From the Headmaster: August Update

August 17, 2021
 
Dear St. Christopher’s Families,

I hope you all are doing well, enjoying these final days of summer. At St. Christopher’s, we have been busy planning and preparing for the return of your boys, and it has been excellent to have Upper School boys back on campus this past week for pre-season fall athletics conditioning. 

We know that there will be continued challenges and adjustments to make in the coming school year, but with the strength of the Saints community, the talent and commitment of our faculty and staff, and a collective prioritization of the health of our boys and continuous on-campus teaching and learning, 2021-2022 will be a successful school year for our community. 

On July 30 I shared with you what was then our best thinking with regard to back-to-school protocols. On August 2 we shared divisional updates from Dr. Mansfield and Mr. Stansbery (Lower School)Dr. Hunter (Middle School), and Mr. Szymendera (Upper School). I encourage you to review my update and the divisional updates as we approach the first days of school. You can also find a helpful synopsis of parent action items and documents to review by visiting the School’s homepage and clicking on Back To School 2021-2022.  

In my July 30 letter, I shared that students in Grades JK-6 would need to wear a mask when indoors through at least September 30. We made this decision several weeks ago, as the surge in Delta COVID cases and hospitalization was just beginning and with a desire to ensure uninterrupted on-campus learning for our unvaccinated Saints. 

We also announced that we would make a decision on masking policies for Grades 7-12 closer to the start of school, when we had more accurate vaccination status information for those students and when we could better understand the impact the Delta variant was having on the greater Richmond community.

Over the past several weeks, we have seen local case counts, percent-positivity rates, and state COVID hospitalization counts rise and, in some cases, return to late winter/early spring levels. As such, our plan for the opening five weeks of school was very likely to require indoor masking for all students and adults on our campus, regardless of vaccination status.

As you likely saw, late last week the state Health Commissioner issued a Public Health Emergency Order requiring indoor masking for all individuals—children and adults, vaccinated and unvaccinated—in any public or private school in the Commonwealth of Virginia. This order went into effect on August 12 and remains in effect “until the CDC guidelines for K-12 schools change, unless this Order is sooner amended or rescinded.” 

As such, all individuals on the St. Christopher’s campus must mask when indoors, unless engaged in the activities noted as exceptions in the Public Health Order. 

When we ended the 2020-2021 school year in June, and as case counts and hospitalization remained low in Virginia for the first half of the summer, we were looking forward to a mask-free, or at least a mask-optional, 2021-2022 school year. The high rate of transmissibility of the Delta variant, combined with the large number of individuals still not vaccinated, has delayed our reaching a state of COVID liberation that we all desire.

However, there is still reason for optimism and hope, as we enter a new school year together. First, as we have suspected for months, the St. Christopher’s community is far more protected—through vaccination—than the general public at large. An overwhelming majority of our employees are fully vaccinated (nearly 98%, based on current data), and we have achieved majority vaccination status in our Upper School (approaching 70% of students) and in Grades 7 and 8 (61% of our students). We are still collecting Magnus Health information from dozens of families throughout the School, which could drive these rates even higher, so if you have not yet done so, please update your child’s Magnus health records today.  

As a reminder, I am pasting below the School’s current COVID Exposure and Quarantine policies, which are based on the latest CDC and VDH guidance. Of note is that asymptomatic vaccinated students will not need to quarantine if exposed to COVID on campus. For this reason and many others, if your child is eligible for vaccination, I strongly encourage you to discuss that option with your family physician. 

Additionally, as announced in my July 30 letter, St. Christopher’s will not be offering virtual learning as an option for students, unless students are in medical quarantine or possess underlying chronic medical conditions that make on-campus learning under current conditions not appropriate for them. Approval for virtual learning will be made at the discretion of the division head or headmaster, in consultation with our director of health services.  

Also below you will find helpful information about New Faculty and Staff, the Sibling Shuttle, Campus Parking, and Carpool Information. As announced previously, St. Christopher’s will not be allowing campus visitors (parents, alumni, and other community members) during the school day until Monday, September 13, so that we may focus on health and safety protocols for students and employees in the opening weeks. 

A final note about the impact of continued COVID protocols, both those that are imposed upon us and those we determine independently—We recognize and celebrate the breadth and variety of opinions in the St. Christopher’s community. With nearly 1,000 students and nearly 800 families in our community, spread out over nearly 60 zip codes across the Richmond metro region, it is both true and enriching that we possess a broad spectrum of opinions regarding COVID and its impact on our children. 

We know that our community members’ opinions on COVID are based on their unique life circumstances, personal health and risk profile, and lived experiences. We respect and value each perspective that is found within our community, as we endeavor to make decisions that we know will not be universally popular but, we hope and pray, will be most beneficial to our most important community members—our boys. 

We continue to focus on the three priorities I outlined in my July 30 letter—1. To foster student and employee health and well being. 2. To prioritize and emphasize in-person, on-campus learning. 3. Whenever and wherever practical, to return school operations “to normal,” particularly for portions of our school population with high vaccination rates.

I have heard from many parents who find our policies to be overly cautious, while others maintain that our policies are not cautious enough. Whatever your views on the policies articulated here or in the weeks and months to come, I ask for your compassion and understanding, for your grace in acknowledging this is uncharted and difficult territory for all of us, and for your recognition that we have the most important thing of all in common—a shared desire to serve our boys, to give them a healthy and vibrant educational experience, and to prepare them for the continued challenges and unknowns they will face in the decades to come.

I am truly excited to see you and your boys on campus in the weeks ahead.
Yours,
 

Mason Lecky
Headmaster

Magnus Health Information 

Thank you to those who have submitted your son’s health information. For anyone who has not yet submitted, please know that in order to provide the safest learning environment in compliance with Virginia Department of Health guidelines, your son will not be permitted on campus until his online health enrollment is complete.  
 
Please contact Taylor Thomas (LS), Courtney Ash (MS/US), or Director of Health Services, Dr. Vanichkachorn, if you need assistance. 
 

Updated COVID Exposure and Quarantine Policies

Students, parents, and faculty/staff will still be required to report a confirmed COVID diagnosis or confirmed COVID exposure confidentially to the divisional school nurse or the Director of Health Services immediately upon diagnosis. The health staff will provide guidance throughout recovery and assist with school reentry.
 
With the priority of maintaining a healthy learning environment for all, please keep your son at home if he is ill with fever (>100 degrees F), respiratory symptoms, gastrointestinal symptoms, or body aches. Please call his medical provider to discuss next steps prior to coming to campus. 

If your son is waiting on the results of a COVID test, he should remain at home until the test results are final. If an individual in the household has been diagnosed with COVID, your son should remain home even if he is vaccinated until your individual case has been discussed with the school nurse or the Director of Health Services.

When There is a Confirmed COVID Case on Campus:
  • Parents of students in an affected homeroom (Lower School) or students in close contact (Middle and Upper Schools) and affected faculty/staff will receive a notification via email followed by contact by the divisional health staff.
  • Confidentiality of the diagnosed student or employee will be maintained in accordance with applicable law.
  • Unvaccinated children and employees who are in close contact with an individual confirmed to be infected by COVID will be required to quarantine for 7 (with negative PCR test) to 10 days (with negative antigen test). Close contact is defined as an unvaccinated individual being within 6 feet unmasked or within 3 feet with a well-fitted mask for more than 15 minutes at one time or cumulative over a 24 hour period. The quarantine will begin at the end of the academic school day. (You will not need to pick up your child mid-day.) This quarantine policy will be in effect in all divisions, including the Lower School, though only close contacts in a Lower School homeroom will need to quarantine this year. 
  • Vaccinated students who are exposed on campus and who are asymptomatic will not be required to quarantine, per current VDH and CDC guidelines. 
  • We will continue to maintain a COVID-19 dashboard, accessible to parents after the beginning of the school year through SaintsNet. 

 Carpool and Parking

Please remember to follow all posted speed limits and come to a full stop at the stop signs in our surrounding neighborhoods. Please help us to be responsible members of this neighborhood by driving particularly carefully through our neighborhood streets and intersections. 

For details on morning drop-off and afternoon pick-up, please review the divisional newsletters sent on August 2. 

 
The carpool lines may take a bit longer the first few days, as the boys re-adjust to exiting the car with arms full of backpacks, water bottles, musical instruments, and anything else they need for the day. Thank you in advance for your patience—things speed up substantially once the carpool gets in a groove. 
 
Please do not use the Luck Leadership Parking Lot for morning or afternoon carpool due to vehicular and pedestrian traffic constraints in that area.
 

Sibling Shuttle

We are excited to offer the Sibling Shuttle again this year, providing early morning transportation for the convenience of our families between St. Christopher’s and St. Catherine’s Schools. This service will begin on Tuesday, August 31 and will operate between 7:30 and 7:40 a.m.
 

Please note that the Sibling Shuttle will not run on days when we have a late start due to inclement weather. 

Sibling Shuttle Logistics for Boys
There is one Sibling Shuttle drop-off location at St. Catherine’s for boys in K-12:
  • Lower School carpool line on St. Catherine’s Lane
Middle School and Upper School boys who take the shuttle from St. Catherine’s to St. Christopher’s will be delivered to the St. Christopher’s Middle School carpool lane. Lower School boys will be delivered to the Lower School carpool line on St. Christopher’s Road. 

Sibling Shuttle Logistics for Girls
There are two Sibling Shuttle drop-off locations at St. Christopher’s for girls in K-12:
  • Luck Leadership Center/Ryan Dining Hall parking lot
  • Lower School carpool line on St. Christopher’s Road 
All St. Catherine’s students who take the shuttle from St. Christopher’s to St. Catherine’s will be dropped off in the Lower School carpool on St. Catherine's Lane and received by St. Catherine's faculty members. 
 
If you have any questions about the sibling shuttle, please contact Director of Athletics Ren O'Ferrall '85, oferrallr@stcva.org.
 

Dining 

Breakfast, dinner, and the Saints’ Café will return for the 2021-22 school year! The Saints’ Café will operate for Middle School and Upper School students every school day before and after lunch periods. So that our partners at Flik may focus on a successful roll-out of lunch service and the return of the Saints’ Café, we will delay the start of breakfast service until early October.
 
Beginning Monday, October 4, breakfast ($4.75 per person) will be offered in our Dining Hall for all members of our community each school morning.  
 
Beginning Tuesday, October 5, dinner ($6.25 per person) will be offered on Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 5:30 to 6:30 pm, also open to all members of our community. 
 
The Dining Hall accepts SaintsCards, Visa, MasterCard, American Express, and Discover. We do not accept cash at this time. 
 

New Faculty and Staff

All School 

Robert Cook joins the St. Christopher’s security team, providing a strong security background of 20 years with the FBI, serving as an agent in several areas, a SWAT team agent and senior team leader, and most recently as a firearms instructor and training coordinator. Robert is a graduate of James Madison University with a B.S. in Communication. 

Kerry Court is the new St. Christopher’s as Director of the Arts, leading all performing and visual arts departments and programs. Most recently, Kerry served as the assistant director of Choral Music for St. Albans School and National Cathedral School in Washington, D.C., where she grew choral enrollment and oversaw musical programming. Previously, Kerry served as Co-Chair of the Music Department and as Musical Director and Choral Director for the Middle and Upper School at St. Catherine’s School and taught in the Lower School for two years. Kerry earned a Bachelor of Music degree in Music Education from Bucknell University and a Master of Music degree in Conducting from the Eastman School of Music. 
 
Valerie Hedley joins the St. Christopher's Development Office as the Director of Planned Giving & Leadership Giving Officer. An attorney by trade, she has spent her career focusing on trust and estate planning and administration. Valerie is a graduate of Washington & Lee University and the T.C. Williams School of Law at the University of Richmond. 

Ginny Turner joins the College Counseling Office in a new part-time role. Ginny is a graduate of St. Catherine’s and the College of William and Mary, where she majored in English and won four letters on a nationally-ranked field hockey team while being selected to the Division I North-South Senior All-Star team. She then moved into college coaching for fifteen years at Davidson College, including the last 13 as Head Field Hockey Coach. While there she transitioned the team into the Atlantic 10 conference and was a two-time Coach of the Year. Ginny is currently the Assistant Varsity Field Hockey Coach at St. Catherine’s and also coaches the Focus Field Hockey Club team. 

Lower School 

Jake Simard joined the St. Christopher’s community last year as an Extended Day Kindergarten teacher and then assisted in the Lower School as a full-time substitute teacher. He will join the First Grade team as a co-teacher. A graduate of Pace University with a B.F.A. in Acting and a minor in Psychology, Jake served as the theatre director for Windham High School in Windham, NH. Jake has also worked as a teaching associate for Triple Threat Theatre Camp in Londonderry, NH, and as a tutor for high school and college-aged students. He is currently working to complete his Masters in Education. 

Todd Stansbery joined St. Christopher’s in July as Associate Head of the Lower School and will assume full leadership of the division during the 2021-2022 school year. Most recently, Todd served as Head of School at The Tuxedo Park School in New York, where he developed character education programs, enhanced diversity, and updated the PK-9 grade curriculum during his tenure. Previously, Todd served as Head of School at The Swain School in Pennsylvania, founding Head of Lower School at St. Andrew’s School in Boca Raton, Florida, and Associate Director of the Lower School at St. Stephen’s and St. Agnes School in Alexandria, Virginia. Mr. Stansbery received his B.A. from the College of Wooster and a Masters of Science from Johns Hopkins University. 

Middle School  

Rob Horne joins the History Department, teaching 7th and 8th grade history and coaching. Rob taught Upper School history at Flint Hill School and coached lacrosse there since 2014. He previously taught at Middleburg Academy. A graduate of the University of Richmond, Rob has a passion for archaeology and was a professional archaeologist before beginning teaching. While at Flint Hill he started an archaeology club for lower and middle school students and taught an archaeology and anthropology elective class.

Michael Sweeney is the new Middle School chaplain, teaching Bible and coaching. Michael is a graduate of the Virginia Theological Seminary and Haverford College. While at VTS he served at St. David's Episcopal Church in Washington, DC. Before his time at seminary, Michael spent six years here in Richmond as the Director of Family and Youth Ministry at St. Stephen's Episcopal Church. Michael also taught Spanish and English at Eaglebrook School in Deerfield, MA (an all-boys school, grades six-nine) for five years. Additionally, Michael spent 11 summers at Camp Bishopswood, serving as the chaplain for five years.

Maggie Varland has been added to both the MS and US Language Department faculty to teach Chinese. Maggie earned her B.A. in Chinese Language, Literature, and Culture from the University of Virginia and her Masters of International Business from Hult International Business School in Shanghai, China. For the past decade, in addition to working in the business sector, Maggie has taught Social Studies and Chinese and served as a college counselor for several schools in Jinhua, Zhejiang, Juroing, and Shanghai, China.  

Cara Williams is our new Middle School Librarian. A graduate of the University of Southern Indiana, Cara earned her B.S. in Psychology with a minor in Criminal Justice. She then earned her Master of Library and Information Science from the University of Kentucky. Cara previously served as a librarian at the Cincinnati and Hamilton County Public Library, where she focused on Middle Grade initiatives. 

Upper School  

In the English Department, Stephanie Barnes joins the faculty to teach a section of 9th grade Grammar, Composition, and Literature. A graduate of James River High School in Chesterfield County, Stephanie has been teaching English at her alma mater for the past eight years.  Her course load has consisted of several levels of 9th grade English, including Honors, as well as upper level AP English Language and Composition. For the past three years Stephanie has also served as the department chair.  Stephanie earned her B.A. in English and Secondary Education from The College of William & Mary, and her M.Ed. in Educational Psychology – Applied Developmental Science from the University of Virginia.

Keith Dillard will add to her duties as the Assistant to the Upper School Chaplain, replacing Laura Brown, who retired in June. Keith has been the Administrative Assistant in Extended Day for six years and looks forward to supporting the Chaplain’s office while continuing her role in Extended Day. 

David Geary joins the US Math Department this fall after five years of teaching math, including Algebra I and II, AP Calculus AB and BC, AP Statistics, and IB Mathematical Studies and IB Applications and Interpretations, at J.R. Tucker High School in Henrico County.  David is an alumnus of both Benedictine College Prep, where he was valedictorian, and Virginia Military Institute, where he was a member of the Dean’s List, recipient of the Three Legged Stool Award for the student who best represents the pillars of a VMI education (Leadership, Academics, and Athletics), and President of the Honor Court.  David captained the baseball team at VMI and earned Academic All American honors. David will teach geometry and pre-calculus, serve as an advisor, and coach football and baseball.

As previously announced to the community, Tommy Owen has joined the School as Head Varsity Wrestling Coach and teacher.  Off the mat, Tommy will teach US Health 9 and 10 classes, serve as an advisor, and lead teams as part of the Middle School athletic program. Tommy earned his B.A. in History from Boise State University and his M.A. in Special Education from Grand Canyon University.  For the past two years, Tommy has been a history and special education teacher at Southampton MS in Courtland, VA.

After a successful first year as St. Christopher’s Childrey Teaching Fellow, Marissa Sanghvi will teach three sections of math, Algebra II and precalculus, in the Upper School.  She will continue to help with an advisory and be involved in various aspects of school life, including coaching the varsity baseball team.  A graduate of Francis W. Parker School in Chicago, Marissa earned her B.A. in Applied Mathematics from Yale.

Maggie Varland has been added to both the MS and US Language Department faculty to teach Chinese. Maggie earned her B.A. in Chinese Language, Literature, and Culture from the University of Virginia and her Masters of International Business from Hult International Business School in Shanghai, China. For the past decade, in addition to working in the business sector, Maggie has taught Social Studies and Chinese and served as a college counselor for several schools in Jinhua, Zhejiang, Juroing, and Shanghai, China.  
 

Extended Day 

Elie Caples joins Extended Day as a Junior Kindergarten co-teacher. A graduate of Virginia Tech with a B.S. in Human Development, Elie is currently working to complete her Master of Teaching degree with a concentration in early and elementary education at Virginia Commonwealth University. In the spring of 2021, Elie completed 150 hours volunteering in 2nd and 3rd grade classrooms at Falling Creek Elementary School.

We are pleased to have Drake Dragone on board again this year in Extended Day. Drake has been working for St. Christopher’s Summer Programs since 2014 and was one of the co-coordinators of the Afternoon Adventures program this past summer. With a B.A. in Music from the University of Mary Washington, Drake will continue his work as a recording engineer and producer for local bands in addition to working in Extended Day. Drake is also a composer and plays in two Richmond-area bands. 

Justin Sikes joins Extended Day as a Kindergarten co-teacher. Most recently, Justin has been teaching English to students in China through the English First platform. Justin is a graduate of Old Dominion University with a B.S in Biology, and he plans to pursue his M.A. in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) through Southeast Missouri State University starting this fall. 

Peggy Younts joins Extended Day as a Junior Kindergarten co-teacher. Peggy earned her B.A. in History from Simmons College and her Master of Architectural History degree from the University of Virginia. Peggy started her career in the historic preservation field in Washington, D.C. before moving to Richmond with her family. Peggy has served as  a volunteer for Boy Scouts of America, and she most recently worked for Roslyn Retreat Center for 7 years.
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