Planning for Fall 2020
A Message from the Board of Directors
Dear Sagebrush Community,
Establishing a vision and plan to reopen our school requires a strong recognition and understanding of the challenges ahead. At this time, we recognize these important points:
We are only six months into experiencing a novel virus that is still not well understood.
There is still much to learn, and we will need to always stay abreast of new facts as they arise, adjusting our program accordingly.
We don’t know how long this situation will last, and we need to prepare for it to last longer than we wish it to.
There will be times when we are not fully in control of our program being open or closed and will need to be able to adapt quickly to changes.
As much as we can control what happens in our facilities, we will not be able to control what happens outside of our facilities and must take precautions accordingly.
A robust program is essential, which we define as offering a genuine Montessori education even as safety accommodations are made.
A flexible program is essential, which we define as being able to shift from openings to closures in a way that respects and serves the distinctly different needs of our three communities - Children’s House, Lower Elementary, and Upper Elementary
A durable program is essential, which we define as being able to serve across all seasons for at least two school years without major alterations or modifications.
It is important to affirm that we have two goals: to provide a complete Montessori education and to ensure the safety of our community. We believe that these goals do not need to be mutually exclusive and that, by working together, we can achieve them both.
Moving forward from these recognitions, our first step has been to form a Health and Wellness committee of health care professionals in our Sagebrush community who will define the protocols and systems that guide us forward. In the coming weeks, you will begin to see communications from us and increasing levels of detail about how things will work and what you can expect to see in September.
You will also see requests for help. Maintaining the quality of our programs under Covid-19 will ask all of us to give new levels of support to our community.
Our hope is that, in working together, the Sagebrush community can achieve what this challenging time calls for and offer the Montessori education and culture we’ve all come to value so deeply.
The Sagebrush Montessori Board of Directors
Our vision is to develop a robust, flexible and durable program that can offer a full and authentic Montessori education while keeping our Sagebrush Community (students, staff, families, extended families and caregivers) safe.
These recommendations are based on Benton County being, at a minimum, in Phase 2 of Washington’s Safe Start Plan by September 1st. If Benton County remains below Phase 2, students and families should be prepared to begin the 2020-2021 school year learning at home with a distance learning.
If school does open for in person learning in Fall of 2020, all families should be prepared for school closures related to isolated Covid-19 outbreaks or worsening conditions in the community due to Covid-19. In the case of school closures, Sagebrush Montessori will transition to a distance learning model within two school days.
We will continue to share information about the start of the 2020-2021 school year with families throughout the summer of 2020.
This document is a working document and will continue to evolve and be updated in the coming weeks and months as the Staff, Board of Directors and Committees further develop detailed plans. We also expect changes as we learn more about Covid-19’s impact on schools and our local community. You will be able to find a copy of this document, as well as other important documents related to reopening, on our school’s website under the Covid-19 tab.
Our primary guidance for this plan comes from OSPI, WFIS, DOH, and RSD as well as other Montessori Schools that have reopened for in person learning.
Establishing return to school committees
We will work to create committees made up of parents, staff, and board members to help develop and review input and potential solutions to our school’s unique challenges. The committees will include: Health and Wellness, Facilities and Operations, Instruction, and Distance Learning and Technology. With evaluation, these may break into smaller focus groups. Many of you expressed an interest in supporting a committee in our Return to School Survey. If you would like to support one of the above committees, please contact Samantha May, and let her know which area you would like to support.
Completing our Return to School Plan
This plan is the first version of what will be a changing and evolving document over the next few months. Health officials will continue to learn more about Covid-19, its spread, and its treatment. Federal, state and local health officials will continue to adapt and improve guidelines and rules. We know and expect changes.
This plan includes what we know for certain and includes areas we know we need to take action given the current state of understanding. It is the start of a large and important work we, as a whole school community, must undertake to keep our children engaged and learning during a time like none we have ever experienced before. We offer our gratitude and thanks for working together with us to make returning to school a possibility for our students.
Developing a Communication Plan
We will work to develop a plan to ensure easy access to information and for information to be shared with our school community timely manner. Communication methods will include direct emails, a dedicated tab on our website, social media and dedicated programs the school already uses such as SchoolCues and Teams.[JS1]
Keys to Our Re-opening Plan
Health and Wellness
Sagebrush will have procedures in place for students and staff to self-assess for illness before arriving on campus. Drop off procedures will be adapted to include health screening upon arrival, hand hygiene, and guidelines for limiting contact/social distancing. Pick up procedures will also be modified to limit contact.
Health screening will be essential in reducing the transmission of Covid-19 at school. We will put in place protocols for staff screening prior to arrival, staff screening upon arrival, parent screening of child prior to arrival, and staff screening of child upon arrival.
Under the direction of Department of Health and Washington Department of Labor & Industries, face coverings or face shields will be required for all staff and students. Parents/guardians will be required to wear masks during drop off and pick up. The school will develop strategies for social distancing within classroom spaces.
The school will develop protocols for what to do if someone should become during the school day. These protocols will follow recommendation made by state and local health authorities.
Our staff will educate children on proper hand washing techniques and develop a classroom culture of practicing good hygiene habits. Staff and children will engage in hand hygiene at the following times:
Arrival to the classroom and after breaks
Before and after eating/handling food
After using the toilet
After coming in contact with bodily fluid
After playing outdoors
After handling garbage
Before touching eyes, nose, or mouth
Before leaving school for the day
Illness Policy and Procedures
We are currently updating our health policies regarding illnesses (both Covid-19 and non-Covid-19 illnesses). The updated policy will include procedures for:
Covid-19 symptoms at school – children
Covid-19 symptoms at school – staff
Covid-19 exposure – staff and children
Positive case of Covid-19 in the classroom community – children or staff
All health policies will be in compliance with local and state health agencies.
Facilities and Operations
Access to the buildings
Upon resuming classes, access to the interior of the building will be limited to children and staff. Essential guests (i.e. HVAC repair person) will be scheduled during non-operational times when possible. Procedures will be developed in the case that this is not possible.
Community Events & Gatherings
We will discontinue group events and gatherings until further notice. This will include:
All school community events (i.e. back to school picnic)
Onsite parent teacher meetings and conferences
Cleaning and Disinfecting
Sagebrush will develop a detailed cleaning and sanitizing plan for classrooms, common areas, and bathrooms, including staff responsibilities.
At a minimum, cleaning will be done at opening, after lunch, and at the end of the day. Disinfecting will be done with a diluted bleach solution or equivalent (Chlorox wipes, Lysol, etc.)
It is not currently recommended to disinfect outdoor toys and equipment, but we plan to increase the frequency of general cleaning of outdoor equipment. Children will be required to wash hands upon returning to the school building after outdoor play time.
When possible, we will look for ways to increase fresh air flow in the buildings and allow for children to work outside.
A cleaning and disinfecting plan will be developed for use in the case that an infected person has been in the school building.
Alternating Schedules & Creative Use of Space
In order to meet the social distancing model set by the DOH, we will be assessing the following possibilities:
Utilizing our building and outdoor space to have all students back on campus
Locating additional space for programs
Create a schedule where students spend alternating days at home and school
Create a schedule where students spend half days at school and home
These models will be reviewed, and the community surveyed further as needed. We will also consider ways to amend the school calendar to maximize in person instruction.
Curriculum and Standards
Sagebrush is committed to offering high quality educational opportunities that span each child’s academic, social, emotional and physical needs. Teachers and administration will collaborate to review the Montessori curriculum to highlight essential learning standards. Teachers will work to create a planning and instructional framework that allows learning to continue in a cohesive manner whether learning is at school, at home, or a combination of both.
Sagebrush Montessori prides itself on its high-quality Montessori principles and instruction. In all of our planning, we will continue to honor Montessori practices such as hands on learning, freedom of choice, and independence, to the best of our ability and given the known health and safety policies in place.
Distance Learning & Technology
In the event of closure, there may be periods of distance learning during the 2020-2021 school year. Our goal will be to make transitions to into distance learning as easy as possible, especially for those who have children in various grades. In the coming weeks, we will work to narrow down the number of apps, systems, and learning platforms that are being used and ensure that the same technology is being used by all staff. Narrowing down the number of platforms and apps will also allow for more focused training for staff and families.
Our staff and committees will use input from teachers and the community to determine our key instructional tools. An Instructional committee will research take home support options such as Chromebooks, laptops, and/or tablets.
Survey results about distance learning highlight areas of importance for distance learning, such as:
A more structured daily schedule
Age appropriate work expectations and accountability of students
Greater parent support in understanding expectations, lesson, and what their child should be working on daily/weekly
Materials for at home learning
Record keeping and developing an understand of each child’s progress
Flexibility with screen time/age appropriate expectations for screen time
As we plan for distance learning, we will take these factors into account with the goal to share distance learning plans in advance of the start of the school year.
We had 58 responses to the Back to School survey with 51 elementary students and 33 children’s house students represented. In some households, both parents submitted survey results and some families submitted a single survey for children in multiple programs.
Survey results show that 51% of families feel confident returning in the fall, 45% wish to return in the fall but need more confidence in school safety measures, and 4% would like to continue distance learning.
The most important safety precautions (50% or more) parents want Sagebrush to take are:
Sanitizing surfaces and spaces (76%)
Social distancing (50%)
Health screening (72%)
Face coverings for staff and students (50%)
Frequent hand washing (74%)
The majority of families felt the best learning scenario was a full-time in person program, five days a week. The majority of families felt that a full-time distance learning program was a poor fit for their family. There was not a clear preference for a particular rotational schedule, but in the write in comments, parents asked for siblings to be on the same schedule should a rotating schedule be put in place.
The majority of families found Teams and E-mail to be the easiest way to access daily content. Comments reinforced the importance of minimizing the number of apps or programs used as well as offering parent and student education on how to use the programs.
Just over a third of families feel distance learning is manageable for a short-term period. A third felt it was doable long term, with the rest feeling that distance learning is not sustainable.
In future distance learning situations, many parents would like to see more video based or live lessons. The majority of families would like to have hands on materials provided for home use.
Just over 20% of families reported needing before and after school care as a condition for returning.