COVID-19 Information for the ToTH Community
ToTH is actively monitoring the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) in the metropolitan Washington area. Please continue to check this webpage for schoolwide updates and resources concerning the spread of the virus and any potential impacts it may have on our school community.
LATEST SCHOOL UPDATE
June 9, 2020
Dear ToTH Families,
I am writing to update the community on our progress working through multiple scenarios and regulation changes that will affect the 2020-2021 school year.
We are mindful that returning and new families are eager to have details about what ToTH is doing to reopen and to operate as safely and sustainably as possible. We thank you for your patience. We will wrap up final decisions soon and share the details with you to start the conversation in preparation for next school year.
Listed below is what you can expect:
- A COVID-19 Handbook aligned with OSSE regulations that will clarify general operations as well as health and safety procedures.
- An online presentation hosted by Stephanie and I to talk you through the details using a Powerpoint presentation that aligns with the handbook.
- A new school calendar that reduces breaks and allows us to proactively build in weeks of make up days in the event a public safety emergency requires we close school again.
- The new due date for the first trimester tuition payment. The upcoming July 1st due date will be moved to a later date.
- Our protocol for returning your full deposit in the event that ToTH’s COVID-19 operations do not work for your family and an updated tuition payment schedule for the school year for those of you who choose to remain with us.
TOTH EXTENDED CLOSURE RESOURCES FOR PARENTS
ToTH YouTube Channel (stories, songs, and activities lead by our teachers)
GOVERNMENT AND PUBLIC HEALTH INFORMATION
PREVIOUS TOTH COMMUNICATIONS ON CORONAVIRUS
May 18, 2020
I am writing to update you on our progress with the criteria that need to be met before we can address any tuition refunds, rebates, or discounts that were laid out in my last message from May 1, 2020. I am also requesting your participation in a short survey that will help us toward returning to school.
Criteria #1: The Mayor gave a situational update last week during which she announced an extension of the city’s stay-at-home order through June 8. Unfortunately, we are no closer to knowing when exactly DC’s phased reopening process will allow us to regain entry to the Capper Recreation Center. Despite this, our staff is staying up-to-date with OSSE’s updated guidance for child care centers so that when we do have the opportunity to reopen, we will be prepared to meet new health, safety, and licensing requirements. OSSE hosts a weekly conference call to provide updates and we listen in every week.
Criteria #2: The ToTH board of directors has made a decision on how to use the PPP (Paycheck Protection Program) funds in the most cost effective way.
Criteria #3: We are close to a final decision on how to manage furloughs and partial furloughs based on multiple scenarios. The decision process is complex as we are looking not only at our immediate situation, but also projecting for the 2020-2021 school year. As I mentioned on May 1, ToTH has implemented some furloughs already.
Criteria #4: We are still receiving tuition payments in the mail for the current school year. As of today we have collected just over 40% of outstanding final trimester tuition. Thank you for your continued support of our school, staff, and teachers.
Criteria #5 & #6: We feel that it is unlikely we will be able to return to the building before the end of the school year, so at this time we will continue to engage from a distance through July 3rd, which is last day of school. We still have our eye on an opportunity to use July for make up days. Based on limited information from the Mayor’s office on plans to reopen recreation centers, we cannot report on make up days or an adjusted 2020-2021 schedule at this time.
There are still other outstanding items that are essential to our scenario planning which means balancing multiple budget possibilities. Therefore, at this time, we cannot tell you what funds from this year will be required to support our operations for next year which means we do not yet know what will be available for parents in the form of a Spring tuition refund. I understand that with so many uncertainties in your lives right now, having to wait on information about this is an added frustration. Please trust that behind the scenes our admin team and board are working diligently. Not only do we want to open, but we must open safely and ensure that your decision to send your children back to school is based on detailed knowledge of our guidelines that will protect teachers and children. And of course we are committed to offering fully implemented Montessori. We can and will do this for you and it’s an honor to do what it takes under difficult circumstances to preserve and protect what is most important.
April 17, 2020
Dear ToTH Families,
I am writing to check in regarding the District’s most recent stay in place extension, which is now through May 15, 2020.
Mayor Bowser tells us that in order to protect citizens, especially our most vulnerable populations, DC will need to be past it’s apex and on the mend in order for schools to reopen, therefore, specifics about when it will be safe to return to school are still uncertain at this time. To be prepared for what lies ahead, I am working with our board to prepare for two scenarios – one in which we are back at school before the end of the academic year, and an alternative assuming we will not be able to open before next school year begins in late August.
First, we want you to know that if we are allowed to return to our building and reopen school in the coming weeks, and it’s safe to do so, we are excited to remain open during what would have been our summer break, throughout July and potentially part of August, to give parents as many makeup days as possible. We will know more about that possibility in the future but count on us; if we can, we will.
Some of you have asked if ToTH will still be here for you in the fall. No doubt we will feel the effects from this financial crisis, as will every member of our greater community in some way. I am confident that our school will be ready to reopen just as soon as we are allowed to do so. From ToTH’s earliest days, we’ve operated largely on a raise-what-you-need basis. However, we maintain a small emergency contingency fund (though we never imagined an emergency of this magnitude), and, this year, we had budgeted to begin year-on-year savings for the future, to one day buy a building we can call our own. As an additional layer of security, we are also applying for local and federal aid, though we recognize these instruments are in high demand and it’s not certain. We are cutting costs where we can. As for next school year, we are already nearly fully enrolled, with wait lists for Primary and Full Day Toddler, and deposits in hand to ensure that next year’s budget and cash flow remains intact. It is our intention to do everything we have to do to make sure we have a school to come back to, and we feel confident we will succeed.
When faced with the unexpected, each of us discovers that we have the capacity for resilience, the blend of physical, emotional, and cognitive energy to respond to the adversity that comes our way. As we move through the weeks ahead, I thank you in advance for your continued empathy and patience, and your proactive timely communication. The learning curve our teachers have had to navigate has been drastic and instead of beginning with a couple weeks behind the scenes to plan how to engage online, we came to you right out of the gate with zero preparation or training. As I mentioned in previous communication none of our teachers even had a Zoom account. We learned a lot and I’m excited for this next phase.
On Monday you will receive a 6th Newsletter as well as Zoom invites for Parent Happy Hour, a modified and increased schedule of daily Zoom circles and activities with a more specific and precise Monday through Friday curriculum, more Spanish, art and music, and a call schedule for a weekly one on one with child and teacher. There are now over 60 videos on YouTube and we will begin curating the best of those and refining what our teachers are posting. I have meetings set up with Zharray concerning Music Together, and meetings with Morgan and Sasha for art, and we will begin doing weekly staff meetings with our Spanish teachers to build upon what they have started.
I want to personally thank each and every parent who’s used my cell these last weeks and shared feedback – you are helping us get this right so keep communicating. Meanwhile, please fill out this quick survey to help us stay on track. We will continue surveying every 10-14 days throughout this pandemic to stay aligned with your needs. We will find a way for us to say yes to each and every distance engagement request.
March 23, 2020
I am writing to address the Mayor’s recent decision to extend the initial closure of DCPS and all DPR community centers in DC through April 27th, and to confirm that yes, this means that ToTH will not be resuming classes earlier than that. As we’ve watched this global pandemic progress, we are all coming to terms with the fact that we most likely won’t be back in school in April at all (nor will any semblance of normalcy regarding our daily life of work routines come back to us sooner). The ToTH board and I are having discussions about various timing scenarios, but the fact remains that we just do not know when it will be truly safe and prudent to resume classes. We promise to keep you updated every step of the way.
Things to Keep in Mind
1. We will miss your children immensely in the coming days. Please let them know that they are loved and missed by me and all the teachers and staff.
2. We know that most of you are not teachers by profession, and therefore we do not expect teaching to be your area of expertise. That is our area of expertise, and when we return to the classroom we will meet children where they are. Do not feel like you have to home school your Montessori toddler or preschooler! It is going to be stressful, but your children are watching to see how you handle that stress.
3. Your children’s mental health, physical health, safety, and security are the most important things. In years to come, they will not remember the videos or learning activities, but they will remember the feeling in their home.
Distance Engagement Updates
1. Check out the ToTH YouTube channel! Our teachers have been posting songs and stories for the children to enjoy.
2. Beginning this week, you will receive a simple weekly plan from your teacher that you may use to guide your at-home learning activities. It includes a suggested daily activity as well as other supplemental activities that can be done in the home, with materials that you will already have on hand. These plans will be posted on Bloomz and will also be emailed to you by Stephanie at the beginning of each week. This week’s plans will be posted tomorrow, Tuesday, 3/24, as Bloomz appears to be down today.
3. We will begin using the Marco Polo app for video chatting It’s going to be a supplement to Zoom and Bloomz. Lead teachers will be able to use their classroom iPhones to send short video messages to you individually, which you can then show to your children. You will then be able to send a video response back to your teacher. It is like texting, but more personal and fun.
Head of School
March 13, 2020
Message from Natalie Baginski, Head of School
Dear ToTH Community,
I am writing to announce that effective Monday, March 16, 2020, ToTH Montessori will close and classes will be cancelled at least through Tuesday, March 31. We whole-heartedly feel that this decision is in the best interest of our students, staff, teachers, families and the greater community. We will continue to evaluate guidance on whether a longer closure may yet be necessary and communicate with you throughout.
During this time we plan to offer our families an opportunity to stay engaged with ToTH teachers and staff daily by providing developmentally appropriate and Montessori-aligned resources, activities, and interactions through the Bloomz online platform and other virtual applications.
We understand the difficulties an extended closure will pose for our families. But we feel it is incumbent on us to do our part to help reduce the risks presented by the novel Coronavirus. While we want to protect the ToTH community from COVID-19, we also want to reduce the chance of children spreading the virus to more vulnerable community members. While closing schools is not necessarily the most effective way to prevent the spread of the virus overall, it can at least help “flatten the curve” and that helps avoid overwhelming limited critical care resources at our hospitals.
We made this decision after communicating with other private and Montessori schools in the neighborhood and DMV region. All of our counterparts are preparing to close and developing plans for distance engagement and education, just as we are. We also consulted with our licensing specialist at the Office of the State Superintendent of Education, DC Public Schools contacts, the Department of Parks and Recreation, and DC Health. We also note that yesterday Maryland Public Schools announced an extended closure, and this morning, DCPS announced an extended closure through March 31.
We are meeting as a team this coming Monday to refine and finalize our plans for distance engagement. We expect to have more details for our families on Tuesday, following this inservice session. We are prioritizing our support to our families, and to our staff members.
Beginning next Tuesday I will have virtual office hours and be available to support each and every ToTH parent via phone or video conference and take any questions you may have. Thank you all so much for your diligence and patience, and your kind feedback on our communications regarding the novel Coronavirus developments in the DC area.
Best of health to all,
Head of School
March 12, 2020
Message from Stephanie Sarvana, Administrative Director
SCHOOL CLOSED MONDAY, MARCH 16
After DCPS announced their decision this morning to swap their professional development day scheduled for Friday, 3/20 with next Monday, 3/16 to allow faculty and staff to prepare for a potential closure, we took that as a signal that time may be short in order to complete our preparations for possible temporary closure due to community spread of the Coronavirus in the DC area. ToTH also had a faculty inservice scheduled for Friday, 3/20, so we are also going to swap days and cancel classes on Monday 3/16 in order to move up our faculty inservice day. Our Head of School is partnering with each of our teaching teams to develop distance engagement plans for our school community in the event of any extended closure. At this time we plan to hold classes Tuesday through Friday of next week and our daily updates via Bloomz and the website will keep you abreast of any changes to that current plan. We are also suspending all classroom observations for non-ToTH families and have canceled an open house scheduled for March 21st.
PLEASE KEEP SICK CHILDREN HOME FROM SCHOOL
In addition to being cautious due to the Coronavirus, we are also asking parents to keep sick children at home, even if they have common cold symptoms. Today we have four teachers out sick and the afternoon toddler class had to be cancelled due to several students and a teacher having a stomach virus. We understand that it is also difficult for parents to find last minute childcare or ask to work from home, but our teaching staff is being stretched very thin right now and we need everyone in our community support us in this way. We suggest you take your child’s temperature in the morning before school.
In order to limit the spread of germs we are making several immediate changes in our food service procedures. We will move to single use paper products in lieu of our Montessori dishes and utensils and we ask that if you do send any lunch items that require a utensil that you include it in your child’s lunch box. We will suspend child food preparation and family style service, instead moving to individually packaged foods for snack and fruits and vegetables that are cut and served by adults wearing protective gloves. The toddler teachers will be even more hands-on with hand washing to ensure that we are achieving cleaner hands. We have already stopped using cloth towels for hand drying and move to paper towels. Weather-permitting, we will have all children remaining at school go out on the playground at 5:15 p.m. for play and fresh air. Dismissal will be from the playground; this will allow our teachers additional time to deep clean and sanitize the classrooms.
PREPARING FOR A CLOSURE
As a parent, you can expect the following if ToTH closes due to the Coronavirus: 1.) Notification of the closure via Bloomz and email. 2.) Ongoing engagement with ToTH teachers or staff members via Bloomz. Staff and teachers will be using the rescheduled inservice day to plan and prepare and we will have more detailed information about our distance engagement plan after this coming Monday. 3.) ToTH will continue to pay all salaried and hourly staff members as they will be participating in our distance engagement activities throughout the closure. 4.) Administrative staff will continue to monitor any advisories from DC Health, the CDC, and other local and government agencies.
March 11, 2020
ToTH has decided to cancel classes this coming Monday, March 16, so that we can hold an inservice for teachers and staff to prepare and plan for distance engagement in the event of a school closure due to the spread of COVID-19. There was a faculty inservice scheduled for Friday the 20th, and we are switching it to Monday and at this time we do plan to be open for classes next Tuesday through Friday. This decision mirrors DCPS’ announcement this morning to close on Monday to prepare for a potential closure.
March 10, 2020
Message from Stephanie Sarvana, Administrative Director
We want to update you on local news related to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) and how those developments may impact ToTH so that you can be informed and prepared. Please read this email in its entirety.
Guidance from the Mayor’s Office
Yesterday morning Mayor Bowser held a press conference to update the DC community on COVID-19 (Coronavirus). The following guidance was issued based on a confirmed case of the virus in the District:
“On March 7, 2020, DC Health was notified of a confirmed case of COVID-19 at Christ Church, Georgetown Episcopal. Through DC Health’s investigation, in consultation with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), all visitors to Christ Church, Georgetown Episcopal on February 24th, and between February 28th and March 3rd could have been exposed to the virus that causes COVID-19, and DC Health is recommending that anyone who visited Christ Church, Georgetown Episcopal on those dates isolate themselves at home for 14 days from the last time they visited the church. Isolating at home includes not going to work or school, and not attending any large or public gatherings, or using public transportation or ride-sharing. DC Health may also be reaching out to certain individuals who are more likely to have been exposed with further guidance.”
If this recommendation affects you, your child, or anyone in your household or close community, please let us know as soon as possible. We assume that additional cases of Coronavirus will be confirmed in DC and the DMV area, so we ask that you 1.) please stay on top of the local news; 2.) follow all advice regarding self quarantining; and 3.) notify ToTH as soon as possible if you learn of any possible exposure to a member of your household.
You may have heard that several schools in the area closed for a day to do deep cleaning after learning that staff members had come into contact with a person who had a confirmed case of the virus. ToTH continues to monitor these developments and any updated guidance or requirements for schools and child development centers offered by DC Health and the Office of the State Superintendent of Education.
ToTH is preparing for the possibility that it may become necessary to close school temporarily to help prevent spread of the virus. This could happen if someone in the ToTH community is directly exposed to the virus, or in the event the District government mandates the temporary closure of schools, child development centers and/or community centers. As you know, ToTH operates in a building managed by the Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR). The director of DPR issued a statement yesterday indicating that DPR is “preparing for every potential scenario, including facility closures.” We encourage you to start thinking about how your family might handle childcare in the event of a temporary closure.
Please make yourself aware of the travel guidance that came from the State Department over the weekend. The Centers for Disease Control has lots of information on its website about the virus, its symptoms, how it is spread, who is at highest risk, and steps for prevention. DC-specific information on COVID-19 can be found here: https://childmind.org/article/talking-to-kids-about-the-coronavirus/.
Staying Healthy at ToTH
As we work to keep ToTH a healthy and safe space for the children, teachers, staff and extended community members, we ask that parents please keep their children home from school if they have a fever, persistent cough, excessive mucous, diarrhea, vomiting or any other obvious signs of a contagious illness. The DC Office of the State Superintendent of Education’s published illness guidelines for licensed child care facilities require that children not come to school/be sent home from school if they exhibit any of the following symptoms: diarrhea; vomiting 2 or more times in a 24 hour period; body rash with any fever; sore throat with any fever or swollen glands; abnormal discoloration of the skin; any fever accompanied by a rash, vomiting, diarrhea, earache, irritability, or confusion; any other symptom indicative of a reportable communicable disease. If your child experiences any of the symptoms listed above, they do need a doctor’s note in order to return to school.
Talking to Children about Coronavirus
The Child Mind Institute has some good advice for talking with young children about the coronavirus: https://childmind.org/article/talking-to-kids-about-the-coronavirus/
In addition to frequent hand washing and reminders about how to properly cover coughs and sneezes, our teachers are also reminding and encouraging children not to touch their faces (not an easy task!) You can help us by using some of the same language that we use at school: “Hand/fingers off our faces keeps us healthy!”
If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to reach out to me at email@example.com.
February 28, 2020
from Stephanie Sarvana, Administrative Director
You have likely heard about the recent outbreak and spread of the new (novel) Coronavirus disease (COVID-19). We wanted to take an opportunity to share resources with you so that you can best prepare in the event the virus reaches the DC region and local government takes measures that could affect our daily lives.
ToTH’s administration is monitoring not only the media reports, but also following guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and the DC government. The virus has symptoms that are very similar to the common cold or the flu. It is believed to be more contagious than seasonal flu, and there is no vaccine or treatment available yet. So far, adults seem to be more susceptible, though again, there is limited data to draw on at this stage. At this time, according to the CDC, “for the general American public, who are unlikely to be exposed to this virus at this time, the immediate health risk from COVID-19 is considered low.”
Of course, as time progresses this assessment may change, but for now, our approach at ToTH will be centered on 1) distributing illness prevention educational materials to our staff and families; 2) asking for increased vigilance among parents and teachers for early signs of illness, in particular, fever and cough, and 3) maintaining a strict cleaning and hygiene protocol in our classrooms, bathrooms, and offices to reduce the spread of germs. With it also being flu season, we hope that these efforts will help to prevent instances of the flu as there have been several reports of the flu wreaking havoc on ToTH families over the February break. We will continue to provide updates as the situation develops or if we receive information from the DC government.
What We are Asking of Parents
- Help us to prevent the spread of any illness by keeping your child home if he or she is sick or showing early signs of illness.
- Check regularly for any sign of a fever, especially in the mornings before heading to school.
- ToTH’s illness policy requires that a child be fever free for 24 hours before returning to school.
- Reinforce good hygiene habits at home by encouraging frequent hand washing, sneezing and coughing into a tissue or elbow.
- Consider getting your whole family vaccinated with the flu vaccine if you have not already done so.
- Make sure you have a working thermometer, fever-reducing medication, broth, crackers, water or other hydrating drinks on hand at home.
- Think ahead about how you might handle child care if you or your child has an extended illness.
What We Are Doing at ToTH
- If any child vomits, develops a fever or shows other signs of illness while at school, the child will be brought to our designated sick room and the parents will be called for immediate pick-up. Every classroom has a thermometer and we will check a child’s temperature if they are acting out of sorts or feel warm to the touch.
- Regular hand washing is already a part of our daily routine in every classroom, but we will ask teachers to be extra vigilant and make sure that children wash their hands after sneezing or coughing, before eating, and after returning from playtime.
- We are asking our teachers to take good care of themselves and to stay at home if they are sick.
- We are stocking up on cleaning and hygiene supplies so that we are prepared in advance if the threat COVID-19 becomes more serious in our community.