June 30, 2020

Fall Reopening Update: June 30, 2020

Dear TIS families,

I hope that you are all healthy, happy, and making the most of this unusual summer. Classes ended less than a month ago, but the campus remains very busy as we continue working hard to develop plans for this coming Fall. Our reopening team, led by our Health and Safety Coordinator, Brandy Ascough, and our Facilities Director, Steve Borcherding, is moving swiftly and they are well ahead of the game in terms of planning and procuring equipment. In short: if we are allowed to open, we will be ready.

Our current plan is to welcome all students back to campus full time. Our reopening plans are aligned with the regulations set forth by the state and local health authorities and will be modified regularly with each update from those agencies. Our goal is to offer in-person classes five days a week according to the capacity of our facilities while complying to the guidelines of the health authorities. Our efforts are now focused on how we can achieve this goal.

While we are looking forward to welcoming everyone back in September, things will indeed be a bit different. There will be new student drop-off and pick-up procedures, restructured classrooms, and yes, a lot more sanitization. Yet, we also want to emphasize that we are a school, not a hospital. While we want our students to be safe, we also want them to be comfortable, joyful, and excited about learning.

Below is a detailed update of  our planning thus far:

DROP-OFF SCREENINGS

The beginning of the day is where students will likely see most significant changes.

  • We will be doing daily health screening for students as well as faculty and staff and contact tracing when necessary as required by the Oregon Health Authority  and Oregon Department of Education. Our staff members are currently taking training from Johns Hopkins University for contact tracing.
  • Health screeners will be placed at entrances to the school; precise locations are to be determined.
  • We have purchased and installed portable sinks for immediate hand-washing after initial health screening of all who enter. These will also help manage student traffic for scheduled hand-washing throughout the day.

PARENTS & VISITORS

Visitors to campus will be very limited. Initially, we will not be allowing parents or adult caregivers in buildings until restrictions are lifted. We know that this can be stressful for families, particularly with new students or little ones. We will be working to ensure that this process is as easy and comforting as possible. We will provide child-friendly information to you ahead of the school year so that all students know what to expect ahead of time.

  • Any visitors will wear masks and be subject to health screening and contact tracing when required.
  • Door codes will be disabled to prevent anyone entering without health screening and authorization.
  • An awning is being installed outside of Hilltop for anyone waiting to enter. 

SANITIZATION / DISINFECTION

We will be doing a lot of work to keep our buildings clean and our students healthy.

  • We will be using a Clorox 360 machine nightly to disinfect all classrooms.
  • Teachers will be provided with disinfectant and training to provide intermittent sanitization throughout the day as well as limit exposure of both virus and disinfectant to students.
  • We are installing hand sanitizer throughout the buildings.
  • High touch areas will be routinely disinfected.
  • Playground structures will be disinfected between stable groups as required.
  • HEPA filtration will be installed in 14 classrooms.
  • Portable sinks have been placed at entryways in the main buildings.
  • Student belongings will be kept separate. This can include and may not be limited to: Students hanging jackets on the back of chairs and students with triangular desks receiving two desks (one for seating/working and one for belongings).
  • Fabric/non-washable items are being removed from classrooms. 

SOCIAL DISTANCING

We have enough space in our classrooms and buildings to allow for the current Oregon Department of Education recommended square footage per student. Classes will remain together as “stable cohorts.”

  • Classrooms are being structured to create 35 square feet for each student. (Note: Early Childhood regulations for PreK and LowK might differ slightly).
  • Art, Music, PE, Library, and English (Grades 1-5) classes will continue. However, because of the stable cohort requirements, students will not be mixed for these classes as they usually are at the elementary grades, but will instead remain with their classes. Specialists may be visiting individual classrooms rather than students moving to their classrooms, but this is still to be determined.
  • Common areas are closed until further notice.
  • Floor decals will be placed for bathrooms and building entry to mark 6 ft social distancing.
  • Signage with reminders about hygiene and distancing will be installed to help prevent the spread of the virus.

If you have ever interacted with a group of children, I think you would be quick to notice that it is not realistic to expect students to remain 6 feet away from each other at all times, especially our little ones. It is simply not possible, nor would it be emotionally beneficial for our students. The recommendations expect us to mitigate as much risk as possible, not reduce it entirely. This is why adhering to stable cohorts and sanitization practice guidelines are so important. Fortunately, recent data suggests that these practices can be very effective in reducing transmission among both children and adults.

PPE / MASKS

  • We are providing staff with personal protective equipment (PPE), such as masks and gloves, in addition to proper training. Teachers in stable cohorts may not be required to wear masks per current guidelines, but this is subject to change.
  • We will encourage students to wear masks; however, at present, it is currently NOT required for children under the age of 12.
  • We are installing protective shields for front desk staff.

While these changes are many and will impact the way we operate, the essence of who we are as a school and as a community remains the same. We are dedicated to serving our families and providing a quality inquiry-based language immersion education for our students. We hope that many of these changes will be “in the background” of our students’ experience, and won’t get in the way of our unique community and academic program.

We expect new information from the state as soon as today, Tuesday June 30th. We anticipate our next update to be on Friday, July 17th. Thank you for your patience as we work hard to clearly define the reopening of our school.

Stay well,

Robert

Robert Woods, Head of School