Yesterday marked the official start of the 2020-2021 school year. While it begins with a good deal of uncertainty, we are determined to meet these challenges with creativity, flexibility, and ongoing collaboration.
That is not to say that we don’t also feel overwhelmed on occasion contemplating what lies ahead. We do, which is why I appreciate everything you have done over these past months working with me, our teachers, and especially your children to help students adapt and thrive. I am confident that we will move forward together, caring for students and each other during these difficult times.
I will host two online “Conversations with Marjo” next week. On Tuesday, July 7, at 5:30 p.m., I welcome all parents/guardians to join me for half an hour to learn more about our plans as discussed below (see email for Zoom link). Anyone with students in Kindergarten through 6th grade is invited to stay for another half hour to discuss our plan for those specific grades. On Wednesday, July 8, at 5:30 p.m., I will offer another half-hour conversation for families with students in 7th through 12th grades (see email for Zoom link).
Maret’s highest priorities for the coming year are to provide an excellent education for students and to support our dedicated faculty—while always maintaining appropriate health and safety protocols. With that at the forefront of our thinking, the program outlined below seeks to maintain strong relationships and high expectations among students, faculty, and the broader community. We know that being together at school provides important support for social-emotional development and overall wellness; therefore, we are unrelenting in our efforts to reopen campus to the greatest extent possible.
The structure of the plan for next year is shaped largely by restrictions imposed by the District and Federal governments, CDC recommendations, and other official guidelines—all of which are dynamic. Planning is also informed by the recommendations of our four Covid-19 Working Groups, composed of Maret trustees, faculty, and outside experts: 1) Financial Implications and Scenarios; 2) Health and Safety Options for Re-Opening; 3) Human Resources Repercussions; and 4) Continuity of Learning (COL) Extensions into the Fall.
While we currently anticipate being able to gather again on campus for some portion of fall semester, we do expect to deliver a majority of our program through a robust virtual COL model.
So what might school look like next year?
MARET’S K-12 EDUCATION PLAN FOR 2020-2021
- Our educational program may be delivered fully on campus, completely online (i.e. virtually through COL), or in hybrid form—depending on the circumstances. Maret’s program has sufficient flexibility to pivot between models as required.
- Since Maret’s facilities were not designed with social distancing in mind, classrooms will be modified to ensure, as best as we can, a six-foot separation around each person at all times. As a consequence, approximately half of our students can be accommodated on campus at any given time.
- When on campus, students will be involved with some combination of classes, homeroom or advising, co-curricular activities, and special programs. Classes may also occur simultaneously through COL and remote learning technology.
- Whenever possible, on campus classes and activities will be conducted outdoors and at 3000 Cathedral Avenue (no field trips are planned).
- Some teachers, because of their own child-care needs or health concerns, may need to remain off campus and teach only through virtual means.
- You will see some faculty assuming new responsibilities—such as assisting with classroom management and caring for students on campus—to help the school meet all of its programmatic needs.
- We are working with our two athletic leagues (the ISL and MAC) on what the plan should be in the fall for our varsity and junior varsity teams; a decision should be made by mid-July.
- The school’s new dining provider is FLIK Dining Services, and we are working with them to craft a lunch program that fits our on-campus plans for the year. Our current thinking involves pre-packaged lunches being delivered to classrooms. Lunches would require minimal utensils so they can be eaten outside when weather permits. We are also exploring the use of a mobile app to order lunches a week in advance so that students are served something they like that also meets any dietary restrictions they may have.
- The recommendations coming from—and restrictions imposed by—local and federal agencies are ever-changing; therefore, our plans will remain flexible in order to provide the most effective possible response. We will reevaluate our plans as circumstances require. We will survey our families regularly to get a sense of what is working well and what is not.
Health and Safety
- We will ask all Maret families and faculty to report to our school nurses if they have traveled—whether within or outside of the United States—to high-risk areas; if so, they may need to quarantine before coming onto campus.
- Every person coming to Maret’s campus will be required to adhere to specific hygiene practices, which may include (but are not limited to) daily health questionnaires, social distancing, wearing face coverings, regular handwashing, and temperature taking.
- HVAC systems are being assessed according to industry standards to ensure appropriate ventilation and filtration. Windows and doors will remain open whenever possible to allow for the continual flow of fresh air.
- The nurse’s office will relocate to the Lower School after-school area to provide a larger space and easy access to an exterior door. The nurses have also begun to procure PPE and hand sanitizer.
- The buildings and grounds team will be updating bathrooms with touchless faucets and ensuring each floor has a touchless water fountain to refill water bottles. Mobile hand-washing stations and additional hand sanitizer dispensers will also be provided near entrances and exits.
- Pathways and movement on campus will be restricted. Certain doors will be designated for exit only and certain hallways will be one-way. To help acclimate the community to this, we are working to provide a preview of the building for families and faculty in mid-August. We hope that this will ease the re-entry process and help familiarize everyone with how to move around campus.
Save These Dates
- If circumstances and conditions permit, some on-campus community-building activities will begin on Monday, August 24. Many faculty are asked to return on August 17 for training on new health and safety procedures, as well as new technology enhancements.
- We plan to extend the October long weekend to go from Thursday, October 8 through Monday, October 12. This will allow us to analyze the present situation and make mid-course adjustments.
SCHEDULES AND OPTIONS FOR FALL 2020
Scenario 1—On-Campus, Bricks-and-Mortar
Under the fully on-campus learning scenario, all aspects of the program would take place at 3000 Cathedral Avenue, NW. We have been working on a revised daily schedule for the past two years and would implement that schedule under this scenario. Realistically, unless widespread immunity develops (naturally or because of a vaccine) in a miraculously short time, this option will not happen in the fall. It is included here for completeness.
Scenario 2—COL At-Home
This scenario is the opposite end of the spectrum. Circumstances (for example, a large spike of cases in our area or an outbreak within our school community) may require Maret to implement a fully virtual COL program and schedule. Each week, all Middle School and Upper School courses would meet twice synchronously and once asynchronously. Across grades K-12, all students would be offered additional office hours, small group gatherings, and other synchronous connections. Division directors and department chairs have been working closely with the technology department to enhance our virtual plan, and you can explore the new schedules for this model using the links above.
Scenario 3—COL Hybrid (plan and schedule under construction)
This scenario is the one that we have been working on for over a month. It is very complicated and still under discussion. Our present idea is to have students in 7th through 12th grade on campus two days a week for their regular classes and activities (half of the students on Monday and Tuesday; the other half on Thursday and Friday—with Wednesday at home using the COL schedule). We are exploring the technology that would allow this to work smoothly.
Students in K-6 classes would also come to campus twice a week with the balance of the week spent in COL at home. While on campus, students would spend time with their homeroom teachers and have a variety of other classes in-person with their teachers. This would be a time to build community and socialize with friends.
Another idea being considered is to provide child care on campus for families with younger children who do not have adequate child-care options. Parents would bring their children to campus five days a week from 8:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Students would be fully supervised by adults who would help them navigate their COL work. Students in the five-day on-campus program would be grouped and classrooms configured to ensure, insofar as possible, compliance with current recommendations—i.e., no more than 11 students in a class pod, no mixing of pods, students sitting in forward-facing desks spaced six feet apart. Students would be required to wear masks most of the day (lunch would be served outside when possible), and opportunities to leave the classroom would be limited.
We will continue to devise Scenario 3 so that it is as comprehensive as possible. In the fall and into the winter, we will analyze our academic plan every four to six weeks and make improvements and adjustments as needed and as circumstances permit.
Thank you again for being such valuable partners. I appreciate your patience as we move forward, and I look forward to the conversations coming up next week.
Head of School