Academic Calendar - Schedule Updates January 19 and Forward
Updates from Dean of Academics Nat Waters:
As we start to think more intently about the reopening of the campus for in-person + remote classes on January 19, I am sharing an update about some schedule changes for the upcoming semester. You can find the updated daily schedule here, along with an explainer video.
We have worked to make appropriate changes based on our experience and feedback from the fall, along with some of the special considerations for our operations this winter (athletic practice schedules, health and safety protocols, etc.). We will continue to evaluate and collect feedback as we work through the winter and spring, and will consider any necessary changes periodically along the way.
Full implementation of the new schedule will begin on January 25th.
During the week of our return to in-person and remote classes, January 19-22, we will run a modified schedule that offers each class the opportunity to meet synchronously for 60 minutes, and add one additional asynchronous preparation. As Window Two and Semester One close on Friday, January 22, this schedule offers us time and space to manage workloads at a traditionally stressful period of the academic year, and to readjust to the routines we will be operating here on campus for the remainder of the year. Please remember that classes will not meet on January 18, as previously planned. More details will follow about procedures for returning to campus.
I will follow up next week with an email regarding the assignment of lunches and class blocks for those classes meeting mid-day in the staggered "ABC" arrangement.
We encourage students to reach out to their teachers and advisors with questions about how class and campus routines will change with the updated schedules. You should see the adjusted timing reflected in the Google/Canvas color calendars.
We are excited to offer a full and rich program of academic offerings in the 2020-2021 academic year. Some courses have been adapted to account for remote elements of the program and discipline-specific challenges, including our music programming, and science labs, but will still meet the core learning objectives in each area.
Course Enrollment and Add/Drop Period
All students will preserve their standard course loads of five to six courses, with the option to add musical ensemble participation in an additional course block.
Grading, Assessment, and Attendance
St. Mark’s will use its customary letter-based (A-E) system of cumulative assessment and our usual effort marking scale in the 2020-2021 academic year. Additional details on our grading policies may be found in our Student Handbook (page 6).
We expect that students will meet their academic commitments as usual, including submission of required work and attendance at class meetings.
We are also aware that there are many reasons why students may not always be at their best in the year ahead. In keeping with our holistic education program, we will remain attentive to student health and wellness. Faculty are prepared to offer reasonable flexibility to students when they need it, and will ask students to communicate proactively with teachers and advisors if they cannot attend a class or complete an assignment.
We also ask families to be in touch with the relevant offices at school (Dean's Office, Health Services, the Technology Helpdesk, the Academics Office) if conditions at home make it difficult for students to join the program for reasons of health, logistics, access to technology, or family circumstance.
Experiential learning programming will resume its essential role as part of the academic program for the adapted 2020-2021 school year. The programming sustains the essential elements of St. Mark’s Saturdays core classes (and Form experience) and Lion Term preparation. For the upcoming academic year, students will engage in 14 Saturdays in which all content will be a combination of the core’s developmentally appropriate material, Lion Term preparation, and experiential skills and activities. Because our community will not be entirely in residence on campus this fall, SM Saturdays programming will shift to a dedicated Experiential Block on Tuesday (more details on the daily schedule below).
Music and Arts Programming
Please view the Arts section for additional information on our programming in Music, Choir, Orchestra, and Jazz Ensemble.
Textbooks and Course Materials
In a typical year, our bookstore stocks and distributes textbooks to students in the first week of school. We are at work on assembling booklists for each student so that we can make them available either by pickup or delivery. We will also mail the appropriate textbooks and course materials to students who will be more distant from campus in the fall. Please stay tuned for outreach from the Academics and Advancement Offices with additional details. Our goal is to have materials in the hands of our students for the opening week of classes as usual, but we will also support students with digital alternatives in the event that materials are slow to arrive. Please note that many of our textbooks have online components, which cannot be purchased with used books. Many courses will use self-published textbooks, or a collection of online resources in Canvas. All bookstore charges will be recorded on a student’s Lion Card.
Hybrid and Remote Instruction
With an unpredictable academic year ahead of us, we are prepared to adapt to changing circumstances with through our hybrid learning approach. Along with many of our peer schools, we believe that this approach positions us optimally to respond to a sudden campus closure based on health and safety guidance, to meet classroom capacity constraints and physical distancing requirements, and to address individualized student needs, such as a mandated quarantine, or government travel restrictions.
The St. Mark’s approach to hybrid learning will be student-centered, maximizing the relational elements of learning to the greatest extent possible, and asking students to take an active role in meeting the learning objectives of each class. Whether a student is connecting in person or remotely, we aim for the class time to allow for connection and interaction with teachers and peers.
All classes will feature a blend of “live” (synchronous, or happening at the same time) and “on demand” (aysnchronous, or at one’s own pace) activities.
Each student will have two synchronous connections with the class each week and one asynchronous connection, or due date. We expect that the total workload per course per week will be about five to six hours (including live class time) for a regular course and about six to seven hours for an Advanced course.
Understanding that, for a variety of reasons, students may not be able to access the campus in person, faculty are prepared to support students in connecting remotely. Faculty will be working to ensure equitable access to class meetings and office hours through Zoom, scheduled at times in our daily color pattern where it is conducive for students to attend based on their home location. Students will access course materials and activities in Canvas, our Learning Management System (LMS) as usual.
Hybrid instruction is a pedagogical approach that combines face to face instruction with best practices in remote and online learning. We have chosen this approach because it provides maximum flexibility to meet the challenges of the year. Each course has been designed with the online format in mind, and when in person, will feature activities to engage both in person and remote students.
Teachers will be designing a variety of activities to make the best use of our available learning time both in and out of the classroom. Faculty have devoted their summer to designing activities that will work best in synchronous or asynchronous formats. Individual class sessions will build on the following types of activities, depending on the objectives of the course.
Asynchronous ("On Demand")
Over the course of the summer, all faculty enrolled in an immersive two-week training in hybrid course design, guided by research and best practices identified by Colleen Worrell, director of the Center for Innovation in Teaching and Learning. In addition, we designed our approach to account for the feedback we gathered from students and families in our spring remote learning period, including a desire for more consistent and user-friendly standards of course design, and more personal touchpoints for instruction and collaborative learning. We encourage you to visit our website for more news on the professional development course and details on the intensive work that our faculty have invested this summer in transforming their courses for the year ahead.
Each classroom has been outfitted to a capacity and layout that supports our health and safety protocols. We will assign classrooms to provide the best match between room capacity and class size. In many cases, teachers will be able to meet all of the students attending in person in the classroom, and connect with the students who are attending remotely through Zoom. As outlined above, classroom capacities or the class plan for a given day may mean that teachers will gather smaller groups in the classroom at different times during the week.
When not in a class session in the classroom, our day and boarding students will return to a “home base” area where they will have an assigned workspace—either a central space on campus in the case of day students, or a classroom or the house in the case of boarding students.
Our daily schedule has been redesigned for the upcoming academic year. We aim to use the same schedule all year, whether we are operating in person or remote. The following were the key considerations that guided the work:
Health and Safety: Time to support morning health screenings, staggered lunch seatings, classroom cleaning in between blocks, and travel between classrooms.
Community and Equity: Flexible block scheduling in the morning and evening (eastern standard time) for students who need to access the program from more distant home time zones. Spots for important community-building events and activities like Chapel, School Meeting, clubs, and Advisory.
Teaching and Learning: Regular spacing of class meetings, and flexible class time to support our hybrid learning approach.
Flexibility: A schedule that meets our needs in person and remote, reducing the need for disruptive adaptation should health mandates require a quick transition to remote learning.
Morning Remote Blocks
Morning blocks will meet in fully remote format between 8:00 and 9:00 a.m. Each class has one 30-minute morning meeting per week. These blocks provide the option to meet synchronously or set a due date for class work. When campus is open, the remote start will help to manage student arrivals to campus and health screenings as we begin each day.
Wednesday Community Day
Community and class events taking place on Wednesday will meet remotely, allowing us to reduce the density of campus, and direct our focus to feedback and individual support. A dedicated advisory block will allow advisors to maintain a program of regular support, reflection, and social connection with their advisees.
Evening Remote Blocks
Evening blocks provide classes with students connecting remotely from more distant time zones the flexibility to hold a synchronous class session. All members of a class may be expected to attend these sessions. As a reminder, students are excused from classes meeting before 7:45 a.m. and after 11:30 p.m. in their home time zones. We recognize that even this span of time may be challenging, but we ask for everyone’s cooperation in adapting to this unique challenge. Our global learning community is a great asset to St. Mark’s!