Covid-19 — some changes at our school

With the ever-evolving story of the Covid-19 pandemic, including tonight’s Bergen County-wide closure of public schools, I’ve had many conversations with parents, staff and friends regarding the best path for The Montessori House School at this time.  As always, we want to do what’s best for our students, their families, and our staff.

First, we plan to keep the school open.  We’ll continue to do so until circumstances dictate otherwise.  For many families, having childcare available during the work day is essential, and we aim to meet this need. Our parents work in a wide variety of professions and occupations, some of which are required to respond to critical needs in our communities, such as health care professionals.  Our mission is to make available to families a safe, wholesome, and developmentally beneficial environment for their young children, and we would fail in this mission if we closed before required to do so.

As with weather emergencies, if we can safely keep The Montessori House open, we do so.

However, if parents feel it’s in their child’s best interest, they should not hesitate to decide stay home.  

With that in mind, here are several principles, policies and procedures, we plan to follow in the coming weeks and months:

  • If we can provide a safe environment for children (adequate staff and supplies), we will remain open on our normal schedule.  This applies to the regular school day, after-school classes, and after care.
  • Our aim is to isolate our students and staff during their time at school.  From the morning through school, after-school classes, and after-care, we will put in place isolation practices that keep unnecessary vectors of contamination (people and goods) out of the classroom/playground environment.
  • Only staff and students will be permitted in the classrooms and on the playground.  Until further notice, we will curtail prospective parent classroom tours, and curtail classroom visits by family members, including parent visits for in-school birthday celebrations and the current Kindergarten presentations.  We will, however, permit staff members to bring to the classroom their own school-age children, if necessary to keep our doors open.
  • At arrival and dismissal we ask parents and caregivers to keep in mind public health recommendations regarding social distancing.  In other words, keep distance from one another while waiting to drop-off or pick up students.  And please keep our staff healthy by having caregivers and siblings keep their distance: our staff will provide hugs or handshakes only to current students.
  • We ask families and staff to be hyper-vigilant with regard to their own health, and to err on the side of caution if they show any symptoms of respiratory infection, including fever, cough, congestion, or shortness of breath.  In other words, please do not come to school if you have such symptoms, and please follow public health advice regarding medical care and Covid-19 testing.
  • Similarly, if members of your household visit CDC Level 3 or Level 4 regions (currently China, Iran, South Korea and all countries in Europe except the United Kingdom), or if you have visitors from such regions, please consider isolation for 14 days before anyone from your household comes to school.
  • I will work with our Nutrition Committee (Snack Volunteers) to implement guidelines to safeguard our school-provided snacks from risk of contamination.
  • We always work diligently to teach students proper hygiene.  We are now extra vigilant with respect to frequent, proper hand-washing with soap and water, and proper covering when sneezing or coughing (into the elbow).  Hand sanitizer is far less effective than hand-washing, and we use it very little.
  • We’ve reviewed all our cleaning products to ensure they are EPA-designated disinfectants, and that they are effective against corona viruses generally (N.B., no available disinfectant has been tested specifically for effectiveness against Covid-19).
  • For students who bring lunch to school, we ask families to take extra care to disinfect lunchboxes daily (inside and out).  As a reminder, our standard practice already prohibits food sharing among students.
  • As much as our staff absolutely appreciates the gifts of food some parents bring us, to assure isolation we’ll refuse such gifts.

Like so much in these uncertain times, it seems uncomfortable and out of character for The Montessori House community to have to change its ways as outlined above (can you image me, Ms. Maria, not hugging a former student! or not welcoming a parent gift of sweets!).  I hope this storm will pass soon, and we’ll be able to return to most of our familiar ways.  But, in the interest of keeping the doors open for the benefit of our entire school community, these steps make sense.

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