June 3, 2020
Dear Rochambeau Community,
I have seen a number of articles over the years that say “Flexible Thinking and Adaptability are Key Advantages of Bilingual and Multilingual Children.” In the face of the unusual circumstances of these past few months, I think our school community would agree that is certainly true! While we have all faced challenges in different ways, I continue to be impressed by the flexibility and adaptability of our students, teachers, staff, and families. Thank you for that, and a great deal more.
Today, I want to reassure you that despite the difficult current circumstances, our focus remains, as it has for nearly 65 years, on delivering a high-quality, rigorous education for all of our students. Our mission has not changed and we will not waver. We recognize that the health emergency we faced this Spring prompted us to move to distance learning with very limited time to prepare. And, because of that, we started in this new endeavor not fully adept to meet the needs of every student and family. That said, we have all made remarkable strides in these past 10 weeks. We have learned more about what our students need, what tools we can utilize better, and how to better achieve meaningful educational benefits during periods of Distance Learning. These lessons will serve us well should we need to continue Distance Learning in the 2020-2021 school year as well as in cases of weather or other emergencies in the future.
With a more narrow focus, I know many of you have questions about the return to school for 2020-201. I am writing to keep you informed about our current school operations and our plans for the next school year in a number of key areas.

Academic Planning for 2020-2021

Our Academic Teams are developing scenarios for 3 possibilities as we return to school in August 2020. Our final choice of scenario will take into account the guidance from MCPS, the State of Maryland, and the CDC .
1. Return to Campus for All Students: Whether our return for all students takes place at the start of school in August or at a later date, we will be prepared to maintain a healthful environment. This will include adequate supplies of personal protective equipment (masks, gloves, etc.) and cleaning/sanitizing items (hand sanitizers, wipes, cleaning solutions, etc.).

2. Continued Distance Learning: Should Distance Learning continue, it will not be identical to what you have observed this school year. While our students and teachers have seen a great many successes worth acknowledging, we are also mindful that with additional planning time we might have adapted our curriculum delivery and our electronic tools differently from what we are doing right now.

3. Hybrid of On-Campus and Distance Learning: This scenario is dictated by the implementation of social distancing at all times in the school but could vary based on additional restrictions like the maximum number of persons in a group. Our Academic Directors and teachers are working on protocols and plans for this and we will have more to say later in June and then likely also in July. However, I want to emphasize several elements that are guiding our teams’ thinking:

  • A focus on younger students (preschool) and key grades (1st, 6th, 10th);
  • Differentiated and sheltered instruction for students with special learning needs;
  • Subject-specific adaptations and curriculum modifications;
  • Development of French Language acquisition instruction and sheltered instruction for students; 
  • Increase of Social-emotional learning support for all students; 
  • Consideration of new Academic Technology Platforms better suited for e-learning;
  • Develop educational support for parents to assist in distance learning. 

Supplemental Academic Options

In addition to our traditional academic programs, we have heard clearly that some families are looking for supplemental summer educational opportunities to learn and reinforce French language skills and to maintain the school “readiness” skills for students with special learning needs. We are looking into that option as well.

Health and Safety Planning with Facility Management

In all that we do, we are attentive to safeguarding the health and safety of our community. For this reason, our Facilities Team is working closely with our Health Team to procure and maintain supplies of personal protective equipment (masks, gloves, etc.) and cleaning/sanitizing items (hand sanitizers, wipes, cleaning solutions, etc.). The team is also examining possible adaptations of our buildings in order to accommodate physical distancing requirements. This review process also includes the protocols used in our transportation department. Changes to the transportation services may include limited inscription for buses, sanitizing measures before and after boarding, and other protocols for bus riders.

  Financial Stability

In all of our Financial operations, we are committed to being good stewards of your tuition dollars and donations.

  • Financial Aid Support: We recognize that the current health crisis and economic condition is causing financial hardship for some of our families. We want to be there for you and support you so your children's education may continue without interruption. Hardship Financial Aid is available now with a $1 million fund. Applications will be reviewed on a monthly basis throughout the summer.

  • Operational Expenses: We continue working to identify areas of cost savings and operational efficiencies. This summer we will be postponing some of the improvement projects that would have been undertaken. Throughout the past few months we have maintained full employment for all Rochambeau teachers and staff, including our daily hourly employees, and aim to continue this practice.  

  • Tuition: Not only are we committed to maintaining that any future tuition increases be modest, but we are also considering the possibility of 2020-2021 tuition reduction for the Nursery school families for whom distance learning cannot be used to the same extent as with older students.

  • Additional Revenue: We are exploring additional areas of financial support, both public and private, in order to provide financial stability for our school community. The school has obtained PPP (Paycheck Protection Plan) Funds that will be used to cover payroll expenses over a few weeks. 

Our Planning Process

Our planning team has included our Academic Team in collaboration with our Facility Operations Staff, Health team, Finance and Accounting, Technology, and other essential Administrative Personnel. This team has been working together since February when we first became aware of our need to adjust operations due to Covid-19. We will continue to seek input from our families, staff and the parents’s association to collect a broad range of perspectives on distance learning and further develop school plans, particularly the hybrid scenario which is the most complex one. A short survey will therefore be sent to you shortly and I am counting on your participation.
We will have additional updates later this month and also throughout the Summer as plans may need to be adjusted by the changing health and safety conditions and protocols.

While COVID-19 presents many uncertainties, we aim to be thorough and provide both clarity and reassurance for families so that we may all have a safe and successful return to school in August 2020.

Kind regards,
Hélène Fabre, Executive Director