PETOSKEY – August 13, 2020 – St. Michael Academy (SMA), Northern Michigan’s only Classical Catholic high school, today announced the release of its Re-Opening Plan for the 2020-21 academic year.

Informed by a significant and growing body of supporting research, the SMA Re-Opening Plan features a commitment to remaining open for on-site learning and formation, whenever possible, five days per week.

“Our strategy for re-opening strikes a balance between performing our mission effectively and prudently.  We learned last spring that while on-line learning can be an effective temporary substitute for face-to-face instruction, it isn’t a viable long-term option for our students,” stated SMA Headmaster Dr. Richard Brake.  “In striving to remain open, we remain faithful to our core mission of nurturing and elevating a new generation of joyful leaders, educated in the Classical Tradition and the truth of the Catholic Faith.”

The SMA Re-Opening Plan proceeds under the assumptions that:

  • clear steps can be taken to mitigate the impact of Covid-19 while conducting in-person instruction;
  • there are significant negative educational, social, emotional, and spiritual costs to teenagers when schools are unable (or unwilling) to conduct face-to-face instruction;
  • recognizing inherent risks both to opening the schools and to closing them, SMA Leadership will seek to consider all factors, prudently selecting actions that best serve our students and families.

Dr. Brake continued, “In transitioning seamlessly from in-person to on-line instruction last spring, we demonstrated our nimbleness and our capacity to provide educational continuity during this crisis.  We will build upon this experience, developing still more effective ‘hybrid’ methods, combining live and distance learning, as appropriate, for future disruptions.  Our independence allows us to improvise and adapt quickly, delivering solutions that larger, more bureaucratic schools will find difficult to match.”

The SMA Re-Opening Plan is guided by a set of “First Principles” that guide it as a Classical Catholic high school.  The ongoing crisis demands particular emphasis on virtues like prudence, courage, and faith, as knowing the proper course of action requires the balancing of many factors, significant fortitude, and Christian humility.  SMA Leadership is determined to remain focused on its mission and to keep its policies and requirements realistic and simple, encouraging compliance by its students and staff.

As SMA prepares to reopen for the coming school year, its operations will focus on “the four C’s” – Courage, Courtesy, Cleanliness, and Common-Sense.  The specific tactics to be employed to realize these objectives were developed after a thorough review of many resources, including the latest authoritative research regarding school environments, the State of Michigan’s “Phase Five” school re-opening guidelines, recommendations from the Diocese of Gaylord, best practices from the Chesterton Schools Network, and independent research and deliberations by the SMA Board of Directors, faculty, and staff.

The SMA Re-Opening Plan also features a set of contingency plans which will allow the school to continue with academic instruction during periods of increased pandemic severity, both flexibly and concurrently, recognizing that SMA families have varying degrees of Covid-19 risk tolerance.

Dr. Brake concluded, “At SMA, we prepare students to triumph over the materialism and despair that pervade our culture and to accept our Lord’s offer to have life in abundance!  We believe that our plans for re-opening, and for fulfilling our mission, will succeed if we continually put our faith into action with renewed trust, intention, and zeal.  As fear and anxiety paralyze much of our society, including many schools, we have a tremendous opportunity to show our community a better, more joyful way to learn, to live, and to love!  Please consider joining us for the most exciting and consequential year in our history!”


SMA is enrolling rising 7th through 12th grade students for the 2020-21 academic year.  Please contact Dr. Brake at for more information.  SMA offers tuition assistance to qualifying families.  No student is denied enrollment because of financial reasons.

Established in 2013, St. Michael Academy is the first Catholic high school in the Little Traverse area since 1972, and the region’s only Classical high school.  SMA strives to develop the next generation of American leaders by promoting a culture of excellence and instilling its students with the classical virtues of wisdom, temperance, courage, and justice, along with the Christian virtues of faith, hope, and love.

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