A majority of the approximately 63 parents who attended a 50-minute meeting of the Lincoln Academy Parent Association on Thursday, March 18 expressed support for the new trimester schedule at Lincoln Academy, according to meeting minutes.
“Most people seemed to be happy with what the school is doing,” Doug Straus, chair of the association, said during a phone interview Monday, March 22.
According to the meeting’s minutes, Straus said the association decided not to have a reporter cover the meeting in person because it wanted the “forum to feel like a safe space for all parents to share their concerns.”
LA implemented changes to the third trimester, which took effect on Tuesday, March 16, that result in a 1 hour and 10-minute increase in the school day, each subject being taught in person twice a week rather than once, the elimination of shorter remote classes on Wednesday, and additional on-campus academic support for students.
LA spokesperson Jenny Mayher said by email on Tuesday, March 23 that her conversations with students and staff about the new schedule have been “overwhelmingly favorable.”
“People seem to really like meeting twice a week,” Mayher wrote.
Head of School Jeff Burroughs outlined the changes to the schedule and the reasoning behind them at the start of the meeting. According to minutes from the meeting, Burroughs said due to federal and state requirements for physical distancing, the school cannot yet return to full-time in-person instruction and accommodate all 533 students at once.
Even at the smaller physical distancing requirement of 3 feet, “Lincoln Academy’s smaller classrooms, as well as hallways during passing period, bathrooms, buses, and lunch areas can’t always accommodate that,” Burroughs said, according to the minutes.
According to the minutes, some parents expressed concerns and frustration that the school cannot return to full-time in-person instruction and that not enough planning is happening to prepare for a return to full-time this fall. The parents were also concerned for students’ emotional health and felt that the decision to wait until next fall before going back to full time would be “detrimental” to students.
Anthony Anderson, an LA parent who organized a demonstration of about 20 parents and students pushing for full-time instruction on Sunday, March 13, said by email after the meeting that he and two other parents expressed concern about the new trimester plan during the meeting. He said he feels his concerns were not adequately addressed and that the LA administration declined an offer of help from parents to draft the plan for returning to full-time instruction.
Anderson wrote that his group has “lost steam.”
“My group continues to feel unrepresented in this process. We have no voice,” Anderson wrote.
A statement from the LA administration said that Anderson “clearly communicated his concerns” at the meeting and that they are sorry he feels his concerns were not validated.
“The school takes its responsibility to ensure the health and safety of our students extremely seriously and has employed the appropriate resources, experience, and professional expertise to effectively plan and execute running a school in a global pandemic,” the statement said.
The LA administration is hopeful that everyone will be vaccinated for COVID-19 and herd immunity will be achieved by the fall semester, which would eliminate physical distancing requirements, according to the minutes.
Burroughs said during the meeting that LA is actively tracking students who are struggling at school and offering alternatives to help them “catch up and stay connected,” including more study halls, office hours, remote help, peer tutors, and bringing supplies to students’ homes, according to the minutes.
Eric Duffy, LA’s school nurse, explained that all the classroom spaces were measured three times to determine how many teachers and students can fit with distancing rules.
“We’re balancing the difference between trying to do the greatest amount of good for the greatest number of people as consistently as we can while supporting the needs of the most vulnerable members of our community,” Duffy said, according to meeting minutes.