Francis Parker School leadership will now let teachers work from home in the trimester beginning Nov. 30. Courtesy image.

Francis Parker School on Monday afternoon reversed a mandate for in-person instruction in a bid to quell a firestorm of criticism that included a student boycott threat.

Kevin Yaley, head of the elite two-campus school, wrote that he decided to reinstate teacher guidelines from the first trimester and apply them to the second term.

“As such, any faculty member who feels that they or an immediate member of their family is compromised [for COVID-19] as a result of working on campus … can request an exemption for trimester two and teach remotely,” he wrote.

Head of School Kevin Yaley’s message to Francis Parker School community Monday. (PDF)

That presumably means that popular English teacher and department chair Chris Harrington won’t have to resign Nov. 30, as he signaled last week. Rules that led Harrington to tell his exit after 29 years sparked outrage among students and 1,147 signatories of a petition.

Yaley said that due to the rising number of cases locally and nationally, and “recognizing the realities” of the Thanksgiving holiday, the week of Nov. 30 to Dec. 4, all students and teachers in Junior Kindergarten though 12th grade will move to “Parker Online.”

He said this includes all Upper School co-curriculars and athletics.

“During the November 30 monitoring week,” Yaley wrote, “we strongly encourage employees and families to take a COVID-19 test, if possible. Currently, we are looking into the possibility of offering on-site testing this week. Specific information will follow if we are able to make this happen.”

Harrington and Yaley didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

A second English teacher, Jeff Mezzocchi, also reportedly handed in his resignation.

“Nobody can replace Mr. Harrington or Mr. Mezzocchi,” senior Samuel Carrillo told NBC San Diego. “It’s an entire community rallying around the people who make Parker so excellent – our faculty.”

The private prep school has middle-school and high school campuses in Linda Vista and an elementary school in Mission Hills.

Yaley opened his 1,700-word message Monday by acknowledging he’s heard from many members of the Parker community, including parents — many of them in the wealthiest segments of San Diego society.

“Rest assured, the thoughts, perspectives, and heartfelt concerns on behalf of members of the faculty recently sent to me, to Parker leadership, and to the Board of Trustees by deeply concerned students, parents, and alumni have been heard by the Parker leadership team,” he said, “and we are taking them seriously.”

He said that moving forward, “let us all remember that it is at these times when we must be at our best and extend grace and trust to all members of our community choosing to fight the common enemy of COVID-19 rather than one another.”

Days ago, on a hurriedly created website, an unsigned “Community Response to Mr. Yaley” called the first policy “unconscionable, unfair and outright wrong.”

“To put it bluntly, your decision is forcing teachers to resign,” the note said. “Your decision to ignore our concerns and abandon our teachers undermines the integrity of our school. This policy is unconscionable, unfair, and outright wrong.”

The message implored Yaley to “heed the collective voice of your community: our teachers are not disposable.”

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