During these unprecedented times, Friends Select School is 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. For the 2020-21 school year, we have implemented numerous health and safety protocols 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.

Updates for Our Community

As we monitor the health and safety of our community, as well as COVID-19 trends in the Philadelphia area, we will continue to provide updates on an ongoing basis. Please check back here regularly for the latest information.

Returning to Friends Select After Spring Break (March 17, 2021)

Spring Break Update (February 23, 2021)

Friends Select's Renewed Community Commitment (December 31, 2020)

Reopening Update for January (December 16, 2020)

Transitioning to iSelectLearning (November 10, 2020)

Schedule Change for Reminders for Upcoming Breaks (October 30, 2020)

Tracking COVID-19 at the Local Level (October 15, 2020)

Options for Families

As the COVID-19 pandemic unfolded 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 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 attending school in-person, 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 being in the building. If you opt for iSelectLearning over in-person instruction, please notify your child’s division director in writing. 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 school year. 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.

[UPDATED March 23, 2021] 



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)
  • Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE)
  • 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
  • Dr. Adrianna Bravo, medical director for Episcopal High School in Virginia and COVID Preparedness Consultant
  • 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 has been 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 40% 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, or because the local health experts that the school follows recommend such a closure, and everyone is engaged in iSelectLearning from home.