2020-21 school year planning overview, as of July 3.
Additional details about our procedures and policies, and any updates to recommendations and best practices, will be shared with our community in our complete plan at the end of July. We will also be prepared to shift and adapt as needed, knowing that the trajectory of the COVID-19 virus cannot be predicted with certainty.
Click to expand each heading below to read more.
Our overriding goal will always be to support the health, safety, and well-being of all Town constituents, and therefore we will adhere to the most comprehensive, current, and respected research regarding testing, wellness, management of classroom and other spaces, and all other aspects of school life. Within this goal is our knowledge as educators, affirmed by the American Academy of Pediatrics and other studies, that children's social-emotional wellness – key to their best possible learning – is significantly better supported by being together with each other and with their teachers. We therefore hope and plan to open school in a safe, physically-distanced model in our school building. Supporting our outstanding teachers in all aspects of their own health and well-being, as well as the unique professional demands of these times, is critical to achieving this goal. These understandings are behind all of our planning, summarized below.
Planning committees structure: internal expertise and advisory task force
A large team of faculty, staff, and administrators is working together to design the program, protocols, and practices necessary for what promises to be a unique start to our school year. The following sub-committees are contributing to our complete plan:
- COVID Planning Team, overseeing and consolidating all work
- Building Matrix Team
- Arrivals and Departures Team
- Supplies and Sanitation Team
- Food Service Committee
- Emergency Procedures Team
- Transportation and Neighborhood Relations Team
- Communications Team
- Social-Emotional and Family Engagement Team
- To examine best practices in all areas, an advisory task force created by Doug Brophy including community members who are front line physicians and health care leaders
School year dates: Opening Day 9/10 and pre-school event planning
Our first day of classes is set for Thursday, September 10th.
To best support our entire community's transition to a new school year after months of distance learning, and to build in essential support for student social-emotional learning and wellness during this time, we are planning parent education and child socialization events prior to Opening Day as well as rethinking our structures for the first days of school. Dates for all events will be set and invitations will be sent to families by the end of July.
Click here for a copy of the major dates for Town's 2020-21 calendar.
Our three primary models: building open, distance learning, hybrid
As shared in Doug Brophy's emails to the community in May, our primary three planning scenarios are:
- School building open with all students present for in-person learning (how we hope and plan to begin school in September). The most significant part of our planning work is focused on this model for a physically-distanced, safe learning environment with smaller and consistent student groups/cohorts, repurposing larger spaces as additional classroom space, redesigning movement throughout the building, multiple building entrances and staggered arrival and dismissal, and all appropriate health and safety protocols including wearing of face coverings (masks) and rigorous cleaning routines. For students and families with significant health concerns, we are investing in a telepresence system (enabling a broadcast of live teaching).
- Building closed with distance learning for all students. This model may be part of our experience at some point during this school year, in response to government and health department recommendations or our decision-making based on our school community's current situation. We are spending significant time this summer reflecting on and refining our distance learning program. Our refinements based on research, faculty reflection, professional development, and parent feedback will result in increased live experiences, small groups, and consistent structures that allow for school day continuity.
- A hybrid approach wherein some students rotate between in-person learning at our school building and at-home learning. Though our current planning, based on extensive evaluation of our building spaces and the latest recommendations from New York State and the CDC, indicates that we will be able to have all students present for physically-distanced learning, we are also designing our plan for a hybrid option should recommendations change. In this model, our youngest students would have priority for in-person learning, as our expertise and research clearly show the increased importance of in-person learning for younger children. Our current planning provides for Nursery-Kindergarten and Lower School students to consistently have in-person classes at school, with Upper School students rotating on a weekly basis between at-school and at-home learning.
With all three of these scenarios, we will continue to work with every family to help ensure they have the tools and information necessary to support the best possible learning experience for their children. More details are below about planning for in-person and distance learning models.
Planning informed by research and expertise
Our ongoing planning is informed by the most current and reliable research and recommendations:
- We are following the New York State Department of Health guidance and CDC recommendations extremely closely. We have canvassed peer schools, and we have reviewed the Harvard School of Public Health’s Risk Reduction Strategies for Reopening Schools and are benchmarking our plan against their recommendations.
- We have consulted with architects on the division of space in the Gym and Cafeteria to expand our primary learning spaces, including the materials that will be used to create those new spaces. We have brought in furniture experts to work with us on setting up our spaces in the most responsible way possible. This will include investment in new furniture as well as transparent partitions geared to promoting a safer environment.
- In-house experience from staff members who have worked in health care settings during this pandemic provides added value as we implement the safest model possible for our students and employees.
- Staff responsible for planning our in-person learning model continue to attend webinars on best practices provided by NYSAIS and other organizations while researching publications and case studies from schools around the world.
- To examine best practices in all areas, an advisory task force created by Doug Brophy including community members who are front line physicians and health care leaders.
Guiding principles for safe, physically-distanced in-person learning
Redesigning our physical configuration in the building to support a safe in-person learning environment includes:
- Repurposing larger spaces, such as the Gym, Theater, and Cafeteria, as primary learning spaces, and utilizing moveable walls in between select classrooms to create larger classroom spaces.
- Using outdoor spaces as often as possible (playroof, terraces, John Jay Park) to offer physically-distanced PE and dance classes as well as recess periods.
- Smaller student cohorts with consistent teachers to reduce contacts. Nursery-Kindergarten and Lower School homeroom classes will be split into smaller groups and Upper School homerooms will move into larger repurposed classroom spaces. All repurposed spaces will be outfitted with the necessary equipment and allow us to safely distance students.
- Less movement throughout the building during the day. Students will spend the majority of class time in their primary learning space with their cohort, with teachers and specialists coming to them. Hallways and stairwells will be designated as one-way where possible and traffic flow designed to prevent crowded spaces during class transitions.
- Staggered arrivals and dismissals at multiple building entry points to reduce crowding and support safe travel from entryways to classroom spaces.
Supporting health and social-emotional well-being for students, faculty and staff, and families
The planning details included below are focused strongly on modifications to our daily procedures, structures, and program that will allow us to safely offer in-person learning for all students in our building this fall. Equally important is supporting and attending to students' social-emotional well-being and learning, and supporting our faculty and staff's physical and social-emotional wellness as they rise to another new challenge in this ongoing pandemic.
To meet this essential need, our counseling team of Jan Mooney, Gene Gardino, and our incoming Upper School Psychologist Issac Silberstein are designing a comprehensive overview of anticipated needs, points of struggle, and Town's planned preparation and response in support of our students, employees, and families. Look for a full outline of their work, including how our understandings will translate into pre-school preparation and opening days, in our complete plan coming at the end of July.
Physically-distanced, in-person learning model details.
Our plan for in-person learning is based on the latest New York State and CDC recommendations, and benchmarking against other research such as Harvard School of Public Health’s Risk Reduction Strategies for Reopening Schools. Our model is designed around two essential goals: supporting our community's health and well-being, and meeting the educational and social-emotional needs of our students. Below is an outline of our ongoing planning as of July 3rd, with full details about all aspects to follow by the end of July.
Maintaining regular school hours, with modifications
Our model allows us to maintain a schedule close to our typical school-day hours of
- ~8:00am to ~3:30pm for 1st - 8th graders
- 8:40am - 12:00pm for Nursery 3
- 8:40am - 2:30pm for Nursery 4 and Kindergarten
Modifications for a staggered arrival plan are described below.
Staggered arrival and multiple entry points to reduce crowding and contacts
Our current planning for arrivals is staggered throughout the morning, making use of three building entry points and designated traffic flow patterns for each grade level, from a consistent entry door to the path taken up to their primary learning space.
- 8:00am Upper School arrival
- 8:15am 1st and 2nd grades arrival
- 8:30am 3rd and 4th grades arrival
- 8:40am Nursery-Kindergarten arrival
Drop-off and pick-up at the door; parents and caregivers remain outside
To reduce the number of people in the building together, and to reduce contacts where we can, parents and caregivers will not be allowed inside the building. This represents one of several ways we must temporarily adapt our Town community culture to help support our collective health and safety.
Our planning includes designated people providing assistance outside, as well as physical arrangements to preserve health and safety for our parents and caregivers. More details about daily procedures for drop-off and pick-up will be included in our complete plan at the end of July.
Early Risers and Clubhouse will be available to support families
The option to drop-off early and/or pick-up later in the day is an essential support for many Town families, and we are designing safe, physically-distanced models to continue to provide these options. Our efforts will include designating spaces and student configuration in the spaces to reduce contacts, as well as staffing and structures to preserve a positive experience for the students.
For Clubhouse, the significant alterations being made to our Gym to accommodate physical distancing during school hours offer the potential to provide after-school care with both quiet learning areas as well as an area for physically-distanced activities.
Two important shifts in our Early Risers and Clubhouse program philosophy: we will ask that only families who need these options enroll their children, and that families keep a planned schedule as much as possible, rather than using the service on a casual drop-in basis as in the past.
Please note that before- and after-school options will not begin until September21st, to allow time for our community to first become comfortable with basic daily procedures.
After-school classes (Postscript) will be online; tutoring and music lessons possible
In service of our goal to reduce physical contacts beyond student classroom groups, after-school classes for all ages (Jr. Postscript, Postscript, and Postscript Sr.) will be offered online. We do expect to offer our usual range of options such as performing arts, coding, chess, Mandarin, arts and crafts, sports, and cooking. Postscript classes will be fee-based with term enrollment.
A preview of planned offerings and program fees will be shared with our complete plan at the end of July, and we encourage families to complete the after-school portion of our upcoming parent survey to help us gauge interest in the program.
We are exploring options for offering on-site tutoring and private music lessons as well.
"Specials" classes will remain part of our program
Town's rich educational program is grounded in the philosophy that classes such as art, library education, performing arts, and physical education are essential aspects of a complete education. As such our physically-distanced in-person learning model will preserve these classes as fully as possible, with classroom-based activities taught in the primary learning spaces and physically-active classes taking place outside as much as possible.
Play and free time remain essential to successful learning
The physical activity and social aspects of free play time support our students' social-emotional well-being as well as their ability to focus and learn during classroom time. Our schedule for all ages will include essential free time during the day, to be held outside as often as possible, and with careful teacher oversight to maintain safe physical distancing during play.
Innovative approaches to our Upper School teams for Robotics and Athletics are in progress
Director of Athletics Bethany Stallings is currently engaged with peer schools and with our planning committees to explore all possibilities for providing some form of team sports this fall, looking at options for practices, including travel to Randall's Island (if feasible) to take advantage of more outdoor space.
Our Upper School LEGO Robotics teams will resume this fall, and we will be in touch with interested families about how we will collaborate safely as a team.
Food: snacks, boxed lunches for 1st - 8th grade and employees, N-K brings lunch
Individually packaged mid-morning snacks will be provided for all students, with food delivered to students in their primary learning spaces.
Nursery-Kindergarten students will continue to bring their lunch as in the past. (Nursery 3 students dismiss at 12:00pm and only need to bring lunch if staying for the extended day program.)
- Important update for this school year: N-K student lunchboxes must be a hard-sided plastic container that can be easily sanitized with a disinfectant wipe.
1st - 8th graders and all employees will have lunch provided by our Town chefs, with some innovative solutions from our food service company, Cater to You:
- Lunch will be served daily from 11:30am - 1:30pm with nine serving slots of 15 minutes each for grades 1-8.
- Meals will be individually packaged and delivered to each classroom (or office). In order to maintain our commitment to sustainability we are doing everything possible to source biodegradable food containers.
- Students will eat lunch in their primary classroom space.
- An online ordering system will allow families to choose from a variety of options for the packaged meals.
- Town's chefs will prepare all lunches and will continue to provide options for allergy concerns.
Tools to support learning: individual supply kits for younger grades, telepresence access for students who must be at home
We are expanding the concept of our 1:1 program beyond technology devices in the upper grades to include individualized learning supply kits for students. This model will support both a healthier environment during in-person learning by reducing shared material usage, as well as providing a pre-packaged personal learning kit for at-home learning.
- Individual Learning Tool Boxes are being created for all students, which will keep each student's belongings separated from others' and serve as classroom materials for distance learning if and when needed.
- Town has invested in a telepresence system to bring the in-person learning experience to any students who must learn from home due to ongoing health concerns or during an absence due to illness. These platforms are being used by peer schools and institutions like MIT, UPenn, and USC to bring the classroom experience to their students.
- Upper School students will be well-served by our existing structures of 1:1 tech devices (iPads) and personal copies of all learning texts.
- We are exploring providing 1:1 technology devices for Nursery 3 through 4th grade students.
Keeping our community together, digitally: large gatherings, performances via video meets
All current recommendations indicate that large gatherings are not possible to hold safely, and bringing large groups of students or parents together would negate our multi-tiered efforts to reduce physical contacts in our community. However, we experienced during distance learning that the Town community is not something that exists only within our building walls, and we will build on our successful online models for all types of community moments (class and grade meetings, assemblies, plays and performances) as part of our in-person learning model.
- Any student meetings beyond their primary classroom group (such as weekly Divisional assemblies or assemblies with guest performers) will still take place during the school day, with students present in the building, but joining together as a full group via video meeting.
- Student plays and musical performing groups (choruses, band, ensembles) will be redesigned to support our safe physical-distancing protocols, making use of technology tools and in-person opportunities to create special performances together.
- All parent meetings will be conducted as video meetings.
- All-community events, such as All School Assemblies and the Book Fair, will be designed as digital events, with our community gathering online.
- Other events, such as TownFest, do not as easily lend themselves to an online experience, and will be either postponed or reimagined.
Along with our peer schools, we are awaiting more clarity and guidance about transportation options. As expressed in our letter on June 29th, we are exploring all options to maintain Town's East and West Side morning shuttle bus service (possibly with larger buses to allow distancing), and we are in regular contact with the NYC Office of Pupil Transportation to understand options/recommendations for city-run school buses. We are also working closely with our transportation company as they reconfigure their buses to accommodate safe distancing to determine if we are able to use buses to transport students to Randall's Island for PE classes or Athletics practices.
We also acknowledge that, as New Yorkers, public transportation will be a part of how our community travels to and from school, and we appreciate the care and consideration every family and employee will take to travel as safely as possible.
Health and safety protocols for our in-person learning model.
The following outline of our ongoing planning for health and safety protocols adheres to New York State, New York City, and CDC recommendations. We anticipate there may be changes to the finer details of their recommendations over time, and we are prepared to adjust our procedures as needed. At present our plan includes:
Preserving faculty and staff health and well-being
Our faculty are the heart of our school. Their innovation and dedication these past months in bringing distance learning to life for our students has shown yet another side of their expertise and commitment to their students and to lifelong learning. We are now asking them to step into a new challenge of delivering an engaging, challenging, joyful program within the constraints of physically-distanced learning spaces, and we know they will once again ensure that our students have the best possible learning experiences. We are committed to supporting all of our employees' health and well-being as we work together to deliver our mission and support our students. All of our work in designing a physically-distanced in-person learning and working model is designed with the goal of protecting our faculty and staff as they focus on the essential work of delivering our program:
- A physically-distanced model that allows for six feet of separation in learning spaces, limiting movement throughout the building, avoiding large group gatherings, limiting additional contacts, and staggering arrivals and departures.
- Implementing cleaning and sanitizing routines throughout the day and supplying faculty and staff with appropriate facial coverings.
- Identifying which staff members can continue to work remotely, discussing possible rotations of in-person and remote work schedules, and determining which shared work areas can benefit from partitions to create a safer environment.
- Working closely with any faculty or staff member whose personal or family health may require a different working model.
Masks/face coverings required for entry into our building
In concert with the most current medical research and recommendations from the CDC and New York State, we anticipate requiring the use of masks, or facial coverings, for anyone entering our school building, including all students, faculty and staff.
- We recognize that wearing a face covering, no matter how comfortable, can become challenging over the course of a day for adults, let alone children. We will build in opportunties for "mask breaks" for students and adults throughout the day, in safe, physically-distanced settings.
- Town will provide faculty and staff with a face covering as is required for all employers per the New York State Health Department. Faculty and staff may also elect to provide their own face coverings.
- We recommend that parents purchase facial coverings for their children, to support some autonomy of choice for students and to allow families to choose the most comfortable fit for their children.
- Our complete plan in late July will include recommendations about mask features and how many masks each student should have on hand.
- We will work closely with any families who may need assistance procuring appropriate face coverings in the needed quantities.
- We are working to identify the best facial covering option for our youngest children, who may benefit from both the teacher and themselves having a face covering with a clear panel, so they can view mouth movements to support language development and social-emotional learning. We are researching options for this type of mask and will send more details and guidance soon to families in affected grades.
- The security desk will maintain an "emergency" supply of masks for anyone who must come into the building but does not have their mask with them.
- We are closely monitoring the evolving research and case studies around mask use, and will revise our policies as appropriate.
- We do not recommend employees or students use an N-95 or other medical-grade mask outside of very specific roles and situations at Town. Training and a personalized fit are necessary to make these masks effective, and they are simply not necessary or advisable for non-medical personnel outside of a highly-infectious environment.
Reducing who and what comes into our building each day: limiting students to essential belongings, reducing visitors, and sanitizing deliveries
To further support our efforts to maintain a safe and healthy environment at school, we will ask that employees and students bring just the essentials with them to school each day.
- In practical terms, this will mean students bringing in only books, supplies, and clothing needed for that school day.
- Use of student cubbies/lockers will be redesigned as well, taking into account the need to reduce contacts between both students and their belongings.
Deliveries of food and supplies will be off-loaded outside the 75th Street entrance and brought in and sanitized by Town Staff to limit outside people entering the school. Mail and small package delivery will take place outside of the Front Entrance.
Visitors will be limited to essential people: specialized repair or maintenance workers, vendors, safety/fire inspectors, or people directly supporting student health and learning in classrooms. Our admissions team is currently reimagining our entire admissions process for fall as an online experience, designing new ways for families to get to know our school while eliminating in-person parent tours and child play groups/class visits.
Health office procedures: daily health screening, hand-washing, illness tracking, responding to COVID-19 diagnosis in the community
Our School Nurse, Megan O'Neill, is creating a complete summary of our COVID-19 policies and procedures that will be shared with all community members.
We will closely follow, and instruct students in, New York State's hand-washing protocols (mirroring CDC recommendations). Signage is being placed throughout the building, including in bathrooms, reminding everyone to wash their hands. We are also exploring purchasing hand-washing stations and additional hand sanitizing stations to supplement the bathrooms and sinks we currently have available.
Daily health screening:
- All faculty, staff, and children will be screened daily for fever and symptoms of COVID-19 illness.
- Our current goal is to introduce a secure app that will allow faculty, staff, and parents to screen at home prior to coming to school
- Our School Nurse will use the app each day to identify any students or employees who will need an in-person screening before entering school.
- If the app is not a viable option for any reason, we are preparing supplies and staff training to be ready to conduct temperature checks and ask screening questions at all three building entrances.
- Essential visitors (repair workers, inspectors, etc) will be screened at the Front Entrance prior to being granted access to the building.
Town will follow our usual guidelines that no student or employee may come to school with a fever or significant illness symptoms.
- We ask, as in the past, that all Town employees and parents report all illnesses to the Nurse.
- Any illness with the potential for infection will require a physician's note to return to work/school.
- Will we request self-reporting and self-quarantining after confirmed COVID-19 exposure or diagnosis.
- We will also continue to monitor New York State requirements for self-quarantining after travel. Note that as of June 30th, Governor Cuomo announced that individuals travelling to some US states should self-quarantine for 14 days after returning home to New York.
- We are currently planning to have a designated area for children who are in need of isolation, separate from the Health Office, as required by state regulations.
Our complete plan will include protocols for how Town will respond to confirmed diagnoses of COVID-19 in our community. We will be following NYC DOH guidelines and procedures for COVID Reporting, notification, and contact tracing when notified of a positive test or exposure within our community; more specifics to follow.
Building cleaning, HVAC, and bathrooms protocols
We envision an all-hands-on-deck approach to cleaning to accomplish sanitizing hard surfaces and bathrooms throughout the day, especially any time room occupants change, such as when a class leaves a space and a new one enters.
- Manipulatives in classrooms will be sanitized between uses.
- Our Facilities Director has purchased electrostatic sprayers that will be used throughout the building to ensure that every surface is thoroughly disinfected daily. (Electrostatic sprayers use a specialized solution that is combined with air and atomized by an electrode inside the sprayer. The spray contains positively-charged particles that are able to aggressively adhere to all surfaces and objects.)
- All cleaning products being considered are based on CDC recommendations. The mandatory Safety Data Sheets will be housed in the Maintenance Department.
- Town's HVAC system is regularly updated and maintained for optimal function. Our Facilities Staff is now exploring all feasible options for further optimizing our building's HVAC system, in partnership with our mechanical engineers, to ensure the best possible air quality.
- Protocols for shared bathroom use will be included in our final plan at the end of July.
Options for community members who must learn or work from home
As noted earlier, we will work closely with teachers and staff who may need accommodations to support their own health, and we will work closely with families who may need to choose remote learning due to health concerns.
Our investment in telepresence technology in our classrooms will help deliver our in-person learning model as a vibrant at-home learning experience for students.
Please don't hesitate to reach out to our School Nurse or your Division Head for a confidential conversation about your family's needs.
Distance Learning 2.0
We know that, due to the continued uncertainty about the trajectory of the COVID-19 virus, distance learning may be part of our experience at some point this school year. In our summer planning and professional development, we are taking advantage of the opportunity to build on our successes from this spring. Our refinements based on research, faculty reflection, professional development, and parent feedback will result in increased live experiences, small groups, and consistent structures that allow for school day continuity.
Our complete plan in July will include more details such as when we would transition to distance learning, how families will be alerted of upcoming transitions, and how we are preparing for a successful transition between in-person and at-home learning models. We will also publish our distance learning schedule alongside our in-person learning schedule before school begins, so families may have a clear idea of what to expect, should we need to move to this model.
We will ensure families have a clear understanding of our evaluation process for when a shift to distance learning may be necessary (including any clear recommendations from state or national agencies), as well as how to prepare at home for this possibility.
We will maintain transparency to avoid sudden shifts whenever possible. As usual, our communication modes will include email, a recorded phone message if needed, and messages posted on our internal and external websites and social media.
We will also build in developmentally-appropriate conversations with students to help support their understanding and preparedness for distance learning, should it become necessary.
Tools and tech to support the transition between in-person and distance learning models
Tools for learning will include the 1:1 technology devices, along with expanded use of tech platforms that were successful this spring, and creating kits of physical classroom supplies to help support learning at home.
- We will work from the start of the school year to ensure all families are prepared with necessary tech devices at home.
- We will expand the use of Seesaw, which was a successful platform for sharing student work and engaging teacher feedback in N-K, to 1st - 3rd grades. This platform will also be used in the classrooms during in-person learning to build students' comfort and readiness to use Seesaw at home in a distance learning setting.
- Schoology, our learning management system used in 4th grade and Upper School, will be implemented immediately at the beginning of the year so that students will be comfortable and confident using it more independently at home.
- Learning Tool Kits for all grades have been designed to reduce shared use of materials while in school and to support effective learning at home. If the school moves into distance learning, students will take their Learning Tool Kit home with them.
Reflecting on and refining our distance learning model
This summer we are building on and refining our distance learning model, applying our own observations and learning throughout the spring, and incorporating faculty expertise as well as feedback about families' experiences.
- Targeted professional development around distance learning tech tools and effective practices is already in process.
- Our refined distance learning model will include structured, consistent daily schedules with regular start and end times for all students from Nursery 3 through 8th grade.
- Some refinements for younger grades will include a consistent balance of live classes and independent work times throughout the day, a mix of synchronous and asynchronous learning, and regular small group work to target and support learning.
- Social-emotional learning will be a priority for all students, especially at the start of the school year, and we will extend this priority into distance learning.
- Lesson duration will vary for younger students depending on the time of year distance learning is implemented, taking into account student stamina, attention, focus, need, and routines established.
What's next: complete plan details by end of July.
Look for our next major update at the end of July with:
- Our complete plan, including additional details about protocols and practices.
- Updates on our budget planning.
- Any updates on official regulations and recommendations, as well as any new scientific learning that is informing our thinking and planning.
- A full overview of social-emotional considerations and how we plan to address them for children, families, faculty and staff. Special support and training will be provided for teachers and staff to help them prepare to support our students, and to support their own health and well-being.
- Connection opportunities for younger students to help establish and build class community.
- Dates for parent education opportunities around social-emotional support structures, our learning management systems, and a deeper diver into our distance learning philosophy and protocols.