COVID-19 Updates to The Pennfield School Community

By March 20, 2020 April 6th, 2020 News

Monday, April 6 – remote learning update from Headmaster Rob Kelley

I received 113 survey responses from parents over the weekend. I appreciate having data to help Pennfield modify and adjust our remote learning program to better meet the collective and individual needs of your children. As mentioned previously, everyone is under stress – a lot of it. Each and every family has its own unique circumstances and dynamics. For some, the first week was smooth; for others, frustration levels were high. The faculty pivoted to a remote learning program with speed and efficiency; I applaud their efforts. Just like you, the faculty are feeling stress and many have young children at home. Restating the obvious, the faculty adore your children and are committed to moving Pennfield’s educational program forward. However, we certainly do not want school to become an arduous chore. Finding that right balance is tricky.

At this morning’s assembly, I concluded with a picture of a Kindness Bench. On that bench is a small bronze plaque that reads, “How beautiful a day is when kindness touches it.” I plan to keep that concept in mind; I hope all of you do, too.

While not the definitive list, this week the administrative team and faculty will review these areas. When modifications are determined, you will be informed straight away.

  • Posting of assignments
  • The structure of co-curricular days in the Lower and Upper Schools
  • The volume of homework
  • The frequency of Zoom classes and meetings
  • Expectations for Zoom conferences and meetings
We are in this together.
Tuesday, March 31 – letter to parents from Headmaster Rob Kelley

Thanks to the tireless work of the faculty and your support at home, The Pennfield School has transitioned to a new mode of schooling in short order. This process has been exhausting, of course, but also extraordinarily invigorating. Everyone has stepped up, leaned in – accepting a new reality. My heartfelt thanks to our faculty and all of you. Education continues!

Yesterday, Governor Raimondo ordered public schools to continue remote learning through April. The Pennfield School will adhere to those recommendations; it’s the only decision to make.

Our plans will surely evolve and adapt. Patience, though, is essential, as the faculty and students establish base-line routines. On Friday you will receive a survey to better understand your assessment of “week one” of remote learning.

In our highly digital world, I strongly encourage your family to shut off electronics for a good chunk of time every day. I have asked faculty to model that for your children. We need to find balance in our lives and to understand that everyone is under stress. Have fun as a family. Take long walks. Read more. As the best bumper sticker of all times declares, “Wag more – bark less.”

Pennfield is a special place – thanks, again, for valuing our most important asset: the faculty. See you bright and early at 8:15 assembly.

Friday, March 27 – Update from Headmaster Rob Kelley

The faculty are hard at work finalizing their initial remote learning plans and testing online conferencing applications, like Zoom, with each other.  Weekly schedules are almost completed but still need a bit of refinement. You will receive details either later today or tomorrow. Thanks for your patience.

Our priority, as you know, is to create meaningful connections in real time and to provide learning support for students and families. What we establish for the first two weeks will, undoubtedly, be adjusted and refined. The faculty and I are certainly learning a lot.

Yesterday’s sunshine and deep blue skies, certainly helped lift my spirits. What a great day to have “distant” fun outside.

To the 115 screens that joined the inaugural test assembly on Tuesday – thanks. It worked! Keep sending me news and photos.

Friday, March 20 – Update from Headmaster Rob Kelley

I hope that your family is healthy and is coping, as best they can, with the stress associated with social distancing. During uncertain, troubling times, it is important now, more than ever before, to support and care for each other. What will happen in the next few weeks or months is unclear but, we will be okay: it may just take a while to regain a sense of normalcy.

As you are aware, Governor Raimondo has directed RI public schools to teach remotely for the next two weeks. In addition, Providence’s independent schools have extended distance learning an additional week. To slow down the spread of COVID-19 and after consulting with the Executive Committee of the Board of Trustees, Pennfield will begin distance learning on Monday, March 30 through Friday, April 10. You will be informed straightaway, should this status change. I suspect that distance learning may extend further into the spring.

Pennfield is currently on spring break, a type of vacation that we certainly hope to never experience again! Distant learning plans sent home prior to break are being refined and recalibrated. With our smaller classes, Pennfield has the ability to be agile and creative. Glitches, some perhaps major, are inevitable. Distant learning is a process, requiring patience from everyone.

Your patience with our evolving process is greatly appreciated. Details about our revised plans will be shared with you on Wednesday, March 25. Early next week, I will also be testing community-wide video conferencing. Again, stay tuned for details.

The imperatives below are at the forefront of our thinking, as we prepare for distant learning:

  • Maintain strong community bonds and connections.
  • Connect regularly with your children and with faculty in meaningful ways.
  • Provide academic structure and forge ahead with student learning and growth, while maintaining flexibility.
  • Reduce, or at least not add to, family stress in these difficult times!

We realize that not everyone may have the technical support needed for distance learning.Pennfield has a dozen iPads that can be loaned to families if you need that additional support. Please email Iris at to arrange a pick-up time.

When classes are taught remotely, families will not, of course, be charged for extended day fees or hot lunch. Prepaid hot lunch funds will be returned, but doing so will, of course, take some time.

Everyone should carve out a little time daily for a walk or a bike ride, some mindfulness practices, a good book– and a healthy dose of laughter with family.

We will get through this crisis together.

Please note that while our school has temporarily moved to remote learning through at least the week of April 27 due to COVID-19, the Admission Office is still open (remotely).  Reach out to Kristin Emory anytime to learn about Pennfield.  We are still accepting applications for the 2020-2021 school year.

Friday, March 13 – Letter to Parents from Headmaster, Rob Kelley
The regional spread of COVID-19 is a serious concern. Like you, I am receiving data and opinions from many sources. Again, like all of you, my concern is always about the safety and welfare of everyone in the community, including, of course, individuals who have underlying health issues and grandparents. Serious decisions, like cancelling programs or suspending classes for a period of time, will occur after calm and methodical deliberation with my crisis team. Decisions are based on facts, not conjecture.
Later today, parents of Lower School and Upper School students will receive an email with details about our remote learning plans. Questions about remote learning should be directed to Mattie Kemp, Head of Upper School, or Karen Lambert, Head of Lower School. Thankfully, Spring Break lasts until March 30.  I will update you by 5:00 p.m. on Monday, March 23 regarding the status of school reopening on March 30. This is a fluid, rapidly evolving situation. If there are material changes between today and March 23, I will inform you straightaway.