Updated COVID Plans/Message (November 2020):
So much of this pandemic is not within our control. The one thing that has been within our control is choosing to get this school year underway in a remote model that has halted any potential spread of the coronavirus within our school community while providing a consistent reliable educational program that all of us could acclimate to without disruption. We recognize that it has not been perfect, and it is not ideal for anyone, but it has been effective. Parents and caregivers, your cooperation has been not only appreciated, but also vital to the success of this approach. Thank you for all you’ve done to support the process.
Covid-19 cases are up. In fact, they are at an all-time high. Schools are closing all around us, state safety mandates are strengthened , and SSP continues to prioritize everyone’s safety.
Moving into the second trimester, we will remain in our remote model. We stand by our statement in August: “If we feel we cannot safely resume in-person instruction (at the end of Trimester 1), we will continue to reevaluate this throughout the second trimester.” The good news is there are breakthroughs with vaccines and diagnostic testing is more available (though some sites are experiencing strain , and hospitals are already taxed with increased infection).
The SSP Team remains at your service and welcomes every opportunity to do all that is within our power to make this school year meaningful and effective for you and your kids—our treasured students.
Original Fall Opening Plans/Message (August 2020):
Summit School had hoped to provide in-person and distance learning options this fall. While we continue to hope for the ability to effectively provide an in-person option, we feel the challenges and risks for an August start outweigh any potential benefits. We are a small school with a small number of teachers. Two of the main factors we have considered and based our decision on relate to staffing and consistency in our ability to provide the best instruction and support for students.
Even larger public schools are faced with the challenge of what if? What if a teacher becomes infected with COVID? Does that then mean that every one of their students must also quarantine for two weeks? And if those students then see other teachers, students, and staff throughout the school day, do those teachers, students, and staff then need to quarantine for two weeks? Does the whole school shut down? Half of the school? Where do you stop and where do you start? How does this foster stability for children and families? Can you be effective under this structure?
Summit School has an advantage of being smaller, and often we can control our environment more as a result. But, our staff is also smaller and we’ve always struggled to find substitute teachers, even in a pre-COVID world. The current COVID crisis will make this even more difficult.
If one of our teachers becomes infected or must quarantine because they are exposed to someone else who is infected, how will we continue to provide in-person instruction? How does this affect the ability for our school as a whole to continue to function? Technically, if we are following the guidelines, the entire school should shut down for a deep cleaning. All students and staff would need to quarantine for two weeks. This creates inconsistency and instability for our students, families, and staff, which is followed for some by feelings of anxiety and unrest. Public schools across the country are struggling with the same questions and challenges. Some have decided to start their year with 100% remote instruction, and this is also being considered by districts close to home in Monroe County.
At Summit School, we would much rather position ourselves to provide instruction to students in the most effective manner possible, with the most stability for students, families, and staff, and the least amount of risk to our entire community. Therefore, we have decided to begin the school year with a 100% distance learning model.
Our remote program is being designed to deliver the signature Summit School experience.
We believe our program will be more effective than others because our school is small and because SSP’s education model naturally requires that our teachers be reflective, adaptive, nimble, innovative, and responsive to students and families in real-time, at all times. The summer provided us time to reflect on the triumphs and challenges of circumstances we faced in the spring, and we have adjusted our delivery accordingly. At Summit School, we pride ourselves on being highly responsive to students and families.
This year’s remote program will include both synchronous and asynchronous learning experiences. Students will have scheduled online class times as well as offline activities aimed to increase hands-on, real-world learning, and decrease dependence on screens. Teachers will work with students to develop time, task, and project management skills that will contribute to their age-appropriate growing independence and self-direction.
The school will provide Chromebooks and course materials for each student, from kindergarten through tenth grade (currently our highest grade level). Families will be required to pick up these materials prior to the official start of school (August 31). Pick-ups will be arranged periodically thereafter to refresh student materials as needed for new/upcoming projects.
Daily attendance will be taken at scheduled class times and our team will keep parents/caregivers informed about multiple missed sessions (more on this in near-future program information).
SSP’s expert teachers will facilitate group discussions, individual conferences, and student/family meetings on both a scheduled and/or as-needed basis to help keep every learner on track. In addition, Ms. Marina, our guidance advisor, will hold virtual wellness check-ins for students and families, and we’re scheduling home-base check-ins and restorative discussion sessions to address social-emotional development and COVID related unease. We are also discussing potential opportunities to gather small groups for socially-distanced activities and events throughout the fall to foster stronger community connections for our students.
Our goal is to make this remote experience positive, productive, and engaging for students. We intend to continue developing our approach so it reflects our in-person instruction and SSP’s foundational values as much as is humanly possible.
We are committed to continually reevaluating this situation, the risks and rewards, and considering how we deliver academic instruction as we move through the school year. For now, we plan to operate virtually at least through the first marking period of 2020-21 (November 13). We will communicate to parents by November 16th our plans to continue all remote learning or offer in-person instruction. If we can resume in-person instruction, we will aim to begin welcoming students back to the building after the Thanksgiving break. If we feel we cannot safely resume in-person instruction at that time, we will continue to reevaluate this throughout the second trimester.
Keep in mind that the Governor still has the ability to require all schools to move to a virtual model at any time, and we are always subject to that order should it occur. Under any circumstances, one thing we hold hope for is that at some point we will return to a normal that will once again allow for safe and effective in-person academics, and we continue to work toward that goal with our students’ best interests at heart.
Regardless of what the 2020-21 school year looks like, we continue to pursue our charter application.