Since June, Escuela del Sol Montessori School’s campus has been open to students. We started the school year slowly, offering in-person, hybrid and remote Learning Workshops to allow our families to choose the schooling method that was right for their children. As the year has progressed, we have been able to accommodate more students in the classrooms, and our exceptional record of health, safety, and human thriving have encouraged our community to return to campus. Jr. High returned in late February in two cohorts; our 6th years are in the classroom four days a week to work on their long-term research projects; we are excited to be welcoming the majority of our home learners back to campus in the coming weeks; and our Early Childhood classes have maintained fully operational communities from the beginning. How have we done it? Caution, creativity, collaboration and community.
New information, recommendations, and restrictions have slowed to a trickle and we are approaching one year since the shutdown last March. Deep breath. Carefully considered procedures and practices have certainly played a critical role in our ability to continue to provide seamless Montessori education remotely and on campus.
Among our carefully coordinated on-campus procedures are:
- Proper mask wearing
- Frequent and diligent hand washing
- Additional cleaning and sanitizing
- Daily health screenings
- Carefully orchestrated arrival and dismissal procedures
Additionally, we played to our strengths and did what we do best – looking broadly and deeply at the big picture.
- Our innovative maintenance crew built child-sized outdoor sinks for easy hand washing during warmer months. (During colder weather, frequent hand washing takes place in the classroom.)
- Creative use of our campus allows us to maximize air flow indoors, and to work and eat outside. Each classroom has separate entrances and access to inviting outdoor workspaces.
- And speaking of space, Montessori classrooms are designed for ease of movement and creative use of space. Teachers expertly arrange and rearrange furniture to support work and distancing.
- You’ve heard over and over about the importance of testing and tracing. Our entire staff gets tested every other week. To make it easier for them, we brought Covid-testing for staff to campus!
In late February, the CDC posted new recommendations suggesting schools open doors and windows to increase ventilation and help stop the spread of Covid. Keeping classroom doors and windows open has been part of our Covid safety protocol, even on cold days, from the very beginning. The students have adapted with ease and ingenuity. Our Senior El students created videos to help their fellow students dress in layers for cold weather, and our younger students have brushed up on their care-of-self skills by putting on and taking off coats and shoes independently.
In many ways, our success is a credit to our community. We care for each other like family, like a strong QuaranTEAM! Staff and parents alike maintain diligence: masking and distancing when they have to be out, staying home when they can, monitoring health and temperatures, washing hands. We all continue to adhere to Department of Health guidelines and restrictions, as challenging as it has been. Additionally, parents have kept their children out of school at the first sign of possible illness and consulted with healthcare professionals before bringing children back to school. Communication between home and school is always important, even more so this year. Families read school communications, ask questions, and diligently share information. Collaboration is key!
We are looking ahead to brighter days, and will continue to stay informed and practice an abundance of caution. The future still holds more uncertainty than any of us are comfortable with, but rest assured that our procedures and practices will remain in place until it is clear they are no longer needed. The classroom outdoor extensions are simply wonderful. Even when classes are “full,” there is ample space for work and movement – and even more now that we have incorporated outdoor workspaces. While the shape and form may evolve, they are here to stay. Our classrooms are filled with laughter, joy, discovery and love for learning. We are preparing to welcome returning families and new friends. Each carefully prepared classroom environment will continue to adapt, meeting the needs of the whole child. At Escuela del Sol Montessori School, we do what’s best for kids!