June 26 Letter to EMS Parents
Dear EMS Families,
I hope you are enjoying the slower pace of summer.
Last week we welcomed back nineteen primary students who signed up for the first session of our summer program. Students and parents came ready to follow our new safety protocols, and the kids easily adjusted to wearing masks indoors, washing hands, and giving each other space. We gave foot-fives (our toe-to-toe version of high-fives), and while we would much rather have given the kids a big hug, we all agreed that it felt better to have everyone here in person, even with these strange protocols. While last week gave the students an opportunity to get back into learning mode, it also allowed us to practice routines with a small number of children in the building. This will be incredibly helpful as we prepare for our “new normal” in the fall.
In my last letter to parents, I shared that I would communicate with you on June 30, July 15, and July 30. Since March, we have been working hard to advance our plans for next year, and we are in a position to share some information with you about what reopening in the fall may look like. Please know that we will be in full compliance with county and state regulations, and while these regulations add a significant burden to our entire community, we are committed to bringing our students back to campus in the fall.
We are using the following principles as our guideposts for our decision-making process as we prepare to reopen:
- Keep students, faculty, and staff safe
- Optimize our dynamic teaching and learning environment to continue to provide an excellent education for all students
- Maintain our strong sense of community
I’ve included these pillars for re-opening along with more specific information about our plans on our below FAQ section. We will update our FAQs regularly, and I’ll email you when that occurs. I appreciate your understanding, patience, and flexibility as we work within an uncertain and shifting landscape to develop our plans for next year.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS FOR REOPENING AUGUST 2020
Will the EMS campus reopen to in-person learning in August?
Yes, EMS remains committed to welcoming students back to campus in August. We know that students learn best when they are engaged in live interactions with their classmates and teachers. Our strong community provides the backbone for a positive, caring education, and being together is critical to our work. We believe that we can reopen successfully while following county and state regulations.
As we look to reopen, what principles will serve as guideposts for decision-making?
- Keeping students, faculty, and staff safe
- Optimizing our dynamic teaching and learning environment to continue to provide an excellent education for all students
- Maintaining our strong sense of community
Are there required regulations for reopening?
Yes, the school will follow local and state regulations. Routt County has yet to provide specific guidance to schools, and the state just recently developed a draft of a reopening framework and toolkit for schools, and they should finalize it soon.
What are you doing to prepare for campus reopening?
We have had a team of EMS educators and staff working hard since March to review education plans, operational protocols, and campus preparations. We have consulted with outside individuals who have relevant expertise in health and medicine, campus safety planning, and school operations. Further, we have been working with other independent school leaders in Colorado and the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) to share resources and plans, and. In addition, we’ve added additional planning days to our staff schedule to ensure that we are ready.
Will starting school in August look the same as it has in previous years?
No, our spacing of students within the building will look different than we’re used to because we need to follow the county’s health and safety regulations. There will be challenges for students, teachers, and families that result from these regulations, and we have several plans in place. Our reopening is focused on putting the student experience first in a way that is safe for all, and we will continue to provide the positive and caring education that fulfills the EMS Mission.
Will the county and state regulations change between now and August?
Yes, in all likelihood.We are preparing for the probability of adapting to new measures, and we continue to develop plans that are flexible and nimble in accordance; this is one of the many benefits of our smaller sized community.
During our Staff Week in June, we worked with different iterations of scheduling to maximize our on-campus instructional time together. If the restrictions allow it, we will allot greater time on campus and a more typical schedule.
What considerations will be put into place for families traveling before school starts and throughout the year?
We are working with our Medical Advisory Task Force to develop a policy for student and family travel, which may include expectations for self-quarantines and possible testing following travel. If you plan to travel in the weeks before school begins, please be advised of the likelihood of those expectations.
When will school start? Will the school calendar be altered?
The first day of school will begin as originally planned on Wednesday, August 19. We are designing a camp trip alternative that will include community-building activities, outdoor adventure, and back-to-school orientation in smaller cohorts. Families will be included in these events, and we look forward to welcoming our new students and parents into the EMS community.
There may be other changes to the 20-21 school calendar, and we will publish those in our communications on June 30 and continue to update, as needed.
What will Emerald’s reopened campus look like?
Here is our current thinking about the educational model and academic schedule, which adheres to state regulations as currently drafted:
- Staggered pick-up/drop-off for cohorts of students, including the possibility of an earlier dismissal time for primary and a later start time for middle school
- Asynchronous online instruction to maximize student learning when not on campus
- Increased number of instructional days
- Remote learning so that students may participate in live classes from home
- Cohorts of students remaining in classrooms during the day with teachers moving to each classroom.
- Fridays will continue to be half days. Likewise, all of our students will participate in our newly imagined Fridays in the Field program, which includes local excursions to study the environment, natural history, arts, and literature.
Why cohorts and staggered schedules?
If CDE’s guidelines include stable cohorts and physical distancing, which the current draft indicates, then we will need to adhere to these regulations. Stable cohorts are groups of students that will remain together during the day. Each of our current class groups (K, 1-2, 3-4, etc.) will be considered one cohort. Further, our staff will spend more time with smaller groups of students. Staggered schedules will likewise give our faculty time to collaborate and develop.
Do you have other schedule models?
- Yes, 100% on-campus school when it is safe enough to open school completely to everyone, all day, as determined by the state and county regulations.
- Yes, 100% distance learning if we’re required to use it based on stricter guidelines due to pandemic circumstances; we are focused this summer on planning to enhance distance learning for elements needed in our reopening schedule.
How are you working to ensure everyone’s safety while on campus?
- Increased hand washing stations, strategically and visibly placed. Most students also have access to a sink within their classrooms
- Hand sanitizing stations
- Reducing classroom transitions and staggering times to keep fewer students moving through hallways at the same time
- Ramping up disinfecting procedures, frequency and detail, based on the best available scientific guidance
- Special protocols for bathroom usage
- Limiting adults in the building to faculty and staff, at least to start, based on the regulations
- Reorganizing some spaces so we can maximize classroom options
- Protocols for daily temperature checks and health screening before students enter the building
- Early orders of PPE to ensure a robust supply chain
- Safe and achievable ways for faculty and staff to supervise health and hygiene protocols
- New pick-up/drop-off procedures to minimize number of people in the building