Response to a Crisis
In March 2020, Heartwood — along with the rest of the world — found itself facing a pandemic that changed nearly every aspect of life. We made the decision to close our facilities on Friday, March 13; the following Tuesday, March 17, “Heartwood At Home” began using Google Classrooms, Zoom meetings, Facebook Live events, and one-on-one virtual interactions to deliver distance-learning curricula to all ten classrooms, from Toddlers through High School.
For the foreseeable future, COVID-19 will continue to be a major consideration in any school’s plans. We are hard at work evaluating, adapting, and preparing our programs so that we can meet this challenge in a thoughtful, intentional, and proactive way. Our goal is to continue serving our families in a prepared environment that combines academics, community, health, well-being, and safety while providing the best whole-child Montessori experience that is possible during a pandemic.
Planning a Prepared Environment for 2020-2021
Heartwood teachers and staff are preparing for a full year of learning, whether at Level B (which we anticipate for August), Level A, or Level C. Continue to check this space for updates as we finalize our plans for the coming school year. So far, we have determined:
- COVID-19 Response Levels Overview, including program and policy modifications. (More detail in the updated Parent Handbook, coming in July)
- Updated Calendar with built-in Remote Practice Days
- Ongoing Updates from our Head of School: Click here for the video or read on for the latest update
Gathering information from trustworthy sources is crucial in this time of uncertainty. Heartwood’s policies are driven by guidance from the State of North Carolina and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Stress and uncertainty have powerful effects on mental, physical, and emotional health. If you or a loved one finds yourself struggling, please seek help. Resources we have found helpful include:
- Resources for Helplines, Hotlines, and Finding a Therapist
- The Child Mind Institute’s Guide to Managing COVID-19 Stress
- Connect with Lynda via email Wednesday, July 1, 9am – 2pm
- Click here to receive future updates
- Hello Heartwood Families!
It’s been a busy week at the school! Little by little we’re making decisions to allow for reopening with the COVID-19 virus still in our community. Thanks to everyone for participating in our survey last week (we had a record 107 responses!) and for asking some great questions at the open Q&A on Wednesday. I’ll offer another open Q&A session via Zoom this Wednesday, June 25th, at 4:00pm (Click here to request an invite).
We have a revised calendar to share with you. The first day for Elementary, Middle and High School students will be Monday, August 10th. Phase-in for ALL Toddlers, Children’s House and Kindergarten students will be that same week. Our Elementary students will have four remote learning practice days in the fall, the first one will be Wednesday, August 12th. Please mark your calendar. Additional first week of school details will be coming in July.Our plan is to deliver 180 days of learning at one of 3 levels this year depending on the public health situation. As mentioned, these are: Level A (100% on-campus learning); Level B (50% classroom capacity/blended remote learning); and Level C (100% remote learning). A Levels Overview document is attached with more details.
We strongly feel that to provide the best whole-child Montessori education we can, we need to include as much in-classroom time as possible this year. The relationships and discoveries made with the people and materials in our prepared classroom environments are integral to the Montessori learning experience. We also feel strongly about protecting the health and well-being of our students and staff. We need to balance these two priorities and consider reopening in a way that mitigates the risks of COVID-19 at school.
With all this in mind, we’re preparing to open and operate in August at Level B. Details are on the attached Levels Overview, and were determined by the results of your feedback, as well as staff input for each grade and program.
Level B will include new classroom and school day procedures designed to reduce the number of contacts during the school day and limit group size and interactions. Each class will divide in two small, stable cohorts attending at different times of the day (for our Children’s House and Elementary classes), or on different days (for our Middle and High School classes). The learning will continue at home with weekly specials or electives, at-home work materials and asynchronous lessons. Cohorts and classes will not mix or interact. Playground times will be staggered and children will enter and exit the building via their outside classroom doors. Cleaning and disinfecting will occur in between class times, and throughout the day. An outside cleaning service will come every evening to clean and disinfect all classrooms, restrooms and hallways, with additional deep cleaning on the weekends. We’ve always promoted healthy hygiene habits and hand-washing at school, now these will be an even more frequent and important part of our routine.
Intensive new health monitoring and screening protocols will also be a part of Level B. All students and staff will be screened before entering our buildings each day for any possible symptoms or contact with COVID-19. This includes temperature checks and monitoring throughout the day. We are increasing to a 72-hour fever free policy, and will have very clear guidelines for when and how long students should stay at home or when they can come back to school based on COVID-19 requirements.
We believe reopening in Level B with these new protocols represents an important first step in responsibly living with this virus, and will provide a strong foundation to establish relationships and classroom routines which will be integral to the success of full remote learning if needed.
We’re designing and building a program at Heartwood with our own children in mind. The main questions are: 1) Do I feel safe sending my kids to school? and 2) Is my child receiving the best possible learning experience? I want my own 6- and 9-year old girls to see and make their own friends, have experiences independent from me, discover new things about the world, follow their curiosity, and grow in their love of learning. They will both be attending Heartwood this year. I know the teachers, staff and parents in our school will act with the best interest of our children in mind and give 100% of their dedicated work, creative wisdom and thoughtful care to creating a safe and engaging learning environment.
We’ll continue our work on the many details needed to be ready for the first day of school. I’ll send any updates to you at the end of next week. In the meantime if you have questions please reach out to me or join the open Q&A session on Wednesday, June 25th at 4pm (Request an invite).
Thanks and have a great weekend,
Updates and Answer Sessions
Next Q&A Session:
Lynda’s Latest Update: June 19, 2020