Thank you for your patience as we continue to monitor and plan for the effects of the COVID-19 outbreak. Our leadership team has been meeting regularly to assess the risks to our students, staff and family community, as well as to continue to plan and identify actions that will minimize the spread of the illness. We would like to share additional guidelines and resources with you. Yesterday, Public Health officials provided additional guidance for reducing the risk of exposure and slowing the spread of COVID-19. At this time, Public Health continues to recommend that schools stay open, and we will be following this recommendation.
In this vein of being proactive and up to date, we have implemented a plan that incorporates additional guidance from Public Health officials. The goal of these measures is to minimize risk of spreading COVID-19, while having the minimum amount of impact on daily on-campus activities. These measures will be in effect through March 18th, 2020 and at that time, we will re-evaluate the need to continue limiting activities. We also acknowledge that this guidance may change with additional developments.
Starting today, March 5th, we are taking the following steps:
As mentioned above, Public Health continues to recommend schools remain open, and we plan to continue to operate with as much normalcy and consistency as long as we can maintain appropriate supervision and adequate services. Therefore, we will continue to hold student clubs, as well as before and after school childcare.
Here is additional guidance for individuals, provided by Public Health (resource links at the end):
A Note on Voluntary Student Absences
We recognize that while attendance is important, we also understand that families may consider keeping children home from school out of an abundance of caution. Here is helpful information to consider when making a decision about sending your child to school:
Continued Hygiene Practices
As we have communicated previously, we are continuously reviewing our hygiene procedures to ensure they include the most up to date guidance from the above-mentioned agencies and have been extra diligent in our efforts to minimize the spread of disease. Students are washing hands regularly, materials are being sanitized, and surfaces and handles are being disinfected several times a day. We ask that you please continue to review hygiene measures at home. This includes effective handwashing and keeping fingers out of noses, mouths, and eyes. Another practice you can implement at home is to ensure your electronic equipment, such as laptops, computers, tablets, and phones, are cleaned regularly.
In the Event of a School Closure
There are several factors that MCH will use to determine whether a school closure is necessary, and this plan may change over time per the recommendation from Washington State Department of Health and King County Public Health and other agencies. Again, we will not close the school unless it becomes a necessity and as a last resort, as we fully understand the long-term impact this will have on many of our families.
In the event of an extended closure, the Elementary and Middle School programs will be implementing distance learning programs, and guides to how this will work for those different groups of students will be sent out to families immediately, should that become a necessity. Due to the hands-on nature of the Early Childhood and Infant/Toddler Programs, distance learning will not be an option for these programs. We have however been contemplating ways in which younger children can have a meaningful experience in their home environment and stay connected to the school community.
Students and their families can anticipate following daily instructional/open class time that mirrors as closely as possible what they experience during a typical on-campus school day. This is to ensure your child continues to receive the quality education they deserve, and that they are meeting the required number of instructional hours mandated by the state. Teachers will be assessing student engagement, participation, work completion and effort. However, please note that these guidelines are not intended to be a replacement for the high-quality Montessori instruction that happens in our classrooms each day. When students return to school, our teachers will continue to build on the learning that was occurring prior to absences or closures.
The following guidelines will help our teachers ensure students’ needs are met, and to make distance learning as accessible and comfortable as possible for students and their families:
For Lower Elementary students, teachers will communicate with parents on upcoming assignments through email. Teachers will also schedule planned video call time to connect with students on a more personal level. They will also be available during normal working hours to assist students as needed.
At the Upper Elementary level, students will use a detailed schedule, and will stay connected throughout the day with their teachers using Microsoft Teams. This software will allow students to receive assignments, video group lessons, collaborate with classmates and interact with their teachers in real time. For assignments, students will log in and use Microsoft Office software, and turn their assignments in through Teams or via email.
Middle School students will have a similar experience to Upper Elementary students and should be able to easily transition into distance learning, as they are already doing the majority of their work through Microsoft Office and Teams. They have previously practiced connecting with one another and their teacher through video calls in Teams and will follow a daily schedule with guidance. For assignments, students will log in and use Microsoft Office software, and turn their assignments in through Teams or via email.
For families where technology resources such as a home computer or internet access might be an issue, we will work to help these students, including possible school laptops being lent out, or sending students work via USB through the mail.
*A note on classroom Montessori materials. There are, of course, many lessons in both Lower and Upper Elementary that require the use of materials. Teachers are working hard on creative solutions for how to mitigate the impact of students not having materials at home, and will ensure students are still receiving individualized, meaningful instruction while learning from home.
If you have specific questions related to this update, please email me directly. We will continue to send updates as we receive new information from Public Health officials. We understand that changes such as these can be difficult for many families and appreciate in advance your patience and grace as we continue to monitor this situation.