Distance Learning Plan

March 15, 2020
Dear BWS Families,
On March 13, 2020, the Board of Trustees and school leadership made the difficult decision to temporarily close Berkshire Waldorf School in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak in Berkshire County. Shortly thereafter, local public school districts announced similar closures. Today, the BWS Board determined that the school would remain closed for a two-week period, through March 30, 2020. While a longer period of closure remains possible (and even likely), that decision will be made in the coming days and weeks and in consultation with our Medical Advisory Panel, guided by the scope of the current local and regional outbreak.

Over the last week, our dedicated teachers have worked tirelessly to develop and refine distance learning plans that will continue our educational mission in the midst of this school closure. Our primary aims are to promote student learning while also maintaining our sense of community and connection. All curricular elements have been reviewed to thoughtfully engage students in learning in a manner that aligns with our mission.

Our Next Steps
We are mindful that this shift represents a dramatic change for our students and their families.  From now until the reopening of school, you (as parents/grandparents/caregivers) will become in-person learning partners in providing your child(ren)’s education. Some of you may already have received an email from your child(ren)’s class teacher(s) introducing you to their distance learning plan. As you review the plan(s), including the materials your child brought home last week, we would like to take a moment to acknowledge your new role as an in-person learning partner. The effort you are putting forth for our whole school, and the wider community, is deeply appreciated and we thank you.

The Distance Learning Plan
Our distance learning plan is not centered around students in front of screens in virtual lessons. Instead, it provides instruction that maximizes a diversity of learning experiences, while also providing healthy social interaction. At the end of this email you will find a chart with instructions for Early Childhood, First through Fifth Grades, and Middle School distance learning delivery. Please follow the schedule and guidelines listed there.

While it is impossible to replicate the experience of a BWS classroom, our faculty is committed to providing you and your family with individualized support so that you may be successful at home.  Additionally, we are working to create an online forum for regular community dialogue so that we may support each other with ideas and encouragement in this new task.

Our distance learning program will begin tomorrow, Monday, March 16, 2020.   We anticipate that students will vary widely in their reaction to, and comfort with, a distance learning plan.  As such, it may take some families longer than others to acclimate to this new style of learning. Please know that is to be expected. While some families may choose to begin immediately with full school days at home, other families may need to balance work and learning more creatively. There is no right way for home-based learning to unfold; each family will need time and space to find their own best path forward. Please know that your class teacher, and the entire BWS faculty and administration, are here to guide and support you. Please do not hesitate to reach out to us as much as you need. Directions for contacting your class teacher are included below.

Social Distancing   
We want to take a few moments to emphasize the community-wide importance of social distancing. The term simply refers to avoiding close contact with other individuals in order to slow the spread of the virus. Through social distancing, you avoid catching the virus yourself and unknowingly passing it on to more vulnerable populations (such as the elderly or immunocompromised). You also safeguard our overwhelmed healthcare system. Social distancing is currently the most effective tool we have to control the COVID-19 outbreak.  It is therefore critical that we understand its importance and let it guide our daily behavior. For the next two weeks, and until we know more, this means avoiding playdates and social gatherings. Each of us bears a responsibility to the most vulnerable among us, a lesson that your children learn each and every day as part of their BWS curriculum. We now ask that you help your children live out that lesson by avoiding unnecessary contact with others as much as possible.

In Closing
We wish you joy and success as we collaborate in this task. While we know there will be challenges as we move forward, we will rise to meet them together, in partnership. Please reach out to your teacher with questions, suggestions or requests. And if you have further inquiries or feedback, please contact us.

Lynn Arches, Interim School Director
Krista Palmer, Chair of the Council of Teachers
The Board of Trustees
* Parents, join us each weekday morning at 8:15 am as we, the faculty of the Berkshire Waldorf School, speak our Morning Verse with each other (these days from afar!) before we meet the children for the teaching day.  

Here is the verse:
We will to work, letting flow into our work, what from out of the spiritual world as soul-spiritual and as life-bodily, wills to become human within us.  ~ Rudolf Steiner
Berkshire Waldorf School
35 West Plain Road
Great Barrington, MA 01230
(413) 528-4015