The school attended by President Donald Trump’s youngest son, Barron, will not fully open for in-person instruction when classes resume, officials announced in a letter to parents.
St. Andrew’s Episcopal School, a private kindergarten-through-12th-grade school in Potomac, Maryland, a Washington suburb, will provide either online-only “distance learning” or a hybrid model of students “learning both on and off campus,” according to the letter Thursday from Head of School Robert Kosasky. A final decision will be announced the week of Aug. 10.
Trump has threatened to withhold federal funding from schools that don’t reopen for full-time, on-campus instruction, despite surging cases of COVID-19 across the nation. Earlier this month, Trump blasted school reopening guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as “expensive” and “very tough.” The CDC issued revised guidelines Friday and touted the “importance of reopening schools this fall.”
Many school officials, teachers and parents fear that filling classrooms with returning children will put not only the students at risk of contracting the coronavirus, but also will endanger teachers, staff, community members and children’s families.
St. Andrew’s has already gotten a handout from taxpayers as part of the federal Payroll Protection Program, enacted to help small businesses pay employees during the pandemic. The loans are forgiven if the funds are used for eligible expenses, such as payroll, utilities and rent.
Despite having an endowment of more than $8 million, according to a 2017 tax filing, St. Andrew’s told CNN that it applied for the funds to “ensure retention of our full faculty and staff … during this very challenging and uncertain time.”
School officials have refused to reveal how much federal aid was obtained, but some similar private schools in the area have collected millions in PPP funds. Annual tuition at St. Andrew’s for the 2020-2021 school year is $44,590 per student, plus fees.
When asked earlier this month if the president and first lady would send their 14-year-old son back to the classroom this fall, White House counselor Kellyanne Conway responded that it was a “personal decision.“ He has attended St. Andrew’s for the last three years.
In both teaching scenarios being considered at St. Andrew’s, “our top priority is to support the safety and well-being of our entire community of students, faculty and staff, and families,” Kosasky stated in the letter to parents. “We are continuing to pay close attention to current guidance from state and county health officials, as well as the CDC, as the health status of our region evolves.”
The school has continued to improve its online instruction, Kosasky added, but he also noted: “We are hopeful that public health conditions will support our implementation of the hybrid model in the fall.”
It appears that each student would still have a choice to opt for remote learning only. “The hybrid model permits students to learn either on campus with rigorous social distancing standards, or remotely,” Kosasky said. The hybrid model would “allow students, families, and faculty and staff with medical concerns to be able to learn, teach, and work remotely throughout the pandemic, while facilitating safe, in-person learning for everyone else.”
Trump has repeatedly said that children must return to their classrooms in the fall.
Florida’s education commissioner earlier this month ordered schools to reopen for in-person instruction in August, even as coronavirus cases jam hospitals in the state.
The Florida Education Association, a teachers union representing about 140,000 school employees, filed a lawsuit Monday against several state officials to block schools from reopening for in-person instruction. The rush to open is failing to provide a safe and secure environment as required in the state constitution, the suit argues.
Randi Weingarten, president of the national American Federation of Teachers, told The New York Times after the St. Andrew’s news that she hopes now the president will have a “scintilla of empathy and consideration for what Americans are going through now that he is experiencing it himself.”
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