Welcome back Dragons!
We are so excited to start a new school year with you!
“We can’t go over it. We can’t go under it.
We’ve got to go through it!”
-Michael Rosen, Going on a Bear Hunt
Our Board of Directors and School Administration are closely monitoring the situation with COVID in Santa Fe. Read on to learn more about:
- Health and Safety Protocols
- Classroom improvements
- Outdoor learning spaces
- Professional Development for teachers
- Community Connection
Our Preschool/Pre-K program follows the guidelines of the ECECD (Early Childhood Education and Care Department). For our Elementary and Middle School programs, we are required to follow the decisions of the NM Public Education Department and we refer to them for guidance in areas that are relevant to our school.
HEALTH & SAFETY
Arts & Sciences is committed to keeping students, teachers and families safe and healthy. In accordance with the current Orders of the Governor, guidelines from the CDC, and the licensing requirements of the New Mexico Early Childhood Education and Care Department (ECECD), the School is implementing a Health and Safety Procedures Plan. This plan will continue to be updated as guidelines change. In summary, this plan includes the following procedures:
We promote healthy, consistent, and clear communication with our school community, and will communicate with families when there are changes in policies and/or protocols, as well as if any individual in our school community tests positive for COVID-19. Open communication at a time like this is essential, and confidentiality and privacy will be respected.
To encourage physical distancing, we will maximize outdoor time for all students. We will maintain 6 feet of distance wherever possible, while also supporting the social and emotional needs of students.
Children and staff will practice frequent hand washing and other hygiene practices.
In accordance with the current Public Health Order of the Governor, the guidelines of the ECECD, and at the recommendation of the CDC, face masks of appropriate size are required for all students and staff on campus.
Students do not wear masks during nap time or when eating. Teachers will use their professional judgment in deciding when to remove a mask if it is creating discomfort or resulting in a student touching their face frequently.
Our teachers are looking forward to spending as much time as possible outdoors this fall. When students do spend some time indoors, we have improved our classrooms to be healthier spaces for learning, Following recommendations by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health Risk Reduction Strategies for Reopening Schools Report, classrooms have increased outdoor air ventilation, filtered indoor air, portable air purifiers, and we have also verified the performance of our ventilation and filtration systems.
We have also added some touch free features to our bathrooms, increased ventilation, and will have only one student at a time using the bathrooms.
Schedule and Class Crews
For the 2020-2021 school year we are planning for there to be a combination of remote teaching and in-person instruction for some grades so that we can implement physical distancing in our classrooms. We foresee holding preschool, pre-kindergarten and kindergarten classes full time on campus. For 1st through 8th grades we foresee having a hybrid schedule, in which students attend school 2 days each week, and have learning from home 3 days each week.
Group sizes will be within what is determined by the state and ECECD. Currently, this is 10 students with 2 teachers for preschool and pre-kindergarten. For grades 1-8, the number will be 50% of classroom capacity, and students and teachers in the classroom will be capped by the number that can be accommodated while adhering to six feet physical distancing. This will be 10-12 students for grades 1-8.
The groups will be structured so it is the same crew (cohort) of students each day with no mixing between groups.
Daily Health Screening
A health screening process for all students and staff will be conducted each morning prior to attending school. This will include parents assessing their children at home, filling out an online health screening form, and being screened upon arrival on campus by a designated screener. Parents should keep children home if any symptoms are present, then contact School Administration. Check your email in the morning to fill out the designated form for your child(ren)’s class.
Drop-off and pick-up procedures will include parents remaining in their vehicles, and not entering school buildings.
The screener will greet you and your child in your vehicle at drop-off, and will verify that you have submitted the screening form that morning. Paper copies will be available for anyone unable to submit the form online, each day. The screener will also take your child’s temperature.
If a student has any symptoms, or there is any question about the student being able to attend school, Administration will be consulted and will make a final decision about the student’s attendance that day.
Before returning to work on campus, all staff will be required to take a COVID-19 test. Documentation of results must be provided to administration before returning.
If at any time a student, staff member, or other individual in our school community develops symptoms or tests positive for COVID-19, all NMDOH and CDC protocols will be followed.
Cleaning and Disinfecting
Teachers will be cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces, such as doorknobs and bathroom fixtures twice during the school day (at snack and lunch). Classrooms will be cleaned and disinfected every evening by a professional cleaning service.
Classrooms and frequently touched objects and surfaces will be disinfected throughout the school day.
As a school we are fortunate to have a smaller number of students, buildings and classrooms with good ventilation and external entrances, capital funds for creating outdoor learning spaces, resources for boosting technology and professional development, and most importantly, we have teachers who want to do whatever it takes to teach your children well. We are also making significant improvements to our classrooms, installing vents, fans, air purifiers, and better filtration for well-circulated air and improved air quality.
We have had the benefit of being able to consult with indoor air experts from Harvard University, whose recommendations are being applied in hospitals, airports, school districts and other places nationwide.
Experts agree that the best place to be to mitigate virus transmission risk is outside. Fortunately, one of the greatest aspects of our beautiful 5 acre campus are our outdoor spaces, where students can play and learn in the fresh air. Outdoor spaces are designated to be used by specific classes. We are excited to welcome students back to our new and improved campus!
See information below about the new outdoor spaces for each class:
Star Unicorn Class
The Unicorn playground is getting a new outdoor patio with a portal roof, and the kiva has had its roof removed so it is now an open sand play area, covered by a new shade sail. The hoophouse has been re-covered and is now weather-proof. Additional shade structures have been added, along with new tables for projects and mealtimes for individual students.
Meadow Unicorn Class
The Blue Room is being renovated to become another early childhood space, for half of our Unicorn students. A new outdoor play area for the “meadow unicorn” class is being added, with a large covered space for an outdoor classroom on the east side of the Barcelona Blue building. We also created a new fenced in play area with tables for projects and mealtimes for individual students, and meadow unicorns will also access the Unistarhopper yard for outdoor play time as well.
The Grasshopper deck is having stairs added to the north side, leading to a new fenced in play area. We are also adding new tables for projects and mealtimes for individual students. A new shade structure is also being added over the existing deck.
The Stargazer class will be using the existing gazebo in the plaza as an outdoor learning space, and will also have new shade structures in the Stargazer play area between the middle school building and the Stargazer classroom. We are adding a new climbing structure, and more tables for outdoor learning.
Centaur students will enjoy a large tented area outside the Centaur classroom, with tables and chairs for outdoor learning.
The Badgers will be using the area where the gaga pit was (yes, it’s gone for now). The area is being covered by a large portal. Outdoor furniture is being added for outdoor learning.
Each of our 3 middle school classrooms is getting its own outdoor area, accessed by exterior doors from each classroom. Each space will be covered by a large weather-proof tent. Outdoor furniture is being added for outdoor learning.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
One thing we all have a lot of these days (in addition to virtual meetings) are questions! Harvard’s Schools for Health recommends that parents ask the following questions about their school reopening. Fortunately we feel that we are in a good position to answer these questions and meet the recommendations that Harvard’s experts are making to open schools safely.
See the answers by clicking on a question, and we look forward to more discussion with you if you have further questions. For more information about these questions and recommendations, see Harvard’s Schools for Health Reopening Strategies.
Are the number of cases in the area low enough for schools to reopen?
Our Board of Directors and School Administration are carefully tracking COVID cases in Santa Fe and throughout the state. We will follow the Governor’s orders with respect to school closure/reopening. We are consulting with a medical infectious disease expert who is also helping us to evaluate the situation locally here in Santa Fe.
Some useful tools we are using to assess the current COVID situation are:
- Harvard Global Health Initiative Map
- Covid Act Now
- NM Department of Health Dashboard
- NM Department of Health Gating Criteria
The Governor has determined that until Labor Day elementary schools can be open in person for K-3rd grade students in groups of 5 students with 1 teacher, and for 1 on 1 learning for students with special needs. After Labor Day, the Governor’s plan is for schools to be able to open gradually starting with younger grades.
For early childhood facilities, many of which have stayed open through the spring and summer with very low to no evidence of virus spread, the Early Childhood Education and Care Department (ECECD) has determined that facilities can continue operating with 10 students with 1-2 teachers. Our Unicorn Preschool/Pre-K program is licensed by ECECD.
When and how will masks be required and how will the school support mask use?
Face masks are required to be used according to the Governor’s current health order, and ECECD has determined that everyone in a child care facility over the age of 2 must wear a properly fitted face covering.
Medical experts are in broad agreement that the proper use of face masks is one of the most important measures we can take to prevent the spread of COVID-19. While many parents and teachers have been concerned about children’s ability to wear masks properly, our experience with our summer camps both for preschool and middle school students was very encouraging. Students were cooperative with mask wearing, especially if their family had helped them practice mask wearing outside of school.
Our teachers will use compassion and kindness, as well as positive reinforcement, to encourage students to be able to wear masks. It is a skill that we all are learning.
Students will not wear masks when eating and napping, and we are also planning to have ways to have a “mask break” when students can be outdoors and appropriately distanced if they need to take a break from wearing their mask.
Will hand washing stations or hand sanitizer be available throughout the school and when will children be required to wash their hands?
Several classrooms are having new sinks installed in the classrooms, and all bathrooms are being equipped with touch-free items like paper towel dispensers. Hand sanitizer will also be available in every classroom and in every outdoor learning space, and students will have teacher instruction and supervision for effective handwashing and hand sanitizer application.
When and how will physical distancing be maintained throughout the school day?
In the fall, a large portion of students’ school day will take place outdoors. Students will have access to individual work and play areas, such as portable chairs (called Crazy Creek chairs) with lap desks that can be set up anywhere, and tables with chairs/benches that allow students to maintain physical distancing while doing school work.
In our classrooms, class sizes of up to 10-12 students and a little rearranging of classroom furniture, allows for students to have individual work spaces while maintaining physical distancing.
For Bathroom use, we will avoid having students line up, instead allowing one student at a time to use a bathroom.
Teachers are developing fun games and activities that allow for students to remain physically distanced, and when the students are engaged in these games and activities they often don’t notice that they are distancing.
Our youngest students loved hanging out in the shade this summer, each with their own kiddie pool, filled with their books and other materials.
Teachers will work to consistently and kindly remind students to maintain distancing, and we also recognize that there are moments when distancing may not be fully possible. Students and teachers will be wearing masks, and the amount of time spent in closer proximity than 6 feet will be limited so that any potential for transmission would be minimized.
Will outdoor air supply rates (ventilation) be increased in school buildings, including classrooms, and how will the school verify that ventilation is adequate?
We have the tremendous benefit of having within our school community a Harvard University expert on indoor air quality (a grandfather of a current student.) We have been meeting with him and his colleagues to evaluate the indoor air quality of our classrooms and indoor spaces, and to develop a plan for improving our systems.
Fortunately, the layout of our campus with separate buildings means that every classroom has multiple windows that are all operable and can be open during the school day. New ceiling fans are being installed this summer, and portable air purifiers have been purchased for every classroom and office.
Our HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) systems are also being inspected and evaluated so that improvements can be made.
Some good information on indoor air quality:
Does the ventilation system use a filter with a rating of MERV 13 or higher for the air going into classrooms and has it been inspected or replaced recently?
For all classrooms that have compatible HVAC systems, we are installing MERV 13 filters, which are the filters recommended for COVID mitigation. Other classrooms that have a different type of HVAC system are having new filters installed (highest rated filters possible), and classrooms with swamp coolers are having the swamp coolers inspected and serviced.
Will portable air cleaners with HEPA filters be used in classrooms and other relevant spaces in the school?
Yes! At the recommendation of our indoor air quality consultants we have purchased portable air purifiers with HEPA filters for every classroom and office. These air purifiers are showing to help reduce coronavirus transmission through aerosol spread indoors.
Will any physical barriers (e.g., plexiglass) be installed in the school?
Most of our classrooms and outdoor learning spaces allow for physical distancing, making the use of plexiglass barriers unnecessary.
We are using plexiglass dividers in our preschool through 2nd grade classes to support our phonics program.
Will de-densification strategies, like staggered arrival and dismissal times, be implemented?
Arrival and departure times for different classes are staggered this year to allow for fewer vehicles and people to be on campus at drop-off and pick-up time.
Will the school consider using alternative classroom and lunchroom spaces?
We have spent the summer transforming our art room (the Blue Room) into a licensed preschool/pre-k classroom, allowing us to double the classroom spaces for our early childhood program.
Our outdoor learning spaces will also be used for snack and lunch times for as long as the warmer temperatures permit.
Our school does not have a cafeteria or lunchroom where students from different classes mix.
How will the school limit the amount of shared surfaces and what is the plan for regularly disinfecting surfaces throughout the entire school?
Fortunately each class will have their own indoor and outdoor learning spaces, so different crews (cohorts) of students will not be using the same classrooms on a given school day. Older students will have their own cleaning kit and will have set times during the day to disinfect their personal work space. Younger kids in summer camp really enjoyed the responsibilities of scrubbing down their spaces with soapy water.
Teachers will disinfect high touch surfaces such as light switches, door handles, bathroom fixtures, etc., twice a day, before snack and lunch, and our professional cleaning crew will clean and disinfect at the end of every school day. A more comprehensive cleaning will take place Wednesdays and Fridays, between crews of students using classrooms.
Who is the “point person” or person in charge of the COVID-19 response team/plan and how will they communicate changes in school policy to parents/students?
Principal Todd Stiewing and Executive Director Perli Cunanan are our School Administration and are overseeing our school’s COVID transition team. All changes to school policy are approved by our Board of Directors, and are communicated to our school community by email, on our website, and also in virtual meetings with school families. Parents and community members with questions or concerns are encouraged to reach out to Todd or Perli at any time.
What guidance for contact tracing, testing, and quarantine/isolation is in place in the event that my child’s teacher or another student in the class contracts COVID-19?
Schools in New Mexico are instructed to call the NM Department of Health Coronavirus hotline, and to speak with a state epidemiologist in the event that a case of COVID is identified in the school community. We will also work directly with our consulting physician, who is an infectious disease expert.
In the event that a case is identified, School Administration will immediately close the classroom and possibly the building where the person may have been. Contact information for school families will be provided to state officials for contact tracing. It is likely that students in that class would be considered close contacts and will be instructed to quarantine or isolate. Confidentiality will be maintained, per NM Department of Health guidelines.
While we hope that we avoid any cases of COVID-19 in our school community, we understand that it is a real possibility and will work with health officials to take all necessary steps to communicate, educate, and support our school community in such a case.
How will parents, students, and staff be educated about symptoms and will temperature or other health checks be done on students, staff and teachers every day?
Teachers and staff will receive training prior to school starting on how to recognize symptoms of COVID-19, and procedures to follow in the event that symptoms are identified.
In our virtual meetings with parents in August, and also in our new parent orientation and back to school nights, parents will receive information and education about COVID-19 and related symptoms, and parents will be asked to conduct a daily health screening of their child each day before attending school. Staff will also conduct a self-assessment prior to arriving on campus each morning.
Both staff and students will also submit the online Daily Health Screening Form, which will be reviewed by our Screeners for each class. Prior to being allowed to attend school each morning, the screener will verify all information on the health screening form. Students and staff will also have their temperatures checked as part of the morning arrival process.
In the case that a student or staff member has any symptom that may be a symptom of COVID-19, School Administration will evaluate the situation and the student or staff member will likely need to stay home (unless the symptom is due to a chronic documented non-contagious health condition as affirmed by a doctor’s note.)
If a teacher or student has to stay home, what strategies are in place to support remote work or learning and make sure students don’t fall behind in their schoolwork?
We know that it is likely that students may have to stay home from school more often this year, due to illness, quarantine from possible or confirmed COVID exposure of the student or a household member, or required quarantine from travel. Because of this, we are planning to use our new remote learning platforms to help keep kids caught up and learning along with their classmates. Teachers will also be able to work directly with families to meet students’ needs.
What other policy changes are being considered to reduce COVID-19 transmission risk?
One of the most significant policy changes this year is the addition of our Social Contract. Families are asked to agree to follow the Governor’s health orders, follow the health and safety guidelines that we are implementing, including use of face masks at all times on campus, and avoiding unnecessary travel outside of Santa Fe.
The Board of Directors also passed a new COVID Staff and Family Paid Sick Leave Policy, supporting our teachers and staff to stay home when necessary due to illness or the need to care for a family member.
Our visitor policy is also changing this year, restricting visitors on campus to necessary repair professionals, who will most often be on campus when students are not at school.
What precautions will there be during Physical Education and Drama to make these activities safer?
Physical Education classes will take place outdoors, with students wearing masks, physically distanced. Games that use shared balls and close contact will be avoided. Students will have lots of opportunities to safely exercise and practice sportsmanship while staying safe.
Our Drama program will be virtual for grades 3-8. For our K-2nd grade students, drama will take place outdoors when possible, with students wearing masks and physically distanced. Activities that include voice projection, shouting, or close contact between students will be avoided. Students will enjoy drama activities that allow for creative expression, exploration, and movement, while keeping everyone safe. We are not planning to have in-person drama productions this year.
Will recess be modified when school reopens?
Class crews will not have contact with one another at recess time – only one class will use outdoor play areas at a time. According to CDC guidelines, playground equipment does not need to be disinfected. Routine regular cleaning of playground equipment will take place.