March 14, 2020
A message for current families
Dear Semester 44 Community,
At HMI, we always say that learning isn’t restricted by traditional classroom walls. It happens everywhere—on campus, on the trails, and, most recently, in quigloos on winter expedition. For the next few weeks, as we institute a distance learning plan, that list of learning environments will include homes across the nation. I’ve always tried to approach challenging moments with a spirit of adventure and an open mind, so I’m viewing this as an opportunity for our teachers and students to connect in different ways and learn new technologies. I appreciate your support and patience, and welcome your feedback as we navigate this new terrain together.
Learning will not stop while students are home. We will be using Google Classroom and Zoom video conferencing, as well as other digital tools, to accomplish two main goals: to replicate some elements of a normal school day at HMI and to move forward with our curriculum. I’m proud to lead a group of faculty members who are committed to supporting our students in this endeavor. Teachers returned to campus today, less than 24 hours after returning from a 10-day winter camping trip, to review online learning plans, adapt the next few weeks of lessons, and help students practice using new technology so we can resume classes on Tuesday.
This email is intended to outline our plan for the next few weeks. Danny and I will also host a video conference call for Semester 44 families on Wednesday, March 18 from 6-7:30pm MDT to to solicit feedback and share ideas with each other about effective ways to support our students. You can join by following this link and entering the following meeting ID number: 819 688 219. We will record it for those who cannot join “live.”
Of course, please let us know at any time if you have questions about the next three weeks. We have not thought of everything, I promise. Here are the answers to some of the questions, however, I imagine many of you have.
What will school look like?
This evening we reviewed our new plan for the school week with students. I have attached a copy of the schedule to this email. Please review it carefully. As you can see, we have tried to preserve the flow of the HMI day, with some changes. Classes have been shortened from 90 to 60 minutes to accommodate multiple time zones and to limit overall screen time. We have incorporated tech-free activity time, morning workouts, advisory meetings, and fireside chats with me and Dean of Students Jessica Wolinsky. We have even changed school chores to household chores! Students will receive individual schedules via email on Monday. (We will share these with you too.) They will receive further instruction from their teachers about activities and assignments to complete during class periods. As we told students today, they can expect a healthy mix of full class meetings, small group work, individual check-ins, and independent work time.
How can you help at home?
Please make sure that your student has a dedicated work space, quiet study time, and access to the internet. The more students set up their work environments in a professional manner, the higher likelihood of success we have. If you anticipate any issues with internet connectivity, please let me know. Talk to your students about this shift and about what they are learning. Encourage them to reach out to their advisors and teachers if they have questions.
What about school rules?
We spoke to students tonight at dinner and let them know that while we will not be checking up on their behavior at home, school rules still apply. We stressed the importance of maintaining academic honesty online and making sure that they continue to follow our anti-harassment/bullying policy in all forms of communication.
What about illness and attendance?
We hope everyone stays healthy over the next few weeks. Teachers will be taking attendance during class periods. They are planning as if all students will be in their classes. If your student falls ill or has to miss class for any reason, please have them email their teacher in advance of class.
Are there any recommendations for travel and health?
Keeping everyone healthy and able to return to campus in April will be a team effort. Please exercise good judgement about travel, exposure to crowds, etc. We will also need to know if your student experiences any COVID-19 symptoms over the next few weeks.
What about Family Weekend?
We are currently exploring options for Family Weekend, including hosting advising conferences and other elements online on Saturday, April 3. We would encourage everyone to leave this date open. We will be in touch with more information soon.
What about standardized testing?
We have not yet heard from the College Board, so we are not making any changes to plans for the May SAT and AP administration, which we hope will still happen in Leadville. If this changes, we will let you know.
Visiting classes at HMI is my favorite part of my job. I love watching our students wrestle with calculus problems, explicate poems in English, and examine snowflake crystals under microscopes. I will greatly miss observing these moments of learning, discovery, and collaboration as we navigate this school closure. I am looking forward to helping guide students in this new endeavor, however, and I am hopeful that we will be welcoming them back to campus and resuming normal school in a few weeks.
Again, thank you for your partnership and support. We are grateful to work with such a phenomenal family community, and we look forward to seeing you during our family meeting on Wednesday night!
Director of Semester & Academic Dean
High Mountain Institute
719-486-8200 x 127