Welcome to Cary Academy’s planning pages for a healthy fall. We will be using these pages to provide a variety of information regarding campus operations for the 2020-2021 school year. Please understand that in this fluid situation, information can change rapidly. This home page will contain general information about our planning. The Campus Guidelines page contains details about campus operations and specific expectations for the CA community.
Designing for Safety (and Excellence)
Driven by Mission and Strategic Vision
As always, our school mission and current strategic vision remain front and center, a driving force in shaping Cary Academy’s response to the pandemic. While this period is undoubtedly challenging, it also presents unique opportunities to respond with different learning modalities and approaches that support and advance our larger vision.
A learning community committed to discovery, innovation, collaboration, and excellence
Cary Academy will create personalized learning opportunities that are flexible and relevant in an environment that supports student wellbeing. We will cultivate self-directed and bold life-long learners who make meaningful contributions to the world.
In planning for the next school year, we are operating under the following assumptions:
- we are going through a monumentally stressful and disruptive time in history, and we should not expect to flip a switch back to “normal;”
- there will be heightened attention to matters of wellness and public health which will impact our students, their families and the format which learning needs to occur;
- various formal and informal forms of social distancing will continue; and
- coronavirus waves are predicted to cause future short-term, place-specific stay-at-home orders for the foreseeable future.
Planning for 2020-2021
When we operationalize re-opening in the fall, we will organize around the following framework to keep our community healthy.
- Education about the virus and how to stay healthy
- Program adjustments to maximize inividual and community wellness
- Physical and social adjustments to minimize risk of exposure
- Monitoring regional and local outbreaks to understand community risk
- Ensuring individuals coming to campus are of low risk of spreading illness
- Tracking individual cases and trending illnesses within our community
- Communicating with local health authorities and internal community
- Adjusting operational modes
- Implementing cleaning and disinfecting protocols
This group will develop robust and flexible, and mission-driven curricular delivery mechanisms that provide instructional continuity and excellence within a variety of scenarios.
This past term has been a lucrative period of experimentation and we have learned a great deal. Moving forward, we will
- leverage those lessons to implement digital homebase/daily routines for each class that could support virtual and f2f learning (a Digital Core),
- streamline communication and course expectations,
- and evaluate appropriate expectations in hybrid environment
In looking at digital course design and schedules, we will prioritize
A Digital Core that
- allows for coordinated and clear communication,
- builds opportunities for collaboration and community building, and
- accommodates base instructional delivery regardless of location.
A schedule that
- reduces unnecessary contact between individuals as much as possible,
- easily pivots between different delivery modes, and
- provides the flexibility necessary to run robust co-curricular programming for advisory, clubs, activities, and community building.
And a Digital Core and a schedule that, together,
- promotes employee and student wellness, and
- is philosophically aligned with our mission and beliefs about learning.
Four Operating Modes
We expect to shift between several operational modes this school year.
The school will open in a Mixed-Mode of operations.
In Orange mode, the school will de-densify the campus by splitting students into two cohorts, Blue and Gold. Those cohorts will alternate between two days on campus and two days learning from home (Mon/Tue or Thur/Fri). Wednesdays will be “flex days” for individual work with faculty, special activities, or other events — both on and off-campus.
Details about the current mode of operations and timelines can be found on the Campus Guidelines page.
Cary Academy will follow orders and specific operating instructions given by the governor or other local authorities with appropriate jurisdiction over the School.
In the absence of a governmental order, we will consider the following in confirming it prudent to move between modes:
- Announcements made by Governor Cooper regarding the state’s general status and progress on reopening plans.
- Data regarding our ability to provide safe on-campus environment for students and faculty – informed by our own on-campus experiences, those from other area schools that have reopened, or a significant new study about virus transmission.
- Wake County COVID-19 metrics, aggregated by ActNow which would include:
- The percentage of positive test cases,
- Daily new cases per 100,000 residents,
- The trendline of infections, as measured by the R0,
- Access to ICU beds.
What We've Learned in 2019-2020
Throughout the third trimester, Cary Academy has been gathering data from teachers about their use of digital tools and progress towards learning goals. On May 8, students and parents were asked about their experiences with digital learning. More than 350 parents and 460 students responded within a week. That data is to be used by faculty as they re-imagine the Digital Core for the future.
Near the end of the virtual journey for 2019-2020, students reported a fairly high level of challenge, success, and happiness during what has been a very challenging time.
When asked how often they felt the following during T3, students responded:
As might be expected during such a disrupted time, student feedback varied on how things went this past term. We were very pleased, though, that students generally said:
- They transitioned well to the virtual platforms because of the high-integration of digital tools in the regular program and the fact that most learning materials were already digital (i.e. online textbooks developed by teachers in Microsoft OneNote).
- They were happy with the variety of the modes of instructional delivery but reported some work needed to be done to increase student collaboration (i.e. online discussions).
- They were appreciative of the flexibility given to manage their learning. Most reported sleeping better due to the later start of the school day. Students then adjusted their “homework” time all over, with equal amounts doing work in the morning, afternoon, or evening.
- Most reported that the challenge-bar was set appropriately (with much smaller but equal numbers saying it was not challenging enough or that it was too challenging).
- Where stress levels spiked, it most often involved the executive-functioning skills needed to navigate in a digital environment. More work needs to be done to help students navigate a “digital home base” and easily find and manage the tasks to be done.
Use of Time
The majority of students reported spending roughly six hours a day on academic work, including class time, with equal numbers reporting slightly more and slightly less. This feels about right when you consider the reduction of so much of the other items that normally happen during a school day. Of course that other activity and social time has tremendous value, in both indirect learning opportunities and social/emotional health and growth. This is why we believe more students reported being bored during their time with at-home learning.
Giving students more flexibility to manage their time and own their learning has been a part of the school’s strategic vision since 2015. Learning at Cary Academy happens in a variety of ways, with only a small portion being what might traditionally be called “direct instruction through teacher lecture.”
This is what has allowed us to transition to a digital environment more smoothly.
We see potential in what hybrid learning might provide, not only as a solution to a practical problem in the moment but as a way to continue to flex time in the most positive ways for our students.
Financial Considerations and Support
Thankfully, we entered this crisis from a strong financial position. Cary Academy carries no debt and remains fully enrolled with wait lists for each grade. As part of our strategic planning process in 2015, we developed several long-range financial planning models that give us the necessary flexibility to respond to and weather our current situation.
However, like most businesses, the school has experienced a number of unanticipated financial impacts resulting from Covid-19, especially as it relates to a sharp drop in ancillary (non-tuition) income that directly supports the academic program and general operational expenses.
We anticipate additional costs this summer as we prepare the campus for social distancing and as our faculty works hard to build out our Digital Core.
Tuition and Fees
Families have been notified that several fees (dining, transportation and world language trips) will not be billed at the beginning of the year. Instead, we will bill based on operating modes and the use of those services.
The school has been using reserve funds and additional gifts from the CA Fund to pay for unanticipated health, safety, technology, and financial aid support necessary to balance our budget. We do not anticipate any tuition refunds, regardless of operating mode for the year.
Supporting Families in Need
We recognize the stay-at-home order and subsequent economic shutdown has impacted the finances of many families. Cary Academy wishes to be as responsive and flexible as possible during this uncertain time.
Families wishing to discuss the need for a more flexible payment plan or potential emergency tuition assistance should reach out to our Director of Admissions and Financial Aid Heather Clarkson.