Dear Parents and Guardians,
I hope that you are well and finding time both to recharge and to be with friends and family.
Since our most recent communication and survey two weeks ago, my colleagues and I have continued to work on a hybrid reopening plan for Berkeley Carroll that would combine on-campus, reduced density, physically distanced instruction with synchronous and asynchronous remote learning opportunities. We filed this plan with New York State on July 31st, as required of BC and other schools, and posted it to the BConnects section of our website per State instructions. This will allow us the option to fully open for on-campus instruction when we feel that this is the best way forward for our community and if government regulations permit.
We have also been fortifying our remote learning capabilities since leaving campus in March, cognizant that we will need the option of employing this mode of instruction as long as the pandemic persists. In the midst of planning for multiple eventualities during what continues to be an unprecedented and unpredictable time, I have appreciated tremendously the support that we have received from our families.
This turns me to our decision regarding the plan that we intend to pursue at the start of the coming school year. After parsing data, information, and guidance from a variety of government and professional sources, we have decided to begin the 2020-2021 school year remotely, continuing in this mode through October 12th (Indigenous People’s Day). As we get closer to this date, we will determine whether to scale up to our on-campus hybrid model. During the remote period, we will provide families with on-campus support and on-campus community building as described below. The 2020-2021 remote schedules will provide our students with a rich academic and cocurricular experience, offering more synchronous class meetings and small group work time than the final iteration of last year’s remote schedules.
Additional details about remote schedules and programming will be forthcoming from the Divisions on Monday, August 10th. We will also be sharing information with families via a series of webinars for which you will receive links in a separate mailing.
On-Campus Support: We recognize that a remote start will pose particular challenges for some of our families and we are working to provide on-campus supervision for students for whom accessing remote learning from home is not feasible; in this model, students will be able to access the remote program from a room at school with staff present and at lower density than our hybrid plan allows. All of the health protocols outlined in our reopening plan (e.g., temperature checks, mask wearing, hand hygiene, and distancing) will be in effect whenever community members are on campus. A parent survey elaborating on these plans and soliciting input regarding individual students’ need for this supervision will be forthcoming.
Given the play-based nature of our early childhood program, which does not translate as easily to remote learning, our hope is to be able to offer our youngest students more opportunities to be on campus to learn and socialize in small groups. They would meet in low density classrooms to access aspects of the remote program, while also using our outdoor spaces as much as possible. We will be reaching out to these families in the coming week to gauge interest.
On-Campus Community-Building: In order to foster a sense of connection within our community, we will start the school year with optional opportunities for students to participate in on-campus, physically distanced outdoor and indoor activities with their teachers and a small pod of peers. We look forward to providing time for in-person bonding and enjoyment at BC.
Rationale for the Remote Opening: Our decision is informed by a number of considerations. Paramount among these is our commitment to prioritizing the health and safety of our students, faculty, staff, and their family members; consequently, given escalating concerns regarding spread and mitigation of COVID-19, we have decided that it is wise and proper to take the most conservative approach to the wellbeing of our community.
At this point in time, we also believe that a remote opening will offer the best possibility of an uninterrupted start to the school year. During the early weeks of school, we will not have to contend with students and faculty presenting symptoms that might or might not be Covid, requiring extensive absences, quarantining, and potential facilities closures. This approach also supports our faculty, many of whom have health, childcare, and transportation concerns, while providing them with maximum flexibility to begin the academic year consistently engaged with their students.
Given that pandemic-related conditions and guidance remain in flux, additional benefits of beginning remotely include the ability:
- To monitor the incidence of COVID-19 infection in New York City and in the State. We are concerned as people travel to and from the region in the midst of a national surge in the spread of the virus that New York may experience a sudden uptick in cases.
- To allow time for the emergence of more definitive information about spread and mitigation of COVID-19. New, and sometimes conflicting, information is emerging daily about various aspects of the disease, including the capacity of young children and adolescents to spread the virus that causes it.
- To await what we hope will be improved turnaround times for testing and enhanced capacity for contact tracing in our region.
- To monitor how the MTA and other transportation providers manage what is likely to be increased ridership in the fall.
Our decision making about whether to remain in remote mode or transition to the on-campus hybrid will be informed by factors including the rate of infection in New York City and the State, additional information about the spread and control of the virus--particularly in school settings, and the state of both testing and tracing in our area.
Over the remaining five weeks before the start of school, BC faculty members will continue to engage in professional development around remote teaching and learning as well as the social and emotional needs of students in the remote context. Our preparations for the coming school year include our ongoing and newly engaged anti-racism and anti-bias training as well as curriculum development in these areas.
I realize that the decision to open remotely will come as a relief to some and as a disappointment to others. Many will feel both of these conflicting emotions concurrently. I spent time in our buildings on Carroll Street and Lincoln Place last week. Even on a summer morning, I missed the presence of students, who enliven our classrooms and corridors beyond measure. I was also reminded of how important it is to understand and accept that instruction during the coming school year will continue to be atypical whether delivered remotely or in physically distanced, reduced density classrooms that do not allow for social and academic interaction in the ways that are typical at BC.
Having said this, we will continue to devote the full measure of our energy to creating an excellent academic and social experience within this pandemic context. We intend to remain flexible in our approach and we will refine our plans as appropriate. My colleagues and I are already beginning to feel the excitement that attends the start of another school year. We are fully committed to our own professional growth and to providing your children with a rigorous and inspiring school experience guided by our innovative and dedicated educators.
Lisa Yvette Waller, Ph.D.
Head of School