After an incredibly busy summer reconfiguring both the program and the physical space in a way that supports the mission of Falmouth Academy, school will open in a hybrid model on September 8, 2020. Teachers officially reported back at the end of August for faculty meetings, which included training on health and safety measures, the use of new technology to enable toggling between on-site and remote learning, as well as learning the new traffic patterns and classroom configurations.
While demand for a Falmouth Academy education has never been higher, the school is being cautious and strategic about how many people are on-site at any given time. “Reopening safely has required us to consider a number of variables and design an array of policies, practices, and protocols to account for them,” says Head of School Matt Green. “Although we have been extraordinarily thoughtful and deliberate in doing so, we ultimately concluded that introducing students and faculty to new behaviors, habituating them to those behaviors, and sussing out and addressing what, if any, circumstances we may not have anticipated is better achieved with fewer students on campus.” The current hybrid model is provisional and will be revisited by Columbus Day, says Green.
Due to the developmental needs of its youngest students, middle school students (grades 7 and 8) will attend every day in person while high school students eager and able to work more independently will alternate one week onsite with one week synchronized remote learning. This schema tallies attendance to roughly 150 students on-site daily with a faculty and staff of roughly 60 people. The aim is to promote proper distancing in the classroom and passing areas with an optimal teacher-student ratio of less than 1 to 12.
“I thoroughly applaud the reopening format,” says Megan English Braga P '22. “I am extremely pleased with the way the Falmouth Academy has tackled the COVID crisis and remote learning, from day one.” Braga, who is also chair of the Falmouth Selectboard, joined the Falmouth Academy Board of Trustees in late spring.
Arts-Across-the-Curriculum, a signature program of Falmouth Academy, has been redesigned and expanded so that all grade levels and academic disciplines will participate in project-driven instruction in music, studio, and performing art, and, added this year, diversity, equity, and inclusion. The on-site academic program will offer five-hour-long blocks in English, science, math, history, and modern language with electives shifting to after-school activities. Students who can leave immediately after school are encouraged to do so. Students who stay are required to participate in a scheduled activity including team-sports (soccer, cross country), student council, advanced ensemble, Latin, drawing, photography, Women In Science (WISE), study hall, and much more. Over 50 options in total. Falmouth Academy proactively decided not to participate in MIAA league soccer this year as a protective measure, but cross country is competing. Decisions about winter sports will be made at a later date.
According to the Director of Finance and Operations Carmen DiSanto, Falmouth Academy has invested significant resources in preparing for its students’ and teachers’ safe return to the classroom. Purchases include new desks and chairs for all classrooms; signage for proper social distancing; six new outdoor tented classrooms; 15 new classroom ventilators; plexiglass and work-space dividers; PPE and hand-sanitizer stations; and enhanced technology to support remote learning with increased WiFi, microphones, speakers, cameras, interactive video panels and more.
“We have designed a facility and schedule that can accommodate fully onsite/in-person (6’ distance) for all students, which we are prepared to deploy,” says Green. “It is our sincere hope that we enjoy a healthy and logistically-successful September and can get all of our students on campus every day as soon as possible.” While no one knows what the future holds, Falmouth Academy has shown that it can adapt to creatively and confidently engage the challenges of the times to continue to educate and inspire its students.