May 23, 2021

Dear Mount Vernon Family, 

After 38 weeks of providing in person on-campus instruction at Mount Vernon, we enter the final two days of the school year with 0 COVID cases on either campus. What a journey! And, there are many people to thank along the twists and the turns of the year.

First and foremost, we owe a great deal of gratitude to the faculty and staff. This has been one of the most challenging years in their educational career, and they handled it with grace and courage. Also, grateful to our students, navigating daily protocols, bubbles, and loss of certain traditional MV experiences while showing up each day engaging with their teachers and their peers. Finally, a special thank you to our parent community. On behalf of everyone at the School, thank you for the sacrifices you made during the year, the support you provided the faculty and staff, and the partnership you demonstrated in spite of changing schedules and challenging circumstances.

We are Mount Vernon, a stronger, more resilient community, entering the 2021-2022 school year. Matter of fact, we have never been positioned for greater advancement as we design a new strategic plan to strengthen our identity, deepen our innovation, and scale our impact. 

  • Represented by 70% of the Class of 2021 attending college out of state in universities such as Stanford, Harvard, West Point, Barnard, Swarthmore, Southern Methodist, Clemson and Arizona
  • Exhibited in a 96% retention rate of School families returning next year
  • Reflected in 60% enrollment growth over the last decade, exceeding 1,200 students for the first time in school history and every Upper School grade-level will exceed 100 students
  • Recognized nationally for the School’s reputation in innovative teaching and learning
  • Illustrated with the infusion of new executive leadership, joining a high performing team

Returning to Mount Vernon “normal” in the 2021-2022 school year, we look forward to celebrating MV at 50, sparking the next innovation revival, and designing a better world together. Have a blessed summer filled with laughter, play, and rest. See you on campus in August if not before.

Dr. Brett Jacobsen
CEO & Head of School

Division Updates

COVID Contact Info

COVID Information Line: 678.515.4891
COVID Information Email: [email protected]
COVID eFax Line: 404.591.1441

Communication Archive

May 23 - Ending the 2020-2021 School Year

Dear Mount Vernon Family,

After 38 weeks of providing in person on-campus instruction at Mount Vernon, we enter the final two days of the school year with 0 COVID cases on either campus. What a journey! And, there are many people to thank along the twists and the turns of the year.

First and foremost, we owe a great deal of gratitude to the faculty and staff. This has been one of the most challenging years in their educational career, and they handled it with grace and courage. Also, grateful to our students, navigating daily protocols, bubbles, and loss of certain traditional MV experiences while showing up each day engaging with their teachers and their peers. Finally, a special thank you to our parent community. On behalf of everyone at the School, thank you for the sacrifices you made during the year, the support you provided the faculty and staff, and the partnership you demonstrated in spite of changing schedules and challenging circumstances.

We are Mount Vernon, a stronger, more resilient community, entering the 2021-2022 school year. Matter of fact, we have never been positioned for greater advancement as we design a new strategic plan to strengthen our identity, deepen our innovation, and scale our impact.

  • Represented by 70% of the Class of 2021 attending college out of state in universities such as Stanford, Harvard, West Point, Barnard, Swarthmore, Southern Methodist, Clemson and Arizona
  • Exhibited in a 96% retention rate of School families returning next year
  • Reflected in 60% enrollment growth over the last decade, exceeding 1,200 students for the first time in school history and every Upper School grade-level will exceed 100 students
  • Recognized nationally for the School’s reputation in innovative teaching and learning
  • Illustrated with the infusion of new executive leadership, joining a high performing team

Returning to Mount Vernon “normal” in the 2021-2022 school year, we look forward to celebrating MV at 50, sparking the next innovation revival, and designing a better world together. Have a blessed summer filled with laughter, play, and rest. See you on campus in August if not before.

Dr. Brett Jacobsen
CEO & Head of School

May 16 - IDEA Action Report 2020-2021

Dear Mount Vernon Family,

In this weekly update, the School is releasing the IDEA Action Report 2020-2021. In the midst of the pandemic, we leaned in together with collective conviction to set a course of bold ideas and approaches to advance inclusion, diversity, equity, and action within our Mount Vernon community. Together, we started in July 2020 examining tangible ways to seize the moment to effect change.

Reflecting a deliberate, incremental focus in building a more inclusive future, the IDEA Action Report addresses four key areas of action steps:

  1. organizational & school climate
  2. learning & well-being
  3. recruitment & retention
  4. advancement & continuous improvement

As reported in weekly messages in the fall and spring, the School has taken a comprehensive, multi-tiered approach to advancing IDEA through school-wide assessments, external partnerships, professional learning, counseling services, parent education and volunteerism, marketing, recruitment efforts, funding, and communication. The IDEA Action Report demonstrates the investment and commitment of our community, the progress towards fulfilling prioritized interventions and short-term objectives, and the transparency of future-focused goals to be achieved.

Being story-informed, experience-informed, data-informed, and research-informed, the School will continue to focus on cultivating relationships, developing programs, and designing strategy to scale our efforts to advance inclusion, diversity, and equity within our community. While we have much work to do in front of us, I am grateful for the deliberate steps taken this year and look forward to the journey ahead.

Dr. Brett Jacobsen
CEO & Head of School

May 9 - COVID Update

May 9, 2021

Dear Mount Vernon Family,

With collective conviction, the Mount Vernon community has been able to demonstrate the level of preparedness and responsiveness required to navigate the fluidity of the pandemic, mitigating risk with discipline protocols and procedures. After an exhausting year, many are anxious to understand the precise approach moving forward, especially with recent public health announcements. Stewarding a community since March 2020 has been a complex set of moving parts and perspectives. Seeing the light at the end of the tunnel does not necessarily make it easier at this moment with the summer months still ahead of us. 

Returning in August in a safe and healthy way remains a top priority. Acknowledging the remaining threat and impact of the pandemic, the School encourages adults and age-eligible students to receive the vaccine. Relying on the guidance from state leaders, public health officials, and experts within our own community, this COVID update attempts to provide a high-level overview of the health protocols for August, as we modify and finalize the School’s protocols and procedures for the 2021-2022 school year.

Mapping out plans for the 2021-2022 school year, Mount Vernon anticipates 

  1. monitoring symptoms 
  2. sustaining quarantine protocols for COVID positive cases
  3. modifying COVID direct exposure procedure
  4. promoting daily hygiene through respiratory etiquette, handwashing, and deep cleaning of facility spaces
  5. retaining touchless temperature kiosks and hand sanitizing stations at primary entrances/exits
  6. maintaining bipolar ionization system in HVAC system in all buildings 
  7. utilizing face coverings in recommended circumstances
  8. re-evaluating physical distancing guidelines
  9. permitting parents to re-engage for on-campus activities and events
  10. removing hallway and stairwell traffic flow restrictions, plexiglass dividers, and rows of tables/desks
  11. dissolving bubbles/cohorts
  12. allowing for more socialization and movement throughout the day
  13. incorporating larger spaces (gym, cafeteria) with measured use for chapel, lunch, and other group events 
  14. amending the virtual option for high risk, COVID positive, or direct exposure only
  15. providing Extended Play for PS-8 until 6pm
  16. offering some degree of off-campus expeditionary learning, field trips, retreats, and travel
  17. reinstating PlayMaker, Mustang Rally, and other programmatic events 
  18. prioritizing a well-being and resilience framework, supported by Mount Vernon’s counseling services, academic resource services, IDEA Department, and spiritual life teams
  19. preserving the alternative models and schedules designed by each division to deploy if required
  20. increasing a degree of participation for spectators and audiences at athletic and arts events

Please note this is not an exhaustive list. And, it recognizes the potential start of the year rather than reflecting the entire year. The School needs the time and space to observe the COVID landscape over the next couple of months, adhere to the latest guidelines and recommendations provided by public health officials, and plan appropriately for them by the first day of school, August 10. The School will provide more detailed information during the summer as we are able to do so. 

The strength of the innovative mission and vision of Mount Vernon is the foundational relationship between a student and a teacher, collaborating on campus together. The fuel for motivation, engagement, and belonging is discovered through relationships in the classroom, castmates on the stage, and teammates on the field or court. Meaningful connections that ground us and even transform us are nurtured most effectively in person on-campus. 

In that spirit, we plan on returning to Mount Vernon “normal” in a thoughtful, measured, phased, advised, and recommended way. Thank you again for your partnership.

Dr. Brett Jacobsen
CEO & Head of School

May 2 - Class of 2021

Dear Mount Vernon Family,

Think back to your senior year of high school. Global pandemic was not in the picture. No greater class has been disrupted and impacted by COVID than the Class of 2021. This has been a heart-wrenching time for a well-deserving group of students. Despite the challenges, this time of the year brings joy and remains a favorite for many at Mount Vernon, honoring the achievements and accomplishments of MV students, specifically our seniors. In case you missed it, be sure to read Seniors Celebrated at the Class of 2021 Honors Ceremony — valedictorian, salutatorians, Mustang Spirit Award, AJC Cup Award, Mount Vernon Artisan Award, Mustang Scholar Athlete, Prefect Award and much more.

Also, May 1 represented National College Decision Day, celebrating the Class of 2021. From the Ivy League to large public universities to small private colleges, we will unleash the Class of 2021 throughout the world. Submitting 508 applications to 174 colleges, they have received acceptance to Harvard University, Stanford University, United States Military Academy West Point, Barnard College, American University, Georgetown University, Purdue University, University of Colorado, Arizona State, Belmont University, University of Kentucky, Citadel Academy, Elon University, Auburn University, Swarthmore College, Michigan State University, University of British Columbia, University of South Carolina, Southern Methodist University, Wake Forest University, University of Alabama, Louisiana State University, Georgia Institute of Technology, and University of Georgia. A full list of acceptances will be published before Commencement.

As of April 30, check out additional facts about the Class of 2021, representing Mount Vernon:

  • 70% attending college out of state (19 states, 2 countries)
  • $5.1M college scholarships (does not include HOPE or athletic scholarships)
  • 53% received merit scholarships for academics or leadership (does not include HOPE or athletic scholarships)
  • 6 signed college athletes in baseball, football, soccer, softball, and swimming
  • 20% of the Class of 2021 are Colt Club members (MV students since preschool/kindergarten)
  • 53% in National Honor Society

Join us in recognizing an impressive group of leaders, artists, athletes, scholars, innovators, and engaged citizens. We are proud of them and honored to work alongside them for many years.

As we release a set of compassionate, influential graduates on the world stage, next year we welcome a record number of students to Mount Vernon. For the first time, the enrollment will exceed 1,200 students, from PK2 through Grade 12. And for the first time in school history, every grade level in the Upper School will exceed 100 students. Growing 60% over the last decade reflects an incredible community, ready and energized to do incredible work.

Our community has so much to be proud of. We could not be in a better position moving forward. Grateful.

Dr. Brett Jacobsen
CEO & Head of School

April 25 - COVID Update

Dear Mount Vernon Family,

Thank you to the entire Mount Vernon community for supporting Rally Spirit Week. Even for a brief moment, it provided a renewed sense of joy in the midst of a year dominated by face coverings, sanitizing stations, temperature checks, green dots, positive cases, direct exposure, plexiglass dividers, bubbles, physical distancing, virtual options, staggered schedules, and much more. We are grateful for the partnership and support, indebted for the sacrifices and service, and humbled by the patience and grace extended every step along the messy journey.

As of Friday, April 23, the School has 0 COVID positive cases and 1 direct exposure case on the Lower Campus and 1 direct exposure case on the Upper Campus. Additionally, I want to take this opportunity to provide the COVID landscape within our community, representative of the school year since August.

 

Total Aug – April Lower Campus Middle School Upper School  Employees
C19 Positive 16 of 489 25 of 279 97 of 430 30 of 248

 

Reflective of this past week, the School has had a successful year navigating various spikes throughout certain time periods with relatively low risk of transmission due to the disciplined protocols established. As we turn the corner and enter the home stretch of the school year, the protocols of face coverings, physical distancing, and washing hands remain an integral part of crossing the finish line at the end of the May.

Peering into the 2021-2022 school year, the School, before the end of the year, will attempt to provide an insight into the health & well-being protocols for August, especially as age limits eligible for the vaccine will be expanded in the future. While modifications will be made to the School’s protocols and procedures, we are relying on public health officials and governmental agencies to continue to assist us in making finalized decisions for the next school year.

As always, be sure to review divisional letters for upcoming schedules, activities, and events.

Dr. Brett Jacobsen
CEO & Head of School

April 18 - IDEA Update

Dear Mount Vernon Family,

Traditionally, the spring is filled with advanced planning for the following school year. A year unlike no other, the School is already preparing for the 2021-2022 school year — celebrating the School’s 50th anniversary, launching a new strategic planning process, and sustaining inclusion, diversity, equity, and action (IDEA) efforts and initiatives.

Building upon steps taken this year to advance IDEA, Mount Vernon has established a partnership with Essential Partners for the 2021-2022 school year. Through training, facilitation, coaching, and consultation, Essential Partners and its practitioners will invest in Mount Vernon students, faculty/staff, and parents, utilizing their dialogic model to cultivate a more inclusive community. Today reflects no greater time to seize the moment to deepen our capacity to dialogue across differences. Their model, demonstrated in the education, corporate, and nonprofit sectors, builds trust, strengthens mutual understanding, supports well-being, and discovers areas of connection across differences of identities. For all of us, but specifically for students, these are transferable leadership skills for the home, college, professional life, and civic engagement all to design a better world. More details will be provided. We look forward to welcoming the Essential Partners team to Mount Vernon.

Related to current IDEA initiatives, ReadySet, conducting an organizational and school climate assessment, is concluding community interviews this month. Additionally, the student-facing and parent-facing affinity group committees are finalizing their framework in advance of the 2020-2021 school year. This month, i.Change Collaborative completes their year-long collaboration with the faculty and staff. The new Chief of IDEA, Stacey Lee, visited campus in early April and has been engaging with members of the Mount Vernon team since the announcement of her appointment. Finally, a culminating IDEA annual report will be released in May, reporting out and summarizing findings of all initiatives, recommendations moving forward, and next steps prioritized.

Thank you for your continued support, dedication, and investment in advancing IDEA at Mount Vernon. While we have much work to do in front us, I am grateful for the deliberate steps taken this year.

Dr. Brett Jacobsen
CEO & Head of School

April 11 - COVID Update

Dear Mount Vernon Family,

Post Easter break, I want to take this opportunity to provide the COVID landscape within the Mount Vernon Community, as of Friday, April 9:

Lower Campus Middle School Upper School  Employees
C19 Positive 0 of 489 3 of 279 1 of 430 2 of 248
DIrect Exposure 11 of 489 13 of 279 1 of 430 3 of 248

As a reminder from the March 28 weekly message, Mount Vernon has modified the direct exposure protocol (see below), beginning April 12. To reiterate, the School will maintain 6 feet in classrooms for physical distancing, face coverings will continue to be required regardless of vaccination, and hygiene protocols will remain in place, as well as the other COVID safety and well-being protocols.

Direct Exposure and COVID protocols in Preschool and Lower School classrooms, maintaining tight bubbles and pods, will reflect the following guidelines:

  • Direct exposure — Following the contact tracing protocol, the School will continue to communicate an active COVID positive case with each family in the classroom, maintaining confidentiality of the respective student or employee. Modification beginning April 12, students and employees, where exposure exists, can either
  1. quarantine at home for 7-10 days (based on testing) according to current protocol. If a student or employee decides to quarantine at home, the virtual option will remain in place.
  2. OR remain at the School symptom-free while aggressively monitoring health condition. Students and employees will have the option to remain at the School unless the administration determines otherwise regarding exposure or symptoms.
  • COVID symptoms — As a reminder, if COVID-like symptoms emerge at the School, the student or employee will be asked to depart from the School to follow original protocols and procedures.
  • COVID positive test — If a student or employee has tested positive for COVID, the student or employee will follow normal quarantine procedures by remaining at home for 10 days.

Direct Exposure and COVID protocols in Middle School and Upper School classrooms, maintaining current schedules and cohorts, will reflect the following guidelines:

  • Direct exposure — Following the contract tracing protocol, the School will continue to communicate an active COVID positive case with each family based on classroom seating charts, maintaining confidentiality of the respective student or employee. Modification beginning April 12, students and employees, where exposure exists, can either
  1. quarantine at home for 7-10 days (based on testing) according to current protocol. If a student or employee decides to quarantine at home, the virtual option will remain in place.
  2. OR remain at the School symptom-free while aggressively monitoring health condition. Students and employees will have the option to remain at the School unless the administration determines otherwise regarding exposure.
  • COVID symptoms –As a reminder, if COVID-like symptoms emerge at the School, student or employee will be asked to depart from the School to follow original protocols.
  • COVID positive test — If a student or employee has tested positive for COVID, the student will follow normal quarantine procedures by remaining at home for 10 days.

Based on the data collected from August through March, the risk of transmission in the School has been low due to the discipline of protocols of face coverings, physical distancing, and hygiene established from the beginning of the school year. This analysis along with the CDC’s most recent announcement has allowed the School to modify the direct exposure protocol for the remainder of the year.

As always, be sure to review divisional letters for upcoming schedules, activities, and events.

Dr. Brett Jacobsen
CEO & Head of School

April 4 - Thank You Letter

Dear Mount Vernon Family,

Hope you are in the middle of a fun, safe long weekend break. In light of the community email from the Mount Vernon Board of Trustees on March 30, I am honored and humbled by your messages of overwhelming support.

Arriving at Mount Vernon 12 years ago has been a blessing professionally and personally. During the search process, I discovered a strong connection with the community and the potential for innovation awaiting an established PS-8 and young Upper School. I am grateful for the small group of families committed to keeping their children at Mount Vernon during high school in the early days. Their pioneering spirit brought many of you here today.

Thank you for your partnership in building an exceptional school community that is recognized well beyond Atlanta. During this messy and meaningful journey, I want to thank the Board of Trustees for their relentless support and the faculty and staff for their passion for equipping this generation of students with the most relevant tools possible. Finally, I would like to thank Adrienne and my family, making many sacrifices allowing me to serve you each and every day.

Commemorating the School’s 50th anniversary during the 2021-2022 school year will be a moment for our entire community to celebrate the School’s history and transformation and to renew relationships post the pandemic. A planning committee of parents is hard at work designing a memorable year of activities and events for our entire community. Additionally, an anniversary is a moment to reflect on the past in order to build a more inclusive future. Beginning in September and the following 12 months, the School will be engaging students, parents, faculty/staff, and alumni in a new strategic planning process focused on strengthening our identity, deepening our innovation, and scaling our impact.

While my role and responsibilities will shift in the 2022-2023 school year, Mount Vernon will remain deeply committed to our mission, vision, and values. “We are a school of inquiry, innovation, and impact. Grounded in Christian values, we prepare all students to be college ready, globally competitive, and engaged citizen leaders.” Thank you for the opportunity to serve the School in a renewed way.

Dr. Brett Jacobsen

CEO & Head of School

March 28 - Direct Exposure Protocol Modifications Effective April 12

Dear Mount Vernon Family,

The School continues to monitor the COVID landscape in real time within our community, to analyze data and trends during the past eight months, and to sustain or modify protocols based on latest information from public health and government officials.

On March 19, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) updated the operational strategy for schools to reflect new evidence on physical distance in classrooms. The CDC recommends students remain at least 3 feet apart in classrooms where mask use is universal. In light of this recent recommendation, with two months remaining in the 2020-2021 school year, I want to take this opportunity to highlight several areas.

Mount Vernon will maintain the following protocols:

  • Wearing face coverings for faculty/staff and students will continue to be required and use will be universal
  • Promoting hygiene — washing hands and utilizing hand sanitizing stations — and wiping down surfaces throughout the day will continue
  • Maintaining physical distance of 6 feet in classrooms will remain in place

Consulting with members of the MV Response Team, Mount Vernon will modify the direct exposure protocol (see below), beginning April 12. To reiterate, the School will maintain 6 feet in classrooms for physical distancing, face coverings will continue to be required, and hygiene protocols will remain in place, as well as the other COVID safety and well-being protocols.

Direct Exposure and COVID protocols in Preschool and Lower School classrooms, maintaining tight bubbles and pods, will reflect the following guidelines:

  • Direct exposure — Following the contact tracing protocol, the School will continue to communicate an active COVID positive case with each family in the classroom, maintaining confidentiality of the respective student or employee. Modification beginning April 12, students and employees, where exposure exists, can either
  1. quarantine at home for 7-10 days (based on testing) according to current protocol. If a student or employee decides to quarantine at home, the virtual option will remain in place.
  2. OR remain at the School symptom-free while aggressively monitoring health condition. Students and employees will have the option to remain at the School unless the administration determines otherwise regarding exposure or symptoms.
  • COVID symptoms — As a reminder, if COVID-like symptoms emerge at the School, the student or employee will be asked to depart from the School to follow original protocols and procedures.
  • COVID positive test — If a student or employee has tested positive for COVID, the student or employee will follow normal quarantine procedures by remaining at home for 10 days.

Direct Exposure and COVID protocols in Middle School and Upper School classrooms, maintaining current schedules and cohorts, will reflect the following guidelines:

  • Direct exposure — Following the contract tracing protocol, the School will continue to communicate an active COVID positive case with each family based on classroom seating charts, maintaining confidentiality of the respective student or employee. Modification beginning April 12, students and employees, where exposure exists, can either
  1. quarantine at home for 7-10 days (based on testing) according to current protocol. If a student or employee decides to quarantine at home, the virtual option will remain in place.
  2. OR remain at the School symptom-free while aggressively monitoring health condition. Students and employees will have the option to remain at the School unless the administration determines otherwise regarding exposure.
  • COVID symptoms –As a reminder, if COVID-like symptoms emerge at the School, student or employee will be asked to depart from the School to follow original protocols.
  • COVID positive test — If a student or employee has tested positive for COVID, the student will follow normal quarantine procedures by remaining at home for 10 days.

Based on the data collected from August through March, the risk of transmission in the School has been low due to the discipline of protocols of face coverings, physical distancing, and hygiene established from the beginning of the school year. This analysis along with the CDC’s most recent announcement has allowed the School to modify the direct exposure protocol for the remainder of the year. The School is delaying the implementation until April 12 to monitor the possible spread of the virus within our own community, especially after the upcoming break. As you are aware, the pandemic has been unpredictable and fluid while we all navigate the ups and downs this year. Therefore, we reserve the right to reinstate original or further modify direct exposure protocols if necessary or if required by local public health and government officials.

We hope you have a fun, safe long weekend break.

Dr. Brett Jacobsen
CEO & Head of School

March 21 - IDEA and COVID Update

Dear Mount Vernon Family,

Watching recent local and national reports, we grieve with members of the Asian community within our school and across the country, as we all witness one tragedy after another. Fully committed to living out inclusion, diversity, equity, and action here at Mount Vernon, may we honor and respect one another, regardless of identity and background, empowering members of our community to realize their full potential, to engage meaningfully in life, and to leave at the end of each day with their humanity fully intact.

COVID Update

A week following the break, I want to take this opportunity to share the COVID landscape within our community, as of Friday, March 19:

Analyzing the data, a recent spike of positive cases has occurred in the Upper School. As communicated to US families, grades 9-12 will maintain a staggered schedule during the week of March 22 while Preschool through Middle School will continue to run a regular schedule.

Thank you again for your flexibility and support for the early dismissal on March 15, allowing our faculty and staff to receive the vaccine with Metro Atlanta Ambulance Service.

As always, be sure to check out divisional letters and upcoming events, activities, and announcements over the next couple of weeks.

Dr. Brett Jacobsen
CEO & Head of School

March 14 - COVID Update

Dear Mount Vernon Family,

As a reminder from the March 12 communication, Mount Vernon will run an early release schedule on Monday, March 15 in order to support the faculty and staff in receiving the COVID vaccine from a local healthcare organization partnering with the School. See divisional updates for applicable information. Thank you for your support during this last minute adjustment.

One year ago, we were announcing the first round of school closures due to this unknown COVID virus. This is not an anniversary worth celebrating. However, as we have learned more about how to navigate the pandemic while conducting classes on campus everyday since August with successful Health & Well-Being Protocols is worth celebrating. Grateful to our faculty and staff who have sacrificed a great deal this year. Special thanks to the parent community for partnering with us, adjusting to protocols, and assisting us each step of the way.

Upon returning from the break, the School will continue to monitor the potential spread of the virus within Mount Vernon. As of Friday, March 12, the COVID landscape at Mount Vernon reflects the following:

The School is mindful of how the fluid health environment within our own community could shift quickly and dramatically, as we seek to return on March 15 with the following schedules:

Beginning Monday, March 15, Preschool through Middle School students will return in person on-campus in full capacity.
Communicated before the break, the Upper School will run a staggered schedule beginning Monday, March 15 (See Upper School Weekly Update), reducing the density to 50%. Being the most mobile of any student body, the Upper School has previously had the highest number of cases post similar breaks, and phasing our return to full capacity is warranted.
As a reminder, whether reporting a positive case or choosing the virtual option, contact Sheldon Staples ([email protected]) in order to support each family and to serve the School with the most up-to-date information during the pandemic.

As always, be sure to check out divisional letters for additional upcoming events, activities, and announcements over the next couple of weeks.

Dr. Brett Jacobsen
CEO & Head of School

February 28 - COVID Update

Dear Mount Vernon Family,

Governor Kemp announced on February 25 the COVID vaccine rollout including educators and staff members, beginning March 8. The School is partnering with a local health provider to administer the vaccine to the faculty and staff, tentatively scheduled post March 8. We are grateful for the opportunity to support the hardest working staff around.

Heading into a week-long break, I want to take this opportunity to update you on the COVID landscape within our community, as of February 26.

Over the past several weeks, overall positive cases have decreased reflective of local, state, and national levels. Looking historically at cases post a break, no scenario has looked exactly the same. Therefore, we will continue to monitor any increase in cases as school resumes on March 15 and respond as we have since August. While Preschool through Middle School will run a regular schedule, the Upper School will adhere to a one-week staggered schedule (see Upper School Weekly Update), March 15-19.

During the upcoming break, we implore your family to take the necessary precautions to preserve a healthy environment beyond the School — maintaining physical distance, wearing face coverings, and washing hands.

We hope you have a fun, safe break.

Dr. Brett Jacobsen
CEO & Head of School

February 21 - Dr. Damour and Anxiety

Recently, Dr. Lisa Damour spoke to our community as a part of Mount Vernon’s Parent University Series. Dr. Damour is a clinical psychologist, author of best selling books, contributor of a monthly adolescence column, and co-host of a podcast. While addressing the moment we find ourselves in the pandemic, she discussed ways we can help teenagers manage anxiety. Her expertise and thought leadership are timely and good for adults too.

As you know, young children and adolescents can experience emotion in an overwhelming way. Dr. Damour suggested several techniques adults can assist children to not overestimate the dangers of the situation and underestimate their ability to manage it. Summarized from her presentation, Dr. Damour encourages us to consider five things we can do.

  1. Normalize anxiety. According to Dr. Damour, “adults can help young people appreciate that healthy anxiety has a purpose” where the body activates for potential threats and helps us move toward safety.” It is getting our attention. In addition, she asks, “Is anxiety the right label?” We need to get more specific about the real situation. She recommends a square breathing technique when anxiety becomes all consuming and too intense and needs to be brought under control.
  2. Offer perspective. Absence of a real threat, Dr. Damour suggests we can provide a perspective that can assist our children in keeping their worries at an appropriate level so they don’t overestimate the danger or allowing their thinking to be hijacked. She recommends pausing, objectively evaluating the risks, and supporting them in what they can do to manage their emotions and the situation.
  3. Shift the spotlight. In challenging seasons of life, Dr. Damour proposes to shift a teenager’s attention to serving others in need. This technique reduces the fixation on themselves, supports others in need, and builds confidence and cultivates resilience when confronting challenges in their future. MV Cares highlights a few areas to consider.
  4. Encourage self-care. During the pandemic, we can all identify unhealthy and healthy ways we have been coping with the complexity of life. Dr. Damour highly recommends “prioritizing sleep, physical activity, and eating well.”
  5. Manage your own anxiety. The more anxious we are as parents the more anxious our children tend to be. Whether we realize it or not, they are watching how we model this moment, searching for cues in our behavior. Dr. Damour suggests we follow the same strategies she outlines for our children as we get our own anxiety-levels in check.

We are grateful for Dr. Damour and her flexibility during the pandemic to join our community even for a brief moment. We hope to bring her back soon. In the meantime, the Counseling Resource Center at Mount Vernon is here to support you and your family during challenging times.

As always, be sure to check out divisional letters and upcoming events, activities, and announcements over the next couple of weeks.

Dr. Brett Jacobsen
CEO & Head of School

February 14 - COVID Update

Dear Mount Vernon Family,

Thank you for navigating the re-enrollment process during a hectic and exhausting time of the school year. To date, the School’s re-enrollment retention rate is 96.7% for the 2021-2022 school year, in addition to a record set of applications from prospective families across all grade levels. Grateful for your continued support as we prepare for programmatic advancements with students, prioritization of initiatives, professional learning opportunities with faculty/staff, and sustaining highly functional facility spaces.

Since the end of January, the School has experienced a decline of COVID positive and direct exposures. Monitoring current conditions, I want to take this opportunity to provide you the COVID landscape within our community, as of February 12.

Finally, The Mount Vernon School, through MV Ventures — a strategy and innovation consulting company of the School — was recently named an inaugural recipient of the Jeffrey Shields Award for Innovation Excellence in School Business Operations selected by the National Business Officers Association. In a challenging year, it is a blessing to see the School recognized and celebrated for the transformation taking place at MV.

As always, be sure to check out divisional letters and upcoming events, activities, and announcements over the next couple of weeks.

Dr. Brett Jacobsen
CEO & Head of School

February 7 - Chief of IDEA and Head of Upper School Announcement

Dear Mount Vernon Family,

In this weekly message, I want to share a summarized version of a couple of leadership announcements — Chief of IDEA and Head of Upper School — from this past week in case you did not have the opportunity to view them originally.

Chief of IDEA

In September, I communicated the School would be partnering with Storbeck Search, an executive firm in the education sector, to conduct a national search for Mount Vernon’s inaugural appointment of the Chief of Inclusion, Diversity, Equity & Action (IDEA), reporting directly to the Head of School. This prioritized initiative was central to the “Next 100 Days” plan launched in July, advancing IDEA within our own community.

After an extensive and engaging process with Storbeck and the candidates, I am thrilled to announce the appointment of Stacey Lee as Mount Vernon’s first Chief of IDEA, beginning in the 2021-2022 school year. With more than 15 years of experience as a student affairs professional, the depth of Stacey’s leadership experience has been connected to two distinguished boarding schools in the country, St. Mark’s School and St. Paul’s School.

Most recently, Stacey has been serving as the Associate Dean of Students and Director of Residential Life at St. Mark’s. While building leadership, inclusion, and equity programs specifically designed for students, she has been an integral visionary for St. Mark’s Strategic Plan Implementation Team. In addition, she serves as a member of the Community Life Council Leadership Team, advisor for Black Lives Union (student affinity group), member of the Community and Equity Committee, and mentor to the faculty.

Prior to boarding school life, she has worked as the Dean of Students for the Exploration Summer Programs at Wellesley College and Yale University, Director of Global Scholars Program for the African Leadership Academy in Johannesburg, and Director of First-Year Programs at Bowdoin College. Stacey holds a bachelor’s degree in sociology from Bowdoin, master’s degree in educational leadership from the University of New England (UNE), and currently is entering the dissertation phase of her doctoral studies in transformational leadership from UNE.

Beyond the title and responsibilities, Stacey believes “trust is essential to any effort to enact lasting change. While the resources of time, space, and finances are vital to schools, it is the human investment that matters most.”

Head of Upper School

During the fall, the School partnered with Carney Sandoe & Associates, a leading search firm in the independent school sector, to conduct a national search process for the next Head of Upper School at Mount Vernon. 

After a thorough and thoughtful process, I am excited to announce the appointment of Kristy Lundström as the next Head of Upper School, beginning in the 2021-2022 school year. While the Upper School is younger compared to other divisions at the School, Kristy becomes the first female Upper School division leader at Mount Vernon. With more than 25 years of experience in the United States and Europe, Kristy is an innovative educator with a depth of unmatched applied leadership coupled with a high level of emotional intelligence. 

Most recently, Kristy has been serving as the Head of Middle School at McDonogh School in Maryland, Preschool through Upper School with 1,400 enrolled students. Before returning to the United States, Kristy held a variety of leadership positions, including the Executive Director of The Viktor Rydberg Schools (7 independent bilingual schools) in Stockholm, Sweden and the Head of School for the Scandinavian School of Brussels. Earlier in her professional career in the United States and Europe, Kristy served as a deputy head of school, director of curriculum and instruction, assistant principal, and secondary mathematics teacher. She holds a bachelor’s degree in mathematics education from Birmingham-Southern College and a master’s degree in international education management and administration from Stockholm University.

While opportunities and challenges are often dynamic in an organization like Mount Vernon, Kristy believes a strong school community is built on trust, transparency, and shared voice.

Both search processes were invigorating and affirming to the transformation and growth Mount Vernon has experienced over the last decade. Compelling a slate of incredible candidates is a testament to our dedicated faculty and staff, supportive parent community, and engaging student body. Join me in welcoming Stacey and Kristy to the Mount Vernon community, as they transition to Atlanta this summer.

Dr. Brett Jacobsen
CEO & Head of School

January 31 - COVID Update

Dear Mount Vernon Family,

Thank you for beginning the enrollment process for the 2021-2022 school year. Email [email protected] or call 404.252.3448 (x1505) with any questions. The deadline for enrollment is Monday, February 8.

As the School is monitoring the spread of virus within our community, I want to take this opportunity to provide the following COVID landscape, as of Friday, January 29.

All four divisions, Preschool through Upper School, will run regular schedules on Monday, February 1. As a reminder, if you have COVID-like symptoms, stay home. Additionally, whether reporting a positive case or choosing the virtual option, contact Sheldon Staples ([email protected]) in order to support each family and to serve the School with the most up-to-date information during the pandemic.

As always, be sure to review divisional updates for schedules and logistics for the next week.

Dr. Brett Jacobsen
CEO & Head of School

January 24 - Enrollment

Dear Mount Vernon Family,

The focus of this week’s message is enrollment — reaching a milestone, maintaining current tuition rates, and informing upcoming perennial process. The perennial enrollment period for the 2021-2022 school year will occur between January 25 and February 8.

Milestone
Over a decade ago, Mount Vernon was ranked near 30th compared to other independent schools in Atlanta based on enrollment numbers. In the recent Atlanta Business Chronicle’s Book of Lists, the School is ranked 10th for the first time in school history. Today, the Upper School is thriving with 430 students. Over a decade ago, the new Upper School had less than 110 students. Navigating two economic recessions and a pandemic while launching a new Upper School is extraordinary, and you have a great deal to be proud of at Mount Vernon.

Tuition & Fees
As communicated in The Reunite Series in May 2020, tuition rates will remain the same, no increase, from the 2020-2021 to 2021-2022 school years. Additionally, the School has eliminated all student fees (technology, athletic, arts, senior, student parking) for the 2021-2022 school year while continuing to provide all programs.

Process
Mount Vernon has instituted a continued enrollment model that begins when a family initially enrolls at the School. Beginning January 25, Mount Vernon families will be able to confirm a child’s enrollment for the 2021-2022 school year by paying their respective deposit amount. For the 2021-2022 school year, deposits are to be paid between January 25 and February 8, 2021.

In addition to paying the initial deposit, families are asked to complete their new school year checklist. Please take this opportunity to review and update your family contact information and personal profile details, as your current profile has been exported from MV’s Parent Portal to the new parent portal.

Be on the lookout for an email for more information on the morning of Monday, January 25.

Class of 2021
When considering the students, plans, and programs for a new school year, I’d like to take a moment to reflect on outgoing graduating class. The agility demonstrated by the Class of 2021 is astounding and I am proud of the way they have handled this historic time in their lives by remaining focused on their learning while actively supporting one another and important causes well beyond the walls of the School.

This bears fruit in the news of recent college acceptances — Stanford, Barnard, Swarthmore, University of Toronto, The New School of Design, Penn State, Arizona, Nebraska and local and regional universities such as Georgia, Georgia Tech, Auburn, Alabama, and Clemson, just to name a few. Many of the Class of 2021 have been members of our community for since their youngest years and their commitment to the School and each other is unmatched. They are products of the School’s mission and vision, ready for whatever lies ahead because their grit and capacity for growth have been vigorously and intentionally cultivated.

Thank you for your partnership during the 2020-2021 school year. This has been another pivotal year for The Mount Vernon School, and your support has motivated us every step of the way.

Dr. Brett Jacobsen
CEO & Head of School

January 17 - COVID Update

Dear Mount Vernon Family,

As the School is monitoring the spread of virus within our community, I want to take this opportunity to provide the following COVID information, as of Friday, January 15.

While the Preschool through Middle School will run regular schedules this week, the Upper School will continue to deploy a staggered schedule, de-densifying the division by at least 50% on a daily basis. As a reminder, if you have COVID-like symptoms, stay home. Additionally, whether reporting a positive case or choosing the virtual option, contact Sheldon Staples ([email protected]) in order to support each family and to serve the School with the most up-to-date information during the pandemic.

Currently, the Georgia Department of Public Health is in Phase 1A+ of administering the COVID vaccine. Moving into Phase 1B, Mount Vernon employees will become eligible to participate in the vaccination program. The School recently contacted both the GA Department of Public Health (GDPH) and Fulton County Department of Health (FCDH) to inquire about the timeline and locations. According to FCDH, “we currently don’t have a timeline for Phase 1B…It’s possible that 1B will get approved in January, but it’s actual rollout is highly dependent on the capabilities of each health district.” In the meantime, the School has been receiving regular updates from with GDPH and FCDH for updated information, consulting with the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) for expert advice, engaging with 3rd party healthcare providers for potential vaccination partnership, and developing a vaccination policy for all MV employees.

The School is closed on Monday, commemorating the life and impact of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. During a tumultuous time in our country, may we draw strength and accountability from Dr. King’s legacy through our own IDEA Statement, “Not allowing our differences to divide us requires each of us to engage in honest, vulnerable, and courageous conversations through empathy, reflection, examination, and action. Being real agents of change is a continuous journey.”

Dr. Brett Jacobsen
CEO & Head of School

January 10 - Embrace the Quest

Dear Mount Vernon Family,

Recently reading a McKinsey article about overcoming pandemic fatigue prompted a wave of thoughts, emotions, and memories, as I considered the three archetypal patterns and responses highlighted by the authors.

  1. a yearning to go back to the way things were, engaging in a “restitution” narrative
  2. losing sight of the past and cannot imagine life in the future, telling a “chaos” narrative; and
  3. embracing a “quest” narrative, meeting unchanging circumstances head on, accepting them, and incorporating them as part of our identity and journey

Over the past 9 months, I can relate to all three, vacillating between restitution, chaos, and quest weekly if not daily — reflecting on the impact of the pandemic within our own community, the murder of George Floyd and others, and then there’s this week’s mob insurrection storming the Capitol Building in DC. I was naively hoping that flipping the calendar from 20 to 21 would wash away the challenges and pressing the reset button to start over would be an option.

Dr. Maya Angelou in her poem, “On the Pulse of Morning,” provides a way forward, “History, despite its wrenching pain, cannot be unlived, and if faced with courage, need not be lived again.” While we might not be able solve the complexities of the world or even in other communities, we can continue to focus on Mount Vernon and build on the steps taken to live out the vision of the School more fully. At this moment, we are being challenged to seize this moment, embrace the quest, and face the future with courage even if confronting racism and navigating a global health crisis and its economic impact can feel overwhelming, uncertain, and unchanging at times. Yet, this is the journey we are on, especially for students coming of age right in front of our eyes. This will be forever part of their identity.

Embracing the quest requires the School to stand for something — a core, a center of gravity — to cultivate endurance and sustain the innovative, transformative work taking place at Mount Vernon.

  • A school of inquiry, innovation, and impact requires all learners to wrestle with voices and perspectives that challenge us to grow.
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  • A community grounded in Christian values reflects a collective conviction to be givers rather than takers, to serve rather than be served, and to build up rather than tear down.
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  • A mission to prepare all students to be college ready, globally competitive, and engaged citizen leaders demands for us to develop the knowledge, skills, and dispositions to actively design a better world.

Embracing the quest requires the School to act. We will continue to seek ways to equip this generation with the most relevant tools possible. We will continue to advance inclusion, diversity, equity, and action to ensure everyone’s humanity remains fully intact. We will continue to have courageous conversations on the most complex, messy, and uncomfortable issues of our day. We will continue to sustain health protocols and respond to a fluid environment while a vaccine is on our doorstep.

In spite of this week, I remain hopeful for our country, especially for our school. This is reflective in the resilience of the Class of 2021. Credit to our faculty and staff, we are unleashing influential, compassionate leaders on the world. As they have been members of our community for many years and products of the School’s mission and vision, I am proud of the way they have handled this moment to remain focused on their learning while supporting one another and have taken on important causes well beyond the walls of the School. This bears fruit in the news of recent college acceptances — Stanford, Barnard, Swarthmore, University of Toronto, The New School of Design, Penn State, Arizona, Nebraska and local and regional universities such as Georgia, Georgia Tech, Auburn, Alabama, and Clemson.

Pushing forward on the journey, rather than being lulled by restitution or disillusioned by chaos, may we embrace the quest. We will be glad we did. And, our school will be better for it.

Grateful for your partnership during the 2020-2021 school year. We have dealt with a number of significant issues simultaneously and your support has motivated us every step of the way.

Dr. Brett Jacobsen
CEO & Head of School

January 3 - Beginning 2021

January 3, 2020

Dear Mount Vernon Family, 

Upon returning from the break, the School will continue to monitor the potential spread of the virus within Mount Vernon. Entering 2021, the School has 3 known active COVID positive cases, all 3 are Lower Campus students, and 15 direct exposure incidents — 6 faculty/staff members and 9 students — across both campuses.

Compared to current significant spikes in Fulton County and beyond, the School is mindful of how the fluid health environment within our own community could shift quickly and dramatically, as we seek to return on January 5 with the following schedules:

  • Beginning Tuesday, January 5, Preschool through Middle School students will return in person on-campus in full capacity. As you are aware, students in these divisions are organized around monitored ‘bubbles” in order for the School to respond aggressively to contact tracing protocols. 
  • Communicated before the break, the Upper School will run a staggered schedule beginning Tuesday, January 5 (See Upper School Weekly Update). Announcing today, the Upper School will extend the staggered schedule through January 15, reducing the density to 50% during the first two weeks of the new semester. Being the most mobile of any student body, the Upper School has previously had the highest number of cases post similar breaks, and phasing our return to full capacity is warranted. 

As a reminder, whether reporting a positive case or choosing the virtual option, contact Sheldon Staples ([email protected]) in order to support each family and to serve the School with the most up-to-date information during the pandemic.

The first quarter of 2021 will be just as important as when we started the school year in August. During and beyond school hours will continue to require all of us to be disciplined by wearing face coverings, maintaining physical distance, washing hands, and avoiding large gatherings. With collective conviction, thank you for your support during a difficult pandemic period.

In addition to reviewing divisional updates for schedules and logistics for the next several weeks, be sure to download the 2021-2022 School Calendar. We hope this information in advance assists your family in planning a new year.

We look forward to welcoming students back to the School on Tuesday, January 5.

Dr. Brett Jacobsen
CEO & Head of School

December 13 - Enrollment and MVFund

Dear Mount Vernon Family,

As the School is strategically planning and preparing for the next school year, we know you are too. Heading into a two-week break, this week’s message is quick and to the point, a fast facts headlines version.

No Tuition Increase, No Fees

  • The perennial enrollment process for the 2021-2022 school year will occur between January 25 and February 8. More information to come next month.
  • As communicated in The Reunite Series in May 2020, tuition rates will remain the same, no increase, from the 2020-2021 to 2021-2022 school years.
  • The School has eliminated all student fees (technology, athletic, arts, senior, student parking) for the 2021-2022 school year while continuing to provide all programs.

$200K December Challenge

  • Over the next 18 days, the School needs your support to raise $200K by December 31 for the School’s annual giving campaign, MV Fund.
  • A charitable donation is tax-deductible and making an Online Gift is an efficient and secure way to give. Be sure your credit card information with the School is up-to-date.
  • Matching gifts and stock transfers are an option too. Contributing appreciated stock is a popular way to give as it reduces current income tax and capital gains. Indicate your intention to transfer stock via our Securities Transfer Notification Form.

On behalf of the entire faculty and staff at Mount Vernon, we could not be more grateful for your support during a challenging, fluid period of time. Being able to start the school year on time and conduct in-person on campus instruction every week since August has been a major victory and success.

With the upcoming break, we implore your family to take the necessary precautions to maintain a healthy environment beyond the School. Thank you for partnering with us every step of the way.

Hope you and your family have a fun, relaxing, and safe Christmas break,

Dr. Brett Jacoben
CEO & Head of School

December 6 - 2021-2022 School Calendar

Dear Mount Vernon Family,

In this week’s message, I want to take this opportunity to inform you of modifications to the Health & Well-Being Protocols as well as share key calendar dates for the 2021-2022 school year.

COVID Update

Upon returning from the break, the School has been monitoring the potential spread of the virus within our own community. We have had a drop in positive cases on the Upper Campus from the numbers we observed two weeks prior to Thanksgiving. Currently, the Upper School has 4 active student cases, 1 Middle School student case, and 1 Lower Campus case (administrator).

Also, based on recent CDC updates, the School is modifying a number of Health & Wellness protocols consistent with the School’s analysis since August.

  1. If a student or employee tests positive for COVID, student or employee will quarantine at home for 10 days (instead of 14) with the last 24 hours fever-free without fever-reducing medication. However, if COVID symptoms manifest during the 10-day quarantine or persist, student or employee will need to remain at home until symptoms dissipate.
  2. Through contact tracing protocols, students or employees sent home due to direct exposure are able to reduce the quarantine period after 7 days if they receive one negative test or 10 days without testing (instead of 14).
  3. If symptoms emerge at home or at the School, the protocol remains the same: doctor’s verification, one negative test, or 10-day home isolation beginning at the onset of symptoms.

During and beyond school hours requires all of us to be disciplined by wearing face coverings, maintaining physical distance, washing hands, and avoiding large gatherings. Thank you for your support during a difficult stretch of navigating the pandemic.

2021-2022 School Calendar

The School is releasing key calendar dates for the 2021-2022 school year. In many ways, the calendar mirrors the current school calendar — the first day of school is August 10 and the last day is May 26. We hope this information in advance assists your family in planning the year.

2021-2022 Key Calendar Dates

As always, be sure to review divisional updates for schedules and logistics for the next several weeks.

Dr. Brett Jacobsen
CEO & Head of School

November 29 - COVID and IDEA Update

Welcome back from the Thanksgiving break. In light of recent spikes in cases, we hope you had a fun, relaxing, and safe holiday with family.

COVID Update
As we return, the School will be ever vigilant about health protocols, monitoring the potential for exposure and risk of spread of the virus. Coming each day to the School without COVID symptoms and complying with rigorous health and well-being protocols established will allow all four divisions to remain open on a frequent basis. Adhering to the community commitment especially beyond the school day, we are attempting to avoid drastic measures impacting in person on-campus instruction that so many value. The next three weeks in advance of the Christmas break require perseverance and discipline.

IDEA Update
As reported earlier, the School created a partnership with ReadySet, a high-touch boutique consulting firm building human-centered solutions for innovative organizations with diversity, equity and inclusion in mind. ReadySet, as an external partner, will conduct an organizational and school climate assessment, including the following elements: document review, survey, stakeholder interviews, analysis & findings and recommendations. In late October, the ReadySet team started the document review process. Beginning this week, ReadySet will administer a survey released to the Mount Vernon community including current parents, faculty/staff members, and Upper School students. Look out for the climate assessment survey to be completed no later than December 16.

As always, be sure to review divisional updates for schedules and logistics over the next several weeks.

Dr. Brett Jacobsen
CEO & Head of School

November 15 - A Thankful Message

Dear Mount Vernon Family,

During a season of gratitude, thank a teacher/staff member this week. Well before arriving in August, the Mount Vernon faculty and staff have been hard at work planning and preparing for your students while now teaching in a pandemic environment. 

Supporting the social-emotional health and academic needs of students by being in person on-campus has been a stressful and exhausting period — reducing time to plan and collaborate, navigating various schedules, adjusting to students simultaneously in person and at home, learning new technology tools, maintaining healthy conditions in the classroom, and taking care of their own family. In spite of the challenges during the last several months, the faculty and staff at Mount Vernon represent some of the most professional, engaging, caring, innovative, talented, knowledgeable educators around. Beyond measure, I am grateful for them and inspired by their dedication to their students. Join me in expressing your gratitude by reaching out to a staff member. Also, take a moment to check out what our students are thankful for this school year.

With the upcoming Thanksgiving break, we implore your family to take the necessary precautions to maintain a healthy environment beyond the School. Locally and nationally, COVID cases are on the rise. This is not a moment to relax protocols. This is a moment of collective conviction. We are aggressively monitoring the health condition at Mount Vernon and will be required to take drastic measures if necessary. We all have a role to play to mitigate risk and slow the spread of the virus especially beyond the steps taken during the day at the School. We have had a successful year since August. Let’s preserve the time and energy taken to return in person to the School from the beginning of the year.

Have a blessed Thanksgiving,

Dr. Brett Jacobsen
CEO & Head of School

November 8 - COVID Update

Dear Mount Vernon Family

During the past week, I had the opportunity to participate in a workshop led by Drs. David Rubin, Susan Coffin, and Meredith Matone of the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia PolicyLab to gain more insight into what they are now seeing and recommending for schools moving forward during the COVID pandemic. The PolicyLab is one of the largest pediatric research institutes in the country whose mission is to achieve optimal health and well-being by informing program and policy changes through interdisciplinary research.

As many communities around the country are experiencing a new growth phase of positive cases, Dr. Rubin and others reiterated the most common mode of transmission remains through respiratory droplets as well as contamination of hands and hard surfaces. Currently, across both campuses, the School has eight active cases identified in the Upper School, and no positive cases in Preschool, Lower School, and Middle School. Based on 91 Upper School students quarantined due to contract tracing of direct exposure protocols, the School is aggressively monitoring the potential of COVID exposure and spread.

Since we reunited in August, out of 1,175 Early Preschool, Preschool, Lower School, Middle School, and Upper School students, 1% of our student population has tested positive for COVID while 223 students quarantined for direct exposure. Sustaining the strength of multi-layered protocols the School established from the onset of the pandemic — wearing face coverings, maintaining physical distancing, washing hands, contact tracing, ventilation system — will remain a consistent practice for the School moving forward.

The PolicyLab stressed the downfall for many communities is overconfidence. Success breeds a relaxation of protocols, especially beyond school hours. Their research indicates the real link of transmission occurs less often during the school day and as a result, a far greater risk occurs during activities or gatherings beyond the school day. Coming to campus everyday and safeguarding key events and traditional experiences for Mount Vernon students, especially for the Class of 2021, becomes even more challenging.

Since Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays are around the corner where family and friends traditionally gather in larger numbers, we implore each Mount Vernon family to take the necessary precautions during these breaks to maintain a healthy environment beyond the School in order to preserve the time and energy taken to return in person to the School from the beginning of the year. The School will continue to monitor any potential COVID spikes within our own community after each break in order to deploy the right model for the right moment.

As always, be sure to review divisional updates for schedules and logistics over the next several weeks.

Dr. Brett Jacobsen
CEO & Head of School

November 1 - IDEA 100 Days In Review

Dear Mount Vernon Family,

In late July, the School shared a set of action steps, Next 100 Days, committed to advancing inclusion, diversity, equity, and action (IDEA) at Mount Vernon. I want to take this opportunity to summarize the status of each step taken during the previous three months of the school year.

1. Begin inclusion, diversity, and equity assessment through external partner, engaging with Black alumni and parents as well as current students, parents, and staff of color and amplifying their voices within Mount Vernon

The School created a partnership with ReadySet, a high-touch boutique consulting firm building human-centered solutions for innovative organizations with diversity, equity and inclusion in mind. ReadySet, as an external partner, will conduct an organizational and school climate assessment, including the following elements: document review, survey, stakeholder interviews, analysis & findings and recommendations. In late October, the ReadySet team started the document review process and will utilize a climate assessment survey with our community in December and will conduct stakeholder interviews with focus groups in January.

2. Expand Student Code of Conduct to combat and eradicate words of racism and acts of prejudice by developing Expressions, Language & Acts of Racism policy

In August, the School released the Expressions, Language & Acts of Racism policy, expanding the Student Code of Conduct to combat and eradicate words of racism and acts of prejudice. The respective Deans of Student Life within each division and the Director of IDEA created an engaging, interactive workshop with students reviewing the policy. To date, students in grades 4-12 have participated in the workshop. Preschool through grade 3 students are participating in developmentally appropriate activities related to the policy. Additionally, the policy has been reviewed with faculty/staff members within each division. As a reminder, the Expressions, Language & Acts of Racism policy has been inserted into the 2020-2021 Student & Family Handbook and Employee Handbook.

3. Establish an anti-bias and anti-racism framework for students, faculty and staff, and administrators through the School’s Professional Learning Program

Through Mount Vernon’s Research, Design & Iteration (RDI) professional learning program for faculty and staff, the School has created a partnership with iChange Collaborative — an external firm helping “organizations build inclusive cultures, communities of belonging where people feel valued and inspired to do their best work.” iChange Collaborative will be facilitating multiple RDI workshops with the faculty and staff beginning in November and throughout the 2020-2021 school year focused on the diversity imperative, how race identity impacts teaching and learning, disrupting bias, cultivating allies, and leading transformational change. Additionally, the School has participated in a number of internal and external workshops during the first quarter of the year.

4. Form a committee of diverse representation to design and develop an affinity group program

At the end of October, the School has formed a diverse student-facing committee and parent-facing committee of teachers, administrators, counselors, and parents to design and develop a framework for an affinity group program. Beginning in November, the respective committees over the next several months will conduct extensive research of longitudinal studies, expert viewpoints throughout the country, and successful practice in educational organizations and corporate environments. Aligning with the Mount Vernon mission, vision, and values, the respective committee will further clarify the purpose of an affinity program, conduct a SWOT analysis, and identify the conditions and resources needed to run an effective affinity program. At the conclusion of the study, each committee will provide a set of recommendations moving forward.

5. Relaunch 2019-2020 marketing audit through the IDEA lens and develop strategy to attract families of color to meet and exceed diversity goals

The School is committed to strategic shifts in outreach in admissions to increase awareness, engagement, and enrollment of diverse communities within the Atlanta area. At the end of September, the School relaunched the 2019-2020 marketing audit through the inclusion, diversity, equity, and action lens. The leadership of Trustees and the School’s Brand Development Department have conducted a thorough review of last year’s marketing audit and have currently identified several potential external partnerships to assist Mount Vernon over the next several months in developing a specific strategy to attract families of color to exceed diversity goals.

6. Identify four inclusion and diversity coordinators, representing each of the four divisions, to increase diverse representation for curricular and instructional advancement within the School as well as to provide greater support for families of color

The School reported out in early September, the IDEA Department launched an open process for current MV faculty and staff members to express interest in applying for one of the four coordinator positions. Increasing diverse representation, the IDEA divisional coordinators will assist in advancing the curricular and instructional framework of their respective division as well as to provide greater support for families of color within each division. Receiving applications across four divisions, the selection committees in each division worked through an interview process and appointed staff members prior to the end of September. The School is excited to announce the appointment of the following staff members:

Preschool IDEA Coordinator: Molly Collier

Lower School IDEA Coordinator: Taryn Rumph

Middle School IDEA Coordinator: Chaundra Suddith

Upper School IDEA Coordinator: Pamela Villafañe

7. Launch national search for Chief of Inclusion Diversity Equity & Action, reporting directly to the Head of School as a member the senior leadership team

Partnering with a national search firm, Storbeck & Associates, Dr. Sherry Coleman has been named the lead search consultant on this strategic project for the School. During the fall, Dr. Coleman and the Storbrek Team will be conducting a thorough national search process and will be engaging our community in the future. As a starting point of engagement, take a moment to provide feedback through the Community Feedback Form, giving the School additional insight into the leadership role. Your perspective about the School and leadership expectations are important to us in evaluating the potential for a strong response of candidates.

8. Refocus Parent University to provide specific parent programs for inclusion, diversity, and equity

In a complex world of exponential change, the most important thing is to be a learner. Anyone and everyone at or associated with MV is a learner. To continually develop the knowledge, skills, and dispositions to actively design a better world, one must learn to thrive in any context within a diverse network. At Mount Vernon, we call this Parent University. In addition to the rich experiences within each division, we provide school wide opportunities for parents to learn and grow, engaging with national experts and members of the Mount Vernon staff. This year is no exception as we refocus Parent University to provide specific parent programs for inclusion, diversity, equity, and action. The School has been networking with various external partners to provide IDEA parent programming for the 2020-2021 school year.

Parent University Special Topics Series: Cultivating Community Resilience & Belonging

October 28: Screening and panel discussion of the documentary, The Upstanders

November 17: Talking to Children about Race and Racism, Julie Lythcott-Haims — Register HERE.

January 13: Screening and panel discussion of the documentary, Angst

February 9: Parenting through Anxiety and Stress in Children, Dr. Lisa Damour

April 14: Facilitation of the documentary, American Promise

9. Realign counseling services to provide additional support for social-emotional health of students and staff members of color

The School has realigned counseling services to provide additional support for social-emotional health of students and staff members of color. In August, we welcomed Keri Walton to Mount Vernon, joining us from Kennestone Hospital, where she served as the Emergency Room Care Coordinator – Senior Social Worker. She was responsible for providing psychosocial assessment for patients with the appropriate planning for follow up care and collaborated with the interdisciplinary team to provide care and support to the patient and family in a holistic manner. Keri’s knowledge and experience complements our counseling department, especially serving students and staff members of color during an important time within our community. In a short period of time, Keri has made quite an impact on our community.

10.Commit 20% of The Mount Vernon Fund to support inclusion diversity, and equity initiatives

The School reported in August that we have committed 20% of the Mount Vernon Fund, supporting professional learning programs for faculty and staff, IDEA community assessment with an external partner, upcoming workshops for Parent University, and compensating IDEA coordinators representing each of the four divisions. If you have not already given to the MVFund, consider making an Online Gift, an efficient and secure way to give.

11. Design a new IDEA site on the School’s website to amplify action steps, resources, and progress

Mount Vernon designed a new IDEA site on the School’s website, amplifying action steps, resources, and progress as well as creating the ability for community members to share experiences and offer recommendations for future ideas, welcoming every voice.

While the first 100 days of the school year has come to a close, Mount Vernon’s commitment to IDEA is just getting started. Sustaining these action steps will require collective conviction, leaning in together to set a course of bold ideas and approaches to address race and racism within our own community. While we cannot solve the complexities in other school communities, we can focus on Mount Vernon.

Building upon previous steps taken, the School remains dedicated to addressing four key areas — organizational & school climate, learning & well-being, recruitment & retention, and advancement and continuous improvement. Welcoming every voice, please share your experiences, recommendations, and feedback utilizing the IDEA Form to assist the School in examining tangible ways to strengthen a more inclusive future.

Dr. Brett Jacobsen
CEO & Head of School

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October 25 - Community Update

Dear Mount Vernon Family,

Completing our 11th week in person on-campus reflects a community with collective conviction. In many ways it has been incredible to see Preschool through Upper School students engage safely in classroom projects together as well as participate in arts and athletics programs during the first quarter of the year. Collection conviction does not occur without some consequences to our community — exhausted staff members, inability to meet in large groups, and transition of new families meeting others. In a year of sacrifice and service for the benefit of each other, community remains an integral ingredient to the Mount Vernon ethos and is reflected in creative ways noted in this Weekly Update.

Community in Neighborhoods

Extending community beyond our homebase, a herd of  Mustang families are scattered across approximately 60 zip codes. Just like Jordan and Nathan, many of youhave planted in the ground your “Proud to be a Mount Vernon Mustang” sign in respective neighborhoods throughout Atlanta.

Reverberating in these neighborhoods, students are expressing why they are proud to be a Mustang. You often hear “relationships, teachers love us, strong family, people are encouraging and have your back, have more potential here than anywhere else, feels like home, given a lot of opportunities, being a maker, excited to come to school each day, and even playing on the Frontier.” Yes, I would agree with the Frontier comment. Thank you for representing the Mount Vernon community here and in your local neighborhood.

Community with Others

On November 17, three school parent communities — Mount Vernon, Holy Innocents’, and Galloway — will come together for one special night for a virtual learning experience with Julie Lythcott-Haims. Discussing “Talking to Your Kids about Race and Racism,” Julie draws upon her own experiences as a biracial woman to inform and illustrate raising her own children in different ways. Believing in humans and deeply interested in what gets in our way, Julie will spend the evening with parents, engaging in courageous conversations about race and racism while removing the stigma of saying the wrong thing or not having the right answers.

While being a regular contributor to CBS This Morning, Julie is the author of the New York Times bestselling author of How to Raise an Adult along with her award-winning memoir, Real American. Her third book, Your Turn: How to be an Adult, will be released in April 2021. Additionally, Julie is a former corporate lawyer and Stanford dean with a BA from Stanford, a JD from Harvard, and MFA in Writing from California College of the Arts.

Register HERE.

Community & Safety

The School is excited to announce the appointment of Russ Malsnee as the Director of Security for Mount Vernon, reporting to the CFO’s Office. Highly recommended, Russ has served The Lovett School for the previous 12 years as the Assistant Director of Safety & Security, managing 13 full time and 33 part-time security staff members. Russ is a highly trained security professional with multiple certifications in tactical emergency medical care, preparedness planning and protection response, and crisis management. Additionally, he holds a bachelor’s and master’s in business administration and management from Kennesaw State University. Beginning November 2, Russ will oversee all of our security and safety services at the School, including collaborating directly with the Sandy Springs Police Department (SSPD) as the officers direct traffic before and after school, attend major school events, and assist vital security drills and planning throughout the year. We are grateful for the more than 20-year relationship and look forward to their continued support and partnership for many years to come. Join me in welcoming Russ to the Mount Vernon community.

Moving forward, the School is continually seeking other creative ways to cultivate community in spite of COVID limitations. Take a moment to complete the Building MV Community brief questionnaire to assist us in this endeavor.

Dr. Brett Jacobsen
CEO & Head of School

October 18 - Chief of IDEA Community Feedback Form

Dear Mount Vernon Family,

Heading into this week, I want to take this opportunity to share a brief message with you regarding COVID and IDEA.

COVID Update
Since reopening the School in August, the epidemiological reports have reflected a decline in new COVID cases in Fulton County and DeKalb County. However, most recently, new cases have started to increase across these two major counties. Monitoring this development, it is a good reminder during school hours and for families beyond the school day to sustain key protocols of wearing face coverings, washing hands frequently, and maintaining physical distance. Currently, across both campuses, the School has only two active cases (less than 0.02%) identified in the Upper School, and those two members of our community naturally return from quarantining the early part of the upcoming week. Entering Week 10, I encourage all of us to continue to play our part in mitigating the spread of the virus, so we can be at the School on-campus together for many weeks to come.

IDEA Community Feedback Form
Recently, Mount Vernon announced a partnership with Storbeck & Associates to conduct a national search for the position of Chief of Inclusion, Diversity, Equity & Action, reporting directly to the Head of School (see September 13 Community Weekly Update). As a starting point of engagement, take a moment this week to provide feedback through the Community Feedback Form, giving the School additional insight into the leadership role. Your perspective about the School and leadership expectations are important to us in evaluating the potential for a strong response of candidates.

As always, be sure to review divisional updates for schedules and logistics over the next several weeks.

Dr. Brett Jacobsen
CEO & Head of School

October 11 - IDEA Update

Dear Mount Vernon Family,

Since August, the School has reported periodic progress towards fulfilling the Next 100 Days Action Steps, advancing inclusion, diversity, equity, and action (IDEA) at Mount Vernon. Today, the School is sharing the development of three of the remaining four action steps focused on collaborating with external partnerships: organizational assessment, professional learning program, and marketing audit.

Action Step: Organizational & School Climate Assessment. The School is announcing its partnership with ReadySet, a high-touch boutique consulting firm building human-centered solutions for innovative organizations with diversity, equity and inclusion in mind. ReadySet, as an external partner, will conduct an organizational and school climate assessment, including the following elements: document review, survey, stakeholder interviews, analysis & findings and recommendations. According to ReadySet, the assessment will begin this month and will conclude early spring, assisting us to establish goals to build a more inclusive future.

Action Step: Anti-Bias and Anti-Racist Framework for Professional Learning Program. Through Mount Vernon’s Research, Design & Iteration (RDI) professional learning program for faculty and staff, the School has created a partnership with iChange Collaborative — an external firm helping “organizations build inclusive cultures, communities of belonging where people feel valued and inspired to do their best work.” iChange Collaborative will be facilitating several RDI workshops with the faculty and staff throughout the 2020-2021 school year focused on the diversity imperative, how race identity impacts teaching and learning, disrupting bias, cultivating allies, and learning transformational change. As a school of inquiry, innovation, and impact, we actively seek ways to learn and to grow.

Action Step: Marketing Audit. The School is committed to strategic shifts in outreach in admissions to increase awareness, engagement, and enrollment of diverse communities within the Atlanta area. At the end of September, the School relaunched the 2019-2020 marketing audit through the inclusion, diversity, equity, and action lens. The leadership of Trustees and the School’s Brand Development Department have conducted a thorough review of last year’s marketing audit and is currently identifying an external partnership to assist Mount Vernon over the next several months in developing a specific strategy to attract families of color to exceed diversity goals.

Towards the end of October, the School will report on the remaining item for Next 100 Day Action Steps and provide a summary and review of all 11 priorities, while sustaining our commitment for the months and years to come.

Dr. Brett Jacobsen
CEO & Head of School

October 4 - IDEA Update | Learn, Serve, Give

At Mount Vernon, we believe the more engaged and connected our families are, the stronger our community. As an ongoing campaign, we ask our families to Learn, Serve, and Give to reinvest in the School, thereby enriching each student’s experience from Preschool through Upper School.

LEARN
In a complex world of exponential change, the most important thing is to be a learner. Anyone and everyone at or associated with MV is a learner. To continually develop the knowledge, skills, and dispositions to actively design a better world, one must learn to thrive in any context within a diverse network. At Mount Vernon, we call this Parent University. In addition to the rich experiences within each division, we provide school wide opportunities for parents to learn and grow, engaging with national experts and members of the Mount Vernon staff. This year is no exception as we refocus Parent University to provide specific parent programs for inclusion, diversity, equity, and action (Next 100 Days Action Steps).

Parent University Special Topics Series: Cultivating Community Resilience & Belonging
October 28: Screening and panel discussion of the documentary, The Upstanders
November 17: Talking to Children about Race and Racism, Julie Lythcott-Haims
January 13: Screening and panel discussion of the documentary, Angst
February 9: Parenting through Anxiety and Stress in Children, Dr. Lisa Damour
April 14: Facilitation of the documentary, American Promise

SERVE
Our parents are uniquely positioned to provide authentic real-world input and feedback to our students by volunteering and serving. In order to equip this generation of students with the skills needed to succeed in college and beyond, we believe it is our responsibility to set the conditions for learners to interact with business and civic leaders, c-suite executives, entrepreneurs, service providers, and various professionals in a wide variety of industries to exchange ideas, co-create, and receive feedback on work initiatives.

  • Participate in a Design Brief: Does your organization have a challenge that needs a solution? This could be a weeks- or months-long collaboration with a group of students.
  • Provide an Internship opportunity: This could be an intermittent relationship with a student during the school year, interim week, or summer.
  • Serve on a panel to offer feedback and evaluate work that students are doing.
  • Consult students of any age within your area of expertise, as they go through discovery.
  • Host a virtual expeditionary learning experience: Escort a group of students virtually through your place of business as they conduct field work.

Take a moment to complete the MVxpert form, indicating your interest in serving the School in this capacity.

GIVE
The School’s annual giving campaign, MVFund, is paramount in an unprecedented pandemic year. Gifts to the MVFund are tax-deductible and close the gap between the necessities funded by tuition and the extra resources that are essential to the Mount Vernon education and experience. Your investment makes a direct impact on the School, empowering our teachers with the training and resources to be agile and impactful in a dynamic learning environment; strategically investing in resources that can protect and promote the health and wellbeing of our community- teachers, staff, students, and families; elevating and enabling Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Action (IDEA) initiatives; and supporting our athletic teams and arts programs as they reimagine their unique school experience and adhere to stringent safety protocols.

Making an Online Gift is an efficient way and secure way to give. Thank you in advance for supporting the students and staff at Mount Vernon.

In advance, thank you for committing yourself to learn, serve, and give. Living life together as a community, we all benefit from it.

Dr. Brett Jacobsen
CEO & Head of School

September 27 - Fostering Civil Discourse

Dear Mount Vernon Family,

This past week, the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) highlighted Mount Vernon in a recent article, “Fostering Civil Discourse in a Time of Polarity,” connecting Stanford University’s d.School with Mount Vernon’s deep roots in design thinking at the intersection of the upcoming national election.

Vote by Design’s inquiry-driven, collaborative approach intrigued Bo Adams, chief learning officer at The Mount Vernon School (GA), which was one of the first NAIS schools to run a session in one of its classrooms. Vote by Design aligned with the school’s philosophy of “inquiry, innovation, and impact.” Adams says: “We have a desire to look at how things are designed, and how they can be designed better. The vote is one of the most important design processes that we have, especially in a democracy.”

In spring 2020, when the school shifted to remote learning, Adams enlisted humanities teacher Ben Potter to bring a digital version of Vote by Design into his “History of Now” classes. “As a humanities teacher, I’ve always been in search of the immediate applicability of disciplinary knowledge,” Potter says. “A lot of my teaching career has been asking how to make this stuff useful to students.”

NAIS, September 22, 2020, “Fostering Civil Discourse in a Time of Polarity”

In my 25th year in the education sector, I have observed over time a deeper polarization of thought in our country, debilitating robust debate and dialogue and weakening an important democratic concept of civil discourse. And, as an educator and former AP American history teacher, it has become a challenge to have courageous conversations around demanding topics in our society. Therefore, it brings me great joy to see how the School is being highlighted around the country and to observe first-hand how our faculty and staff are confronting this challenge to equip this generation of students with the most relevant tools required to design innovative solutions around complex solutions of the day.

Even in a time of polarity, we are one school community made up of many voices. More than 1,100 students, 200 faculty/staff members, and 700 families arrive at Mount Vernon each day with a story, an identity, and a set of values. No one should leave that at the doorstep of “a school of inquiry, innovation, and impact.” Mount Vernon’s mission welcomes all learners to wrestle with voices and perspectives that challenge us to grow and to continually develop the knowledge, skills, and dispositions to actively design a better world.

As classrooms of students and teachers at Mount Vernon discover ways to navigate the messiness and polarity of local, state and national elections around the corner, the School’s role is not to shape a student body around a certain political ideology or affiliation, but to reflect our mission and provide guidance on how to engage thoughtfully and productively in our democratic process. One of our greatest contributions as leaders is to provide an environment to assist in developing compassionate, influential, and engaged citizen leaders — they are givers rather than takers, they serve rather than be served, they build up rather than tear down, and they step up rather than stand down.

Honoring and respecting one another, regardless of identity and background, empowers members of our community to realize their full potential, to engage meaningfully in life, and to leave at the end of each day with their humanity fully intact.

Dr. Brett Jacobsen
CEO & Head of School

September 20 - Schedule Update Through October

Entering Week 7, I want to take this opportunity to provide a COVID and schedule update. Making it to this point has been a significant success marker for the School. The collective conviction of faculty/staff, students, and parents has been incredible to observe since August. Thank you.

COVID Update
Week 6 presented a few bumps along the way. In addition to the power outage on Lower Campus and tree obstruction along Mount Vernon Highway, this past week, the Upper School was notified of three positive COVID cases and the Middle School two cases. All students have been quarantined with a marginal number of students in home isolation with direct exposure based on the School’s contact tracing protocol. The School has no reason to believe any of the students contracted COVID at Mount Vernon nor are they connected to each other. On the Lower Campus, there are no known COVID cases to date.

This moment requires us to be ever vigilant about sustaining the School’s Health & Well-Being Protocols — face coverings, washing hands, and maintaining physical distancing. Coming each day to the School without COVID symptoms and complying with rigorous protocols established allows all four divisions to remain open on a frequent basis. I caution all of us to take the necessary steps to maintain a healthy environment beyond the School in order to preserve the time and energy taken to return in-person to the School from the beginning of the year.

Schedule Update
The School will be extending half-day Fridays through the month of October. Additionally, the School will run a half-day schedule on November 3, Election Day, in order to provide the faculty and staff ample opportunity to vote during COVID constraints.

Beginning Friday, November 6, students in all divisions will attend school according to their respective full day schedule on Fridays. Being on the front lines, half-day Fridays has allowed the faculty and staff more flexibility during a stressful and exhausting transition for them. Take a moment and express your gratitude to a Mount Vernon faculty or staff member. Working around the clock on behalf of our students, we are grateful for their service and dedication.

As always, be sure to review divisional updates for schedules and logistics over the next several weeks.

Dr. Brett Jacobsen
CEO & Head of School

September 13 - Well-Being and IDEA Update

Dear Mount Vernon Family,

Entering week 6, I want to take this opportunity to thank the Mount Vernon parent community. The outpouring of support while transitioning in phases has made a significant impact on the success of the first part of the year. Thank you. Now take a moment to read this week’s update regarding Well-Being & IDEA.

PROMOTING WELL-BEING

Since the beginning of the year, the School has been intently focused on sustaining Health Protocols — washing hands, wearing face coverings, and maintaining physical distancing — to mitigate COVID risks while being together. Equally important, the social, emotional, and spiritual health of our students, staff, and community is one of our highest priorities during this unprecedented, evolving situation. A daily school routine for connecting with teachers and students increases feelings of safety and security, and therefore, the School will continue to cultivate time and space for students and staff members to reflect, interact, and process their experiences throughout this journey. Take a moment to allow Mount Vernon’s Counseling Services Team to introduce themselves. On both the Lower Campus and Upper Campus, they are ready to serve and support our community during the 2020-2021 school year.  

IDEA UPDATE

On August 16 and September 8, Mount Vernon reported out on five of the eleven Next 100 Days IDEA Action Steps. In this Weekly Update message, the School is reporting out another IDEA action step with the Mount Vernon community, “launching a national search for Chief of Inclusion Diversity Equity & Action, reporting directly to the Head of School.”

Partnering with a national search firm, Storbeck & Associates, Dr. Sherry Coleman has been named the lead search consultant on this strategic project for the School. Receiving her doctorate from University of Pennsylvania, Dr. Coleman has had an extensive career and experiences at the PS-12 and post-secondary levels, working with a variety of colleges and schools throughout the country and building a comprehensive diverse network. Additionally, Dr. Coleman has been recognized throughout the country for her leadership in advancing inclusion, diversity, and equity, notably being a past recipient of the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) Diversity Leadership Award. As a former resident in Georgia, she is very familiar with the Atlanta independent school market.

During the fall, Dr. Coleman and the Storbrek Team will be conducting a thorough national search process and will be engaging our community in the future. Look for opportunities moving forward.

Additionally, at the end of August, members of the School administrative team attended the Cultural Competency Institute hosted by the Multicultural Resource Center at the Association of Delaware Valley Independent Schools. Workshops included engaging in difficult conversations, anti-racism curriculum development, and inclusive classroom practices.

Finally, be sure to review divisional updates for schedules and logistics over the next several weeks.

Dr. Brett Jacobsen
CEO & Head of School

September 6 - Pre-screening Process and IDEA Update

Dear Mount Vernon Family,

Hope the long weekend break came at the right time for you and your family. Heading into week 5, sustaining the Health & Well-Being Protocols are essential to being on-campus together. Thank you for reminding your students about complying with face coverings, physical distancing, and daily hygiene.

COVID PRE-SCREENING PROCESS UPDATE
Beginning September 8, Mount Vernon will implement a new pre-screening process. While the School will continue to take temperatures of students in carpool, you will be able to complete the short Pre-screening Protocol daily before arriving at the School. Each day, parents will be required to utilize the COVID pre-screening link, complete the short questionnaire, and indicate approval by visibly displaying your smartphone to School officials while in the carpool line. If you have more than one student, you will be able to enter multiple names, regardless of division/campus. If you carpool with another family, non-family members will go through the current pre-screening process. Upper School student drivers and students riding bikes to the School will adhere to the current pre-screening process at the School. Check out a short Pre-Screening video to assist you. 

IDEA UPDATE
On August 16, Mount Vernon reported out on four of the eleven Next 100 Days IDEA Action Steps. Today, the School is sharing another IDEA action step with the Mount Vernon community, “identifying four inclusion, diversity, equity & action coordinators, representing each of the four divisions.” During September, the IDEA Department has launched an open process for current MV faculty and staff members to express interest in applying for one of the four coordinator positions. Increasing diverse representation, the IDEA divisional coordinators will assist in advancing the curricular and instructional framework of respective division as well as to provide greater support for families of color within each division. The School will name the appointed staff members by the end of September if not before.

As a reminder, the School has designed a new IDEA site on the School’s website, amplifying action steps, resources, and progress as well as creating the ability for community members to share experiences and offer recommendations for future ideas, welcoming every voice.

Finally, be sure to review divisional updates for schedules and logistics over the next several weeks, including half-schedules on Fridays.

Dr. Brett Jacobsen
CEO & Head of School

August 30 - Post Labor Day Plan

Dear Mount Vernon Family,

This past week, the School scaled up, adding more students and serving lunch for the first time, while continuing to monitor the Health & Well-Being Protocols established by the School. Taking a phased approach has been both affirming and successful. Closing in on a month of in-person on-campus instruction has reunited our community and has come with its challenges too. Overall, the School is pleased with the launch of the 2020-2021 school year and the compliance of the Mount Vernon community with health protocols.

In a year of service and sacrifice, a collective conviction will continue to be essential to our success of being together each and every day. As a result, heading into a long weekend break, I caution all of us to take the necessary steps to maintain a healthy environment beyond the School in order to sustain the time and energy taken to return in-person to the School from the beginning of the year.

New Pre-Screening Process

Beginning September 8, Mount Vernon will implement a new pre-screening process. While the School will continue to take temperatures of students in carpool, you will be able to complete the short pre-screening questionnaire daily before arriving at the School. Each day, parents will be required to utilize the COVID pre-screening link, complete the short questionnaire, and indicate approval by visibly displaying your smartphone to School officials while in the carpool line. If you have more than one student, you will be able to enter multiple names, regardless of division/campus. If you carpool with another family, non-family members will go through the current pre-screening process. Upper School student drivers and students riding bikes to the School will adhere to the current pre-screening process at the School. Link and tutorial will be provided in advance of September 8.

School Schedule & Division Updates

Grateful for the unconditional commitment of the Mount Vernon faculty and staff. Reopening the School during COVID while monitoring Health & Well-Being Protocols has required them to take on additional assignments, duties, and responsibilities leaving very little margin to plan and prep. In addition, teaching students simultaneously in the classroom and virtually while wearing face coverings has been at times a stressful and exhausting experience. Therefore, beginning the week of September 8, every Friday during the month of September and possibly October, each division will run a half-day Friday schedule, providing additional time for the faculty and staff. Be sure to check out division messages for the upcoming weeks.

Hope you and your family have a fun and relaxing long weekend.

Dr. Brett Jacobsen
CEO & Head of School

August 23 - COVID Update & Reminders

Dear Mount Vernon Family,

After being separated from the School for five months, the School welcomed a record enrollment of 1,116 students to the Lower Campus and Upper Campus to begin the 2020-2021 school year. Thank you for the overwhelming support from the Mount Vernon parent community and the unconditional commitment from the faculty and staff, successfully navigating the first two weeks. Arriving at this moment, it has required a collective conviction. Everyday is truly a small victory of being together.

COVID Update & Reminders

Since the first day of the year on August 11/12, all protocols have been monitored and reviewed daily to analyze if we need to make modifications. Students, teachers, and families have remained in compliance with face coverings, hygiene, and physical distancing. Additionally, the Clean Star and facilities teams have done a great job cleaning thoroughly during the day and deep cleaning in the evening.

Sustaining the Health & Well-Being Protocols established by the School is more critical than ever. All parents, students, and staff members continue to play a vital role in and responsibility to mitigate risk and slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus. Coming each day to the School without COVID symptoms and complying with rigorous health and well-being protocols established will allow all four divisions to remain open on a frequent basis short of a shelter-in-place mandate. Adhering to the community commitment, we are attempting to fulfill every protocol, avoiding drastic measures impacting the School and our community.

As a reminder, if COVID-like symptoms arise at home or outside of Mount Vernon, keep your student at home and seek attention from a medical provider. In order to return to the School, you will need to provide the School with proper documentation. Note: If your student is absent due to a COVID-like symptom, contact the COVID Information Line or COVID Information Email established by the School. For convenience, the School has provided a COVID eFax LIne that can be provided to medical professionals if necessary to transfer documentation directly to the School.

COVID Contact Information

COVID Information Line: 678.515.4891
COVID Information Email: Sheldon Staples, [email protected]
COVID eFax Line: 404.591.1441

Division Updates

Upcoming weeks 3-4, the School will be scaling up the number of students on each campus, while monitoring protocols, testing virtual models, and staggering students. Check out your respective division letters to learn more about the end of August and post Labor Day schedules on the Lower Campus and Upper Campus. In a shifting public health environment while monitoring compliance of health and well-being protocols from the Mount Vernon community, the School will continue to make adjustments moving forward and provide you with advance notification of modifications as more information becomes available to the School.

In a year of sacrifice and service, thank you again for partnering with us, taking the protocols seriously, and reuniting our community in a safe and healthy way.

Dr. Brett Jacobsen
CEO & Head of School

August 16 - IDEA Update

Dear Mount Vernon Family,

Thank you for your partnership navigating the most unusual first week in Mount Vernon history. Thank you for your patience and flexibility with symptom checks, modified schedules, and longer carpool lines. Monitoring quality of the School’s protocols, we will continue to make modifications and adjustments along the way. Each day is a small victory we have being together in-person on-campus.

Fulfilling Mount Vernon’s Next 100 Days commitment to advancing inclusion, diversity, equity, and action (IDEA), the School is reporting out on four of the eleven action steps:

    1. Action Step — Expressions, Language & Acts of Racism: Today, the School is releasing the Expressions, Language, & Acts of Racism policy, expanding the Student Code of Conduct to combat and eradicate words of racism and acts of prejudice. While each division will review with students in a developmentally appropriate manner, please take time to discuss with your students.
    2. Action Step — Counseling Services: The School has realigned counseling services to provide additional support for social-emotional health of students and staff members of color. We are excited about announcing the arrival of Keri Walton. Keri joins us from Kennestone Hospital, where she served as the Emergency Room Care Coordinator – Senior Social Worker. She was responsible for providing psychosocial assessment for patients with the appropriate planning for follow up care and collaborated with the interdisciplinary team to provide care and support to the patient and family in a holistic manner. Prior to Kennestone, Keri worked as the Social Services Supervisor and Lead Social Services Case Manager at the Georgia Department of Family and Children Services (DFCS), PRN Pediatric Oncology/Hospital Social Worker at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta at Scottish Rite, and Family Services Coordinator at Childkind Inc. Keri’s knowledge and experience will complement our counseling department, especially serving students and staff members of color during an important time within our community. We are thrilled to have her join the team as we reunite. Please join me in welcoming Keri, her husband Octavius, and her daughters to the Mount Vernon family.
    3. Action Step — IDEA Funding: Mount Vernon has committed 20% of the Mount Vernon Fund, supporting professional learning programs for faculty and staff, IDEA community assessment with an external partner, upcoming workshops for Parent University, and compensating IDEA coordinators representing each of the four divisions.
    4. Action Step — IDEA Webpage: Mount Vernon designed a new IDEA site on the School’s website, amplifying action steps, resources, and progress as well as creating the ability for community members to share experiences and offer recommendations for future ideas, welcoming every voice.

Beyond the Next 100-Day commitment to IDEA, the School remains dedicated to addressing four key areas — organizational & school climate, learning & well-being, recruitment & retention, and advancement and continuous improvement. For example, the Mount Vernon Board of Trustees recently incorporated the IDEA Statement into the School’s By-Laws, each of the four divisions conducted pre-planning IDEA workshops, and the Upper School Prefects and Middle School and Upper School staff leaders will conduct training with the Anti-Defamation League on Monday, August 17.

Being agents of change is a continuous journey. Accomplishing other action steps moving forward will require collective conviction, while leaning in together to set a course of bold ideas and approaches to address race and racism within our own community. And when we do, we will empower all people, regardless of identity and background, to realize their full potential, engage meaningfully in life, and leave at the end of each day with their humanity fully intact.

Dr. Brett Jacobsen
CEO and Head of School

August 11 - Dr. Jacobsen’s Convocation Message

Dear Mount Vernon Family,

Each year we gather together as a PS-12 community to celebrate and launch a new year at the School’s annual Convocation Ceremony. While COVID may prevent us from coming together corporately this year, Audrey O’Toole, Upper School Head Prefect, and I want to take this opportunity to deliver our message to you in a different version of Convocation. In addition to sharing the focus for the year, take a moment to watch how we are honoring one of our own in a unique way.

Also, a special shout-out goes to the faculty and staff at Mount Vernon. Preparing for students to return in the current health environment, they are on the front-lines engaging, encouraging, and challenging your students to be college ready, globally competitive, and engaged citizens leaders. Send a message of gratitude for their service to the School.

In addition to the extensive preparation for teaching & learning, there are a number of special shout-outs that I would like to make specific to the infrastructure side of the School. Please join me in thanking them for their hard work on our behalf, prioritizing the health & well-being of our community.

Thank you to the Maker Team for working more than 800 hours this summer, dedicating time, energy, and creativity to prepare MV for the new year by designing, building, and delivering plexiglass stations within every division on both the Lower Campus and Upper Campus, face shields, and visual cue dots in order to mitigate risk on a daily basis.

Thank you to the Finance, Operations, Facilities, and MVVentures Teams for working directly with staff members to address concerns and needs; and securing 300,000 CDC certified face coverings, 500 face shields, 150,000 disposable protective gloves, 2,000 disposable protective gowns, 7 atomizers, 100 infrared thermometers, and 6 touchless temperature kiosks; re-engineering the HVAC system; budgeting to hire permanent substitutes for both campuses; hiring additional staff to clean each building throughout the day in addition to deep cleaning each night; installing 21 touchless water fountains throughout both campuses; moving boxes, furniture, and resources as a number of staff members have changed spaces in order to spread classes out.

Thank you to the Extended Play Team for Faculty Kids Camp during pre-planning workshops as well as supporting our colleagues with children in public school.

Thank you to the Informational Technology and Technology Integration Teams for planning throughout the summer months to deepen our infrastructure – purchased 150 iPads, 100 iPad tripods and microphones to improve classroom dialogue and on-line learning; invested in the Schools network to increase campus-wide network performance from 1 gigabit to 10 gigabits, readying the School for this year and for many years to come; built a personalized playlist of technology integration training lessons; and spent many hours working directly with teachers and administrators on specific needs.

Thank you to the nurses and the Mount Vernon Response Team (medical professionals within Mount Vernon Community including representatives from a public health official, pediatrician, higher ed infectious disease administrator, ER physician, and cardiologist) for designing guidelines, providing recommendations, and feedback to the Health & Well-Being protocols in order to monitor illness, promote daily hygiene, maintaining physical distancing, evaluating restrictions, prioritizing facility spaces and supplies, and supporting well-being.

Thank you to the Brand Team and Community Development Team for designing and installing visual cues, traffic flow signs, and safety measures as well as designing and launching a new dedicated website for IDEA, COVID, weekly updates and school calendar.

Thank you to the Athletic Department and Trainers for working directly with our students working as a representative sample of analysis, modifications, and compliance around health & well-being protocols.

Thank you to the FLIK team for establishing strict health and safety guidelines to prepare and deliver lunches to more than 1,300 students and staff members on a daily basis.

I am grateful, as many of these teams have been working 6-7 days a week for many months, preparing for your arrival and our community next week.

Finally, thank you to the Mount Vernon parent community, partnering with us to educate your students. Thank you for your engagement during a complex time of decision making. We could not have made it to this moment without your support.

Sacrificing and serving, may we cultivate growth and resilience during the 2020-2021 school year.

Dr. Brett Jacobsen
CEO & Head of School

August 4 - Reunite: 20-21 Handbook Addendum, Acknowledgement Form, and Class Schedule

Dear Mount Vernon Family,

During the last two weeks, the School has been able to share the Health and Well-Being Protocols for the 2020-2021 school year as well as the Teaching & Learning Models deployed for the first four weeks. As indicated, we recognize this schedule may not be optimal, but the beginning of the year must be managed with utmost care and intentionality, considering the range of factors to make any decision. Phasing in the school year will require deliberate, incremental steps to manage quality control of mitigation protocols, especially under the current health conditions in the greater Atlanta area, with the hope to scale moving forward.

Community Commitment

A student and faculty/staff member must be able to acknowledge before coming to the School on August 11/12:

  • I am symptom-free
  • I have not been diagnosed with COVID-19 in the past 14 days
  • I have not been in contact with anyone diagnosed with COVID-19 in the past 14 days

Entering the School in advance of the first day or during the year, all students and faculty/staff must be symptom-free. At any time, Mount Vernon will not differentiate one symptom from another based on the list of COVID-like symptoms designated by the CDC. We must treat all of them the same. Therefore, if your student has any symptom, it is expected that you will keep your child at home in order to protect teachers and fellow classmates. If your student has been diagnosed with COVID or has had direct exposure to a person diagnosed with COVID, contact the School immediately and do not send your student to the School.

Student & Family Handbook Addendum

In addition to the Student & Family Handbook, 2020-2021 released in early June, be sure to review the Student & Family Handbook Addendum, covering many of the protocols and procedures previously discussed. It is important for every family to complete the accompanying Acknowledgement Form in advance of the first day of the school year. Completing the form allows each student to begin on August 11/12.

Health & Well-Being Webinar and FAQ

Thank you for the range of questions and perspectives you provided to [email protected] As a follow up, take time to watch the Health & Well-Being Webinar, giving more context to the protocols established to mitigate the risk and slow the spread of the virus. Accompanying the webinar is Reunite: Health & Well-Being FAQ, trending questions from our community and School responses. If you have specific divisional/grade-level procedural inquiries, do not hesitate to reach out to your respective division at the School.

Division Updates

The focus of the division updates for this week includes student schedules, first two week designations, back to school checklist, first day of school information, and orientation.

The beginning of the 2020-2021 school year is only one week away. Coming each day to the School without COVID symptoms and complying with rigorous health and well-being protocols established will allow all four divisions to remain open on a frequent basis. We are attempting to fulfill every measure, avoiding drastic measures impacting the School and our community.

Thank you for partnering with us on this unpredictable journey this year. In spite of the sacrifice, I hope we find joy through serving one another, resilience through overcoming challenging circumstances, and growth through finding solutions to complex problems.

Let’s Reunite,

Dr. Brett Jacobsen
CEO & Head of School

July 30 - Reunite: Back-to-School Schedule

Dear Mount Vernon Community,

Entering my 25th year in the education sector, I have never encountered a more complex, challenging time than the one we find ourselves in this year. In an unprecedented period of transition, our community has been separated for five months, yearning to reunite yet anxiously observing the spread of the virus locally and nationally. Arriving at this moment is challenging for any school leader, stewarding a community during a shifting health environment.

Collectively, all parents, students, and staff members have a role and responsibility to mitigate risk and slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus. Coming each day to the School without COVID symptoms and complying with rigorous health and well-being protocols established will allow all four divisions to remain open on a frequent basis short of a shelter-in-place mandate. We are attempting to fulfill every measure, avoiding drastic measures impacting the School and our community.

Since releasing the Reunite Series in May, Mount Vernon has been refining the health and well-being protocols, reflected in last week’s communication, and designing multiple teaching and learning models varying for Preschool through Upper School. As a result, the School has considered a range of interconnected factors when deploying in-person or virtual models for the 2020-2021 school year.

Factors include recommendations of public health officials, governmental mandates, mitigation protocols, county and city infection rates, high risk and underlying health conditions of faculty/staff and students, social-emotional well-being, parent investment, targeted instructional and curricular framework, facility infrastructure, campus considerations and coordination, extent of community spread, contact tracing, and compliance with health and well-being protocols.

Recognizing the fluid, current public health environment, Mount Vernon will take a methodical approach to reopen the School in August. In order to reunite in the safest way possible, the first four weeks of the year will focus on the following:

  • Relationships. Our students and faculty/staff have not met in a classroom since March due to the global pandemic. We acknowledge the social-emotional importance of students, especially new students to Mount Vernon, connecting with teachers and classmates in-person in advance of a turbulent year of intermittent interruptions.
  • Training & Quality Control. Mitigating risk will require developmentally appropriate training of the health and well-being protocols for all students. Successfully implementing these measures at the beginning in a thorough and thoughtful way will require time and attention in each division.
  • Orientation. Orientation will become a part of the year rather than in advance of the first day, and each division will dedicate the beginning to review procedures, student schedules, technology, standards of conduct, and programs of study specific to respective grade-level.
  • Foundational Skills. Finishing the 2019-2020 school year virtually along with the summer months, assessing and deepening foundational skills in all divisions will be prioritized.
  • Model Assessment. Responding to public health conditions, the School has designed agile, flexible models with multiple variations by division, campus, and school. During the first month, we will be testing key in-person and virtual models in preparation of a turbulent year.
  • Reduced Size. Being away for five months, implementing quality control health and well-being protocols, and recognizing the current health environment we are in, the School for the first two weeks will reduce the size of each division by 50% requiring a group of students in the morning and another group of students in the afternoon.

Based on the nature of the health crisis and the focus of the first four weeks of the school year, Mount Vernon is releasing a broad overview of the School schedule for the month of August. We recognize this schedule may not be optimal, but the beginning of the year must be managed with utmost care and intentionality, considering the range of factors to make any decision.

As a reminder, the first day of the 2020-2021 school year for Lower School and Middle School is August 11, while Preschool and Upper School students will begin on August 12.

Weeks 1 & 2 – August 11/12 – August 21

Early Preschool/Preschool – 5-Day Model

  • Early Preschool and Preschool will attend classes in-person Monday through Friday with an adjusted schedule (8:00-11:45).
  • On August 4, class lists will be released.
  • Extended Play will not be available for Preschool students in August (except for MV staff).
  • For more information, see your respective division page at MV Parent Website.

Lower School/Middle School/Upper School – 5-Day Model

  • Kindergarten – Grade 12 students will attend half-day classes in-person Monday through Friday, either from 8:00-11:15 or 12:30-3:45.
  • On August 4, class lists will be released, indicating assigned morning or afternoon designations.
  • Especially for younger students, the School does not intend to shift the teaching and learning responsibility to parents under this schedule, only an extension of learning.
  • Extended Play will not be available for K-8 students in August (except for MV staff).
  • For more information, see your respective division page at MV Parent Website.

Weeks 3 & 4 – August 24 – September 4

Early Preschool/Preschool – 5-Day Model

  • Early Preschool and Preschool will attend classes in-person Monday through Friday with an adjusted schedule (8:00-11:45).
  • Extended Play will not be available for Preschool students in August (except for MV staff).
  • For more information, see your respective division page at MV Parent Website.

Lower School/Middle School – 4-Day Model

  • Lower School and Middle School will attend classes 4 days, all-day (8:00-3:00) in-person and 1-day virtually. Continuing to reduce the size by building/division at any given time, the virtual days will be staggered by grade-level for both divisions.
  • All virtual days will be synchronous.
  • Extended Play will not be available for PS-8 students in August (except for MV staff).
  • For more information, see your respective division page at MV Parent Website.

Upper School – Staggered Model

  • Upper School students will utilize a staggered 3-day, all-day (8:30-3:00) in-person and 2-day virtual schedule.
  • All virtual days will be a synchronous, all-day schedule.
  • For more information, see your respective division page at MV Parent Website.

Virtual Option. For students with underlying health conditions or who do not feel comfortable returning under the current pandemic conditions, the School has developed a robust and purposeful learning experience while at home. In real time, students from home will be able to sync into their “live” classroom experience with teachers and classmates at the School and/or will be provided recorded content and experiences as well. Should you have concerns about returning to the School, please contact Sheldon Staples at [email protected]

After Labor Day, the School will continue to assess the health pandemic conditions and provide the right model for all divisions, seeking to return to full capacity. As more information is available to the School, we will be communicating weekly through the dedicated parent website.

Finally, thank you for taking the time to submit health and well-being protocol questions to Mount Vernon. As promised, next week the School will provide a webinar addressing trending questions. An FAQ sheet accompanying the webinar will be shared with our community as an additional resource.

On behalf of everyone at the School, we are grateful for your support during a complex decision making process. Never more of a time to protect each other and support each other than right now.

Dr. Brett Jacobsen
CEO & Head of School