Dear Monument Academy Community,

I would first like to wish you and your loved ones a beautiful and healthy Thanksgiving.  I am very grateful for the support of our parents.  Your emails, words of encouragement, and thanks have meant so much to us during these weeks.  Second, I want to say how very proud I am of the entire MA staff for their truly heroic efforts. They not only marshalled our resources so we could continue to serve our students with an outstanding educational program while also maintaining in-person learning but did so with excellence and courageous hearts. This reminds me why I am grateful for the privilege to serve in education.

I last wrote you to make you aware of additional positive COVID cases on our school campuses.  Since then, we have been alerted to more possible cases.  This afternoon brought reports concerning the west campus which means 1st and 5th grade students, teachers, paraprofessionals, and members of the elementary campus administration must quarantine for 14 days. As you are already aware, a significant number of east campus staff and students are also having to quarantine for an extended time.  While we continue to work through the challenges of positive cases and precautionary quarantines, we do so with a determination for remaining committed to in-person learning.

With the timing of these recent developments, significant numbers of quarantined individuals at both campuses, a move to level ‘orange’ with increased procedures for evaluating symptoms and quarantines, and an increase in the number of COVID cases within our county and community, we believe it is prudent to reevaluate our current approach in order to have in-person learning for the remainder of the semester.

With each new probable and positive case within our community comes additional contact tracing, quarantines, substitute teachers, and various logistical changes to maintain our on-campus presence.  Our leadership’s approach to making decisions considering the pandemic has been with a high regard for having on-campus, in-person instruction. We still maintain that posture as our primary goal. We are one of the few schools in one of the few districts to start the year on-campus four days a week and we have maintained that posture since August. However, facts and circumstances, and the timing of the semester, also play into our decisions to work proactively and preemptively.

At this point, we simply do not have the human resources at both campuses to conduct in-person learning successfully or safely.  Therefore, we must “hit the reset button” by having our entire in-person school community stay at home, monitor for symptoms, and minimize contact for a 14-day period. This will enable us all to return to school together on the same date.

MA will shift to a temporary remote learning environment effective December 1st.  To reach the 14-day timeframe, we will utilize Thanksgiving break as one of the weeks, and the week after will be an all-school remote learning week.  Because this news comes late in the day and our teachers and staff have already gone home to start their much-deserved break, November 30th will be a teacher workday. This will give everyone time to set up and plan for virtual schooling starting December 1st.  Please look for emails from your administration and teachers with online instructions, schedules, and coursework for these days as well as information related to completing the semester. We will then plan on the whole school returning to in-person learning on December 7th.

Monument Academy is not being pressured to make this decision because of a COVID outbreak in the school. In fact, we do not see a rise in transmission inside the school, and our school continues to be a safe environment for students. However, we are experiencing a significant rise in cases outside of the school and in our community, which are having an impact on the number of MA student and staff quarantines. This decision has been made because the requirements for quarantine, contact tracing, substitute logistics, last-minute changes to classes or cancellations, and reports of positive and probable cases continue to put large groups on a continual rotation of quarantines. These scenarios all work to stretch resources and prohibit our ability to provide the best academic program we are committed to give.

We have determined that a temporary remote learning situation congruent with Thanksgiving break gives us the very best chance to continue a high-quality, in-person education. It gives all of our students and families the most effective approach for reducing the spread of COVID and provides the best opportunity to return to campus for the completion of the semester. During this time, we will not be closing the campus to our faculty. In fact, we expect many of our teachers will conduct distance learning from their classrooms.

Please look for communications to be sent out regarding accessing remote learning, coming back to campus after the remote learning week, and plans to complete the semester together. In the meantime, please continue to be vigilant about all the safety protocols for living with this pandemic. Thank you for your continued support, understanding, and patience.

I send my wishes for health, joyous rest, and peace to all our families, students, faculty, and staff. Let us remember to be grateful during this time that our school has endured and thrived so far this year, and may we persevere with the hope that this 14-day measure will enable us to return to in-person schooling with all of our students and staff together.  It is vitally important that our children have the opportunity to engage with their teachers and peers in the school environment, not only interacting with learning, but also with the social relationships and mentorships that will shape their lives and futures.

Warmest regards,

Christianna Herrera