Dear Harding Academy Learning Community,
My hope is that you all have had a restful summer so far. We have been hard at work preparing for the 2021-22 school year here on Windsor Drive and we are very excited for another school year to be here soon. With over 50% of eligible people in Davidson County having received at least one dose of the vaccine and our hope that vaccination rates go up among eligible people, prospects for as close to a return to normalcy as possible by the time school starts in August remain strong. While we will not require vaccination against COVID-19 for our students, vaccination is the best way for us to beat this pandemic and we encourage our community to seriously consider getting themselves and their loved ones the vaccine if they have not already.
As I stated in my email from May 7, we will be in a position to lay out our framework for the health and safety protocols later this summer. We will consider the CDC guidelines, TN Department of Health, and Nashville Metro Health Department guidance for schools, as well as the scientific data behind the potential medical impact of COVID-19 on our students (especially our youngest) to inform our approach to masks, quarantines, and contact tracing. While the broader national and Nashville community data is important, we will also focus on our more local independent school and Harding Academy communities where the vast majority of our family activities are taking place. I think it is important to reiterate some important understandings that are informing our decision making in general.
There is still the possibility of localized surges in cases of COVID-19 and we are prepared to bring back various health and safety measures to address this should the need arise.
We continue to be quite optimistic that we won’t need to bring those measures back because as we make decisions, we are taking into account the case count and vaccination rate of our Harding Academy, as well as our peer independent school communities. From what I can gather it is likely that we are in a stronger position on these two fronts than the broader Davidson County and certainly the Tennessee state communities.
Things change and evolve and we will respond with the best information and expert input as we can - as we have done throughout this uncertain time.
We are working towards as regular a school year as possible as it relates to the day-to-day experience for our families.
What follows today is a brief update on some new faces coming to Harding Academy as faculty and staff, and an outline of information related to our Calendar, Events, and Operations. Our goal is to open school as close to operationally normal as possible. I think you’ll see from what you read below that we are excited to be in a position to do so.
5th Grade Reading: Adam Siegel will take over the 5th Grade Reading position, which Polly Johnson left to be the 4th/5th Grade Learning Effectiveness teacher. Adam most recently taught Language Arts in 5th grade at Oak Hill School, where he also served as a 3rd Grade Assistant Teacher and After-School Coordinator. Adam holds a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology from the University of Michigan and a Masters of Arts in Teaching from Trevecca Nazarene University.
2nd Grade Homeroom: Ashley Jones will move up to 2nd Grade to take over the homeroom most recently occupied by Jasmin Hopkins. Ashley has been in PreK at Harding since the program began in 2014-15. Ashley has a Bachelor of Arts in Liberal Studies with an emphasis in child psychology and human development from Middle Tennessee State University and will complete her Masters in Education from MTSU in 2022.
PreK Teacher: Ashanti Charles will take over for Ashley in the PreK, teaching alongside Anne Zuberer. Ashanti has most recently been teaching First Grade in Metro Public Schools, prior to that, she was in the Teaching Fellowship Program at Ensworth. Ashanti graduated from Vanderbilt University with a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education & Child Studies and went on to earn her Masters at Vanderbilt in Reading Education.
Teacher Fellow: Carly Barringer will be the 2021-22 Teacher Fellow at Harding Academy. She will focus the majority of her time in the 4th and 5th grades. She is a recent graduate of the University of Mississippi with a Bachelor of Arts in Education focused on elementary education. She has student-taught in elementary schools since 2019 and is excited about the opportunity to hone her craft at Harding Academy.
Alumni Relations and Major Gifts Manager: Miles Hartline will take over as Alumni Relations and Major Gifts Manager. Miles joins us from Vanderbilt University where she took on a number of advancement roles during her thirteen year tenure, most recently as Senior Director of Volunteer Outreach for Undergraduate Schools.
Assistant Director of Pursuit: Shelby Mire will take Rachel Green’s position as Assistant Director of Pursuit, working with Mark Jones. Shelby comes to us from Overbrook School where she took on a number of responsibilities including substitute teacher, extended care, and lead camp instructor.
Our major dates for the 2021-22 school year remain the same. Per our accreditation framework from the Southern Association of Independent Schools, we must convene for a minimum number of days over the course of the school year. We meet those minimums with a few days to spare for weather related closures.
School Opening Events
Orientation: We will have orientation on campus and in person on August 18, 2021. We will be adding different periods for grades to come to spread us all out throughout the day, but we will have Pursuit sign up, FLIK sign Up, and School Store ordering available on campus and in person this year.
Back to School Night: We will offer an in person option this school year, but will also leverage our new capacity for asynchronous information delivery to offer basic classroom information via CompassNet.
Middle School Retreats: We will be doing our middle school retreats in the ways we remember them from 2019, including overnight experiences for our 6th, 7th, and 8th grades.
Parent/Teacher Conferences: We found that virtual conferences were in some ways really helpful in allowing for more participation and so we will keep virtual conferences as an option for our Parent/Teacher conferences, while also offering an in person option. Stay tuned for details as we get closer to the date(s). Additionally, when a phone call or a check in with a teacher is something you’d like to arrange, we are always open to a Google Meet or Zoom call as well.
Field Trips: We will be doing field trips at all grade levels this year and will follow the venue’s guidelines for health and safety.
We will be bringing back all of our usual HPA events for in person experiences. This includes the grade level parent parties in the middle school courtyard or Highway 70 fields, the Fall Festival, and the Parent Party and Auction, plus we will be working closely with the HPA to celebrate our 50th Anniversary in person, as well as bringing the Harding Art Show back to campus in person.
This fall will commence with all fall sports being back to regular practices and game schedules. We have the largest number of football players for both 5th/6th and 7th/8th teams that we have had in the last five years, which is exciting and volleyball will be looking forward to a full season with spectators allowed inside at the games.
As you can probably deduce, we are planning for all major gatherings to be in person including, but not limited to, Tuesday assemblies, athletic games, HPA Fall Festival, Grandparents’ and Special Friends Chocolate, grade level plays, etc.
After School Activities
Pursuit will continue to operate out of the Turf tent and will have access to the library for study hall needs of our lower school students. While we would prefer this service to remain one for those who deem it essential, we will be in a position to grow our capacity from the past year. We will also be bringing back after school clubs offered by our teachers and third party vendors on campus next school year.
We will be having lunch based out of the cafeteria again this year. While we typically have two grade levels in the cafeteria at any one time during the lower school lunch periods, we will be keeping the tent over the Compass Rose, so we can bring a couple of homerooms outside for lunch when possible. Middle school will be employing a similar approach as they typically have all three grades scheduled to eat lunch at the same time.
Speaking of tents, we will continue to have the Turf Tent in the middle of campus for our use this year. Besides the aforementioned tent over the Compass Rose, we will not have the outdoor tents by the front lobby entrance, back of the library, middle school courtyard, or kindergarten building this school year. We will continue to encourage the use of our outdoor spaces for classes, as this was a highlight of the 2020-21 school year for many.
Visitors and Volunteers
We are so very excited to welcome back our visitors and volunteers to campus. While we will not be asking parents to complete screenings for themselves or their children this year, we will continue to ask you to check in at the front office or middle school office and complete our VisitU tag system and to confirm no symptoms of COVID-19. But, we can’t wait to welcome back our classroom volunteers, school store volunteers, lunch duty volunteers, and all of our parents generally. Feel free to organize having lunch with your child in the cafeteria again - we can’t wait to see you!
Next week you can expect details regarding our opening as it relates to Teaching and Learning post-pandemic. Thank you all for your continued support and I look forward to seeing you soon.