Dear New and Returning Elmwood Families,
As this school year comes to a close we know that there are many questions about the future. Day camps are allowed to open but will they be able to? What changes and challenges will the next school year bring? We want to share how we are thinking about school for next year as best we can. While the CDC has issued many interim guidelines, what September will look like in our area is still an unknown. Here are thoughts we’d like to share, some of which are new and others we described in a recent email to current school families. The new information we wanted to share as soon as possible, as we know school decisions impact your ability to plan child care.
We are staying informed about the research pertaining to Covid-19, reading about how schools are safely reopening, and meeting about the recommendations and guidelines as they’re released. We have every intention to open school in the fall and we appreciate your patience as we develop our plans. We plan to send a more detailed picture of what school could look like once this year has closed and will be in touch with families throughout the summer as our plans take shape. We’ll share information with you about the guidelines we’re following like having daily health and safety checks and increased cleaning and sanitization. We also know we will need to reimagine school and how we use our space. We all need to remember that these changes will not last forever.
Twos Program Decision
One key update is that after much consideration, we have decided not to proceed with a Twos Program for the upcoming school year. This would have been our 35th year with two year olds. Each year we have such deep respect for our youngest Elmwood children and the way they learn to separate from you and become part of a class community for the very first time. Parents and their team of caregivers are an essential part of the separation process. The fact that we will not have visitors (including parents) in our school this year is a major barrier to having a Twos program. We are sorry for the disappointment and challenge this decision poses to our Twos families. We have sent them a survey to determine if a Parent and Me class would be of interest.
Updates for 3s, 4s, 5s, K-1 Students
Outdoor Education: For now we are planning on holding most of our day outside, and feel fortunate to have such expansive, magical outdoor spaces that will allow us to enjoy learning with friends. We plan to expand our use of the property to include other areas for outdoor learning and play, which previously were limited to camp use. Active games, sports skills, art, music, nature, science, literacy and math will continue to be integral parts of our program.
Class Size & Schedules: We will reduce our class sizes and then further reduce those classes into small “pods” of children. We will have separate arrival and dismissal areas, in addition to staggering arrival and dismissal times. Some challenging decisions lie ahead as we determine how to make these changes. While other schools may be working on schedules that involve children coming only certain days of the week or certain weeks of the month, we are prioritizing the face-to-face time with children and are determined to ensure they are in school every day it is safe to be. In order to allow for all students to come to school each day, we will almost certainly need to reduce the number of hours children are in school.
For now, our plan is to have 4 year olds attend for a morning session only, 3 year olds attend for an afternoon session only, 5s attend morning only or full day, and kindergarten students attend full day. This would mean no lunch or extended day options for 3 and 4 year olds. Instead some enrichments would be built into their school day. While we understand this plan might pose significant challenges for families who elected an extended day schedule, we believe it may be a necessary change. Among the many factors that come into play here is that this plan would allow us to maintain a spot for each enrolled family and provide the consistent schedule we believe is so important for young children. A second important factor for us is that with distancing measures in place, teachers wearing masks, and potentially students doing the same, a short day is more appropriate for our younger students. Just as people around the world have experienced “zoom fatigue” to varying degrees, we anticipate the same will be true for these distanced in person interactions. Our children will make friends, play, and enjoy themselves, but they will need down time at home in their “healthy family circles” where things can “go back to normal”.
Separation: We know that in order to maintain our student to teacher ratios and ensure safe distancing, our students will need to be able to separate from parents. We hope that each child will be able to make the transition to school. Before school begins we will have an orientation process to help them, as best we can, begin to feel related and warmly connected. If it is determined that a child is not yet ready to separate and be at school, we will work with that family and be open to such things as a later start date. But, again, to be part of the class, the child will need to be able to separate.
Anticipated Closures: When necessary and appropriate to close the physical building, we will continue to have a virtual learning component. The virtual learning will look somewhat different from this year but will be a part of the class and curriculum, which we, along with all our families, will need to embrace.
Tuition Policy: For the past few years we have been able to offer families greater flexibility in terms of tuition payment, with the option to pay monthly or quarterly. For the upcoming school year, half day families (all 3s and 4s; half day 5s) will need to pay for the year by August 15th. Full day 5s and Kindergarten families will need to pay for the semester before it begins. The fall semester tuition will be due for those families August 15th and the spring semester tuition will be due for those families November 1st. In addition, in order to keep the school operational for the year, tuition payments will be non-refundable.
Our Ultimate Goal: Finally, we’ll adapt our best practices to encourage and support social relationships and a sense of connection and belonging with friends and teachers. We want to help children return to a school community, knowing that they are safe and at home here at Elmwood. Elmwood will continue to be a singing school where children both learn and play.
We’ll be in touch but if you have any update on your end about your plans for next school year, certainly let us know.
Lori, Sara and Jane