It is hard to believe but we are three weeks away from the end of the school year. Normally at this point, the students would be smelling the barn; teachers would be thinking about end of the year events, AP exams, and awards; and we would all be thinking about summer vacation. Even though times are anything but normal, I do think there is cause for excitement at the end of the school year because our faculty and students have worked hard, made great strides, and definitely deserve some downtime. Remember that this summer lasts until Tuesday, September 8, so at least for one year, we are returning to the old Memorial Day to Labor Day schedule I grew up with. Of course, those were the days before we had air conditioning in our schools…
But as I said, these are not normal times and there is great uncertainty associated with Covid-19. Will social distancing efforts allow a return to traditional school in September? Will we open with distance learning? Will we open in school and then be forced back to distance learning by a second wave of the virus? Or God forbid, will we have distance learning for the entire school year? And if we return to on-campus learning, what will the social distancing regulations be and will they require us to limit the number of students on campus at any one time?
My guess is that with little trouble, you could also imagine a dozen other variations on these scenarios, but that just proves that we are not going to have any firm answers as to what September brings until we are much closer to opening day. So, while no specific plans have been decided just yet, I do want to reassure you that the staff, along with the Board of Trustees, are logically working our way through many possibilities, and we are using our many professional relationships in the independent school world to critique and refine our tentative plans.
There are a number of recurring themes, however, that have marked our discussions.
First and foremost, we are committed to all of our current students in their pursuit of a North Cross diploma . While our funds are not unlimited, we will work with individual families that need extra time to make tuition payments. Also, please recognize that your timely payment of tuition is a simple but extraordinarily meaningful gesture at a time when cash flow is so important. I hope the relationship between tuition and our ability to maintain our full faculty and staff during distance learning is apparent to all.
Secondly, there are a number of parents that have expressed concern about next year and what will happen if we are forced to a distance learning scenario for all or part of the school year. We recognize that there is significant likelihood of this occurring and we are developing an alternative tuition structure that reflects the reality that despite our best efforts, there is a value in our on-campus program that we cannot recreate with distance learning. We will outline the details of this as we get greater clarity that can only come with proximity to our start date. I promise, we will not force you in July to make a decision about your re-enrollment contract without knowing as many of the specifics related to re-opening as possible.
And finally, there has been a tremendous outpouring of appreciation for the way our faculty and staff responded to a relatively sudden decision to shut down school campuses. I have spoken with many parents that are thankful of our efforts, particularly in comparison with other schools, both local and across the Commonwealth. I have talked frequently with school heads at other independent schools and I believe our performance has been nimble, responsive, and creative. We will finish the school year with a flourish, catch our breaths a bit, and return in August to prepare for whatever lies ahead of us.
Let me finish by being a bit provocative. We all agree we are living in uncertain times, and for the first time in our lives, there are uncertainties regarding the education of our children. There is no perfect solution to education in the midst of a pandemic, but based upon a trimester of evidence, what school in the Valley are you willing to trust with the education of your children in the upcoming year? I can assure you that whether we head back to campus or continue with distance learning, hold class meetings in full capacity or in shifts, North Cross will react to the changes with a singular focus on your child’s education. Not many schools can say that.
Thank you again for your support, and remember, there has never been a better time to be at North Cross School.
Christian J. Proctor, PhD
Dr. Proctor is the ninth Head of School at North Cross and has served as such since 2011. He has more than 30 years of experience in education. He has served as headmaster at Porter-Gaud School in Charleston, South Carolina, St. Martin’s Episcopal School in Metairie, Louisiana, Grace Episcopal School in Monroe, Louisiana, and as Interim Headmaster at Wesley Academy in Houston, Texas. In each location, Dr. Proctor’s tenure was marked by creativity, innovation, and school growth.