Message from Head of School: CFS Response to COVID-19

March 16, 2020

Dear Members of the CFS Community,

The unfolding series of government responses to the COVID-19 crisis, now defined as a pandemic, continues to affect Church Farm School and its planned resumption of typical campus operations after the end of spring break next week. The Governor of Pennsylvania has ordered that all schools in the commonwealth be closed for the next two weeks. That duration could expand. 

Today, Church Farm School is taking increased action and doing its part to honor our shared goals and responsibilities as human beings, God’s children, by responsibly participating in mandates designed to slow the spread of this virus. CFS has moved into Level Three of our response planning which calls for the temporary suspension of normal school operations out of an abundance of caution for the safety and well-being of our community.

Important things to know now:
  1. Students are to stay home and the CFS campus will not reopen for normal school operations until at least April 13, the Monday after Easter.
  2. International students are encouraged to stay where they are, either at home or with their support network here in the U.S. Only international students unable to return home and who do not have a U.S. homestay option will be permitted to return to campus on Monday, March 23.
  3. Students will resume their educational program by distance learning on Tuesday, March 24. Additional instructions and guidelines about this program will be sent later this week from the Academic Office.
Members of faculty have been preparing for this scenario. Specific information about this work and how students can engage in it will be coming later this week in additional written communication from the Assistant Head of School and Director of Academics, Mr. Seeley, and from the Academic Office. This information is specifically designed to help students focus their own planning for the continuation of their academic work at home.

Students will be hearing directly by telephone from their advisors by Thursday, March 19. First, we want to check-in with each student individually and make sure they know of our continuing support. Second, each advisor will have a checklist of information the school needs to know in order to best facilitate each student’s learning from home. Third, advisors will report any issues back to school leadership particularly as they may relate to technological matters and what we anticipate to be a smooth delivery of our distance learning program. 

Additional communication from the Director of Student Life, Mr. Blair, will be forthcoming to detail how students might schedule a return to campus in order to collect personal belongings from their cottage rooms. Cottages will be locked without student key card access. This is to assure that campus visits can be regulated and the security and safety of cottage spaces can be appropriately maintained. Please do not make any personal arrangements to come to campus without direct communication with Mr. Blair. His office will pass all arrangements along to faculty residing in the cottages.

Our partnership with you is essential in order to ensure that students understand the school's expectations while participating in distance learning. In addition, we share your concerns during this prolonged school closure as families seek to balance work responsibilities while facilitating their child’s distance-learning program. We certainly look to support one another and our students emotionally as well and please let us know of any matters our advisors or our School Counselor, Ms. Rosinsky, can support. Our Head Nurse, Seanna Meehan, is also available for any questions regarding COVID-19.

Please continue your own observance of personal safety and good health guidelines. A lot of the actions we take now will serve our shared interests in the health and well-being of all.

In closing, I would like to share what a good friend of mine, The Rev. Dan Heischman, sent earlier this morning about what we are experiencing and how we might best respond. He wrote:
We are carrying out these contingency plans for a larger purpose—the well-being of our communities and how we must respond to crises with compassion and courage. It is so easy, at times like these, with events seemingly spinning out of control, to lose sight of the bigger picture, the reasons we are doing these things, the purpose behind being school.

As Margaret Wheatley once observed, “It is possible to prepare for the future without knowing what it will be. The primary way to prepare for the unknowable is to attend to the quality of our relationships, to how well we know and trust one another.” Here, blessedly, is where Episcopal schools are at their best—in knowing and trusting one another, in adhering to a clear purpose, our very reason for being.

It certainly is our hope that every student knows he is loved here at Church Farm School and that the best in us and in our relationships will serve us well as we face the challenges of this moment together and in them find new opportunities for discovery and affirmation as fellow travelers in life.

May God watch over you and bless you, and please let me know how we can best support you.

Sincerely yours,
 
Ned Sherrill
Head of School | Church Farm School

March 12, 2020
 
Dear Members of the CFS community,
 
Thank you for staying in close touch with CFS as we continue to learn more about the developing situation regarding COVID-19. The impact of this virus and its presence in the US is certainly being felt in many places, including our expanded region, and we are closely monitoring government directives closer to where we are in Chester County. Spring break is affording us some extra time to understand these directives and plan accordingly. Thus, the following information will be updated again on Monday, March 16, when our planning team will meet next and after which time additional details and direction will be provided. If you have not already done so, please review our March 9 communication which you may read on our website here.
 
At this time, we continue to follow Level Two protocols with a focus on the health and well-being of the community, a deep cleaning of the campus and its common spaces and readying of a distance learning plan for our students and their instructors should students be unable to return to campus or should we decide to increase our level of response which would likely involve a separation of all students from campus for an extended period of time.
 
Some important things to remember:
  • Please stay home and contact your physician if you are ill (especially if you have a temperature of 100.4+, shortness of breath and cough)
  • Avoid larger public gatherings and monitor health directives given in your area
  • Report any travel outside of the continental US, flu-like illness or self-isolation decision to the CFS Health Center: 610-363-5349
  • We plan to open school either by a return to campus on March 23 or by offering a distance learning program that will start on March 24
    - Students should identify a good place to study with connection to internet/wi-fi
    - Please contact the CFS main office at 610.363.7500 should you require assistance with internet connectivity
  • Communication of next steps for students will be made again on Monday, March 16
     
We continue to communicate regularly and work closely with the Chester County Department of Health and other resources available to us as we carefully and deliberately consider what is best for every member of the Church Farm School community following an “abundance of caution” framework.
 
As we continue pursuing that healthy and successful outcome we all desire, thank you so much for your own patient support, ongoing preparation and continuing prayers for the wonderful people of our community, nation and, indeed, the whole world.
 
Sincerely yours,

Ned Sherrill
Head of School | Church Farm School


March 9, 2020

Dear Members of the CFS community,

I write to update you about our continuing planning concerning the spread of COVID-19. Church Farm School desires to protect the safety and wellbeing of its students, personnel, their families and visitors to campus and will follow government-issued directives and mandates that may be issued in response to the spread of this virus. Church Farm School’s administrative team and other members of school leadership are meeting regularly with me and we intend to communicate with you twice weekly, on Mondays and Thursdays, in order to provide relevant updates for your planning purposes. For those that might not have ready access to the internet, we are providing these dates in advance so that you can plan accordingly. If you wish to be put on a text or call notification list, please contact the main office 610.363.7500 leaving a message in the general mailbox if you are directed there.
 
Following is a summary of three protocol levels established to meet concerns and depending on where and when the virus may spread. CFS has been observing guidelines of Level One, and has commenced addressing Level Two, effective today.
 
LEVEL ONE
  • Health and Wellness education on positive and frequent self-care.
  • Increased attention to cleanliness of CFS facilities and more readily available disinfecting products in public and private spaces (all facilities will receive a deep clean over spring break).
  • Voluntary communication by all community members to CFS Health Center and/or administration of any flu-like symptoms, especially fever, coughing and shortness of breath.
  • Any student or faculty member who is ill will require doctor clearance prior to returning to campus.
  • Preparation for remote/distance learning options for adults and students.
LEVEL TWO
  • Any member of the community who is ill should not return to campus until cleared by a doctor.
  • All faculty, staff and students will be screened by the Health Center upon their return to campus on Monday, March 23 and Tuesday, March 24 (day students) for fever (100.4+), cough and difficulty breathing.
     - Boarding students will report directly to the Health Center and not the cottages upon their return to CFS; we ask all families/friends dropping off students to remain in their cars until their student is cleared to enter the cottage, at which time they should depart. Any student not cleared will be asked to leave campus with the adult who has transported them. If they arrived using CFS or other public transportation and are not cleared, they will be tested for the flu and/or sent offsite for COVID-19 testing and will remain in quarantine at CFS until cleared.
    - Day students should report to the Health Center by 7:30 a.m. on Tuesday, March 24 with a mandate to be sent home if they are not cleared.
  • Campus activities may be curtailed and restricted to certain areas.
  • Remote/distance learning options for adults and students will be finalized.
  • Visiting hours and non-essential vending services (e.g. food deliveries) will be curtailed or suspended.
  • Visitor policy will include blanket inquiries about health and travel.
  • School may choose to cancel public events both on and off campus; including service trips, internships, professional development and athletic competitions.
  • Increased cleanliness checks.

LEVEL THREE
  • Following government mandate (local, state and/or national), CFS may choose to quarantine some areas of campus or shut-down normal operations for a period of time.
     - The community will be alerted if this is decided before the end of spring break. If school is in session, students will be required to return home. Students unable to travel home will be housed at CFS and restricted to campus.
    - Non-essential faculty and staff may be required to stay home. Faculty may be reassigned roles and responsibilities temporarily.
  • All distance learning plans will become operational.
  • Events on and off-campus will likely be canceled or postponed.
  • Visitors and vendors restricted to essential services.
  • CFS may employ its Alertus messaging system as needed to assure wider communication.

Like many other schools and institutions, we continue to plan ahead and follow appropriate action steps in order to successfully work through this global issue. It is my hope that this regular communication of information about CFS and its specific planning for a variety of contingencies is useful and reassuring to you.  As an Episcopal school, we also offer our continuing prayers for those who have been directly affected by COVID-19 and for those care givers and other professionals who are doing so much to meet their needs and curb its impact.
 
Please let us know of any concerns you may have and thank you for your support.
 
Sincerely yours,

The Reverend Edmund K. "Ned" Sherrill II
Head of School | Church Farm School
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The Church Farm School is an independent boarding and day school for boys in grades 9-12 located in Exton, PA. Founded in 1918 to provide an excellent education to young men from limited means, Church Farm School now serves boys from a range of socio-economic circumstances who are seeking an extraordinary educational opportunity. The school offers a challenging college preparatory curriculum and an exceptional level of personal attention, with class sizes averaging between just 7 and 12 students.