Throughout this tribulation, I have remained confident that we will be able to come back on campus in some fashion before the end of the school year, and now that we are moving into Phase 2 of the NC plan today, this looks more plausible. The Governor was very clear about the need for us all to embark on Phase 2 in a cautious manner – so as not to undo all the good that staying at home has brought to our community – and I echo that mindfulness. However, I do believe that we can now move into a partial, phased re-opening of the school after the half-term break.
Following the break, the first two days will be devoted to staff training and preparing the school to receive children. Then, we will begin the phased introduction of classes, starting with Early Years and then moving onto the Primary Phase the week after. Middle and Upper School students will begin elective activities in the last two weeks, which will involve a mixture of on-campus and virtual experiences. It is important and extremely sensible to have a cautious, phased approach to our re-opening, so that we can reduce the number of students in school at any one time using shared spaces and to allow everyone to get used to the new systems that we are putting into place. This means that there will be a mix of on-campus days and virtual learning days for each class throughout the weeks.
Naturally, there are many practical adaptations to our daily routines that we need to put in place to keep everyone safe and to be compliant with NC, CDC and NAE guidance. These include the taking of temperatures, prompting and practicing good personal hygiene with frequent washing of hands, reducing the number of classes/people in the building, following guidance on cleaning throughout the day, management of in-class resources, restricting unnecessary visitors in school, keeping good social distance where possible, and even face-covering in classes where it is deemed appropriate – to name but a few.
In our last parent survey, I asked about your likelihood of returning to school should we be able to open. Of the responses we had, close to 60% said they were very likely or somewhat likely to return. While I am confident that we will see a good number of our students in school for the last part of this term, I am very much aware that many of you will take the decision to remain at home. I completely understand and respect your decision should this be the case. These are challenging times and people come to this discussion from many points of view. Our blended approach of in-person and virtual school will go some way to meet everyone’s needs, I hope. However, it is important to note that on the days that teachers are in school offering on-campus learning, there will be no live virtual lessons, although teachers will continue to provide a structure for home learning opportunities.
I am really pleased that we will be able to bring our community back together – albeit with necessary adaptations – to reignite our friendships, provide space for our students’ personal and social growth, and learn to be at ease with these new ways of working. We understand that, for some children, there will be a feeling of apprehension and worry. That is to be expected, and so, part of our staff training and preparations will be to find ways to ease this in their transition.
I am sure that this news will raise many more questions that I have been able to address in this letter. We will be sending out a further communication next week with more details about our plans, together with a FAQ sheet. Class teachers will also be speaking with you about our plans in the first few days after the break. Hopefully, we will be able to get all your questions answered and we will have a great end to the school year – heading out into the summer break having found ways to bridge the divide.