I hope you have been able to be outside this summer, exploring trails and all that our natural world has to offer, while enjoying family.
We are busy planning for the start of next year here on campus. We have had a ten-person reopening task force, working on all the details since early April. This group is made up of our administrative team, with additional support and insight provided by the executive committee of the board of trustees. I plan to share the reopening plans in several different communications over the next eight weeks. Many parts of these plans you will hear repeatedly, and some of the finer details won't come until communications later in August.
The biggest question on all of your minds, I am sure, is are we planning to open on campus, and what does that look like? Yes, we are planning to open on campus, as our calendar indicates, on
The planning work is grounded in the following:
- The health and safety of our community of students, staff, and faculty.
- Research from countries across the globe where schools have reopened successfully, together with modeling and epidemiological data sites that are updated daily. We have a board member who works with schools, quite literally, around the globe, and weekly he shares updates with us.
- Our campus, and what we believe will work best with spaces, the outdoors, and the ages of our students.
- Thinking of Pine Cobble as a community, with support structures and safety plans that reflect this.
Health and Safety: We will share much more on this topic in future communications. Here is what we want you to know at this point:
- Students and adults will wear masks.
- We will practice social distancing inside and outside the classroom.
- We will have additional daily sanitation taking place by our janitorial team, as well as a special machine with an EPA safe spray that will disinfect spaces.
- We will have a full-time nurse on staff, and a designated nurse's station, as well as a designated quarantine space.
- Students will stay in their class cohort/pod - spending their days with the same group of students.
Schedule and Learning:
- We plan to be open five days a week, and the only major change in terms of scheduling will be that, at least until January, we will not be offering ASK (After School Kids') club. This decision stems from our plan for the cohort model (or class pods) mentioned above. We will not be mixing students across grade levels during or after school.
- All divisions of the school will have specialist classes. We are still working through the specifics of how the schedules, spaces, etc. will work for specials across the grades - more to come on that in the weeks ahead. When specialists can be outside, they will surely take classes outside, and set up the learning with the social distancing needed to keep everyone safe.
- Students will eat lunch in their classrooms, or outside in their cohort, socially distanced from each other and other classes. Lunch in the lunchroom will not be happening for the foreseeable future.
- Time outside will be frequent. Beyond recess time, at all ages, classes in math, science, history, language, etc., will be outside on a much more regular basis. Regular recesses will, as always, give children time to run around and burn off energy, while enjoying the great outdoors. As you may recall, the vision statement written 18 months ago - "Our collaborative, inclusive community embraces the natural world, learns deeply and joyfully, and builds lives of purpose" - speaks to our goal to spend more and more time outside. More to come on that in future communications.
- These initiatives will be complemented by a new set of technology tools, carefully designed to provide children with full support for exploration and creation, whether in the classroom, at home, or in the beautiful landscape that surrounds us. To ensure that all children have equitable access, Pine Cobble will be providing technology tools at no extra cost to families. More details will be shared in future communications.
- While we hope that we will be able to continue to meet in person through the fall, it is, unfortunately, possible that COVID-19 might require that we switch to remote learning. If so, this will not have a negative impact on learning: we are building on what we learned last spring, and the alternative curriculum and teaching plans will be robust and innovative. In effect, all teachers are preparing two parallel teaching tracks for the coming year - we are not leaving anything to chance.
- We know that, due to familial health issues, some parents may have COVID-19 related concerns with regard to their child returning to campus this fall. We fully understand this, and we will be able to offer remote access to our on campus learning for those students who need to be home for all or any part of the year. In upcoming communications, I will further share with you what remote access to our on campus program will entail.
In the weeks ahead, you will receive multiple communications. In those communications, I will share more details on what reopening looks like from drop off and pick up times and locations, to schedules and much more. You will also have access to a FAQ document that we hope will answer most questions you have.
Our biggest goal is the health and safety of our students and adults, while offering that special school experience upon which Pine Cobble is built. So, while many things will look and feel different due to the global pandemic of COVID-19, we are going to work every day to build that same sense of community for which we have always been known, as we reinvent traditions like we did last spring with our Spring Formal, Recognition Day, and Graduation.
In our efforts to stay open all year, my biggest message to you is we need to work together, also something for which this school is known. The school-home partnership is powerful, and this coming year, more than ever before, we must stay in close, open and honest communication, as we support your children and each other. The success of this region in keeping the COVID-19 numbers down in the last few months comes from people being thoughtful with their choices, thinking about their families and other people, while following the suggestions that have been proven to keep people safe.
Together we can move mountains, all in the name of your children and our beloved teachers.