Dear Families,

With September 8th less than a month away, I want to share more details and plans for our reopening. Also, next week I will send a FAQ doc that will address much of what is in this letter, and perhaps in a more digestible format. We hope between the letter and the FAQ many/most of your questions will be answered.

You will hear from me again toward the end of the month. That will include information about new members of our faculty and staff, drop off and pick up times and locations, and other final details. For this letter and the upcoming FAQ, my focus will be on more of the specifics of COVID-19 related safety procedures that we all have the responsibility to follow to keep your children, our team of adults, and Pine Cobble families safe.

Community Care:

As of Monday, August 24th, we, as partners in your child's education and their safety, are asking families in our socially responsible work together to not leave the area (western Mass, eastern New York and southern Vermont) and to take every needed safety measure, as we are sure you are doing already, to keep your children free from COVID exposure. Please read and commit to  this Community Agreement of Responsibility. We ask that everyone hang it up in a prominent place at home, as a daily reminder of our commitment to each other.

Safety protocols for all of our faculty, staff and students:
  • Wearing masks - these will be provided by the school all year and are required to be worn by students and faculty/staff. Please do not buy masks for your child to wear at school. We will have two a day every day for your child and our faculty and staff. The masks are from an FDA-registered manufacturer and are CE-certified.We will take mask breaks throughout the day - all designated, intentional, and safely guided by the teacher. We encourage you to continue to have your child(ren) practice wearing their masks for the rest of the summer. When needed, for health related or other reasons, we have face shields we will provide for students and teachers that can be worn along with the masks, but not as a replacement for the masks.
  • Social distancing - every classroom has been set up with six foot social distancing for every student and their desk space. With our commitment to the six feet, we have had to move our classrooms around. Toward the end of this letter, you will find the location of each grade's classroom. 
  • Cohort - each classroom of students will stay as a cohort, spending their days together with their classmates and their teacher. 
  • Handwashing - this will be a regular occurrence at all grade levels. There will be visual reminders for students put up around school by our team.
  • In the next letter later this month, I will share how we have designated bathrooms on campus for use by classes, and our plan to keep those spaces clean.
  • We will not be having any parents or other visitors on our campus this year except in an emergency, and there will be strict protocols for those people. Faculty and staff will be outside at the start and end of the day, helping guide students to and from the buildings as they are dropped off and picked up at school.
Partnership in Safety:

As always, during the school year we will have children who are kept home from school because of illness, as well as children who become ill while at school. Step-by-step plans have been created for handling these situations; these plans will be covered in detail with the families of sick children and their cohorts at the time of these events. When a child is sick, they will have to be evaluated by their medical professional and determined to either not be at risk for COVID or be COVID tested, remaining in remote learning until that determination or negative COVID test is provided to the school. Cohorts will continue on campus learning, following our safety guidelines. If the sick child tests positive for COVID, all students in the cohort will transition to remote learning and either be COVID tested, returning to school if negative, or remain in remote learning for two weeks.

On Saturday, August 29th and Sunday, August 30th, Pine Cobble School will be providing COVID testing through the Broad Institute. This is the Harvard/MIT Laboratory that is providing all the testing for Williams College and other academic institutions. It is minimally invasive and uses a nasal swab for the actual test. The tests are for every enrolled student and every faculty and staff member, and we will ask you by grade to come to school at a designated time on one of these two days, when a medical professional will administer the COVID test. Details will follow next week with regard to timing on the 29th and 30th. Should you prefer to have your child tested through Berkshire Medical Center or Southern Vermont Medical Center, please make an appointment soon, as it will be required that you bring the negative test result documentation to school on Thursday, September 3 or Friday September 4; the test will have had to have been done no earlier than Friday, August 28th. A negative test result will need to be given to the school by Friday the 4th in order for your child to participate in our on-campus learning. Until a negative test is received, your child will have to participate remotely.

Each day of the year, you will receive a Google form that is a COVID Symptom Assessment Form in your email - please be sure Andrew Ritter - a.ritter@pinecobble.org - has your accurate email. This is very important. The form is short and simple and can be completed in just a minute or two. This, too, is part of our community responsibility to do all we can to help keep everyone in our Pine Cobble family safe. 

We will do a test run of the COVID System Assessment Form to your email address in the next few weeks - please be sure to fill it out. Then, on the night of September 7th, you will receive the form for the first day of school and need to fill it out for each child in your family before coming to school on September 8th. We will require everyone to fill it out each day. Should you come to school without filling it out for your child, your child will not be allowed to proceed to class, and you will be required to leave the drop off area and fill the form out with an administrator, or leave campus, complete the form, and return once it is complete.

What to bring to school:

Simplicity will be our mantra this year. Your child will have a bin (the size of a filing box) at the foot of their desk and all their belongings for the day - backpack, lunch bag, water bottle, and a coat/additional clothing - need to be able to fit in that bin. 

What to bring:
  1. Lunch and snacks, unless ordering lunch from school - more on our lunch program later. Please send lunch and snacks in an easy to clean box. We will not have microwaves available this year, so if not ordering from school, please plan on cold lunches this year.
  2. Water bottle. We have turned off the drinking part of our fountains but hope to be able to leave on the bottle fillers, and there are sinks in many classrooms. We will make plans for other locations for students to fill water bottles as necessary.
  3. School books/iPad in a backpack. Our goal is to keep backpacks as light as possible, so many books will stay at school, and some assignments will be done on the iPad (age dependent).
  4. Light coat as the fall progresses - more information on coats, etc. as winter approaches.
  5. Please, no stuffed animals or toys. Beginner families will receive additional guidance in  our next communication regarding sheets at naptime.
  6. As you may know, a big tradition at Pine Cobble is singing to a child or teacher in the lunchroom or at our Monday morning assemblies in the lower school on their birthday. This year we will figure out a new way to celebrate birthdays each week that honor students from Beginners through eighth grade and our teachers/staff. Please do not send in birthday treats this year. 
Technology and iPads:

We will have iPads and accessories for every student and adult at Pine Cobble School. These tools will allow students and teachers to maintain high quality instruction both on and off campus, and the school will be employing management software that ensures Pine Cobble iPads are used for the learning for which they are intended. The iPads will be used differently at different ages - both in amount of use and the way in which they are used. Devin Wootton, Assistant Head of School, will share more on technology, schedules, use of the outdoors and more in the next few weeks - stay tuned. The iPad will open up exciting doors to augment the already fabulous program we offer. This new toolset will be subject to Pine Cobble School's Device User Agreement which you will receive prior to distribution of an iPad to your student.

Our Specialists and Teaching Content Outdoors:

Our specialists will, like every year, share their expertise and fun with classes across the grade levels. Some will be present in person and others will be remote. Specialists will be connected with a cohort, which is the group of students with whom they will do in person classes twice a week; for all their other classes, the specialists will remote into classrooms from their office space. We are still finalizing which specialists will be connected with which cohort; detailed information will follow at the end of the month. 

Fifty percent or more of our academic programming will take place outside this year. With safety in mind and a beautiful campus, we have chosen to move much of our core content across our Beginner through eighth grade classes outside. Teachers will deliver the Pine Cobble academic standards in classes that will meet both indoors and outdoors. 

Classroom locations:

As stated above, classes have moved - here are their new locations. If you don't know where your child's new room is, please don't hesitate to reach out to Andrew Ritter in the front office at any time - extension 10 or a.ritter@pinecobble.org

Beginners - Flinton building in the room that was the PreK last year

PreK - Flinton building in the old Beginner space and common room

Kindergarten - Cluett building in our dining room

1st Grade - Flinton building in their room as well as last years' 2nd grade room next door - these two rooms are connected.

2nd grade - Flinton building in the old 3rd grade room

3rd grade - Cluett building in the library

4th grade - Flinton building in the old Kindergarten room

5th grade - Cluett building in the old 6th grade room

6th grade - Hunter building in the old science room

7th grade - Hunter building in the multipurpose room

8th grade - Cluett building in the old 5th grade room

Metrics used for our decisions:

We have designed a protocol for our decisions that is based on both extensive international research since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as the work of Harvard University's Global Health Institute. As you will see in this related link - https://globalepidemics.org/key-metrics-for-covid-suppression/  - the colors on the map indicate four levels of risk by area based on cases per 100,000. So long as our surrounding area (western Mass, eastern New York, and southern Vermont) is in the green or lower yellow range, we will prioritize in-person instruction. Should the region unfortunately move into the upper ranges of the yellow, or orange or red levels, we would progressively shift to our remote learning program until COVID cases return to lower levels. At all times, we will adhere to applicable rules and requirements set by Local, State and Federal officials, meeting or exceeding their level of safety. 

Our collective knowledge about the COVID-19 virus and how to address it is evolving on a nearly daily basis. For that reason, we know everyone in the Pine Cobble family understands there may be changes in our practices and protocols from time to time, as deemed necessary for the health and welfare of our students, faculty and staff, with potentially very limited or no advance notice. 

While all of these safety details are a crucial component of starting the year, please know your child's teachers are excitedly preparing to be back at school with your children and your children's classmates. We have missed your children so much since March, and look forward to their return along with welcoming our new students to Pine Cobble. While we will not be able to have our Watermelon Social for our new families or our Opening Day Barbecue for the whole community, please know we will find ways early on and throughout our year to celebrate our community as a Pine Cobble family.

Please be in touch by email s.wells@pinecobble.org or by phone 458-4680 ext. 19 if you have questions or want to discuss any part of this letter. 

Sincerely,

Sue Wells
Head of School