Dear Powhatan Community,

We appreciate your continued support and patience in these challenging and uncertain times. The serious impact of COVID-19 continues to influence our decisions – both daily and for the future. Over the past six weeks our faculty and administration have worked to deliver the Powhatan educational experience in a completely different medium. Simultaneously, Powhatan continues to assess the situation and prepare for the next steps on this unique and challenging journey. As such, we would like to address areas of uncertainty that have understandably arisen in these recent weeks. As we wrestle with this uncertainty and challenging circumstances, know that we are firmly committed to these priorities and values:

A. Protecting the health and safety of our students, faculty, staff, parents and anyone present on our campus.
B. The safeguarding of our mission – for today and tomorrow – of our beloved school.
C. Supporting our students, our families, our faculty and staff absent our ability to come together physically as a community.
D. Being good stewards of the school’s resources – carefully balancing short-term needs and long-term responsibilities and being sensitive to the financial burdens being borne by our families and the School.
E. Communicating openly with the community to seek your input to inform decision-making.

Our fervent hope is to start school – at school – on a regular schedule in August. However, we must plan for other possible scenarios given the many uncertainties connected with COVID-19. Our team is devoting many hours to making sure we offer the best possible educational experience. We currently see three different likely scenarios for the 2020-2021 Powhatan school year:

Scenario #1: Powhatan starts school normally;
Scenario #2: Powhatan continues remote learning;
Scenario #3: Powhatan advances with a combination of on-campus and distance learning.

It is our promise to you that we will prepare for every scenario to the best of our abilities. We continue to coordinate with local health officials to ensure that we have the most up-to-date understanding of how COVID-19 is affecting our area. As COVID-19 infection rates in our community likely ebb and flow throughout the 2020-2021 school year and until a vaccine can be identified that all of our community have access to, the school may need to shift between these different scenarios on a rapid basis. As we consider these scenarios, we are balancing the desire to
deliver the best possible learning experience with the safety and health of the entire Powhatan community. Potential measures we are now exploring include various scenarios of distancing measures including the possibility of staggered schedules, securing Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) as the need arises, and increased sanitation measures. As the situation evolves, so will our timely and strategic approach.

The financial implications related to the novel coronavirus pandemic and these scenarios are significant for the School and everyone within the Powhatan community. For the short term, Powhatan’s cash position is stable because of the Board’s recent decision to accept a loan (that hopefully will be forgiven) of $630,000 through the Payroll Protection Program recently passed by Congress. This money is equivalent to 2.5 months of Powhatan’s total payroll expenses and must be used to retain faculty and staff.

Our desire is that current Powhatan parents and prospective Powhatan parents will recognize the significant measures being taken by our school to continue providing an effective learning experience. However, for the 2020-21 school year we are planning – as many private independent schools are – for a decline in enrollment. We sincerely hope this may not be the case and that all Powhatan families who can will remain with the school. Indeed, it has potentially never been more important for you to do so. We reiterate our request that if you anticipate financial challenges in meeting tuition payments for the 2020-2021 school year please discuss your concerns as soon as possible with Mike Hatfield (mikehatfield@powhatanschool.org ).

Regarding Powhatan’s overall financial situation, it is important to understand that tuition provides 80% of Powhatan’s revenues. Thus, a decline in enrollment could cause a significant operating deficit even with strict cost controls. If a deficit materializes, Powhatan can borrow monies from the unrestricted portion of Powhatan’s endowment or from our line of credit to fund a portion of the deficit and also support increase to our financial aid budget.

Recognizing that the current situation is placing a sincere burden on our school family financially, physically and emotionally, the Board has unanimously agreed to take the following actions to help mitigate the effects of these challenging times on our community:

1. The Board will honor all faculty contracts for the 2020-2021 school year, regardless of enrollment. As we move through this challenge together, we want to protect our most valuable resource, our teachers, and ensure that the School is poised to deliver the on-campus programmatic excellence valued by our families as we return to a more normal school environment.

2. The Board has increased the Financial Aid Emergency Fund by an additional $200,000, bringing the total increase over the 2019-2020 budgeted allocation to $300,000. While Powhatan has been fiscally responsible for many years and not taken on significant debt, we also understand that these are extraordinary circumstances and we may need to do so
to meet short-term urgent needs. The Board intends that any money borrowed (either from lenders or the endowment) during these extraordinary times will be repaid over a reasonable period of time.

3. In an effort to be fair and to safeguard the mission and ongoing viability of our beloved School, Powhatan has made the decision to freeze tuition costs to our families for this coming school year at 2019-2020 tuition levels rather than having the 3% increase previously announced. We have also frozen Powhatan faculty and staff salaries for the coming year.

4. If a significant amount of time is spent learning remotely during the 2020-2021 school year then Powhatan will also consider reducing tuition next year. We would plan to make a decision in this regard during the early fall once we all have better understanding of the wide-ranging implications of COVID-19 on the 2020-2021 Powhatan learning experience. Rest assured that Powhatan will continue to strive to balance thoughtfully and carefully all of their responsibilities — to mission, to stewardship, to fairness. With focused cost control, help from the endowment and the ongoing support of a generous community, Powhatan is determined to carry out as fully as possible this special school’s timeless mission.

We know you may have questions about these complicated issues and decisions. In an effort to respond to questions and concerns, we are offering the following times for our community to meet virtually with us on Tuesday, May 12:

12:00 noon – Click here
2:30 pm – Click here
6:00 pm – Click here

In the meantime, please do not hesitate to contact Sue directly at any time if you have any
questions, concerns or suggestions. As any new and significant facts and developments present
themselves, we shall be in touch with you.

Again, we are thankful for your support, understanding, patience, and steadfastness.

Sincerely,

Tom Byrd
Board Chair

Langdon Greenhalgh
Finance Chair

Sue Scarborough
Head of School

Billy Peebles
Incoming Interim Head of School