Dear IRDS Families,
I hope that this letter finds you happy, healthy, and creatively enjoying your summer. I know that I speak for the entire faculty and staff in saying that we truly miss you and cannot wait to see you back at school as soon as possible.
The Administrative team has been hard at work planning for the opening of the 2020-21 school year. As you all know, there are many moving parts and many agencies guiding us. The guidelines, requirements, and protocols continue to evolve and change, but we are doing everything we can to welcome our students back to on-campus learning as soon as it is permissible and possible. We look forward to delivering our outstanding academic program along with that incomparable sense of IRDS community we all know and love. We are committed to doing this safely, and in accordance with the regulations set forth by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), LA County Department of Public Health (LACDPH), and the State of California.
As many of you have heard, California State guidelines to reopen elementary, middle, and high schools were updated last week by Governor Newsom. He announced that schools will not be able to return to in-person learning until Los Angeles County is no longer on the State’s COVID-19 monitoring list for 14 consecutive days. Although Governor Newsom’s announcement created less autonomy in our decision-making, it did not change the strength of the programming we are planning for this fall, or our desire to get this community back together.
Start of School
While we had hoped to begin the academic year a bit earlier in August, we’ve had to push that back just a couple of weeks due to the ever-changing guidelines and protocols.
Our plan now is to officially welcome ALL of our students back to the 2020/21 School Year on August 24th, 2020.
Our ECE and Kindergarten will be in-person, on campus starting August 24th, 2020.
The Week of August 17th – 21st, our ECE and Kindergarten teams will use this time to help support ECE and Kindergarten students’ transition back onto campus. That week will include time for practicing drop off procedures, classroom visitations for both parents and students, and getting acquainted with the teachers. See below for details.
For now, our 1st through 5th graders will learn on-line from home starting August 24th, 2020.
The week of August 17th-24th, our Elementary School will prepare for the start of school with student/ teacher meet and greets and educational screenings conducted by the classroom teachers. While we hope this can be in person, it may need to be conducted via Zoom. We also plan to have back to school parent/teacher conferences this week. We will take this time to better prepare the students for distance learning and have scheduled times to pick up materials.
For our early childhood program, the Governor’s announcement did not change our ability to reopen with on-campus learning. We are creatively re-imagining and redesigning both our indoor and outdoor classroom spaces to enable physical distancing and safe, enriching environments for learning. We will take full advantage of our beautiful outdoor campus and plan to spend much of our day playing and learning together outside in the fresh air. Our class sizes will be no more than 10 students and we will follow the guidelines set forth by the Department of Public Health and our State licensing agency.
Kindergarten Opening as Part of ECE
We are thrilled that our Kindergarten program will be able to reopen for in-person instruction under our early childhood license. Here again, we are working to redesign the classroom spaces and will be utilizing both the current Kindergarten classroom as well as the library to ensure more physical distance and smaller learning groups while indoors.
Elementary School Waiver Process
Following the Governor’s announcement last week, we became aware of a waiver opportunity open to all school districts and private schools throughout the State. On Wednesday, the County of Los Angeles Department of Public Health shared with us some initial information about this waiver process, which could potentially allow us to reopen our 1st to 5th grade to in-person learning. These waivers are being issued on a case-by-case basis by local public health experts in consultation with the California Department of Public Health and will be based on local community epidemiological data and the school’s ability to meet the standards for reopening recently set by California. The protocols for this waiver and the application are scheduled to be released in a few days, and we will keep you posted as soon as we have more information.
Remote Learning Plans
We are committed to delivering an exceptional online learning experience for our 1st – 5th grade students until we are able to return to campus. We learned a great deal from the parent survey conducted a few weeks ago, as it provided insights into how we can support parents with the realities of balancing their need to work from home, as well as assist their children in their daily learning. We have modified the schedules to maximize live learning sessions, small group work, and individual attention from the teachers. We are working to streamline the communication process so that the daily schedule is clear and accessible to everyone. A final version of the enhanced daily schedule will be released in the coming days.
Hybrid Learning (Upon 1-5 Return to Campus)
While we are planning to return to campus as soon as possible for in-person learning in our elementary school, we recognize that there are members of our school community who may not be ready to have their child return to campus. We have been investigating the best options to allow students who are not able to be back at school, or who may be required to be at home for an extended period of time, to be part of the in-classroom experience. While this option will not replace the in-class experience, it will allow your child to participate in several elements of the day. If this is something your family would like to discuss as an option please reach out to us to discuss it further. We will also be dedicating a member of the faculty to support and work with these students at home, over Zoom, should this need exist in our community.
Zoom Information Sessions
We know that our community is both excited and curious about being back in school and how it will look. We want to provide as much information to you in the best possible way, so we will be holding evening Information Sessions via Zoom during the beginning of August to explain in further detail our procedures, protocols, and expectations. These meetings are scheduled for:
ECE Families – August 10th 7:00 pm
Elementary School Families – August 12th 7:00 pm
These sessions will also be recorded and made available to you should you not be able to attend.
Health / Operating Protocols – For return to campus
The following measures will be in place to minimize the spread of Covid-19 when students return to in-person learning:
During the day, if a child presents with health issues, a fever or other symptoms, they will be immediately isolated in a dedicated QUARANTINE ROOM which will be located in the main office until a parent is able to pick up the child. This designated space is designed to allow us to segregate and provide care for your child, while minimizing contact with everyone else.
If a student or any individual in our community tests positive for COVID-19, the School will follow the protocols outlined in the CDC Guidelines and the LA County Department of Public Health Exposure Management Plan for K-12 Schools. In addition, the School will document and track incidents of possible exposure and will notify local health officials and affected families of any exposure to a positive case of COVID-19 at school, while maintaining confidentiality, as required under FERPA and state laws.
Drop Off and Pick Up Protocols
We have developed new drop off and pick up protocols. This year, there will be three designated areas for drop off and pick up. Grades 1-5 will drop off in the back parking from 7:45 to 8:00, Kindergarten will drop of at 8:15 along the sidewalk just after the main office, E4 will drop off at 8:30, also along the sidewalk just after the main office, and the E2 and E3 will drop off at 8:45 along the fence dividing the the parking lot and the ECE and K classroom buildings. We are hopeful that we will be able to push back these start times for the ECE, in particular for those who require early care after the year begins, and the morning routines become routine.
Every child will have their temperature taken by a staff member each morning upon arrival. Any child with a temperature of 100 or above will not be permitted to enter. We are asking all families to please check their child’s temperature before coming to school so as to avoid this issue, but the final decision about entry into schools will be based on the temperature reading at the time of check in. If there is a question about the temperature reading on the contactless thermometer, a secondary temp check will be done with an ear thermometer. All of our faculty and staff will also go through the same health checks every morning.
You can also anticipate being asked a series of daily screening questions in regards to current health and travel status in your family.
In order to limit exposure, parents will be asked to remain in their cars as the children are checked in and greeted by the faculty. We will be limiting all guests to campus as an additional means of helping to prevent any exposure.
Prior to the opening of school we will have a day where we will ask our families to practice the drop off procedures so that the children can begin to have an understanding of some of the new routines.
Campus Construction Update
As part of getting the campus ready for the return of students, we have been working over the last year with our Insurance Company, the County of LA, and the contractors to complete the construction associated with the fire. I am thrilled to say that we expect the new bathroom building and the other two spaces lost during the fire to be completed and ready when school resumes. This has been a very long process with all entities involved (Insurance Company, LA County, contractors etc.), but we are excited it is being completed. A huge thank you to David Horenstein for spearheading this construction process.
NEW ECE Yard!!!
In addition to the new bathroom and other buildings being completed, we also secured a construction grant to help us rebuild and restore the back ECE play yard which was severely damaged during the fire. Construction on that yard has also begun and we can’t wait for our ECE students to be able to enjoy it when we return at the end of August.
As the construction process continues for both of these projects we will share pictures of the progress taking place.
As a Community we have a “Shared Responsibility” to help keep one another safe and healthy. It is our goal to do everything we can to help minimize disruption in the lives of our children and families. This is a communal undertaking with the expectation that all families, faculty and staff of the school take this responsibility seriously and honor it with the choices they make both in and outside of school. In order to keep our campus operating safely, all of our families need to do their part in following the recommended guidelines. These include wearing masks, frequent hand washing, and minimizing contact with others when not in school.
This concept of “Shared Responsibility” applies to every single family, faculty and staff member. Being part of a community comes with some responsibility that each of us must bear. Please keep in mind that there are members of this community who may be at high risk and/or may have family members in compromised positions. We need to protect them with our collective behavior. It is indeed our “Shared Responsibility” to do so.
We truly thank you for your support and patience during these historic times. Enjoy your summer and rest assured our collective commitment to a safe return to school for the Ilan Ramon Day School community is our top priority.