Back to School Logistics: 2020-21 School Year

As the 2020-21 school year approaches this fall, we know that you have many questions. Check here for reliable information on logistics,  a sense of what to expect, and responses to your FAQs.

It is our goal and obligation to keep our community safe while also maintaining the top-notch student experience you’ve come to expect. We believe that a critical element of being able to achieve these two, sometimes conflicting goals, is offering outstanding support to our faculty and staff. 

While no one can say with believable assurance what will happen through next year, we’ve been preparing for a range of scenarios with the assumption that we will encounter a complex, evolving school year and that we must be equipped with the agility to shift with it. San Mateo County, as well as the State Department of Health, has issued guidelines for schools to reopen. Ultimately, the San Mateo County Health Department will make the decision about whether and when we can re-open our campus and while we do not control that choice, we believe it is our duty to be ready when they do. We are on track to reopen and meet all of the published guidelines (and more) and we hope that the Health Department will allow for a re-opening of our campus in August in time for our regular start. 


Frequently Asked Questions

Have a question you don’t see answered on this page? Write to

Will my child’s canceled fall trip be rescheduled in the spring?
No; we do not anticipate that canceled Fall 2020 trips or overnights will be able to take place in Spring 2021. 


Keeping Our Community Safe

Three Operating School Schedules

We have developed three operating schedules to meet varying conditions: 

  • Our regular 7-day rotation, ready for the day we all look forward to when it is safe to be back at Menlo in the way we have all come to know and love.
  • A hybrid model where some of the learning is happening on campus and some is happening from home
  • An upgraded distance-only learning model (based on survey feedback this spring) should County Health decide that we must return to a shelter in place model for some period of time

Hybrid Model: Reducing the Number of Students on Campus
In the hybrid model, in order to conform to County Health guidelines and meet our top goal of safety for the community, we will be reducing the number of students on campus on any given day. The student body will be divided into two groups—we are calling them Blue and Gold—that will alternate weeks on campus. In a typical pair of weeks, the Blue group will be on campus Monday-Friday while the Gold group joins them from home. The following week the groups will flip and the Gold group will learn on campus while the Blue group joins them from home. Some families will choose to keep their students home regardless and we believe that we have, through the use of new technology solutions, created a situation in which students at home will get as inclusive a learning experience as those on campus: participating in discussions, speaking with the teacher, being able to see and hear exactly what is happening in the classroom, and being seen and heard themselves.  

There will be a lot more to share about these groupings as the summer goes on. Our top priority is keeping siblings together in the same group, followed quickly by balancing classrooms in terms of number, gender balance, etc. This may result in some disappointment for some students; while we don’t seek that and we’ll work to mitigate it, we do hope that you understand that we do not control all of the variables in this less-than-ideal situation we all face.

The Schedules

  • The Upper School hybrid schedule—in which students alternate time on campus—is designed to be as clear and predictable as possible and allows classes to meet reliably every other day. It incorporates feedback from students, families, and faculty, that, when learning and teaching online, shorter and more frequent class periods are easier to digest, and small group and personal Tutorial structures are crucial. 
  • The Upper School shelter-in-place schedule is very similar, which makes it easy for us to toggle between the two. It is designed to support the complexity of teaching and learning from home and the very real emotional toll that shelter-in-place takes on all of us.
  • The Middle School hybrid schedule shares many similarities with the Upper School version, while also incorporating a special Friday schedule that helps students wrap up the week and prepare for the next one. :
  • The Middle School shelter-in-place schedule features a late start on Mondays, ample time for Student Life, and a lunch synced to the timing of the Upper School. 

Health, Safety, and Security

Our health and safety policies and practices have been made in consultation with The California and San  Mateo Departments of Health, The San Mateo County Board of Education, and the CDC. We know that some of these changes are inconvenient and may take adjusting to, but all were made to keep our community safe. Some important highlights include:

  • Security: Menlo will continue to have security on campus 24/7, who will perform their regular duties and assist in our new health screening process.
  • Closed Campus: To maintain social distancing and reduce student contact with people outside of campus, we will suspend open campus at the start of the school year for grades 10, 11, and 12. This will present no change for Grades 6 -9. At the start of the school year, Students in the Upper School may still leave campus after their last school obligation, as they have done in previous years.
  • Dining Services: We have been working closely with Flik, our food service provider, to create a meal program that not only meets the highest health and safety standards but offers nutritional, tasty offerings. Beginning in August lunches will not be served in the Dining Commons, and instead delivered to students. We do hope that at some point this year, we will be able to open the Dining Commons. Details regarding special diets and lunch offers will be sent to you in early August.
  • Transportation: We have decided to suspend our home-to-school / school-to-home bus program. We could not continue to run the bus program and maintain social distancing. However, we will continue to use our buses to offer shuttle service to and from the Menlo Park CalTrain station while maintaining social distancing.

Physical Changes to the Campus

The way we use and interact with our facilities next year will see some changes in order to keep our community safe. 

  • Lowering Social Density: In order to adhere to social distancing, we will arrange to approximately halve the number of people in a given space at the same time, as compared to a typical year. This will allow everyone to maintain the minimum distance of at least six feet separation at all times. Measures to accomplish this include the Blue and Gold rotation schedule; the repositioning, removal, and changing of furniture; the repurposing of spaces to allow for different uses such as study space or childcare; renting a number of portables to increase our available space we have; and employing visual cues so everyone knows where they are supposed to be. 
  • Cleaning the Campus: We will be using the recommended disinfectants and hand sanitizers, as well as the latest cleaning technologies, such as electrostatic sprayers. We’re increasing our janitorial labor, and moving more of that labor to the day shift so we can clean continuously throughout the school day. We are equipping both teachers and students with cleaning supplies so they have the ability to disinfect as they see fit. Hand sanitizer stations will be present in every classroom and throughout many other areas of the campus.
  • Ventilation: We’ve changed the air filters throughout the campus to those recommended by industry experts to protect against infectious aerosols. We are maximizing the percentage of outdoor fresh air, rather than using more recirculation as we typically would to conserve energy.  

Health Care and Services

Recently, the San Mateo County Office of Education published a ‘Pandemic Recovery Framework’ to facilitate reopening school. We are following these guidelines in our reopening plans and have met or exceeded their advice in our planning. San Mateo County’s opening plans surround a concept of Four Pillars of Health, intended to work in concert to reduce the likelihood of spread of Coronavirus within the school setting: 

  1. Health and hygiene
  2. Face coverings
  3. Physical distancing
  4. Limited gatherings 

Essentially, we are being asked to have a new way of thinking about how we attend and come to school. Here’s how those four pillars will look for the Menlo community: 

  1. To be successful, we’ll need our students, and employees to share the responsibility of keeping our campus community healthy and safe, to be alert for symptoms of fever, cough, shortness of breath, or other symptoms of Covid-19 and if feeling unwell in any way, to stay home. During the day, increased handwashing, use of hand sanitizers, and covering coughs with elbows, will be encouraged.
  2. Everyone is required to wear cloth face coverings and should consider that they will be worn at least 90% of the time. Face coverings will be provided, but your student can wear their own, as long as they are compliant with regulations and have no holes or exhale valves. 
  3. Physical distancing of six feet between individuals in classrooms and about campus will be the new norm.
  4. Drop off in the morning will look different next year. All students and adults arriving on campus will be screened prior to accessing the “inner” campus, an area of the School that will be delineated by fencing. There will be separate entrance and exit points. Students will need to arrive with enough time for health screening before going to class. Initially, access to the inner campus by parents and other visitors will be limited. As the technology evolves for screening options, we are hoping to expand methods to help decrease entrance times. We are also exploring routine testing options for Covid-19. All symptom screening will be consistent with public health guidance.

In the event your student is diagnosed with COVID-19, or if anyone in your household, or anyone who has had close contact with your student, is diagnosed with COVID-19, please contact Health Coordinator Joan Barada immediately for contact-tracing purposes. As always, your confidentiality will be upheld and your health and medical information will be private.

A few last notes:

  • The Health Office is also expanding to include additional nurses to provide medical care to your students on campus.
  • Please make sure that your contact information is correctly updated in Magnus Health in case we need to reach you during the day.
  • No discrimination against a student, or family, who is diagnosed with Covid-19 will be tolerated. We prioritize ensuring that all students feel comfortable and not embarrassed if health concerns arise while on campus, while also maintaining their confidential medical information.
  • We are all in this together, and together we can limit the spread of this virus! 

Maintaining the Student Experience


Knowing athletics are essential to the physical, mental, and social well-being of students, we are dedicated to keeping athletics a crucial part of your child’s Menlo experience. We are closely following the County, State, and Health Officials’ determination of how we will be able to participate in sport this year. These officials have already loosened some restrictions, and we were thrilled to open up some outdoor facilities this week, closely following County and Health Department guidelines to ensure the safety of participants.  In the Fall, we will do everything we can to ensure the safety of all participants and will not do anything that we think will jeopardize anyone’s health.  We will follow the County and Health Department’s guidelines and recommendations closely.

In the Middle School:

  • Under the Hybrid Learning model, students on campus will have PE four days per week, while students off-campus complete asynchronous PE challenges and workouts for the week. Under the Shelter in Place model, PE will be done virtually. 
  • Sports sign-ups will proceed as usual. We are prepared to adjust, reduce, or add activities that can be played with proper social distancing standards. Almost all physical activities will take place outside and all will adhere to proper safety procedures. 
  • At this time we don’t know if we will be allowed to compete against other schools.

In the Upper School:

  • While a lot of rumors are going around, no decisions have been made yet. The California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) will determine by July 20 if all sports will continue as currently scheduled, and will offer alternative calendars if it is determined that Fall sports cannot start as scheduled. 
  • Our committees are hard at work brainstorming creative ways to adjust to this pandemic and prepare for various scenarios. We will be prepared if we are permitted to play as normal. We will be prepared to continue and improve teaching if we must shelter in place. In a hybrid model, in addition to traditional sport that we may or may not be able to play, we are preparing to offer new and unique opportunities for student-athletes to safely engage in sport and participate in creative offerings that will provide comparable experiences. We will be prepared to offer your children a great athletic experience whatever scenario we are faced with.

Creative Arts

The Creative Arts teachers have been researching social distancing techniques in the classroom blending the live experience with remote learning. Keeping our community, students, faculty, and staff safe while sustaining the student experience is paramount. In the Creative Arts department:

  • We don’t anticipate any less creative arts programming during the year.  We will still have plays, musicals, concerts, and visual art presentations.  
  • We will make full use of outdoor stages/areas for both classes and performances. 
  • We’re preparing for a variety of streaming, pre-recorded, and live but socially-distanced performances. 
  • Our new Spieker Center for the Arts is on schedule and we hope to have it open in the fall semester. We will be strictly following health guidelines and protocols as to when and how we use the facility.
  • And in one last bit of happy news, you’re all invited to attend the premiere of our first-ever Virtual School Musical: Pippin, Saturday, June 27 at 7:00 pm. You’ll receive an invitation next week so that you can enjoy our kids’ hard work. 

Campus Technology Upgrades

We’ve worked hard these past months to find technological solutions that capture the extraordinary Menlo classroom experience as much as possible for remote students, and we are very confident that our new technology will allow us to deliver that virtually. 

  • We’re in the final stages of upgrading every classroom with Zoom carts. These rollable carts consist of 3 key pieces of technology:
    • A 75” interactive flat panel display, which the teacher may use to see students on a video call, or to write on as a digital whiteboard that gets shared over Zoom to the students at home.
    • An ultra-high definition, wide-angle camera to make the teacher and all students in the classroom clearly visible over Zoom.
    • A wireless microphone and speaker setup to clearly capture and amplify the voices of the teacher and all students, whether they’re physically in the classroom or calling in over Zoom.
  • We will also upgrade our Learning Management System (LMS), switching from our previous platform, Haiku, to Canvas, a highly-regarded and well-established LMS. Canvas will allow us to better disseminate class materials to our students, but also to better assess them and capture their work. We believe that Canvas will be more flexible, nimble, and reliable, as well as more intuitive and user-friendly for students. 
  • We strongly recommend that each student acquire a pair of high-quality noise-canceling headphones. Not only do these headphones drown out noise at home or in study spaces on campus, but they also act as fantastic wireless microphones and offer crisper audio delivery over Zoom calls. We’ve listed three different products we recommend on our division-specific technology pages at If this presents a financial difficulty for your family, financial assistance is available through the Financial Aid office.

Additional Staffing

We are also working to staff up in critical areas, adding to our learning resources, counseling, nursing, and DEI staff. The pressure and anxiety caused by our current situation calls for more supports, not fewer,  and simply asking our amazing staff to just do more is not an option. We will be increasing support in some academic departments and hiring in-class and virtual TAs where necessary to ensure that students always have someone available to help them. 

Maren Jinnett, who has done a stellar job as interim Upper School Director during John Schafer’s leave, will be stepping into the role of Director of Academic Innovation, where her very first charge is to ensure that our hybrid and distance-learning experiences for students are consistent with what you have come to expect here at Menlo. While no one person will be able to respond to everything that we face, we all feel better having Maren’s leadership helping us to oversee this new educational world we’ve found ourselves in.  

School Calendar

By this time in the spring and early summer, we would ordinarily have long-ago published a full calendar of events for the following year: homecoming, dances, plays, concerts, and assemblies that families could plan around. This coming year, with all of the variables we cannot control, is making it impossible to publish such a calendar with full confidence in its accuracy. We have done our best to schedule events for the year; you will see that calendar published on our website in early July. 

Start of School

We plan on starting school with orientations the week of August 24 and the first day of school on August 31, but we invite you to remain flexible with us as we finalize the details; how exactly those days work may look different from previous years. We will keep you updated weekly as to whether an event will happen on campus or virtually, or even if something is canceled.


We are immensely disappointed that traditional overnight trips in the Fall will need to be postponed or canceled. In late May and early June, M-Term and our Menlo Abroad trips are two major experiences for Upper School students; we will make a decision on those in the fall, and will keep you informed.

Summer Communications and Your Questions

  • Throughout the summer, you can expect weekly email communications to keep you informed and engaged with Menlo. Some will be meaty updates on back-to-school logistics; others will be lighter and more fun: reminders of who we are at our best as a school and what won’t ever change no matter how distanced we need to remain in the short term.  
  • We’ve established an email address to which you can send ANY question you have about our preparations for next year. Is there something you’ve been wondering about or that we haven’t addressed that you’d like us to in future communications? Send it our way. The address is easy to remember: We’ll be checking it regularly and will get back to you as soon as we can or, if we are getting a lot of the same kind of question, we’ll feature an answer in one of our weekly communications.

July Break for Menlo Teachers and Administration 

Though we cannot predict everything about what next year will look like, we do know that for the team to be at our best for our students, we will need to take a break ourselves. Many of you have written over the last four months thanking us for our efforts as a school and asking how you might help. One way for families to give back is to give us July to rest and refuel over the summer. Next year will require creativity, endurance, iteration, and resilience, and if we’ve been able to refill our energy stores, we can be 100% there for you and your students.