During these unprecedented times, Friends Select School will be guided by its mission, which has withstood the test of time, to work to achieve balance between the needs of individuals and our community, in an atmosphere of cooperation and concern for the betterment of all. We value the rich diversity of our urban setting and the opportunities and challenges it provides for the education of our students. Since the spring, we have been deeply engaged in making careful preparations for the coming school year in response to the realities of COVID-19. Our planning is guided by our Quaker values and profound care for our community, and centers around prioritizing health and safety, preserving interpersonal connections, and maximizing flexibility. We are planning to open our building for the first day of the 2020-21 school year on September 8 as scheduled, with an emphasis on mitigating risk through the implementation of safety protocols, and by reducing foot traffic and minimizing movement within the building. All of our planning remains fluid, as we consider developments in regard to the pandemic and recommendations from health officials. 

The Current Plan
We are currently preparing for an educational model in which students in grades Pre-K - 6 will have access to in-person instruction within the building 100% of the time. Grades 7 - 12 will be on a rotating schedule with 50% of students in the building at a time, with the rest of students participating in iSelectLearning when at home. This plan honors the developmental needs of our youngest learners. While we recognize this may not be ideal for some families, we believe this is not only developmentally appropriate but also responsive to the collective needs of our community. 

Options for Families
As the COVID-19 pandemic began to unfold earlier this year, Friends Select’s dedicated faculty and staff developed iSelectLearning. This robust distance learning format enabled our first-rate educational program to continue online, providing continuity of learning and opportunities for our community to stay engaged with one another, with a range of synchronous and asynchronous lessons such as upper school Advanced Biology students completing a Zoom lab about bacterial transformation with the DNA Learning Center in Cold Spring Harbor, NY, middle school Spanish students using Flipgrid to record clips of themselves talking about a novel they read in class, and lower school embracing the virtual world offering all of our young students opportunities to learn, grow, and socialize using a mixture of Zoom, pre-recorded lessons, and more. 

By investing in additional professional development in online instruction for our faculty this summer and with the hiring of a director of educational technology, Mary Beth Hertz, we are continuing to refine and enhance iSelectLearning. Because we know there are members of our community who may have extenuating circumstances and varying levels of comfort with returning to school, we are offering all families the option to choose iSelectLearning for their student over in-person instruction on a quarterly basis if they are not comfortable returning to the building. If you opt for iSelectLearning over in-person instruction, please notify your child’s division director in writing prior to August 15. Once the school year starts, if a family would like to change from in-person learning to iSelectLearning or vice versa, they must get their request approved by the director or associate director of their child’s division. (This does not apply to a family whose child needs to stay home because of illness or a possible contact with someone with COVID-19. In that situation, a child would switch to iSelectLearning on a short-term basis.)

We understand a range of emotions and complexity of concerns that may arise during this challenging transition to start the school year, and will likely be present at times as the school year continues. We are committed to accommodating and supporting our families, and we hope that our thorough planning will mitigate risk and help assuage anxieties as much as possible. This section of our website provides both health and safety recommendations and information about returning to Friends Select’s building for the 2020-21 school year. Please check back often for updates.




Here are some additional resources regarding COVID-19:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Pennsylvania Department of Health

Philadelphia Department of Public Health

National Association of School Psychologists

CHOP Policy lab guidelines

American Academy of Pediatrics

If you have any specific health-related questions or concerns, please contact Nurse Kelly at schoolnurse@friends-select.org.



Current research indicates COVID-19 is a virus that can be spread by person-to-person contact via respiratory droplets, like the flu and other cold viruses. Symptoms can range in characteristics and in severity and some cases may be asymptomatic. It is spread person-to-person through infected droplets from saliva, sneezes, and coughs. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and local health agencies, the most effective measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 include:

  • Physical distancing, as much as possible
  • Hand washing (for a minimum of 20 seconds) or using hand sanitizer (with a minimum of 60% alcohol)
  • Wearing a protective face covering in public, as much as possible
  • Self-isolation, if experiencing symptoms
  • Contact tracing and quarantining of close contacts to an infected person

If you or a family member become sick with fever and lower respiratory symptoms (cough, shortness of breath, difficulty breathing), or two of the other common symptoms (chills, muscle/body/headaches, sore throat, congestion, loss of taste/smell, or nausea/vomiting/diarrhea):

  • Isolate yourself by staying home and away from others.
  • Contact your primary care physician or urgent care facility for directions and testing.
  • If you need to go out in public (only to get to a medical appointment), wear a protective face covering and call ahead to the medical office.
  • Inform Nurse Kelly at schoolnurse@friends-select.org 

Additional information and guidance about COVID-19 is available on the CDC’s website.


Physical and Emotional Health and Safety
In order to create a safer environment that will help mitigate the spread of disease, our planning is guided by recommendations from: 

  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
  • World Health Organization (WHO)
  • American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP)
  • Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf
  • Pennsylvania Department of Health (DOH)
  • Philadelphia Department of Public Health (PDPH)
  • Medical experts within our parent body: Lisa Di Cicco Maslankowski P'23, '25, Kristen Feemster P'26, '28, Rodrigo Cerdá '33
  • Many other expert resources, such as the PolicyLab at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP)

In addition to considering the physical health of our community, we must tend to the emotional well-being of our community members in order for the high-quality teaching and engaged learning that are characteristic of Friends Select to continue.

Our Mission
Our preparations are guided by our mission as a Quaker school and our social responsibility to our immediate community, which extends to the city of Philadelphia, to our country, and to the world. We are also guided by the desire to continue to foster a strong sense of community where relationships develop and thrive.  

We are preparing to maximize in-person instruction for the coming school year because we believe that it helps create an optimal learning environment; there is inherent educational value in students being able to learn from teachers and interact with their fellow classmates in person. We are also enhancing iSelectLearning so that we can continue to provide our first-rate educational program online. We hope that students will continue to experience a Friends Select education this year, even if campus life is impacted by physical distancing and changing health circumstances.

We aim to be as flexible as possible as an educational institution so that we may respond rapidly to change. This will allow us to utilize a combination of in-person instruction and iSelectLearning, as needed. It will also help us to be as accommodating as possible, so that we can continue to provide students and families with the type of instruction they are looking for during this time.


  • Anita Bailey, Director of Middle/Upper School & International Admission 
  • Jan Burns, Assistant to the Head of School
  • Marnie Christian, Director of Admission & Enrollment Management
  • Michael Gary, Head of School
  • Desiree Harmon, Middle School Director
  • Ted Harnwell, Director of Facilities
  • Mary Beth Hertz, Director of Educational Technology
  • Christine Jefferson, Director of Development and Alumni Relations
  • Bill Klose, Athletic Director
  • Tracy Matthews, Director of College Planning & Testing/Registrar
  • Kelly Papianou, School Nurse
  • Zack Pelta-Heller, Communication Specialist
  • Erin Pratt, Associate Director of Upper School
  • Matt Rosen, Director of Financial Operations 
  • Amy Segel, Associate Lower School Director
  • Chris Singler, Upper School Director
  • Margaret Smith, Director of City Curriculum
  • Toni Graves Williamson, Director of Equity and Inclusion
  • Dave Younkin, Lower School Director


Our planning is centered around four potential scenarios for conducting school this year, depending on current local health and safety requirements. We anticipate the potential need to move between these scenarios as conditions with COVID-19 change.

  • Scenario 1: All students and faculty are in the building at the same time, with appropriate health protocols in place.
  • Scenario 2: All students are in the building 50% of the time, with students using iSelectLearning when at home.
  • Scenario 3: Grades Pre-K - 6 are in the building 100% of the time, while grades 7 - 12 are in the building 50% of the time, with students using iSelectLearning when at home.
  • Scenario 4: The building is closed because in-person instruction is forbidden by the state of Pennsylvania, and everyone is engaged in iSelectLearning from home.

As of July 31, we are planning on opening the school year using Scenario 3. Students enrolled in grades Pre-K - 6 will continue the traditional schedule of M - F full day classes, and grades 7 - 12 will utilize a hybrid model of in-person, live-streaming, and asynchronous learning. This will limit the amount of people in the building while allowing our younger learners in grades Pre-K - 6 to maximize the amount of in-person learning and provide opportunities for developmentally appropriate socialization for students in all grades.