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COVID-19 Information

At Stevenson, our focus goes well beyond textbooks, and in times like this we continue to hold safety and wellness as chief priorities. Amid the COVID-19 scenario, we are leaning heavily on the medical professionals in our community (key links below). We are also fortunate to be in close, frequent contact with our peer independent schools. This translates into ample planning, preparation, and adjustment. Partnering on this issue is essential, so please use this webpage to remain updated.

As of Friday, March 13, Stevenson has moved to remote learning until April 20. This may be extended as conditions continue to evolve. Stevenson is maintaining continuity of key components of our academic program, advisory, and clinical support.

While there are currently no suspected cases of COVID-19 in the Stevenson community, Stevenson is practicing social distancing, and all visits to campus are on indefinite hold.

For Students


Remote Learning Guide

Stevenson Messages

3/16/2020 – Letter from the Stevenson Board of Trustees

Dear Stevenson Families,

As I witness the increasing disruptions and concern caused by COVID-19, I am thinking often about our school community. Echoing what Chris Ongaro mentioned in his update on Friday, March 13, there are no suspected cases of COVID-19 among faculty, staff, or students at Stevenson at this time, and our decision to temporarily shift to remote learning intends to help keep our community safe and healthy.

As the current Board Chair and the parent of two Stevenson alums, I, along with our Board of Trustees, am deeply committed to the well-being of our students, families, faculty, and staff. With that in mind, I am reassured by the close connections our trustees have developed over the years among themselves and with the school’s leadership team. The decision to temporarily shift to remote learning is not taken lightly, but the increasing intensity of our surrounding circumstances and the clear guidance for social distancing make us resolute in this change.

Although we are temporarily shifting to remote learning, faculty and staff are poised to implement a plan that preserves opportunities for both learning and emotional support. Specifically, I am thankful to know that our students will continue to have support available through check-ins with their advisors, virtual meetings with our clinical staff, and frequent interactions with teachers. Both because of the significance of this shift and because of the evolving nature of the COVID-19 situation, we can view our next steps in phases. The first phase begins Monday with only four days needed to finish the third quarter. In a second phase, faculty and staff will prepare students to debrief reports. Our third phase assumes that remote learning may need to continue until our Spring Break. We will consider what is learned over the next week and will then engage students in assignments, virtual socialization, and clinical contact to begin the fourth quarter.

I learned years ago as a Stevenson parent that Stevenson helps students manage emotions and find personal paths to success. That emotional support and personalized learning will be all the more important as our students endure these strange times. With all difficult situations there is opportunity for learning, and I have confidence in the Stevenson community growing closer through this experience. Parent support and well-being will also be crucial, so I encourage you all to read messages sent from the school, support your children in managing their tasks and contact with school, and find ways to support happiness and health for yourselves.

What will come in the days ahead remains unknown. I hope, though, that you will join me in finding strength and comfort in our shared, undeterred commitment to the Stevenson students.

Howard Spivak, Chair

Robert Louis Stevenson School Board of Trustees

3/15/2020 – Stevenson Check-in

Dear Stevenson Families,

We are all about to take the jump, together, into a temporary remote learning set-up. As this unfolds, you may find there is a risk of email fatigue, so today’s message is intended to streamline our shared focus for a first phase of remote learning. I am also aiming to arrange a video-conference call for interested parents this week, and I will follow up about that.

For now, please hold the following as priorities. First, this will unfold in phases. Phase 1 is this week with only four days to finish the quarter. Very manageable.

Second, scheduling from class to class and student to student will develop. To start, there are four key pieces for every student:

  • 2x/day Google form for attendance (morning & afternoon)
  • 9:30am virtual live Advising meeting through Google Hangouts Meet
  • a personalized schedule for clinical check-ins (consent form needed; invitation will then come from clinician)
  • Google Classroom as the main hub for assignments (receiving & submitting)

The best starting point to support your child at home will be to focus on these key pieces as students develop their personal detailed schedule. A detailed schedule framework is in the guide sent out yesterday. We will also be posting the most updated version of that guide on our website this week.

Be well,


3/13/2020 – IMPORTANT Stevenson Update

Dear Stevenson Families,

I am writing to announce that beginning on Monday, March 16, the Robert Louis Stevenson School will be transitioning to a temporary remote learning set-up. We intend to continue this remote learning set-up until our Spring Break’s start on Friday, April 3. That will provide a solid five weeks of social distancing.

To be clear, there are no suspected cases of COVID-19 among faculty, staff, or students at Stevenson at this time, and this decision aims to help keep it that way.

Along with trustee consultation, school leadership has made this decision, but it is surely not one that is taken lightly. We are compelled to take this action by the circumstances in which we all now exist. The decision follows an assessment of our readiness to provide various forms of synchronous and asynchronous learning options, and it follows careful consideration of a responsibility for the health and safety of the Stevenson community. Combining those factors with our broader social obligation in the face of a confirmed global pandemic, we have decided that this is the best course of action.

In addition to connections with our robust network of peer schools and professionals, I have appreciated the collaboration and input from parents and trustees in the days and weeks leading to today’s announcement, and I will share some context to help put us on a similar page. As you may already know, many educational institutions across New York State and the country have decided to close or make this shift to remote learning either in response to specific concerns or to enact a strategy to help curb the spread of the virus. Currently, over 100 New York State independent schools announced varying forms of closures and plans to make the jump to a remote set-up. Many will also be on their two-week breaks for Spring Break these next two weeks and are facing the possibility of extending their breaks. Following similar actions of many private institutions like our local Columbia University, the CUNY and SUNY systems will move to remote classes on March 19. The Mayor’s decision to declare a state of emergency for our city and to urge employers and employees to embrace social distancing provide all the more reason to take this situation seriously for our own students, families, faculty, and staff.

Stevenson is built around personal connections, particularly between students and professionals, so we know that this shift will be not be an easy one. I also know, though, that the interaction with school–with Stevenson teachers, advisors, clinicians, and peers–will be all the more important for our students now amid such strange circumstances. Stevenson has a continuity plan in place to preserve key components of our program in a remote set-up, and I have been impressed by the faculty and staff’s preparation. As I intend for each of our community members to know, Stevenson is a unique institution, and what I recently witnessed from students and adults alike showed me a sense of shared purpose and resilience.

The faculty and staff showed me that all of us want to do everything we can to support Stevenson students. Our efforts in that regard must be transferred to a remote scenario that is new for almost all involved. I find some comfort in leaning on my own experience and research in the digital learning field. From that, I know that replicating the day-to-day, in-person schedule is impossible, and I will be straightforward in stating that I do not expect this scenario to feel natural in its early days. That said, our continuity plan includes a framework of scheduled interactions and assignments for students, and the faculty and staff will approach its implementation with the same blend of intentionality and flexibility they employ day in and day out.

Implementing this necessary plan involves challenges for parents, for teachers, for students, and for all staff supporting them. Our efforts to prepare for and limit those challenges have been robust and will be evolving. Our success will hinge on a strong partnering between home and school. In order to support that partnership, I will be sending Stevenson’s Remote Learning Survival Guide in a separate email to families within the next 24 hours. You will find that faculty will be available from 9am-3pm each weekday, and specific scheduling plans will be noted. Also in that follow-up message, you will find an important consent form related to our planned virtual clinical meetings with students. Please watch for this guide, review it closely, and return a completed consent form.

In this time of uncertainty and disruption, I am grateful to be a part of such a supportive, caring community, and I am confident that we all will do what we can to support each other in the upcoming weeks.

Be well,

Chris Ongaro

3/9/2020 – Stevenson Message – 3:30pm departure

Dear Stevenson Families,

Amid the developing COVID-19 situation, we are continuing to maintain close communication with our peer schools and local health officials, and we are taking steps both to provide a clean learning environment and to be prepared for the unlikely need for school closures. Thank you to the many families who already responded to our questionnaire sent on Friday. Responses will help us prepare.

As another step, I am, as of today, asking that students, faculty, and clinical staff depart school each day at 3:30pm. As of now and unless there is a league decision for change, the basketball team may finish their season as planned. Among other things, this will support afternoon cleaning at school and will help students avoid some of the rush hour crowds. This change will remain in effect until further notice.

Be well,

Chris Ongaro

3/6/2020 – Stevenson Update

Dear Stevenson Families,

Topic of the Week: COVID-19 Update

I am writing today to update you on the school’s preparations for the COVID-19 coronavirus.

We have alcohol-based hand sanitizer available for students, faculty, staff, and visitors to use.  We have a rigorous daily cleaning protocol that includes the use of an electrostatic disinfectant sprayer.

In today’s update you’ll also find a link to a brief, important questionnaire. This will guide our planning for remote learning, in the unlikely event that it should become necessary.

We also want to assess what recent travel has been conducted to areas at risk for the spread of COVID-19. Starting now (and in keeping with many other New York independent schools), we ask that you contact Carl Pozzi at or 212-787-6400 if your child or a member of your household has traveled to any destination specified as a level 3 or level 2 risk by the CDC within the past 14 days (As of March 6, the current list of countries is: China, Iran, South Korea, Italy, and Japan.  Check the CDC website: for the most up-to-date list). We also ask that you inform the school about any upcoming plans any member of your household has to travel to these locations.

The CDC is recommending that those who have traveled to these destinations limit contact with others and monitor their health for 14 days after returning to the United States.

We will apply these same guidelines with visitors to our campus and will update them if the CDC extends risk assessments to other countries.

I ask for your cooperation and partnership in notifying us of recent or planned travel.  We will do all we can to limit the disruption to families, as we may ask a student to remain home for a period of time.  In these cases, we will work diligently to ensure your child is able to keep up with their studies.

Thank you for your continued understanding and partnership.

Best wishes for the weekend.

Chris Ongaro
Head of School

2/28/2020 – Stevenson Wellness Policy and Illness Prevention

Dear Stevenson Families,

We are sending this update to remind all families to follow best practices to prevent seasonal illnesses, to keep you informed and up to date about Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19), and to assure you that Stevenson is taking appropriate measures to protect the health and safety of our students, faculty, and staff.

There is no cause for alarm. According to The NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, “No people have been diagnosed with this novel coronavirus in New York City.” However, this may change in the coming days (There are reports of a suspected case from a traveler who recently came back from Italy. The person is being monitored, and test results are pending.).  The CDC reports the number of cases of COVID-19 in the United States is currently very low.  As of Feb 26, 2020 there were 14 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the United States, with 3 additional cases from people repatriated to the US and 42 others from the Diamond Princess cruise ship.  However, the CDC also states that “[m]ore cases are likely to be identified in the coming days, including more cases in the United States.”  I mention the CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention) and the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene as resources for each of us to use.  Decisions for Stevenson will be made based on such resources.  Stevenson staff and I are also maintaining communication on this issue with peer schools and organizations both local and national.
The current focus is on general illness prevention.  As always, it is important to follow best practices to prevent the spread of all respiratory disease and to follow Stevenson’s wellness policy.We are still in flu season, and The Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s recommendations for prevention and treatment of coronavirus are the same recommendations they make to prevent the spread of respiratory diseases:

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, and then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
  • Follow CDC’s recommendations for using a facemask.
  • CDC does not recommend that people who are well wear a facemask to protect themselves from respiratory diseases, including COVID-19.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
  • If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Always wash hands with soap and water if hands are visibly dirty.

As a reminder, Stevenson’s wellness policy can be found on page 8 of the 2019-2020 Handbook.  For convenience, the information related to flu and respiratory infections are shown below:

If there is any doubt as to whether your child is well enough to attend school, please exercise caution and keep your child at home.  Use the following list of symptoms as mandatory guidelines for an illness related absence:

  • Children with a contagious illness should remain home  
  • Fever in the past 24 hours (100˚F or more; must be 24 hours fever-free without medication prior to readmission)
  • Vomiting or diarrhea in the last 24 hours
  • Excessive coughing and sneezing (especially with copious respiratory secretions unless a physician’s note has determined that they are not contagious)
  • Any illness that could prevent comfortable participation in school activities

Please notify the front desk and the student’s advisor if your child is diagnosed with any contagious illness.  Any child absent for three consecutive days, must be cleared by his or her doctor and provide the school with a note from that doctor prior to being readmitted to school.

The CDC has not made a recommendation to change cleaning regimens.  They recommend continuing current practices using current products.  We continue to thoroughly deep clean our facilities, and in an abundance of caution, we have added the use of an electrostatic disinfectant sprayer to treat high-touch surfaces.

Finally, we want to assure families that Stevenson is preparing plans to protect students’ safety and learning should an unlikely scenario arise that is more disruptive.  We will continue to update you and communicate any new reliable information that impacts our school community.



Stevenson-Related FAQs

Are there any suspected cases at The Robert Louis Stevenson School?

There are currently no suspected cases of COVID-19 at Stevenson.

What steps has Stevenson taken to minimize the risk of transmission?

As of Friday March 13, Stevenson has adopted remote learning.

Head of School Chris Ongaro and members of the school administration continue to closely monitor the most up-to-date information provided by federal, state and local health officials, as well as from school-governing organizations, and are speaking daily to adjust their plans.

Stevenson is practicing social distancing, and all visits to campus are on indefinite hold.

We ask that all members of our community adopt social distancing to mitigate the spread of the

The School’s maintenance staff performed a deep cleaning to sanitize the school facilities. Stevenson has purchased an electrostatic disinfectant sprayer and incorporated its use in our cleaning regimen.

Has the School canceled classes, trips and/or events?

Stevenson is operating via remote learning until April 20. This may be altered or extended as conditions change.

Stevenson is maintaining continuity of our curriculum.

Our advisory and our counseling center remain operational, though they are now virtual.

The Stevenson Benefit, Scheduled for May 21, is on hold.

What steps were taken to prepare the school for remote learning?

Stevenson prepared a plan for remote learning, including assessing the technology needs and availability, training and professional development for faculty, collaborative creation of schedules, tracking attendance, and maintaining continuity and support provided by the advisory program and the counseling center.

Chris held meetings with students and toured the school to field questions prior to students departing on Thursday, March 12. Throughout, students demonstrated an admirable seriousness mixed with some refreshing humor. Chris reassured all that this is temporary, and he encouraged all students to take advantage of email, video, and other forms of interactions that will help them continue to learn and stay on track as high school students.

What kind of support are students receiving to address anxiety?

Given the level of attention that the novel coronavirus has attracted, students may understandably become anxious and have concerns about the virus and its transmission. Our counselors are available to meet with students and their families to address questions and concerns. In addition, our math and science faculty have incorporated lessons related to COVID-19 into the curriculum to help dispel misinformation, reduce anxiety and make the curriculum current and topical.

Useful Links and Articles

Center for Disease Control Information about the Coronavirus.
  This is an excellent resource with up-to-date information.


New York State Department of Health.  This is an excellent resource with up-to-date information including the number of cases reported by county.

New York City Department of Health.  This website is updated regularly, it contains very current information.

New York City Department of Health Fact Sheet on COVID-19

Talking to Kids About the Coronavirus (from Child Mind Institute website)

There is a ‘Tipping Point’… (March 8, 2020 Article from Bloomberg)

NY Times Article:  Worried About Coronavirus on the Subway? Here’s What We Know




The Robert Louis Stevenson School has shifted to a remote learning environment.Click here for further details.