Dear KMS Families:
It has been exactly two months since we made the decision to close the KMS campus and send our students home. As difficult as this decision was, it was the right thing to do; although, at the time we did not anticipate remaining closed for the year. Not being able to see everyone again hurts. Not being able to say a proper goodbye to our departing Seniors doesn’t feel right. We miss our students, and we miss the routine and comfort of daily life at school, the comings and goings, seeing each other in the halls and classrooms. Everyone at KMS looks forward to the day that we will return to campus and get back to a daily routine.
I am writing to you today, specifically, to address questions that are on everyone’s mind - will KMS reopen in the fall? What will summer training and camps look like? When will we be able to come back?
It is our intent to open our full-term academic program in late August as scheduled. We are also optimistic that a majority of our on-campus summer camps can take place as scheduled. How these events come to pass and with what restrictions will be the job of our recently-formed school re-opening task force, which convened two weeks ago, and has been organized into sub-committees populated with faculty members, trustees, current parents and medical experts within our KMS community. Our first and most important priority will be to protect the health, wellness and mental-health of our students, faculty, their extended families and our Killington community. Currently, Clarie and and I are collaborating with the heads of other major ski academies in the East, participating in weekly and bi-weekly conference calls to share ideas and best practices. We will be taking guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, State of Vermont health and Federal Government, and closely monitoring health and safety agency guidelines and recommendations. Links to some of these agency’s websites, re. COVID-19 can be found here:
· National Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
· Coronavirus (COVID-19) Vermont Department of Health
· Coronavirus Disease 19 World Health Organization
· COVID-19 Health Data.org
· Governor Scott’s COVID-19 Updates
I want to be clear that there is a tremendous amount that still we do not know about this disease. COVID-19 impacts the old and infirmed, as well as the young and healthy. While many individuals will experience only mild to moderate symptoms and eventually recover from COVID-19, the disease carries with it risk of serious illness, including death; doctors and scientists are racing to figure out why and how to stop it. We have no known cure, and it will be at least 12-18 months at the earliest before an effective vaccine will be developed and deliverable to the world population. For herd immunity to be effective, 60-70% of the people in the United States will need to be infected or vaccinated, and scientists will need to be certain that carrying antibodies provides a measure of effective immunity. None of these conditions yet exist, and none will be in place by the time KMS reopens. Therefore, it will be of the utmost importance that we develop practices and protocols around the recommendations from the CDC, state and federal agencies, and that our families accept and support the conditions under which students will be allowed to return. We can anticipate living under the cloud of this pandemic for at least two years.
The good news is that barring state or government mandated closures, KMS can and will reopen; although, life at KMS next year will be far different than what any KMS student has previously experienced. Changes will impact virtually every aspect of KMS life, including but not limited to arrivals, departures, orientations, academics, athletics, training, travel, residential life, transportation, PPE requirements, classroom and gymnasium density, and myriad other categories. Despite these conditions, we are committed to the KMS experience and to providing an outstanding academic and athletic educational experience for everyone at KMS.
To this end, Meghan Girardi with the assistance of Incoming Head of School, Claire Kershko will lead the School Reopening Sub-Committee. This committee will be focused on the health agency recommendations and guidelines and recommendations from the State of Vermont and Federal Government, as well as documents and guidelines from our various strategic partners, including US Ski & Snowboard. This sub-committee will explore how KMS may effectively reopen and what precautions and procedures will need to be developed before we can welcome faculty and students back to campus in any form. Recognizing that some of our athletic teams have competitions as early as June 20, and camps are scheduled to begin in late June on campus, this committee has a deadline of May 31, 2020 to present a working draft document to the Task Force for consideration.
The second sub-committee will be focused on Continuity of Academic and Athletic Instruction, and will be chaired by April Hayden and Claire Kershko. April and Claire will lead their committee on a deep dive into what academics and athletics will look like at KMS next year. Assuming we may need to return to periods of isolation, how will we use what we have learned this spring through remote learning to create a robust learning plan that creates continuity within the academic and athletic realms? This sub-committee is expected to present their draft document to the task force by June 30, 2020.
We can anticipate that this pandemic will have a profound impact on every aspect of our business and finances. The Pandemic Finance Committee will review several scenarios in order to prepare the school to make thoughtful, informed decisions over the next two years. This committee will also review our contracts, waivers and assumptions of risk clauses, and prepare for COVID-19 mitigation factors including the increased costs associated PPE, needs for additional staffing and personnel, the potential for reducing enrollment to allow for proper social distancing and anticipated increased financial aid requests from our KMS families.
It is important to also communicate clearly that we do not have all the answers, and there will continue to be much uncertainty surrounding COVID-19. KMS will plan as best we can with all of the resources at our disposal, but there are no guarantees when it comes to executing our plan. The need to remain nimble and able to pivot quickly as new information and situations come to light will be paramount for our school and our faculty. Thankfully, this is what we do best, and KMS is uniquely positioned to respond as needed. Understanding and embracing this uncertainty will be required of every family returning to camps this summer or school next year. We intend to maintain steady and open dialogue, and will be as transparent as we possibly can with our employees and families as we work through this crisis response.
If you have questions, concerns, comments or would like to pass along ideas for us to consider, please reach out to me or the committee chairs at any time. We anticipate sending regular written updates, and also hosting some open Q&A forums online and in town-hall type formats. Our Communications and Community Engagement sub-committee, led by Gaby Hoffman P ‘21, and Claire Kershko, is working on a schedule that we will share with you as soon as it is finalized. Your understanding and support of our efforts are essential to the success of our reopening task force, and we welcome your involvement, comments and engagement.
Aside from not being able to finish our school year, the coronavirus has wreaked havoc on our lives in myriad ways. We all know someone who has gotten sick, someone who has lost their job, families that have lost loved ones. The fear, unknown and uncertainty are real, and as this event unfolds and will continue to have a deep impact on all of our lives, it is important to remind ourselves of who we are and what we stand for. KMS values and the value of a KMS education have never been more necessary and more important than it is today. Our core values of adversity, responsibility and character are embedded in who we are and what we stand for. They are what makes KMS students stand out, and will help us to navigate the challenges that lie ahead.
In times of crisis, the best of humanity presents itself. There are some positive lessons from this spring that we should be mindful of, such as the value of being home with family and reconnecting in ways that modern life does not allow. We have learned more about “essential” workers than we previously knew; the invaluable roles that nurses, grocery clerks, emergency responders, and, yes, teachers play in our lives. Calculating what is truly important and meaningful will take on new clarity and definition in the coming years, and it is our responsibility to carry these lessons forward into a new future and for the next generation of leaders and citizens.
In closing, and as part of my farewell to the Killington Mountain School, I want to personally thank each and every one of you for choosing KMS for your child. Leading this school has been one of the greatest joys of my life, and I couldn’t ask for a more committed, talented and hardworking group of teachers, coaches, administrators and students. Equally, my appreciation for our parents, trustees and alumni runs deep. This is a great school, and despite the obvious challenges, should continue to thrive well into the future under the leadership of incoming head, Claire Kershko, our talented faculty, and our dedicated board of trustees.
Tao Smith KMS Head of School