October 25, 2020

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

Division Updates

Resources

COVID Contact Info

COVID Information Line: 678.515.4891
COVID Information Email: Sheldon Staples
COVID eFax Line: 404.591.1441

Communication Archive

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