COVID-19 Pandemic Response Plan
last updated: Saturday, January 30 @ 11:00 am
Metrics for February
For Fall 2020, we used the "Key Metrics for Global Suppression" and COVID Risk Level map to guide our reopening. This map uses only number of cases per 100,000 people and is calculated daily with a 7 day rolling average. Our plan followed this map closely. If Jackson County was at green (On Track for Containment), full time in-person instruction would be possible. If the county was at yellow (Community Spread), we would have part time in-person instruction. If the county was at orange (Accelerated Spread) or red (Tipping Point), we would not have in-person instruction. In-person instruction would resume when the county returned to yellow.
As we prepare to make decisions for Spring & Summer 2021, new websites have been developed with information that is also useful.
The first is the new Metrics for School Determination of Community Spread on the IDPH website. This website also allows us to look at county-level information. The four County & School Metrics are calculated weekly. They are: test positivity percentage; number of new cases; number of new cases per 100,000 people; and youth case increase. Each is then identified as Minimal, Moderate, or Substantial. The data are collected from Sunday - Saturday and then the website is to be updated weekly based on the previous week. However, I have observed after watching this website throughout the month of January that it is often significantly delayed. Therefore, while the IDPH website shows more kinds of relevant data and helps us identify trends over time, it cannot help us easily determine on a daily basis whether school should be open.
Another newly developed website is Illinois COVID-19 Modeling. This website shows Rt for Illinois as a whole as well as for Region 5. There are three curves, each estimated using different methods and data sources. NU is Northwestern University. UC is University of Chicago. UIUC is University of Illinois at Urbana-Champagin. The Illinois COVID-19 Modeling website is a join effort between them. Again, this is more big picture information. Rt, the instantaneous reproductive number, tells us whether the epidemic is growing (Rt > 1), shrinking (Rt < 1), or staying the same (Rt = 1).
Although I appreciate all of the information from the IDPH and the universities, it seems to me that the color-coded map we were using in the Fall is still the best resource to use. It is easy for everyone to access via computer or phone and it is updated daily. As states across the country set the goal of reopening for in-person instruction in March, more specific guidance about what level of community spread would be safe is now being articulated. On January 14th, California announced that elementary schools could safely reopen if new cases were at a level of 25 or fewer per 100,000 people (orange on the COVID Risk Level map) for 5 consecutive days. This matches our decision to be open at orange, with the addition of watching to ensure it is a steady trend first.
Therefore, in February I will begin to offer Individual School Days on days when the weather is pleasant (40 degrees or warmer) once Jackson County reaches orange and stays there for 5 consecutive days. These announcements will be sent out in the morning via text.
After looking at the results of the December survey, I have decided to combine all of the children into one pod. I have also checked with Shelby Miller at Trinity Christian School and their "learning communities" ie. pods are approximately 15 students.
To keep the pods as secure as possible, I ask that you be thoughtful about how many children your child is interacting with outside of his/her pod, and limit play dates and extra curricular activities throughout the school year. For my part, I fall on the more rigid end of the spectrum. I take this pandemic extremely seriously. Zac's few play dates have been outdoors. We are also avoiding stores, and using pick up and delivery services whenever possible. In fact, I have not had a haircut or seen anyone in my family since February!
All children will be asked to bring a mask for use at school. I do have a few extra child-sized fabric masks here, should someone forget.
To keep children in fresh air, I will make every attempt to utilize outdoor instruction as much as possible, and students will not need to wear masks when they are outside or if we are in the Art Room with all windows and doors open. When we are in other rooms of the house, students will be spaced 6 feet apart. They will not need to wear a mask when they remain in their seats working but will need to wear them if they are transitioning from one room to another. Students must wear masks when they go to the bathroom.
Illness at Home
We will need to be especially cautious about any illness this year, given the wide variety of symptoms associated with COVID-19. If anyone in a family is unwell, please err on the side of caution. Stay home, communicate with me, and get tested.
If a child has a fever or anyone in that child's family has a fever, that child may not come to school until the appropriate person has been tested. The entire pod will stay at home while we await the test results. If the test is positive, or if testing is unavailable, the entire pod will wait 14 days before resuming in-person instruction.
Illness at School
If a child becomes ill at school, he/she will be isolated. I have arranged two of the upstairs bedrooms to be school rooms. One is the Science Room and one is the Handwork Room. They both have twin beds where a child could lie down while waiting to be picked up. There is also an upstairs bathroom which the sick child could use; everyone else would use the downstairs bathroom.
I have purchased several large linen smocks; I will wear one each day and, should a child become sick, I can help get the child situated and resting and then change to a fresh smock before I return to the rest of the class, to reduce transmission of droplets.
As long as testing is free and readily available (symptoms not required) in our community, I would like to ask that while we are meeting each family commit to getting tested on a routine basis (such as monthly) and Zac and I would get tested more frequently (such as every two weeks).
Monthly Tuition - March, April, May, June
Given the unusual nature of this year, setting a price for tuition has been extremely difficult!
If we are able to meet in-person in March, April, May, and June we would resume monthly tuition. In Fall 2020, the tuition rate was $400.00 per month ie. $100.00 per week for the pods meeting two days (which comes to $8.25 per hour). We used that $100.00 weekly rate for distance learning as well and it covered my time making the tote bags, group office hours, and one-on-one support.
Pre-COVID, the tuition rate was $500.00 per month ie. $125.00 per week for four days (which comes to $5.20 per hour).
Should we add an extra day to the school week, as we have discussed as a way to make up the missed learning time, I suppose that logically I will need to calculate a new weekly rate, and at $5.20 per hour that would be a new monthly tuition of $625.00... but I do not feel it is fair to do that midway through the school year! So I am very conflicted and would appreciate feedback on this!
One possibility so that children are still coming regularly five days a week and we can do a lot of consistent main lesson book work -- but the tuition would not increase overly much -- would be to shorten each school day to five hours ($520.00 per month).
Tote Bages & Tutoring a la Carte - January
Our current plan is to resume in-person instruction in March using our Outdoor Classroom, distancing, and masks.
For January and February, which are now optional months of the school year, I am offering a few a la carte services that I hope are useful! You may request a tote bag and I will prepare and drop one off for you; the cost for this is a flat rate of $75.00. You may keep the tote bag for as long as you like. If you or your child would like one-on-one Zoom sessions to accompany the tote bag, or as an alternative to it, I will bill that hourly at my usual tutoring rate. This is $35.00 per hour.
Individual School Days a la Carte - February
Our current plan is to use February as a transition month, offering individual school days when it is safe to meet and the weather is not too cold (above 40 degrees). If you would like to be on the group text as I make this decision each morning, please let me know. So that the children are here during the warmest part of the day, we would meet from 1 - 4 pm and children should eat lunch before they arrive. School would be outside with distancing and masks. At the $8.25 hourly rate that would be a fee of $25.00 per session.
Of course, you may continue with tote bags and tutoring in February if you wish. The individual school days are completely optional.
I ask that everyone bring a backpack to school with their name on or in it, which can hold their Extra Clothing Bag, hand sanitizer, and their lunch and water bottle each day. We will not be using the little coat closet with every child having a "shoe shelf" since that is such a bottle-neck area for traffic. I would prefer that we eat outside, which means that I ask their lunch items not require refrigeration or heating up. I did purchase a water cooler and we now have water delivered from Rainbow Water in Marion, so the children can refill their water bottles easily. It is located in the Art Room.
I will continue to purchase all school supplies for the children. I only ask that you provide a mask, a backpack, a water bottle, and the containers for your child's lunch. We will not do any communal cooking projects this year.
Student school supplies will be individual and kept separate as much as possible. I have purchased ten Aussie pouches, one per child, which will allow everyone to have a tidy storage area for their colored pencils, plan books, etc. They can easily take their pouches with them when they work outside. They can then place their pouches over their chair backs when they work inside. When the students from one pod go home, I will lift off their Aussie pouches from the chairs in the Art Room and slip on the pouches for the students of other pod. The denim pouches can also be machine washed.
Students will need to bring their plan books to school each morning in their backpacks, and take them home each afternoon. That way documentation of "school work done at home" and "school work done at school" will all be in the same plan book.
Distance Learning - Tote Bags & Personal Projects
My goal has always been to devise a plan for distance learning that involves as little time on the computer as possible, given the fatigue that students experienced in the spring with Zoom. The tote bags allow us to do that, and they seem to be working relatively well. Children can also assign themselves Personal Projects which they would like to do. You are not limited to what I suggest in the bags!
When we do meet in person, I will still continue the rhythm of packing up assignments and sending them home in advance of any school closings. You may choose to do those activities on days when your child's pod is not in session. The tote bag materials will also be ready and sitting in your living room when a shutdown does occur due to the county going back to orange or red, a child in our group getting sick, a member of a child's family getting sick and that child going into quarantine, or me getting sick.
I have been preparing the tote bags in two week increments. At the end of the two weeks, I will refill the tote bags with new materials to inspire and support at-home learning.
Since hands-on learning is a hallmark of Montessori education, I will be deciding which materials I would like to have as being individual as opposed to shared. I will purchase whatever I feel we need to have multiples of. There is a Montessori curriculum company that has come out with lightweight plastic manipulatives for many of the common Montessori lessons (ETC Montessori Personal Learning Products); these can be easily spray disinfected and they may even be inexpensive enough that I just get several sets and can send them home with children in their tote bags.
Even with pods of kids, teaching outside as much as is reasonable should be a goal. I'm thinking that having kids work outside when they would like to, eat outside for sure, and use the Art Room as an indoor instruction space (with the garage door open to maximize fresh air movement) would be a good starting point. If you have extras of, or would be willing to donate, any of the following, they would be very useful: tarps, hammocks, pop up canopy tents, picnic tables, stumps, straw bales, mailboxes, large flower pots.
I will be working with the idea of outdoor classrooms extensively as I plan the curriculum. I have been enjoying the one-hour workshops from Victoria Hackett at Outdoor Classrooms. I find them thought-provoking and useful. She has created several dozen topics regarding teaching with outdoor classrooms, and I am asking families to each purchase one ($15.00) and watch it and please share the highlights with me. I will watch all of the remaining topics. This would help spread out the cost and it would make sure that everyone is actively involved in the conversation. If you are willing to volunteer your time in that way, it would be greatly appreciated.
Field Trips and Special Guests
We will not have field trips or special guests outside of our group for the time being. If you would like to come to volunteer your time or expertise for an activity with your child's pod, please consider activities that can happen outside and with social distancing. Ms. Anna will not be coming to teach Art this year, as she is opening a micro school in her home.
We will take an Autumn Break the week of Thanksgiving (Nov 23 - 27).
We will take the entire month of December off to give everyone a chance to spend relaxed, uninterrupted time with family.
We have decided that January & February will be optional months of the school year, with tote bags and tutoring offered as educational support. In February, which will serve as a transition, individual schools days will be offered based on metrics and weather. Spring Break cannot be moved, as this is when I have my Waldorf Handwork teacher training for the Applied Arts Program. It is synchronous virtual instruction during the last week of February. Therefore, transition weeks are Feb 1-5, 8-12, and 15-19.
As a homeschooling family you have the right to take as many additional holidays as you wish!
First Day / Last Day of School
The first day of school was Monday, September 7.
weeks of Sep 7 & 14
weeks of Sep 21 & 28
Part Time In-Person
week of Oct 5
weeks of Oct 12 & 19
weeks of Oct 26 & Nov 2
weeks of Nov 9 & 16
Optional Distance Learning
weeks of Jan 11, 18, and 25
weeks of Feb 1, 8, and 15
Individual School Days
February dates TBD
We have decided to extend the school year into the summer and therefore the last day will be Friday, June 25.
Please let me know if you have any questions, or if there are areas that I have not yet addressed. I appreciate feedback as we work together to create a plan to keep everyone as safe as possible while still ensuring high-quality instruction. Should any unusual circumstance arise, I will err on the side of extreme caution, out of respect for your child, your family, and our community as a whole.