RE-Opening PLAN for WBNS during COVID-19
We are pleased today to share some important details about our plans for reopening WBNS safely and vibrantly this fall. Our faculty and staff teams have been working very hard in recent weeks to develop thoughtful, responsible and balanced plans for reopening in accordance with the NC Department of Health and Agency of Education, CDC guidelines, other official and expert advice, and the creative plans that are being unveiled across the world for all schools. Opening schools safely is a topic of intense national and international debate right now, so we are not alone in grappling with how to welcome kids back to campus—which we are excited to do, and know is right for their continued well-being and progress—while still staying safe and protecting our communities.
One size does not fit all when it comes to creating reasonable plans. Much of our work has been to understand what the current crisis will require from WBNS, in particular, and to adapt and interpret official public health mandates to fit our school’s daily life, culture and mission. Our planning has been focused in four general areas: Health and Safety, Academic and Campus Life, Communication, and Securing Commitments from families. This letter will explain and offer details about:
● The health and safety measures we are putting in place
● The new schedule options
● Plans for ongoing communication
We hope that the plans we’re outlining here will provide helpful, grounding clarity as we prepare to come together in the fall; as well as to help you understand the path we are creating to open for the 2020-2021 school year. We want to help make these plans as clear as we can, because we will need everyone to be part of making them work. As a newer school and a very small community—your partnership, support, and commitment is more critical now than ever.
Health and Safety
You’ve told us in a variety of ways that your keenest concern is about the nature and extent of the measures we are putting in place to protect the health and safety of the community, and that is our most important guiding consideration. Our plan is to put in place and monitor comprehensive measures regarding the following:
● Mask Policy: per Governor Cooper’s current requirement for public schools and public spaces as well as recommendations for the state of North Carolina
Masks will be worn in all inside spaces by all ages (with age appropriate mask breaks provided regularly), and outside when social distancing is not possible.
For example: if students choose to play together in the forest, they will have to wear masks.
Adults dropping off and picking up students must wear facial coverings. Instructions for making, wearing, and washing facial coverings can be found on the CDC website. We will ask that students bring their own masks as part of their daily gear, but we will also provide reusable masks during orientation and disposable masks throughout the year as needed. *This policy will be adjusted per any changes to the statewide requirements and recommendations.
● Hand washing—additional hand washing stations and hand sanitizer will be installed in classrooms and other public spaces.
● Social distancing—we will expect all to practice social distancing. We have configured classrooms and other spaces to allow for reasonable distancing.
● Requiring staying home when sick—we will insist that students, faculty and staff with any symptoms related to COVID-19 return home, self-isolate, and contact their primary doctor for their recommendations.
● Limited gatherings—we will follow evolving state guidelines, and consider the limitations of our physical spaces in limiting the number of people allowed to gather. We have reconstructed the schedules to accommodate 10 or less indoors at any given time through a group rotation for each grade level.
● Use of outdoor spaces—our faculty and staff will be conducting classes and activities outdoors when possible, as research shows being in fresh air mitigates the spread of the virus.
● Increased disinfecting and cleaning—we have put protocols in place for cleaning and disinfecting at the recommended levels and frequencies.
● Daily screening—all students will be screened daily for temperature and symptoms of COVID-19 before arriving on campus. Staff and faculty will continue to self-screen and report.
● We have updated our HVAC systems and ventilation—there is good guidance and support for improving systems to conduct and circulate fresh air indoors.
● In the first two weeks of school we will be conducting a full orientation of the new procedures with the students, teaching them how to do all of the new expectations so that everyone is well informed and has the opportunity to practice until it becomes routine. As appropriate, we will ask families to reinforce our expectations and rationale with at-home conversations and preparations.
Academic and Campus Life
Our goal is to have all students attend school, whether on campus or virtually, every day—and we will be requiring attendance from those online who will be expected to join their classes virtually. Students will be fully accountable for attending and engaging in class each day. This strategy will allow us to ensure students have daily routines and commitments and will also give us the flexibility to move fully online for an appropriate period of time if necessary, or to open to more students should conditions allow it.
We plan to postpone the start of our school year to Tuesday, September 8th. We will make up the delayed two weeks by coming back one week sooner in January and staying one week later in July. Although some things will be different, many elements of the school day will remain the same as will the contours of the fall semester schedule.
Teachers have been involved in the development of the fall schedule and curriculum and have worked hard to create versions of their courses that are robust, engaging, and prioritize building skills and developing capacities within this new mode. Staff have engaged in required professional development training through the summer and will continue throughout the fall semester.
The schedule options that we are offering is as follows:
Family Choice of 5 days, Hybrid, or Virtual
*Families will enroll their children for one of the three options
Hybrid (no price reduction)
Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays are ON-CAMPUS days
Tuesdays and Thursdays at AT-HOME days, with required homework
Virtual (at a 5% discount)
Those teachers that have virtual students in their groups will share their curriculum plans with our new Virtual Curriculum Manager (VCM).
VCM will modify and support those students with 1:1 check-ins each week, assessment and tracking.
If we are mandated to all go back to virtual, then homeroom teachers would assume responsibility for all the students in their grade group at that time with the support of the VCM.
*Notes about our Virtual Offering: The past spring semester taught us a lot about what remote learning looks like, and exposed some significant issues around equity, access, and quality of experience. While some students thrived, others struggled more to adapt to or participate in the remote curriculum. The virtual program that we created offers far less parent involvement requirements and 1:1 weekly support teacher check-ins via telephone. It will serve as a way for those students who may need to remain off-campus for quarantine at any time during the school year to stay connected and current on their schoolwork.