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COVID-19 Updates

The Emery/Weiner School continues to monitor the spread of COVID-19 in our region. This page will contain all communications from the School regarding the situation.

Communications from the School

List of 28 items.

  • January 5, 2021

    Dear EWS Families,
    When it comes to COVID, I like to tell my family & friends that I know just enough to be dangerous.  To be sure, I read about it non-stop & am in regular touch with our Medical Advisory Panel (who basically do weekly tutorials with me), but to my mother’s on-going chagrin, I am still not a doctor.  As such, I avoid diagnosing or issuing medical advice. 
    Instead, my colleagues & I continue to follow the guidance of the wonderful team of doctors who are providing us with expert assistance.  In fact, late last night, two of my colleagues – Athletic Director Angie Gubitz & COVID Coordinator Tammy Feldstein – we’re making calls & writing emails consistent with what the MAP has told us to do.  So please trust the process, meaning this:
    First & foremost, abide by all safety protocols on campus & off at all times. Second, please report to the school if you or someone in your household tests positive.  And finally, please allow the school to do proper contact tracing in order to determine who, based on criteria established by our doctors, should quarantine.
    With the advent of vaccines, it certainly feels like we can see light at the end of this terrible tunnel.  However, the dramatic increase in cases nationally, locally, at our school & other schools, is a stark reminder that we still face significant risk.  Continuing to follow our protocols (discussed further below) remains essential.  For the sake of all in our community – many of whom remain highly vulnerable – please be mindful.
    With best wishes for a happy & healthy new year.
    Stuart J. Dow
    Head of School
  • January 5, 2021

    The safety of our community remains our top priority. Please take a few moments to review the most recent version of our Framework for Reopening document below, and note the following significant changes:
    • We have resumed a full-day schedule for all students. A detailed schedule can be found at the following link: EWS Bell Schedule (Spring 2020-2021).pdf
      • All students should plan to come to school with headphones each day for use in overflow learning spaces
      • Classroom capacities and distance between students have not changed
      • More information on this update can be found on page 6 of the document
    • We will now provide daily lunch for all students.
      • Lunch service will be streamlined and contactless, offering a cold and hot option each day as well as options for vegetarians and those with allergies
      • We have added more covered outdoor dining spaces and students are encouraged to eat lunch outdoors in seats marked six feet apart, so please dress accordingly
      • We have contingency plans in place for days with inclement weather
      • More information on this update can be found on page 7 of the document
    • In keeping with CDC guidelines, and on the advice of our Medical Advisory Panel, we have adjusted our protocols for COVID-19 exposure. When a student has close contact with a known COVID-19 case (or someone with COVID-19 symptoms) they have two options:
      • Option 1: The student may take a PCR test no sooner than six days after last contact with the positive case and may return to campus after producing a negative test result, or
      • Option 2: The student may return to campus after ten days have passed since close contact with the positive case, assuming the student has no COVID-19 symptoms
      • More information on this update can be found on page 10 of the document
    As a reminder, students who choose to remain remote will no longer be allowed to participate in after-school activities that meet on campus in person — such as sports.
    We appreciate your continued commitment to the care of the Emery/Weiner community.
    Link: Framework for Reopening Document
  • December 15, 2020

    The greatest threat to Emery students has been activity that’s taken place off campus. To that end, any family that chooses to travel over the winter break is expected to consult the CDC website on traveling and quarantine accordingly.
    In addition, any family that travels internationally over break should notify the school and is expected to quarantine for 14 days upon return to the United States. Please email all notifications to our COVID Coordinator at
  • November 17, 2020

    With college students testing positive for COVID-19 at many campuses nationwide, the goal is to mitigate risk to the rest of the family and community when they return for Thanksgiving.
    Here are some practical tips and information from our Medical Advisory Panel for families who will be welcoming college students home for the holidays: 
    • College students should quarantine themselves before coming home (for at least a week, if possible).
    • Quarantine (in this case) means avoiding social interactions, such as going to restaurants, bars, and parties — especially indoors & particularly without masks.
    • College students should receive one or more negative Coronavirus test results within three days of coming to Houston.
    • Without testing, a student can be asymptomatic and unknowingly bring the virus home.
    • It can take up to three days after exposure to test positive.
    • If traveling by plane: wash hands/use hand sanitizer frequently, especially after using airport restrooms; always wear mask & ideally protective eyewear.
    • If traveling by car, use wet wipes on gas pumps or wear rubber gloves, then throw the gloves away.
    • Upon arrival in Houston, college students should quarantine until they have been retested.
    • Retesting should occur within the first week after arriving in Houston.
    • While awaiting test results, masks should be worn at all times indoors and meals should be eaten in well-ventilated areas six feet apart.
    • Those who do not test should quarantine for 14 days before and after traveling.  

    Some college students may have already had COVID-19 during this semester. If so, testing and quarantining may not be necessary. However, college students should still adhere to safe practices outside the “family bubble” before returning home. Although rare, according to our infectious disease expert, Dr. Ed Septimus, people can be re-infected after three to four months. 
  • October 6, 2020

    Dear EWS Families,

    When we resumed on-campus instruction, we knew that having positive COVID cases wasn’t a possibility, it was an inevitability. The safety protocols we put into place were never expected to eliminate all sickness — most of which would likely be contracted off campus — they were designed to limit its spread within our school community. These protocols — including how long we require people to remain off campus if they’ve contracted the virus or come into contact with someone who has — were approved by our Medical Advisory Panel. 
    So, just as it’s incumbent upon each of us to adhere to the Commitment to Care pledge and not jeopardize the health of our neighbors by violating any of the protocols, it’s also incumbent upon each of us to respect one another and trust the processes the school has in place. Thus when a student or staff member returns to campus after quarantine or isolation (terms discussed below), we should not make them feel stigmatized in any way as a result of our own fear or anxiety.The school’s COVID response team will continue announcing positive cases, doing contact tracing, and tracking the relevant dates in order to ensure the safety of all students and staff.  
    We certainly appreciate people’s generalized concerns about the ongoing situation, but to better understand what transpires in specific scenarios, please see the “Process Map” contained at the end of the “Framework” document. A few key points:

    • Isolation is for anyone who has contracted the virus, and the 10-day period they must remain off campus begins from the date ofthe positive test. (Please note this is a change to the pre-existing framework document).
    • Quarantine is for anyone who has likely been exposed to someone with the virus, and the 14-day period they must remain off campus begins on the date of their most recent close contact with the positive case. Note that if close contact is ongoing and unavoidable (for people who live in the same household, for example) this means that quarantine begins on the last day of the 10-day isolation period of the positive case.
    • Re-testing is not required to return to campus according to our doctors.
    • It is not appropriate for the school to share information related to specific students or staff, but we will communicate directly with affected individuals and we will strictly enforce procedures related to being on campus.
    • Beginning today, we will post a weekly dash-board with information related to positive cases. This can be found on Blackbaud under “Resources” and “Forms and Information.”
    • Please err on the side of caution and do NOT come to campus if you are experiencing symptoms.
    • If a student stays home because of experiencing symptoms, they should NOT attend athletics or any other extra-curricular activity until they have been cleared to return to campus.
    • Finally, distance learning is meant for those who are not comfortable being on campus, or for those experiencing symptoms. It is not meant as an alternative instructional model when convenient.

    Thanks very much for your understanding & ongoing support.
    Stuart J. Dow
    Head of School
    Quick Links:
  • September 8, 2020

    Dear EWS Families,
    As a father, I was genuinely grateful that my daughter was able to attend her school in person earlier today. On the car-ride there, she was understandably a bit nervous – but also giddy with excitement. “It’s been so long since I’ve actually been there, Dad, and it’s kinda weird that I’ll have to wear a mask all day. But I know I’ll be happier this way.” Sure enough, I just picked her up and the day was a huge success. This from a ten year old who’s slightly obsessed with Tik Tok. (I monitor, don’t worry.)
    Anyway, my sincere hope is that your kids feel the same way – and that we can deliver accordingly. Still, it’s worth reminding them (and each other) that patience and flexibility remain critical. I’m sure we will encounter issues we didn’t anticipate, or we’ll discover that planned approaches aren’t as good as we had thought. But we’ll figure it out – and doing so together, in person, even if masked & distanced, should be a welcome change. To that end, please check out the short video that follows about what students can expect when they arrive on campus. Special thanks to Tammy Feldstein for her work. 
    By the way, if your family chose to continue with distance learning, we certainly respect that decision and hope to see you on campus when you’re more comfortable.

    Stuart J. Dow
    Head of School
  • September 1, 2020

    Dear EWS Community,

    I hope this message finds you & your loved ones well. 
    I’m writing to announce that we will resume on-campus instruction on Monday, September 14. As previously noted, all of our COVID-related plans have been made in concert with our Medical Advisory Panel, including the decision to re-open. The doctors’ advice is based on current trends related to hospitalization statistics, positivity percentages in the community, and the viral infection rate. Please note that if these trends change significantly before the 14th, or after, we may have to resume remote instruction. I certainly hope that’s not the case. In the mean-time, allow me to share a few reminders:
    • All families must indicate whether your child will return to campus on the 14th or continue to learn remotely. The form to do so can be found by logging in to your Blackbaud account. (Please note that if you prefer to continue learning remotely, you can change your mind at any time — provided, however, you email Josh Blice ( at least one week in advance.)
    • All families should review the “Framework for Reopening” document that was emailed last week & is available on the school’s website here: link.
    • Also, please note that all students and parents must sign the “Commitment to Care” document in order to come to campus. It can be found by logging into your Blackbaud account.
    • As noted in the Framework, the daily academic schedule will remain the same, whether we are in full distance learning mode or modified on-campus instruction. Students are therefore expected to continue logging on remotely for things such as advisory and assemblies even after we resume on-campus instruction on the 14th. 

    Finally, a word about emotions & expectations: While many in the community are excited by the prospect of returning to campus, many others are anxious. Both feelings are understandable. It’s been said many time before, but it’s worth repeating — what we are facing is unprecedented. As such, it’s critical that we remain calm, patient, understanding, and respectful as we navigate together. Despite all the months of planning we’ve done on paper, it’s almost certain that when we come together in person, we will have to make adjustments to protocols and procedures. Thanks in advance for your understanding as we do our best in these difficult circumstances to give your children the education and experience you expect and they deserve.

    Stuart J. Dow
    Head of School
  • August 25, 2020

    Dear EWS Community,
    As previously mentioned, we have not yet identified a specific date for returning to on-campus instruction — our hope is to do so soon based on advice from our Medical Advisory Panel. In the meantime, however, I’m writing about two very important documents.
    The “Framework for Reopening” is a document that describes a myriad of issues related to returning to campus during the ongoing pandemic; it not only includes information about our physical campus, it describes instructional and programmatic practices, and most importantly, it includes safety protocols that will be required for all students, staff, & families. The Framework, which has been reviewed by our Medical Advisory Panel, is comprehensive, but hopefully readable. Please note that it is a “living” document in that it is subject to change, based on new information we learn related to the science of COVID and best mitigation practices.
    The second document is the “Commitment to Care,” which all students, staff & families in the EWS community will be required to sign. This document is essentially a pledge to follow all procedures described in the “Framework for Reopening.”
    The “Framework for Reopening” can be found on the dedicated COVID page on our website, here.
    The “Commitment to Care” form can be found on Blackbaud. To access the form once you are logged into Blackbaud, click on the link, "1 Form(s) to Review". Please remember that in order to sign the form, you must sign in to your own account. All parents and student must sign this form for it to show complete on Blackbaud. A copy of the "Commitment to Care" document can also be found on Blackbaud under “Resources” and “Forms and Information.” 
    Please note that the deadline for signing the “Commitment to Care” is this Friday & those who have not done so will not be allowed on campus until the form is completed.
    Thanks very much.
    Stuart J. Dow      
    Head of School
  • August 21, 2020

    Dear Emery/Weiner Community,
    I hope this message finds you & your loved ones well.
    I understand people’s desire for greater certainty regarding our campus re-opening & a return to in-person instruction. However, as we have previously communicated, we would rather not identify a specific return date unless we feel very confident about doing so. Reason being, many of our peer schools that have made definitive statements in this regard have had to backtrack in subsequent announcements. That said, allow me to explain our process for determining when (and how) to re-open. 

    First, we will continue to rely on the advice of our Medical Advisory Panel — a four person team that includes Dr. Ed Septimus, Dr. Clive Fields, Dr. Patti Saverick, & Dr. Eric Haas, who practice at several different hospital systems in Houston. In fact, just this morning, the doctors presented and answered questions in a Zoom call with EWS faculty & staff.
    Second, these doctors are monitoring a matrix of factors such as community positivity percentages, hospitalization trends, and the infection reproductive rate, in order to determine the relative safety for re-opening. Thankfully, we are now trending in the right direction – though we have some concerns related to Labor Day given what transpired on and immediately followed Memorial Day. The fluidity of the situation is one of the most daunting parts about navigating it.
    Anyway, once we have received the “green light” from our Medial Advisory Panel, we will let families know, and we will do so with advanced notice of at least one week. I wish I could provide a more concrete answer, but we believe this cautious approach is best under the circumstances.
    Finally, though I wish we could all be in the Becker Theater, we will begin the school year on Monday at 9:00 am with our annual Opening Ceremony! Please be sure to register in advance at the following link: Opening Ceremony 2020 Registration Link.
    Stay safe & Shabbat Shalom,
    Stuart J. Dow
    Head of School
  • August 14, 2020

    Dear EWS Community,
    I hope this message finds you & your loved ones well. In this week’s update, I want to emphasize something that my colleagues & I have been discussing during this week’s in-service: As desperately as we want to return to campus and resume “normal” school, in the interim, we are committed to finding ways to maintain the unique culture that defines the Emery experience, regardless of whether we’re in the distance or hybrid instructional models.
    To that end, for example, we will have our first virtual Opening Ceremony on the first day of school, Monday, August 24. Please see the special schedule for the first day here: Monday, August 24. (A registration link for Opening Ceremony will be sent out next week.)
    To be sure, it would be better if we were all in the Becker Theater for Opening Ceremony; but as described in the document that follows, we can and will find ways to maintain The Emery Difference in the coming months ahead, regardless of where we are.
    Shabbat Shalom,
    Stuart J. Dow
    Head of School
  • August 7, 2020

    Dear EWS Community,
    I hope this message finds you & your loved ones well. I’m writing with another weekly update.
    First, as previously mentioned, we will be starting the school year remotely on Monday, August 24 — with mixed emotions, to be sure, but with a firm commitment to ensuring that the virtual instruction we offer is effective and engaging. To that end, our faculty have made this a professional development priority this summer. In addition, during our staff in-service that begins next week (which was lengthened for this very reason), we retained a national expert, Melanie Kitchen who will be presenting to teachers on this very topic. You can find her website and bio here: link.
    Relatedly, I want to share a resource page that several of my colleagues created — also on the subject of distance learning. The intended audience was really our teachers, but I thought our families would enjoy and appreciate seeing it as well. I’m unable to send a link, so in order to view the materials, you’ll need to log into Blackbaud, go to the “Resources” page, then click the brown box labelled “EWS Hybrid Learning Framework.” Special thanks to Academic Dean, Michelle Spoonemore, and Middle & Upper School Division Heads, Kendall White & Joe Weinstein-Sears for their impressive work here.
    Also, students and families will receive detailed information on class rosters and schedules next week from their respective divsions, but before then, I wanted to share the following. We have decided that the daily schedule for students will be the same — regardless of whether classes are happening remotely or whether they’re happening in our hybrid model, which includes on-campus academic instruction and virtual activities such as advisory and assemblies. While every decision and approach has some downside, the big advantage of having a single schedule is consistency. Meaning, students (and teachers) will know when their classes meet regardless of instructional modality. (To be clear, IF the situation improves so much that we can resume school in some Pre-COVID ways, we would likely alter the schedule. However, that seems very unlikely — at least for the first semester.) So, please note the following graphic that shows the daily schedules for middle and upper school.
    Finally, because students won’t be on campus for at least several more weeks, we are continuing to refine and finalize our “Return to School” protocols. As we are doing so, we are reviewing similar documents from several other schools, colleges, and organizations — as well as continuing to confer with our Medical Advisory Panel. Needless to say, the situation remains highly fluid — and the relevant science and opinions on best practices also continue to evolve; so our thinking is to wait a bit longer before publishing and disseminating these materials.
    Take care, be safe, and Shabbat Shalom.
    Stuart J. Dow
    Head of School
  • July 31, 2020

    Dear EWS Community,
    As always, I begin by hoping this message finds you & your loved ones well.
    Today, rather than inundate you with logistical details – such as your kids’ class schedules and our return-to-school protocols, both of which you’ll receive next week – I’d like to share some “loftier” sentiments.
    Let’s start with this undeniable premise: The ongoing situation is incredibly hard. On everyone, in many different ways. For example, this past week as we were driving, my oldest daughter (who begins high school this fall – also remotely), said to me, “Dad, I don’t even remember what life was like before COVID.” She was matter-of-fact about it, but decidedly sad. Like many of us. So how can we best respond emotionally to a situation that is so daunting and that seems impervious to our efforts to affect it (even if it’s not in actuality)? With this thought in mind, I share two articles (with links below and PDF copies attached).
    The first is a terrific essay by a psychiatrist & professor at GW School of Medicine entitled “How to Handle Anxiety Over Back-to-School Decisions.” I may print a copy and hang it over my desk!
    The second is about a new podcast created by teenagers for teenagers, the subject of which is navigating feelings during this challenging time, which has upended so much of their lives.
    I hope you’ll take the time to read & discuss both this weekend with your family. In the mean-time, wishing you a Shabbat Shalom.
    Stuart J. Dow
    Head of School
    How to Handle Anxiety Over Back-to-School Decisions: Link | PDF

    High Schoolers Across the Country Are Seeking ‘Teenager Therapy’: Link | PDF
  • July 24, 2020

    Dear EWS Community,
    I’m writing with another update regarding our re-opening in August. However, rather than providing a detailed plan at this time – which is close to being finalized and will be sent shortly – I wanted to share some important features of our decision-making.
    • Consistent with Judge Hidalgo's order just released today, we will begin school remotely on August 24. This decision was also based on a variety of additional factors, including prevailing medical conditions, advice from our medical experts, and the practices of our peer schools. Rather than seek to identify an end-date to virtual instruction, we will continue to monitor the highly fluid situation and communicate with you accordingly.
    • The decision when to return to campus will be made in coordination with our medical team, which includes Dr. Ed Septimus (Medical Director, Infection Prevention and Epidemiology, HCA Healthcare), Dr. Clive Fields (Chief Medical Officer, Village MD,), Dr. Patti Steiner, (Physician & Owner, Bootin and Savrick Pediatric Associates) and Dr. Eric Haas (Chief of Colon & Rectal Surgery, Houston Methodist). In addition, all four doctors will have reviewed and approved our safety protocols.
    • The decision when to return to campus will also be made in coordination with and approved by the Executive Committee and the entire Board of Trustees.
    • So long as we’re forced to do distance learning, the expectations in this model will be raised – for both students and the school. For example, students on-line will be expected to be at a table or desk, appropriately dressed, with their video on at all times. And faculty will be expected to have live, synchronous sessions with frequency similar to on-campus instruction. Helping kids stay truly connected and teachers being available will be important.
    • Hopefully, we will be able to transition to on-campus instruction relatively soon. However, it is very unlikely that all students and staff will be able to be on campus at the same time during the first semester. So the Emery Hybrid Model for on-campus instruction was designed with the following key objectives in mind: (1) Students need enhanced structure; more specifically, every student should have on-campus instruction every day; and (2) The school must maintain social distancing and therefore decrease population density. The way to achieve both these goals is by having middle school classes in the mornings – with students spread out across the campus in all three buildings – and upper school classes in the afternoon using the entire campus. Initially, lunch will not be served. The daily & weekly schedule is forthcoming.
    • Please note, if a family is not comfortable sending their child to school even after on-campus classes have resumed, they will be able to opt for distance learning instead. As we get closer to finalizing a date for returning to campus, we will survey parents about their preference so that we can plan accordingly. Those selections will not be binding, but we hope you’ll provide as much information as possible to help us with scheduling.

    • Finally, without wading into the waters of when schools should re-open, this essay from doctors at Harvard makes a compelling case for how schools should decide to re-open – specifically, that we should do so based on science, not politics. It’s worth a read. (Click here to do so.)
    Thanks very much for your ongoing patience & flexibility during this difficult time.
    Stay safe & Shabbat Shalom,

    Stuart J. Dow
    Head of School
  • June 24, 2020

    In light of Governor Abbot’s recent request urging citizens to stay home due to the sharp rise in Covid-19 cases, we are suspending the Jag Strong Strength & Conditioning programming (as well as all sport-specific training), effective immediately.  The campus and athletic facilities will be closed accordingly. 
    We will reevaluate after the July 4th holiday and be in touch with any plans to re-start student programming. 
    Thank you for your patience, understanding and flexibility during this very challenging time.
  • May 19, 2020

    Update from the Head of School

    Dear Emery/Weiner Community,
    It’s hard to believe, but this is the final week of school this year! Needless to say, these have been incredibly challenging weeks for everyone — students, teachers, and parents. My sense is that all things considered, Emery/Weiner kids & faculty have fared quite well. From creative & robust online instruction to entertaining arts & athletics banquets on Zoom, our community has continued to thrive and connect. Still, it’s been hard — academically and emotionally.
    My sincere hope is that next fall we will be able to return to campus; but at this time, there is no real way to make a reliable prediction about next school year. Our leadership team will continue monitoring the situation (medical and political), and will remain in close touch with peer schools with the goal of formulating and communicating a plan to the EWS community in late July. All of that said, please note the following:
    • We will be doing another end-of-year survey to assess distance learning next week. Please take a few minutes to provide feedback.
    • A special, final virtual Kallah of the year will be this Friday at 3:00 pm.
    • A special, final virtual Ma’amad of the year will be this Friday at 5:00 pm.
    • Eighth grade virtual promotion will be next Tuesday, May 26, at 5:00 pm, followed by a special drive-by parade on campus at 7:00 pm. 
    • And twelfth grade Commencement (not virtual) will be next Tuesday, June 2, at 7:30 pm in Caress Stadium. 
    Thanks so much for your continued patience and support. Stay safe.
    Stuart J. Dow 
    Head of School
  • May 5, 2020

    Dear EWS Community,
    Needless to say, there are many issues we’re grappling with — such as modifying our budget in light of economic circumstances, increasing scholarship assistance for families in need, making alternative arrangements for Commencement, exploring potential ideas for an Israel trip, and preparing contingency plans for (get ready) schooling and instruction next fall. But perhaps the most pressing is grades. So in this week’s message, allow me to address this:
    After a great deal of deliberation and multiple conversations, both internally and with peer schools (specifically including, but not limited to ISAS), Emery/Weiner has decided on the following approach regarding semester and year-end grades in light of the current situation: 
    1. Final exams are cancelled.

    2. Final grades for year-long courses will be calculated as usual, by averaging the first and second semesters. 

    3. To the extent that a student has continued attending and participating in class, doing assigned work, and submitting projects appropriately, the School will ensure that his or her grade point average is not negatively impacted based on the challenges of distance learning. 

    4. To the extent that a student has actually excelled during this time, particularly in classes in which major projects have been assigned since campus closure, the student will receive any benefit to his or her GPA.

    5. To the extent that a student has demonstrated a significant drop-off in areas such as attending class or completing assignments, the School reserves the right to treat their grade as an incomplete until conditions are met as determined by the teacher and school leadership. 
    This approach is not only consistent with the vast majority of our peer institutions, but we believe it fairly balances some complicated, competing factors in this truly unfortunate reality. If you have any specific questions about particular grades, please reach out first to the relevant teacher. If the situation cannot be resolved, please contact the appropriate Dean of Students.
  • April 21, 2020

    Dear Emery/Weiner Community,
    I hope this message finds you & your loved ones well during this ongoing, strange, and difficult time. I apologize in advance for the length of this message, but please do read it carefully as it contains important information.
    1. Thanks very much to all the students, parents, & faculty who completed the survey regarding virtual instruction. According to the results, the vast majority of EWS stakeholders are very happy with our current program — thus we are not planning to make any significant changes in this regard. Teachers will continue having a mixture of synchronous and asynchronous sessions (including at least one live check-in per week), and student workloads will remain consistent with current practice. That said, if you or your child is struggling, please reach out to the relevant teacher, dean, or counselor. 

    2. Notwithstanding the above, what will change are end-of-semester assessments. Classes will NOT have traditional final exams. Instead, teachers may devise summative projects, papers, or presentations tailored to the current circumstances. As a result, we won’t need exam or review days. In addition, because we will recoup days such as Field Day and GAG Day, we believe it’s appropriate to adjust the school calendar accordingly. So, given these changes, and given Governor Abbott’s statement that school campuses will not re-open this academic year, our last day of school will be Friday, May 22.

    3. In terms of grades, this is an issue we’re still discussing internally. On the one hand, we think it’s important that there be reasonable accountability for the learning and work being done remotely; on the other, we recognize that virtual instruction is a very different educational experience — appreciably more difficult for some students. Therefore, adjusting expectations accordingly only seems fair. So, after talking further with faculty, the respective Division Heads will communicate with students and parents.

    4. Relatedly, families are understandably concerned about their children not covering as much curriculum this semester (in terms of breadth or depth), and therefore being disadvantaged next year. Rest assured that not only are all students across the country in this situation, but that come next fall, Emery/Weiner teachers will take this into account from the outset — assessing and adjusting accordingly.

    5. For families of 10th and 11th grade students, the College Board (and college admissions officers) are also making adjustments in light of these unprecedented times. Our college counseling office has previously sent communications on this subject, will be sending further updates this week, and is currently organizing an opportunity for families to hear from college admission reps. If you need more information or have additional questions, please be in touch directly with Chris TeelAshley Plaeger, or Kate Boulen-Lourie

    6. Regarding financial adjustments for undelivered food services and canceled spring trips, returning families will receive credit in next year’s tuition. Detailed statements will be sent from our business office, including the option to convert the credit as a tax-deductible gift for our Emery/Weiner families in financial need. If your family is not returning to EWS, please email, and we will provide a check instead. For 12th grade families, we will discuss this issue (specifically the Israel trip) in tomorrow’s Zoom call.

    7. Finally, I know these days are hard on everyone — especially 12th graders who never imagined this is how they would end their Emery experience. So we’re working to find ways to honor them (and our 8th graders), which we’ll announce soon. But I would be remiss not to acknowledge the tremendous work our teachers are doing. They care a great deal about their respective subject areas, but they care even more about their students. So despite the complex challenge that distance provides, our faculty are doing all they can to help your kids continue to learn. I hope you’ll take a few minutes to thank them — perhaps just by sending a short email. I know they’d appreciate it.
    As always, if you have any comments or concerns, please don’t hesitate to contact us. In the meantime, thanks for your ongoing patience and support.
    Stuart J. Dow
    Head of School
  • April 8, 2020

    Dear EWS Community,
    On this Passover eve, I write to share a few thoughts & related announcements.
    To begin, consider some of the connections between what we’re experiencing in Houston in 2020 and the story of our ancestors 3000 years ago in Egypt. For example, when reciting the Ten Plagues at tonight’s Seder, it will be hard not to think of Corona as an 11th. Of course, the original ten were seen as punishments from God meant to prompt Pharaoh to liberate the Israelites. To be clear, I’m certainly not suggesting that COVID-19 is a Divine disease, but there’s no question that this pandemic has created a sort of modern-day bondage. Leaving aside health concerns and financial hardships, even just the social restrictions themselves have created a difficult new reality — one that reminds us what matters most, our relationships with others.
    Suddenly, previous complaints about having to go to school or work, to run errands, even dealing with traffic, all seem overstated. In fact, we actually miss these things. So perhaps that’s the silver lining here. Perspective.
    Jewish tradition teaches that the Land of Israel could not be settled until a new generation was born who hadn’t been slaves — because a proper mindset was so important to ensure success. Hopefully, all of the distancing we’re now enduring will not only save lives, but actually enrich us in ways that otherwise might not have happened. Just as that sea did split, this situation will pass, and we will get to the other side — and we’ll be stronger for it.
    All of that said, our school cannot simply wait. We must pay close attention to the present, while also preparing for the future. So, as we continue educating your kids, it’s imperative that we evaluate the effectiveness of our virtual instruction. To that end, we’ve created surveys for students, parents and teachers.  Please click the link immediately below to share your feedback so that we can make any necessary adjustments to improve the experience and learning outcomes.
    In addition, please be on the lookout for an email later this week with exciting news regarding staffing for next year.
    In the meantime, as we celebrate Passover in ways that we never previously imagined, I hope that your Seder goes better than the one captured in the video below!
    Wishing you a Chag Kasher v’Sameach — a happy & meaningful holiday.
    Stuart J. Dow
    Head of School
  • March 31, 2020

    A Message from the Head of School
    Dear EWS Community,
    First, we hope that you & your families are healthy – physically, ofcourse, but also mentally & emotionally during this strange and difficult time.
    Second, in terms of your kids’ education, hopefully the distance learning experience is feeling more comfortable as time passes. Obviously, it’s sub-optimal in almost every way imaginable, but maintaining a daily routine and doing the work that’s assigned is very important. If your child (or you!) is struggling, please don’t hesitate to reach out to the relevant teachers or administrators. We’re here to help. 
    One related piece of advice: Getting away from the computer every day – leaving email, Google & Zoom behind for a few hours – especially for exercise (ideally outside) is essential.
    Third, in light of the most recent governmental orders regarding social distancing, we expect that our campus closure will remain in effect at least through the end of April. We will not announce a re-open date until we have a much better sense of the situation.
    Finally, consistent with the connectedness and uniqueness of our schoolculture, members of our community have found several creative ways to stay in touch virtually – including having an admissions webinar for prospective parents and Friday assemblies for both the Upper & Middle Schools. Links to those events and all past messages are posted on a specially-dedicated page on our website, which you can access here.
    As always, I thank you for your patience, flexibility & support.
    Stuart J. Dow
    Head of School
  • March 24, 2020

    Dear EWS Families,
    As we enter week number two in these almost surreal, anxious-filled days of our school closure, I wanted to provide a few updates:
    • We understand that your kids were disappointed that they had to be “in class” rather than on the spring trips last week. However, our sense was that using this time to begin distance learning was the best choice under the circumstances – especially given the natural concerns we have about covering curriculum in this new academic environment.
    • That said, we are still negotiating with airlines and hotels about costs related to the trips. Assuming the trips don’t take place this year (which is unfortunately likely), please know that we will find a way to reimburse families to the extent that the school itself is able to recoup expenses. Put another way, Emery/Weiner will not retain monies that rightfully belong to our families – specifically with regard to food services and experiential education.
    • Regarding the Graubart Trip to Poland and Israel for our 12th graders, we’re still hopeful that somehow we can make something special happen for our soon-to-be graduates. At this time, however, it’s too early to know what that might be; so we’ll be in touch with these families directly in the coming weeks.
    • Our current priority is ensuring that this new world of schooling and instruction doesn’t negatively impact your kids toosignificantly. To that end, our Academic Dean and both Division Heads are constantly checking in with teachers, and will soon craft a formalized assessment to help us determine not only the level of student engagement, but the extent of their learning. 
    • Finally, if you have specific questions or concerns that haven’t been answered in our mass communications, all of which are re-posted on our website here: link, please don’t hesitate to reach out. Just send a short email and we’ll get back to you with an answer.
    In the mean-time, the link below provides a powerful perspective from a modern-day hero whom all our kids should know about. Thanks so much for your ongoing patience and flexibility. 
    Stuart J. Dow
    Head of School
  • March 19, 2020

    Dear EWS Community,

    I’m writing to let you know that an Emery/Weiner parent has recently tested positive for COVID-19. It’s not clear if other members of the family also have it – but presumably they do. The timing of the viral contraction is such that we cannot confirm whether the affected student was on campus when contagious, assuming they were or are positive now. Still, in an abundance of caution, we wanted to share this information as a reminder that Corona is unmistakingly in our community, thus reminding us to take all of the necessary precautions that experts and the CDC have been recommending – including social distancing, handwashing, and careful monitoring of loved ones.

    Stuart J. Dow
    Head of School
  • March 17, 2020

    Dear EWS Families,
    The ongoing and widening impact of COVID-19 continues to be something we’ve never experienced before. The viral outbreak and attendant crisis have disrupted every aspect of our daily lives – social, professional, personal, emotional, spiritual, financial, and of course, educational. 
    Today marks the second day of school-wide distance learning at Emery/Weiner, and we hope that you and your families are starting to adjust to this new approach. Thankfully, we created the position of Director of Instructional Technology a few years ago and began preparing for this possibility weeks ago, so our faculty are well-versed in a variety of tools they’re now using to teach your children.
    Every day, our academic leadership team “visits” virtual classrooms and reviews course bulletin boards in order to get a sense of what our students are experiencing. So far, our sense is that things are off to a good start – which is what we’ve heard from parents – but if you or your child has any issues, please be in touch with the relevant teacher or division head.
    In the mean-time, as EWS education takes on a new form, our physical campus is officially closed. All non-digital school events (on campus or off) should be considered postponed or canceled until further notice. Similarly, given the unpredictable nature of the situation, we are reluctant to announce any specific dates for re-opening. Our best guess is that distance learning will continue until Passover break – but we will continue monitoring and communicating as new developments transpire.
    Finally, perhaps the two hallmarks of the Emery experience are our sense of joy and sense of community. Needless to say, these two attributes are hard to come by these days; but our hope is to find ways to bring some smiles and create some meaningful connections in the coming days and weeks despite our social distancing– so stay tuned. 
    Thanks for your ongoing patience and flexibility. Be safe.
    Stuart J. Dow
  • March 12, 2020

    Dear EWS Community,

    The question of how we best respond to the Coronavirus pandemic is incredibly complex – intellectually, emotionally, and even ethically. Consider the following.

    Even as a non-scientist, I know that social distancing – which now dominates the news – is an effective way of slowing the spread of a contagion. But people are social beings. So before deciding on extreme measures in this regard, policy makers must consider a host of issues, including the relative danger of the contagion and an assessment of the advantages and disadvantages that flow from those measures. In the case of closing the rodeo, for example, it’s a question of entertainment and economics. With schools, it’s different. Here, it’s kids and education.

    Of course, not all schools are similarly-situated. A private school’s student population will typically have access to technology that many public schools’ do not. In fact, just across the street from Emery/Weiner is an elementary school in which over 90% of the kids are on the Federal free lunch program. So if that school closes, not only will many of those students not have access to remote learning – many will also miss meals. Considered in this light, the decision to cancel, close, or quarantine for the sake of reducing pressure on health care providers comes at a different societal cost. This perspective is shared by a professor from Johns Hopkins in her New York Times essay here.

    And yet, there are those who see it differently. For example, another professor from Johns Hopkins argues that helping reduce the spread of a deadly disease should be a priority – even when doing so is inconvenient. His essay in The Atlantic is here. And to be sure, even though kids seem largely unaffected by Corona, we can rightfully worry about their ability to transmit it not only to each other in a school’s close quarters, but to staff and teachers – many of whom are themselves more vulnerable and many of whom have more vulnerable loved ones. In short, for a school that teaches the primacy of Tikkun Olam, repairing the world and caring for our neighbors, the notion of sacrificing for a larger good is a powerful lesson.

    In the end, this isn’t just a hard decision, it’s an excruciating one. The question isn’t just whether to close, it’s if so, when and for how long?

    In the end, after several days of reading competing articles, scouring various websites, and conferring with local experts, colleagues and the Executive Committee of the Board of Trustees, I’ve decided that Emery/Weiner will cancel all on-site classes and activities during the week of March 16-20. Accordingly, students should bring all of their books and study materials home at the end the school day tomorrow, Friday, March 13, so they’ll be able to participate fully in a remote learning setting. Please note, on-line instruction will begin Monday, March 16. Our Distance Learning Plan can be found: here. Detailed instructions from division heads will be sent out soon to parents and students and posted on our website.

    (Incidentally, but importantly, local area public school districts just announced closures – a decision that impacts several of our staff with children in those schools, thus further complicating the situation for us practically-speaking.)

    Thankfully, our teachers have been preparing for distance teaching and have been preparing our students for remote learning. To be sure, it won’t be the same as classroom instruction – and not being on campus with their peers or participating in extra-curricular activities can affect the emotional well-being of our kids. So my hope is that our closure won’t last too long, but we haven’t determined specific end-dates. Instead, we will monitor the situation on an ongoing basis and provide weekly updates.

    In sum, I think it’s fair to say that this is an unprecedented situation – it’s certainly nothing most of us have experienced. I know there’s not only a great deal of confusion, there’s also a large degree of anxiety among many. As such, I thank you for your trust, patience, & understanding as we seek to navigate unchartered (and admittedly choppy) waters. We will continue to be in close touch, and please recall that our website has a new page devoted to this situation, which includes previous communications, updates, and information on our distance learning plan and protocols.

    Thanks very much,

    Stuart J. Dow
    Head of School
  • March 10, 2020

    Dear EWS Community,
    I’m writing to update you on the School’s plans in light of the Coronavirus.
    First, I’d like to share information provided to me by Dr. Daniel Musher, Distinguished Professor at the Baylor College of Medicine and Chief of Infectious Diseases for the VA Hospital. With regard to the various precautions being taken in response to the outbreak, Dr. Musher says this:
    “Scientifically speaking, all of these precautions are only going to delay the worldwide transmission. Ultimately, everyone in the world will end up in one the following categories: (1) innately immune, a large unknown, but some people just won’t be infected; (2) sub-clinically (unrecognized) infection, only detectable by finding antibody to the virus after the major epidemic is over; (3) clinically infected, which should have minimal impact on otherwise healthy young adults; (4) seriously clinically infected. A public health advantage to slowing the spread of disease by various quarantine precautions is to prevent overload of health care facilities, which can only provide supportive care. An existing antiviral drug might be found to be effective and could allow 'off-label use.' But a new drug would not possibly be tested and approved for use within a year. Same with a vaccine.”
    In other words, the vast majority of our students and staff are not likely to be seriously harmed by the virus and yet, Dr. Musher went on to say that there are very good practical reasons to limit travel (especially by plane) in light of several factors, including the potential need to quarantine were someone to become ill during a trip. And doing so for two weeks while away from Houston would be highly challenging.
    Thus, after much deliberation, considering many different factors, we have reluctantly decided to cancel all EWS spring trips for grades 6 through 11. This does not include 12th grade internships. In addition, please note the following:
    1. The Middle School will be in session next Monday thru Wednesday (closed Thursday & Friday, as previously planned & announced).
    2. The Upper School will be in session next Monday thru Thursday (closed Friday).
    3. For both divisions, the daily rotation will be 9,10, 9, 10. 
    4. On Monday & Tuesday, our Middle School faculty will experiment with distance learning tools and strategies in case we need to close school for an extended period of time, like several colleges have already announced. Our Upper School faculty will do so on Wednesday & Thursday. However, students are still expected to come to campus – the experimenting will happen with kids and teachers in their classrooms. 
    5. Given the understandable disappointment that so many are feeling in light of the trip cancellations (especially the students, of course), teachers may depart from their typical curricula and instead use next week for lessons, discussions, and activities that are more unique in nature – something several faculty have mentioned and working to implement.
    Please note that the School has not made any decision yet with regard to the Graubart Senior Trip to Poland and Israel or the voluntary summer trips for Upper School students.
    Additional precautions we are taking to safeguard the wellness of the Emery/Weiner community include these:
    • We are asking anyone who has knowingly come into contact with someone who has tested positive for Coronavirus to self-quarantine and not come onto campus for 14 days. If someone is showing any signs of the flu, we’re asking them to remain home. Remote learning will be available to any affected students;
    • We are making changes in our food services protocols to help reduce possible transmission, as well; and
    • We are continuing to actively monitor what the CDC is recommending and what our peer schools are doing to ensure that we are abiding by best practices.
    Finally, as one of my colleagues aptly put it, there are not good solutions in this awful situation – just less bad ones. I hate that we’ve had to cancel the trips, but I sincerely believe it’s the right decision in light of all the information. I hope you understand and will help your kids do the same. Thanks very much.
    Stuart J. Dow
    Head of School
  • March 6, 2020

    Dear EWS Community,
    We continue to carefully monitor the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. As always, the health and safety of our community is our highest priority and we remain committed to making the best data-based and expert-driven decisions for our community. For the most up-to-date information, please visit our website here:
    What is COVID-19?
    COVID-19 is a new variant of a common family of viruses called coronaviruses. These viruses typically cause respiratory tract infections ranging from the common cold to more serious illnesses like severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS). 
    What is the current risk assessment?
    • For the general American public, who are unlikely to be exposed to this virus at this time, the immediate health risk from COVID-19 is considered low.
    • Of all clinically-detected infections to date, less than 2% have been in children under 14 years old. The most serious infections have developed in approximately 16% of cases, and the majority of these patients have been over the age of 70.
    • Travelers returning from affected international locations where community spread is occurring are at elevated risk of exposure.
    CDC has issued guidance to help with risk assessment and management of people with potential exposures to COVID-19.
    What are the symptoms?
    Symptoms related to COVID-19 coronavirus infection range from mild to severe respiratory symptoms. Most patients have fever, cough, and body aches. In more severe infections, symptoms may include shortness of breath and/or pneumonia. Symptoms typically appear between two and 14 days after exposure to an infected person.
    How is EWS responding?
    We have established elevated hygiene practices and procedures to address the spread of all viral respiratory infections, including COVID-19, colds, and influenza. These include:
    • A deep cleaning and sterilization of the entire campus this coming weekend, 
    • An emphasis on frequent and assiduous hand-washing,
    • Placement of alcohol-based hand sanitizer around campus,
    • Encouraging proper cough/sneeze hygiene including use of tissues and hand-washing,
    • Encouraging "social distancing" when appropriate, particularly by avoiding handshakes and hugs in favor of waves or a nod of the head,
    • Discouraging students, faculty, and staff from attending school if sick, and
    • Discouraging the use of face masks. There is no evidence that masks prevent healthy people from getting sick, and supplies are growing limited for healthcare providers who need them.
    In addition, we are preparing for the possibility of school closure if COVID-19 emerges in our community. Faculty and staff are assembling plans to maintain continuity of teaching should this become necessary.
    What about spring trips and senior internships?
    For the time being, we plan to move forward with spring trips and senior internships. Currently, no national or international health organization is recommending against domestic travel within the United States. We will reevaluate this decision as necessary, and deliver updates in a timely fashion.  
    How should I talk to my student about COVID-19?
    A global event such as this can certainly have a psychological impact on people, and can be particularly difficult to process for children and young adults. This New York Times Article (link: click here) provides helpful strategies for talking to your kids in order to help reduce their anxiety.
    Shabbat Shalom,
    Stuart J. Dow
    Head of School
  • March 5, 2020

    Good evening, all,
    This afternoon, planners for the ISAS Arts Festival notified all attending schools of their decision to cancel this year’s festival. 
    This is the language from their message:
    “We are writing to share the unfortunate news that out of an abundance of caution it has been decided to cancel the ISAS Arts Festival 2020.  
    The safety of our students is always our top priority and we heard concerns from a number of you regarding the risk involved in bringing together over 3500 students and faculty from 43 different schools. While medical professionals have not yet made recommendations prohibiting domestic travel, various institutions and groups are cancelling and/or placing restrictions on large group gatherings.”
    We do not yet have further details regarding financial commitments made, but the EWS business office is working to mitigate all costs in order to enable the greatest possible refund to our families.
    I know we are all disappointed not to be able to showcase our incredible artists and arts programs at this year’s festival. We appreciate your understanding and patience as we wait for further information, and will be in touch with more details and instructions as they become available.
    Thank you,
    Jen Bauer-Conley
    Director of Fine Arts
  • March 3, 2020

    We continue to monitor the situation related to the novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) and remain in ongoing contact with health professionals, the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS), and the Independent Schools Association of the Southwest (ISAS) for the most up-to-date information. 

    As we are also in the midst of cold and flu season, we encourage the EWS community to continue practicing diligent hygiene. If your student is showing any symptoms, please keep them at home and report it to the school. Students running a fever should also stay at home. Please keep them home a full 24 hours fever-and-symptom-free before returning to school.

    Our grade level spring trips are scheduled to continue as planned. However, if health officials advise otherwise we will make necessary adjustments.
  • February 28, 2020

    Dear EWS Community,
    As you are no doubt aware, Federal health officials recently issued a briefing on the potential for community spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) in the United States. Emery/Weiner continues to follow proper health and safety precautions to ensure the well-being of our students, faculty, and staff.
    At this time, we do not anticipate any changes to our school schedule, including the upcoming grade-level trips, or the trips related to the Sports Analytics Conference or AIPAC Conference. If your child was planning to attend one of the latter two trips and you would prefer that they stay home, please reach out directly to the relevant chaperone.
    For more information on COVID-19, please visit the Centers for Disease Control and Preventionhere: You can find more information onCDC travel recommendations and advisories here:
    In the mean-time, please know that we will continue monitoring the situation closely and will provide updates should they become necessary.
    Best wishes for a Shabbat Shalom.
    Stuart J. Dow
    Head of School

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