Headmaster's Letter


Summer 2020

Dear Members of the BWL Community:

In light of the many challenges that lie ahead of us with regard to the reopening of school, we would like to share the following plan. In the event that BWL cannot reopen in the conventional way, we have mapped out a schedule that provides alternating segments of the academic calendar for the Lower School, and the Middle and Upper Schools. Please keep in mind that the proposed schedule and time blocks are subject to change, given the nature of Covid-19, and restrictions that may be imposed over the summer by state and/or local officials.

In order to utilize the building and keep social distancing requirements in place, the school year will begin with Lower School students coming to school initially from Tuesday, September 8th (this date has changed from the earlier calendar that was sent home, with September 10th given as the first day of school) through Friday, October 30th. Middle and Upper School students will remain at home during this period, and will resume the BWLOnline distance learning curriculum. Lower School students will have access to the entire school building during this time, allowing for reduced class sizes, and more than adequate distance between students.

On Tuesday, November 3rd, all Middle and Upper School students will return to the building, while the Lower School students will return home and resume the BWLOnline curriculum. Middle and Upper School students will then have full access to the building through the MLK weekend in January, which will allow for reduced class sizes and appropriate social distancing.

In January, the School's administration will reevaluate this plan to determine (with input from state and local government) whether it is safe for the entire community to be in the building simultaneously. If it is still necessary to continue to maintain the same level of social distancing, the alternating schedule will continue for the remainder of the year, as outlined below. We will make special provisions for graduation and Arch Day ceremonies.

From Tuesday, January 19th after MLK weekend through Friday, March 19th (the beginning of Spring Vacation), the Lower School will return to the building, and Middle and Upper School students will resume their BWLOnline curriculum.

Following Spring Vacation on April 5th, Middle and Upper School students will return to the building, while Lower School students will return home and resume distance learning for the remainder of the year. We are planning to hold all graduation ceremonies, including Arch Day ceremonies for Lower School, in person, with special protocols to ensure appropriate social distancing.

Additional building protocols and concerns:

* When children and faculty members arrive each morning, the security staff will take their temperature using a special "contactless" thermometer. All students and faculty must stay home if they are ill, and we are adding an isolation area near the nurse’s office where students will wait if they are being sent home for ANY suspected illness. Each classroom will be equipped with a camera to broadcast classes home for the benefit of students and faculty who are home ill during their designated in-person calendar segment.

* Masks will be required. They will be provided for BWL faculty and staff, and families will be able to purchase BWL masks created by Mills, our uniform company, or send students with masks from home.

* Hand washing protocols will be demonstrated and carried out in all grades.

* Deep cleaning, sanitizing and disinfecting of the building will occur at frequent intervals.

* Lunch will be served in the classroom, including a hot and cold option, with no salad bar.

* Parents, alumni and visitors cannot enter the building unless they have a pre-arranged appointment. The security desk will have a list of visitors and “drop-ins” will not be permitted. While this may seem inconsistent with BWL's welcoming philosophy, it is essential that everyone be mindful of this rule. If and when the city's restrictions regarding social distancing change, we will reevaluate this policy.

* We have established a special email address for questions from parents related to the reopening of school: inquiry@gbwl.org. Once we have sketched out the specific details of this plan, we will amass all the parent questions, and the division directors and members of the administration will respond to the FAQs.

* We are in deliberations about how extracurricular athletics will take shape over the 2020-21 academic year, given social distancing requirements and the need to coordinate with independent school athletic leagues.

We will designate time slots between mid-August and early September 2020 when students may come to school to pick up their textbooks and clean out their lockers (due to the unexpected early departure in March 2020).

The proposed educational paradigm of alternating in-person calendar segments should allow all three divisions to spend the same amount of time in the building. If at any point social distancing requirements shift, or there is a working vaccine, we will consider having the entire school population return simultaneously. In the event that the government delays reopening dates or closes schools across the city, BWLOnline will continue in all three divisions. We are confident that our BWLOnline curriculum continues to provide academic excellence in all grades.

Independent schools will respond to the current challenges in various ways, based on many factors (building size, location of campus, age range of students). Given the unprecedented nature of the current crisis, each school's model will be evolving over time. All of the models will include some blend of distance and in-person learning. Our plan gives each age group the chance to connect socially for a two-month block before students are required to shift to distance learning. The equal time intervals should also provide flexibility in terms of vacation and travel plans, with some parents likely to continue working from home.

BWL's plan has been made with input from the city’s Office of Emergency Management and the Department of Health, as well as NYSAIS. Our goal, first and foremost, is the welfare and safety of our community. We ask for your patience, understanding and support as we navigate this uncharted territory.


Frank J. Carnabuci III
, Head of School

Frank Carnabuci Jr. III

Mr. Carnabuci has been the Head of School at The Birch Wathen Lenox School since 1992. In addition to his administrative duties, he has taught a Political Union course, and a course on Protocol. He is currently teaching an Honors English course called The Outsider in Literature. He established the School’s Swimming, Squash and Lacrosse teams, created the STEM Initiative and the Archaeology curriculum, and developed the Overseas Studies and Peer Relations programs. Most recently appointed to the council board of the Harvard Graduate School of Education, he has also served on the governing boards of the Rippowam Cisqua School, The Brick Church School and Drew University.