A Message from Head of School, Ramsay Stabler

June 15, 2020

Our Return to School Task Force has been hard at work over the past few weeks, and we have made a great deal of progress with regard to the various scenarios that we have been considering:

  • full return with specific safeguards in place
  • a hybrid model which has some in-school time and some remote learning
  • a full remote option
Our thinking is guided by ACIS, NAIS, the CDC, the CDE, and, of course, the directives from the Governor’s office. Our present plans from a 10,000 foot perspective are included below. Details need to be worked out, and there are still major decisions to be made, particularly how many people can be in a cohort (that number is presently 10, but we are all hopeful that it increases to 20 or 25). As a result, these are plans as we see things today, and, of course, so much can change over the coming months. 

As we started our work, Adriana Murphy (Incoming Head of School) asked that we used five questions to guide our discussions:

  1. How do we maintain community?
  2. How do we remain mindful of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion?
  3. How do we remain mindful of different learning, emotional, and medical needs of adults and children?
  4. How do we think about physical space given COVID limitations about interactions? 
  5. How do we think about transitions among different scenarios?

Full Return Option

There is no doubt whatsoever from any quarter that it is essential that we get our kids back in school this fall. This is good for learning, for everyone’s mental health, for maintaining community, and for getting parents back to work on a regular basis. If the Governor changes the cohort number to 20, we will be back at school with everyone here each day, and we will have in place the necessary safety protocols

  • robust and regular cleaning of the school and necessary supplies
  • temperature checks prior to entry to the school
  • separation of our cohorts of kids as needed, and practicing social distancing where possible
  • teachers traveling to classrooms rather than having the children travel
  • providing materials to each child to avoid sharing
  • possible staggered arrival and dismissal times
  • eating lunch in classrooms
  • testing as available
  • using masks and shields as necessary and appropriate
We have also just added three additional sinks to the cafeteria area. Since the children’s movement inside the building will be limited, we will be very intentional about getting them outside regularly for fresh air and exercise. Also, as a small and independent school, we are able to go beyond the safety measures that will be required by the state, if necessary, to ensure that we are doing all we can to keep our community safe. Even if we are fully open, we know that there may be children whose circumstances require them to learn remotely, so we will be ready to provide the approach that is described in the remote option below.

Hybrid Option

If the Governor keeps the cohort/gathering maximum at 10 and schools are allowed to open, we will be using a hybrid approach, which means some of the learning will take place on campus, and some will be at home.

Lower School

We believe that it is developmentally appropriate and more successful to have our younger children here as much as possible, indeed five days a week, so we are planning on using our lower level spaces—music room, art room, library, and cafeteria—as classrooms so that we can split the K-5 classes into two groups of 10 or less. One will led by the lead teacher, and one led by the Co-Teacher, and those teachers will be able to go back and forth between the two groups. Specials teachers will come to the children’s classrooms to teach their classes.

Middle School

For middle school, since we do not have additional classroom space (we are looking into the feasibility of using mobile classrooms), we will have the children come to school on a rotating basis, details still to be decided. We believe with the proper training, planning, and support that they are capable of managing their at-home work, with the great added benefit of seeing their teachers and classmates on a regular basis. This will help them stay on track, and more importantly, connected. We plan to increase our internet bandwidth significantly so that we are able to use webcams in each classroom. For those who are in school that day, the teaching approach is normal; for those children who are at home, they will be watching, in real time, the lessons that are being taught in the classroom. Their chance to connect with teachers and classmates in person will be at least every other day.

Of course, in this hybrid option, we will have in place all of the safety protocols described in the full school model, and the learning platforms and plans discussed in the full return scenario below.

Full Remote Option

If we have to start school in the remote mode, we believe that the needs and abilities of the Lower School children are different from our Middle School students. We are leaning hard toward using two different platforms for our delivery of remote learning: Seesaw for Lower Sschool, and Google classroom for Middle School. Each teacher in each division will be using the same platform and approach, and there will be consistency with regard to posting of schedules and assignments. We believe that this will simplify the kids’ and the parents’ lives and lead to more productive and enjoyable learning.

We will be moving ahead with our normal curriculum, and specials teachers’ assignments will be required work, not simply enrichment. Teachers will also have access to robust professional development over the summer. No matter what type of program we start with in August, we will also take some extra time prior to the opening of school to assess your child’s academic standing and provide training for children and parents about how best to use the platforms we are using. We will also share positive strategies with parents as to how to structure and plan their child’s remote school life. We are working on determining the proper balance between the amount of daily screen time with the opportunity to do good, independent project work. Balance will continue to be essential, and we plan to have the ability to have live lessons for the sake of connection.

Remember…this is the worst case scenario, but even if we do open up in another format, we want to have these remote plans in place in case we need to switch quickly to this mode at any time in light of a significant spike in infections.

Closing

We will be filling in more of the details as we get a clearer sense of where we will be in August. This requires patience on everyone’s part, but know that everyone at SES has three things firmly lodged in our minds: how to keep everyone safe, physically and emotionally; how to provide the best educational program within the prescribed guidelines; and how to maintain our strong sense of community and fulfill our mission, no matter what. We will be back in touch on June 26 with any updates! 

Best wishes

Ramsay, for the committee

The committee: Adriana Murphy (HOS elect), Kim Frantz, Kari Nichols, Susan Bross, Diane Grove, Kim Johnson, Laurie Nakauchi, Taras Wynar, Jackie Ives, Loree Lindsey, Julie Dani, and Missi Erskine