Dear WMS Families,
With the end of the 2019-2020 school year drawing to a close, we are deep in our planning for the beginning of the 2020-2021 school year. This email is intended to help inform you of the current state of our plans as well as our logic supporting the planning.
Our intention is to operate with all students in the building whenever reasonable for as much of the 2020-21 school year as possible, prioritizing the health and safety of our community.
- We are planning to start in September with students and teachers together in the building.
- We will have health and safety protocols in place to reduce the likelihood of the need for a full-campus closure.
Plans and Logic
We are prepared. The WMS team is building three basic ways to deliver the WMS program during the 2020-21 school year based on four layers of guidance. We will be ready to move nimbly among these models as needed.
Guidance for planning:
- Federal/Global guidelines including but not limited to CDC and WHO provide general health recommendations.
- CT State guidelines such as Governor Ned Lamont’s Executive Orders and the CT Office of Early Childhood provide a more fine-tuned, regional focus.
- National and State Independent and Montessori School Associations provide guidance on many aspects of best practices specifically geared toward independent schools.
- Other related industry references such as American Camps Association, American College Health Association provide comparative perspective and often supply clues to guidance which might trickle down to schools.
- On Campus – We are hopeful to spend most if not all of the school year with students and teachers in the building. This model will feel most like our traditional WMS method, with some changes to minimize COVID-19 exposure and spread following guidance and requirements from state and federal government agencies. We are prepared for regulations and guidance which may include:
- The use of masks and/or shields
- Slightly more staggered arrival and departure times than normal. (We are planning for full school days.)
- Modified entry procedures, and systems to manage social distance and classroom density.
- We have also begun to prepare the building for touchless toilets, faucets, towel dispensers, hand-sanitizing stations, and other modifications to reduce spread through high-touch surfaces.
- Distance Learning – Similar to the program delivered this spring, through which all students are learning on the distance platform. In order to be prepared for this possible scenario, faculty and administration will work during the summer to continue to expand and improve what we are able to offer through distance learning.
- Hybrid – We are looking at a variety of ways in which we might evolve our space, or structure our schedule, to meet safe density regulations and keep as many of our students in the building as possible. For instance, this model might be utilized at a time when the state is allowing schools to be open, but with significantly lower density. Part of this planning includes ways–under guidelines from the Office of Early Childhood–to keep Young Children’s Community and Lower School open even if we need to move to distance learning for elementary and middle school classes.
Our decision-making process continues to be guided by these factors:
- Safety –We need to ensure our students, families, teachers, and larger community are safe, and that we are responsible citizens aimed at preventing the spread of COVID-19. As noted above, our intention is to closely follow the four layers of guidance and best practices provided by local, state and federal agencies and associations.
- Optimal Student Learning – We know the optimal way for students to learn is in our prepared WMS mixed-age classrooms with their teachers and classmates by their side. However, given the current threat of COVID-19, we have adapted, and will continue to evolve our learning platform to bring out the best in each student, despite required safety precautions and modifications. Putting students’ needs first is at the center of everything.
- Family Needs – The toll of coronavirus on families has been tremendous. It has affected everyone in a myriad of ways, financially, physically, emotionally, and socially. We are deeply empathetic to the challenges of our parent community. Our aim is to be incredibly sensitive and as responsive to families’ needs as possible as we navigate the uncharted future ahead.
- Teacher Needs – I cannot thank our faculty enough for the vigilance, thoughtfulness, long hours, and dedication they’ve given to our community these past 12 weeks. They have been stretched, taxed, tolled, and pushed to the max to repackage and deliver a program from their living rooms. We cherish our teachers and staff and want to support them in every way we can with the needed resources, tools, equipment, training, and acknowledgement needed to sustain what they do while balancing the challenges we all are facing during this pandemic.
As we balance these sometimes competing needs, we ask for your patience and understanding. Please know how careful and thoughtful we try to be in meeting everyone’s needs. When we fall short, I invite you to kindly communicate your thoughts and ideas to us, so we can continue together to evolve our program to be its best even through these challenging times.
Over the past many weeks, you have received a weekly update from me, the weekly WMS email from Jill, and weekly communications from the teacher of your child (or children). With the last day of school this Thursday, June 11th, this cadence of communication will change.
- WMS Weekly Email – You will have a break from the regular weekly email during the summer months
- Head of School Communications – I will reach out at least monthly with more detailed updates on our evolving plans for the fall.
- June – summary of planning for fall
- July – Back to School Supplies Shopping Lists
- August – Details about returning to school
We will also send video introductions over the course of the summer to introduce children and families to expectations and changes for typical WMS procedures.
Thank you for entrusting WMS with your children. Despite these challenging weeks and months, the joy of knowing, educating, and being in the presence of your children continues to be a genuine privilege. I feel grateful and honored to endure these difficult times with you and your family.
Thank you for all you do and who you are,