Dear Andover families,
In the midst of much uncertainty, hardship, and unrest, I hope that these final weeks of summer afford opportunities for joy, rejuvenation, and generous amounts of time with family and friends. As we look with anticipation toward the Opening of School, we are reminded that we face an unprecedented year ahead. We are eager to welcome online and in person the newest members of the PA community; we miss every one of our returning students; and we are excited to begin the school year in a positive, supportive, and safe manner. To be certain, when I imagine being back in a learning environment with students (in any context), I am filled with hope, optimism, and purpose. Students, get ready to dive in and engage! We cannot wait to reconnect with you and welcome you to Andover soon.
I write today to update you on our planning, ask you and your students to complete a few tasks, and share our communication schedule as we stay in touch in the weeks ahead. At the center of all of our efforts is the health and wellbeing of our community. There is still much information to come as we continue to gather student information, develop orientation programming, and plan for the year ahead.
As we look to our community values to guide our work, we remain focused on the feedback courageously shared by students and alumni in recent months. The lived experiences of students of color, specifically those shared by our Black students, tell us that we must do better to ensure that all students feel safe, valued, respected, and included. We will be more explicit and intentional about addressing anti-Blackness, racism, xenophobia, and bias.
The dual forces of the Coronavirus pandemic and systemic racism also call for us to be attuned to the social, emotional, and mental health needs of all members of our community. We are designing programming and training for both students and campus adults on this front, beginning with orientation and continuing in All-School Meetings, Empathy Balance and Inclusion (EBI), advising, residential discussions, and academic coursework.
We anticipate that the year ahead will bring unexpected challenges and surprises. We are looking to identify ways to create predictability, consistency, and stability. As such, we have decided to revise our most basic support structure for students and families. Modeled after the consistent dynamic we have established for day students at Andover, every student will be assigned an Advisor Point Person for the year ahead. This person will check in one-on-one each week with your student and meet weekly during the advising period in our schedule with your student and a small cohort of peers. Every two weeks, your student’s Advisor Point Person will communicate home to families, most likely through email. Together with your student’s cluster dean, your student’s Advisor Point Person will form your student’s core team and will provide steady support and guidance—both personal and academic—and a consistent connection throughout the entire year.
For our returning lower, upper, and senior day student families, you will remain with your day student advisor. For our returning boarding families, this structure will be a marked change. Your student’s point person will no longer be the primary house counselor; in reality, your student’s Advisor Point Person will likely not reside in the same dormitory. As we plan for potential disruptions and/or delays to residential assignments, we want to make sure that every single one of our students has an adult connection before they even arrive on campus. And we want to be sure that families know whom to contact with questions or concerns at any point in the year.
We are hopeful that this adjustment in our support structure will allow us to welcome, support, guide, and celebrate your student in the year ahead. We will send Student-Advisor Point Person-Cluster assignments by the end of August.
Along with this communication, today we will send you and your student our Non Sibi Safety Pledge (with instructions for completion). Please take time to review and discuss this essential document together. We ask that you and your student read, sign, and complete this pledge, outlining our shared commitment to each other. All students must sign the pledge in order to return and remain on campus. Students who anticipate coming to campus at any time this academic year are required to follow these expectations which place community health and wellbeing as our highest priority. Along with your signatures, we ask that you indicate the name and contact information of a family member or designee who will be able to come to campus to pick up your student in the event of a positive COVID-19 test result. Please understand and discuss as a family that if your student is unable to comply with protocols outlined in the pledge, your student will not be permitted to remain on campus.
Throughout the month of August and into early September, you can expect to hear from Andover at least once a week. A number of surveys will be coming your way (another one today inquiring about your faith affiliations and traditions) and assignments will be shared (Advisor Point Person, residential placement, and cluster assignments). (Please note: we will send residential assignments by cohort. We will send only the 9th, 12th/PG, and residential leader assignments in August.) We will be in touch about health information, orientation programming, packing lists, and opening of school logistics. Please be sure to check your email regularly.
In addition to sending weekly emails, we will also post the latest Opening of School information, including FAQs, online https://www.andover.edu/2020plan.
Please note our tentative schedule of topics to be addressed in upcoming communications. In addition to providing updates from campus, this is a general overview of what you can expect:
Week of August 10 – Health and safety expectations and protocols, survey for athletics sign-ups
Week of August 17 – Residential life in the dorms and across campus (packing information, etc.)
Week of August 17 – Information for day students/remote boarding students
Week of August 24 – Academic program, text books, Blue Cards, orientation schedule
Week of August 31 – Latest information and reminders prior to the Labor Day weekend
In this extraordinary year, we will work with campus adults and student leaders to find meaningful and creative ways to build community, spread joy, and develop a sense of belonging. We know this is especially important during a year in which students will be accessing our program in a wide variety of ways.
As I plan for the year ahead, there are several questions that I want to pose to our students. Students, please spend some time thinking on these. If you are willing to share your thoughts, please send them to your Advisor Point Person (once you receive your pairing), your cluster dean, or me. I would love to hear from you.
What can you tell me about you that helps me better understand you?
What matters most to you?
How can Andover be a place where you feel seen, valued, respected, and curious?
Families, please know how grateful we are for your trust and the faith you have in our community. Please know how much we care about your student: the person who they are today and the person they will grow to become. Please know how seriously we accept the responsibility we have to you and your student. As educators, we know that your student will embrace challenge, take risks, engage generously, be vulnerable, and grow mightily when they feel a deep sense of connection and belonging. We know that we will be far more successful in nurturing your student’s growth when we partner effectively with you.
In this year of uncertainty and disruption, we will need to uphold our shared values and be unrelenting in our care for and support of our community. Let’s get to it!
Thank you for your continued understanding, patience, and support.
With gratitude and humility,
Jenny Karlen Elliott ’94, P’22, P’24
Assistant Head of School for Residential Life
Dean of Students