Dear Parents and Marksmen,
The past week has been filled with several significant milestones. Early Tuesday morning, the Class of 2024 returned from a successful Pecos Trip
, marking the fiftieth anniversary of this Marksman tradition of boys trekking into the wilderness to forge even closer bonds of friendship and shared commitment as emerging leaders on campus. And just last night, we hosted the annual College Send-Off for the Class of 2021 and unveiled their newly inscribed names on the walls in Graduate Hall. Excitement continues to build on campus as we move ever closer to the first day of school and prepare to welcome faculty back to campus next week for pre-sessional meetings. We are particularly pleased to welcome a talented group of experienced new colleagues
to the St. Mark’s team and are looking forward to the many contributions they will bring to our community.
As plans are being finalized for the year ahead, we remain undeterred in our commitment to resume a high degree of normalcy and routine with all of our curricular and co-curricular programs, activities, and events. Chapel, the Great Hall, the Fine Arts Center and other communal spaces will be open, and we will welcome parents back to campus to support our daily work with the boys. All of our athletic and fine arts programs will operate at full strength.
During the past year, we’ve gone to great lengths to support the physical and social-emotional safety and well-being of our boys, faculty, and community at large. In the face of considerable disruption last year, Marksmen and their teachers exhibited ongoing resilience, strength, and determination. With your support and encouragement, boys didn’t just endure the disruptions and challenges, they faced them head on and led our community forward with grace and optimism. Simply look back to Spirit Week, Banner Chapel, concluding athletic and fine arts events, Baccalaureate, and Commencement, and we’re quickly reminded how much leadership the boys demonstrated day in and day out. As one boy shared in a letter with me over the summer, "This past school year, every member of 10600 Preston Road worked as one to embody the principles of 'St. Mark’s Strong.' Blake and the Student Council constantly put the needs of the School before their own, bringing tremendous success to the entire student body." This year we will build on that momentum and provide Marksmen across campus with the most robust, engaging, and fulfilling experiences possible.
At the same time, we have all followed the shifting landscape in recent days regarding how to address the rapidly deteriorating health conditions in our area, most of which we had hoped were in the rear-view mirror. Of course, the structural improvements we made across campus last year to support a safe and healthy environment on campus will continue to underpin our well-being in the months ahead. The major question we’ve been wrestling with over the past few weeks is how to respond to the guidance related to masking on campus. We are grateful that more than 95% of our 250 employees and nearly 75% of our boys in grades 7-12 (which is two-thirds of our total student body) are vaccinated. And, while evidence over the past eighteen months indicates the risk of serious illness and mortality for children from COVID-19 has thankfully been low, in recent weeks there has been an alarming uptick in the number and severity of pediatric cases, including in North Texas. In conversations with UT Southwestern and Children’s Medical Center this week, we’ve learned how much pressure our pediatric care facilities are currently facing, which affects not only risks associated with the pandemic, but also other pediatric emergencies or critical care needs that emerge during this tenuous time.
Thus, we have made the decision to open the school year with indoor masking for all students and adults on campus, including teachers, professional staff, parents, and visitors. And while there are no perfect answers to the challenges we face, it is incumbent upon everyone in our community to work in unison to support the well-being, development, and success of every Marksman in our care. Given the high vaccination rates across our community and the use of masks indoors, we anticipate that the need for quarantining of close contacts will be much less common than last year, again promoting greater normalcy and routine. In addition, we will continue to conduct voluntary surveillance testing; however, it will not be required for participation in academic or co-curricular programs, except in limited cases.
As we have said repeatedly, our goal for the coming year is to provide normalcy and routine so that every boy across campus can stretch, grow, and thrive. Whether it is your first or final year at St. Mark’s, know that we will work together, arm in arm, and continue to demonstrate the individual and collective strength, resilience, and character that define our School.
Thank you for your ongoing support, encouragement, and partnership. I look forward to seeing you in the coming days and weeks as we get the new school year underway, together. Here’s to an outstanding year ahead! Go Lions!
With gratitude, excitement, and anticipation,
David W. Dini