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Head of School Briefing: January 12, 2021

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Head of School Briefing: January 12, 2021

Dear Bullis Parents,

I write today to share news with you, including the tuition rates for the next academic year. This letter merges two that I had intended to send respectively on January 8 and January 13; I figured hearing from me one less time would be a blessing for all.

Tuition 2021-22 School Year

Following a recommendation from the Finance Committee, the Board of Trustees met last week and approved the tuition rates for next school year (SY) 2021-22. Through the nascent strategic planning process, the board will build a long-range tuition strategy that will provide the resources necessary for Bullis to continue to thrive and ensure that tuition increases are in a tight range from one year to the next – families will have confidence what tuition will look like going forward.

Inevitably, the vast majority of any increase in tuition goes to funding compensation raises for teachers and this is the case next year. Salary and benefits comprise approximately 70% of Bullis’s operating budget. In order to meet students’ needs, it is essential that Bullis is able to attract excellent faculty, and one element of that is compensation; we must be competitive with peer schools in the DC metro area and beyond – there is national competition for the best teachers and administrators.

Next year, as well as an appropriate increase in faculty compensation, we will be adding seven teachers to our faculty while projecting enrollment to be similar to this year. We are able to do this because of tight fiscal management. I have noted in multiple forums that I believe that we must ensure that the Upper School has the teaching personnel necessary for the size of the division. We will be hiring an additional college counselor, a counselor, a learning specialist, a math teacher, a science teacher, and a Spanish teacher. This will reduce the student numbers for each teacher and further enable them to individualize their approach.

In the Lower School, we will be adding a kindergarten and a Grade 1 homeroom teacher; there will be two sections in each Lower School grade next year. I believe it is essential that in the Lower School, we maintain very small class sizes, but have enough students in order to provide diversity and sufficient friendship choice numbers within a grade. We will be targeting a maximum of 14 students per section in the Lower School.

As you can see below, there will be no increase in the Lower School tuition for next year. We will be doing this while continuing the broad and deep programming for which Bullis is well known in every division.

Here are the tuition rates for next year:

Kindergarten - Grade 1: $37,680
Grade 2 – Grade 5: $42,875
Grade 6 - Grade 8: $47,790
Grade 9 - Grade 12: $49,740

As I previously announced, reenrollment contracts will be sent out this coming Friday, January 15. The deadline for their return is Monday, February 15. We will be sending out acceptance letters to new students shortly after this. If you have any questions about reenrollment, please reach out to your division head, Associate Head Tim Simpson, or me.

Personnel Announcement

It is with mixed feelings that I must announce that two long-standing senior employees are moving on. I am sad that they are leaving us but excited for them personally.

David Buerger, our Director of Security, recently let me know that he and his wife are relocating to Seattle to be close to their daughter and grandchildren. David will become the Director of Security at the Museum of Flight. David has been at Bullis for seven years, and along with his team, made the entire community feel safe. We thank David for his terrific service to the school and wish him and his family the very best in the Pacific Northwest.

I must also let you know that Lisa Vardi, our Director of Teaching and Learning, recently accepted the position of High School Principal at the Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School in Rockville. She will begin that role on July 1, 2021. Lisa loves Bullis both professionally and personally - her children are alums - but the time is now right for the next step on her professional journey. I thank Lisa for her 13 years of excellent service to Bullis and wish her the very best as she embarks on this exciting opportunity.

The Start of Next Academic Year 2021-22 and the Calendar Going Forward

I want to give you plenty of advance warning about the opening day of the next school year. We will be opening school on Wednesday, September 1, 2021.

While the traditional day for opening school falls after Labor Day, given the difficulty of this current year and the need to embark on our students’ formal learning as soon as possible next year, I believe we must get going as soon as reasonably possible. Further, the Jewish holidays of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur fall early in mid-September in 2021, and it is important that we have some time in school before taking those days as holidays.

Within the next month, Bullis will announce the major dates for the next two school years (vacations, etc.) to help with your long-term planning. Going forward, each year, we will publish the calendar for the following two years.

Covid-19 Testing Update

We tested 915 people at Bullis on January 4, 5, and 6. One member of the extended community that took advantage of our testing tested positive, but happily every Bullis student and faculty member tested negative. We were informed that two students tested positive off-campus last week, and one faculty member tested positive off-campus during the vacation.

In total, we have now conducted 10,726 tests at Bullis since August. Eleven students have tested positive, five faculty members, and one member of the extended community as noted above, for a total of 17 positive tests conducted on campus.

  • Wednesday, January 13 from 8:15 am – 4:00 pm: All teaching faculty and students will be tested.
  • Thursday, January 14 between 8-9:30 am: All non-teaching faculty will be tested.

Due to the high numbers of people being tested, we are unable to offer tests to other community members on this date – employees and students only, please.

Next Week – Resuming On-Campus Learning

Next Monday is Martin Luther King Day, a holiday. We will resume on-campus learning on Tuesday, January 19.

Choice of In-Person or Remote Learning

It is absolutely essential that you inform us about whether your student(s) will learn remotely or on campus. Please do so by logging into the parent portal of the website and choosing the correct selection button no later than Saturday, January 16.

That said, in order to verify that all testing protocols have been observed, we still require two business days to process a request for a student to move from remote to in-person learning. If your child had been in remote learning status before the Winter Break and you are considering moving them to in-person learning, please make that switch in the system no later than Wednesday, January 13. If you then elect to keep them in remote status, you will have until Saturday to update the learning preference in the parent portal.

As you know, it is required that faculty and students have two negative PCR tests administered locally and a week apart before they can be on campus. This is to allow for possible incubation of the virus following the holidays. This will give us as much confidence as reasonably possible that when we resume on campus, we will do so without positive, asymptomatic people present.

To that end, I must ask that this coming weekend – a holiday weekend – everyone takes as much care as possible not to be around others. Please socially distance and do not take risks. We are currently in the third surge – and the worst – of the pandemic. The light is at the end of the tunnel, but we must practice more care than ever before. If you are sending your children to school, please ensure that they are following all our protocol, guidelines, and directives… and not just to the letter, but to the spirit.

Lower School:

  • Lower School will resume in-person school with Hybrid B.
  • Blue and Gold students will be able to attend school 4.5 days per week.
  • This is the same model the Lower School had in place all Fall.

Middle School:

  • Given our testing regime and conservative approach, it is my intention that we resume school for the Middle School with Hybrid B.
  • Blue and Gold students will be able to attend simultaneously four days per week. A final decision (about Hybrid A or B) will be made this coming Friday, January 15.
  • Parents who choose for their students to attend in person should plan for in-person schooling on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays (and Tuesdays to Fridays on four day weeks including the week of 1/19).

Upper School:

  • The Upper School will continue with Hybrid A.
  • We will be looking to increase on-campus opportunities for Upper School students.
  • To that end, we are planning to introduce enhanced athletic opportunities beginning the week of January 25. Athletic Directors Parra and Lloyd will be in touch with details very soon.


In order to enhance safety on campus, we will be making organizational changes to our Middle and Upper School lunch period, including additional supervision. I am aware that the protocols we are putting into place will not boost the fun, social element of lunch, but we feel it is necessary to make these changes. If your children should comment at home, please help us by reminding them that the changes are for everyone’s safety and are helping us maintain in-person learning. Here are some of the details:

  • Students will report to an open (assigned in MS) classroom where they will remain for the 30 minute lunch period.
  • All furniture should remain in place as denoted by properly distanced markers in classrooms.
  • Students should only remove their masks to eat, then shall replace masks immediately after eating is completed.
  • Students shall comply with gathering limits that are written on each classroom door.

We are returning to on-campus learning the day before the inauguration. We are planning to hold regular school on Inauguration Day. I am aware of possible disruptions in city centers on January 20 and will stay in close communication with the community. We will monitor the situation closely, including the necessity for some in our community to travel significant distances to get to school, and if there is a need to change the plan due to safety issues, I will be in touch.

Early Decisions to College

Last, but certainly not least, I want to give you a small window into this year’s college process and our seniors’ college destinations.

Approximately 90% of colleges, including all the highly selective colleges, did not require standardized tests this year and will be test-optional for at least the next three years. This has resulted in a significant increase in applications to top tier schools. MIT had a 63% increase, Yale a 40% increase, and Harvard a 52% increase.

As you may know, the early admission process to colleges has grown in popularity. Many of our seniors applied for early action or early decision. Their early results are encouraging. Different students have been offered places at highly selective colleges such as Brown, Dartmouth (2), Duke, Harvard, UPenn (3), and Yale.

Furthermore, the early results indicate that our students are attaining a broad array of choices. I will give a full accounting of college applications and destinations after April 1, when all the decisions are due.

I look forward to students being on campus next week. I will be staying in touch!

Very best,

Christian G. Sullivan
Head of School

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