LETTER TO EMS PARENTS: AUGUST 3, 2020
Dear EMS Families,
As the beginning of the new school year approaches, I’m feeling especially excited to welcome students back to campus on August 19. Under the guidance of the Medical Advisory Task Force and CDC recommendations, the EMS building is humming with improvements that will enhance the health and safety of our students and staff. Specifically, we have increased the space of the kindergarten room to accommodate physical distancing. The Fellowship Hall received a fresh new coat of paint to become a bright, learning classroom for our 3-4 students. Touchless faucets were installed in the bathrooms, and touchless soap dispensers are on the way. We added another handwashing station in the upstairs hallway, along with more touchless water bottle filling stations. The stone benches and birdhouse were removed in the front courtyard to create an open, outdoor classroom, which we’ll be upgrading with more furniture. Lastly, we will install ERV units and HEPA filters in the classrooms to maximize ventilation and air exchange. As I hope you can see, we are taking the health of our community seriously, and we expect that these precautions will create a safer environment for our students. (continued below).
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Dear EMS Families,
As the beginning of the new school year approaches, I’m feeling especially excited to welcome students back to campus on August 19. Under the guidance of the Medical Advisory Task Force and CDC recommendations, the EMS building is humming with improvements that will enhance the health and safety of our students and staff. Specifically, we have increased the space of the kindergarten room to accommodate physical distancing. The Fellowship Hall received a fresh new coat of paint to become a bright, learning classroom for our 3-4 students. Touchless faucets were installed in the bathrooms, and touchless soap dispensers are on the way. We added another handwashing station in the upstairs hallway, along with more touchless water bottle filling stations. The stone benches and birdhouse were removed in the front courtyard to create an open, outdoor classroom, which we’ll be upgrading with more furniture. Lastly, we will install ERV units and HEPA filters in the classrooms to maximize ventilation and air exchange. As I hope you can see, we are taking the health of our community seriously, and we expect that these precautions will create a safer environment for our students.
While the school is focusing on all that we can do to create healthier spaces, we understand that no solution or action will guarantee the full safety of our community. And, we also know that every individual will need to do their part to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Along those lines, we are asking each family to read through the attached Emerald Safety Pledge with their children and to incorporate the guidelines into their daily routines. It will be especially critical to closely adhere to the expectations in the upcoming weeks. I’ve spoken to a few families about travel plans, and I’m appreciative of the open lines of communication. Please read the Routt County travel recommendations and reach out if you are traveling two weeks prior to the start of school to discuss options. Further, the CDC has set forth a helpful checklist for parents to review with their children prior to returning to school, which includes information about face-covering routines, hygiene, and social/emotional well-being.
I’ve received several questions regarding parent commitment and participation during the first few days of school. While we had hoped to involve parents in more community-building activities, it has become clear that, with the increasing spread of COVID-19 throughout Colorado and with the extension of the Routt County guidelines to limit group gathering sizes, we will be focusing on community building for our students within their cohorts. We will, however, expect parents to participate in our grade-level parent orientation on August 19 (outdoor and remote options) and to help drive their child to and from trailheads in Routt County on Wednesday the 19th and Thursday the 20th. Friday will be a half-day of student-orientation at EMS, and we will send out a drop-off and pick-up schedule. Further, the orientation schedule with drop-off times and locations will be released next week.
On Wednesday, August 5th at 4:30 pm, I’ll host another Zoom Q and A for parents. Click on this link to join, and I’ll also send a calendar invite. Please note that no call-in numbers are available, since we are in the process of activating a new education subscription for improved features. For those who cannot attend, I’ll record the session and send out a link the following day. Also, don’t forget to check the COVID-19 page on our website for our reopening plan and FAQs.
In times like these, I’m all the more grateful for the strong family partnership that serves as the foundation to our educational program. Thank you for entrusting EMS with your child’s safety and education.
July 15th letter to EMS parents
Dear EMS Families,
I hope you are enjoying the summer and finding ways to stay cool during these warm days.
I am writing to update you on the work that is underway as we prepare to safely reopen the campus to students on August 19. As I mentioned in my last communication, we continue to prioritize welcoming all students back to Emerald, as long as it is safe to do so. We look forward to providing a close to full-day schedule, with the exception of a later start for middle school and an earlier dismissal for primary school. These staggered start and dismissal times will allow us to maintain physical distancing while providing ample time for teacher planning and preparation. We are still working on the daily schedule, and we will release it to families as soon as it is finalized.
We have made some changes to the school calendar, which I’ve attached to this email, and you may also find on the parent portal. Some of the key changes include:
- The start date continues to be August 19, but there will not be a school camp trip. Instead, we are preparing for family/student outdoor activities in small groups, and we ask that you make yourself available August 19-21. We will also schedule orientation meetings for parents to provide information about the upcoming school year.
- We will have a special class schedule and orientation for all students on August 21. If the 8th grade backpacking trip continues as planned, the 8th graders will not be in school on Friday, August 21. More information about the trip will be sent to 8th grade families in a separate email.
- We have shortened Thanksgiving Break in order to increase instructional days.
- We have added an additional week to the school calendar to account for the shift in instructional hours with the altered schedule, and to ensure that our students will spend more time on learning.
EMS has also invested heavily in the health and safety of our students. We have hired a part-time professional nurse who will serve as our director of health and wellness. In addition, we are increasing our cleaning and disinfecting supplies, providing additional handwashing stations, increasing touchless dispensers and faucets, providing PPE for faculty and students, and providing plexiglass barriers for certain spaces.
I’ve had a few parents contact me with questions regarding their summer and fall travel plans. At this point, Colorado has not issued any travel advisories, though Routt County is in the process of drafting travel recommendations. We will follow any local, state, and federal recommendations regarding travel and quarantine. In general, please avoid unnecessary travel. If your child has traveled outside the state, we ask that you notify the School, and you may be required to keep your child home for 14 days. Please remember that it will take effort from every individual to keep our entire community safe.
This Friday I will email a copy of our return to campus plan, which will include updated FAQs and a draft of next year’s schedule. Please keep in mind that any plan will require flexibility.
I invite all parents to join me for a Zoom meeting on Monday, July 20 at 4:00 pm where I will present our reentry plan and answer any questions.
Join Zoom Meeting
Meeting ID: 535 201 5985
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
As new content is added, we will colorize to show the updated information.
Blue: Updated 7-16-20
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?
At this point, Colorado has not issued any travel advisories, though Routt County has drafted travel recommendations. We will follow local, state, and federal recommendations regarding travel and quarantine. In general, please avoid unnecessary travel. If your child has traveled outside the state, we ask that you notify the School, and please know that you may be required to keep your child home for 14 days and/or get tested before returning to school. If anyone in your child’s household has traveled outside the state and has tested positive for COVID-19, you may also be asked to keep your child at home for 14 days or get tested. In any scenario where a student must stay home to quarantine, they will participate in our distance learning.
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
- Requiring all students, faculty, and staff to wear masks while inside the building
- Hired a part-time, professional nurse to serve as our Director of Health and Wellness
Will the annual school camp trip still take place in August?
Due to the restrictions on public gathering size and the desire to limit large group interactions for safety reasons, EMS will not host its annual all-school camp trip as we have done each year prior. Instead, our teachers are planning small, group activities for students and parents outdoors. We will take advantage of our beautiful surroundings to build community while taking important safety precautions.
What happens if a student gets sick or develops COVID-19 symptoms?
If a student exhibits symptoms of COVID 19 or develops a fever above 100.4, then they will be sent home to schedule testing with their healthcare provider. In that instance, the student’s cohort will remain on-campus pending the results of the test. If a student tests positive for COVID 19, then the cohort will move to remote learning for up to 14 days, and we will work with the local Department of Public Health to determine the date it is safe to bring that cohort back to campus.
If we move to remote learning, will the school provide any tuition discount?
There are two types of costs associated with operating Emerald Mountain School: fixed costs and variable costs. Fixed costs are the type of expenses that are incurred regardless of the type of education or the number of students enrolled. For example, salaries & benefits; internet access fees; insurance; etc.
Variable costs have a degree of fluctuation depending on the type of programming that we provide and the number of children present in the school. For example, field trip expenses; electricity; water; photocopies; etc.
At EMS, the vast majority of our expenses are actually fixed expenses. Salary and benefits paid to the faculty and staff account for nearly 80% of our annual budget. In the spring, we realized some cost savings on our variable expenses, like electricity and water usage, but they were not fully eliminated. Likewise, last spring and in the upcoming year, EMS will incur additional expenses to address the pandemic. These pandemic- related expenses will exceed any savings gained in the variable expense category. For example:
- Installing touchless faucets, additional handwashing stations, and investing considerable resources into PPE and cleaning supplies.
- The purchase and upgrade of several technology platforms (Zoom, Seesaw) to ensure that students and teachers have access to the best resources available for blended learning and remote learning, if needed
- The acquisition of additional chromebooks and ipads to ensure that all students have one-on-one device access
- Hired a part-time nurse to serve as our Director of Health and Wellness
- Allocated additional funding to the Needs Based Scholarship Fund to provide additional assistance to our families who receive financial support to continue their child’s EMS education.
These are just a few examples of additional costs incurred to respond to the changing landscape of providing education services in the face of this pandemic. As we plan for and start the next school year, there will surely be other unexpected costs incurred by the school. For this reason, distance learning discounts are not justified because there has not been an overall reduction in the costs associated with managing our program. We are confident, however, that our efforts will provide even greater value as compared to other educational options.
Are there other options if I don’t feel safe sending my child to school?
While we look forward to welcoming students back to the classroom, we understand that some families may not feel comfortable sending their child back to school in person. If that is the case, please contact the Head of School to learn more about our distance learning program.