Friday Update – April 24, 2020

Mark Turner

Dear Parents and Guardians,

After the launch of our Remote Learning curriculum, we have now had two weeks of this new reality. Last week’s survey, impressive attendance figures and many anecdotal comments, suggest that students have largely heeded my message given at the start of school, to be positive, resilient, and to make the most of the current situation. I quote Denise Lamarche, our Director of Academics directly:

“The implementation of remote learning has been progressing along very well across the school. The feedback from our parents, Grade 6-12 students and our faculty was positive, helpful and our divisional teams were able to take key themes and suggestions to make slight adjustments where needed. That said, we need to remind ourselves that our faculty and students are working diligently so that we can do our best to continue learning under these extraordinary circumstances, while maintaining our sense of community throughout.”

On the afternoon of Friday, April 17, our Board of Governors convened their first Zoom meeting to discuss the school’s response to the fast-changing events that have impacted all of us, and to make some decisions regarding the future.

We found it helpful to frame our thinking on the basis of:

Short-term: The current Term Three 2020
Medium-term: The start of the new academic year and Term One 2020 to December 31
Long-term: Beyond January 1, 2021

At present, we have found it almost impossible to plan in detail given the factors we are dealing with are unknown, and many are well beyond our control. That said, we are optimistic that the school will be able to open on some basis in September. Whether or not we can convene before that will be dependent on the provincial government reviewing its decision of March 17 that schools should close until further notice.

For the immediate future, we have made the following decisions:

Financial Aid: Our aim is that no student should have to withdraw from the school and have their life chances limited, purely because of the impact of this current global situation. We have therefore decided to bolster our Financial Aid Program for the 2020-21 school year. The Board of Governors has approved a transfer from our Reserve Fund of up to $1 million. Whilst this is a significant sum, we would ideally like to be able to allocate more but cannot do so without risking the long-term viability of the school. With this in mind, the Advancement team will be reaching out soon so that we can rally around as a community and fully ensure no student is negatively impacted on their SMUS journey because of COVID-19.

We are aiming to be able to target our limited resources at those who need it most. If you are a family that has been severely impacted, we invite you to apply through our third-party consultant, Apple Financial. If you are already in receipt of financial aid for 2020, please contact Director of Admissions Alexis Lang Lunn at [email protected] regarding the process for reconsiderations. We ask that you do this by May 21.

Fee Deferral: The Board of Governors appreciate that many parents are committed to a SMUS education but may be suffering from immediate cash flow pressure. To alleviate this, a Fee Deferral Plan has been designed to allow a deferment or postponement in paying fees until January 1, 2021 with monthly finance charges waived. This plan will be administered by our CFO and supported by a committee which will include the Director of Admissions and the Head of School. More information regarding accessing this relief measure will be available soon.

Admissions Decisions: Despite the current situation, we are happy to report that demand for places is stronger than anytime in our school’s history. We are already technically full for September 2020 and we are over subscribed for day students at all levels. We will be flexible around confirmation of deadlines, as we understand many families are dealing – as we are, with considerable uncertainty. If you wish to discuss matters regarding admissions, please email Alexis Lang Lunn, Director of Admissions at [email protected].

Tuition Refund: Having effectively launched our Remote Learning Plan, we are aiming that a SMUS education this term will be different but equivalent. All faculty are continuing to be employed and pioneering a new way of learning. Given that our costs in the short-term will not be reduced, we will not be offering tuition refunds for this term (Term Three – April to June 2020). If we find that we will have to operate remotely from the start of school in September, we will review our tuition fees for 2020-21. The Board of Governors has considered this decision carefully. We are committed to ensuring that our school will return to normal again as quickly as possible once the current restrictions are lifted.

Impact on Boarding Students: The position regarding boarders is different. Boarding families have already paid for food, laundry, utilities, accommodation and miscellaneous costs that they will not have received. In the spirit of fairness, we will endeavour to identify the precise cost of these savings and give either a credit to returning boarders against their 2020-21 fees, or return the equivalent sum to boarding families, which includes all Grade 12 who will be graduating this year. This credit or refund will be confirmed and administered in June 2020.

The response section of our website will continue to be updated. In the meantime, the Senior Leadership Team will be actively planning for a wide spectrum of differing scenarios, including a possible return to school this term for at least some grades, which is currently part of the discussion in the province of British Columbia.

We will continue to keep you updated with our decisions each Friday.

In conclusion, our school goes into this global crisis in a strong position financially and with record enrolment. We are committed to providing support to those who need it most through the Financial Aid Program and to easing temporary cash flow pressure through the Fee Deferral Plan. With your support we can help keep key infrastructure in place to be able to leap into action again as soon as we are able.

We thank you for your continued support for our community. In particular, we thank the large number of parents within our extended community who are engaged on the front line. I speak for everyone at SMUS when I say, you have our gratitude.

I am aware that my last few communications have all been focused on responding to negative factors beyond our control. This time around I am pleased to have at least some measures by way of positive response.

We very much look forward to a time when restrictions may be gradually lifted. Until then…

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