July 27th Community Update to Students and Families

Paul Amadio, Head of School
July 27, 2020
Dear VVS Students and Families,
As we iterated at the Zoom Town Hall meetings with families, because of the fluidity of the situation, our plan for school reopening will go through several modifications/iterations. I write today to share an update on VVS’s return to school plan. After monitoring the most recent data on school reopenings in Arizona, a week of discussion and consultation with local and state agencies, and feedback from staff, board, and families, VVS has decided to delay in-person instruction for day students until October 5th. As we said during our recent VVS Town Halls, making the decision to reopen the VVS campus for in-person learning has been and must continue to be a deliberative, not reactive process. We continue to do our work internally, and receive regular advice from experts externally. We have worked in consort with a number of other schools to develop what we think of as shared, responsible practices. We are also listening to staff, and our families and students. We appreciate your ideas, opinions, and advice. So, while I wish it were a different decision, we all need to approach this school year from a long view perspective. 
Reopening for in person learning is a decision that takes into consideration our remote and expansive geography, the health and wellbeing of our students and staff, and our belief that once boarders arrive we can collectively do the work of establishing and maintaining a healthy community. Our decision to delay in-person instruction for day students is intended to keep as few individuals coming and going from campus on a daily basis over the first month of the school to reduce the risk of virus spread. We could not do this effectively without the VVS Academic Flex model allowing for seamless virtual and in-person instruction so that our day students will be in step with any students on campus. I also want to iterate that we have created a program allowing day students to board and I encourage all day families to consider our 2020/2021 temporary boarding option. While I know that many of you have already expressed an interest in this option, I know others who have resisted due to the additional expense. For those interested day families with a financial concern, we did receive donations from several donors that will provide scholarships to families to help bridge the gap between a day tuition and the monthly tuition rate. Contact Kim Hollingsworth, Director of Enrollment, at khollingsworth@vvsaz.org for more information and an application. 
While this plan provides a return to in-person education for day students on October 5th, should the local, state, or national situation evolve to a point where we believe the repopulation of day students on campus to be unsafe, we will postpone our return until it is deemed safe to do so. Gating criteria, which will include a consistent downward trend in COVID-19 cases in Yavapai County and up-to-date advice from national, state, and local health agencies, will continue to be used as a guide when making future decisions and we will update you when things change. 
While my hope would be to have all day students board and arrive on August 30th with other boarders, I realize that may not be possible and some families would prefer to start the year virtually. I realize as well, that some day students will be disappointed, and that is understandable. I wish there was a different course of action we could take but we believe this is the best plan we can make that will lay the groundwork for us all being together safely in October.
Later this week, I will be sending out an additional correspondence with answers, as we best know them now, to your questions around transportation schedule, testing, dorm and campus protocols, mask wearing, and outdoor classes. 
We do not know what tomorrow or next week will bring, but we are working around the clock to find solutions that keep VVS thriving and having us all together on campus as soon as possible. 
Be Well. 
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Paul Amadio
Head of School
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Verde Valley School is a co-educational, International Baccalaureate boarding and day school for students in grades 9-12.
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