Please read the update regarding the upcoming school year!
Important Updates from the Returning to School Taskforce
Wednesday, July 15, 2020
We are hopeful that this communication finds you and your family well, and that you are finding ways to enjoy this July heat! We understand that many of you are wondering, as are we, what the upcoming school year will bring. We wish we had more answers, perhaps the fabled crystal ball, to provide a glimpse into the future. While we cannot predict all that lies ahead, here is what we do know – we were made for these times and have many strengths and capacities to draw upon, individually and collectively, to weather what is to come. As promised, we write today to provide updates for the upcoming 2020-2021 school year.
The 2020-21 School Year Imagined
The PRWS Returning to School Task Force continues to meet weekly and includes representatives from faculty, administration, board, and parents. Over these past few weeks we have reviewed the recommendations recently released from the Wisconsin DPI (Department of Public Instruction). Many of you have, too—and have been inquiring about how this will impact our school year at PRWS. We continue to look to our local health department, as well as to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) and the Center for Disease Control (CDC) to inform our plan.
While we acknowledge that there are diverse perspectives in (and beyond) our community around COVID-19, as an educational institution we take very seriously our role and responsibility to enact measures that ensure the safety and well-being of our entire school community. In-Person learning remains our hope for the coming school year, however, we continue to monitor this ever-changing situation. Returning in-person necessitates health risk mitigation strategies. To that end, PRWS will adhere to guidelines set forth by the above organizations as they apply to our school and community.
Our small classes will be moving throughout the day as a unit, such as entering and exiting the building together, using the bathrooms and indoor/outdoor classrooms together. Interaction with other classes will be limited for now. We are researching the appropriate student and teacher numbers that our large classrooms can accommodate within the current guidelines. So far our class sizes remain in the recommended ranges.
Increased Outdoor Time
Waldorf education has long promoted our connectedness to nature and emphasized the importance of being outside. In our parent survey, there was strong support for continuing to have students outside as much as possible. That desire is consistent with the science suggesting lower levels of COVID-19 transmission when outdoors.
A significant increase in time spent outdoors will be woven into the daily rhythm of all grade levels. Faculty and Facilities have already begun planning for outdoor classroom spaces for each grade.
The PRWS main building will still be our home base for our school materials, bathrooms, and handwashing. The outdoor classroom will provide an alternate location for each class in which to spread out during main lessons and subjects, and will provide light shelter, chalkboard space, and workspace.
Increased Cleaning and Ventilation
Cleaning of high touch surfaces will take place throughout the school day, with a more thorough cleaning after every school day.
Shared supplies will be limited; additional items will be purchased to decrease shared usage.
No-touch faucets will be installed in the bathrooms.
Ventilation will be improved throughout the school building and classrooms. We are also researching air purifiers and ionizers for classrooms.
Student and Employee Health and Screening
Employees will self-screen for illness at the beginning of each school day.
Parents will be asked to screen their children for illness at home before students report to school. Clear guidelines of what to look for will be provided. If a student or employee exhibits symptoms of illness consistent with our current health policy, they will be required to stay home.
If at any time throughout the school day students exhibit symptoms of COVID-19 they will be screened, and a parent will be notified to come and pick them up.
Increased handwashing throughout the day. Hand sanitizer will also be available at entrances and front office.
Physical distancing measures will be implemented in ways that minimally impact the students, in order for the children to fully take up the important work they are there to do within the school setting. There are some specific ways that you may notice physical distancing implemented at school:
Management of flow throughout hallways and building: Faculty will collaborate with one another and carefully plan each class’s daily schedule, doing quick checks and being flexible to avoid congestion in hallways, or multiple classes in bathrooms at the same time.
Drop-off and pick-up locations: To avoid congestion of parents and students at the beginning and end of the school day, assigned building entrances/locations by class are still being considered. We have four building entrances (including Kindergartens) that may be utilized.
Minimal or no group gatherings: Although assemblies and festivals will look different this year, they remain an essential part of who we are and what we hold dear as a school community. We (and the children especially) deeply appreciate how integral each of these is in rounding out the curriculum and the rhythm of the school year, and how meaningful these are for our entire community. We would not dream of foregoing these! Stay tuned for the creative methods we will be implementing to celebrate festivals, share what the children are learning, and connect with one another throughout the school year.
Class/group size: Our classes are already small in student to teacher ratio. Recommended class/group size for our classroom size is being researched. Close interaction with other classes will be limited. Please note that grade 2/3 will remain a combined class this year. To minimize using shared spaces, some subject teachers will travel to meet each class in their own classroom, or may choose to use the class’s outdoor classroom as the subject and day’s activities allow.
Classroom configuration: Desks will be spaced apart, all facing in the same direction.
Limited visitors inside the school building: Parents and members of the community will be asked to limit visits to the school building, and to wear face coverings when they do enter the building or when outside and physical distancing is not possible. A drop box was added near the front entrance to help reduce traffic in the front office.
Cloth Face Coverings
Consistent with current CDC recommendations, adults will wear a cloth face covering when interacting with other adults and when physical distancing is not possible.
We continue to explore when and where face covering would be required of students.
Different Scenarios For Which we are Planning
1.Together Again with no Accommodations
This would be our back-together-per-usual plan. Our community is eager to be back together in ways that promote and encourage the social aspects of Waldorf education that have been developed and mastered over the past 100 years. We do not anticipate, at least at the beginning of the year, this scenario. But let us bear in mind that the changes we implement in response to COVID-19 are temporary. We trust that we (and our children) will look back on this time and draw inspiration from the courage, perseverance, and collaboration it called forth in us, individually and collectively.
2.In-Person Learning with Accommodations
In this scenario, school will be held Monday through Friday for all students, kindergarten through grade 8 (unless enrolled in part-time kindergarten). As a smaller school with small class sizes, PRWS is uniquely positioned to proceed with five days without the staggered schedules or splitting of classes that many schools are facing in order to accommodate large groups of children. We are also fortunate to have a lot of outdoor space and large classrooms that offer plenty of space to spread out when indoors.
This past week we closed the survey to gather feedback around distance learning, which will help guide our planning with this scenario. Thank you for your participation and candor. There may be times ahead that will require us to move between in-person learning and distance learning. These include school closure due to a regional or state-wide mandate, or if a student or teacher is affected by COVID-19. In preparation for this, faculty have been working on developing program improvements and establishing student expectations for distance learning.
We will be using a consistent online platform, Google Classroom, for all grades, which allows students and parents to navigate lessons more easily and upload schoolwork for teacher’s feedback on a regular basis.
A rounded-out framework for distance learning is forthcoming. Faculty are preparing for engaging, interactive blocks of study and methods to foster a consistent connection with and among students and families if distance learning is a necessity. Continuity and community are always important, and especially so during periods of quarantine or safer-at-home scenarios. Clear expectations and agreements around distance learning will be communicated for faculty, parents, and students alike, as will accountability measures designed to keep students engaged and on track. Of course, there will also be a considerable amount of built-in flexibility to ensure a positive learning experience for all. Below you will find an outline of our distance learning model to provide you with anticipatory guidance until the full plan is completed:
Weekly email newsletters to parents
Weekly educational packets with activities/songs/stories/crafts materials
Twice a week puppet play and movement games at your house (outside)
Biweekly video meetings with parents
Monthly video meetings on specific Early Childhood topics
Teachers will check email every weekday and respond within 24 hours
Regular office hours
Lower grades 1-4:
Consistency and rhythm
Pre-recorded lessons, stories, artistic activities, songs, and verses
Daily lesson work, incorporating up to 1 special subject per day
Regular faculty office hours and check-ins with students and parents
Upper grades 5-8:
Consistency and rhythm
Mixture of pre-recorded video/audio, printed materials, and online interaction
Live, online instruction (amount of time TBD, appropriate to grade)
Opportunities to connect with classmates
Regular faculty office hours and check-ins with students and parents
Opportunities for independent research or group projects
Work uploaded daily
Grades 1-4 lessons will be given through pre-recorded video/audio, or printed materials, not to exceed 1 hour/week per subject
Grades 5-8 lessons will be given through live instruction and supported with pre-recorded video/audio or printed materials, approximately 1 hour/week per subject
Class teachers will integrate subjects into their daily schedule with no more than one subject class per day
Subject teachers will hold office hours
We trust that with the experience and knowledge gained this spring, along with thoughtful planning and preparation over the summer, our faculty and staff are poised to ensure each student is uniquely met, held, and able to thrive at PRWS in the coming year. We remain steadfast in our commitment to remain flexible and adaptable in order to best meet the students and families before us, to respond to your needs, and to strengthen our beloved school community along the way.
Flexibility in Off-Campus, Parallel Learning
Some have inquired about the possibility of distance learning for their individual child. We recognize that at any given time, a student may need to participate in their classes from their home due to illness, exposure, or their family’s risk tolerance of the illness trajectory in the region or PRWS specifically. Although we know that our best work happens when we are all together in person, we acknowledge that it will not always be possible. To that end, we are exploring what would be needed to make Main Lesson classes available to students who need to take up their schoolwork from home. Many logistical considerations are still being examined to better understand and navigate what is possible.
We are pleased to report that more families have finalized their Participation and Financial Commitments (PFCs) for the coming school year. Thank you! Thanks, too, for taking the time to meet with us, and for your patience navigating our new recommitment process this year. It has been so good to connect with each family!
If you have yet to finalize your PFC and/or would like to schedule a time to discuss it, please contact Jen Cassellius, Business Coordinator at firstname.lastname@example.org or Robin Kottke, Development Director, at email@example.com. Earlier this summer, amendments were made to our withdrawal and tuition policies for the 2020-21 school year in order to instill in parents the confidence to move forward with commitment amidst so many unknowns. Please note: A signed PFC is required to reserve your child(ren)’s spot in their class. We are receiving inquiries and applications for the upcoming year and need to have a clear picture of who is returning so that we can determine the number of open spots per class and maintain safe class sizes. Signed PFCs are also crucial to our budgeting process, and inform our staffing needs for the year ahead.
We look forward to the start of our school year on September 9th. We will continue to communicate new developments and preparations on a regular basis. In the interim, please do not hesitate to reach out to any one of us with thoughts or questions you may have.
PRWS Returning to School Task Force
Joe Lenarz, Carrie Treviranus, Stephanie Brown, Aaron Schmidt, Robin Kottke, Mark Brudos, Marinella Pro, Martha Karlstad, Melissa Madura, Stephanie Pedretti & Jordan Brudos