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A Way Forward Wednesday June 10, 2020

The Future of ASMS

When I was a History instructor, I enjoyed teaching about the American Revolution and the United States Constitution’s ratification. I especially liked teaching about the Federalist Papers, a collection of essays written by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay that urged New Yorkers and others to support the Constitution. The essays provided opportunities for the authors to publicly explain their beliefs about how America and its government should take shape during a chaotic period in American history.

So how does this history refresher relate to ASMS? Each Wednesday this summer, ASMS will email you letters from different community members articulating the strategies, priorities, and changes that will define the path in which our school must travel as we navigate the future during these unsettled times. We hope that this series of messages will provide you with a sound understanding of what school administrators are thinking and where ASMS is heading.

Next week, for example, Academic Dean Dr. Mitch Frye will write about his own experiences at a school similar to ASMS and why it is important to prioritize academics. After that, you will hear from an assortment of other people. ASMS Parent Association representatives will address how they envision the role of parents evolving. Allyson McMaken will speak about the Jo Bonner Leadership Academy and its alignment with the ASMS mission. Director of Student Affairs Kara Whitney will write about how ASMS must emphasize mental health next school year. And, there will be others, too. In the last letter, I will present ASMS’s strategic plan.

COVID-19 Task Force

I also want to give you a brief update on how ASMS is preparing to begin the 2020-2021 school year. ASMS organized a 16-member COVID-19 Task Force in early May to develop a comprehensive plan to start school and keep the community as safe as possible in the process. We are working closely with our sister boarding schools in other states. Interestingly, the plans that each school has shared so far are strikingly similar.

We hope to publish and distribute the ASMS plan in mid-July. Although this might sound late, we are purposefully building in time to consider the guidelines that the state of Alabama will release in late June regarding high school and college openings. If we have to make practical adjustments to our plans, we will do so.

What I will share with you before July, however, is that we intend to hold classes on campus in the fall. We strongly believe that face-to-face instruction, coupled with the residential experience, results in the best educational outcomes for our students. We will, however, be prepared to transition to distance learning, should the need arise. We are also examining the feasibility of allowing some students and faculty to work and learn from home as an option.

Will things look a little different on campus next year? Yes, but the changes are necessary, and it will all be OK. Some practices, like hand washing, are simpler to put in place, but other guidelines require significant planning and resources. ASMS is making decisions based on best practices and science as we move the community forward.

Although you may have questions, please give us time to firm up our plans and deliver them to you in mid-July. At that time, we will be happy to communicate with you directly by phone or email to answer your questions. In the meantime, students will be emailed a survey soon that they should respond to with the help of a parent or guardian.

Looking Ahead

I also want each of our community members to know that profound flexibility and, perhaps, individual sacrifices will be required next year. Although there is intense uncertainty in our world, the turbulence underscores the critical importance of ASMS’s mission to develop Alabama’s future leaders.

The ASMS community is resilient, and I am confident that we will navigate COVID-19 and any other challenges if we work together.


John Hoyle, Ph.D.

  • Jun 10, 2020