As many of you know, Gov. Hogan released state guidelines for the reopening of schools on August 27. Along with the numerous safety precautions, the state will use two key metrics to evaluate whether it is safe to offer on-site instruction: the test positivity rate and the number of new cases per 100,000 people. The current data enables schools in Montgomery County to consider offering some on-site instruction under a hybrid model.
The state prescribes that schools work closely with their local health departments when considering the reopening of on-campus learning. We are voluntarily submitting our plans to the Montgomery County Health Department for review to ensure that no further adjustments are needed to the extensive safety precautions that we have already implemented according to the CDC and state guidelines.
We are sensitive to the fact that a change to the school schedule greatly impacts family and faculty members’ plans and dynamics. Therefore, we want to provide a tentative timeline for a reopening of on-campus learning. Please understand that the situation remains very fluid, and our plans may alter based on the trajectory of the pandemic, the metrics outlined above, and whether our faculty and our families feel ready for a return to campus.
While we will continue to offer remote instruction for all families who choose it, we have two possible hybrid models we are ready to implement for families who select on-site instruction. Families may also opt-in to on-site learning later in the year if they so desire. As we have mentioned before, we will prioritize on-site learning for our youngest Dragons, due to their unique developmental needs.
Our 4 + 1 model was designed to reduce student contact with our specials teachers, who teach across grade levels, and allow for additional sanitation and cleaning during the school week. Under this model, each week students would learn on site every day except Wednesday, when they would learn remotely.
Our AAWBB model reduces the population density in a particular area of the school. Under this model, grade levels would be assigned to one of two groups: A or B. Grade levels in Group A would learn on site on Monday and Tuesday, and grade levels in Group B would come to campus on Thursday and Friday. Students would learn from home the remaining days of the week.
Beginning September 21, we will move from half day to full day programming for Pre-K students and for Nursery students who selected the full-day option. Dismissal will be at noon on Wednesdays to allow for sanitizing and lesson planning; there will be no programming on Wednesday afternoons for virtual or on-site learners. We will continue to offer virtual learning for families who choose to stay home. Mary Lee Nickel will send additional information to Nursery and Pre-K families on Tuesday, September 15.
Our Kindergarten and Grade 1 students who opt for on-site learning will operate on the 4 + 1 model beginning September 21. On Friday, September 18, we will have an on-campus Orientation from 8:45 a.m. to noon to allow students to become acquainted with the new safety procedures and to return their at-home learning materials. Early Childhood Division Director Mary Lee Nickel will send a note with more details on Tuesday, September 15. We will also have a Zoom parent meeting on Wednesday, September 16, at 7 p.m. to discuss the return to campus for Kindergarten and Grade 1.
The hybrid model for Grades 2-4 will be selected based on the public health situation at the time while recognizing that on-site learning is optimal. You will receive more information about your return to campus during the week of September 21.
Due to the layout of our building and the need to reduce student density, students in Grades 5-8 will learn on a AAWBB schedule beginning October 13. You will receive more information about your return to campus during the week of September 28.
Our ability to bring students back to campus is reliant on all of us as a community to live safely and follow public health guidelines while we are at school and while we are at home. I would like to remind you of the WES Community Compact, included in this year’s student handbook, which reminds us of our shared responsibilities to one another as we seek to reopen the school safely. Wearing a face mask, washing our hands frequently, and practicing physical distancing–whether on or off campus–will help us limit community transmission of the virus and protect the health and well-being of the WES Family.
Also, as we prepare to return to campus, please report any COVID-19 symptoms or any other illnesses that your child experiences to Nurse Bailey as soon as possible. Also, as a reminder, please remember to report any household member traveling outside of the DMV through this form.
Thank you for your patience and flexibility during these ever-evolving circumstances. This year will certainly look differently than other years, but I remain confident that our Dragons will continue to learn and grow, and that we will emerge even stronger as a community from these challenges.