Throughout this year, our plan is to maximize face to face instruction within the context of community health as well as any governmental constraints. Our planning for next year has been guided by three key priorities:
Relationships. Prioritize the continuity, connectedness, and wellbeing of our students. This includes relationships with teachers and peers and care for their emotional, mental, and physical health. Each division is developing specific plans to prioritize relationships and ensure every student is supported.
Health & Safety. Prioritize safety in consultation with public health experts, the medical community, other schools including colleges, and leading organizations.
Flexibility. Prioritize creative options to maximize learning, especially face-to-face.
We will continue to be guided by the recommendations of local authorities as well as international and national public health organizations (e.g., the CDC, WHO) as we develop and implement our safeguarding measures to guide campus re-openings.
We recognize that we will need to adjust and adapt our plans, including schedules and processes, as we stay responsive to changing health climates, directives from key authorities, and learn from our own experiences.
We have planned for five potential scenarios. These range from operating normally as we did pre-COVID to distance learning. Most of these scenarios will require us to adapt our approaches, including the make-up of our schedule, how we enact our curriculum, and adjustments in teaching routines. The scenario we will operate under at any given time is dependent on the health conditions and circumstances and will be based on expert guidance or government mandate. Given the continued uncertainty around the pandemic, it is possible we may need to transition between these various scenarios at different points in the school year. We will also continue to learn from other schools and organizations. New information and guidance from health officials will also impact our planning and additional scenarios are likely to emerge as a result.
In August, we will determine the scenario we will begin the school year with on September 8. The health environment in New York at that time will dictate that decision but we hope this document provides you a sense of the various scenarios that may be utilized. Until there is a vaccine or permanent health solution to COVID-19 that allows life to safely return to normal, continued flexibility and adaptability will be required.
First Principles of Design
Mixing of groups: The risk of a large gathering increases as the square of the gathering size. That is, a gathering that is 10 times larger will offer 100 times more transmission opportunities. Limiting group mixing is aimed at reducing the transmission opportunities within campus and is a core component of all of our modified schedule scenarios. Students will learn in self-contained groups, with strict limitations on cross-group mixing. Faculty will be assigned to each student group in order to further reduce mixing across groups. These measures will also allow us to implement effective and rapid contact tracing in the case of an infection and create a greater chance of containment. This principle will impact many aspects of our back to campus plans, including academic schedules, timing of drop off/pick up, lunch procedures, and how music, WAM and after school programs will be conducted.
Group size: There is no gathering size that can eliminate all risk, but there is a threshold between curbing the epidemic and having it spread based on the number of friends in a social network. Thus our approach is to limit the threshold of network effectiveness and reduce transmission opportunities.
Differentiate for learning independence: A typical distance learning environment will require students to be autonomous, self-regulated, and independent and have the maturity to maintain a sustained effort throughout the period of learning. While problem solving and persistence are often part of independent learning and decision-making behaviors that lead to and increase self-regulation. These behaviors are less developed in our youngest students and since they form the building blocks of future educational success those with less independence require greatest access to face-to-face learning from expert faculty.
Decision to Open / Close Campus or Modify Schedules
We will follow the guidance of state and local health authorities regarding the ability to open campus as scheduled. In the event that state and local health authorities deem that the health conditions in the general community require closing of schools, we will follow that guidance as well.
We will monitor our school’s infection rate relative to the New York City community transmission rate as reported by New York State’s reporting of positive COVID-19 cases: https://forward.ny.gov/percentage-positive-results-region-dashboard. If schools in New York City are authorized for in-person instruction and we have more than two cases in different cohorts in a week, or 0.5% of our population testing positive for COVID-19, we will implement enhanced mitigation measures through enhanced social distancing, intensified cleaning, enhanced screening, or schedule modification (e.g., shift to the 4-10 model). If our school’s internal infection rate is higher than the community transmission rate or the infection thresholds mandated by the state and local authorities, we will consult with local public health authorities about dismissal and shifting to full-online instruction until it is safe to return to campus.