Fall 2020 Return to Campus Plans Announced
The conversation about the reopening of schools is a news headline heard around the world as the global outbreak continues to threaten the traditional educational landscape of the United States and beyond. The safe return to learning for young people and the adults that support them, while critical for so many reasons, has proven to be a great challenge in all communities, including at Mercersburg Academy. The distinct culture, environment, geography, and strength of resources at Mercersburg, however, have uniquely positioned the school to respond differently than many other educational institutions that are also navigating these uncharted waters.
After conducting its spring 2020 academic term entirely online, Mercersburg Academy has spent the last five months partnering with public-health and medical experts and community members to formulate detailed plans for the hopeful return of the student body to campus. Mercersburg is excited to announce that it will welcome students back for in-person learning at the start of the fall 2020 term.
“I am incredibly proud of our faculty, staff, alumni, and members of our Board of Regents, who have been working and planning for months to develop a healthy and safe environment for our students to return to,” says Head of School Katie Titus. “The pandemic is not something any of us predicted, and while it’s been challenging making decisions as the landscape of understanding of the virus continues to evolve, I am confident we have done everything we can to create safe spaces for our faculty to teach, our students to learn, and our community to come together. We are devoted to this mighty task and will continue to evaluate, shift, and prioritize for as long as we need to.”
Classes are scheduled to begin Monday, September 14. Of the 438 students enrolled, 65 students have either chosen to remain home, or have been forced to learn from afar because of visa issues and international travel restrictions, and attend classes online for the fall term through an enhanced distance learning program known as Virtual ’Burg. The school has shaped its academic calendar to include the flexibility to confront the many different potential circumstances of the year ahead—including the launch of a new academic program, the Mercersburg Intensive, which is a structured four-week academic experience with a variety of course offerings centered around the school’s 2020-2021 theme of “Making a Difference.”
Along with having an entire term of teaching virtually under their belts, the school’s faculty and staff have also engaged in a number of professional-development opportunities related to online learning, including extensive training for all teachers with Katie Martin of Altitude Learning on the optimal design of course delivery enhanced for distance learning. Additionally, a number of faculty attended two different online courses from the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education: “Designing Virtual Learning Environments” and the “New School Models Design Lab,” and a large group of faculty and staff have pursued an examination of bias, equity, and justice in specialized sessions facilitated by Jen Cort Educational Consulting.
As Mercersburg confidently faces the wild storm waves ahead, it will remain vigilant in monitoring all local, regional, and national trends, as well as new developments related to the pandemic, to ensure it is anticipating and appropriately responding to whatever the coming months may bring. Although it is exciting to signal the school’s plans to reopen to in-person learning, Mercersburg also recognizes that any number of external factors could force the school to move entirely online. Should that need arise, along with any other challenges, Mercersburg will also rise and leverage the tireless work of its community to provide the meaningful and transformative experience it has delivered to students for 127 years.