Students and teachers stand with Sally Iliff from Unity Gardens in the new native plant gardens planted by the students.

Key’s fourth graders kicked-off 2021 with an ambitious plan to win a grant to support the creation of a native plant garden on Key’s campus. Having delved into studies of biodiversity with Science Coordinator Amy Cline, the students learned about the integral importance of native plants to healthy ecosystems, and their wheels started turning as they began to envision the potential transformation of spaces on Key’s campus.

Read More about Fourth Grade Awarded Unity Gardens Grant
Members of Black Affinity 2020-2021 on Zoom call

Starting in December, students in Key’s Black Affinity group began talking about how to best celebrate Black History Month 2021 in the Upper School. While the group also led the community event in February 2020, they knew the gathering this year would be very different as a virtual experience and that planning for it would be challenging. 

Read More about Black Affinity Leads Upper School Black History Month Celebration

KEYnotes: Matthew Nespole

Dear Members of the Key Community,

I hope you are enjoying the warm and long days of summer.

During the week of July 12, my wife Jennifer and I spent a few days in Maine visiting our daughter Maggie who is working in the Admissions Office at Bates College. Jennifer and I celebrated our 26th wedding anniversary while up in Maine, and were able to visit the Bates College Chapel, where we, both being alums of Bates, got married. I saw my in-laws whom I haven’t seen since Christmas of 2019, and spent time with my college roommate and dear friend whom I have not seen in person for three years. For the first time in what feels like forever, I was able to enjoy myself for an extended period of time. I had forgotten how important it is to do that. Creating new memories is medicine for the soul. I hope you have been able to create some as well.

In many ways life at Key this summer feels like it did prior to the start of the pandemic. Summer at KEY camp has been vibrantly running, and both academic and administrative offices are preparing for the start of school. Enrollment is in excellent shape, and I believe we will not only meet, but exceed, our enrollment goal for the upcoming school year. Our Annual Fund achieved its highest level in the history of Key, and the frenetic activity of construction on campus is taking place. Renovations to the Arts Building are near completion, the First School roof has been replaced, and projects throughout campus are progressing. 

Communications from our Divisional Leadership, and other administrative offices have, and will continue to be, sent to you between now and the start of school. These notes will provide updates and division specific information about the upcoming school year, so please read them carefully. 

As I think about the upcoming school year, an important theme for Key will be Connecting to Build Community. During the past two academic years we had to limit our interactions with each other to minimize risk. Some of the most joyous and engaging times last year were when we were able to come together. While most of these occurred at sporting events and end-of-year parties, the energy that came from being connected was incredibly positive. Being together, in my mind, allows us to engage more deeply and thoughtfully with one another as we work to support our students’ emotional well-being and intellectual growth. In the spring the Key School Board of Trustees endorsed a Strategic Framework that will be the guidepost for enhancements and changes to our program and physical environment in the coming years. The tenets of the framework were informed by the efforts the School undertook back in the 2019-2020 year to receive feedback from all community members and stakeholders. Grounded in our Mission and focused on what skills and attributes our students need to be successful at Key and beyond, this Framework is the foundation that we will use as work on plans for this year to strengthen bonds and relationships. I look forward to sharing the key components of this Framework with all of you during the course of the academic year.

While life is beginning to resemble the way things were prior to the start of the pandemic, we still need to grapple with several issues in order to continue to have as safe a campus as possible when school begins in late August. We are still planning for five-day, on-campus instruction for all grades, full after school programming, and a full slate of parent programs. These plans continue to unfold in the context of the guidance and recommendations from federal, state and local agencies, as well as the impact a possible uptick in COVID-19 infections could have in our area. Thankfully, our region still remains at relatively low risk for an outbreak. 

We have encouraged, and will continue to strongly encourage, all members of our community who can be vaccinated to do so. But even with aggressive vaccinations, close to fifty percent of Key students will not have access to vaccines at the start of the school year. Recently the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended that masks be worn by all individuals in a school setting. The guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is different. While all agencies are strongly advocating for on-campus instruction, a layered regional approach will ultimately determine what protocols will be implemented to ensure that on campus programming is done as safely as possible.

Key’s school nurse, Katie Anderson, is working closely with our local health department, and we expect guidance from them in August. While we are awaiting that guidance from the Anne Arundel County Department of Health, we should all wrap our heads around the fact that mask wearing on our campus in some form will most likely be occurring during the upcoming school year, and continue into 2022. We are also expecting that we will continue to employ the guidelines for quarantine for anyone who is diagnosed with COVID-19. Close contacts of known cases who are not vaccinated will, in all likelihood, be required to quarantine. Quarantine status for vaccinated individuals may very well be different, but that remains unclear. We also expect that individuals with symptoms will be told to stay away from campus. We envision that daily health assessments in some form will be required, but hopefully not as onerous as last year, which will have us transform pick-up and drop-off procedures to mirror pre-pandemic protocols. These procedures will be outlined as the beginning of school gets closer.

During the week of August 9, I plan to reach out again with an update on safety protocols and the opening of school.

Stay safe, enjoy the summer, and you will hear from me again in August.