COVID-19 Pandemic Response Plan
last updated: Sunday, September 27th @ 1:30 pm
We will use the Harvard Global Health Institute "Key Metrics for Global Suppression" and COVID Risk Level map to guide our reopening. We will keep track of infection rates for Jackson County on a continual basis and adjust accordingly.
If our county is at green (On Track for Containment), we will consider full time in-person instruction. If our county is at yellow (Community Spread), we will have part time in-person instruction. If our county is at orange (Accelerated Spread) or red (Tipping Point), we will not have in-person instruction. In-person instruction will resume when our country returns to yellow.
One question I've received is regarding if our region or the state as a whole moves from Phase 4 to Phase 3. I believe if that happens Jackson County would have already shown up as orange on the Harvard map, so we would have already stopped meeting in person. I think the Harvard map is likely the more restrictive -- and more accurate -- metric since it is hyper-local data. However, Phase 3 guidelines state that "gatherings of 10 people or fewer for any reason" are permitted. If our specific county is at yellow, we could still meet according to Phase 3 guidelines, and I believe we are being cautious enough in our planning that it would be safe to do so.
This school year, students will be divided up into pods of approximately 5 children. For part time instruction, one pod will come to school on Mon/Tue from 9 am to 3 pm. The other pod will come to school on Thu/Fri from 9 am to 3 pm. On Wednesdays I will clean and disinfect the building and materials.
Should Jackson County reach green and stay at green for two weeks, we can begin to have both pods come to school at the same time.
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, especially if our county is at yellow. For my part, please know that I fall on the more rigid end of the spectrum. I take this pandemic extremely seriously. We did not travel to Maryland over the summer. Zac's few play dates have been outdoors, and we are avoiding stores, using pick up and delivery services whenever possible.
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 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).
Given the unusual nature of this year, setting a price for tuition is difficult. If children are here for 12 hours a week, a rate of $8.25 per hour would be $99.00. A fee of $100.00 per week seems reasonable to me. I will need to set this as a flat rate; so, even if one or both pods have to switch to distance learning for a period of time, or we have a holiday break, I can count on these consistent funds and budget for supplies. Schools are bearing many extra expenses as we adapt to the new requirements for keeipng kids safe. I have also learned that the time requirements on my part associated with distance learning are equal to, if not more than, in-person instruction.
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.
Distance Learning - Tote Bags & Personal Projects
My goal is 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. Students will also need to have Personal Projects that they can work on for the days of the week when they are not in school. I am working on creating the requirements for Personal Projects associated with each main lesson block, and those projects will become part of their portfolios along with the MLBs.
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, so that they are 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. For this reason, I will prepare a new set of tote bags in advance and send them home with students on the first day of in-person school. Should we have a closure, I will refill the tote bags when we reopen, so that we are prepared for another closure.
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.
I would like to propose, for the sake of consistency, that we strive for the usual school year calendar. That has been a one week long Autumn Break the week of Thanksgiving (Nov 23 - 27), a two week long Winter Break around Christmas (Dec 21 - Jan 1), and a two week long Spring Break the last week of February and the first week of March (Feb 22 - Mar 5). I have no way of knowing at this point whether I will, in fact, be traveling to New York in February 2021 for teacher training but, if so, that is when I will need to be gone.
As a homeschooling family you have the right to take as many additional holidays as you wish!
First Day / Last Day of School
UPDATE: As we are beginning the year with tote bags, both pods will begin school on Monday, September 7.
weeks of Sep 7 & 14
weeks of Sep 21 & 28
If we end up with significant school closures and we decide as a group that we need to pause distance learning and simply extend the school year into the summer, in order to give students the optimal amount of in-person instructional time, we can reconsider the last day of school. Traditionally, we have ended after three weeks of school in May (in 2021, I was thinking May 21 for the last day).
Distance Learning - Student & Parent Support
I will prepare the bags and drop them off on each child's doorstep. Second drop-off date is Saturday, September 19.
In the tote bags I will have two weeks worth of activities, which you can pace out as you wish. I will also put the inventory of the tote bags on your child's personal webpage, and indicate which materials you may keep and which should be returned. I will not have mandatory Zoom sessions for children but I will have "office hours" for both student & parent support. This is designated time when I am on Zoom in my personal Zoom room (449 956 7720) and you can freely drop in to ask questions and discuss school work.
For students, this "office hours" time will be 10 am to 11 am each day when that child's pod would have been meeting in person (Mon/Tue or Thu/Fri).
I will also have Zoom "office hours" to support parents. This time will be from 6 pm to 7 pm each weekday and the topics will rotate.
Monday - Mathematics
Tuesday - History / Geography / Philosophy
Wednesday - Language Arts
Thursday - Art / Handwork
Friday - Science
Please feel free to drop in with any questions about school work in these areas. I am happy to demonstrate how to use the Montessori materials, explain SWI, answer any other questions you may have about the curriculum, and hear about how your child is doing.
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.