June 19, 2020

Dear Pardes Community,

I hope this communication finds all of you safe and well. Though we have graduated our amazing eighth grade class of 2020 and officially closed school for the summer, much work is being done to prepare for fall. Our Advisory Group and Administrative Team continue to work steadfastly to develop a re-opening strategy that allows for multiple scenarios and their possible hybrids. Though it is clear that there are too many unknowns at this point to state what our exact plan will be on August 17, we remain committed to developing a strategy that prioritizes the safety and well-being of our students, while also affording us the opportunity to be flexible and transparent. Additionally, we are monitoring local, state, and federal health agencies, as well as the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) for guidance on best practices.

Our Assumptions

We continue to evaluate all facets of this dynamic situation and we recognize that it requires adaptive planning as the scientific information and circumstances evolve. Despite the uncertainty, we are developing scenarios based on the following assumptions informed by, as we stated above, the most current guidance from local, state and federal public health officials as well as NAIS:
  • School campuses will reopen in the 2020–2021 academic year with the probability that Arizona will experience continued outbreaks of COVID-19 that may force us to revert to earlier phases prior to the state “re-opening”. We are preparing for the potential of localized, rolling closures for 7, 14, or even 28 days triggered by additional waves of infections. There is also the possibility that based on CDC guidelines, schools may close for shorter periods of time as they mitigate specific circumstances of students and staff if infected.

  • Every aspect of our school, including our physical campus, our academic calendar, daily schedules, programming, and social habits, will require some modifications based on guidance from national, state, and local health officials. The areas we are currently addressing include, but are not limited to: physical distancing, wellness checks, masks/face shields, campus cleaning and disinfecting, as well as intermittent transitions to blended learning and/or remote learning. All faculty and staff will be trained on all measures that will be put in place.

  • We will not be returning to a pre-COVID “normal” for some time and physical distancing is here for the foreseeable future. The risk of a surge in cases that would require a return to safer-at-home or to a statewide shelter-at-home order is very real.
Returning to School: Three Scenarios

Based on the assumptions above, we are developing three scenarios for a return to campus. It is important to note, however, that though we are presenting three scenarios, our ultimate intention is to return to in-person education on August 17, thereby resuming our amazing teaching, learning and experiential education that makes Pardes so special. However, we also know all too well that our preparations now for multiple scenarios are paramount due to the uncertainty that COVID-19 brings. The specific decisions and additional plans regarding on campus modifications will be finalized over the next few weeks and shared with all of you by late July, including hybrid plans of action that we may have to implement. 

Flow Chart

Please click here for a flow chart that I encourage you to read. It parallels this document and simplifies the decision making process from both the school and the family perspective. Additionally, it summarizes the content of each of the “plans”. 

Plan A: On Campus Learning

Plan A will be to welcome all students back to our beautiful campus on the first day of school, August 17th (our staff will return a week earlier). The Pardes community will follow specific health precautions which will be in accordance with our local, state, and federal requirements and will include, at a minimum, the following:

  • Faculty must attest to being symptom-free each day
  • Students will be screened both from home (answering a quick series of questions via an app or electronic survey) and at school (temperature taken prior to entering campus).
  • All adults will be wearing masks or face-shields.
  • If unable to physically distance 6 feet in classrooms, we will utilize a modified classroom design and plexi-glass shield guards where needed.
  • Additionally, we will work to achieve further physical distancing by eliminating large group gatherings and modifying campus egress.
  • Maintenance staff and teachers will disinfect shared surfaces and equipment between use.
  • We are eliminating shared materials.
  • We are reimagining classes, celebrations, and community gatherings by repurposing larger spaces as well as our outdoor space.
  • Lunch will be eaten in the classrooms.
  • We will accommodate, to the best of our ability, students and faculty who may not be comfortable returning to campus. (See Plan C)
  • For the time being, parents/guardians and non-essential visitors will not be allowed on campus.
  • To the degree that we are able, there will be campus modifications to reduce touchpoints.
  • Any family member or employee that travels internationally MUST alert Pardes. As per CDC guidelines, students and employees of Pardes, who traveled internationally, must self- quarantine for two weeks upon their return to the United States.
Plan B: Blended Learning (partial on campus schedule)

Blended learning is a real possibility for the entire campus should circumstances related to COVID-19 escalate to a point where our local, state, and federal requirements mandate greater physical distancing. Blended Learning is where students receive a combination of synchronous (live) on-campus instruction as well as asynchronous (accessible anytime) online interactive instruction in a schedule intentionally designed to provide a healthy school/life balance.

Plan C: Online Interactive Classroom Education 

We recognize that there may be scenarios where campus would be open, but some families or staff may not be comfortable returning, or families or staff may be in quarantine/isolation due to circumstances related to COVID-19. Our goal is to provide a seamless transition between these scenarios and provide a rich Pardes educational experience for all of our students through live streaming in all of our classrooms.

Plan C (minus the live streaming) would need to be implemented in the event our local community experiences a spike in COVID-19 cases and an interruption of physical operations occurs, thereby requiring us to promptly shift to campus-wide online interactive classroom instruction via our Pardes@Home platform. 

Having the ability to offer online interactive classrooms, should this option (Plan C) be needed, would afford our students the opportunity to experience what no one else in the valley will be doing. Our teachers do not just assign packets or post video content for the students to look at, listen to, and then perform perfunctory homework. Instead, our teachers meet daily with our students, both individually and in groups, effectively create and implement collaborative breakout sessions, and engage them in their education in a very personal way as if they are in the classroom on campus. Relationships are the foundation for learning, and at Pardes, we achieve a successful balance of meeting the academic and social-emotional needs of all of our students. 

Professional Development 

Our teachers remain invested and committed to bringing innovative, high quality educational experiences to our students which engages them in learning and fosters the creativity, initiative, and resilience they’ll need to thrive in our rapidly changing world. To that end, they are participating in meaningful professional development this summer. Every faculty member has participated in an intensive Project Based Learning Workshop with the Buck Institute of Education. PBL builds student agency by engaging them in relevant, authentic learning while empowering them to address the challenges of our world and our communities. Additionally, our faculty is virtually attending the Summer Institutes at Teachers College, Columbia University; YouCubed workshops through Stanford University’s Graduate School of Education; and, the iTalAm and Ulpan Or Summer Institutes. 

All of these professional development opportunities feature best practices and innovations that will strengthen both our in-person academic program and our online interactive education in tandem with any new structures, guidelines, or norms implemented on a reopened campus. 

We know how stressful all of this can be and that you may have many questions. Over the next week or so, we will be sending out a “Return to School” survey that will provide a forum for your questions, comments, and suggestions. In the meantime, please know that we are doing everything we can to prepare for the safest possible return to school in August. Please be on the lookout for additional communications in the coming month regarding the reopening of school.

Wishing all of you and your children a safe and healthy, relaxing and rejuvenating, and fun and exciting summer! 

Kind regards,
Peter Gordon
Head of School