Dear TMS community,
I hope that this email finds you and your family well. I'd like to update you on where we are in our planning process for the TMS fall 2020 school reopening. I know that our entire community is anxious to understand what school will be like in the fall.
I want to say up front that the plan we are creating is designed to adapt to the situation as needed.
Most likely, we will not know exactly how some parts of our plan will look until very close to the first day of school, because we are monitoring the public health situation closely and continuously. As Marin County Deputy Health Officer Dr. Lisa Santora reminded educators on a call today (July 2nd), Marin Health and Human Services (MHHS) operates on a week-to-week basis when it comes to monitoring COVID-19 and providing public health recommendations. While I would like to be writing a message to you stating what
happen, the reality is that I can only state what is
to happen, and our intentions about how to run school. Please know that we’re prioritizing the safety of our community in our decision making.
As you may know, positive COVID-19 test results are on the rise throughout the state of California.
Marin County Office of Education (MCOE)
and MHHS still believe that opening schools in the fall is safe, for a variety of epidemiological reasons. If you would like more information on that topic, please see Dr. Matt Willis and Dr. Lisa Santora's presentation from June 25th.
is a link to a recording of that presentation.
This email summarizes a lot of information, so I’ve tried to link out to documents with more detail if you’d like to take a deeper dive. My aim is to keep only the most important information in the text of this email.
First, as you probably know, MCOE and MHHS have created a 30-point plan for school reopenings (see:
). Some of the guidelines look different than anticipated, which is not necessarily surprising, given the dynamic and changing nature of the pandemic. I want to point you to some of the key guidelines:
- Cohort Sizes: “For middle and high schools, larger cohorts made up of students from more than one classroom may be arranged as long as accurate attendance data for students and adults is maintained on a daily basis while avoiding schoolwide mixing of students and staff.”
- Faculty/Staff Ratio: “School staff are permitted to visit and instruct more than one classroom cohort, strictly following physical distancing and face covering protocols, and must document/record visits to classrooms that are not identified as their primary classroom cohort.”
- Social Distancing: “Where practicable, physical distancing of six feet is maintained between adults and students; four to six feet distance is permissible between students within a classroom or instructional area where requirements herein are in practice.”
- COVID-Testing: “Schools and districts will cooperate with Public Health to support testing strategies to mitigate transmission of COVID-19, including testing for faculty and staff at the beginning of the school year, and then no less than once every two months. This may include testing of students with appropriate parental permissions obtained in advance.” [Ben’s note: as of 7/2/20, MHHS is saying that the guideline around COVID testing may change]
- School Site-Specific Plan: “A School Site-Specific Protection Plan outlining the measures recommended is to be completed, posted and shared with all stakeholders and updated as state and local Public Health guidance dictates.”
Facial Covering and Health Screening Requirements:
It has also been confirmed that every person on campus will be required to wear a face covering and that TMS will do a daily health screening at the start of the day for everyone that is entering the campus.
We are working on various cohort models that will keep our students and community safe. Though MCOE/MHHS have relaxed their original recommendation of 12-student cohorts, they have also said that “school-wide mixing” is inadvisable. We are looking at ways of dividing the student body. Currently, there is not a way to divide the students into grade-level cohorts and still offer students the varied course schedules that we know are important to students and families. So, we are looking at dividing the TMS student population either in half, or into thirds. That will still allow us to create cohort groups that are potentially as small as 16 students at the low end, and as large as 42 students at the high end. The large local public high schools are currently discussing cohorts of over 100 students, so we feel that creating cohort groups of 40 or fewer students helps to keep our community safer. It is a complicated puzzle--thank you for your patience as we devise a system that attempts to meet needs of both safety and educational variety.
Fall Course Schedule & Flexibility:
Creating a class schedule that will work within the guidelines is our main priority right now. The larger cohorts allowed for middle and high schools, as well as the ability of teachers to move among cohorts, will provide more flexibility in our schedule. As we review what works best pedagogically for our TMS students, our goal is to create a schedule that works well both on campus AND in a remote learning environment. We know that at any point we could be asked to shelter in place once again, so we are designing a schedule that can accommodate both methods of teaching. The schedule will also “flex” for different needs, from 100% student body attendance on campus, to partial week on campus attendance (50% hybrid model), and finally to a fully remote model. We need an adaptable model that will meet the needs of different scenarios that we face through the school year. At this time, we are planning to have all students on campus as much as possible at the beginning of the school year--likely four days a week. We are also aiming to give students the course schedule that they want, allowing for schedules that meet both core graduation requirements and offer elective choices.
Campus Operations & Facility Needs:
In addition to work on our schedule and cohort models, we are also looking at what we will need on campus to support teaching while following the guidelines recommended by MCOE. That means we are expanding our technology bandwidth on campus and ascertaining what type of equipment we will need to allow students who might need to be home to participate in class. We also are starting to review how to physically set-up our classrooms, determine how to create a one-way student flow around campus, including signage and how to create more outside classroom space. In addition we are ordering the necessary supplies we will need (i.e. masks, hand sanitizer, cleaning wipes, etc.).
As is abundantly evident, there is still much to do. Our team is working hard to create a safe campus and a rich educational environment for our students. As noted in the important dates section, below, TMS will be closed from July 3rd through July 10th. Our team has been working non-stop since the move to remote learning in March, and thus it is crucial for our year-round staff to take some much needed time to rest and recharge before the coming school year. I will be taking advantage of this time as well. I will respond to any questions or concerns you have during the week of July 13th, when we return to our work duties. Please don't hesitate to email me, and I will get back to you as quickly as I can upon returning. Thank you for your patience as we plan for a school year that, while shaping up to be unlike any other, will still have all that we know and love about TMS. I look forward to taking this journey with you.
Wishing you all the best,