities, none of us would have predicted having to adapt so dramatically in order to ensure a positive student experience for the children of Valley School. Yet, together as a collection of students, parents, faculty, and staff, we have reimagined how to best deliver holistic education during a time of significant turmoil. I take great pride in the collaborative effort of everyone involved in helping Valley School achieve our objectives.  
Our students have had to overcome a number of obstacles, and have exhibited fortitude and resiliency during this difficult time. Their success is in no small part due to the Valley School families, who have contributed countless hours to supporting their children. Likewise, our faculty and staff rose to the occasion—adapting our educational model so as to continue providing our students with the highest levels of intellectual growth, emotional support, social activity, and physical health opportunities. All the while, students, families, and faculty maintained and met the highest expectations. When we later reflect on this time in Valley School’s history, we will remember it as a triumph.
As Pennsylvania progresses through the stages of reopening, we will learn a lot about the safety protocols that will be necessary in the near future. Valley School is prepared to respond to all manner of challenges. You can expect that we will remain transparent in our communication, and update you as developments unfold and we make appropriate corresponding decisions. In early July, I will send you Valley School’s Guidelines for Reopening, which will outline possibilities for the 2020-2021 school year. A few preliminary details are highlighted below.  
Preliminary Reopening Plans for 2020-2021
Since mid-March, Valley School administration and staff have been collecting and considering data from a variety of sources, including the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS), the Pennsylvania Association of Independent Schools (PAIS), and the Pittsburgh Consortium of Independent Schools (PCIS). We also have been reviewing the guidelines by Governor Wolf, state and local agencies, and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). In addition, we have sought advisement from local healthcare professionals associated with Valley School.    
Our plan is to open the school in late-August to begin the academic year on campus. Students will return to a safe environment that protects them, our, parents, faculty, and staff. Valley School has created an Administrative Council Task Force with nine distinct sub groups—Academics, Athletics, Facilities and Safety, Dining, Health, Finance, Fundraising, Transportation, and Communication. These nine groups are developing individual protocol plans to create a larger comprehensive plan for the Valley School community. In early June, I will finalize Valley School’s overall Reopening Plan, including multiple possible learning circumstance scenarios:
  1. Full return to campus with enhanced health and safety protocols and procedures.  These enhancements will contain recommendations from the Task Force, and may include—but not be limited to: following social distancing guidelines; implementing new health practices; repurposing instructional spaces (including our outdoor environment); and meticulous regular cleaning, sanitation, and disinfecting.
  1. Partial return. The possibility remains that state and federal guidelines will limit the number of individuals permitted to be on campus at any given time. If necessary, we will work within those guidelines to invite as many students to campus as possible, while still meeting families’ expectations and adhering to best practices for education.
  1. Delayed or full restriction. Conceivably, orders could be given that disallow Valley School’s campus from opening to students. If this is the case, we will continue to offer our Valley School Distance Learning Program with updates and improvements. We will also keep the school ready to reopen at a moment’s notice.
The fact that our region is relaxing social distancing restrictions now gives us valuable time to watch the trajectory of the COVID-19 spread before we make final decisions about the form the 2020-2021 school year will take. I am hopeful that cases of the virus will continue to diminish. 
Financial Considerations
As Valley School strives to fulfill our Mission, we remain committed to our long-term financial stability. The Board of Trustees, Head of School, and Business Manager work diligently to maintain fiscal prudence to ensure our goals are achievable—not just next year, but for the life of the school. As such, we are carefully reviewing our budgets to determine areas in which we can adjust without compromising our teaching practices, values, or standards. 
The COVID-19 pandemic has created unique challenges for the School and our individual families. Unfortunately, Valley School has incurred unexpected expenses as a result, and will continue to do so as we safeguard the school into the future. The situation has also caused undue hardship for many of our families, and we will remain sensitive to their needs. 
We have worked hard over the past four years to keep tuition affordable, and have averaged a less-than-2% annual increase during that time. While decisions regarding our overall tuition modeling are not possible at this time, Valley School is committed to working with our families to understand and respond to their unique circumstances.
In the coming months, we will review each item in the budget for cost saving measures. We are prioritizing grant writing and EITC support. While the situation unfolds, I encourage you to keep us updated on your family’s situation, and we will keep you updated on our status. 
Our Values
I believe we have to look no further than the Valley Core Values as we determine the course ahead.
Seeking Wisdom
  • We will continue to pursue reliable information from our healthcare experts, and will critically evaluate it in relation to our specific Valley School contexts.
Cultivating Wellness
  • The physical, emotional, social, and mental health of our students, faculty, and staff will remain our highest priority.
Embracing Integrity
  • Guided by our ethical values, we will mindfully consider the best interests of the whole Valley School community as we navigate the school year ahead.
Building Community
  • We will remain dedicated to partnering with and supporting Valley School families.
Thank you for your continued trust and dedication to Valley School. I look forward to sharing more details with you in the weeks and months ahead.
Important Dates/Notes
Bus Transportation
Please click on Bus Transportation to complete the 2020-21 Bus Transportation Form
Last Day of Classes – Friday, May 29
We are quickly approaching the end of the 2019-20 school year. The last day of classes will be held on Friday, May 29. The following week will be dedicated to our end-of-year celebrations.  We realize that for many families, this year is not ending with the formal sense of closure for which Valley School usually strives. Please know that we are considering ways to start the 2020-21 school year to allow for a sense of positive matriculation for our students, including closure with the children’s current teachers.
8th-Grade Recognition/Final Awards Ceremony – Tuesday, June 2 at 9:00 AM
This celebration of the achievements of the 8th- and 9th-grade students will be live-streamed for our families. However, we will also record the event in case we encounter technological complications.  
9th-Grade Diploma Pickup – Wednesday, June 3 at 10:30 AM
On Wednesday, June 3, we will be inviting our 9th-grade graduates back to campus for a diploma pickup ceremony. Later, at 1:00 PM, we will conduct a special virtual Chapel for our graduates. This is intended to be a small ceremony that will be followed up with an in-person Commencement event on July 31.
Pickup/Drop Off of Belongings – Monday, June 8
On Monday, June 8, from 8:00 AM to 4:00 PM, families will be invited back to campus to drop off school materials and pick up consolidated belongings. We will have the materials organized in the front of the school for pickup and drop-off. Upper School students are reminded to drop off all of their books, library books, athletic gear and iPads. In the case of rain, drop-off and pickup will be conducted in the Gym. 
9th-Grade Commencement – July 31 at 10:30 AM (Confirmed)
After working with the 9th-grade families to find a suitable date for our Commencement, we have settled on our original date of July 31 at 10:30 AM.  Further information will be provided throughout the summer.    
  • The Weekly Rotation for Upper School this week: 
Tuesday - Day 4
Wednesday - Day 1
Thursday - Day 2 
Friday - Flex 
  • In the Upper School, Creative Activities this week will be led by our Music Team
  • On Wednesday, Lower School Parliament will be Beach Party!
  • On Thursday, Lower School Parliament will be Red, White, and Blue!
  • This Friday’s Chapel…
  • Final Chapel will be held on Wednesday, June 3 at 1:00 PM.
Summer Opportunities
With so many events being cancelled or postponed this summer, I want to update you on possible summer opportunities for you and your children.  If you navigate to the Head of School Update Page, you will find summer opportunities located on the right-hand column.   As of now, we have a single opportunity, but I will be adding more to the list in the coming weeks. 
Warmest regards,
Dr. Jonathan P. Strecker
Head of School
Valley School of Ligonier
153 Lupine Lane
Rector, PA 15677
Cell – 724-396-0290
Phone: 724-238-6652 x5010