The Board is choosing to follow state and local guidance regarding a full shutdown. We are fully licensed as a child care facility and will be able to be open for essential workers as long as the guidance allows for us to do so. We look towards other sources of information in addition to state and local guidance, including the American Academy of Pediatrics and the CDC.
The Board could choose to shut down early because there is nothing making us use all of those 3 weeks. The calendar could change if we make it to spring with no shutdown.
We decided to open on August 3, which is 2 weeks earlier than planned, to try to offset the possibility of a future shutdown. We also added an additional week at the end of the year for a total of 3 extra weeks of school. This date was decided much earlier in the year when the curve was on a downward trend.
We have been speaking to other schools, including other Montessori schools, that have been open for some time and we are learning from them. We have enacted what we believe to be the safest way to be open and safely provide care and academics for our students.
The schools we have been in contact with tell us a high percentage of families are choosing to send their children to school, though we do not know what the curve looks like in those locations.
While we do not have enough space for one stall per classroom, we have taken steps in the elementary restrooms to ensure students do not interact in the restrooms:
Luckily, every classroom has a door that leads outside, so we can leave those doors open as long as we can. We will also be taking breaks and working outside and enjoying Fitness Education and recess outside. We will have plenty of time to air out the classrooms.
Last year we purchased the 3 acres of land between the school and Arkansas Lane. The Board considered adding fencing to the entire property, but it is very expensive and the installation has not been approved. Elementary students have been utilizing specific locations on this property over the past year, especially under the large tree with a branch near the ground. We will be utilizing this space again this year and students are closely supervised.
This is something we were unaware of and we will certainly look into it affordability and efficacy.
Students should bring a face covering, which will not be required to be worn at all times. The use of face coverings is required during group lessons or other times, when physical distancing is not an option. Please see our COVID-19 policy where we have a section devoted to face coverings.
Especially in Lower Elementary, we will need to provide simple generalizations so students understand when they need to wear masks, rather than providing too many if/then statements. For example, it is easier for children to understand that every time they get up from their chair, they should put on a mask, rather than say, if you get up to go to the bathroom, then you wear a mask. We will normalize face coverings so it lowers anxiety about it.
We have embedded an incredible amount of hand washing into the day, before and after snacks and lunch, before and after using materials, before and after outdoor time, etc. If a child coughs or sneezes on a material, that will need to be removed so it can be disinfected before another student uses it. Additionally, each student will have their own supplies (pens, pencils, ruler, erasers, etc.) instead of using a general supply.
We follow licensing guidelines, which is to intensify our cleaning and disinfecting procedures which are provided by the CDC and includes disinfecting high touch surfaces throughout the day. We are using PureGreen24, which is an EPA approved disinfectant for fighting COVID-19 and safe to use around children.
We won’t be able to conduct entire classes outside, but the courtyard is open the whole day for students to use, though it will be limited to 2 students at a time because of physical distancing. There will be an outdoor break in the morning, plus 30 minutes of recess, and 30 minutes of Fitness Education. Additionally, there may be more time for work outside in the afternoon.
Many parents continued to comment on their support of the idea of working outside more. Another parent suggested a hybrid model, where academics are offered virtually and students attend outdoor education together at TMA in the afternoon. We are considering the various options for these scenarios and sent out a survey to gather information from the wider community.
Students will continue to bring their water bottles to school each day and can keep them filled using the faucet in the classroom. Water fountains will not be open to drink from directly, but the teacher can fill the classroom water coolers from the water fountain.