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:
- 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.
- Another Shelter In Place or Executive order is put in place that limits our ability to operate.
- 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.
- 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:
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.
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!
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.
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.