2020-2021 School Reopening

A Message from the Head of School

 

David Tierney, Head of SchoolAfter thoughtful deliberation, Cambridge Friends School has decided to reopen with in-person learning this fall. Recognizing that there are families for whom in-person learning is not an appropriate option, CFS will also offer remote access to classrooms as well. This means that classes will begin as scheduled on Wednesday, September 9 in accordance with our school-issued health and safety guidelines and protocols. It should be noted that the first three days of school will be half days to provide a smooth transition back into school and give students and teachers time to reacclimate, learn and discuss the new protocols and procedures, practice any transitions, become familiar with new classrooms, spend time meeting new students and building community, and setting a good foundation for success when the regular schedule and classes resume.

 

Cambridge Friends School’s objective in determining our reopening plans has been simple: to fulfill our educational mission in the safest school environment possible. We have carefully balanced our interest in optimally educating children and creating the safest environment possible for our students, faculty, and staff. It is critical that students be able to continue their social and emotional development; reach academic benchmarks; and continue our social justice curriculum. We believe that the School’s mission is best achieved in-person; provided it is safe to reopen. While a risk-free environment has never existed and is an impossible expectation, it has been our goal to minimize risk by taking the most cautious and prudent steps to protect our community.

 

A Reopening Task Force was formed to analyze scientific data, epidemiological reports, and guidance from the World Health Organization (WHO), Center for Disease Control (CDC), the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, and the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) to determine if and how we could open safely. Members are comprised of school administration, science researchers, physicians, and pioneers in health safety – with five members who have children at Cambridge Friends School. As we have digested the various sources of information, our single most important consideration has been the health and safety of our students, parents/guardians, faculty, and staff. Cambridge Friends School is in the fortunate position of having the resources necessary to create an extremely safe and healthy school experience for everyone. We had monitored the conditions in Massachusetts for months as we worked through our development of a plan for reopening in September. In addition, in making this decision, we took into consideration the feedback families provided to us through surveys and forums.

 

Further recognizing that not one single approach will completely eliminate the spread of COVID-19, CFS is implementing a multi-layered plan including administrative controls and self-reporting; surface cleaning, physical distancing and personal protective equipment (PPE); air quality; and upper room UVC germicidal lighting. We believe that the combination of these measures will greatly reduce the risk of transmission of COVID-19 – and other airborne illnesses such as the flu.

 

The School will continue to evaluate information as it becomes available and will adapt its plans and protocols as required to keep our students, faculty, staff, and their families healthy and safe. We are eager to see each other and to begin our work together and while the logistics of our learning are different, its purpose remains focused on cultivating critical thinkers and inspiring compassionate leaders.

 

I am pleased to share some of our plans with the greater community, as we continue to advance and lead change in these unprecedented and challenging times.

 

In friendship,

 

 

 

 

David J. Tierney

 

In-Person Plans

Facilities Preparedness

CFS is in the unique and fortunate position of having generous building space. We will be operating at just under 35% of building capacity which allows us to spread classes throughout the entire building, maintain the integrity of classroom cohorts, and dedicate more spaces towards single purpose use. In addition, with nearly three acres of land, opportunities for outdoor classes and activities are almost limitless and we will take every opportunity to be outside.

 

Some key actions taken to provide a safe and healthy school, while exceeding many recommended guidelines are outlined below:

 

  • We are adhering to a 6’ social distancing recommendation from the CDC and have reoutfitted our classrooms. With our relatively small classes and large classrooms, we feel an overabundance of caution is the responsible approach to creating a safe environment
  • CFS is adjusting its air handling system to introduce 100% fresh air only into the building. The HVAC system will not recirculate stale air at all anywhere in the building
  • CFS will install secondary air filtration units in all the classrooms, again surpassing DESE recommendations
  • We are installing NM-254 UVC disinfectant lighting in as many areas of the School as we can. This is the UVC lighting you may have seen in medical facilities and is commonly and safely used to disinfect
  • All classrooms, hallways, bathrooms, and other spaces will be thoroughly cleaned every morning
  • All multiple-use spaces and Early Childhood rooms will be sanitized every morning using the GenEon Mist and all classrooms will be sanitized regularly
  • Playground equipment will be sanitized on a regular basis
  • Every classroom will be equipped with green cleaning and sanitizing supplies so that teachers can clean and sanitize as they feel the need to and so they can support maintenance in their frequent cleaning of high-touch areas such as light switches, door knobs, and table tops
  • Bathrooms and high-touch areas will be cleaned frequently
  • Individual exterior entrances and exits will be used for each classroom instead of main entrances to avoid congestion and reduce the risk of transmission
  • Lower School classes with more than 10 students will be given a second classroom to use as a breakout space. Teachers have the freedom to use the additional space as they desire
  • All of our bathrooms have powerful exhaust systems, which will be connected to the light switches and wired with timers so that they run for an extended period of time after bathroom use

 

Health & Safety Measures

The commitment of our community is essential to a safe school reopening in person. We are asking all CFS families to commit to the following health and safety measures to protect our students, faculty and staff, and families. Keeping CFS open will depend upon all members of the CFS community adhering to our expectations.

 

  • All students (regardless of age), faculty, staff, and visitors are required to wear masks. Families will be required to send children to school with two masks each day (in case one gets dirty or torn). CFS will also have a supply of masks should a student need one. Cloth masks should consist of at least two layers of material. Students will not be required to wear masks during snack or lunch or if engaged in socially distant activities when outdoors, and opportunities for physically distant mask breaks will be scheduled. Students with mask exemptions provided by a physician will be offered face shields. Masks should be worn for one day at a time and must be properly laundered before reusing. Disposable face coverings may only be worn for one day then must be discarded
  • In addition to masks, faculty and staff are required to wear either face shields or eye protection while in the classroom. The School is also providing face shields and eye wear protection for all students who wish to wear them as added protection
  • Families will be required to respond to an online health screening survey before school every day. This will include a temperature check and screening for COVID-19 symptoms as outlined by the School
  • Students will be instructed and regularly reminded about social distancing and hand washing expectations. Hand washing and sanitizing will be required throughout the day, particularly around meal and snack times and when leaving and returning to the classroom
  • The School will be adhering to DESE and CDC guidelines pertaining to symptom and infection protocols

 

Academic Programs

The first three days of school (Wednesday September 9 to Friday, September 11) are scheduled as half days to allow for a smooth transition back into school. This approach will give students and teachers the necessary time needed to reacclimate, learn and discuss the new protocols and procedures, practice any transitions, become familiar with new classrooms, spend time meeting new students and building community, and set foundation for a successful rest of the year.

 

With plans to reopen in-person, our differentiated and demanding curriculum will still be delivered, with some programs changing to ensure adherence to all the health recommendations. Below are some of the measures we are taking to continue to advance our academic programming:

 

  • Touch-screen Chromebooks have been purchased for all Pre-K through fourth-grade students. CFS is now a 1:1 Chromebook school. All students will be instructed on how to operate the computers which they will be able to take home if we have to shift to remote learning
  • Chromebooks will also be used to support in-person classroom teaching when appropriate
  • Plastic face shields are being provided to every student to use in physical education where only games, activities, and exercises that promote social distancing will be used
  • Some music classes will be held in the Meeting Hall in order to guarantee social distancing
  • Singing activities will be suspended during the pandemic due to the nature of aerosolization and ability to spread the virus
  • Drama classes will engage in theater work that complies with social distancing regulations, focusing on acting for the camera versus the stage
  • A number of classes with specialists (i.e. library, music, or art) will be taught in homerooms to reduce the volume of transitions and lower the number of students using specialists’ rooms throughout the day
  • All field trips have been cancelled for the year. If circumstances and regulations change, field trips may be considered later in the school year. Some trips (Farm School; Washington, D.C.; and Puerto Rico) will have placeholders in the school calendar, and these, too, will only be considered if circumstances and regulations allow

 

Remote access to school during in-person learning

If a family opts to keep their child/ren at home, or in the event a student is out of school for a period of time due to our COVID-19 health protocols or for any other health reason, the School will provide access via Zoom or Google Meet to the classroom so that the student can “attend” class remotely. Parents/Guardians, teachers, and division heads will collaborate to get books, materials, computers, etc. to students learning at home. It should be noted that remote access to “live” classrooms is not the same experience as an online class. Teachers will make every effort to engage remote students in the class but other students in the room will not be on the screen.

 

In the event a teacher is out of school for a period of time due to our COVID-19 health protocols, their class will have a substitute teacher. If the teacher can deliver content remotely, they will coordinate with the substitute accordingly.

 

Should circumstances change, CFS will determine whether to implement a hybrid or fully remote learning plan.

After-School Activities

While many schools are not offering after-school or co-curricular programs, CFS is acutely aware that a significant number of our families have a need for such programs. We also recognize that if we do not provide an after-school program, many parents will be forced to find childcare elsewhere. We feel more comfortable with students remaining at CFS after school rather than interacting with a completely different cohort of children and caregivers from other communities. We are confident that our after-school (XD) groupings, Intramural sports, and music programs, which will follow our social distancing and mask requirements, will provide the safest possible after-school experience for our students.

 

It is important to note that Cambridge Friends School launched a Summer Program in mid-July. The program was led by our Director of Auxiliary Programs, Patrick Clapper, and consisted of classroom and outdoor educational and recreational experiences for six weeks, with 50 students enrolled each week. The guidelines for our in-person reopening plans applied to the Summer Program, and their implementation was highly successful. Students from four to thirteen years of age adapted to the social distancing guidelines and mask requirements with great ease, comfort, and caregiver support.

 

Below is an outline of some of what our after-school offerings will entail:

 

  • XD (Extended Day) classes will divide students into at least three groups: Pre-K/K, Grades 1 and 2; Grades 3, 4, and 5; and Grades 6, 7, and 8. While this means there will be some intermingling of students from different classes, the groups will be small and students will be required to wear masks and/or face shields
  • Music, and dance classes will be available. Class sizes will be small and students will be required to wear masks and/or face shields
  • Our after-school strings program (grades Pre-K to 3) will continue with smaller group lessons
  • CFS will not be offering after-school auxiliary program classes as we do not want to bring new adults onto the campus. Any special programs offered through the XD program by our regular XD staff will be made available to all students
  • CFS will run an in-house Intramural sports program with a variety of social distancing activities. This program will be open for all students in grades 5-8 starting September 21 and finishing at the end of March. Activities will be held from 3:00 pm – 4:15 pm in the Gym and outside on the CFS Field. Activities will include badminton, fitness and conditioning, frisbee golf, and volleyball

Task Forces & Resources

We are grateful for the hard work and dedication of our School Reopening Task Force: Katie Marion, Head of Lower School and Assistant Head for Internal Affairs; Jack Hill, Head of Middle School and Assistant Head for External Affairs; Ilene Ungerleider, School Nurse; Andy Amato, Director of Buildings and Grounds; Polly Williams, Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion; Nicole Campos, CFS Parent ’22 and ’27; and Daniel Kamin, CFS Parent ’27. They have read and analyzed articles, research papers, and publications from the CDC, WHO, state and federal government, universities, health organizations, and scientific researchers. In some cases, new information has guided us away from initial ideas we had towards more evidence-based strategies.

 

Special thanks to Salman Keshavjee, Professor of Global Health and Social Medicine at Harvard Medical School, and CFS Parent ’24, and Ed Nardell, Professor in the Departments of Environmental Health and Immunology and Infectious Diseases at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health for their guidance on UVC germicidal lighting.

 

The CFS Faculty Task Force has also played a critical role in addressing faculty and staff questions and concerns to ensure the School is aptly prepared for reopening. Many thanks to Laurie Bozzi, Katy Boelter-Dimock, and Christine Horan for their tireless efforts.

 

The following resources are the principle sources of information that the School Reopening Task Force reviewed. These sources of information heavily influenced the protocols and procedures for our plan to reopen in-person:

 

Alternative Plans

Hybrid and Remote Learning

While we anticipate that CFS will reopen in-person on Wednesday, September 9, we recognize that our operations will depend on how well the state is managing COVID-19 transmission and other epidemiological factors that impact safely holding in-person school. CFS is prepared to pivot from in-person learning should circumstances change significantly.

 

CFS has made three plans similar to what the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) asked public schools to prepare: 1) a fully in-person reopening model that adheres to their safety requirements; 2) a hybrid model of in-person and remote learning; and 3) a fully remote learning model. There are many variations on hybrid models including dividing students into two groups that rotate either every other day or every other week, short days in school followed by remote learning from home later in the day, and so forth. The hybrid models serve schools which, due to crowded classrooms, limited facilities, and/or a shortage of teaching staff, cannot adhere to the safety and distancing requirements issued by the DESE. Barring a direct order from the Governor to adopt hybrid teaching models, CFS will not be implementing such plans. 

 

Our fully remote learning plans will build upon our findings from this past spring to deliver an even more robust online learning experience. To learn about our spring remote learning successes, please click here.