Last Updated – September 13, 2020

Sections Added/Updated This Week
Communications
– Reopening Task Force Purpose and Goals
– September 13th Community Update

MCS is currently in Phase Orange.

Welcome to Montessori Community School’s COVID-19 Information Hub. Our school’s top priority remains the health, safety, and well-being of our students, families, faculty, and staff. We are constantly assessing the efficacy of health and safety protocols and broader environmental conditions as we continue to plan for a safe and productive 2020-2021 school year. Nevertheless, we recognize that precise predictions and perfect solutions will remain elusive during the continuation of the pandemic.

Our goal is to share as much information as possible. Below you will find information on our decision-making process, our academic plan, and our safety protocols and policies. We will continue to follow the guidelines set forth by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NC DHHS).

Guiding Principles

The school and task force are committed to:

  • Prioritizing the health, safety, and well-being of our students, families, faculty, staff, and community.
  • Delivering a high-quality Montessori education through both an in-person and distance learning approach.
  • Supporting the individual needs of the MCS Community through an equity and inclusion lens.
  • Building strong community ties through consistent and transparent communication and engagement.

Decision Making Process

The administration and staff have been working throughout the summer to plan and implement steps to best serve our mission while maintaining the health and safety of our community. Additionally, MCS has formed a Reopening Task Force made up of an excellent group of MCS staff and community members; including epidemiologists, public health experts, and an expert in anti-bias classrooms.

We have identified 4 phases of reopening: red, orange, yellow, and green. We understand and recognize the need to shift between several, or potentially all 4, phases at some point during the 2020-21 school year. For the remainder of the 2020-2021 school year, regardless of which phase we are in, a remote option will still be offered if there are enough students to warrant it at each level. Our decisions will be based upon:

  • Announcements made by Governor Cooper regarding the state’s general status and progress on reopening plans
  • The metrics set forth by our Health Care Providers (listed below)
  • The needs of our faculty and staff
  • Input from all members of MCS Reopening Task Force
  • Health Metrics

    These are the public health metrics that will be used to determine phased return to on-campus learning as well as what would advise a return to distance education.

    1. Focus on the three counties where the majority of our students/parents and faculty/staff reside: Durham, Orange, Wake
    2. Focus on trends (down, up, flat) rather than hard-and-fast thresholds, over a one-to-two-week period.

    Specific indicators may include, but are not limited to:

    • Number of cases in the community, per 100,000.
    • Allow not only for those tested who are positive, but also the percentage of those who are not being tested. (If there is extensive testing, then the positive rate should be under 5%.)
    • Local hospitalization capacity.
    • Monitor the number of cases that occur on campus with our current, very limited cohorts.
    • Monitor number of cases/clusters reported from local schools/colleges that have opened in-person more fully
  • Phase Red

    • MCS students and staff at all levels will be in distance learning mode.
    • No students on campus.
  • Phase Orange

    The Phase We are in at This Time

    • Toddlers are on-campus, spending most of their time outside, and split into 2 classes.
    • Outdoor Forest Class provided for a small number 3’s and 4’s. A small group of Elders doing supervised distance learning on campus will join this class at 1 pm.
    • Small cohorts of students from Lower/Upper Elementary, and Adolescents are able to do supervised remote learning on campus.
    • All employees and students over the age of 2 are required to wear masks unless eating, drinking, or sleeping.  
    • Pick-up and Drop-off are staggered by level to maintain small groups in a space at one time.
    • Parents are not to be on campus other than using the drop-off and pick-up lane unless asked by a member of the Administration.
  • Phase Yellow

    • Classes will begin to open gradually as determined by the metrics set forth by Health Care Providers, input from members of the entire Reopening Task Force, and the needs of Faculty/Staff.
    • Which classes opened first will be determined by the Program Directors and the Head of School. 
    • It is possible that we may need to move back into Phase Orange/Red if the metrics set forth show that safety has been compromised. 
    • The Outdoor Forest classroom will dissolve and Primary/Elders will return to their regular classrooms. Adam Miller will teach the students from Room 202 again.  
    • Primary students who were originally assigned to 202 will go back to working with Adam instead of their distance learning teacher.  
    • As metrics improve, more classes will be added to on-campus learning. 
    • Rochelle Hayes will remain in distance learning for any Primary families who still wish to take part in it. Rochelle’s students who return to campus would be reassigned to an on-campus teacher.
    • All employees and students over the age of 2 are required to wear masks unless eating, drinking, or sleeping. 
    • Pick-up and Drop-off are staggered by level to maintain small groups in a space at one time.
    • Parents are not to be on campus other than using the drop-off and pick-up lane unless asked by a member of the Administration.
  • Phase Green

    • All students who are comfortable returning to campus are allowed
    • Masks will still be worn unless stated otherwise
    • Many restrictions may still be in place depending on the metrics:

    – Eating meals outside, remaining 6ft. Apart
    – Reduced number of students in a classroom
    Classroom teachers may be split to work with a smaller number of students

    • Toddlers merge into one classroom.
    • No Outdoor Forestry Class will be offered for Primary/Elders.
    • Pick-up and Drop-off are staggered by level to maintain small groups in a space at one time.
    • Parents may still be asked to not be on campus and remain in their cars.

Academic Plan

  • Toddler

    Distance Learning

    Students may be expected to:

    • Enjoy family life with developmentally appropriate contributions

    Parents are invited to:

    • Remain mindful and respectful about the growing self-esteem and sense of independence that your child is developing
    • Offer help to your child with the hardest part of a task (not the whole task)
    • Initiate verbal communication, frequently asked questions, share concerns and observations
    • Be consistent; follow routines and clear sequences for each activity
    • Limit screen time
    • Include your child in household chores
    • Provide opportunities for outdoor activities (gross motor skill development)
    • Let go of perfection. What you are experiencing now is not the final goal. It is the foundation.
    • Enjoy and appreciate time with your child
    • Make a schedule together that works for your family (when to take breaks / have time outdoors etc)

    At the Toddler level, MCS admin and teachers will

    • Provide parents with this “Learning From Home Handbook
    • Initiate individual support and communications based on each child’s needs
    • Provide detailed updates and consultation regarding toilet learning, sleeping habits, activities (fine/gross motor)
    • Share the current class routine/schedule and then suggest guidance in setting up a daily routine at home
    • Share guidelines and suggestions for screen time
    • Share general and individual suggestions for activities for fine and gross motor skills, providing pictures/videos/materials for parent viewing
    • Provide suggestions for books and songs to support language acquisition
    • Provide videos of teachers singing and performing hand actions to well-loved class songs
    • Share suggestions for practical life activities at home e.g. recipes, food prep, house chores, clothing tips, etc.
    • Be responsive to parent questions and be available to offer guidance and tips for activities or any other element of support for your child’s development
    • Provide daily morning circles of approximately 20 minutes.
    • Provide materials, and instructions for using those materials, to support learning from home at intervals throughout distance learning
    • Provide weekly virtual office hours for parents.
  • Primary

    Distance Learning

    Daily Schedule for Primary Distance Learning Classes

    Students may be expected to:

    • Enjoy family life with developmentally appropriate contributions
    • Attend daily distance learning work cycles

    Parents are invited to:

    • Remain mindful about your child’s stress or worries during this time of change
    • Provide significant student support the first few weeks of school or until the student begins to show independence in completing the work cycle
    • Monitor communication about your child from your teachers
    • Initiate communication with teachers about questions, ideas, concerns, feedback
    • Support your child’s independence in daily life activities
    • Be mindful of and allow children to continue periods of concentration
    • Establish daily routines and expectations
    • Limit screen time
    • Provide opportunities for daily physical activity
    • Make a schedule together that works for your family (when to take breaks / have time outdoors etc)
    • Set up a learning-from-home work space with your child – Items that would be helpful include; a small area rug that can be rolled up, shelving to hold materials and supplies (Some inexpensive options for shelves are milk crates, cubby storage from a big box store, wood planks with bricks for support.), small containers and baskets to hold work, paper trays or folders for paper, a desk or table, a chair
    • Help your child sign in to their virtual classroom at the appropriate time

    At the Primary Level, MCS admin and teachers will

    • Provide parents with this “Learning From Home Handbook
    • Initiate individual communications based on student needs
    • Provide a morning work cycle – This morning work cycle will consist of small group lessons of about 20 minutes and/or a whole class Spanish or music lesson, as well as freedom of choice with work when students are not in a lesson. The teacher and all students in class will have an open computer screen during this time. Students may ask for help, receive lessons, check in with the teacher, share their work with a teacher, etc during this time. Elders may receive specials during this time as well.
    • Provide the current class routine/schedule and then suggest guidance in setting up a daily routine at home
    • Offer guidelines and suggestions for screen time
    • Provide both general and individualized suggestions for activities developing fine motor skills, gross motor skills, language, numeracy
    • Be responsive to parent questions and available to offer guidance and tips for activities or any other element of support for your child’s development
    • Share suggestions for practical life activities at home e.g. recipes, food prep, house chores, clothing tips, etc.
    • Provide daily morning meetings of approximately 20 to 30 minutes
    • Provide office hours for parent check-ins
    • Provide materials, and instructions for using those materials, to support learning from home
    • Support parents in setting up a learning-from-home space
    • Offer live, synchronous elder specials instruction in art, PE, and Spanish
    • Offer daily live, synchronous instruction to students
    • Provide afternoon elder cycle

    Program-Specific Needs and Characteristics

    • Children aged 3 – 6 thrive in environments that promote repetition, routine and the mastery of purposeful movement
    • Allow your child to choose activities and give them the opportunity for periods of time without distractions
    • The key to a successful learning environment is order, access to tactile resources, space to explore and meaningful activity. For the early childhood child, ‘work’ and ‘play’ should be interchangeable – a natural, fun and exciting part of life.
  • Lower Elementary

    Distance Learning

    Sample Daily Schedule for Lower Elementary

    Students are expected to:

    • Plan and organize work with guidance from parents
    • Follow teachers’ guidelines and academic expectations
    • Work with integrity on assigned tasks – do your best!
    • Be present and ready to learn

    Parents are invited to:

    • Prepare a workspace in the home that meets the child’s particular needs, paying attention to chair and table height, lighting and distractions, and level of parental support needed
    • Establish a consistent routine and work schedule together
    • Follow along with the teachers’ suggested activities to maintain skills and concepts
    • Provide opportunities for your child to share/present work to you
    • Make a schedule together that works for your family (when to take breaks / have time outdoors etc)
    • Check-in with your child regarding the daily work plan

    At the LE level MCS admin and teachers will:

    • Provide parents with this “Learning From Home Handbook
    • Provide students with a document highlighting goals and expectations of distance learning
    • Provide synchronous and asynchronous learning environments in all core curricula
    • Initiate individual support and communications based on students’ needs
    • Provide the current class routine/schedule and then suggest guidance in setting up a daily routine at home
    • Offer a routine/daily schedule that attends to the social, emotional, academic, and physical needs of the student
    • Offer guidelines and suggestions for screen time
    • Share suggestions for practical life activities at home e.g. recipes, food prep, house chores, etc
    • Be responsive to parent questions and be available to offer guidance and tips for activities or any other element of support for the students’ development
    • Provide daily morning circles of approximately 20-30 minutes
    • Provide materials and instructions for using those materials to support learning from home
    • Offer guidance to students on learning how to use technology that is needed for online learning (Google Classroom)
    • Provide virtual office hours for parents and study halls for students
    • Provide synchronous as well as asynchronous instruction in art, music and P.E.
    • Provide support in navigating technology to attend and participate in lessons and turn in assignments
    • Provide opportunities for third-period presentations to the larger community (parents, specialists, administration, peers)
    • Provide opportunities to receive student feedback

    Program-Specific Needs and Characteristics

    • Respect the stage of development – many Lower Elementary students are at a “concrete level” and require the Montessori materials to complete certain tasks. Teachers will guide you regarding what works makes sense for your child
    • Develop ideas that allow the opportunity for Lower Elementary students to build from their interests. Examples may include projects, journals, creative writing, geometry constructions, Practical Life at home
    • Encourage socialization. Lower Elementary students are extremely social; they will need to feel connected to their friends

    One note regarding sharing or presenting work:
    It is a regular occurrence in an Elementary Montessori classroom for children to present their work or projects to one another. This is something you can replicate at home. Planning a presentation or sharing time at the end of a project is very exciting for young children and gives our older students an opportunity to use their voice. It is an essential part of the learning process as it requires synthesis of learning to describe, explain and express yourself clearly. It feels celebratory as well!

  • Upper Elementary

    Distance Learning

    Sample Daily Schedule for Upper Elementary

    Students are expected to:

    • Prepare a workspace in the home that meets their particular needs, paying attention to chair and table height, lighting and distractions, and level of parental support needed
    • Plan and organize work as independently as possible
    • Follow teachers’ guidelines and expectations
    • Be their own advocate when assistance or further clarification is required
    • Communicate directly with teachers
    • Submit or review assigned work according to guidelines
    • Organize notebooks and Google Classroom folders
    • Be ready and present for work daily

    Parents are invited to:

    • Guide your child to set up a prepared environment at home
    • Establish a routine and work schedule
    • Follow along with the teachers’ suggested activities to maintain skills and concepts
    • Meet and review your child’s assignments; provide opportunities at home for work presentations
    • Make a schedule together that works for your family (when to take breaks / have time outdoors etc)
    • Share and discuss current events and news items with your child

    At the UE level, MCS admin and teachers will:

    • Provide parents with this “Learning From Home Handbook
    • Provide students with a document highlighting goals and expectations of Distance learning
    • Provide synchronous and asynchronous learning environments in all core curricula
    • Initiate individual support and communications based on students’ needs
    • Provide the current class routine/schedule and then suggest guidance in setting up a daily routine at home
    • Offer a routine/daily schedule that attends to the social, emotional, academic, and physical needs of the student
    • Offer guidelines and suggestions for screen time
    • Share suggestions for practical life activities at home e.g. recipes, food prep, house chores, etc
    • Be responsive to parent questions and be available to offer guidance and tips for activities or any other element of support for the students’ development
    • Provide daily morning circles of approximately 20-30 minutes
    • Provide materials and instructions for using those materials to support learning from home
    • Offer guidance to students on learning how to use technology that is needed for online learning (Google Classroom)
    • Provide virtual office hours for parents and study halls for students
    • Provide synchronous as well as asynchronous instruction in art, music and P.E.
    • Provide support in navigating technology to attend and participate in lessons and turn in assignments
    • Provide opportunities for third-period presentations to the larger community (parents, specialists, administration, peers)
    • Provide opportunities to receive student feedback

    Program-Specific Needs and Characteristics

    • Respect the stage of development – some students may still be at a “concrete level” and require the
    • Montessori materials to complete certain tasks. Avoid “teaching” shortcuts for subjects such as Mathematics
    • Develop ideas that allow the opportunity for Upper Elementary students to build from their interests. Examples may include projects, journals, creative writing, geometry constructions, Practical Life at home
    • Support the need for Upper Elementary students’ group work – working with a friend (if possible) may be very well received
    • Encourage socialization. Upper Elementary students are extremely social; they will need to feel connected to their friends

    One note regarding sharing or presenting work:
    It is a regular occurrence in an Elementary Montessori classroom for children to present their work or projects to one another. This is something you can replicate at home. Planning a presentation or sharing time at the end of a project is very exciting for young children and gives our older students an opportunity to use their voice. It is an essential part of the learning process as it requires synthesis of learning to describe, explain and express yourself clearly. It feels celebratory as well!

  • Adolescent

    Distance Learning

    MCS Adolescent Distance Learning Schedule 2020-2021

    Students are expected to:

    • Prepare a workspace in the home that meets their particular needs, paying attention to chair and table height, lighting and distractions, and level of parental support needed
    • Remove cell phones and other devices that may cause distractions from workspace
    • Attend synchronous lessons and scheduled conferences on time with materials needed for that work
    • Attend student-initiated Google Meet work sessions for class project work and assignments
    • Review both individual and group lesson expectations
    • Advocate for themselves when in need of support by reaching out to guides and peers as appropriate
    • Submit or review assigned work according to guidelines
    • Organize notebooks and Google Classroom folders
    • Actively use and bring a planner to morning meeting and every class
    • Actively engage in building community through inclusivity and striving for kindness and respect of all members

    Parents are invited to:

    • Collaborate with your adolescent in preparing a workspace in the home
    • Support your adolescent in removing or mitigating distractions during synchronous learning
    • Invite your adolescent to prepare a meal for the family once per week
    • Invite your adolescent to contribute more than usual to household chores
    • Share and discuss current events and news items with your adolescent
    • Make a schedule together that works for your family (when to take breaks / have time outdoors etc)

    Adolescent Teachers will:

    • Provide parents with this “Learning From Home Handbook
    • Offer a routine/daily schedule that students will be able to independently follow and interact with
    • Offer a routine/daily schedule that attends to the social, emotional, academic, and physical needs of the student
    • Offer live, synchronous instruction and project-based work in the disciplines of Humanities, Science, Math, Writer’s Workshop, Spanish, Mindfulness, and Microeconomy
    • Offer live, synchronous instruction in the Arts & Movement
    • Offer weekly advisor group meetings
    • Offer service-learning opportunities
    • Offer guidance to students on learning how to use technology that is needed for online learning (Google Classroom & Thinkwave)
    • Provide materials and instructions for using those materials to support learning from home
    • Offer third-period presentation of big work to the community (Place Study, Peace Study, & Graduation)
    • Offer small group support to learning as needed during daily work blocks
    • Be responsive to parent questions and concerns through email and Google Meet Conferences

    Program-Specific Needs and Characteristics

    • In general, we expect Adolescent students to take responsibility for completing their work within the timelines provided
    • There is an opportunity for parents and students to discuss topics of inquiry from their studies.
    • Watching or reading the news together, and otherwise having adult-style conversations is very important
    • While we don’t expect parents to review assignments, please do support work completion
    • Adolescents crave and require social interaction. Please facilitate ways your child can meet with other classmates or friends outside of school

     

For distance learning academic support, please consult our Learning From Home Handbook. If you have any additional questions, please contact your student’s program director.

Health and Safety

The safety, health, and well-being of our students, families, faculty, and staff are always our top priority. We follow guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NC DHHS) to minimize the risk of exposure to COVID-19. Please be aware that this is an evolving process. As we receive more information, some items are likely to be added to this list; while others will possibly change.

For students/families and staff/faculty who are working and learning on-campus or for any distance learning families or community members visiting campus, we have adopted the following health and safety measures for 2020-2021.

  • Arrival and Dismissal From Campus

    All students will use the car line for drop-off and pick-up. We will have a staggered schedule to help cut down on traffic in the parking lot. Parents/Guardians are strongly encouraged to remain in their vehicles at all times unless told otherwise by an Administrator or to buckle their child in a car seat. Staff may help a child out of a car seat. However, they are not allowed to buckle anyone in a car seat, booster, or seat belt. Parents/Guardians will sign students in and out electronically from their car.

    We also encourage parents to designate the same parent or individual to drop off and pick up the child every day if possible. Avoid designating those considered at high risk such as elderly grandparents who are over 65 years of age if possible.

    At arrival, before the student exits the vehicle, a health survey will be presented to the parent. If the parent answers yes to any of the Screening Questions, the child will not be allowed on campus. The student will also have their temperature taken with a non-touch thermometer. Any student with a temperature over 100 degrees will not be allowed on campus.

  • Face Coverings

    Everyone over the age of 2 is required to wear a face covering correctly at all times while on campus unless eating, drinking, or napping. This includes but is not limited to: inside the buildings, outside, recess, PE, the parking lot, the bus/riding in a vehicle with a chaperone, staff break times while on campus, the Main Office, the Teachers Lounge, and on all field trips.

    If anyone on campus does not have a face covering, they will be asked to come to the Front Office where one will be provided. If someone has a reason/condition why they cannot wear a face covering, please speak with your child’s Program Director.

    We encourage students to start wearing face coverings at home over the summer to prepare for when school begins. We have found that the more times a person wears a face covering, the more accustomed they get to doing so.

    Please read these additional links from the CDC and NCDHHS about how to properly wear a face covering and FAQ’s on the subject.

    https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/how-to-wear-cloth-face-coverings.html

    https://files.nc.gov/covid/documents/about/managing-overall-health/FAQs-Cloth-Face-Coverings.pdf

  • Hand Washing

    Hand washing/sanitizing should happen as soon as one enters the school. Students and employees will wash their hands as they enter the classroom, before going outside, returning to the room after being outside, after restroom visits, before and after eating and before and after using materials. Signs will be posted to remind students and staff to remember to wash their hands. In addition, teachers will give lessons on the proper method of watching hands. 

  • What happens if a person tests positive for COVID?

    MCS has been in touch with North Carolina Department Health and Human Services who will be helping to lead an investigation if someone tests positive. Although turnaround time for decisions made by the local health department are not predictable, based on what we have seen at this time from other child centers and summer camps, it appears that reaction time is within 24 hours.

    If a class is put into quarantine, the teacher, if well enough, will move into teaching the class in a distance learning scenario until the quarantine is over and the student(s) are approved to return to MCS.

    Please click here for a detailed chart of our policies and procedures.

For detailed information about all aspects of our on-campus health and safety plan, please refer to the MCS Families Safety Precautions for 2020-2021. If you have any questions, please contact Dave DeHarde.

Communications

  • Reopening Task Force Purpose and Goals

    An excellent group of MCS staff members and volunteers from the MCS community have agreed to give their time, effort, and expertise to the task force. Below, you’ll find their names and the respective roles they will play on the Task Force. Besides the over 100 years of Montessori teaching experience on the task force, we have senior epidemiologists, public health experts, and an author on anti-bias classrooms. We are incredibly fortunate to have a group this qualified who care about the MCS community and its mission to help us navigate these challenging times.

    The goals of the Task Force are:

    • Determine our education priorities and community values
    • Determine a plan for ongoing decisions about school reopening
    • Establish a plan for clear communication
    • Explicitly define our financial, staffing, and campus constraints
    • Establish protocols for collecting and monitoring COVID-19 data in our community
    • Determine the process and thresholds at which the school will re-open to on-campus learning

    Our school’s top priority remains the health, safety, and well-being of our students, families, faculty, and staff.

    Reopening Task Force Members

     

    Administration
    Head of School Tim Daniel, MA
    Asst HoS Operations Dave DeHarde, MSA (Pri, LE)
    Communications Dir Delphine Andrews, MA
    Asst HoS Academics Keturah Russell
    Dir Ed Tech & Comms Coord Lisa Bohn, MFA
    Program Director EL Kalpu Shah
    Program Director AC Angela Molfese, MA
    Primary Teacher Rochelle Hayes
    Diversity & Equity Officer Shavonne Joyner, MA
    School Nurse

     

    Megan Moore (Pri)

     

    Board of Trustees
    President Harry Park (UE, AC)
    Vice President Amanda Ingraham (UE, AC)
    Finance Luke Moland, MBA (LE, UE)
    Secretary / Task Force Coordinator Jenn Mallen, PhD (LE, UE)
    Governance Iheoma Iruka Thompson, PhD (Pri, LE)
    Diversity & Equity

     

    Gaby Valdivia, PhD (UE)

     

    Community
    PTO Lakshmi Vasist Johnson, PharmD (Pri, LE)
    Health Kathie Swain, Sc.D. (LE)
    Health Marjory Charlot, MD, MPH, MSc (Pri, LE)
    Health Liz Stevens, MPH, RN (Tod, Pri)
    Health Trevor Jolly, MBBS (LE, UE)
    Legal David Hostetler, Esq
  • September 13th Community Update

    Our health advisory group will continue to assess local health data on a weekly basis. They will assist the Task Force with interpreting data as it relates to decisions about our school’s phase of reopening.

    Our program directors and Assistant Head of School for Facilities and Operations continue to plan for a safe, phased return to more on-campus learning as conditions become more favorable. An update will be shared with the Task Force and MCS Board later this month.

    There are several community-building activities underway for all students and families as well as welcoming our newest families. Special thank you to the PTO, MCS staff, and those of you serving as Family Ambassadors for your great efforts in supporting this important work.

    The Task Force will share an update on the work-to-date at the MCS Board Meeting on September 30.