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Pandemic Plans for Fall 2020 2020-07-31T08:10:44-07:00

Pandemic Plan for 2020-2021

JGS is closely monitoring the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Moving forward:
ensuring continuity of learning

Our teachers and administrators continue to work tirelessly to meet our students’ academic needs as well as to ensure that they (and their families!) continue to feel safe, supported, engaged, appropriately challenged, and connected to our school community.

Formal Return-to-Campus Plan

FAQs About the Coming School Year

We will continue to use the guidance we are receiving from the state and local governments and the scientific community.

We are working closely with our educational colleagues in the region, state, and country and will continue to do so. We will follow any direction we receive from the government regarding closures or conditions under which we might open, we will keep the safety of our children and our staff at the forefront of any decision-making process.

Our goal for the 2020-2021 school year is to re-open our campus but to ensure the WELLNESS of our entire COMMUNITY by adhering to actions that promote a HEALTHY school environment. 

WELLNESS: Face coverings (shields and/or masks) because we care about the health and safety of our close-knit community and their families.

COMMUNITY: Compassionate, physical distancing on a regularly cleaned and sanitized campus.

HEALTHY: Dual health offices, temperature checks, and education about symptoms and prevention.

We are working closely with public health officials and other schools, here and around the world, to identify and implement best practices for a return to in-person learning. There are many facets to doing so safely.  Our COVID Task Force is finalizing the pandemic plan and has begun creating procedures based on our new policies.

We are in a unique position at JGS. We already have small classes, but we additionally have separate areas for each of the schools — Foundations, Lower School, Middle School, High School. By “zoning” our campus, we feel confident that we can keep students within their zones to minimize contact between them. Within the classrooms, because of our small class sizes, we are able to spread the students the recommended distance apart. 

Our current plan is to open with a Hybrid model where students’ time is divided between in-person learning and Virtual Learning. The BlueGray Calendar shows the rotation of the two groups.

At any time, we are prepared to pivot between our three learning models as necessary: Hybrid Learning, On-Campus Learning, Virtual Learning Experience. Details about these models are outlined in our JGS formal Return-to-Campus Plan 2020-21.

What we will also do in any scenario is remain responsive to the facts, true to our mission, and committed to our community.

We are working hard to make our Virtual Learning Experience as robust as it can be while also staying true to the JGS way. We have been, and will continue to be, responsive to community feedback and flexible in the application of the program to best meet the varied needs of our community.

JGS’s faculty and administrators were leaders in building a comprehensive plan for distance learning this spring. We will continue to develop it for any potential future need. We are taking advantage of the time over the summer to develop and design innovative learning experiences that leverage the underlying strengths of our approach while also taking full advantage of the affordances and possibilities of the connected format.  We learned a lot last spring and are using the experience to make our Virtual Learning even stronger.

Messages from the Head of School

Messages from Head of School, Dana Herzberg, are posted below, with the most recent communication first. JGS families should check email regularly for further updates from department heads, teachers, and the support team.

Dear JGS,

It’s another week and another email, as promised. Obviously, with COVID-19 cases on the rise in our state, we are all nervous about the start of the school year. Our goal is to return to campus, but we can only do that if it is safe to do so. [Survey attached.] While these surveys may seem redundant, I am very appreciative that you take the time to quickly complete them as they provide us with valuable real-time information. This week I have divided the questions by division so that we can evaluate each school individually.

Given today’s numbers, it is looking likely that we will need to start the school year on an alternative schedule which we hope will mitigate exposure for everyone. As I have stated in every email, JGS is in a unique situation due to the size of our school, classes, and classrooms. Formerly, the school occupying the JGS campus routinely held classes double and triple our size in the same classrooms. With an A/B rotational schedule, we would be occupying each room at less than half our normal capacity (4-8 students), which is already less than half of a typical classroom. In addition, we have modified doors and walls and removed lots of furniture to further expand spaces and improve distancing. Due to the design of the school and physical structure of the campus, we are able to customize and optimize each division’s roll-out plans, which we hope to communicate to you all by the end of next week (obviously contingent upon so many factors!).  Again, your feedback on this survey is so helpful for our planning!

At this point, if you do not feel comfortable sending your child back to campus in any format at JGS, please contact me or your division director ASAP so we can attempt to create something that will work for your family. If we aren’t able to do, we will help you plan accordingly. We have already worked with a few families with unique circumstances (immune-compromised students and/or parents/family members at risk), and with enough time and planning, we have been able to find creative solutions that work for all involved. Thinking outside the box is not unfamiliar to the JGS team, and neither is individualizing educational experiences. The key is communication! 🙂

Warmly,
Dana

Dear JGS,

In accordance with Governor Ducey’s order to have Arizona schools begin on August 17th, JGS has made the decision to move our start date back one week with Back-to-School Day on August 17th and the first day of school on August 18th. The week of August 10th we’ll begin our assessment modules in the following manner:

  • Each year Barb Burgess, our school psychologist, assesses most of our students on a rotational schedule (either Fall or Spring).  Since our Spring testing ended abruptly on March 9th, she will begin testing those students first this year. She will reach out to you for scheduling.

  • We will offer 1:1 WADE/WIST testing for students enrolled in the Wilson Reading System for FLEX. A member of the FLEX team will reach out for scheduling.

  • We will invite small groups of students (no more than 6/teacher/slot) to begin academic/benchmark testing on-campus. We do not expect to test every child but we hope we can get a strong start! School directors will send scheduling information as we get closer to August 10th.

I know that right now we are in a very unsettled time and that it is difficult to “wait and see”. Sadly, if we have learned anything, we have learned that flexibility and patience are the keys to dealing with this pandemic! We are moving forward and continue to do so to ensure that JGS will be ready to start our 2020-21 school year in the best format that we can offer in August.

With love,
Dana

Dear Parents,

As we find our way through life in this pandemic, I know that you may have questions and concerns regarding school opening, 2020-2021. Please know that we understand; confusion and fear seem to be a normal part of life for most of us these days.

Currently enrolled families have been sent our COVID-19 Response Plan. Please note that this is a living document that we are revising as more information and guidelines are available.

We hope to be able to announce which opening plan we will be adopting by mid-July.

Although we hope to open in August with the following modifications in place, there would be several factors that could trigger the implementation of the more restrictive opening plans:

  1. The Arizona Department of Education or another government agency mandates that Arizona or Maricopa County schools cannot reopen for part or all of the 2020-21 school year.
  2. Another Shelter In Place or Executive order is put in place that limits our ability to operate.
  3. If the surrounding school districts and private schools cancel their on-campus classes. We need to be aligned with and support our fellow educators and administrators.
  4. We feel that we are unable to keep our community safe due to the COVID-19 spread in Maricopa County.

Modifications that will be in place regardless of which opening plan is put in place:

SOCIAL DISTANCING:

We are in a unique position at JGS. We already have small classes, but we additionally have separate areas for each of the schools — Foundations, Lower School, Middle School, High School. By “zoning” our campus, we feel confident that we can keep students within their zones to minimize contact between them. Within the classrooms, because of our small class sizes, we are able to spread the students the recommended distance apart.

MASKS: 

Several parents have called me regarding masks next year. Since my last correspondence, which recommended “masks and/or face shields,” I have since learned that shields are extra protection but not sufficient for containing droplets. Therefore, we will be requiring that everyone wears masks on campus. A wise child told me, “I’d much rather wear a mask and be on campus than do online school again!” So, we are going to choose to look at the bright side of this — we are protecting ourselves and protecting our community while being able to be together in-person (we hope!). In preparation for helping your children wear masks, I would recommend that you start now. Have your children wear them for 5 minutes a day, then 10 minutes, and work their way up from there. I can tell you from firsthand experience, that it does get easier over time to wear one.

We ask that parents provide masks for your child as they all have different tolerances related to textures and feel. We have a very hefty supply of disposable masks that we will make available if a child should forget his/her mask. We will not, however, create SWAG masks for the obvious reason (we hope this is gone soon!) and because having 200 masks that all look the same is generally not a good idea. Students should bring a small bag with them to put their mask in during lunch or at other times when they remove it.

NOTE: If your child cannot wear a mask due to health reasons or sensory challenges, please contact us directly and we will walk you through possible alternatives.

FACE SHIELDS and BARRIERS: 

There will be times when students and/or teachers will need to temporarily wear shields instead of masks. If you have a child with dyslexia you might understand that seeing and feeling the position of the mouth is imperative for learning to read. Additionally, reading facial expressions is an important part of child development. Therefore, there are times when teachers and students must be able to see one another without a mask. During these times, students and teachers will shift to shields and they will be further separated by distance or a clear barrier to help keep everyone learning and safe at the same time!

OUTDOOR TIME:

We have thought long and hard about the realistic expectation for our students to wear masks for a full school day. We have researched the importance of wearing our masks indoors to protect one another (as you know, we are a culture of kindness) and the need for our students to move their bodies and experience playing outdoors. During recess and other outdoor times, our students will be able to remove their masks and play freely. Teachers will remind students about not clustering in groups or playing physical games that require body contact and will encourage activities that naturally support physical distancing (such as FourSquare). Students will have several shorter breaks rather than 2 long breaks and breaks will not be combined with grades from other divisions. We are fortunate to have a lot of room here on campus for the students to spread out when playing outdoors.

LUNCHTIME:

We have emptied the Student Union to be free from everything except for large tables so we can use the entire space for rotating lunch periods while ensuring safe distancing. Combined with some students staying in classrooms and utilizing outdoor picnic tables (with the misting system), we are confident that we can provide distancing while enjoying a much-needed, mask-free social lunchtime!

SOCIAL-EMOTIONAL FOCUS @ JGS:

It goes without saying, as this is just who we are as a community, but the social-emotional well-being of our students is paramount. Some of our students reported enjoying the distance learning model, but, the majority of our students missed the personal connections with peers and teachers. Whatever plan is necessary for a given time period, we will continue to support each child and offer recommendations for families for continued social-emotional development.

We love our JGS community and will do whatever it takes to get through this unprecedented time together. Please know that everything we discuss and implement is in the best interest of our families, students, faculty, and staff.

With love,
Dana

Dear JGS Families,

Thank you all for completing the survey I sent last week. I appreciate your feedback and have carefully considered all of your responses in addition to the surveys completed by the JGS teaching staff. Not surprisingly, our results mimic what is happening in the world — a lot of uneasiness and more questions than answers. I know that our decisions will be met with mixed emotions. At the end of the day, I feel a personal responsibility to live by the mission of the school’s whole-child approach to education. That means we continue to do everything we can to meet the social, emotional, and academic needs of our students while keeping our community safe.

Therefore, our goal for the 2020-2021 school year is to re-open our campus but to ensure the WELLNESS of our entire COMMUNITY by adhering to actions that promote a HEALTHY school environment.

WELLNESS: Face coverings (shields and/or masks) because we care about the health and safety of our close-knit community and their families.

COMMUNITY: Compassionate, physical distancing on a regularly cleaned and sanitized campus.

HEALTHY: Dual health offices, temperature checks, and education about symptoms and prevention.

What we have to remember is that this pandemic isn’t about just one person but the community at large. While we recognize that the data shows that most children are not getting severely sick, we have a hefty population of immunocompromised children in our school as well as some parents and teachers. Our position is that the more actions we can take to prevent the spread of COVID-19 on our campus, the longer we will be able to remain learning on campus.

We are in a unique position at JGS. We already have small classes, but we additionally have separate areas for each of the schools — Foundations, Lower School, Middle School, High School. By “zoning” our campus, we feel confident that we can keep students within their zones to minimize contact between them. Within the classrooms, because of our small class sizes, we are able to spread the students the recommended distance apart.

We have many other things that we are working on but I wanted to share our 2020-2021 goals with you. I know it is a lot to take in and that you have a lot to think about. Within the next few weeks, I will be sending our formal COVID Re-Opening Plan which will be a continually evolving live, working document. Our Task Force has been meeting virtually with several other schools across the Valley. I think you will find that many schools will be taking similar approaches to COVID re-opening plans. Please remember, due to the changes that are happening daily and weekly, this could change by August. I promise to continue transparent communication as we go along.

With love,
Dana

Spring 2020 Distance Learning Rollout

Read about our Spring 2020 transition to home-based, virtual learning, as featured in the Paradise Valley Independent.