Recap from Community Conversation on 8/18/21 - Returning to School 2021

“Disagreements are unavoidable, but how you handle them can make all the difference."  - Pooja Agnihotri

Attendees: 31; a mixture of New Families, Current Families and Returning Families. Members of the Board, Faculty and Administration

The meeting began with small group chats to introduce oneself, the name and grades of child/ren, how many years you’ve been part of DVWS and your hope for the coming school year. There was lively and warm chatter and it was nice to begin integrating our many new families into our school community.

The handout passed around was the agenda and serves now as the basis of this report. 

Waldorf Education has many foundational characteristics which we consider in our decision-making process around these and many other matters:

  • Freedom in teaching
  • Building Strong Relationships between students and teachers
  • Fostering practical, genuinely human and creative thinking

Our intention for the evening was to share the agreements made by the faculty during their conversations last week and have a conversation with the community to ensure we have alignment on the approaches and steps we are proposing for a return to in-person learning.

Our main goal is to prioritize and ensure in-person learning and to reduce any possible exposures that may cause a school closure. It was noted that the layered strategies from last year were successful in reducing absences and school closures.

As a group we realize full consensus is not possible because there is a polarity of viewpoints but do believe we can achieve a high level of alignment. We will continue to work on building a community that holds a center for differences and keep our focus on providing a rich, restorative and rigorous Waldorf program for our students. 

Some decisions have been made. Some decisions are being proposed and open for consideration. The following lays out the various areas discussed with hopefully enough detail for you to feel clear. We invite your input in those areas where we will continue to fine-tune our approach. These areas will be noted at the end of this document.

COVID Protocols will live on our website. They will be updated as guidance, information or practices change. We will not be printing a COVID edition handbook.

A regular Parent Handbook will be published and printed for new families and available for current families as needed.

Mandatory Mask Mandate: DVWS is prepared to follow the State Mandate issued August 2, 2021.

DVWS faculty and staff would not choose to require masks if there weren’t a pandemic.

We recognize mask wearing can be seen in context as both helpful and harmful based on differing perspectives. The legal and insurance risks and exposure if we were to make a decision to not follow the mandate are not ones that the Board of Trustees is prepared to take, especially given the balanced schedule and protocols we are putting in place that limit indoor/masked time for our students and faculty. 

Faculty have agreed to:  

  • Indoor masking for students and adults. 
  • Outdoor masking will not be expected but optional if desired.
  • Visitors and Guests will be required to follow our indoor masking requirement.
  • Teachers will strive for a balance of class time in and out doors. 

Programmatic accommodations include:

  • Indoor masks will not be required while eating or resting.
  • Teachers may request children to lower masks for reading, articulation and participation for no more than 1 or 2 minutes or outdoors for longer periods during a performance. Physical distancing will be upheld during these periods of time as much as possible.
  • Teachers may lower their masks indoors to support the teaching of their program (e.g. foreign language, reading) for no more than 1 or 2 minutes.
  • Folk Dancers will teach unmasked from behind a plastic shield while indoors (as they did last year).
  • Masks will not be required for adults working alone in offices or classrooms (as they did last year).
  • Teachers may choose to reimagine their curriculum/programming within the confines of the protocols. 

Physical Distancing

  • Handshakes will be primarily limited to class teachers. Children may choose an alternate greeting with their class teacher. Teachers will greet the children with washed hands and children and teachers will wash their hands after this interaction. 
  • Holding Hands for programs such as folk dancing, circle work or other activities will be allowed when followed up with appropriate hand-hygiene. Alternate options for holding hands will be explored.
  • Desk spacing and circle work will be planned to increase the spacing as much as possible with a target of 3 feet, realizing that less than 3 feet may be anticipated in limited circumstances like circle work.

Health and Safety Practices

  • Daily symptom screening will be on an honor system and not checked upon arrival as was done last year. A symptom checklist will be sent to each family for their reference at home prior to coming to school.
  • Illness policies continue as last year: Sick children are to remain at home or will be sent home if they are ill at school. Parents have a choice of alternate diagnosis, negative covid test or quarantine protocols to return to school when symptom-free.Testing and/or quarantine rules will be outlined in the COVID protocols and consistent with last Spring.
  • Hand-hygiene will continue to be supported throughout the school day both in and outdoors. Hand-washing stations are in each classroom and several outside on the grounds. Teachers may also use hand sanitizer or “spray sanitizer” to uphold this commitment.
  • Shared equipment will be allowed with appropriate sanitizing and/or time between uses (playground will be shared and not sanitized by anything other than the sun).  Recognition that COVID spread is mostly through aerosol transmission not surface contact. 
  • Travel Planning: In order to ensure we are able to continue with our goal of in-person learning we are entrusting families to make travel decisions with the health and safety of our community in mind. We encourage everyone to follow current CDC guidelines for travel.

Cleaning and Disinfection Plan (consistent with last year)

  • Nightly cleaning with our cleaning team.
  • Mid-day high touch surfaces (after snack and lunch) with sanitizer spray
  • In-classrooms as needed with sanitizer spray.
  • Increased ventilation with new windows, air filters and purifiers.

Food: Lunch and Snacks

  • There will be no food sharing - please send plenty of food for your children.
  • Our Hot Lunch Program is on hold until further notice.
  • Special class meals will be allowed when served individually.

School Events and Assemblies

  • Will be held outdoors as much as possible.
  • Will engage in masking requirements when indoors.
  • Will be assessed as needed when they are being planned.

An open conversation followed regarding the layered strategies presented.

Questions arose regarding the legality of the mask mandate, concerns regarding the impact on our children’s social and emotional well-being, and the need to support the future health of our children through conscious choices during these formative years. It was stated that our decisions may impact young and old loved ones with whom we live. There were questions raised about what the decision may be when vaccines for younger children become available. It was evident that there is a lot of passion around these topics. 

There were also clarifying questions regarding the approaches to the protocols that were laid out.

There is a survey linked in this document. We ask each adult to take a few minutes to share your experiences and perspectives at this time. There were many adults who were unable to attend the conversation and it is important for us to hear from everyone. Summaries of the responses will be shared with the community.

Our next step is to come into alignment with what has been presented.

Please consider the above. The areas where we can make adjustments based on your input include:

  • Masking Programmatic Accommodations
  • Student Experiences: Handshakes and hand-holding
  • Honor System for symptom-screening
  • Travel planning decisions made with our commitment to remaining in-person in mind. 

Please share in the survey your thoughts about the protocols as outlined above, and any suggestions for protocols you would like us to consider.

Please complete the survey by Monday, August 30 for our further review.

We appreciate the respectful engagement from our community on these issues of great importance and passion. We look forward to another school year where the value of Waldorf education will shine under challenging circumstances. 

Thank you.

Morgan Branson
Morgan Branson
Articles: 1677

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