School Closed Monday March 16th

March 12, 2020
Dear BWS Families,
Out of an abundance of caution, the BWS Board of Trustees and school leadership have implemented the following measures in response to the unfolding COVID-19 crisis, effective immediately:
  • School will be CLOSED on Monday, March 16th in order to protect the health and well-being of our students and community members. BWS will use Monday to deep-clean the school and gather further information from state and local health authorities. Teachers will use this time to prepare for the remote education of BWS students. During this time, both the EC and Grades buildings will be closed-off entirely, except to faculty, administration and cleaning staff.

  • Over the next four days, the BWS Board and school leadership will closely monitor the unfolding situation under the guidance of our three-physician Medical Advisory Panel and meet to determine next steps. On Monday, the BWS community will be informed of those next steps.

  • Tomorrow (Friday, March 13th), school will remain open; aftercare will also remain open and continue to take place outside. Please send your children with weather-appropriate attire (specifically rain gear) so that they will be comfortable in the elements. There is a substantial likelihood that aftercare will be cancelled in the future, so please begin making alternative childcare plans now in preparation.

  • Cancellation/postponement of all public and non-public gatherings outside of the classroom. This includes in-school Friday Student Assembly, Tuesday/Thursday Presto & Allegro practice, the Nature Program and all other such events are suspended until further notice.
  • The following specific events are also cancelled:

  1. 8th Grade Parent Class Meeting, March 17th
  2. 6th Grade Parent Class Meeting, March 18th
  3. Board Meeting, Closed to the Public, March 18th
  4. 3rd Grade Parent Class Meeting, March 19th
  5. Presto at St. Marys, March 19th
  6. Parent/Teacher Conferences, March 20th 
  7. CPR Training, March 20th
  8. Green River Literacy Training, March 21st
  9. Workshop with Meaghan Witri and Sarah Hearn, March 21st
  10. Family Open School, March 28th
  11. Music Recital, March 31st
  12. 1st Annual Music Festival, April 2nd
  13. PA Meeting, April 3rd
  14. Cafe Night, April 4th
  15. Presto at Hillcrest, April 7th
  16. Spring Assembly, April 17th, TBD
  17. Green River Literacy Training, April 17th, TBD
  18. Allegro/Presto Party, April 28th, TBD
  19. EC Parent Evening, April 29th, TBD
BWS’s Decision-Making Process Regarding COVID-19
  Many of you have called or emailed asking whether BWS might close as a result of COVID-19.  At this stage, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health and the CDC are not recommending school closure unless there is a confirmed case of COVID-19 within the school body.  Additionally, we do not want to close school precipitously, without a sense of the criteria that would guide us toward re-opening. However, we recognize that as an epidemic unfolds, schools and hospitals are often on the frontlines, and health department recommendations (and statistics) can take a few days to catch up with what is happening on the ground.  This is particularly so when access to testing is limited. We are also keenly aware that greater social isolation has been an effective preventative measure in other areas that have already been hard hit by the virus. We are therefore pressing “pause” for a few days, erring on the side of protecting the well-being of our community, so we can make a more informed decision for the days and weeks that follow.  
Tomorrow teachers will talk to students about this decision, and will send them home with books and/or work they might need in the event of a longer school closure. Our faculty have already begun working on plans to continue instruction remotely should the need arise.  Please send your child(ren) with an extra bag (or bring one with you to pick up tomorrow) to accommodate any larger main lesson books or items your child wants/needs to bring home.  We recommend, as always, utilizing a calm and assured tone that will give your child(ren) confidence that the grown-ups are making the best decisions possible to keep everyone safe and healthy, and that this will be a time for family to spend together. Because the spread of this virus comes from person-to-person contact, it is no longer advisable for families to plan play-dates and share childcare responsibilities if at all possible.
Since last night’s school-wide email, all of Europe has been raised to Travel Advisory Level 3. We have one member of the BWS student community with a sibling who recently returned from overseas travel. While that sibling is not known to have been in contact with someone with the virus, we are continuing to exercise extreme caution, and the student and family have not been present on campus and will not return to school until the 14-day quarantine period expires.
As we continue to navigate the developments of the current COVID-19 situation, we understand that the daily updates you are receiving may be anxiety-producing. We want to assure you that every decision is being made deliberatively, with an abundance of caution and for the well-being of our entire community based on the best evidence we have. We feel reassured by the steps we have taken thus far, and will continue to implement protective measures under the guidance of our Medical Advisory Panel.  By being proactive, we can help to stem this crisis, and mitigate its effects. That said, please know that we understand and support the decision to keep your child(ren) at home. All absences that result from this unexpected situation will be excused, and we will work with you and your child to ensure continued access to educational materials and curriculum.   
Finally, I would like to share an article from the Parenting section of the New York Times:   "Schools Are Closing for Coronavirus. Now What? Education may be disrupted, but that doesn't mean our kids have to lose out."   It is a reminder of how collaborative and creative the BWS community is, and how we at BWS are working hard to support our children and community during these disruptive and unsettling times.
Thank you all for your continued support as we navigate the challenges of this situation together.

Lynn Arches
Interim School Director
Berkshire Waldorf School
35 West Plain Road
Great Barrington, MA 01230
(413) 528-4015