Dear Families,

This week has brought elementary and secondary schools as well as colleges and universities across the country to make very difficult decisions, and there have been closures locally and across the country. The Pine Cobble School community has no known cases of Covid-19. However, you may be wondering about our plans for the weeks ahead. We grapple with these questions, hour by hour and minute by minute, as we are meeting twice daily as an administrative team, and consulting with our local health inspector, other town officials, our on call health providers, and the leaders of our Northern Berkshire Regional Emergency Planning team. Information from them as well as the sites we regularly check (CDC, WHO, Massachusetts Department of Public Health) is ever evolving. 

As you know, our spring break is due to start next Friday, March 20 th . In thinking through many options, always weighing the safety of our community first and foremost, I have come to the decision, as of the writing of this letter, that we will remain open until next Wednesday, March 18 th , and dismiss the students two days early for spring break. We also will not be open for ASK the first week of our spring break. We will make up one of those two missed instructional days (next Thursday and Friday) by cancelling our professional development day on May 11 th and having a regular day of school.

This decision to dismiss the students two days early was not made lightly, and I realize the two days added to our spring break, as well as the unavailability of ASK the first week of break, will pose a challenge for families with regard to childcare. For that I sincerely apologize.

Let me share the "why" of this decision. By dismissing students two days early it will allow us - faculty and staff - to have two days together, without students on campus, to prepare for the possibility of on-line learning, should that need to happen at any point in the coming weeks. The possibility of on-line learning is now being mapped out internally, but two full days to work together will ensure that we are ready as an entire team.

I am sure you are also asking what this means regarding the day we are due to return from spring break, Monday, April 6 th . With this being an evolving health issue across the globe that is changing daily, at this juncture I am not prepared to make a decision concerning changing the date of resumption of classes. We will leave here, as a faculty and staff on March 20th, prepared to go to on-line learning on April 6 th should that be necessary. You will be informed of that decision over the break in as timely a manner as possible.

Should we need to go to on-line learning, all of our students will be educated by their own teachers from a distance. The format/layout of that learning for each grade will come from Mr. Wootton if/when we have to make that decision, and then your child's teacher will connect with you with the more in-depth plan.

As is customary before the start of all long school breaks, at the close of day on Wednesday, March 18 th , we will have bags available for children to take all of their belongings home with them. Please make plans accordingly if your child rides the bus to perhaps take their things in stages if you are unable to make it to campus to help with bringing all of their belongings home.

With the plan, at this point, to return to regular classes on April 6 th , I ask you to take every precaution possible in any travel plans you may have and your and your child's daily personal care over our spring break. Below is an excerpt from my email to all of you last week. Please continue to follow these best practices for your and your child's health.

*   Practice good hand hygiene. Wash your hands often and thoroughly with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands. Use Alcohol-based hand sanitizer when soap and water are not available.

*   When coughing and sneezing, cover your mouth and nose with a tissue. You can also cough or sneeze into your sleeve. Throw used tissues in the trash and immediately wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.

*   Avoid sharing drinking glasses, cups, eating utensils, dishes, towels or other items. Wash these items thoroughly with soap and water after use.

*   Avoid close contact with people who are sick whenever possible.

*   Practice other good health habits: Get plenty of sleep, be physically active, manage your stress, drink plenty of fluids, and eat nutritious food.  

I want to remind you, once again, that this information is ever-evolving. Please be prepared to receive another communication from me at any point if we have to adjust our timeframe to dismiss students earlier than Wednesday, March 18 th .

We are all facing very difficult times. For thirty years, I have witnessed and been part of this community coming together on countless occasions, regardless of the challenge. Pine Cobble is a community that will support each other, even if from afar or on a computer screen. Our students will thrive because they are lifelong, passionate learners and compassionate human beings. And, Pine Cobble will be stronger for the challenges we have faced together and in support of each other.