I hope this letter finds you well and looking forward to the long Memorial Day weekend. While the weather may not permit it this weekend, I find my daily walks around campus, though certainly not the same without our students, rejuvenating and helpful in reminding me of the incredible gift of this special learning environment, and our tremendous campus communities.
As I mentioned in last week's letter, the focus of this communication is to provide you with information around our planning and decision-making process for the opening of school in the fall. This planning process is well underway and will continue to evolve over the next several months. We will soon be launching a webpage to keep you updated on our progress as plans develop.
Guiding the Planning and Decision-Making Processes
There is still much uncertainty regarding the implications of COVID-19 upon reentering our school, and that will likely continue as new information is gathered and restrictions are lifted. This we know: We have a dedicated team in place to guide our planning in a comprehensive and thorough manner and we are confidently poised to meet the challenges of a multitude of scenarios. Our goal is to deliver the best educational experience possible for your children so they will progress on pace and be prepared for their next set of academic challenges.
As I mentioned in an earlier communication, we have established a Committee to Re-open RA and LPS Campuses, composed of a wide variety of school leaders. This group has been meeting for several weeks. The Committee is divided into 7 smaller working groups tasked with reviewing input from educators, parents, and students; best practices from workshops, and guidance from the state leadership and national and local health organizations. Planning will focus on the following areas:
Health Services: We are looking at processes and protocols for student and adult hygiene, disinfecting procedures, health monitoring, etc. Each campus offers unique challenges, so there will be procedures we all follow, and some that are location-specific. In addition, we want to be prepared for the emotions that some of our students may be feeling as they begin to venture out and connect in ways they have not done for some time. The physical and emotional health of our school community is our top priority. Therefore, we are receiving guidance from professionals to ensure that our campuses are safe and offer the support that our students and faculty may need.
Social Distancing and Safety Procedures, in classes and student activities: We are considering classroom set-up, furniture, class size, materials (shared vs. individual), supply lists, student hallway traffic, playgrounds, bathrooms, etc.
Campus Traffic/Travel: We will consider our drop-off and pick-up procedures on each campus, as well as our approach to class trips and field trips, how we manage visitors to campus, including vendors, parents, and special services, and our campus security measures. We are in contact with various local bus companies to understand the cleaning and seating protocols they plan to implement for the fall.
Food Service: On the Ridgefield campus, we will redesign how our food is prepared, delivered, and served. We’ll need to reconsider where students eat, menu changes, and protocols for our entire community as it relates to lunch and snack times.
Teaching and Learning: For curricular and co-curricular programs, the Division Heads, Preschool Directors, and the Director of The Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning, in partnership with the teachers, will craft the most effective program for learning in each of the scenarios listed below. Our enhanced remote program will be flexible enough to allow us to switch gears easily from on-campus to remote learning, should that become necessary at any point. From our 2-year-old classrooms, to our graduating 8th graders, RA/LPS has always produced a strong academic program, and we will continue to do so in any of the scenarios listed below.
Scenarios for Reopening the RA and LPS Campuses
As you know, we plan to have the first day of school on September 1, 2020. It is our deepest hope that we will all be on our campuses, personally welcoming our students on that day and that we will proceed with a school year where on-campus learning takes place. It is prudent, however, given various possibilities next year, that we plan for a variety of scenarios as outlined below:
- A return to on-campus learning, with all appropriate health and safety precautions in place.
- An efficient, temporary, return to remote learning for students and faculty, if it becomes necessary to close the campus at any time.
- A hybrid/hi-flex model of on-campus and at-home teaching and learning that might be prompted by a variety of conditions, but would allow students who needed to be at home while school is taking place on campus to fully engage in the program.
- A start of the 2020-2021 school year remotely if conditions do not improve by early September, with plans to continue that program as long as required for health and safety reasons, and the ability to shift smoothly back to in-person learning as soon as it is safe to do so.
This letter provides a general overview of the topics we are discussing in our planning meetings. Specific answers to these questions, including our protocols, will be shared as soon as our planning is complete. We will always comply with legal regulations when planning for these scenarios, and we will carefully consider recommendations from local, state, and national organizations. When it comes to recommendations, independent schools do have some discretion. Safety will always be our first priority, and we will view all of the recommendations and suggested practices with that priority as a guide. In addition, we have established an Institutional Issues Team (IIT), made up of trustees and school leaders. It is the responsibility of this team to address issues connected to school finance, enrollment, fundraising, and the institutional risks associated with this health crisis. This team has been meeting for the last two months and will continue to meet until this crisis has abated.
Lastly, I want to invite you to participate in our upcoming Town Hall Meetings next Thursday, May 28. We plan to address reopening scenarios as well as financial considerations.
Our Town Hall meetings will take place on Thursday, May 28 at the following times:
- 2:00pm - 2:50pm: Preschool Families
- 3:00pm - 3:50pm: K-8 Families
If you would like to submit a question before these events, please submit your question(s) to Kara Morgan. I hope you will join us.
I can’t tell you how proud I am to be a part of this community at this time when faced with adversity and challenge. Our educators, parents, trustees, and administrators have all risen to the occasion and I have been inspired by the selfless and committed nature of the community. At a time when there is so much uncertainty, it is clear to me that now, more than ever, it matters where children attend school, and the value of a Ridgefield Academy and Landmark Preschool education has never been more important. Although the next phase will present challenges, we are up to the task, and by working together, we can and will emerge stronger!
Head of School