March 27, 2020
Dear RMA Family,
You have completely overwhelmed us with your support and kind words following my last letter of March 25. What was especially amazing and unexpected was the number of parents who wrote to say they want to contribute their tuition refund back to RMA to help cadets’ families in need. Wow! Thank you. You are inspiring role models for all of us.
I have spent several hours this week participating in webinars facilitated by the Southern Association of Independent Schools (SAIS), Association of Military Colleges and Schools in the U.S. (AMCSUS), and EAB, an educational research firm in Washington, D.C. The calls were comprised of heads of school, secondary and higher ed. On the three different calls with a dozen participants each, I did not hear of another school offering any type of tuition refund. This is only one data point, so I cannot conclude that no other school is offering a refund, but I was surprised. Nevertheless, I stand by the message to you of March 25
outlining the refund RMA is offering as it is the right thing to do.
You will receive on Monday an online form to indicate your preference for the handling of your refund. You may elect to receive a refund check or a credit on next fall’s tuition as outlined previously, or, because so many of you have asked to donate your refund to RMA to assist other families, you will also have the option to donate your refund amount as a charitable, tax-deductible donation.
Congratulations to all of you – parents, cadets, teachers, staff, Dean of Academics Cathy Moore – who made this first week of digital learning a success. This digital platform did not exist at RMA two weeks ago and it has taken a Herculean effort on everyone’s part to make it happen. I took great pride in one parent’s comment, “[as] someone who has been doing Information Systems/Technology since 1994, I can say your first week is a solid success.”
I also know from your comments that our digital learning performance is surpassing what you are seeing or experiencing from other schools, public and private. RMA’s ability to innovate and turn on a dime inspires and energizes me for the next challenges we will face.
On another front, I’m being asked about spring break. We are going to honor the break, April 4-13, as a break from learning and a time for your family to enjoy non-school activities. It will give the RMA staff a chance to work out any remaining bugs in the digital platform and delivery systems.
Regarding spring break and our cadets on campus, let me say that our 20 ReMAiners will also have a spring break, albeit on campus. They will be supported by essential personnel, including the food service staff to make sure there is plenty to eat, and special activities are being planned.
Let me close with a few comments from parents. Your confidence and support in the RMA mission is inspiring.
“…..surprisingly, [he] says he misses being at school. I am surprised because normally all he does is complain! He is great company here at home and he seems to be taking his academic responsibilities seriously. Moreover, he conducts ‘inspection’ on his two siblings’ room every morning at 0750 and then he leads them (well, actually us too!) on a 20-minute walk in the woods immediately afterward, rain or shine. Thanks for everything you’ve done to give us confidence in our son. We’ve decided to waive the refund….. we will think of it as a contribution to a worthy cause. Thank you!”
“He has been a completely different kid since he got home. Literally a model child. He is a completely different person. Thank you for all you have done for him and the future path you have set him on which he never would have had otherwise.”
“We are so excited that digital learning is being implemented (trial by fire as they say). The opportunities that exist for summer school, courses online, teachers in different parts of the country/world for our [cadets] will be amazing! No one will be afraid of learning online. The possibilities will be endless with a hybrid campus/digital courses for the lads.”
“I just have to say Dr. Cathy Moore is amazing. I’ve had a couple of issues over the last couple of days with my son’s computer, access, video links not working, and sent them to the digital learning email, and she responded within five minutes, and directed me to the right help. I think it says a lot when the Dean of the school is personally involved and answering our questions……in such a personal and efficient manner. #RMAproud”
Please keep your notes coming as they serve to inspire our faculty and staff. Thank you for your continued partnership through this extraordinary time.
COL(R) Stas’ C. Preczewski
---------March 25, 2020
Greetings to the entire Riverside Military Academy Community,
Let me begin by stating that as of the release of this note, there remain(s) NO confirmed case(s) of the COVID-19 virus on our campus. We are both blessed and thankful for that fact as we remain diligent through our deliberate actions to keep it that way. (Daily screenings of body temperature, enhanced disinfecting/cleaning, limiting/inspecting deliveries, etc.) We trust that you, on the home front, are being just as diligent in keeping yourselves healthy and safe during this difficult and unprecedented period.
The young men who chose to remain on campus for the duration of this global challenge just completed their first 12 days of social/campus isolation. They are all in single rooms, enjoying plenty of extra sleep, experiencing exceptional dining and snacks, recreating and lounging/gaming in the enhanced Goomba Grill and now participating in organized digital instruction. In short, they are in great shape, safe, secure and healthy—now with both their minds and bodies being mentally and physically engaged. Our dedicated staff and faculty will do all that we can to keep them that way.
I hope you are as proud as am I about the dedication of our staff and faculty. Many of them were offered the opportunity to work from home due to the risks to themselves. Many waived that opportunity as they desired to serve both our cadets on campus and those cadets who chose to complete this RMA year digitally/on-line. Further, I have received many requests from those who departed to now return to campus—a request I cannot approve as we continue to significantly limit access to our campus from the external environment.
We continue to push out information to you as quickly and as frequently as is reasonable in order to ensure you know exactly what is occurring on campus and what future plans hold. The most frequent questions include:
Q: Will we reopen in the Fall?
A: YES, we plan to reopen if the threat subsides enough that we can provide a safe, secure and healthy environment for cadets, faculty & staff.
Q: Will May 2020 commencement/Silver Taps occur?
A: We currently plan to hold a commencement on the published date, with the Silver Taps ceremony integrated into the commencement day activities. In all, a single day event made available only to the seniors, their families and friends. HOWEVER, should global/national/local events preclude us safely hosting commencement on the published date; we will postpone it to a later date, likely shipping diplomas to cadet homes of record so that they may have it in their possession for the summer.
Q: Will summer programs be available?
A: Again, YES, we are planning summer programs and are simultaneously planning to expand/enhance those programs so that cadets may return earlier to our campus environment to get back into the routine that has served them well to date. Again, IF global, national, state and local virus conditions allow, we plan to hold all of our RMA-sponsored cadet programs this summer as scheduled. In order to reduce the risk of reintroduction of the virus through the introduction/high-turnover of thousands of non-RMA students who historically lease our buildings and fields during the summer, we are terminating all of our external leasing contracts and plan to limit access to this campus solely to cadets and new recruits during the summer.
Q: What is RMA doing about refunds for those who chose to bring their cadet home to complete this academic year digitally?
A: Bottom-line upfront: options for refunds/credits are found below in detail. The delay in working this issue was because, as always, the first priorities for the faculty and staff have been to ensure continuity of the Academy’s programs within a safe, secure and healthy environment. As we are wrapping up that transition to a mix of boarding and digital/online semester completion, we are now shifting our attention to fiscal matters.
We understand that many of you have suffered losses of jobs, steep declines in investments, and additional costs associated with the world’s ever-changing COVID-19 threat. Our campus, its employees and our finances are subject to the same challenges. However, with the departure of a cadet from campus, indisputably a very few of our variable costs actually drop. Specifically, those costs that do curtail are related to boarding, i.e., food and laundry. Both of these costs are easily calculable as they are experienced on an actual cost-plus-margin basis. Clearly, 100% of these savings/cost avoidance need to be returned to you prorated for the days your cadet no longer was in residence on campus.
As you are experiencing this week, RMA is continuing its commitment to a structured and supervised learning and developmental environment. Our digital teaching has every teacher involved in direct, interactive instruction on a systematic daily basis, during the school week. Your cadet(s) are interacting with a live teacher and with other cadets in that section. They are being tracked and monitored for participation and completion. Failures to log in are treated as a missed class. Failures to hand in assignments on time are treated as missed/late assignments unless properly excused. TACs and teachers will continue to notify parents of their cadet’s progress or failure to conform. Demerits for failures to comply will continue to be issued and will have immediate consequences. Grades will suffer for missed assignments or absences. Cadets who fail to complete their digital work appropriately will not receive credit for course completion which may result in a failure to graduate or to advance to the next grade. Academic rigor will be maintained throughout this process—accreditation of the Academy’s academic program requires this. Your parental/guardian role in assisting us in holding them to their normal standards of responsibility and performance are critical to your cadet’s success. Feel free to contact your TAC or teacher for assistance if you are running into challenges with your cadet properly engaging at home.
Accordingly, TACs continue to do their mission, Information Technology personnel remain in place to support the digital instruction; faculty are teaching; employees remain who provide life support (heating/cooling/security/medical/Human Resources) to those running the educational programs; and RMA payments for institutional insurance, utilities, and employee salaries/benefits continue during this period of digital delivery of the academic curriculum. In short, the decision to allow parents the choice to remain on campus or bring their cadet home only impacts the variable costs of food and laundry and does not affect the fixed costs that remain as instruction continues, albeit in a different format.
Refunds for boarding cadets:
For those boarding cadets who departed on Friday, 13 March 2020, the total maximum refundable costs per cadet (excluding the planned spring break) are:
For food: 8 weeks/7 days per week = 56 x $12.19/day = $682.64 available refund
For laundry: 8 weeks x $17.80/week = $142.40 available refund
Total Maximum Available Refund = $825.04 per cadet who is no longer boarding at Riverside.
However, roughly one-half of all cadet families receive financial aid, i.e., fiscal relief that allows them to afford attendance. While $825.04 is available to those who receive no financial aid from RMA, the refund to those who do receive aid will be proportional to the percentage of aid received.
For an easy hypothetical explanation, if you are receiving a 10% financial aid discount, your available refund will be reduced by 10% --assuming your account is in good standing/current. For those who are full-pays AND whose accounts are current and in good standing, the full amount is available to you for refund. While instruction will continue until semester’s end, transcripts/academic records will be withheld for those students whose accounts are not being kept current. Refunds will be withheld for cadets whose accounts are in arrears.
For those deciding to accept the refund, checks will be provided to the parent/guardian/sponsor of record at the address of record sometime in April.
Important: There is one other option Riverside is making available to all families with accounts in good standing. Should you decide to defer your calculated refund amount, Riverside will post a credit to your 2020-2021 tuition and fees account in an amount of your calculated refund plus $300 (three hundred dollars). For those receiving the full refund, that represents a $1,125.04 credit on fall semester 2020 billing. $300 represents ~ 36.36% simple return on your refund in just a four-month period.
Refunds for day cadets only:
Lunch meals ($2.44/meal) x 5 days x 8 weeks = $97.60 maximum refund, if in good standing. The same $300 refund deferment incentive (see above) remains in place for those choosing to apply their refund to the fall semester.
If you choose the deferred incentive option and for whatever reason the school fails to open for a fall semester, your entire calculated refund will be returned to you (without the additional $300 credit) eliminating your risk in selecting this option. If after selecting this option, you choose to not re-enroll or withdraw your cadet for any reason, only your calculated academic year 2019-2020 refund will be provided to you, without the additional $300 credit.
NOTE: An online/web-based form to inform RMA of your preferred refund option is forthcoming and should be available to you by Monday, March 30, 2020.
I am aware that many of you expected a much larger refund, but again, by moving academic instruction to a digital mode, only the variable costs of residing are avoided and most all other costs--as described above—continue. Cadets will continue to interact, though in a different fashion. Riverside will continue to deliver its high-quality academic program and continue to utilize the military cultural model, though from a distance. TACs will continue to interact with cadets and parents, and the cadet chain of command is expected to monitor the performance of their assigned cadets from afar.
Just as each of you is facing your own unique challenges given this COVID-19 event, so, too, are our faculty and staff members and their families. I am beyond impressed how many faculty and staff are making significant personal sacrifices to continue to deliver a proper military education to each of the cadets under unprecedented conditions. It is humbling to witness them adapt their methods to achieve the same desired results. Collectively, the RMA community is making the best of this situation.
As always, I look forward to hearing from you as RMA and the world continue to optimistically press forward through a previously uncharted economic path. Through mutual respect, necessary flexibility and strict adherence to public health recommendations, the RMA community will emerge from the COVID-19 obstacle in a position of strength. One-hundred-thirteen years of remarkable institutional history assure us this is true.
COL(R) Stas’ C. Preczewski
---------March 23, 2020
Dear Riverside Military Academy Friends and Family,
This week Riverside Military Academy’s cadets, teachers and staff made RMA history by transitioning to digital learning in order to complete the current academic year. Under the leadership of Dr. Cathy Moore, academic dean, the faculty rapidly adjusted to a new way of teaching and creatively addressed the challenges and opportunities of virtual learning. Approximately 400 cadets are accessing their RMA classrooms from home via Zoom, and the 20 cadets who remain on campus are doing the same. The teamwork that was required to make this quick transition bodes well for RMA’s ongoing ability to adapt to new challenges.
Let me share a story with you from last week that brought a smile to my face. An RMA cadet, now at home, emailed his military science instructor an essay entitled, “What It Means to be an RMA Cadet Amidst the COVID-19 Outbreak.”
“During this hectic time, the way I have planned to maintain my RMA cadet values is through a schedule…however, just the schedule alone will not keep me in check, my mindset also has to be in the right state as well. I think in this time of uncertainty, the one thing that will remain constant is my daily routine, which will help me to keep my head straight amidst the chaos.”
He continues his essay by outlining his schedule complete with wake-up time, breakfast, P.T., hygiene, and school.
“We may be experiencing a major pandemic, however, the one thing we have control over is what we do with our time during the day. In the end, … (this) might have been a good change for us all, giving us a taste of what college and the real world will be like, with us having to maintain a schedule and being more accountable for our own actions.”
“Improvise, adapt, and overcome!” he concludes.
In similar fashion, the 20 cadets on campus are rising to the occasion of living RMA history. Small in number, but mighty in spirit these ReMAiners, as they are coming to be known, display grit, energy, and remarkable equilibrium.
The faculty and staff continue to amaze me with their ingenuity and creative problem-solving. I don’t consider any RMA staff member “nonessential,” but those who can work from home are doing so. Staff on campus are focused on cadet health and safety, therefore, staff from the infirmary, security, and food service are on campus daily along with the commandant’s team and technology support. We have eliminated nonessential deliveries to campus, and all staff and essential visitors pass through a central entry point and have their temperatures taken.
There are no confirmed cases of COVID-19 on the RMA campus.
In the 40-plus years of my career, including military service and higher education administration, I have faced numerous logistical and planning obstacles, but COVID-19 presents such complex challenges and possible outcomes that I find myself energized by the opportunity to lead Riverside during this unique period in modern history.
Until we can resume Academy activities on campus, please reach out to me by phone or email with your thoughts and concerns. Stay safe and well, and as our cadet reminds us, “Improvise, adapt, and overcome!”
COL(R) Stas’ C. Preczewski
---------March 17, 2020
As of today, the vast majority of RMA cadets have returned home to begin digital learning next Monday, March 23. Faculty members are on campus working, and all Academy offices remain open.