2021-22 School Year Plan August 2021
2021-22 School Year Plan, as of August 26
Updated 8/26 Essential Highlights
- We are grateful to return to our full program and regular building configuration, supported by our community-wide commitment to multi-layered health and safety protocols that made our 2020-21 school year successful.
- We will maintain essential, effective health and safety practices, including masks, daily health screening, staying home when ill, regular community testing, and quarantine protocols.
- We will open with a fully in-person school model.
- A telepresence option (joining an in-person class via Zoom) is available only for students in 1st - 8th grade students with a documented medical need or who must self-quarantine and remain asymptomatic.
- We will maintain our robust Distance Learning program to support continued student learning when a homeroom or grade must self-quarantine.
- We require COVID-19 vaccination for all eligible students, faculty, and staff.
- If you may qualify for a medical or religious exemption, please contact us immediately for a confidential conversation.
- We require masks indoors, regardless of vaccination status. Students and employees may choose not to wear masks in specific outdoor settings.
- We plan to welcome fully vaccinated parents and caregivers in the building for select events and appointments.
- As a general rule, masks will be required at all times indoors, and events including food and drink will be held outdoors whenever possible or with a large amount of space indoors.
- We are ready to shift planning and practice if needed – whether in response to continually improving circumstances or new virus developments that may require a temporary return to more restrictive protocols.
As we return to more typical school and life experiences while maintaining essential health and safety protocols, our community’s commitment to taking care of Self, Others, and Surroundings in all aspects of our lives continues to be essential. Thank you for your part in helping to ensure joyful, in-person teaching and learning while helping support our community’s overall health, safety, well-being, and success.
As always, our planning is guided by:
- Our commitment to provide an excellent educational experience for students.
- Supporting the health, safety, and well-being of our entire school community.
- Prioritizing the return of our full program wherever possible.
- Internal expertise of our administrative team, faculty, and staff, including reflections on the lived experience of this past school year.
- Current, relevant scientific data, guidance from government health agencies, and input from our Town community Health Advisory Task Force.
- Our shared values and our commitment to flexibility, empathy, and creative problem-solving in rising to new opportunities and challenges.
Building on success, guided by expertise
Town’s planning for the 2021-22 school year builds on our successful in-person model from 2020-21, with modifications informed by:
- CDC and NY State guidance
- studies showing that vaccines are safe and effective in keeping individuals healthy and preventing the spread of COVID-19 to others
- advice from medical experts on Town’s Health Advisory Task Force
- reflection and refinement of our policies, protocols, and practices from 2021-22
- our own lived experience and internal expertise on the best approach for our students and our school community
Planning for multiple scenarios, including building closure, if necessary
- We are preparing for the beginning of school based on what we know now from the most current science, research, and guidelines, and we will continue to review new information as it comes in, with readiness to shift to more or fewer restrictions as appropriate.
- While continued progress on vaccinations and relatively low rates of COVID-19 in New York are highly encouraging, new virus variants (including the Delta variant) have informed our refined plan and may require further revisions to our school community’s protocols.
- Town 2021-22 building closing thresholds:
- 3% maximum in-building infection rate.
- As directed by the NYC Department of Health, New York State, or other governing agency.
- We reserve the right to act out of appropriate caution to move to Distance Learning at any point Town’s leadership feels such a shift is necessary to support program continuity and community health and safety.
- We will continue our tuition reduction program, which applies after 10 cumulative days of full-school distance learning. The tuition reduction will be applied to the actual number of days in distance learning, after 10 cumulative days of building closure, at the following rates:
- 40% reduction for Nursery 3 and Nursery 4
- 20% reduction for Kindergarten
- 10% reduction for Grades 1 - 8
- After the 10-day threshold is met, all subsequent distance learning days will be pro-rated as above. Please note that only a full building closure (with no in-person/in-building learning) activates this tuition reduction model.
- We are planning to begin our school year based on the current guidance of three feet of distance in classrooms but will be prepared to shift back to our six-foot configuration if required at any point.
Observations from 2020-21 and current recommendations
Our lived experience in 2020-21 showed:
- Multi-layered health and safety protocols including masks, hand-washing/sanitizing, regular testing, staying home with any symptoms of illness, and open communication are highly effective in keeping our community healthy.
- Our comprehensive contact-tracing process indicated no in-building transmission of COVID-19 in 2020-21. We also observed an extremely low incidence of more typical illnesses such as colds, strep, and flu.
- Our expert, dedicated faculty are able to deliver engaging, student-centered curriculum and support students in a variety of settings.
- Our staff are tireless and innovative, adapting as needed to support all aspects of school function.
- All employees and families are willing to make adjustments in our personal lives to support continual in-person education for our students.
Current New York State Health Department recommendations for schools:
- Our current building configuration planning for 2021-22 is informed by New York State’s updated guidance for three feet of physical distancing in schools, issued in April 2021, CDC recommendations, and the NY State Education Department's Health and Safety Guide for 2021-22, issued August 2021.
Health and Safety Policies
Our health and safety protocols are based on the latest information and guidelines as well as our specific school population, which at present includes a majority of students who are not yet eligible for vaccination. As we did throughout 2020-21, our School Nurse, COO, Health Advisory Task Force, and leadership team will continually review new scientific data and health department guidelines about COVID-19 and revise Town policies when appropriate.
All vaccinations required for attending school are mandated to help support both individual and community health and safety. After extensive consideration and evaluation of all the information currently available to us, we will require COVID-19 vaccinations for eligible students and employees, believing that it is the best decision for Town. Research shows that vaccines protect against COVID-19 illness and significantly reduce transmission of the virus to others. While local infection rates remain low, the impact of variants and the longer-term outlook of the virus’ trajectory are not clear. As a school community, every additional vaccinated person in our building supports the health of everyone.
- We require all faculty and staff to be vaccinated for COVID-19 unless a documented medical reason makes it unsafe for them to do so.
- We require all eligible students (currently, 12 and older) to be vaccinated for COVID-19 unless a documented medical reason makes it unsafe for them to do so.
- If your child is eligible for a medical or religious exemption, please contact the school immediately for a confidential conversation.
- As younger students become eligible, we will require them to be vaccinated for COVID-19. We will offer guidance and clear expectations when students younger than 12 become eligible for vaccination.
- We anticipate requiring full vaccination (two weeks beyond the final dose) within 10 weeks of a student’s eligibility date.
- We track COVID-19 vaccination status in Magnus Health for both students and employees, along with other required medical information, and you should now see the requirement in your Magnus account.
- COVID-19 vaccinated parents and caregivers may enter the building for select events and appointments and must show proof of vaccination at the door (Excelsior pass or vaccination card).
- The first time you enter the building, a Town staff member will review your proof of vaccination and give you a sticker to add to your Town ID badge. Once you have your sticker, you may simply show your ID with the sticker at the security desk to enter the building.
- For parents and caregivers with a documented medical issue preventing vaccination, please contact us for a conversation.
- We continue to monitor booster shot information, and we anticipate requiring proof of a booster shot if and when appropriate for employees and students.
Mask Policies, Updated 8/26/21
In considering Town’s mask policy for the start of school, we have evaluated all current information, including guidelines from the CDC and New York State, as well the rapidly evolving trajectory of the Delta variant. Scientific data and our own lived experience indicate that masks are effective in helping prevent disease transmission (note the near-zero incidence of influenza cases at school last year). We have therefore increased our mask requirements from our July plan preview, out of appropriate caution in response to the more contagious nature of the Delta variant of the COVID-19 virus.
- Masks are required indoors for all students and adults, regardless of vaccination status.
- Mask breaks will be provided for students during snack, lunch, appropriate outdoor activities, and during select silent, physically distanced indoor settings.
- Employees may take mask breaks while eating or drinking in shared spaces, and any time while in a private space.
- For outdoor activities:
- Unvaccinated students must wear masks during unstructured outdoor activities, such as recess, sign-ups, or other free-play settings when close contact will frequently occur.
- Unvaccinated students may choose not to wear their masks during structured outdoor activities, such as PE or dance classes with specific formations that maintain physical distance.
- Vaccinated students and adults may choose to not wear their masks during both structured and unstructured outdoor activities.
- Masks must:
- cover the mouth and nose comfortably.
- fit securely enough to stay put on the face without constant adjustments, and be comfortable enough to wear consistently.
- be clean (if reusable) or new (if disposable) at the start of each day.
- be brought home at the end of each day for washing (or disposed of, if single-use paper surgical masks).
- While the proper fit is the most important aspect of a good mask, we also encourage double-masking with a paper mask under a cloth mask, cloth masks with a filter insert, or upgraded paper masks (such as KF94 or KN95).
- Neck gaiters and bandanas are not allowed.
- Masks with an unfiltered exhalation valve are not allowed.
- We will continue to provide paper surgical masks appropriately sized for children and adults for anyone who arrives at school without a face covering.
Testing and Quarantine Policies, Updated 8/26/21
Scheduled community-wide testing:
- Pre-Opening Day Test: All students and employees must take a molecular COVID-19 test within seven days of the first day of school, on or after Friday, 9/3.
- Students should have a printed copy of their negative test results to enter the building on the first day of school.
- Students or employees who test positive for COVID-19 should begin self-quarantine at home (more details in quarantine section below) and will be provided details about a telepresence option for 1st - 8th graders or learning materials and teacher check-ins for N-K students.
- Pooled Testing: All students and employees, regardless of vaccination status, will participate in pooled COVID-19 testing as we begin the school year, and we will continue to assess this policy throughout the year.
- Families will be charged $25 per testing round with a 50% discount for families receiving financial aid
- The pooled testing is a molecular test using a nasal swab sample collected at home. Students and employees will take home the nasal swab sample collection kit and return samples on the same day.
- For any positive test results, we will follow our contact tracing, community notification, and quarantine protocols.
- Town’s School Nurse will continue to advise families and employees about necessary testing related to COVID-19 symptoms or explores.
Testing and quarantine protocols for exposure, symptoms, or a positive test result:
Always communicate early and often with Town, and coordinate all testing and quarantine plans with the School Nurse. Click here for some NYS testing options.
If a student or employee is exposed to a confirmed case of COVID-19:
- Fully vaccinated students and employees exposed to a confirmed case of COVID-19 will not be required to quarantine and may continue attending school/work as long as they remain asymptomatic and do not subsequently test positive for COVID-19.
- We will recommend an immediate rapid test (PCR or antigen).
- We will require a molecular (PCR) test taken 3 - 5 days after the date of exposure, with results sent to the School Nurse.
- If at any point the student or employee becomes symptomatic, they must contact the School Nurse, begin self-quarantine, and get tested.
- Unvaccinated students who qualify as close contacts with a confirmed case of COVID-19 must quarantine for 10 days after the date of the last exposure.
- We will require a molecular (PCR) test taken 3 - 5 days after the date of exposure. Send results to the School Nurse.
- All students must complete the full 10 days of quarantine regardless of test results.
- If the exposure occurs outside of school, only the exposed student(s) will need to quarantine.
- If the exposure occurs while at school, we will quarantine at minimum the homeroom group, and potentially the whole grade, based on circumstances.
- Sibling guidance:
- Siblings of a student who is in quarantine due to exposure are a contact of a contact and do not need to quarantine, but should maintain as much physical distance from their quarantining sibling as possible. They should continue coming to school, unless their sibling who was directly exposed tests positive or develops symptoms.
- Siblings of a student who has tested positive or shown symptoms of COVID-19 are direct contacts, and should therefore follow testing and quarantine protocols based on the situation and their vaccination status.
If a student or employee develops symptoms consistent with COVID-19, the following protocols apply, regardless of vaccination status:
- Stay home or go home immediately and work with the School Nurse to determine appropriate next steps, including testing.
- If the symptoms develop while at school, the School Nurse will administer a rapid antigen test (with parent/guardian permission) and contact parents about picking up the ill student.
- If the symptoms develop while at home, contact the Nurse to discuss appropriate next steps, including testing.
- Even if a symptom resolves quickly (such as a 24-hour fever) we will ask parents to get students tested whenever there is reason to believe the symptom is consistent with COVID-19.
- We will require an immediate, day-of, rapid test (antigen or PCR) to help us identify an infection as quickly as possible and to support contact tracing.
- If the rapid test is negative, the student or employee may return to school/work after they have been symptom-free for 24 hours, without the use of medication.
- The School Nurse may administer a rapid antigen test at school for anyone who becomes symptomatic while at school, as antigen tests are shown to be highly accurate in identifying COVID-19 infection in symptomatic individuals.
- If the rapid test is positive, the student or employee will begin self-quarantine for 10 days from the date their symptoms began.
- The School Nurse will advise about further testing requirements and the plan for return to school/work.
- If the rapid test is negative, the student or employee may return to school/work after they have been symptom-free for 24 hours, without the use of medication.
Travel quarantine and testing protocols:
- Town is aligned with the current New York State travel advisory, which does not mandate testing or quarantine after domestic travel.
- You should always carefully monitor yourself and your children for COVID-19 symptoms after travel, and get a rapid (antigen or PCR) test at any sign of symptoms.
- For international travel, note that you must present a negative test result before flying back to the US.
Contact Tracing and Communication
Our contact tracing and communication protocols will continue as established last year:
- Timely, transparent communication with the School Nurse is essential.
- Please contact the School Nurse immediately about a positive COVID-19 test result for your child or in your household, if your child has symptoms of COVID-19, or if there are any other changes in your child's or your family's health status it may be helpful for the school to know.
- The School Nurse is also happy to have a conversation any time you have questions!
- As soon as the school is made aware of a positive COVID-19 case, we will work with the student's family or employee to determine all close contacts who should be notified.
- The "look-back" period for exposure remains at two days, meaning we will work to identify all close contacts within two days prior to the individual's positive test or symptoms.
- We will only share identifying details about an individual who has tested positive with explicit permission.
- We will ask your permission to share relevant details as needed as this can be a very helpful support to individual contact tracing conversations.
- Our communication with the grade and the wider Town community will not include personal details unless we have explicit permission.
- Communication process:
- If the close contacts include people exposed at school, Town will quickly notify the employees and grade impacted.
- Employees will be notified in-person, by phone, or by email.
- Parents in the individual's grade will be notified by email, text message, and a phone call with a recorded message.
- The School Nurse and contact tracing team will reach out to individual families or employees as needed.
- Notifications to close contacts will include details about the date of exposure and the appropriate next steps.
- Unvaccinated individuals will be directed to begin self-quarantine and get a molecular COVID-19 test 3 - 5 days from the date of exposure.
- Vaccinated individuals, as long as they have no symptoms, may continue attending school/work as they monitor for symptoms and get a molecular COVID-19 test 3 - 5 days from the date of exposure.
- Town will notify the entire community of positive COVID-19 test results for students or employees. These notifications will typically indicate there is no action needed for the wider community beyond continuing best health and safety protocols.
- Town will not send a notification about positive COVID-19 test results for family members who are not current students or employees. We will work with the family or employee on a plan for self-quarantine, if needed, and for individually notifying personal contacts.
- If the close contacts include people exposed at school, Town will quickly notify the employees and grade impacted.
Daily Health Screening
Daily health screening will continue for all students and employees:
- We will continue to use Ruvna Health for a daily health screening questionnaire to help reduce the likelihood of students and adults entering the building with COVID-19 or other illnesses.
- If a student or employee "fails" the daily health screening due to symptoms of illness, they should stay home, contact the School Nurse to discuss the next steps, and plan to get a rapid (antigen or PCR test) the same day.
- The screening questions will be the same as last year, asking whether you are experiencing different symptoms, whether you have a fever above 100 degrees, and whether you have recently been exposed to a confirmed case of COVID-19 or been diagnosed with COVID-19.
Health Office Policies
We will maintain our policy that students and employees should not come to school with active symptoms of COVID-19 or other infectious diseases – especially a fever, even if controlled by medication.
- If your child is exhibiting symptoms of illness, please keep them home and seek guidance from your healthcare provider and the School Nurse.
- As has been our practice, the Nurse will help evaluate your particular situation, including when testing is indicated and when it is appropriate to return to school.
- Full details about this policy and daily practice are in the Health Office Policies posted on TownToday.
Hand-washing remains an important tool in supporting overall health and reducing the spread of illness. Town will continue to provide and maintain hand hygiene stations around the school as follows:
- For handwashing: soap, running warm water, and disposable paper towels or dryers in all restrooms.
- For hand sanitizing: a 60% alcohol-based hand sanitizer for areas where hand-washing stations may not be available
- Student use of alcohol-based hand sanitizers should always be supervised by adults, as is required to minimize accidental ingestion and promote safe usage.
- The school will provide accommodation for students who cannot use hand sanitizer.
- Hand sanitizer will be available throughout all common areas of the school and placed in convenient areas. Touch-free hand sanitizer dispensers are installed where possible.
- Receptacles will be placed around the school for disposal of soiled items, including paper towels and PPE.
- Students will be instructed about proper handwashing procedures.
Building, Program, Daily Life
We anticipate returning to most aspects of our typical building configuration and our full program, while maintaining essential health and safety measures. As we prepare for the model below, we will also be prepared to make modifications to more or less restrictive protocols as needed.
Building: Space Use, Water Fountains, Restrooms, HVAC, and Cleaning
In 2020-21, we reconfigured our entire building to support the recommended six feet of distance in classrooms, converting all shared spaces to classrooms and greatly reducing student movement throughout the building. In the spring of 2021, the CDC and NY State Department of Health guidance for classroom distancing shifted to three feet, which allows Town to return to our regular building configuration in 2021-22, and we have created our academic schedule accordingly.
- All students will return to their regular homeroom locations.
- Shared spaces – the gym, library, theater, science labs, tech labs, and arts wing – will return to their intended use for “specials” classes, with some modifications in support of health and safety.
- We may keep some elements of our physically distanced model that proved beneficial, such as having younger children at their desks for music.
- We will resume some limited use of locker rooms for PE classes and sports.
- We will continue to use outdoor spaces (terraces, playroof, and John Jay Park) for classes and recess as appropriate.
- All grades will resume the use of cubbies.
- Upper School will continue to have PE classes at Randall’s Island, as they did last year.
- We continue our policy one only one person in the restroom at a time. The majority of Town’s bathrooms are single-occupancy by design, and we will require single-occupancy for group bathrooms available on the first floor as well. Nursery-Kindergarten teachers will assist children with toileting as needed (while wearing appropriate PPE), and all teachers will consistently remind children of the requirement of proper handwashing after using the bathroom. Age-appropriate signage will be posted, reminding children (and adults) of proper procedures.
- Our daily, school-wide, comprehensive cleaning regimen will continue, including nightly cleaning of all classroom surfaces and regular disinfection of shared classroom materials with electrostatic sprayers. Cleaning and disinfection are the primary responsibility of our maintenance team. Faculty and staff will also be provided cleaning and disinfecting supplies for use as needed throughout the day.
- Water fountains will remain for use as water-bottle filling stations only (no drinking directly from the fountain).
- Students, faculty, and staff are encouraged to bring personal water bottles or use disposable cups to use at faucets and water-bottle refilling stations.
- Our upgraded HVAC protocols will continue, with a three-pronged approach to help mitigate the spread of any contaminants that may become airborne:
- Air Purifiers with HEPA filters will be placed in offices and smaller classrooms.
- HVAC Filters for air handlers are on an increased filter rotation schedule and upgraded to 13-15 MERV, where appropriate and where systems will allow.
- Upper-Room / Upper-Air Germicidal UV-C light fixtures are mounted where applicable. These fixtures expose airborne pollutants to UV-C irradiation, which breaks down the microbes and renders them inactive.
Arrival and Dismissal, Early Risers, Clubhouse, Postscript, Updated 8/26/21
- We will continue using all three entrances – the 76th Street main doors and gym door, and the 75th Street entrance – as well as staggered arrival and dismissal times (posted on TownToday) to support safe and efficient arrival and dismissal for all students.
- Parents and caregivers will still be asked to drop off and pick up students at the door. (Though we will allow vaccinated adults into the building for events and appointments, we are not able to effectively check each individual’s vaccination status during the heavy traffic periods of arrival and dismissal.)
- Early Risers begins Monday, September 13th for families who are not able to drop off at the regular time. We ask that families drop their children off as close to their scheduled arrival times as possible. For those families who truly need it, children can be dropped off starting at 7:30am, at the 75th Street entrance.
- Clubhouse (our mixed-age after-school care) begins Monday, September 13th for families who require an after-school care option. Details are posted on the Back-to-School Resource Board on TownToday.
- Postscript classes will be held in person; the class catalog and registration are posted on the Back-to-School Resource Board on TownToday.
- After-school music lessons and tutoring will continue in-person; music lesson procedures and the sign-up form are posted on the Back-to-School Resource Board on TownToday.
Program: Trips, Use of Special Spaces, Student Cohorts, Athletics, Performing Arts, Updated 8/26/21
We will no longer use the small student cohort model. This decision is informed by NY State and CDC guidance and the demonstrated effectiveness of our multi-layered approach to health and safety including masks and regular testing, and our school-wide adherence to all Health Office protocols and our community compact.
- All students will return to a full homeroom, in the regular classroom locations. A homeroom is the full grade for Nursery 3 and Nursery 4, and half the grade for Kindergarten - 8th grade.
- If a positive COVID-19 test result occurs in an unvaccinated grade, we will quarantine the homeroom or full grade as indicated by contact tracing.
Arts, science, and PE classes will return to their typical models and spaces:
- We are thrilled to resume art classes in the art studio, dance in the dance studio, drama in the theater, science in the Lower and Upper School Labs, and PE in the gym!
- We will remain flexible in our planning, with multiple scenarios ready should circumstances change during the year.
- For PE classes, Upper School students will wear their PE uniform to school on Randall's Island days (Tuesday for 5th/6th and Wednesday for 7th/8th).
We will resume mixed-grade extra-curricular activities, assuming current low rates of COVID-19 hold and current guidance remains the same.
- Lower School Chorus will resume full-group before-school rehearsals on Fridays, spacing out grades within the theater to avoid close contacts beyond the grade level, and with all singers wearing masks.
- We anticipate the return of Town Grooves Dance groups.
We will not yet resume in-person buddy class visits, as these involve sustained, close contact with older and younger (unvaccinated) students who would not otherwise interact. We will continue to review models for this beloved part of Town’s program, and anticipate that as all students become eligible for vaccination we will be able to return to in-person buddy visits.
Interscholastic sports and other team competition will resume:
- The fall soccer season will resume our usual schedule of competition with other schools, with all games held outside.
- Students will wear masks on the bus and on the sidelines.
- Students may be un-masked while playing.
- Team members will make use of the locker rooms in small groups, always wearing masks.
- Parent spectators will be welcome at games, with masks encouraged.
- As indoor basketball season gets closer, we will evaluate the current virus trajectory and the latest guidance while working with fellow schools to determine health and safety protocols.
- LEGO robotics teams will continue to meet after school as they did this past year, and we anticipate the return to in-person competition in the early spring.
Day trips reinstated, overnight trips likely to return:
- As of now, we are planning to resume some overnight trips, with all appropriate health and safety measures in place:
- 8th graders will travel to Washington, DC in September as the kick-off for their history curriculum for the year.
- 7th graders will have a fall overnight trip as part of their Civic Engagement program.
- 4th and 3rd grades will return to the farm in the winter and spring respectively (pending COVID-19 vaccination eligibility).
- 8th graders will take their culminating Civic Engagement trip in June.
- Science-curriculum trips for 5th and 6th graders in September that are usually overnight trips have been reconfigured as day trips.
- Day trips related to curriculum across the grades will be a regular aspect of our program once again (building on the success of our class trips in May and June of 2021), always taking into account health and safety during travel and at each specific location.
- Our planning will always be informed by the current COVID-19 virus and vaccination rates, the latest guidelines for schools, and any requirements from our partner organizations.
Lunch, Updated 8/26/21
Current guidance from the CDC and NY State allows for students to eat lunch with three feet of physical distance.
- We will continue our practice of individual lunches, ordered through our custom Nutrislice site, at least through Winter Break, and until guidelines and our internal community circumstances shift enough to allow a different model.
- N-K students will continue to bring their lunches from home and eat in their classrooms.
- Lower School students will have their individual lunches delivered and eat in their homerooms at their desks.
- Upper School students will have their individual lunches delivered and eat in their homerooms or the cafeteria, on a rotating basis.
- We will continue our practice of quiet lunch periods for the time being, as masks will be off while students are eating.
We were grateful to be able to continue all student transportation options throughout 2020-21, and will continue to do so in 2021-22. Click here for an overview of student transportation options. (Note that the transportation survey is now closed; contact email@example.com if you have questions about signing up.)
- Note for families requesting NYC public school bus service: as of now, we do not have the required 11 students to establish a downtown or West Side bus route.
- We plan to engage additional buses for all student field trips and for athletics to ensure we are able to maintain appropriate distance as indicated by the latest guidance.
- Students must wear masks while riding the bus to school or on trips.
Social-emotional Wellness and Learning Support
Our planning for an excellent educational experience will always include supporting and attending to students' social-emotional well-being and learning, and supporting our faculty and staff's physical and social-emotional wellness as they continue to rise to new challenges. In the fall of 2020, we knew that students and adults in our community would be holding fears and concerns as we returned to an in-person school model and our opening plan included a focus on supporting these needs. This fall, our return to a more typical school experience may prompt mixed emotions. There may be some discomfort in the easing of restrictions for children and adults who have become so accustomed to certain health and safety measures. There may also be feelings of joy and excitement to return to school, but with wonders about new aspects of the program, a new grade level, or returning – or inhabiting for the first time – different spaces in the building. As always, our expert faculty, leadership team, and school psychologists are well-attuned to children’s needs and will be ready and able to support students wherever they are in the process of adjusting to yet another “new normal.”
- Upper School Psychologist Isaac Silberstein, retiring Nursery-Kindergarten and Lower School Psychologist Jan Mooney, and incoming N-K and LS Psychologist Monica Zweig have been working together to develop training and resources to help faculty support students and one another as we begin the new school year.
- Teachers will continue their practice of family check-ins in late August/early September for Nursery-Kindergarten and Lower School, and advisor meetings for Upper School during the first few days of school, to make connections and understand any support needs as early as possible.
- Isaac Silberstein and Monica Zweig will continue their essential roles as resources for students, families, faculty, and staff.
Technology and Learning Supplies to Support Teaching and Learning
We will maintain the educational technology systems that have enhanced both in-person teaching and learning and the transition to at-home learning this past year:
- Personal iPads for every Town student as a learning tool for in-person classes and to support remote learning, if needed.
- Personal learning kits ready if needed for distance learning including all necessary basic learning materials, art and music supplies, and books.
- TownToday website (parent and student portal) with general resources for all parents and 4th - 8th grade students.
- Student Town Google accounts for student calendars, email for older grades, and Google suite productivity tools.
- Zoom as needed for class meetings and community events, including guest speakers.
- Seesaw for Nursery 3 - 3rd grades: a platform for submitting student work that also makes it easier for teachers to offer instruction and to give timely and personal feedback.
- Schoology for 4th - 8th grades: a learning management system that gives students and parents access to in-class resources and homework assignments.
Telepresence and Distance Learning, Updated 8/26/21
The option for students to join in-person classes via telepresence was an important part of our reopening plan in the fall of 2020, with so much unknown and families experiencing a range of challenging circumstances. Our teachers did a remarkable job of integrating this brand-new element into their classrooms, rising to the considerable challenge of engaging online learners alongside a full in-person classroom. We now more fully appreciate the significant additional demands of telepresence as well as the relatively high safety of in-person learning with appropriate health protocols in place. We therefore will no longer offer telepresence as an opt-in program in 2021-22. Only students with a documented medical need (for themselves or a member of their household) will have this option. We encourage you to reach out to your Division Head and our School Nurse to begin a confidential conversation if your family requires this option.
Telepresence will also be available for individual 1st - 8th grade students who are quarantining at home and are asymptomatic.
- If a student is not feeling well, they should take a true sick day to rest and recover.
- If a student must quarantine due to exposure or a positive COVID-19 test, and they are feeling well, telepresence will be available.
- Telepresence will only be available for 1st - 8th grade students, and only for core academic subjects. Teachers will provide the appropriate links for students to join the in-person class from home.
- Based on our lived experience, N-K students will not have the option of telepresence this year. At-home learning materials will be provided and teachers will check in with the student and family regularly.
If a full homeroom or grade must quarantine due to COVID-19 exposure at school, we will move to Distance Learning, with the entire group of quarantined students attending classes on Zoom.
- Our robust distance learning program has been continually refined over the past 18 months and supports excellent continuity of student learning and support when remote learning is required.
- Our school-wide 1:1 iPad program supports both developmentally appropriate in-school learning and a consistent remote school experience.
- We will continue our practice of taking a pause day as needed for teachers to prepare learning materials and families to prepare for the switch to remote learning.
- Detailed schedules and all necessary details for students and families will be provided as needed.
Community Events and Allowing Vaccinated Parents in the Building
We are very happy to welcome COVID-19 vaccinated parents and caregivers in the building this fall, and to be planning for the return of some in-person all-community events later in the school year! As with all other school year planning, we will remain flexible and prepared to shift to more or less restrictive protocols as appropriate to best support community health and safety.
Vaccinated parents and caregivers may come into the building for events and appointments, but not during arrival and dismissal.
- Parents and caregivers will be asked to show proof of COVID-19 vaccination at the door, and we highly recommend that NY residents get the Excelsior pass as one convenient option for this requirement.
- For parents and caregivers with a documented medical issue preventing vaccination, please contact us for a conversation about alternatives.
- Once parents and caregivers have shown proof of vaccination, the Town security staff will provide a sticker to add to their Town ID, which they can show for easier future entry to the building.
- Our security process remains the same as in past years: all adults entering the building must have a Town ID or check-in with the security desk for a visitor’s pass.
- New parents and caregivers, and anyone in need of a replacement ID, please email your full name and a head-and-shoulders photo to firstname.lastname@example.org.
- The heavy traffic during arrival and dismissal poses a logistical barrier to effectively checking vaccination status at the door, so we will not yet allow parents and caregivers in the building during these periods.
Parent and Caregiver Events, Update 8/26/21
For all in-person events, we will require proof of vaccination and a mask to enter the building.
- For parent events held indoors, such as education evenings or parent coffees, we will not serve food and drink and will require everyone to keep their masks on.
- For more social events, such as the Welcome Back Receptions for each grade, we will hold them outside on the playroof or in an indoor space with extra room so people may more safely remove masks to eat and drink.
Current planning for event formats:
- Nursery-Kindergarten parent coffees on September 8th will be via Zoom, to facilitate full-team presentations.
- The Parents’ Association welcome event for new parents on September 8th will be on Zoom, at 6:00pm.
- Grade-level parent events will be in person.
- Parent coffees will be in person.
- Curriculum Nights for all Divisions will remain on Zoom, based on positive feedback for this format from both teachers and parents.
- Conferences will remain on Zoom, based on positive feedback, particularly the reduced travel burden on families for these essential meetings that take place throughout the work day.
- ALANA parent group meetings will be in person.
- Individual parent meetings with teachers or Division Heads (outside of conferences) will be in person, or via Zoom if helpful for scheduling.
- Student plays and performances: our goal is to welcome parents in-person to join the student audience for plays and performances when we can do so safely, and we will determine parent attendance options based on the latest guidelines. We will continue to share a video of student plays with parents.
- All School Assemblies will continue to be livestreamed, with students joining from their classrooms and parents viewing from home. We will share a recording with parents after the Assembly.
Community event planning is based on the latest guidance for both outdoor and indoor events, spaces in our school where we can maintain appropriate distance for unvaccinated students, and other factors specific to our school community:
- The Town Parents’ Association is working closely with the Town leadership and operations teams to determine which community events and services can return to in-person models. More details will be included in the August back-to-school information.
- Our Book Fair will remain primarily virtual to support safe all-school book browsing and guest author interaction, with some potential modifications as indicated by the latest guidelines.
- Our annual Benefit party format will be determined by both health and safety guidelines and parent feedback – especially our PA co-chairs – based on our highly successful virtual event in May 2021.
- We anticipate bring back our All School Picnic in May, and will keep the community updated!
- All School Assemblies will continue to be held via Zoom, with classrooms joining as a group, until we reach a vaccination rate that supports all students gathering in close proximity in the gym.
- We will continue to monitor the latest guidance in determining the threshold at which we may safely return to in-person assemblies and when we may safely invite parents to join us.