Updated May 8, 2020
Dear Members of the Walnut Hill Community,
Over the past several weeks, the leadership of Walnut Hill has been focusing on preparations for the coming fall semester. Our goal is to sustain teaching our program at a high level during this global pandemic, while also ensuring the health and safety of our community. The truth is that no one is entirely clear what happens next. It is clear that there are a variety of factors that will need to be in place in order for a re-opening to occur and that many of these variables may be outside our control. This includes the ability to monitor new infections, control the rate of spread and infection, the capacity of our local and regional health service providers, active and increased testing capability, and contact tracing. The northeast regional states have begun to outline what steps need to be in place for an area to re-open and which sectors and industries will be allowed to open first. At this time, the information we are receiving is that education is likely scheduled for Phase Four.
Again, no one is certain what if any changes will occur over the next several weeks, and what the timeline is for that re-opening. In all aspects of campus life, we expect that physical distancing and other changes to our behavior to help safeguard public health will need to remain in place for quite some time, and we are committed to strictly enforcing those practices across our community. From my vantage point, it is clear that there are three viable options that all schools, public and private as well as colleges and universities, are exploring: a physical return to campus in the fall in some capacity; a model where all programs are delivered online remotely; and a hybrid model where some programs are on campus in real time and others are delivered online. In addition, some schools are considering a delayed start, moving fall to January, and rethinking their school calendars as well.
Yet for us, the most important decision is a clear one: Walnut Hill will be open for fall 2020. The move to remote learning this spring was swift and we have learned about what works for students and where they are challenged. We are also aware that the question about what our tuition model may be for the fall remains a concern for many families. As we look to the fall and the potential of distance or hybrid learning taking place, we know the fall experience will likely be very different than this spring, and I put full faith in our talented faculty to adapt their expertise to new models of teaching and learning. The ability to increase our use of technology and virtual tools to engage in creative work across all departments is something we will be committed to exploring and implementing. The truth is that this is a pivotal moment for arts education and, as such, we remain steadfast in our belief that Walnut Hill is a leader in arts education.
Walnut Hill’s rich mix of diverse arts and academics classes are great strengths of the School. Yet their diversity and the many interactions among them also contribute to the complexity of preparing for the fall. Planning throughout the School will be informed by a common understanding of our health and safety needs, and because our arts majors have different approaches to, and requirements for, learning, aspects of the fall semester will likely vary among them. Therefore, in an effort to provide a place for families to ask their questions, I am convening a Town Hall meeting for all new and returning families on Tuesday, May 12 from 8:00-9:00pm EDT. Here is a link to a form where you can submit your question in advance so that we may identify key themes and prepare our panel accordingly. Our hope is to use this as a vehicle for giving all families a way of hearing about our thinking and planning process before the school year ends. Walnut Hill will be communicating with parents, students, faculty, and staff in the weeks ahead with more School-specific guidance about plans for fall courses and programs. Our goal is to communicate final decisions on fall term operations by June 29.
Walnut Hill has long been an innovator in arts education. We will continue to lead by creating and applying new approaches to residential and remote education that benefit not only our community, but other schools as well. In its 126-year history, Walnut Hill has overcome many adversities, drawing on the courage and innovation of its community. This extraordinary time calls on us to build on that history, working together in ways we never have before. I thank you in advance for your flexibility, patience, commitment, and creativity. We appreciate your patience and support in these uncertain times, and pledge to keep you well informed of our progress in the weeks and months ahead. In the meantime, please stay well and take care of one another.
Head of School