Moving to Remote Learning Over the Holidays

Jennifer Silver

Dear Parents,

It has been such a gift to have your children back on campus. Outdoor learning, to this extent, is new for most of us. Your kids have been so helpful, encouraging, and respectful of the Covid protocols that are in place. In fact, more often than not, the kids themselves are reminding each other of masks and space. It is such an encouraging reminder that together, we can do this.

And to the parents and students who have chosen to stay remote, we thank you, as well. Working from home has its own unique challenges, and we so appreciate your commitment to your child’s education and well-being, and your patience as our teachers manage teaching both in-person and remotely simultaneously. None of our education classes ever covered how to do that, and we are grateful for your support!

We have been monitoring the Covid cases in Essex and Rockingham counties, as well as CDC and DPH recommendations for the Fall and Winter. We have been monitoring local school district’s and local private school’s Covid cases and trends. We have been in touch with our colleagues throughout New England, as well. There is much anticipation and evidence of a late Fall/Winter surge of Covid-19 in our area. Nationwide reported Covid-19 cases have increased 30% over the past two weeks. We are already beginning to see the local infection rate grow. Our first goal is health and safety. We are striving to keep Covid-19 off of our campus and outside of our community as best we can. However, the words of Dr. Michael Osterholm, Director for the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at University of Minnesota, illuminates how difficult this task may become: “The next six to twelve weeks are going to be the darkest of the pandemic.” With that in mind, we want to do our part to ease the risk of transmission in our own community.

Like many schools in our area, Sparhawk has decided to return to remote learning from November 30-January 5. In January, we plan to begin a staged reintroduction of our grades returning on campus, similar to the start of this Fall.

PK-4 Return to campus on January 5th
5-7 Return to campus on January 12th
8-12 Return to campus on January 26th

You may wonder why we are doing this, and why we are announcing this a month in advance when so much can change. We look at our population, and we see over 200 people between staff and students who may choose to travel over the holiday season. Many may find themselves in situations where masks and social distancing guidelines may be more difficult to manage. Ideally, none of us are exposed to Covid. Ideally, we all will have a healthy and happy holiday season. How you choose to celebrate your holiday season is a personal choice, and we want to respect how you choose to spend this time. However, if there is a chance that even one of us could be exposed, we do not want that exposure to lead to a larger outbreak at Sparhawk. There is little that we can control, but we are committed to being prudent and solution-oriented during this pandemic. We are committed to putting safety first. We had hoped that we would continue to see a decline in cases in our area. Unfortunately, that has not been the case for several weeks now.

We recognize that these weeks of remote learning may bring hardship to some families and for that we are sorry. When weighing the hardship of a temporary move to remote learning to an outbreak that may necessitate a longer remote experience with serious health implications, we chose what we hope will be the less impactful and shorter timeline. Our goal is to resume in-person learning in January 2021.

Your child's teachers and the directors will be in touch regarding the remote academic plan soon as well as the staged return to campus in the new year. Below you will see some of the articles that have helped shape this decision.


  1. US coronavirus: 'Hunker down' because the fall Covid-19 surge is here
  2. COVID-19: Holiday Celebrations
  3. Health Experts Say Mass. Is In 'A COVID Autumn,' And We're Not Ready For Winter
  4. The CDC says big Thanksgiving gatherings are a high-risk activity. Here’s how to safely visit family this holiday season
  5. Why Covid-19 spreads more in the winter
  6. Covid-19 Battle to Intensify as Winter Sets In
  7. COVID-19 Vaccine Development Is Going At Breathtaking Speed, NIH Chief Says
  8. Epidemiologist warns next 6 to 12 weeks will be 'darkest of the entire pandemic'
  9. Massachusetts reports 821 new COVID cases, 5 deaths on Tuesday

We look forward to a time when our problems and challenges do not include planning through a worldwide pandemic, when education is more about academic growth and typical development wellness. However, we recognize that, for now, health and safety are paramount. We love our community and will do all we can to protect each other during this historic time.

Thank you,
Louise Stilphen | Headmaster

Cheryl Fuller | Chief Financial Officer

Kaitlyn MacDonald | Director of Admissions/Assistant Headmaster

Suzanne Atkins | Lower School Director 

Yvonne Domings | Upper School Director