With the 2020-2021 school year on the horizon, we continue to evolve our planning in response to the constantly changing landscape of COVID-19. To be sure, we are making the best decisions for our school community. Fulfilling our mission while keeping our community safe remains our highest priorities, and although our campus will look and feel different this fall, we know that our students, faculty, staff, and families will respond to the challenge in inspiring ways. We will seek to engage our core value of ceaseless devotion to a mighty task, which calls on us to nurture the desire to dream, the courage to persevere, and the will to achieve, as we continue to make decisions with the following goals as our guiding principles:
We will continue to make decisions with the following goals:
The fall will be a different experience, changing how we learn and engage with each other. By committing to the mighty tasks in front of us, we can ensure a safe, successful, and sustained return to campus. At Mercersburg, we’re all in this together, and we will make the sacrifices necessary to live and learn as one community. Our promises:
All students will have access to an incredible educational experience, regardless of whether or not they are able to physically be on campus with us.
Our faculty will be trained and prepared to offer online courses that build off the success of the spring’s Virtual ’Burg, ensuring that we are offering the best online academic experiences for our students, when and if we need it.
Should we be forced to go virtual for a period of time equivalent to one term, we will be prepared to offer tuition credits/refunds in alignment to the tuition announced for our online learning option.
Fully Remote Learning Option
We have remained committed to providing remote learning for any student who is limited from being on campus due to travel restrictions or medical reasons. While most families are planning for their child(ren) to return to campus, we acknowledge that for a limited number of families, virtual may be a preferred option for one term or even for the entire academic year. Mercersburg Academy will offer all families the option for their student(s) to engage with our program fully online. All families will be required to notify the school of their plans for the fall by July 27 via this questionnaire. This option is offered on a per-term basis and will allow families to pay a reduced tuition by term. Details of that option can be found in the Academic Plan section.
Academic Plan 2020-2021
We are excited to announce that we will be adjusting our class schedule in order to make the best use of time during the 2020-2021 school year, allowing students deep and meaningful learning, the opportunity to earn more credits, and the convenience of being able to select in-person or virtual learning by term.
As noted, Mercersburg will offer a full online learning option, Virtual ’Burg 2.0, for the 2020-2021 academic year for students that are unable to attend in-person (due to visas, travel restrictions, etc.) or for whom in-person learning is deemed by the family to be unsafe or undesirable. Families have the choice of having their child(ren) attend Mercersburg in person or virtually for each of the three academic terms (fall, winter, and spring).
Health and Safety Expectations
Because the landscape for COVID-19 is variable by region, the school is developing on-campus health and safety levels.
Mercersburg Academy launched Storm Watch, a safe campus initiative, at the beginning of the pandemic. Throughout the spring and early summer, this group was fully immersed in the planning of a safe return to campus for students in the fall. The primary role of this group is to examine, research, and analyze proactive and reactive opportunities for protecting the Mercersburg Academy community in the face of invasive contagions on our campus (like COVID-19), and how to most effectively prepare for and manage these threats if and when they occur. Storm Watch completed their recommendations in early July and implementation teams across campus have been working to ensure that the campus is ready for our students.
Relaxed Mitigation Practices
Risk of transmission is low, isolated, or at seasonal only levels. Campus is open for in-person learning for the fall term and offers an online learning option for students. Health and safety protocols are lifted with certain exceptions.
Moderate Mitigation Practices
Risk of transmission is low, isolated, or at seasonal only levels. Campus is open for in-person learning for the fall term and offers an online learning option for students. Health and safety protocols are mostly lifted with certain exceptions.
Strictest Mitigation Practices
Risk of transmission is at its highest level. Campus is closed and implements its virtual learning protocols.
*Levels are determined in part by mandates from national, regional, and local officials.
Academics: Jen Smith ’97, Dean of Academics
Alumni campus visits/regional events: Office of Advancement and Alumni Relations
Health/wellness/counseling: Rutherford Health and Wellness Center
Student and residential life: Chris Howes, Assistant Head of School for Student Life and Culture
Tuition, enrollment, and the application process: Anna Crouch, Director of Admission
Visa and international travel: Michelle Faust, Admission Operations Coordinator
Other: Julie Maurer ’90, Associate Head of School for School Life
NATIONAL AND STATE UPDATES
- For the most up-to-date information on COVID-19, please visit the Pennsylvania Department of Health website.
For guidance on health protocols, travel restrictions, and new information about COVID-19, please visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
- The school scheduled four sessions the week of July 20 for our families and students to allow us to respond to questions most effectively. The recordings of those webinars can be re-watched here.
Dear parents and students:
With the 2020-2021 school year on the horizon, we continue to evolve our planning in response to the constantly changing landscape of COVID-19. Fulfilling our mission while keeping our community safe remains our highest priority, and although our campus will look and feel different this fall, we know that our students, faculty, staff, and families will respond to the challenge in inspiring ways. We will seek to engage our core value of ceaseless devotion to a mighty task, which calls on us to nurture the desire to dream, the courage to persevere, and the will to achieve, as we continue to make decisions with the following goals as our guiding principles:
- - To maximize the extraordinary benefits of our unique mission as a boarding and day school during a global pandemic;
- - To minimize the health risks for our community during a pandemic that poses serious risk for some members of our school family; and
- - To promote a fair and equitable experience for all students that aligns fully with our school values.
With these goals in mind, today we are communicating two important developments in our planning for the year ahead:
- The school will offer a fully online option, Virtual ’Burg 2.0, term by term, for any student who cannot travel to campus or whose family determines that the health risks of coming to campus are too great. All families will be required to notify the school of their plans for the fall by Monday, July 27, via this questionnaire found on the parent portal on Veracross.
- Option A: Maintain current enrollment and tuition for on-campus learning.
- Option B: Choose to enroll in the school’s distance learning program, Virtual ’Burg 2.0, for the fall term. For students who choose a term of Virtual ’Burg, full boarding tuition will be reduced by $7,000 per term and day tuition will be reduced by $2,000 per term, with appropriate adjustments to reflect financial-aid awards. Any student who elects to enroll in Virtual ’Burg 2.0 for a term will not be allowed to visit campus during the duration of the term. These tuition adjustments reflect that families will be paying 66 percent of boarding tuition and 84 percent of day tuition when electing the virtual learning experience. Should the school be forced to pivot to virtual learning for all students at any point during the year, we will use these tuition reductions to guide our tuition credits for families.
To provide as much flexibility as possible for our families, we will allow you to determine your learning choice—on-campus or distance learning, term by term. The current dates by which families must indicate their choice for the winter and spring terms are October 15 and January 15, respectively.
- We are excited to announce that we will implement a block schedule, divided into three terms, for the coming year. The 2-1-2-2 plan means that students will complete:
- 2 courses in the fall term,
- 1 Mercersburg Intensive course from November 16 to December 16,
- 2 courses in the winter, and
- 2 courses in the spring term.
This adjusted class schedule will optimize our goal of providing a highly flexible, deep learning program while supporting both on-campus and distance learning. From a health perspective, it will also help us minimize the exposure any community member might have in a given school day, helping us to better control the spread of germs.
Our Return to Campus website has been updated to help you find and sort through important information. But as always, do not hesitate to be in touch with us on campus to seek guidance on your specific circumstances.
We remain hopeful that we will see many of you in a little over a month. In the meantime, be well.
With gratitude for your continued support and partnership,
Katie Titus P ’20 ’23
Head of School
First, thank you for taking the time to complete the family survey after our July 1 communication. As you know, we are working very hard to be sure that we are making the best decisions for our school community while navigating an evolving landscape. I want you to know that all of our decisions are working toward the following goals:
- To maximize the extraordinary benefits of our unique mission as a boarding school during a global pandemic;
- To minimize the health risks for our community during a pandemic that poses serious risk for some members of our school family;
- To promote a fair and equitable experience for all students that aligns fully with our school values.
With that in mind, today's communication is designed to respond to the most pressing and consistent questions that relate to the fall and next year, especially in light of tuition payments being due on Wednesday, July 15. While most of our domestic students and families indicate high confidence in returning to on-campus learning, we recognize that our international students are faced with complexities that are layered and distinctive, and with recent immigration policies being renewed or established, even the process of travel to the United States may be impossible for some. I encourage you to read this letter carefully, and to review the FAQs on our website.
As a parent—with one child headed to her first year of college, and a day student returning to Mercersburg Academy—I can fully relate to the uncertainties we all have about our children's educational experience next year. You will not hear from me overconfident platitudes about how wonderful it will be to return to on-campus learning in the fall. Are we excited to see our students? Yes! Do I believe that being back together is better than the alternative? Absolutely! But, will it be different and hard in other ways? It will. Will we be able to deliver on our unique mission? I am confident that we will.
I believe that our students and our community are capable of making the sacrifices that are necessary for us to have the privilege of living and learning together. I also believe that our community will ensure that for any student who is limited from being on campus for travel or health reasons, our community will work even harder to ensure that their experience is one of exceptional value. Below are our promises to all of you:
- All students will have access to an incredible educational experience, regardless of whether or not they are able to physically be on campus with us. In addition, we continue to explore the viability of offering a fully online option for those who prefer that option for a term or, potentially, the full year. We will communicate a decision about a fully online option by next week. Parents who wish to await final word on this option may request an extension on tuition payment by emailing Lori Cooper.
- We already know that we will be engaged in fully online learning between the Thanksgiving and December holiday breaks. Our faculty are training throughout the summer and more intensely in the three weeks leading to the start of school to be prepared to offer online courses that build off the success of the spring's Virtual 'Burg, ensuring that we are offering the best online academic experiences for our students. Should we be forced to go virtual for any other portion of the school year, our program will be designed to deliver on our educational promise.
- Should we be forced to go virtual for a period of time equivalent to a term, we will be prepared to offer tuition credits/refunds, at a minimum, in alignment to what we offered this year.
Below are a few new details we would like to highlight today. If you have a question that is not reflected here, please see our FAQs. If your question is more specific to your individual family situation, please contact one of the following people to schedule a conversation.
- -Visa and international travel questions: Michelle Faust, Admissions Operations Coordinator
- -Student and residential life/Health: Chris Howes, Assistant Head of School for Student Life and Culture
- -Academics: Jen Smith, Dean of Academics
- -Tuition and enrollment: Anna Crouch, Director of Admission
- -Other: Julie Maurer, Associate Head of School for School Life
In closing, we know this continues to be a difficult time for many. We continue to be committed to partnering with our families to deliver on our three primary goals: to deliver on our mission, protect those in our community who are most vulnerable, and live our values through our decisions. We hope you will join us for our family webinars next week so that we can answer more of your questions.
With great faith,
Katie Titus P '20, '23
Head of School
Dear parents and students,
From the outset of this pandemic, we have been determined to make the best decisions for our school community with the most accurate and up-to-date information regarding COVID-19. We continue to monitor the information provided by the State of Pennsylvania, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and our community experts. Every day, as states across the country are adjusting restrictions, we continue to learn more about what is necessary to keep our community safe. Our top priority remains the health of our students, faculty, and staff, while also focusing on how to return to campus learning this fall. While we recognize that at any time circumstances outside of our control could dictate a different plan of action, today we announce our current plan to fully welcome all students to on-campus learning this fall. We are prepared to provide responses to only the most critical questions at this time, knowing that the coming weeks will continue to inform our planning. Between now and the start of school, we will send updates every two weeks.
While for many of you, this current decision to return to on-campus learning is welcome news and may bring a sense of relief at a time of uncertainty, I also want to acknowledge that some of you will have lingering concerns. If we are going to open campus to our students, we must see this opportunity as a privilege, and with that privilege will come newfound responsibility. We will all need to embrace our responsibility to our school family with a willingness to alter our behaviors, making personal social sacrifices in order to protect our privilege of living and learning together. I know this is something that our community is prepared to do and I am confident in our ability to meet that challenge together.
After you review the information on our website, we are asking all families to complete one questionnaire that will be emailed to you separately from this letter. We need to hear from you to understand your additional questions so that we can be sure that we are addressing your needs in the coming weeks. Our next communication Monday, July 13, will convey our next set of decisions and respond to additional questions.
We remain grateful to our families for your continued support, patience, and trust. At Mercersburg, we are committed to helping our students to “develop a determination to lead and serve the world.” Never before has our promise been more important than in the current climate of our world today. Our students give me hope in the future, and Mercersburg Academy is determined to lead in this unique educational moment to ensure our students have what they need to meet the challenges ahead.
With Mercersburg’s Great Faith - faith in self; faith in others; faith in the future,
Katie Titus P ’20, ’23
Head of School