From the Director: Rounding the Turn with Summer in View

Given Nashville's extended Safer at Home Order and USN landing in phase three of the city's resumption of activity plan, USN Summer Camps will not take place on campus in June. We are considering virtual summer offerings instead and continue to prepare for the months ahead.
Somehow we’ve found our way to May. We swapped, however wistfully, the typically hectic April calendar—packed with prom, reunion, dance concert, operetta, and myriad sports events—for lengthy days that turned into weeks apart. And here we sit, balancing between what we knew so well and what we’ve learned to do since. Even writing this weekly message is getting to be second nature. To give you a break from the bloviating, my aim this time is to be relatively brief, in thanksgiving for your continued attention. Wish me luck, and let’s think about summer.
First, we need to get there. Our students and faculty earn high marks, even in this pass/fail environment, for setting and keeping an impressive pace, purposeful but not unreasonable. The tasks at hand include wrapping up academic projects still in process, providing constructive assessment of where each of our students stands in this extraordinary time, and helping to set a course for the year ahead. Additionally, we can’t be too busy to celebrate those rites of passage and accomplishments that technology makes possible. Thank goodness for the creativity of my colleagues, combining with the resilience and persistence and good humor of our students and their families. So stay tuned—watch us work.
By Memorial Day weekend we’ll have the hay in the barn, with the exception of Commencement exercises, now uprooted by the most recent Metro guidance about being Safer at Home. We’re committed to an in-person ceremony, keeping a 102-year-old pattern alive—Head of High School Quinton Walker will announce plans to seniors and their loving families in a few days. Meanwhile, the rest of us need to be thinking of what to do with June. And I’ve been promising to offer something definitive by, well, today.
In consultation with authorities of all stripes and schools across the city, it seems most prudent to think in 30-day increments, combining a chance to plan with the imperative to remain flexible. What that means in concrete terms is that given where the city stands on the phased resumption of activity plan, we cannot schedule or promise any in-person camps or programs for June on campus. And by June 1, we should have answers about what’s possible for July, and then by July 1 for August, in turn.
That sequence opens the door for another pivot on our part. While your own tolerance for remote learning may be exhausted, there might still be an opportunity we can offer from a distance, curricular or otherwise, to provide something of value for the summer—maybe for a week, maybe longer. I’ve already invited our faculty to brainstorm a little, and with the Division Heads’ help, we’ll start putting elements together in the next couple weeks, traversing new uncharted terrain.
There’s a possibility that several weeks into summer we can pilot the protocols that emerge as best practice for full-scale resumption of classes in August. Or we may need all that time for planning, or it could be claimed by extended mitigation efforts. If only we knew for certain. What I can promise is that we’ll do everything within reason to have doors open, safely, by August 18, as scheduled, calling on every available resource and expert. That’s the priority. Experts, we have, in enviable numbers.
Guess this wasn’t all that brief. We’re focused on what’s most imminent, knowing that planning, in discrete chunks, is essential too. Expect to continue hearing more from all of us at USN, responding to what we come to know, setting and resetting our course. My thanks again extend for your patience and understanding—it sure feels like you appreciate how hard it is to be predictive. And to write shorter columns…
Any sentiments about dream summer offerings welcome, btw,
    • Director Vince Durnan

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