"We prepare students to engage in the world that is and to help bring about a world that ought to be."


Dear Friends Families,

We hope this letter finds you and your loved ones safe and healthy and enjoying your summer.

We have been devoting every moment possible to what is an innovative, pedagogically and academically strong, child-centered and age-appropriate plan for reopening the school and for starting the first semester. It has not been an easy job, and the plan has gone through many iterations as we have sought to meld the best of our academic program with recommended safety and health guidelines.  

The reopening committee, the administration, the Board and outside consultants (an epidemiologist, doctors, psychologists, technologists, architects) have worked to create a Friends experience that acknowledges the times we live in, but also respects our mission, values, program and commitment to people. We hope you will be pleased with what you see. Opening day will not be what we’ve experienced in the past, but it will be an Opening Day, or, rather, several of them. We will miss the coming and going of parents in the building; we will miss full, communal gatherings in the Meetinghouse; but we need to accept these changes and be aware that as conditions change, we will change. As the fall progresses, this plan will be assessed in an ongoing way to make sure that Friends, its programs and community, meet our city where it is at any given moment.

At first, though, it will be like breaking in a pair of new shoes—there may be some discomfort initially, but each day the “fit” will become more comfortable.
We understand this Plan will come with a series of questions and concerns from families. We look forward to working with you as we approach September and hope you will join us for the divisional live parent events that are outlined at the bottom of this plan. 

So, with thanks to so many people and optimism for our shared futures, we are pleased to present the Friends Healthy Reopening Plan 2020.
All best,

Robert "Bo" Lauder
Head of School

Isaac Henderson
Clerk, Board of Trustees

Priorities for Fall Planning

As the reopening committees have considered a range of scenarios and options for our fall reopening, we have used the following queries as a lens to evaluate the many possible approaches:
  • How can we protect, to the greatest possible degree, the health and safety of every member of the community?
  • How can we bring the community physically together on campus as much as possible?
  • In what ways can we ensure equity of access to the Friends experience across grade levels, regardless of circumstances?
  • How will we continue to deliver a challenging, diverse and exciting academic program to all students, K-12, regardless of circumstance or location?
  • How do we maintain our important co-curricular and community programs, the social emotional fabric of the community, and our Quaker Mission, in addition to excellent academics?
  • Can we leverage new and existing technology to creatively support solutions for a healthy return to campus and full, flexible access to our programs?

Potential Fall Scenarios

The status of the COVID-19 pandemic in the nation and New York continues to evolve daily, as does our understanding of the virus and its implications for schools. It’s hard to predict what the facts will be when school starts, but as the summer unfolds, we plan to keep abreast of the latest information and continue to cultivate expert guidance on what the best and safest course of action is for Friends Seminary. At this point, we are planning for three potential scenarios:

Full Reopening

  • All students on campus everyday
  • Very few restrictions on programming
  • Normal school schedule

Hybrid Program

  • Only some students allowed on campus each day
  • Programs include both in-person and online elements
  • Fully virtual option available under certain circumstances
  • (more explanation below)

Distance Learning for All

  • All students and teachers work from home
  • Distance Learning programs and pedagogy revised and improved based on Spring 2020 experience
  • (more explanation below)

The following graphic shows the major factors that will determine the format for the fall reopening of school. The rest of this webpage provides detail on our Hybrid Program and Distance Learning For All Program.

Hybrid Program

In this scenario, we will bring students back to campus, but with significant restrictions. Current guidelines for schools include avoiding large groups (>10) in enclosed spaces, maintaining 6-foot physical distancing, and limiting students to small, contained cohorts whenever possible. These guidelines have been important factors as we’ve developed plans for this scenario and are the major reason that only a portion of students would be allowed on campus at any time.

Staggered Repopulating of Campus

When the time comes and circumstances allow it, opening our campus will be a process, not an event. We need to help all students launch what will be an unusual school year in a manner that allows them to feel safe, acclimated and open to learning. For our youngest and newest students, that means prioritizing their initial experiences with Friends Seminary in a way that helps them feel at home in their new learning environment. For all students, it will mean learning new protocols and routines for health and safety, new ways of interfacing with peers and teachers, and finding an emotional footing in a new and uncertain reality. For these reasons, we are planning a staggered start to the school year. While Thursday, September 10 is the first day of the school year, it will not be the first day of academic classes. For students who are new to Friends Seminary or entering a new Division at Friends, we are planning orientation experiences that will help them adjust.

We have worked very hard to balance the developmental needs of each age level with safety and health concerns as well as pedagogically responsible models, but every plan we make will have benefits and drawbacks for some of our students who span such a wide range. For the staggered opening, we are prioritizing the needs of our youngest students, new students, and our Upper School students, this last group because they will have the least in-person time in school during the fall. Please consult the school calendar and divisional offices for more details on the opening days of school. 

Modified Programs and Schedules

Our plans for Hybrid Learning were carefully considered with attention paid to the latest statistics and science on preventing viral transmission in schools as well as the developmental and learning needs of each age group. We believe these plans are equitable, and would ask you to recall that equity does not mean that each student gets the same thing, but that each student gets what they need. Thus you will notice that our younger students will spend more time on campus, albeit in isolated groups with just a few in-person adults. Whereas our older students will spend more time online, but with more mixing between peer groups and interactions with a variety of teachers across different subjects. For all students, we expect the Friends experience this Fall to be intimate, engaging, highly interactive, and, most importantly, safe.

Lower School

Kindergarten-Grade 2 students will come to school five days per week, with an early dismissal on Wednesdays at 1:30 PM.

Grades 3 and 4 will come to school four days per week: Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. They will remain at home and have remote programming on Wednesdays.  

  • While at school, Lower School homerooms will be split into half group cohorts of 7-10 students and will have limited mixing with other cohorts. 
  • Each half group cohort will have a primary homeroom teacher and several additional teachers that will rotate between half groups within a grade level to deliver instruction in a variety of core subjects and specialist subjects. 
  • Cohorts will spend most of their time in a single classroom, but will have time each day for physical activity outside the classroom, including classes such as PE and Dance, as well as daily recess. 
  • Lunch will be provided in the classroom.
  • Wednesdays at home for third and fourth graders will include synchronous Zoom sessions with the Homeroom teachers and specialist teachers, as well as full LS community programming. 

For more detail and background on the Lower School plan, please read this letter from Erin Gordon, Head of Lower School.

Middle School

Grades 5 and 6 will come to school four days per week: Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. They will remain at home and have remote programming on Wednesdays.  

  • While on campus, fifth and sixth grade Homerooms will be divided into two half group cohorts in separate rooms and will have limited mixing with other students. 
  • Students will spend most of their time in a single classroom, but will have time each day for physical activity outside the classroom, including classes such as PE and Dance, as well as daily recess. 
  • Lunch will be provided in the classroom.
  • Wednesdays will include synchronous lessons in a variety of co-curricular subjects, divisional community meetings, and also some time for asynchronous, screen-free assignments.  

Grades 7 and 8 will come to school two days per week and have remote programming three days per week. Grade 7 will come on Monday and Tuesday, Grade 8 on Thursday and Friday.  

  • While on campus, classes for seventh and eighth grade students will be scheduled with the same small cohort of peers as much as possible.
  • Two cohorts will form a class that will be scheduled together in two adjacent rooms. Teachers will work the two groups and will be able to move back and forth between rooms while making use of strong audio and video links between the rooms. 
  • Students will spend most of their time in a single classroom with different subject teachers coming to their room, but will have time each day for physical activity outside the classroom, including classes such as PE and Dance, as well as daily recess. 
  • During at-home days, students will have synchronous classes via Zoom.

For more detail and background on the Middle School plan, please read this letter from Pankti Sevak, Head of Middle School.

Upper School

Upper School students will have virtual classes four days per week: Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday. They will come to campus on Wednesdays for a day of co-curricular and community programming and meetings with teachers. During on-campus days, students will remain grouped in cohorts based on their advisories. Upper School will also have a full week of on-campus classes in November, January, February and April. 

  • Upper School students will have four academic class periods on each distance learning day. Full credit classes will meet twice each week.   
  • Classes will meet in full groups with their teacher without any splitting or rotating between groups. Total class contact time between teachers and students will be almost 75% of a typical, in-person school year. 
  • This schedule will afford more opportunities for 1:1 meetings with teachers than our normal eight-day schedule. 
  • Upper School students will also have four week-long spans spaced throughout the year of on-campus academic classes.

For more detail and background on the Upper School plan, please read this letter from Kate Reynolds, Head of Upper School.

Fully Virtual Option

We recognize that for some families, there will remain obstacles of various kinds to sending a child to campus at all. For this reason, we will offer a fully virtual option for any student with a situation that makes coming to campus not possible. This option will look different for different age groups, but the intention is for students to be able to transition into or out of this option after consultation and approval from their Divisional Office. 

In Lower School, the virtual option will involve accessing materials from the homeroom curriculum while meeting synchronously with a dedicated distance learning specialist. The student would also join classmates via Zoom for certain community-centered activities such as meetings, read-alouds or celebrations.

The Middle School virtual option will have students join their peers directly in the classroom via Zoom. The School has upgraded classroom AV technology to support seamless, high quality digital linkages. 

For Upper School, since all academics will be virtual, students who opt to remain home would use Zoom to engage in non-academic programs and activities or to have collaborative meetings with teachers. For the extracurricular activities and programming, students join their peers directly in the classroom via Zoom. 


There is still much uncertainty about how much interscholastic competition will be possible. In addition to the proximity concerns for team sports, there are concerns about the risks of travel by bus or subway to off-campus competitions or practice sites. Locker rooms and shared equipment are also risk factors. Nonetheless, we recognize that the camaraderie and social bonding that happens during a team’s season are crucial experiences for teenagers. Therefore, we will form athletics teams and ensure there is time each week for those teams to be together. In conjunction with other schools in our leagues, we are exploring the possibility of moving certain fall sports to the spring season. For other sports, the extent of physical activity and competition will be determined as we get closer to the school year.

At this time, all preseason athletics camps and preseason practices are cancelled. Athletics teams for Grades 7-12 will still be formed and will run in whatever capacity is possible.  

Friends After Three

In order to provide enhanced cleaning and to facilitate an orderly and safe dismissal procedure, we will not be able to offer the usual rich selection of F.A.T. after school electives. We do recognize, however, that after school supervision and care is essential for many working families. For this reason we are pursuing a limited after care option that would provide on-campus supervision for younger students.

Distance Learning for All

In this scenario, campus will be closed to all students. All academic and non-academic programming will occur virtually. Our hope, however, is to improve the experience and feel of distance learning in this scenario compared to this past spring. We have gathered feedback from students, parents and teachers and have already begun reflecting at every level—from divisional programs down to individual courses and lesson plans—on what worked and what didn’t this spring. To increase our faculty’s skills and tools for distance learning, we have engaged in several thousand collective hours of professional development since the end of classes in June, and there is much more learning and curriculum re-organizing that will continue to happen throughout the summer. Our faculty have shown tremendous dedication and commitment to offering the best possible education no matter the circumstances this fall.  

Our preparations for a potential distance learning scenario have been focused on three major areas (which will also be beneficial if we end up in the Hybrid Program scenario):
  1. Technology tools and skills
  2. Pedagogies that can pivot between in-person and distance learning
  3. Establishing and maintaining a healthy community, healthy relationships and healthy personal habits while school and friends are remote and distanced.
Friends Seminary — the oldest continuously operated, coeducational school in NYC — serves college-bound day students in Kindergarten-Grade 12.
222 East 16th Street
New York, NY 10003
P: 212-979-5030
F: 212.979.5034