WES Transitions to a Hybrid Model: A Message from the Head of School

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.

Tentative Timeline to Transition to a Hybrid Model
Phase 1: Nursery and Pre-K
September 8
Phase 2: Kindergarten and Grade 1
September 21
Phase 3: Grades 2-4
October 5
Phase 4: Grades 5-8
October 13
Hybrid Models

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.

Nursery and Pre-K Families

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.

Kindergarten and Grade 1 Families

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.

Grades 2-4 Families

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.

Grades 5-8 Families

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.

Community Health Compact

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.


Danny Vogelman
Head of School

Dr. Rhodes Meets with the Middle School

Dr. Jewell Parker Rhodes, the award-winning author of Ghost Boys and Black Brother, Black Brother, met with our Middle School students and faculty Wednesday morning. Ms. Rhodes’ books were among the fiction choices for the summer reading assignment. In Ghost Boys, twelve-year-old Jerome is shot by a police officer who mistakes his toy gun for a real threat. As a ghost, he observes the devastation that’s been unleashed on his family and community in the wake of what they see as an unjust and brutal killing. Black Brother, Black Brother is a careful examination of the school-to-prison pipeline and follows one boy’s fight against racism and his empowering path to finding his voice.

Dr. Rhodes talked about her personal experiences as an African-American author and the inspiration behind her books. She answered questions from the students and inspired them to continue to push for change in our society. After meeting with Dr. Rhodes, the middle schoolers met in groups to discuss their summer reading, which centered around themes of diversity and tolerance, and to talk about what we as a community can do moving forward to help create a more just and equitable world.

Building Our Resilience Muscles

It was great to see all of our Dragons this week, whether it was in person or virtually! Although things look a little different this year, our students and teachers still have that same back-to-school excitement.

Yesterday, we celebrated the beginning of the school year with a rather unique Opening Chapel. Since large gatherings in person are currently unfeasible, Chaplain Kristen sought to capture the elements of our formal service through “chapel kits”: Students were given bags with streamers, an LED candle, a shaker egg, and either prayer cards or a whiteboard to allow them to engage more deeply in the service . Our Grade 8 WES “lifers” took turns ringing a bell during the service to honor our usual tradition in which they would ring the bell on campus to officially ring in the new school year. 

During the chapel talk, I shared with the students the importance of building our resiliency. All of our lives have changed drastically in the last six months. Our students have been unable to come to campus for school, sports and performing arts seasons have been cancelled, and many of our summer vacation plans changed as well. All of these things are unfortunate, but they are temporary, and we can bounce back from them.  

The wonderful thing about resilience is that we can always continue to develop this skill. Resilience is not something you are born with or not born with. It is very similar to a “growth mindset.” The more we work on resilience, the better we get at it. Like a muscle, the more we develop our resilience, the stronger we become.  

There are several actions that we can do to build our resilience muscles or to help us bounce back. Here are just a few:

Find the gifts in the challenges.

Every challenge has something positive about it. During Covid that gift may have been that we spent more time as a family, or maybe we started a new hobby, or learned a new skill. What’s important is that we are able to find a silver lining during difficult times. 

Switch from thinking about the problems to thinking about the solutions.

I reminded the students that when they feel overwhelmed by school and extracurricular activities, that they can choose to think about all the work they need to do and feel bad about it. Or, they can get to work. They can make notecards to help them study or knock out that math homework. Sometimes just getting started on a solution will give you the momentum to keep going.

Ask for help and help others.

When we feel frustrated, sad, or anxious about something, it is important to let others know so we can get the support we need. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness. Each of us has a support system made up of our family, our friends, and the WES community. Those relationships help us get through tough times. But not only is it important to ask for help – it’s important to offer and provide help to others. Not only is that the right thing to do, but when we assist others, we actually feel better about ourselves. We become more confident, which then allows us to bounce back from challenges more easily.

By working on our resilience muscles, we will find ourselves not only surviving, but thriving, during challenging situations. We will learn from those challenges and we will grow from them.

 I wish all of our community an exciting and joyful school year!