July 16, 2020
Fall Planning Update & Parent Questionnaire
Dear MSM Community,
We hope this email finds you and your family well, and hope that you are able to have some summer fun.
As of this morning, we have 50% of the questionnaire forms returned. It is very important for us to know what our families are thinking to help us guide our critical opening decisions. Again, this form is not a commitment – it is to tell us what your preferences and comfort levels are for your children attending school in the fall. We are working toward a goal of opening five days a week, and staying open, and believe that with everyone’s commitment to a safe environment, we can do that. Please help us help you plan for the fall. (If you are not re-enrolled for the fall, you can disregard this email. The email lists are updated at the end of July.)
The Fall Return to Campus Committee (RTC) has been working diligently for the past several weeks to plan for multiple possible eventualities for reopening the school building in the fall in compliance with government guidance and mandates. The Committee consists of faculty and staff from the MSM Administration and all program levels, and has been meeting consistently throughout the summer. The guiding mission of the cross functional team is the safety of faculty, staff, students, and families while continuing to provide the exceptional quality of the Montessori School of McLean education. The RTC Committee is analyzing guidance and requirements from federal, state and local governing bodies to inform decisions to ensure that MSM is in a strong position to manage fall reopening complexities.
Assuming area health conditions allow, our primary objective is to safely bring our students, faculty, and staff back for in-person instruction on September 9, 2020 to the learning environment that we have called home for 47 years. We had hoped we could open early on August 25; however, to meet the continually evolving conditions and recommendations, we will start as originally planned on September 9 (September 14 for new students younger than Kindergarten). (You may also be aware that Fairfax County Public Schools had planned to start class on August 25, and just announced that their first day will instead be September 8.) Our goal is to maximize the number of students that we can bring to campus each day in accordance with Virginia health and safety guidelines for reopening schools. As a smaller independent school, although we are required to meet all state mandates, we are able to capitalize on our single campus location and truly customize our learning experience for our students and families. We are striving to exceed health and safety guidelines, with creative solutions to bring students back to campus safely.
As such, we would like to gather your feedback to gain a better understanding of our school community’s response to our planned on-campus health and safety procedures and policies. To best guide our decisions, we need to have 100% participation to the Return to Campus questionnaire, and we ask you to complete it by Friday, July 17. Please note, this questionnaire is only an assessment of your comfort level for your child’s return to campus with the data you have at this time; it is not a commitment to on-campus or distance learning for the fall. We are also preparing for students that need to opt to distance learn from home due to family health risks. Our faculty and staff are preparing for multiple eventualities and will be receiving additional training in distance learning and hybrid instructional delivery this summer.
The parent questionnaire consists of three questions and is in your online forms account, which returning parents can access here [link disabled; questionnaire is no longer active]. Parents who are new to MSM will receive an email notification from the online forms system to open your account by creating a password. You will then be able to access the questionnaire. Please read this entire email before you complete the questionnaire. Let us know if you have trouble accessing your account.
There are three main scenarios under critical review by the RTC Committee, Administration and MSM Board of Trustees at this time, depending upon whether we start school in the fall in Phase 1, Phase 2, or Phase 3, per Virginia mandate. They include:
1) Student Cohorts with Every Day Attendance - All students attend school every day with classrooms divided into cohorts A and B. Cohorts A and B are part of the same class with the same teachers and assistants, but are in two separate spaces in the building, as close as possible to each other. Classes do not mix with other classes. Bringing all students back to campus is absolutely our ultimate goal; however, we are closely following the government health and safety guidelines and critically analyzing campus metrics to ensure confidence in this option.
2) Student Cohorts with Partial Week Attendance - Cohorts A and B each attend a partial week, and do distance learning on the other days they are not in-building. One example is, Group A attends on Monday and Tuesday, and Group B attends on Thursday and Friday. The cohorts alternate Wednesdays, OR Wednesday is a day for distance learning for all students. Another option under review is to have either Mondays or Fridays set aside for distance learning instead of Wednesdays.
3) 100% Distance Learning – If mandated by the government, all students would start the 2020-2021 school year in distance learning and the school building would be closed. This scenario is only likely for the start of the school year if the state of Virginia returns to Phase 1. However, we are planning for every eventuality, including a return to distance learning at any time during the school year, if mandated by the government.
MSM Health and Safety Procedures and Policies for 2020-2021
MSM Community Social Compact
·Commitment – Paramount to a successful start to the 2020-2021 school year, is a shared commitment by the entire MSM community to following best practices for coronavirus prevention, both at school and at home. A communal commitment to this mindset not only maximizes the chances that on-campus learning can begin and continue, but also more importantly, because the health and safety of our students, faculty and staff, and their families depends on it. We will be sending out a social compact commitment document later in the summer for signature.
·Pre-Return to Campus Avoidance of Non-Essential Travel – In order to start the school year in the strongest possible health position for our students, faculty, staff, and families, it is recommended that families and staff avoid non-essential travel outside of the metropolitan area, and practice careful social distancing, for 14 days leading up to the September 9 start date. We realize this request could be a challenge, but we are all in this together and we want to bring awareness to the importance of being mindful of everyone in our community.
·COVID-19 Testing – There is discussion within the medical community about requiring students and faculty to be tested before coming back to school. If you do have essential travel during the 14 day period, testing may be required. We are monitoring this discussion and will notify you if testing will be required.
Health Policy and Symptom Screening
·Pre-Arrival Screening – Prior to entering the MSM building each day, we will ask students, faculty, and staff to answer a series of COVID-19 symptom and exposure related questions. We are examining an online app that parents would use in the morning before coming to school.
·Daily Arrival Screening – Upon arrival, all students, faculty, and staff will have their temperatures taken. People with a temperature above the CDC recommendation as of that date will not be allowed in the building.
·Staggered Arrival and Dismissal – To help with physical distancing and to facilitate temperature checks, we will provide a more staggered arrival and dismissal procedure, and will use specific entrances into the building, depending on the student’s classroom location.
·MSM Health and Sick Policy – MSM will strictly adhere to the School Health and Sick Policy as detailed in the Parent and Staff Handbooks. The handbooks will be updated to include COVID-19 policies.
·Separation of Students Visiting the Nurse’s Station – We will initiate separate spaces for those students that have routine visits to see the nurse, and those students that are exhibiting COVID-19 related symptoms.
Personal Protective Equipment
·Face Coverings - Faculty, staff, and students (as developmentally appropriate) will be required to wear masks/face coverings while in the school building.
·Additional PPE for teachers – MSM will provide additional PPE for our teachers to use as necessary.
·Classroom Plastic Dividers – Plastic dividers will be used throughout the classrooms when 6 feet of physical distancing is difficult to maintain.
·Office Plastic Dividers – Plastic dividers will be used in the office to help reduce the transmission of germs among staff and others that need to enter the office space.
Visitor Access to MSM Building
·Parents/caregivers – In the initial months of fall, parents/caregivers will not be able to enter the building at arrival and dismissal, except for a specific necessity. If an unusual situation arises that makes it necessary for a parent/caregiver to come into the building, the individual’s temperature will be taken, and he or she will be required to use a mask and hand sanitizer.
·Admissions - To continue to limit outside visitors, the Admissions process will be conducted virtually until health and safety guidelines permit otherwise.
·Large gatherings – In person full-school family functions and our full-school student assemblies will be postponed or be held virtually for the first portion of the school year. We will continue to reassess the feasibility of large gatherings as the year progresses and in accordance with health and safety guidelines.
Classroom, Building, and Bus Hygiene
·Current Cleaning Protocols - All current practices of cleaning and sanitizing remain in effect with increased frequency and intensity, and will be supplemented by additional equipment and safety practices.
·Additional Cleaning Throughout the Day - Additional cleaning measures include spaces such as bathrooms, hallways, and doorways. Staff will assist in additional surface cleaning throughout the day in the classrooms.
·Disinfection and Sanitization Devices – Every classroom with will be equipped with disinfection and sanitization devices, including:
o HEPA-air filtration with UVC light sterilization in every classroom - the device will run for the entire time that a room is in use.
o UVC Light Emitter - this device will be set when everyone leaves the room(s) for the day to sterilize all surfaces.
o Handheld UVC Light Wand - this device will be used to sterilize materials the students use throughout the day.
·Building Ventilation – We will maximize fresh air circulation throughout the building by increasing the airflow rate of the dampeners on the rooftop units, and rooms without windows will particularly benefit from this HVAC enhancement. Classroom windows can be open as needed for additional fresh air. As part of a complete HVAC system evaluation, the coils will be cleaned, all filters will be changed, and the ductwork will be examined for cleanliness. We are continually monitoring the recommendations on indoor air quality in regard to transmission of viruses.
·Bus Hygiene – The interior of the buses will be cleaned with disinfectants after each run. Only siblings will sit on the same seat together. Students will be spread out as far as possible.
·Lunch and snack – Our lunch and snack procedures are under review, and will depend on VDSS guidance. We will NOT be able to serve hot lunches or have pizza day this school year to help reduce germ transmission.
CDC guidelines recommend increased handwashing of all building occupants throughout the day.
·Hand Sanitizer - Hand sanitizer will be placed throughout the building, including in the main lobby, office, and other high traffic areas.
·Hand Washing Stations - Hand washing stations will be placed in each classroom that does not currently have a sink. In addition to washing hands before and after eating, after using the bathroom, and after using a tissue, children will wash hands at least once per hour.
Circulation of Students
·Student Cohorts - In order to work towards the recommendation of 6 feet of physical distancing, students will be assigned to a cohort and will not move around the building. Enrichment teachers will either come to the classrooms or present lessons by live video conferencing. We realize that children staying 6 feet apart will be challenging; we will do our best to keep children apart during this time.
·Playground – Student cohorts will be in effect for use of the playground. We will limit the number of students on the playground at one time, while still allowing all classes and cohorts to access it throughout the day. The playground equipment will be cleaned between each use. We plan to creatively use the MSM outdoor space as much as possible.
·Student Work Kits - Students will be provided with their own work kit including, boxes with pencils, colored pencils, crayons, scissors, glue, etc. that they will not share with others.
Please note that the above list of procedures and policies will continue to grow as we fold additional health and safety measures into place as guidelines continue to sharpen.
As always, thank you so much for your patience as we work through this difficult time together, and thank you for partnering with us in the education of your children.
Meredith and Thomas Le Grand, Co-Heads of School