Private School Response to COVID | St. Agnes Academy-St. Dominic School

President's Correspondence to School Community RE: COVID-19

Message from the President - May 20, 2021

Health Directive - Masking Update - May 12, 2021

Message From the President - March 12, 2021

Message from the President - February 4, 2021

COVID-19 Testing On Campus - January 5, 2021

October 2, 2020 
Dear St. Agnes Academy-St. Dominic School Community,
At the beginning of the school year I presented a challenge to the St. Agnes Academy Class of 2021. I told them they are the student leaders on this campus. As leaders, this year the school would take on the attitude of the Class of ’21. The way the seniors chose to respond to the challenges of this year would set the tone for all. 
As we are nearing the end of the first quarter I am pleased to say the senior class has met and surpassed this challenge. From a virtual Big Sis-Little Sis reveal during Freshman Welcome Week to SGA sponsored Theme Days they have exhibited leadership, creativity and sisterhood. The attitude the seniors have modeled has positively impacted not only the Upper School, but also the Jr. High, Lower School and even the Early Childhood program.  
Service projects are being reimagined, outdoor classes are popping up around campus, weekly student led prayer services are being held via Zoom, and Meet-the-Teacher has gone virtual. Parents and grandparents are joining classes via Zoom to read stories, and Final Fun Fridays are providing time to celebrate. Our community is closer than ever as we learn new ways to live out our Dominican Pillars and support each other.
Thanksgiving Holidays Extended 
We recognize the extra demands placed on our faculty, our students and our families this school year due to COVID. After careful consideration I have decided to extend the Thanksgiving break to include Monday and Tuesday November 23 and 24. School will close the entire week of Thanksgiving. It is our hope that this extra time will give our community much needed rest as well as the opportunity to distance before spending time with family. Our Extended Day program will be open to provide childcare if needed on Monday, November 23 and Tuesday, November 24 for students in PK2-8th grade. More details regarding childcare will be provided when we return from fall break. 
Seek the light of truth
This week I had the honor of speaking to the inductees of the Aquinas Chapter of the National Honor Society. During the ceremony the students recited a short, but meaningful pledge.
“I pledge myself always to seek the light of truth, to hold scholarly habits, to engage in worthy service, and to lead forward in all things.” 
As I listened to these words I could not help but think about our country. As we enter the final stretch of the election cycle, it is hard to find examples of leaders seeking the light of truth. As a Dominican Catholic school it is imperative now more than ever that we commit ourselves to creating an environment where everyone feels a sense of belonging and where we learn through open and honest discussion. It is everyone’s job in this school to model for our students a culture that makes respectful dialogue and discourse possible. Our goal is to teach our students ‘how to think’ not ‘what to think.’ Each subject in our curriculum gives them the knowledge to make informed decisions and exercise free will. Disagreements and differences of opinion are an important part of building these skills. It is important that we do this in a civil manner. 
Who we are as a community, the very way we speak to one another and disagree with one another and listen to one another, is a reflection of our character. Let our community be the model of principled, yet respectful dialogue.
Now is not the time to let-up. 
The return to the classroom in August was driven by a mixture of determination, anxiety, and a spirit of getting it right. Now that we have settled back on campus and established our “new” routines, it can be tempting to get too comfortable. As we have seen in recent weeks, several area private schools have had to close campus and switch to remote learning. We must remain vigilant. 
As we prepare for fall break next week, we want our families to enjoy time together. However, we ask you to be responsible as you make plans with your family. Please be mindful of activities, parties and gatherings that put you or your student at risk. Enjoy your break, but remember that we have a responsibility to our community, to each other. Have fun, stay masked, stay distanced whenever possible. As a reminder, you can view an update on weekly COVID-19 related activity on our campus in the Parent Portal
Thank you for the trust you have placed in our school. As always please reach out to me with any questions. You all are in my prayers. Enjoy a restful fall break. 
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"Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them,
for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you." -Deuteronomy 31:16

September 4, 2020 
Whew! We are through the first three full weeks of school. 
Thank you!
As we prepare for a timely three-day weekend, I wanted to share how pleased I am with the way our entire community is approaching this school year. The first three weeks have gone about as well as we could have hoped. We have experienced a few hiccups, but overall it has been a great start to the school year. I attribute this success to the willingness of our teachers and our students to learn and adapt.  
In some ways, the hybrid learning model is even more challenging than the fully remote model we practiced in the fourth quarter of last year. We continue to adapt our learning model as teachers connect and engage with students in person and on zoom simultaneously. Thankfully, our scientific spirit has led our teachers to experiment which has accelerated our learning. I know we will continue to gain insight and to improve our learning model as the semester progresses. Thank you to all our teachers for their dedication and hard work and to our students for their resilience and input.
Health & Safety Updates
Much of our success this school year can be attributed to the honest and open communication between our school and our parents. I have been buoyed by how seriously our students and parents have approached analyzing virus symptoms before coming to school each day.
The table above reflects weekly COVID-19 related activity on our campus. The term Positive indicates a community member tested positive for COVID-19. The term Restricted indicates a community member who has been either symptomatic or in ‘close contact’ with a possible COVID-19 case. In this situation, individuals are restricted from campus but can still learn remotely. A Restricted case could become a Positive so you may see some small variation in the numbers each week.  
After three weeks of school, our community, which includes almost 900 students and faculty, has had only three Positive cases of COVID-19. According to the Shelby County Health Department, a group of 1000 individuals would expect 1-3 COVID-19 cases. None of our cases are connected meaning our efforts to mask, physically distance, and practice proper hygiene are far. It is critical that we maintain this discipline. The number of ‘Restricted’ each week reflects how carefully each of you are following our protocols, responding to symptoms, and acting with caution. Thank you for your cooperation, vigilance, and support. In the spirit of transparency, we will share this updated table each week on the school portal, and when there is a positive case we will send an email notification to the school division. 
Caring for our Community 
As we begin the Labor Day weekend, I want to reiterate the importance of wearing masks, maintaining six feet of distance, and practicing regular proper hygiene. I also want to emphasize the importance of limiting the number of people you come in contact with. Our students are in school eight hours daily. What they do and who they socialize with the other eight hours also affects our community. Please be mindful of parties and gatherings that put you or your student at risk. Discipline in the size of our social groups is a proven way to control virus transmission. Community responsibility plays a key role in our ability to slow the spread of COVID-19 and keep our campus open.
This is a marathon. We have prepared thoroughly. We have gotten off to a strong start. We now need to settle into our new daily routine so that we can pace ourselves throughout the school year. 
Despite the physical distance we are called to maintain, our community is closer than ever as we work together to keep each other safe. Thank you for your continued partnership, prayers, and support. I wish you and your family a relaxing and safe Labor Day weekend.
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“But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”

August 14, 2020 
We did it! Thank you so much for a wonderful first two days of the school year. There was a lot of joy in the hallways as we welcomed back our Stars and Suns. We appreciate everyone’s hard work, patience and cooperation. Before we begin the first full week of school, I want to share a few updates with you. 
Daily Health Screening
Over the weekend you will receive a link to our new health App which allows parents and students to complete a daily COVID-19 health screening questionnaire. This will be required for every student prior to arriving on campus. We ask that parents complete the questionnaire for their students in grades PK2-8, and that students in grades 9-12 complete the questionnaire themselves. Upon arrival to campus, all students will have their temperature checked and verify their screening results from the App. When you receive the link, please take a minute to download the App. You will receive additional instructions to guide you through the process. 
Please familiarize yourself with the health screening questions. 
Mask Policy 
There have been some questions regarding the school’s mask policy and, specifically, the use of gaiters. The school requires face coverings to be worn while on campus. Per CDC recommendations valved masks are not permitted at school. At this time, we are restricting neck gaiters on campus as well. Please review our masking policy below for more information. 
  • Masks must be worn at all times while on campus. Face shields are only permitted if accompanied by a mask. 
  • Masks should fit snugly over the individual’s nose and mouth. 
  • Store-bought or homemade cloth masks made with densely woven cotton fabrics are best.
  • Single-use surgical masks, like those you can purchase at a pharmacy, are allowed. However, these masks should only be worn once and then discarded. 
  • Logos or wording must be school appropriate.
  • A recent Duke University study has questioned the effectiveness of certain types of face coverings. While we continue to research and with an abundance of caution, the following face coverings are currently not permitted on campus: 
  • Gaiters and/or any single layer thin stretchy fabric that is worn around the neck and then pulled up over the face.  
  • Masks with valves. While these masks protect the individual wearer, they may be less effective for preventing the spread of respiratory droplets. Although some of these types of masks have additional protections including filters, because of difficulty in monitoring the valves, all masks with valves will not be permitted. 
  • Students may remove masks briefly to eat and drink when they are physically distanced, but must place them back on immediately afterward.  
  • Masks can be off during PE if outside or distanced more than 6 feet in a gymnasium.
  • Time for mask breaks will be built into the schedule throughout the day. 
Community Responsibilities 
We all play a role in keeping each other safe and keeping our school open. We have drafted a document that outlines Community Responsibilities, and we ask that you please carefully review it. Each of us bears a responsibility to slow the spread of this virus. If you have any questions please email 


This will certainly be a year unlike any other, but we will continue to learn and continue to evaluate and adapt. No matter what the school year looks like, we will remain strong because of everyone’s dedicated service and incredible partnership. 
Have a wonderful and safe weekend! 
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“But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”

August 12, 2020, 
Message for our community!

July 31, 2020, 
Just over four months ago we closed our campus and began remote learning. Back in March, none of us could imagine what was ahead. Despite the uncertainty of the time, our faculty, students, and parents rose to the challenge. The spirit of community and collaboration allowed us to accomplish our academic goals and remain connected. Now as we approach a new school year living our mission as a Dominican Catholic school has never been more important.
Reopening Phase
Throughout the summer, with guidance from local and national health officials and medical experts, and while closely monitoring the dynamic situation, our team developed multiple plans for how we can successfully reopen school this year. Throughout this process, we remained focused on providing the best educational experience for our students in the safest environment possible.
Today, after thorough deliberation, and prayer I have made the decision to open our school year in the St. Martin phase. The details of this phase are outlined in our July 16th 2020-21 Guide to Reopening document with some modifications to the Upper School plan. In this phase, we will be able to offer on-campus learning for all our students with the option to choose a remote learning environment.
As I considered this decision I weighed student and faculty safety against our strong desire to have our community together, supporting and caring for each other.  In our planning, it was important to not just open school on August 13 but to remain open. While outside factors will also impact how we teach and learn, we are confident that the protocols we’ve developed will protect our students and faculty. We will control access to campus, require masks, observe social distancing, and have the ability to do contact tracing while on campus. We will also continuously monitor transmission on our campus and in the Memphis community.
Community Responsibility 
While we can control our behavior on campus, we need you to be conscientious in other aspects of your life. We will continue to rely on the strength of our community. The decisions you and I make and the actions we take impact the safety of others. We need you to act in a way that protects our Dominican Community. With everyone’s cooperation, we have a much better chance of minimizing risk and maintaining a healthy environment. Our safety protocols will not work without everyone’s honest and active participation. 
Remote or On-Campus Selection 
Regardless of the environment, the teacher-student relationship remains at the heart of the learning experience at St. Agnes Academy-St. Dominic School. Our faculty and staff are working diligently to ensure continuity of the learning experience and to give our students the opportunity to shine in what will be a year like no other.
To better help us plan we ask you to fill out this selection form choosing remote or on-campus learning for your child. We ask that you make your choice by August 5. Please submit a form for each child. 
The Deans and I are available to answer any specific questions you have. I know our students, our teachers, and our parents will be successful as we navigate this school year together. I look forward to greeting our students on August 13.  
Thank you for your partnership, prayers, and support as we begin this school year. I hope you enjoy the final weeks of summer.



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“But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”

July 16, 2020
Dear St. Agnes Academy-St. Dominic School Community, 
We are excited to share with you our plan for learning as we prepare for the coming school year. The plan was developed over the course of several months with input from our board, faculty, parents, and medical experts. Throughout the planning process we remained focused on two goals:
  1. Provide our faculty, our students, and their families a safe environment where they can socialize and learn.
  2. Provide an extraordinary educational experience across all four Dominican Pillars of Study, Prayer, Community, and Service in a nurturing, faith-filled, and community-centered setting.
With these goals in mind, and based on what we currently know about the Coronavirus and how to slow its spread, we looked at all aspects of our school environment. I don’t have to tell you that we are in a very dynamic time. Not only is information changing by the day, if not by the hour, but also there is significant opinion and political input being shared with all of us. Over the next month, we will continue to monitor CDC and Health Department guidance. We will make adjustments as necessary, but this document outlines the framework of our plan. 
As you review the plan, you will notice that we did not identify which Phase we will be in when school begins on August 13. We think there is still too much uncertainty to make that declaration now. Some schools that previously released plans for the school year have already published significant changes. I am committed to sharing our opening phase with you no later than July 31. Regardless of the phase we start in, our plan provides flexibility allowing us to adapt to the twists and turns that this virus throws at us. In addition to safety protocols, we have created a learning plan that will provide for engaging on-campus classes for students paired with remote learning if needed or appropriate. Our plan also includes accommodations for students who may need to attend remotely due to family circumstances or a quarantine. 
We are also prepared to continue to communicate with you. Individual school deans will be in touch with you in the coming weeks to share school-specific details of our plan. As we have updates from TSSAA, we will communicate our athletic plans. We will also share any updates based on revised government guidance. I ask that you remain adaptable and engaged. We are committed to ensuring that each family fully understands how we will implement the plan for the coming school year. Contact us if something is unclear.
As we have worked through the planning process, I have been comforted knowing what a special community we have at St. Agnes-St. Dominic. You continually demonstrate your care and compassion for each other. It is what sets us apart from other schools. We will need that spirit in the coming months more than ever. As a community, we play a role in each other’s health and safety, and we have a responsibility to each other. Your actions impact others in our community, often in ways you do not even realize. Our Dominican-Catholic spirit of love must shine through now more than ever.  
Let’s continue to work together to create the learning, spiritual, and social environment our children deserve. As always, I thank you for your support and participation in our remarkable community.


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"Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them,
for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you." -Deuteronomy 31:16

July 15, 2020 
I hope you are enjoying your summer. We are definitely in the dog days right now.
School Reopening
We are less than one month away from the scheduled start of school. Throughout the spring and summer, we have been working on plans to safely start the new school year. We will share these plans with you on Thursday. I am grateful for the hard work of our COVID Task Force including members of our faculty and staff as well as experts and volunteers who have worked tirelessly amidst changing and incomplete information to develop a viable plan for us to continue educating our students. These procedures have been thoughtfully developed with local, state, and national guidance to ensure the best standard of care. We know the plan will also foster questions. Once you have read the plan (maybe twice), do not hesitate to contact your Dean with any questions you have. It is also likely that some of our plans may change as government guidance changes. We are prepared to adapt as the situation morphs, and we will continue to communicate with you throughout the remainder of the summer and the school year.
PPP Loans 
Many of you may have seen that our school was included in the Memphis Business Journal in a recent listing of area businesses that participated in the CARES Act Paycheck Protection Program. The program was intended to help businesses and nonprofits (like SAA-SDS) during the extreme uncertainty of late March and early April. At the time we applied for the money, the economy was closed, the market was down, and the future was unclear. The ‘20-’21 school year looks equally uncertain.
The decision to participate in the program was made after a thorough review by the school’s senior management, the Board of Trustees, and legal counsel. The PPP Loan will help us pay our great teachers, survive any enrollment decline, and fund additional expenses associated with keeping our students and faculty safe from COVID-19. Tuition has never covered the full cost of operating our school. We require tuition, fundraising, and other revenue to properly pay our teachers, fund our programs, and maintain our campus. We experienced a loss in revenue from camps and athletics among other things this summer. Applying for and accepting PPP funding addressed the uncertainty and additional expenses associated with the pandemic. With this funding and your continued support, I am confident we will remain financially sound for many years to come.
Welcome to SAA-SDS 
We are pleased to welcome Mrs. Lisa Jones to our SAA-SDS community as our new Lower School Admissions Counselor. Lisa joins us from St. Francis of Assisi Catholic School where she was Director of Marketing & Administrative Assistant to the Plus Program. She also has 10 years of classroom experience as an assistant Kindergarten teacher. We look forward to working with Lisa as she introduces prospective families to St. Agnes Academy-St. Dominic School.  
2020-2021 Bible Verse
Each year, with the help of our ministry team, I select a bible verse for the coming year that we can include in our programs. We work to find a relevant passage that will comfort or guide us throughout the year. For the ‘20-’21 school year we have chosen a passage from Deuteronomy Chapter 31, Verse 16:
"Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them,
for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you."
We will reference and discuss this verse throughout the year. If there was ever a year to trust in God, 2020 would be it. We have and will continue to experience many things that make us uncomfortable and unsure. Never forget that God is with us and will never forsake us. I hope this verse provides you comfort as it does me.
Thank you for your continued partnership, prayers, and flexibility. As a community, the care we provide for each other, our commitment to support each other, and the way we live out our faith will strengthen us and guide us through the uncertainties of this year. 
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"Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them,
for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you." -Deuteronomy 31:16

June 17, 2020 
Dear St. Agnes Academy-St. Dominic School Community, 
What a week this has been! On Monday we welcomed students back to our campus for the first time since March 6 as we opened the doors for our summer program. What a delight it was to hear children’s laughter once again in our hallways. And on Tuesday, June 16, we were finally able to gather as a community to celebrate our seniors. This group of 100 Stars has inspired us with their resilience and strength, and we look to them for leadership and vision as they leave the Academy and move into the next chapter of their lives.
As we say goodbye to the Class of 2020, we are also busy looking ahead to the upcoming school year. St. Agnes Academy-St. Dominic School will hold our first day of school on campus on Thursday, August 13, 2020. We will continue to follow the 2020-21 academic calendar as originally published. We are committed to providing a place where all will be safe, and where we can provide a robust education that is focused on growth and joy, grounded in the Four Dominican Pillars.
Our priority is to be on campus as much as is safely possible. While we do not have all the answers right now, we do want to share with you the reopening plans we have developed to date, so that we, as a community, may move forward with confidence. We are finalizing our Guide to Reopening and will share that completed document with you the week of July 13. In the meantime, our Deans have outlined some of the plans as they pertain to each division. Click below to read more from the Deans. 
The changes we are making to spaces and places on our campus to accommodate physical distance are only one aspect of supporting a healthy campus environment. Keeping our campus healthy is a collective effort, one we are asking everyone in our community to support. With everyone’s understanding and cooperation, we have a much better chance of minimizing risk and maintaining a healthy environment for our students, employees, families, and the community. As a community, we have a responsibility to each other. Our safety protocols will not work without everyone’s honest and active participation. 
St. Agnes Academy-St. Dominic School is here to provide learning continuity for your child and to provide a strong and safe community for your entire family. Flexibility and transparency is of the utmost importance, and we want to encourage you to contact our team if you have any questions or concerns about how we are serving your family. Please feel free to contact me ( or your Dean with any questions or concerns. 
Thank you again for your partnership, prayers, and support. 
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“But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”

June 3, 2020 
Dear St. Agnes-St. Dominic Community,
Summer has arrived. I hope you and your family are finding some time to relax. In a time where each day resembles the day before, it is important you do something that changes the routine and brings your loved ones together. 
We are focusing on preparing for August while simultaneously struggling with the events of this past week. I feel like I have seen this same script many times before. Each time, we returned back to ‘normal’ after a short time. This time feels different. With COVID-19 I have shared with our team that we cannot return to the way we were in February 2020. We must have the same mentality as we think about our care for our fellow human beings. What we were doing was not working for our local, national, and world community. Our American ancestors declared that all men are created equal, and we formed our country to establish justice and liberty for all, yet not all people were equal as we founded this country. As a Catholic Christian, I know God calls me to love my fellow humans. Yet, Love cannot be merely stated, we must act in a way that shows it to all our neighbors. Too often I share my love only with the people I know. Equality and Love seem so simple with our Dominican Community of Schools. We must actively seek justice for all God’s people. We cannot stand by as people hurt, or even kill each other or destroy property and livelihoods. I continue to pray about how I can best serve this cause. Step one is to leave my ‘comfort zone.’ As a community of Dominican educators, we also have a responsibility to support and nurture our future leaders and young citizens, so that they grow into the leaders our community, country, and the world require. We strive to plant the seeds of moral and civic integrity in all our students. I am moved by what is going on and hope to share more in the coming days.
Our team continues to actively plan to welcome our students back to campus. When school opens in August, our mission, values, and commitment to our students will be the same but many aspects of our daily operations will look different. As we move forward, living alongside COVID-19 will require flexibility, innovation, and understanding. We are committed to educating our students in all aspects of the Dominican Pillars of Study, Prayer, Community, and Service. 
Our Task Force made up of members of our leadership team and school community and outside medical experts continues to meet weekly. We must be prepared for a world where classes are held in-person, remotely, and/or both simultaneously and fluidly as the Memphis area infection levels dictate. I have charged them with preparing for on-campus teaching and learning as much as possible within reasonable safety guidelines to minimize the transmission of the virus within our community. First, and most important, is the health and safety of our community. Regardless of how we are connected, our preparations and actions must demonstrate our respect and value for one another. As a community, we must look to take care of ourselves and each other. 
How do we accomplish this? 
We have designed a framework that manages our students’ and teachers’ contact with others as dictated by the COVID-19 threat level. Students will be kept in cohorts allowing for varying degrees of freedom and contact with other students and faculty through four different phases. We’ve named these phases after Dominican Saints. This will remind us that no matter how we are congregating, God and the Holy Spirit are with us. Phase Rose of Lima (Rose) is similar to this past quarter with Safer at Home. Phase Martin de Porres (Martin) or Phase Catherine of Siena (Catherine) limits student interactions to those in their classroom and in their school. This is obviously easier in the lower grades which are more self-contained, but we are working methodologies for the Upper School as well. I anticipate we will open the year in one of these two phases. Phase Dominic allows us to have larger community gatherings. It is possible that part of our community could be in one phase while other parts are in another dictated by the exposure to the COVID-19. I know this may be confusing. Rest assured that our team is thoroughly preparing, and we will share many more details by early July.
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We recognize that some families may not be comfortable with their children returning to campus, and we are creating options to ensure everyone feels safe and engaged. Remote learning will be available to our families for all phases. We will provide information on our cleaning and safety protocols so that you can determine which model is best for your family. We do plan on being able to provide continuous education onsite for our Early Childhood students to accommodate our families. The government and public health authorities will continue to provide both suggestions and mandates that may change our best planning at any point. 
Finally, we have opened registration for summer camps which begin on June 15 in an effort to support our PK2 - 5th grade families. We have protocols in place that will offer optimal safety for your child. If you are interested or have questions please contact Jennifer Tacker ( or click HERE to register. It is important that you register as soon as possible. We are working to staff our camps appropriately and space is limited. Communication on our July camps will be coming out shortly.
Despite the global uncertainty, one certainty remains: students learn best in a community of caring adults who know them and understand their needs. We are committed to providing a place where all will be SAFE, and where we can provide a robust education that is focused on GROWTH and JOY, grounded in the Four Dominican Pillars. Should you have any questions, please feel free to contact me ( 
Thank you for your trust and partnership. 
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“But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”

May 15, 2020 
In a normal year, we would be preparing feverishly for 100 Stars to graduate tomorrow as well as our eighth graders, 25 Suns, and 44 Stars, to graduate next week. And, our Junior and Senior Kindergarten students would be rehearsing for a ceremony celebrating their move up to the next grade. Sadly, the last nine weeks have been anything but normal. But, the next six days will be busy as we show our love for these graduates. Hopefully, it will fill their hearts, and our hearts too, with joy until we can gather together as a community to properly celebrate the Classes of 2020. Plans for these celebrations are being finalized, and we hope to share more details next week.
Planning for the Summer and Fall
As this year comes to a close, we continue to develop plans to start the ‘20-’21 school year in August, just twelve short weeks away. Our number one priority will always be the safety of our students, their families, and our staff. We will follow health precautions in accordance with local, state, and federal requirements. We have formed a COVID-19 task force comprised of representatives from all divisions of our school as well as medical experts. As we move forward in the planning process, it has become clear that we cannot eliminate the coronavirus nor the possibility that it may be transmitted. But, we are taking every precaution to minimize the likelihood that the virus hits our campus.
We want to protect our community while not losing what makes our St. Agnes Academy - St. Dominic School community so special. Much of the work we are doing is centered around how we can build and maintain relationships during this time of physical separation. It is driving us to make every effort to open the next school year on campus. Our students, and our faculty, are craving social contact. We know we can best meet these desires in person. So… we want to be connected yet safe. Right now, those two things are at odds with each other.
One of the challenges we face is the lack of guidance from any level of government. As we develop our plan for the fall, we are aware that we may be subject to yet unspecified government directives. We just received and are reviewing Interim CDC guidance on school procedures. The local Joint (Shelby county and the municipalities) COVID-19 Task Force Framework includes no specific guidance for schools (the line in the matrix is blank). Therefore, our planning is based on extrapolating guidance provided to other business and economic sectors. We will not be able to release final plans until we have specific parameters that the government will impose on schools. Having said that, we are working on multiple contingencies in anticipation of the rules that will be in place.
The diagram below outlines the way we will conduct decision-making in response to the different Shelby County phase levels.
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Summer Camps
Our detailed plans for summer camps will be released early next week. We plan to open Junior Day Camp and Day Camp on June 15. These camps will be initially open 8 AM to 4 PM, and only to our families, with limited space available. However, we are canceling all of our June specialty camps for PK-8th grade. We will revisit July specialty camps in June. While our Day Camps will look very different than in past summers, we are hard at work planning activities that will be fun for your child(ren) while maintaining the highest level of safety possible. We will provide detailed information about the precautions and safety protocols we have put in place so that you can make an informed decision about your child’s camp participation. Look for further communication next week regarding new registration, refund procedures, and Upper School programs.
Next school year
We are committed to conducting on-campus learning as soon as we are allowed and it is safe. We anticipate that we will be able to be on campus, but interruptions due to ‘flare-ups’ are likely, and we may be forced to shift to remote learning for periods of time. We are preparing for both contingencies as well as the seamless transition between the two. We are also working to ensure students can continue remote learning even when the campus is open if your family health situation dictates. Below is an example of some of the parameters we are addressing: 
  • How do we conduct symptom checks, testing, and monitoring of our community?
  • How do we create multiple smaller cohorts so students and staff are exposed to fewer people?
  • What are classroom capacities with social distancing in place?
  • What additional cleaning needs to be undertaken during the day? Each night?
  • How do we feed our community each day when we cannot gather in the dining hall?
  • What are our specific actions upon identifying an individual on our campus who is sick? How does that impact the way school operates? 
  • How do we communicate effectively with our families and our community?
There are many other ideas we are discussing. As we develop answers to some of these questions, we will share them with our community.
Future Newsletters
Over the summer, we will reduce the frequency of these newsletters to bi-monthly. You can expect updates from me on the 1st and the 15th of each month. In those updates, I will share our latest plans for starting the fall school semester. Should you have any questions in between these updates, please feel free to contact me ( 
I will finish this letter with a big thank-you to our teachers. In just two days back in March, they adapted and moved our learning environment online. They have maintained student learning and connectedness for a full ten weeks through the end of the school year. This is an incredible feat. Just look at the number of schools, particularly public schools, that gave up and conducted no synchronous, online learning. I cannot thank our teachers enough for their efforts over this last quarter. Nobody did it better! We also learned a great deal that will improve our education in the coming years. I know the teachers are already planning for next year, and they will be ready to once again inspire and engage your student(s).
I wish you and your family a safe, healthy, and relaxing summer.
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“But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”

April 23, 2020 
Today has been a sad day as I have come to the conclusion that there is no series of events that would allow us to safely return to campus this academic year. Therefore, I am sharing my decision that we will continue remote learning through the end of this academic year. While we held out hope that we could regather as a community, our first priority must be for everyone’s safety and well-being. 
I am particularly heartbroken for the Class of 2020. I know of the many special events that lead up to graduation. We are committed to celebrating our graduates and their accomplishments in as joyful and loving a way as possible. I have overwhelmingly heard that our students would prefer a live graduation event. Therefore, we will postpone our graduation exercises until we can hold such a celebration. Our Deans will be communicating details about respective graduation recognition, as well as their plans to finish the school year. 
Many of you have summer camp on your mind. Right now we do not know if we will be able to reopen campus for summer. We are looking at multiple scenarios for summer programming including on-campus activities and virtual camp programming options. Our goal is to offer the most robust programming possible given the current environment. Should we not be able to hold a camp for which you registered, we will make a full refund. As events develop, we will share our plans.
As we are bringing this year to a successful, although untraditional, close, we are already looking ahead to the 2020-2021 school year. Our community’s health and well-being will, once again, be our top priority. While we do not yet know what constraints will be placed on our ‘20-’21 educational program, it is unlikely we will be able to return to the same environment we knew just two months ago. We are exploring multiple options for robust and engaging programs at all grade levels. I am so proud of the way our faculty, students, and parents have collaborated these past five weeks. This spirit of community has allowed us to accomplish more academically and remain better connected than many of our neighboring private and public schools. In the coming weeks, as we understand more about how the virus moves, we will share more details about how our students will continue learning and connecting in the fall.   
We know that some of our families are being financially impacted by current events. The overwhelming majority of tuition is used to pay our outstanding faculty. I understand your concern about tuition in these uncertain times. We are committed to having your children continue their education at St. Agnes Academy-St. Dominic School. Should you have concerns about your ability to pay, please contact the Business Office. They can assist you with adjusting payment plans or applying for financial assistance. 
St. Agnes Academy-St. Dominic School has lived through many difficult times in our 169-year history, and our school has endured. The first Dominican Sisters persevered despite several fires, yellow fever epidemics, the Depression and two World Wars. Our faith and our community have gotten us through all these challenges. 
I want to end this message with one request of the community: if you need something, reach out. If you need prayers, reach out. If you need someone to talk to, reach out. If you are experiencing financial difficulties, reach out. We are in this together. With God’s help, we will get through this too. You all are in my prayers.
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“But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”

April 16, 2020 
Dear St. Agnes Academy-St. Dominic School Community, 
I hope everyone had a wonderful Easter, and you were able to enjoy a break in the routine. Mary-Lee and I spent Saturday outside and were able to FaceTime with our kids in New York and Cincinnati on Easter. It made for a blessed Triduum!
We are aware of Governor Lee’s announcement this week regarding public school closure for the remainder of the school year. At this time we are continuing to evaluate all the information that is available, and we will announce a decision regarding our plans within the next two weeks. Be assured the health and safety of all our community remains our number one priority. 
Thank you so much for your thoughtful responses to the survey on our transition to remote learning. I was thankful for the volume of feedback we received. In total 537 members of our community, parents, students, and faculty, completed a survey. We are thoroughly reviewing all your feedback and making the necessary adjustments as we move forward. We understand that this new model of learning can be a challenging task, and we thank you for partnering with us in the process. We appreciate the way you and your children have embraced this new normal with such grace.
During this “safer at home” time, I continue to be inspired and uplifted by our community and the many ways our Stars and Suns are responding. 
This week we recognize our many SAA alumnae who are on the front line in the battle with COVID-19. We are humbled by the strength and dedication of these heroes. Below is a glimpse of just a few of the many strong and amazing Stars working every day in this battle. Visit @saalaumnaeassociation on Instagram to see more.
During the month of March, the St. Agnes Lower School theme was Herstory Month. The SAA Kindergarten class focused on the idea that “you are never too young to make a difference,” and one of our KinderStars took this message to heart. McKenzie Dean sprung into action when she heard that nursing home residents could not have visitors right now because of the quarantine. McKenzie wanted to put a smile on their faces and let them know they were not alone. This little KinderStar made over 80 cards to share with the residents at the King’s Daughters and Sons Home!
While we may not be able to visit an art gallery right now, we can still view beautiful artwork thanks to our Upper School artists who have created a virtual art studio! Their classroom might look a little different now, but that has not stopped these talented SAA artists. Take a minute to enjoy this sampling of our students’ artwork and hard work throughout this transition to remote learning.
Our young scientist, John, taught his St. Dominic kindergarten classmates how to make silly putty today. John was the official, “Scientist of the Week” for his class, which is one of the favorite activities in Mrs. Mungle’s Kindergarten classroom. Despite the distance, they were able to continue this tradition during their daily Zoom meeting time.
We recognize that it is not just our students who are learning through this experience, but we are all continuing to learn and grow. Read this reflection by our JK teacher Jamie Lassandrello as she shares her thoughts on the transition to remote learning. Click Here!
I am so grateful for our St. Agnes Academy-St. Dominic School family. Thank you for your continued support and prayers.
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“But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”

April 2, 2020 
Dear St. Agnes Academy-St. Dominic School Community, 
I hope this weekly message finds you all doing well. As I’m sure you already suspect, I am unable to share any good news about when we might return to campus. I will continue to communicate with you regularly on each Thursday. However, there will be no update next Thursday as we will be closed for Easter Break as scheduled. There will be no classes on April 9 –April 13. Please note, we continue to follow our published school calendar
While we have enjoyed many successes in our transition to remote learning, we recognize that this is a learning process for everyone, and we want to continue to grow and improve. In the next few days, you will receive a short survey, and your feedback will guide us as we expand on our strengths and work to make the experience even better for all involved. We will survey all parents and faculty as well as students in grades 3-12. The survey should take you less than 5 minutes to complete. Thank you in advance for your time and thoughtful input. 
Finally, while we may all be a little fatigued at this point, I want to share some moments that made me smile this week. Despite social distancing causing us to miss some important events, our teachers and students are creatively making memories and sustaining connections.
    • When you are a four-year-old, it is especially hard to spend your days without your friends. The joy was evident on the faces of our JK students as they held their first Zoom gathering this week! There were lots of smiles and laughter, and the children can’t wait to see their friends again next week.

    • Since our 8th graders couldn’t be in Washington, D.C. this week as originally scheduled, their teachers decided to bring a little "D.C." to the 8th-grade geography classes. The students dressed up in red, white, and blue patriotic attire (and decor!) and showed off their contest entries during Zoom class time meetings. Everyone had a great time and appreciated the opportunity to have some fun during our stay-at-home protocol. 

    • The Class of 2020 is marking their senior year with a few “new” SAA traditions. Our friends at Balfour arranged a drive-thru line to distribute graduation invitations to the seniors. Last weekend the class held "Zoom Prom 2020." Classmates dressed up in their best prom dresses and Zoomed the night away! This week Senior Voices were shared with the Upper School via our first “aZOOMbly.” Thank you to our student leaders who stepped up to make these events happen.   While they may be untraditional, the SAA spirit, strength and sisterhood are evident!
I continue to be uplifted by the energy and resilience of our students, the creativity of our teachers, and the positive, can-do attitude of our families. Your continued support and prayers are truly appreciated
As we prepare to enter Holy Week, I pray that you and your family are blessed in this Easter season.
Click here to access that original email with the photos.
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“But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”

Thursday, March 26, 2020
Dear St. Agnes Academy-St. Dominic School Community, 
Well, this week didn’t feel quite as crazy as last week, and the sun came out today. We continue to find the little joys in this new situation.
In accordance with Mayor Strickland’s Safer-at-Home order, our campus is now completely closed to everyone. As we previously stated, due to rapidly changing events we cannot determine a definite date when campus will reopen. We are closely monitoring the situation and, as always, are making decisions that are in the best interests of our families and faculty. We will continue to share updates with you on a weekly basis.
I am in awe of the way every member of our community has worked together to make the best of this situation. Our teachers have worked tirelessly to not only create new delivery methods but also to creatively engage and connect with their students. Our school leaders continually work to maintain routines albeit in different forms. Our students are learning a new level of problem-solving as they embrace remote learning. I am also impressed with their openness to new ideas and their positive attitude. And we recognize the imposition this new model is for our parents. I am inspired by your adaptability and spirit. We are truly making this happen together. The one thing I am not, however, is ‘surprised’. Our strong sense of community is a hallmark of an SAA-SDS education. All this is possible thanks to everyone’s efforts, dedication and collaboration. Yes, there have been challenges along the way, but there have also been lots of small victories to celebrate! Despite our physical separation, our students are continuing to learn together, pray together and celebrate together. 
  • In the Early Childhood Center, Ms. Jamie has been reading bedtime stories to her class each night. Ms. Jennifer has shared her backyard garden with the PK students, and Ms. Megan left a surprise for every student on their porch. 
  • Dean Boccia gathered virtually with all the SAA Lower School students for their weekly Meet in the Middle assembly, and St. Dominic students began the week together with their Greet the Week Assembly via Zoom. Despite the distance, our Deans were able to provide consistency and love to their students. 
  • K-8 Counselors are regularly tele-counseling with students via Zoom. 
  • Our Upper School Chaplains are sharing daily prayers with the community. The Freshman Drama Class is creating Pep Talks to offer encouragement to everyone, and Student Government elections will continue, complete with campaign speeches via Zoom.
This is just a small sampling of the activities happening in our school. We will continue to highlight ‘neat’ things in the coming weeks. As we navigate through this difficult time, it is important that we continue to come together for each other. With that in mind, we launched Together We Take Out! Many members of our St. Agnes-St. Dominic family own restaurants and small businesses. We hope you will join us as we support these friends of SAA-SDS who have been our supporters. You can click here to view the list, and please share with your friends. 
We are already thinking about how we will celebrate our return to school. It is our hope it will be this year, but if that is not possible we are already discussing ways to celebrate our students, especially those whose traditions or even graduations are being disrupted by the spread of this virus. We will keep you posted as we gain more clarity on what we can do as we move forward.
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“But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”

Thursday, March 19, 2020
Dear SAA-SDS Community,
The first two days of remote learning at St. Agnes Academy-St. Dominic School are complete, and I am inspired by the response of our entire community. From our administrators and IT team to our teachers to all our students and their families, everyone has exhibited an amazing effort, determination, and resilience. I am overwhelmed by the sense of joy that our teachers and students felt being able to reconnect and hear each other’s voices. So much has been accomplished in a short period of time. Thank you for your trust and support as we begin this new venture.
At this time we anticipate campus will remain closed at least through Easter. Events are rapidly unfolding, and we cannot determine a definite date when campus will reopen. We are closely monitoring the situation and will share updates with you on a weekly basis.
Please know that the business of running the school continues. Our Leadership Team is communicating regularly, and the Deans are holding meetings with faculty via Zoom as we review, assess and evolve in our new environment of remote learning. We are always looking for ways to enhance the learning opportunities and provide support for our teachers, students, and families.
Our chaplain, Fr. Augie, has graciously offered to continue celebrating Mass for our school community. We will stream Mass from our Chapel on Friday mornings at 9:00 a.m. beginning this Friday, March 20. You can watch the live stream on our Facebook page @saasdsmemphis. We are blessed by this opportunity to share in the Liturgy. 
We appreciate that this is a time of uncertainty for everyone. Although we may physically be at a distance, we remain united as a community of faith, and we are called to lift each other up.  Let us look for ways to support our neighbor and extend Christ’s love. I ask that you continue to join with all of us in prayer as we ask for God’s grace and guidance.
In the original correspondence sent to the community, there was a gallery of photos of our teachers and students utilizing our Remote Learning Plan. Click here to access that original email with the photos.
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“But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”

March 13, 2020
Dear St. Agnes Academy-St. Dominic School Community,
After very careful consideration and in support of our community, public health and wellness, St. Agnes Academy-St. Dominic School campus will be closed effective Monday, March 16. We will transition to virtual learning beginning Wednesday, March 18. Due to the dynamic nature of this pandemic, we will re-evaluate school status on a weekly basis. Every Thursday at noon we will share information on our plans for the following week via email.
Modifying our instructional delivery model is not a decision that we take lightly. We understand that a change in our school schedule causes significant disruptions in the lives of our students, families, and faculty. The safety of everyone in our community remains our number one priority. These are unprecedented circumstances, and we believe we all have a stake in stopping the spread of the virus. This is a time for our community to come together and support each other.
Our teachers will meet Monday and Tuesday to finalize details for virtual learning. Our educational objective remains to provide an educational experience for every student from PK2-12th grade that engages and informs our students. Our plan during this time will ensure that each student will be prepared to progress to the next grade level at the end of the school year. You will receive an email from your Dean with specific details regarding instruction specific to each division and grade.
Access to campus will be limited to essential personnel only. At this time we are suspending all athletic and extra-curricular activities until further notice. We are working on a plan that will allow students to come to campus in the next week to pick up any educational materials they may need. Additional details will be provided in the coming days.
As a reminder, the school has created a webpage that is intended to provide the SAA-SDS campus community with news, helpful information and resources. We will update this page frequently as additional information becomes available. 
The days ahead of us represent uncharted territory in many aspects. Our fantastic team of educators will continue to work to ensure your children are loved, connected and educated. Over the coming weeks, we will all have the opportunity to live out the Four Pillars of Study, Prayer, Community, and Service as we work together for the welfare of all. We are grateful for your continued partnership as we navigate this challenging situation, and we commit to doing all we can to keep St. Agnes Academy-St. Dominic School a safe and positive community.
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“But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”

March 12, 2020
Dear St. Agnes Academy – St. Dominic School Community.
In light of the rapidly changing circumstances surrounding the Coronavirus (COVID-19), we are writing to update you on our school plans. The St. Agnes Academy-St. Dominic School Leadership Team is meeting early Friday morning to evaluate the situation, and we will make a decision regarding a possible school closure at that time. We will notify you via email Friday morning with an update to our plans.
Additionally, the school has created a webpage that is intended to provide the SAA-SDS campus community with helpful information, resources and updates on COVID-19. We will continue to update this page frequently as additional information becomes available.
Please be assured our team has been working diligently to establish policies and plans to continue virtual learning for all our students in case of a school closure. Thank you for your patience and support as we work together for the health, safety and well being of everyone in our community.
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Tom Hood

March 6, 2020
Dear St. Agnes Academy – St. Dominic School Community.
I know you are being inundated with information about the Coronavirus.  You are also hopefully focused on Spring Break for your family. I do ask that you take the time to read this letter as it has specific St. Agnes Academy - St. Dominic School actions and responses related to this virus.    We continue to monitor CDC guidance and communicate with other schools about the best way to adapt to the COVID-19. This is not intended to alarm you but to talk frankly about this virus and our plans to minimize its effect on our community. 
Having said that, we fully expect the virus will make its way to Memphis.  As you know it is now in the Nashville area. We cannot prevent it from spreading to Memphis nor likely to our community.  We can, however, take actions individually and collectively to minimize the effects of the virus on our fellow community members.  I am asking you to show your love for your fellow families by being vigilant and responsible. Our responsible actions would include:
Personal Hygiene
Coronaviruses spread from person to person in much the same way the flu and other respiratory viruses spread.  We ask that you help us keep our community safe by continuing to maintain healthy habits as we do during any cold and flu season. These are the same steps that we should be taking daily.  Steps you can take to prevent the spread of flu and the common cold will also help prevent coronavirus:  

• Wash hands often with soap and water 
• If soap and water are not available, use a hand sanitizer that is at least 60% alcohol 
• Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth
• Avoid contact with people who are sick  
• Stay home while you are sick 
• Avoid close contact with others 
• Cover your mouth/nose with a tissue or sleeve when coughing or sneezing 

Campus Precautions
We have instructed our cleaning company to conduct a detailed cleaning of our campus over Spring break.  We have also instituted our flu season daily cleaning procedures which include actions such as wiping down all door handles in the middle of the day, and wiping desks after each class. We are increasing the use of disinfectant at our lunch tables after each meal and modifying our lunch service to minimize the number of hands that could touch the food line.  We will also use ‘one-use’ prepackaged silverware for the foreseeable future. We are looking at other areas on campus to see if we can enhance our processes for those spaces as well. We will continue these modified activities for the foreseeable future.
We know many families will be traveling over the next week for Spring Break. We encourage you to follow the CDC guidelines on travel. As you are aware, information regarding the spread of COVID-19 is changing daily, so please continue to check the CDC website regularly. Many countries have enforced restrictions and quarantines that could directly affect you.  I encourage you to stay abreast of policies in the areas in which you might be traveling. 
Any faculty, staff, students or parents who are traveling to/from CDC Level 2 and Level 3 areas, must self-quarantine and not return to school until a 14 day period has elapsed following their return to the United States. They must also obtain medical clearance before returning to campus. Please contact your personal physician regarding specific instructions for self-quarantine. Should your student require quarantine post-travel, be assured we will work with you to provide remote learning.
We cannot begin to stress how important it is to keep your child home if they are sick. This is the way we show our care for each other.  In the event that your child is sick and might possibly miss multiple days from school, they will not be penalized for their absence. The Deans will be sending out detailed information on the updated absentee policy as it pertains to the different grade levels on our campus.  
Plans for Possible School Disruption
In the event campus must close, our team has been working to ensure learning will continue. Policies and plans are in development to continue virtual learning for all our students. These plans are dependent upon Internet access. If access to the Internet will be a problem for your family please advise your Dean. Also if you are the parents of younger children we recommend you think about how you will care for your children should we close the school physical plant. 
School Contacts for Reporting Illness or Exposure
Sandra Miller, School Nurse –
Jenny Howell, Early Childhood Director –
Chris Burke, Dean, St. Dominic School –
Kathy Boccia, Dean, St. Agnes Lower School –
Joy Maness, Dean, St. Agnes Upper School –
This is an evolving situation.  We are investing considerable time and resources to ensure that we keep our community as safe as possible while continuing learning with our students.  I am reminded of our thematic bible verse for this year from Isaiah 40:31 “But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”   Let us show our love for each other by acting in ways that serve the welfare of our community. We will continue to monitor and prepare for this virus.
The school has created a webpage that is intended to provide the SAA-SDS campus community with helpful information, resources and updates on COVID-19. We will update this page frequently as additional information becomes available.
As always, if you have any questions, please feel free to contact me or any member of the administration.
We wish you a restful and enjoyable Spring Break.
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Tom Hood

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