Important Updates from the Returning to School Taskforce
Saturday, June 13, 2020
There is certainly plenty in the world to give our attention to right now. We’re with you. While returning to school may not be at the forefront of your thoughts as summer kicks off, we continue to be hard at work closing this school year and planning our return in the fall. As promised, following is an update from the Returning to School Task Force.
What's going on behind the scenes to prepare for reopening?
Admin staff have been checking-in with each family and finalizing re-enrollment for the coming year. We have spent a lot of time providing anticipatory guidance and fielding questions regarding what the upcoming school year will look like.
AReturning to School Task Force has been meeting weekly to outline a framework of different scenarios and measures we will need to implement for each. We’ve been in contact with other Waldorf schools, not only in North America, but also New Zealand and the Netherlands (which have now reopened) so that we may learn from their experiences. The global network of Waldorf schools has always been an invaluable resource. This is especially true now as we explore and share best practices to meet students and families during these times, including how best to support and leverage the social and human connection elements so integral to Waldorf education.
Faculty spent part of their May In-service putting their heads together to brainstorm creative options for in-person school. We are taking care to ensure our planning aligns with Waldorf pedagogy and methodologies; we’ll be incorporating safety measures in a manner that minimally impacts student experience and school culture so that, upon reopening, the children may settle into their school experience and fully take up the curriculum and the work before them. A few ways we plan to meet this challenge include increased outdoor classroom time, smaller group sizes, and more cleaning throughout the day.
We have some wonderful ideas for outdoor learning spaces! We will be sending out those location plans soon. Growing for Good has received their own PPP loan, some of which we hope to use to pay staff to prepare outdoor and greenhouse spaces for outdoor classrooms. We also shared with one another what worked well (and what didn’t) during distance learning and have agreed upon a unified platform should we need to pivot to distance learning again at some point. We have quite a bit of feedback from individual classes and our own experiences, but we want to ensure we’ve heard from everyone before publishing our new framework for distance learning going forward. Look for a survey that will be coming later this month.
Regarding the coming school year - here is what we know:
Compared to other schools, we are fortunate to have large classrooms, small to moderate class sizes (currently 9 to 19, apart from chorus and orchestra), windows that are easily opened, and sinks in every classroom to accommodate plenty of handwashing.
We are also fortunate to have multiple outdoor learning spaces, including the Green Space (between PRWS and Landmark Center), Growing for Good, the kindergarten gardens, Wooded Acre, and our beautiful main playground with increased green space and updated fencing, created by the generous donation of labor from e3 Lighting. Teachers are planning to significantly increase our use of these spaces next year. Please plan to outfit your child/ren for being outdoors more and being comfortable inside with windows open.
Our Illness Policy (p. 16 of the handbook) is quite clear and especially applicable. We will be updating the language for these times. Students (and teachers/staff) with coughs, sore throats, etc. will be required to stay at home. In March our office was already proactive in sending home children who were not feeling well. Teachers will be prepared to send schoolwork home (age appropriate) for as long as necessary.
Our substitute teacher list will be bolstered in the event any teacher or a member of a teacher’s household needs to quarantine. As we do every summer, we will be compiling a substitute list and providing training through a substitute orientation and classroom visits. Do you have a teaching background? Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested in getting on the list.
Parent Survey Results
Last week, 74 parents participated in the Returning to School parent survey. A summary of the results are as follows:
Most of you would prefer to come back to school in-person in fall, though many of you acknowledged it really depends on the trending of the virus at the time.
Responses represented the full spectrum from waiting for medical guidelines, to wanting a normal experience for their children.
It is acknowledged that social distancing and children do not go together and may be even be detrimental to development if applied in a school setting, particularly in the young child.
Other measures such as not sharing supplies or food, restrictions on the size of school events, staggering playground use, and using non-traditional spaces for classrooms were all overwhelmingly acceptable.
The idea of trying to keep appropriate physical distance or wearing masks at all times were less acceptable.
A great majority of parents are excited about increased outdoor learning possibilities.
Simple adjustments such as increased handwashing, cleaning/sanitizing, and a clearly enforced illness/attendance policy were easy to support.
Rolling attendance (days on/days off), staggered drop-off/pick-up times were less popular.
Most other questions resulted in a typical bell curve of responses in which the majority falls somewhere in the middle, indicating a general feeling of cautiousness about school’s reopening.
We are asking families to sign their Participation and Financial Commitment (PFC) forms by June 20th (an extended deadline) to preserve a spot for your child(ren). It is essential that these contracts are signed, as enrollment is the biggest determining factor in creating our budget for the coming year. Without commitment from our families, we cannot create a budget for a new year.
The PFC contract assumes in-person learning, which we fully anticipate and are planning for. While our goal is to provide a full Waldorf Education, even in a distance learning scenario, we do recognize there are some offerings that do not translate well via distance learning. We also recognize that distance learning necessitates significant participation on the part of the parents to help deliver the curriculum. Because of this, there will be an option for a reduction in tuition if distance learning is deemed necessary.
The Finance Committee has added a clause to this year’s PFC in response to the unique circumstances of this time.
Addendum to 2020-2021 PRWS Participation and Financial Commitment (PFC):
The tuition amount outlined in this contract assumes in-person learning for the 2020-2021 academic school year. In the event that PRWS must revert to delivering remote education for greater than two weeks, parents with contracts in good standing will be able to request a 25% reduction on their tuition during the period of distance learning (up to eight weeks of reduced tuition for the year). (dated 6/11/20)
We have also modified our withdrawal policy for the 2020-21 school year.
In the event a parent withdraws their child before the end of the contract period, tuition will be prorated through the end of the last month in which the student is enrolled.
Make sure your Participation and Financial Commitment (PFC) meeting is complete and your contract is signed and submitted to Jen Casselius, Business Manager, by June 20th. If you have not yet scheduled your meeting to finalize your PFC, please schedule your recommitment / reenrollment meeting today here: https://www.signupgenius.com/go/8050a4fa5ab22a1fd0-202021
Complete the distance learning survey that willbe sent to you in the next few weeks. While our goal is to return in-person in the fall, your input is necessary to help the faculty prepare for all scenarios. Your responses, along with faculty feedback, will inform the subsequent document that we’ll share outlining our plan and expectations for teachers, parents, and students, by grade.
Returning to School (RTS) Parent Communication Timeline
We are committed to sending communication and updates every two weeks at a minimum. Please be on the lookout for these updates so you can stay informed.
In May, we gathered parent input regarding returning to school with a survey.
In early June, you are receiving this communication with updates, survey results and next steps.
In mid-June, you will receive a distance learning survey.
By June’s end, we will send additional communication including:
Distance learning survey results
A draft of plans for the fall
Do you have any questions or ideas to share regarding preparations for next year? Please contact any member of the Returning to School Task Force; we welcome the opportunity to speak with you.
PRWS Returning to School Task Force
Joe Lenarz, Stephanie Brown, Robin Kottke, Mark Brudos, Jordan Brudos, Aaron Schmidt, Marinella Pro, Melissa Madura, Stephanie Pedretti, and Carrie Treviranus