This week, we asked those schools which managed to re-open in person to share some tips with those who will only begin opening their doors this Tuesday, September 29:
Geneva School: Tessa Tiemann, Head of Preschool and Lower School
Covid has not robbed us of our pedagogical convictions. We still have the same amazing students and the same full-of-life classrooms with interactive, engaging lessons. The modifications we have made are simple. Adding specified travel patterns in the building, being mindful about arrival and dismissal crowds, having special area teachers rotate into the classroom, installing hand-washing and water-filling stations, and having PE outdoors are all changes which have no negative impact on the student. Although we long to return to the days when students enter class without masks and can embrace their friends without hesitation, we are delighted that a joyful education is still possible.
United Nations International School: Dan Brenner, Executive Director
UNIS is in our third week of our hybrid schedule and all has been going well. Morning drop off occurs at our gates, so that parents do not come on campus. Prior to entering, every student, faculty, and staff member takes a daily health survey asking 3 questions (this arrives via email every morning): if you have any symptoms, if your temperature is above 100 degrees F, or if anyone in your household has been around someone who has had COVID in the past 14 days. After completing the survey, you are either asked to stay home or given a QR code signifying you are okay to come on campus (a phone/tablet is okay, or a paper print out), which you present at the gate. Simultaneously, temperatures are taken through a wrist scanning thermometer.
Last week we also began our weekly pooled testing of faculty and staff. This surveillance testing is a non-invasive saliva test that we completed prior to the start of the school year for all faculty, staff, and students.
Moving forward, our continued pooled testing is designed to give us early detection of a possible infection in our school community. We have chosen to divide our adult population into two distinct groups, providing us with a random sample for the school. Each group will be required to take the saliva test on alternative weeks. If a positive test is discovered, we will immediately do contact tracing which will help determine our next steps.
We are very grateful to be able to be back in person, though it looks a bit different than previous school years. What we have found very successful is building a flexible plan that can continually be adjusted after we listen to feedback from our students, parents, faculty and staff.
Alexander Robertson School: Brinton Taylor Parson, Head of School
1) Making use of outdoor space. ARS students spend as much time in Central Park as possible: reading, sketching, lunching as well as exercising!
2) Invest in an organic, mineral salt fogger to disinfect all spaces daily. They are worth the expense.
3) Using disinfectant mats is a great idea. Students wipe their feet as they enter the building so as not to track-in germs picked up on the way to school.
MUSE Academy: Deborah Bradley-Kramer, Ph.D, Director of Music and Arts
Operate under protocols of extreme cautiousness by going a step beyond each of the DOH’s guidelines. Support social emotional health by imbuing the curriculum with even more arts, where children can create, explore and engage with their peers.
International Academy of NY: Nasreen Ikram Hussain, Head of School
We were able to fully open to all of our students for in person learning. Beyond the staggered starts, cohorts that never mix, enhanced cleaning protocols, etc, the two consistent things in this whole situation are flexibility and collaboration. You simply cannot plan for every single scenario because the only thing we can be sure of is change! In fact, every one of our documents begins with the word DRAFT. This allows us to be flexible, knowing that nothing we plan right now can be set in stone. We also engaged some of our parents who work in the health care industry to collaborate with us on our re-opening plans and COVID-19 responses. This allowed our parent community to feel equally responsible for the success of our re-opening and for us to be fully transparent with our families. We began our intense planning with two things that we did know: that a hybrid version wasn’t an option for us based on staffing needs, quality of instruction and social emotional care; and that the heart of our curriculum is second language instruction, so we were not willing to compromise that. With these two things as our baseline, our tasks fell into place quickly: teachers had to collaborate more than ever before on their lesson plans and daily support across classrooms. Social emotional support of students and teachers is at the forefront of everything we do. And our daily academic schedules will continue to be in draft form because as we move through this crazy time, we know that we can be rigid about our health protocols, but we simply have to be forgiving about everything else.
Grace Church School: George Davison, Head of School
Focus on taking care of one another. The one consistent thing right now is all of the uncertainty, which has the effect of making everyone feel anxious and unsure of what’s next. This is true for our students, families and our teachers and support staff. It would be easy to get lost in the incredible amount of logistics required to reopen a school during a pandemic – thermometers, ventilation, hybrid schedules, bus routes – and those pieces are all critical, but any successful plan must focus on the well-being of everyone involved. Finding ways to reduce stress, provide clarity and to stay connected as a school community have never been more important.
Hebrew Public: Charter Schools For Global Citizens: Emily Fernandez, Chief Schools Officer
Is your school doing a particularly good job with in-person learning? Let us know who and how for a future post!