Online for Full Semester

Justin Brandon Announces Continuation of Remote Learning


At 5:03 p.m. on Friday, October 16, Head of Upper School Justin Brandon sent an email to students, faculty, and parents announcing the continuation of remote learning until the end of the first semester of the 2020-21 school year. 

Brandon’s letter began by reflecting on the school year so far. It briefly described school programming and expressed pride for the “resilience” of the Parker community “to develop and execute a reimagined fall semester.”

Brandon described the administration’s process of gathering data and holding meetings to synthesize the data and come up with the best plan with all factors considered.

The survey results, according to Brandon’s letter, contained both praise for remote learning as well as fluctuating opinions and comfort levels about returning to campus. Brandon stated that students were “about evenly split between those who wanted a return to in-person learning and those who were opposed to it or uneasy with the idea.”

I have absolutely no interest in going back with the current state of how things are.

— Dean Joe Bruno

The letter explained that based on their evaluation of how remote learning has gone so far, the administration determined that “high-quality remote learning is a significantly better academic experience for Upper School-aged students than hybrid instruction,” in which classes would be simultaneously in-person for some students and remote for others. “I have absolutely no interest in going back with the current state of how things are,” Upper School Dean of Students, Joe Bruno said.

The letter also noted that with the necessary restrictions in place for in-person school, any social aspect of in-person learning would be extremely limited. “I think people have an idea of what it will be like, but it’s not going to be anything that resembles Parker or spirit or community,” Bruno said.

The next chance for the Upper School to be back on campus would be at the beginning of the 2021 calendar year. The letter clarified that another communication regarding the rest of the year will be sent out by or on Friday, January 8, three days after the currently scheduled return from Winter Break. 

Bruno will also be creating a “student planning board” to plan future in-person events, likely to be comprised of four to six students from each grade. “I want these events to be what students want,” Bruno said, “I don’t want these events to be what I think students want.” 

Bruno also said that the upcoming Chicago winter weather would be a challenge they will have to address. Bruno also understood that not everyone would feel comfortable or be interested in going to in-person events. 

Brandon ended by recognizing students’ “many feelings ranging from relief to disappointment and perhaps even anger,” but wrote that he hopes “that we will be compassionate to one another as we continue to navigate this exceptional year.”