In only seven days, October 19, 75 middle school students will be returning to campus under the guidance issued by the California Department of Public Health and Providing Targeted, Specialized Support and Services for a mixture of live and virtual instruction in academic learning pods! I am intentionally using the title "academic learning pods" as opposed to cohorts (although the two terms are synonyms) to differentiate between what we can do starting now and what we can do when the RCMS is able to transition to the RCS Phase 2: Small Stable Cohorts.
There will be a lot for you to prepare for as outlined in this email. First, please take the time to read the two guidance documents hyperlinked above. They do not allow for the RCMS to “reopen” with 100% live instruction. They allow for the RCMS to bring back 25% of its capacity under strict conditions (limiting cohort size, restricting cohort mixing, maintaining proper physical distancing, wearing a cloth face covering, and cleaning/disinfection safety measures). Teachers will be instructing/ demonstrating classroom routines and processes in order to comply with these guidelines. Your help in preparing students to follow the guidelines on campus will help for a smooth transition to campus.
No School This Thursday and Friday for RCMS and You to Prepare for Monday
The remainder of this week will be spent putting the “finishing touches” on months of planning including (from my email October 2, 2020), “Thursday, 10/15, and Friday, 10/16, are necessary work days for middle school faculty to finalize preparations for students returning to their classrooms.”
Students should prepare for returning to campus by collecting all textbooks and school supplies (there may be a lot to carry this first day)!
Also, this Friday, October 16 from 9:00am-12:00pm is a required pick up day for middle school students returning to campus (only). Families need to 1) to pick up the PikMyKid student id card and RCS neck gaiters, and 2) return RCS-issued iPad, charging cable, and charging block (if applicable).
Academic Learning Pods - Not Live Instruction
Based on the number of families who chose to return “on campus,” there will be two academic learning pods for grades sixth, seventh, and eighth and one academic learning pod for AAP. Each academic learning pod will contain a maximum of 14 students and will be led by a RCS teacher. Most instruction, however, will still be accomplished via Zoom. Based on placement, some students may receive one period of live instruction (if their academic learning pod leader is teaching one of their classes), while most instruction will continue via Zoom. Instruction will now be under the supervision of the student’s academic learning pod leader who will help facilitate the virtual learning. There is no change to the daily class schedule and no additional classes are being offered at this time.
For example, some seventh graders may be in Mr. Burke’s academic learning pod and receive live instruction from him for History class while the students in the other seventh grade academic learning pod and students at home will receive instruction for History via Zoom. After three weeks, academic learning pod leaders will rotate to the other academic learning pods so that they live instruction.
Academic learning pod placement will be assigned by the RCMS Administration just as classes are assigned at the beginning of the year. Academic learning pods are not allowed to mix, and students are not allowed to change for at least three weeks. Although parents/guardians may want to request specific academic learning pod placement (such as with a friend), unfortunately, we cannot guarantee such requests. Stay tuned later this week when each academic learning pod leader will be emailing a welcome message on Friday, October 16 (just as if it were the first day of school)!
Additional RCS families will be allowed for their child(ren) to return to RCMS on a case-by-case basis, as long there is enough space in an existing learning pod or if there is both enough interest to create a new learning pod and a teacher available to lead the learning pod.
RCS has never done this before, yet we are all up to this new challenge: managing live instruction on Zoom (and possibly in the classroom at the same time) while simultaneously supervising an academic learning pod of students. Although we are using experience and best practices learned from our research at other private schools both in the Bay Area and throughout the state (including avoiding common problems they have experienced), Monday will be our first day of live, practical experience.
Just as transitioning to Online Distance Learning last spring was new and challenging, transitioning to academic learning pods is new and challenging as well. As the middle school faculty has grown tremendously in their virtual instruction, they will also grow tremendously in their ability to lead academic learning pods while teaching on Zoom. We appreciate your patience, communication, and partnership in this process. On that note…
Shower Your Teachers With Grace and Patience
I have a very big request for parents/guardians: Please shower the RCMS faculty with grace and patience as they begin to teach students both in academic learning pods and at home. There has never been a teacher preparation program that has covered the teaching skills required to teach during a pandemic. It requires totally new skills, creativity, and procedures that will have to be developed over time.
An additional request for parents/guardians whose child(ren) are continuing online: Because we have never done this, we do not know exactly how to describe what changes will be taking place for families who continue with virtual learning at home. We currently believe that it will not change very much. Yet, we have to start to find out.
In both cases, whatever hiccups we discover, our commitment is to find the best classroom procedures and routines in order to deliver the best middle school education. Please be patient as we work through the first several weeks of academic learning pods. It will take teamwork to make this a success for all families!
New Procedures on the MSHS Campus
The MSHS has made several changes to campus procedures in order to meet the reopening guidelines of Alameda County Public Health Department. First, parents/guardians must install and register on the PikMyKid app. Second, please familiarize yourself with the Daily Health Screening Protocol, RCS Protocols for the Onset of Symptoms, and new campus procedures:
- At the drop-off point, RCS personnel will check the Daily Health Screening Protocol and then your child(ren) can exit the vehicle.
- Before exiting the car, students should use hand sanitizer.
- Each student needs to bring a water bottle that has their name on it.
- Students must be wearing a double-lined neck gaiter
As a part of the RCS dress code, each student and staff member will need to wear a double-lined neck gaiter. Two RCS neck gaiters will be provided on RCMS pick up day (on-campus students only) Friday, October 16. For those concerned with neck gaiters, I recommend reading the University of Virginia study.
Students will not be allowed on campus if any member of the family has any COVID-19 symptoms or has tested positive for COVID-19. Click here for RCS protocols regarding symptoms: RCS Protocols for the Onset of Symptoms, Close Contact, or Positive COVID test.
- Only one person (or family) will be allowed in the office at a time. Before getting out of your car, call the office for clearance, 510-317-8990.
- At this time, due to the California Highway Patrol occupancy limit on school buses, there will not be a bus run between campuses.
Cleaning, Sanitizing, and Disinfecting Protocols
RCS will work to maintain healthy environments through:
A cleaning and disinfection schedule
- Eliminating shared objects as much as possible
- Keeping doors open as often as practicable
- Increasing ventilation in the classrooms
- Modifying classroom layouts
- Closing communal spaces
- Installing additional sinks for hand washing
Furthermore, until a return to “normal” school days:
- MSHS students will not be issued lockers.
- Bathrooms will receive frequent cleaning and disinfection.
- Shared items will be disinfected frequently.
- Hand washing will be promoted.
- Students will be placed into stable cohorts and assigned to one classroom (teachers will rotate, as necessary and appropriate, throughout the classrooms)
RCS utilizes KMC Cleaners as the evening custodial service. Each of the KMC Cleaners technicians have earned a certification in “ Cleaning and Disinfecting Principles ” from Global Biorisk Advisory Council. Each night, KMC Cleaners will thoroughly clean and disinfect each classroom and office, with particular attention on highly touched surfaces. KMC will continue to utilize a disinfectant and will also be adding Virus Shield (EPA Reg. 84198-1) of which both products are on the EPA List N for disinfecting COVID-19.
Administration will establish a cleaning and disinfecting schedule in order to avoid both under- and over- use of cleaning products. Staff will clean and disinfect frequently-touched surfaces within school on a regular basis, as practicable. Highly touched surfaces include:
- Door handles
- Light switches
- Sink handles
- Bathroom surfaces
- Tables & Student desks
RCS has already secured a sufficient supply of hand sanitizers, soap, tissues, no-touch trash cans, and paper towels. Staff is equipped with proper protective equipment, including gloves, eye protection, mask or respirator, and disposable gowns (which may be needed for deep cleaning and disinfection of a COVID-19 case).
All cleaning products will be kept out of children’s reach and stored in a space with restricted access.