Dear Bullis Families,
On Thursday morning, I zoomed (a verb now?) with many Bullis grandparents from all over the DMV, the US, and the world. It was heartwarming to talk to the grandparents about their beloved children, grandchildren, and the school, but sad too that some haven’t seen family for many months. Let’s pray for an end before much longer to any enforced separations and the pandemic.
Latest Testing Results and Montgomery County Data
On Monday and Thursday, we tested 849 students. The results included three students and one part-time faculty member who were positive for COVID-19. Two of the students (siblings) have not been on campus since December (other than for testing). All contact tracing has been completed. There is no evidence of on-campus transmission. These four members of our community are making good progress.
As you will recall, in early January I decided that due to sharply increasing COVID-19 numbers in Montgomery County, school would be remote for the first two weeks of January, an increase of one week on what had been planned. The numbers in Montgomery County peaked on January 12 at 49.8 new cases per day per 100,000. Today, February 14, there are 15.8 new cases per 100,000 and the infection rate has dropped from a peak of 8.0% (1.8.21) to 4.4%. The trend continues to be good.
Upper School Moving Towards Hybrid B
We have been considering how we might bring Upper School students back to campus in the Hybrid B model. A final decision about the step-by-step process will be made by next Wednesday, February 17, but I want to let you know the probable path:
- Week Beginning February 22
- Grades 9, 10, and 11 will continue in Hybrid A.
- Grade 12 (Blue and Gold) will be on campus all four days.
- Wednesdays will remain remote.
- Week Beginning March 1
- Grades 10 and 11 will continue Hybrid A.
- Grades 9 and 12 (Blue and Gold) will be on campus all four days.
- Wednesdays will remain remote.
- Week Beginning March 8
- All Grades (Blue and Gold) on campus all four days.
- Wednesdays will remain remote.
📣 All 9th and 12th Grade students must let us know by Friday, February 19 whether they will attend school on campus (four days) or remotely.
📣 All 10th and 11th grade students must let us know by Friday, February 26.
Schools in general, and Bullis in particular, have proven that educating in person and on campus is safe. The CDC, as reported widely in the media yesterday, strongly recommends that students be on campus, and notes that it can be done safely. The Lower and Middle Schools at Bullis have been in Hybrid B for months now.
The Montgomery County infection numbers, as detailed above, are dropping and vaccinations are becoming more available. Bullis now has 120 faculty members with at least one vaccination shot, and more are scheduled. We have reviewed every Upper School learning space and have ensured that they will be adequately resourced for the number of students while maintaining physical distancing of at least six feet. Students may have noticed additional furniture in rooms since last Wednesday. Lunch will be eaten in small groups in different rooms, and students on buses will be limited to one per seat.
This plan will allow three weeks of Hybrid B before we close for spring break. We need to allow as many students as possible back to campus and as soon as possible. I will provide confirmation, or otherwise, of this plan later next week, but please make plans that assume that Hybrid B will be fully implemented by March 8.
Families will continue to have the choice to remain remote and have access to live-streamed classes or to be on campus for four days. Please be aware that this is a binary choice – remote or on campus for four days. Being on campus for one, two, or three days is not an option. Teaching and learning under the current circumstances is challenging enough without teachers having to work out which students will be physically present each day. Thank you for your understanding.
It is obviously parents’ right and responsibility to oversee the health and safety of their children, and this is why during the pandemic Bullis has offered the choice of remote or on-campus education. Every family has different considerations that they must take into account. However, it is incumbent on me to acknowledge the body of evidence that indicates it is in students’ best interest to be on campus, especially given increasing data showing that schools are not places of high transmission. Bullis has had no cases of on-campus transmission. The rationale for students learning on campus is not just to do with academic development—it is at least equally to do with social, emotional, physical, and mental health. A speedy internet search will provide numerous articles and reports about the grievous effect on young people because of the closing of schools. The Center for Disease Control and the American Academy of Pediatrics both recommend the opening of schools because attendance at school is good for students.
Spring Break and the Week Following
Please note the schedule for the week following spring break. It is slightly changed from that announced in the fall. (The schedule below allows for more on-campus learning.)
- March 29 – April 5: Spring Break. Some spring sports will practice during the vacation
- Tuesday, April 6: All School COVID testing on campus. No Instruction. All students who wish to return to campus must be tested at school on this day.
- Wednesday, April 7: All divisions learn remotely.
- Thursday, April 8: All divisions return to Hybrid B. Students must have received a negative result from their Tuesday on-campus test in order to be present on campus.
- No student will be allowed on campus after spring break without having a test at school on Tuesday, April 6, and a corresponding negative result.
- Testing at Bullis is for Bullis students and faculty only. There may be occasions when family members can be tested, but since we are limiting campus access, permission is needed to be on campus. Again, thank you for your understanding.
I am truly excited to have more students back on campus. I ask every family to comply with all protocols and directives, and to exercise good, unadventurous judgment with regards to COVID. Now is not the time to take risks. And as we approach spring break, let me remind everyone that Governor Hogan has a strict travel directive in place. Please do exercise special caution over spring break.
I want to thank so many of you for returning re-enrollment contracts. This will really make our job easier as we approach the new admissions season. Tomorrow will signal four weeks since re-enrollment contracts were sent, and we have had 65% more contracts returned than we did at the corresponding point last year. Wow! Thank you. If you haven’t had the chance to do it, perhaps this weekend is the ideal opportunity? If you haven’t returned the contract by tomorrow’s deadline (February 15), we will reach out with a call next week.
Strategic Planning Process
The Steering Committee has identified five key pillars of the plan that warrant significant investigation. These pillars are:
- Institutional Identity
- Student and Community Life
- Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
- Academic Experience and Programming
- Institutional Resources
Several of these pillars will be multi-pronged; for example, athletics and the arts will feature prominently within Academic Experience and Programming. Sub-committees will comprise of different constituencies in order to engage in the necessary work for each pillar. Each sub-committee will be co-chaired by a trustee and a staff member. I envision that this strategic plan will be affirmed by the Board of Trustees next September. The life of the plan will be approximately three years. And then we will begin the process again! Next week, I will give executive summaries of the surveys that many of you completed. The responses gave much useful information; thank you so much. Throughout the process, I will provide regular updates.
Strategic Planning Survey Preview
While we are in the midst of a pandemic and a truly unsettling time, I believe that our students, faculty, parents, and the wider community are handling this as well as is possible. Our kids and teachers are amazing, and I know we will come through this strongly. It is difficult for me to judge because I have only been present at Bullis during this difficult time, but I hope and believe that we are moving forward, despite the pandemic.
As a teaser for the survey executive summaries, here are three data points:
- Would current parents proudly recommend Bullis to those outside the community? (332 Respondents)
91% would. 7% are neutral. 2% would not.
- Do faculty feel their contributions to the institution are valued? (124 Respondents)
86% do. 10% are neutral. 4% do not.
- Do students feel that Bullis teachers help them grow? (454 Respondents)
85% do. 13% are neutral. 2% do not.
While the numbers and the comments in the survey point to a high degree of satisfaction, and applications for next year are through the roof, I am restless to improve. I want 100% of our parents to feel that they can proudly recommend this School. I want 100% of our faculty to feel their contributions are valued. And I most certainly want 100% of our students to feel that their teachers help them grow. While this is clearly a great school, we have much work to do. Whatever these and future survey results might tell us, I can promise you that we will never become complacent.
I hope you are having a good, if icy, long weekend.
Christian G. Sullivan
Head of School