State of the School Address and Town Hall Q&A Center Provide Insight on COVID-19’s Current and Future Effects on School and More

Head+of+School+Than+Healy+delivers+the+2020+State+of+the+School+speech+through+a+video+on+Vimeo+instead+of+the+normal+speech+delivered+in+Martin+Hall.+Staff+Photo%3A+Sylvie+Venuto

Head of School Than Healy delivers the 2020 State of the School speech through a video on Vimeo instead of the normal speech delivered in Martin Hall. Staff Photo: Sylvie Venuto

Sylvie Venuto and Carly McAdam

Head of School Than Healy and Chair of the Board of Trustees Jake Reynolds delivered the annual State of the School Address via a Vimeo video, which was followed by a Town Hall Q&A Zoom webinar, on Thursday, April 30. Key topics of the address included looking forward as the COVID-19 crisis continues, Menlo’s response to COVID-19 and construction on Menlo’s campus.

Menlo is preparing for a variety of circumstances at the beginning of the next school year, with potential actions to be influenced by San Mateo County’s guidelines and Health Services Coordinator Joan Barada’s recommendations. Healy refuted the idea of starting the new school year early, which was an idea initially proposed by California State Governor Gavin Newsom in a news conference. Potential scenarios include clearing students as they enter campus each day with temperature or saliva tests, enforcing social distancing measures and mandatory hand-washing every hour.

Healy emphasized the importance of tracing the virus for preventative measures. Accommodations will be made for students who are unable to attend school, whether because they have been in contact with the virus, because they have a family member who is immuno-compromised or because their family chooses to take a more conservative approach toward avoiding the virus. Menlo’s technology team is researching video conferencing technology to be installed for the new school year to allow for students to take classes both at home and on campus simultaneously.

Regarding the construction on Menlo’s campus, San Mateo County’s stand-down order on construction will be lifted on May 4, allowing construction to resume on the Spieker Center for the Performing Arts. Menlo now can also submit the plans for the expanded Whitaker Lab to the Town of Atherton’s building commission, according to Healy. The Spieker Center still has around five months of work until it is completed; however, Healy anticipates possible further delays.

Healy and Reynolds also spoke to goals that Menlo is focusing on that are not related to the COVID-19 crisis. Reynolds mentioned Menlo’s focus on faculty retention and support, especially due to the high living costs in the Bay Area. Healy revealed that Menlo purchased another apartment building to house faculty, bringing Menlo’s total faculty housing to 10 units. Another area where Menlo is looking to improve is diversity, equity and inclusion. According to Reynolds, starting next year, the board will have a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee to help “advance and support the school’s work in this area.” In addition, Menlo’s capital campaign has raised over $100 million since 2010 to be put towards all different aspects of the school, including new buildings and financial aid.

Both Reynolds and Healy praised Menlo’s initial response to the crisis and the example that Menlo set by being one of the first California schools to close. They also emphasized the fact that the pandemic has not changed Menlo as an institution or its financial standing. “The state of our school is [still] very strong,” Reynolds said. Reynolds also spoke to Healy’s strong leadership during the crisis. “[Healy] has been a steady, thoughtful, empathetic leader,” Reynolds said. “He’s had the ability to keep his head about him when, seemingly, others weren’t using theirs.” Multiple parents echoed Reynolds’ praise of Healy and the faculty for their work during the pandemic.

Healy also emphasized his gratitude for faculty and students. “I already had a lot of respect for our faculty, and that’s just multiplied. I can’t say enough about the work that they are doing, I can’t say enough about their creativity or their spirit. […] I don’t think that there’s enough that we can do to thank [faculty] or repay them for their efforts, and, frankly, the same goes for our students. […] I honestly couldn’t be more proud to be a part of this school right now,” Healy said in his address.

Additional questions for future Town Halls or communications messages can be sent to [email protected].