Coronavirus 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
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.
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
PREVIOUS TOTH COMMUNICATIONS ON CORONAVIRUS
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.