Special Resources Page » Information and FAQ Regarding the 2020-2021 School Year

Information and FAQ Regarding the 2020-2021 School Year

PLEASE NOTE: ANSWERS OR PROTOCOLS MAY BE UPDATED OR REVISED TO REFLECT CURRENT PUBLIC HEALTH MANDATES OR OTHER STATE ORDERS

Updated July 23, 2020

The Valley School is aware of the Seattle Public School announcement regarding plans for the reopening of school for 2020-2021. While we are closely monitoring and considering the current status of COVID-19 in our community, The Valley School will generate a reopening plan independent of other school districts, and in line with local state and government requirements. 

 

The Valley School is planning to reopen on-campus full time for all students at the start of the school year, in accordance with state, local and health authorities’ requirements and guidance. We believe that our students need to be in school as much as possible. Our mission of igniting children’s natural passion for learning, and developing an academic foundation to become joyful learners through playful work, purposeful play, and the practice of community, is best achieved at school.
 
The safety of our students, faculty, and staff is our top priority, and our plans for reopening on-campus will be aligned with the health and safety requirements and guidance from the Department of Health (DOH), CDC, OSPI, to minimize the risks associated with the coronavirus pandemic. 
We are closely monitoring guidance from state health and education officials at all times, paying special attention to the resurgence of the coronavirus and an increase in “community spread” of COVID cases locally in Seattle/King County and Washington State. A “Stay at Home” order from the Governor of Washington, as we experienced in March, would prevent a return to on-campus in September. In that event, Valley teachers and administrators have been planning over the summer months to move quickly and effectively from on-campus to remote learning, if necessary. 
In early June, the state Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) issued a planning guide for Reopening Washington Schools 2020.  These guidelines direct schools to abide by practices of social distancing, to require face masks for everyone on campus, to keep groups or “cohorts”of students apart, to limit the flow of visitors on campus, and to sanitize spaces frequently.  After a careful review of these health guidelines and a thorough analysis of our spaces and resources, we have concluded that Valley School can meet these expectations.
The first day of the 2020-21 school year is Wednesday, September 2. As usual, our first day is a half-day, with school starting at 8:30 a.m. and ending at 12 noon. In the weeks prior to the start of school, we will hold virtual meetings at each grade for parents and guardians to meet teachers, to learn about new health and safety procedures, and to hear more about expectations for the upcoming school year. In addition, we will give students, in small groups, the chance to visit their new classrooms during the week of August 24-28, as allowed by public health limitations at the time.
The Valley School is following all requirements and guidance from the state and health authorities to minimize the risks of the coronavirus to students, faculty and staff. We are also confident that we are creating a learning environment that is as healthy and safe as possible and in which children can fully engage in our learning program. We also believe that young children in particular are best served, both intellectually and emotionally, by learning in person at school with other children. For students whose health conditions prevent them from attending on-campus school, and for families with household members whose overall health may be jeopardized by their child interacting with others, we will offer a remote virtual interface whereby students can experience the teaching and learning taking place in their classrooms. For example, a classroom may be equipped with a webcam that will allow students to follow along a class in real time at home. Given our resources, we are not in a position to create and deliver two simultaneous robust learning programs to address both on campus and remote learning.
The Extended Day Program at The Valley School normally serves students across all seven grades, Pre-Kindergarten through Fifth Grade. Given the pandemic risk mitigation strategy around physical distancing, which calls for students to be kept separate by grade/class “cohorts” throughout the course of the day, Valley is not able to operate our Extended Day Program until further notice. This will also apply to After School Enrichment Classes.
In accordance with guidelines from OSPI (Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction), the Washington Department of Health, Public Health Seattle–King County, and the Department of Children, Youth, and Families, Valley School is taking the following measures:

 

  • Containing students and teachers in each grade as separate “pods” or cohorts and minimizing contact across grades as much as possible
  • Social distancing, at a 6-foot distance, within classrooms and around campus generally
  • Using face masks, or other coverings if permitted, throughout the school day
  • Mandatory screening and reporting of symptoms by parents and guardians before each school day
  • Hand washing throughout the day, with hand washing stations placed throughout the campus
  • Regular instruction and support for habits of hygiene
  • Regular and frequent cleaning of learning spaces throughout the day
  • Tightly managed parking and traffic guidelines and drop-off/pick up protocols
  • Limited access to campus by parents, guardians, and visitors
Students who are sick or experiencing even mild symptoms of illness, or had close contact with anyone who is sick or experiencing symptoms, must stay at home. Parents and guardians should report all illnesses to the school via a safety app on a personal device, by 8:00 a.m. If there is concern about illness due to the coronavirus or about possible exposure to COVID, parents and guardians should contact their physician as soon as possible. We also ask parents and guardians to share this information with the school. This information then allows the school to take all necessary measures to contain the spread of the virus.
Before leaving for school, all families will complete a mandatory symptom check of each student, and report the result directly to the school. For ease of communication and efficient information gathering by the school, symptom reporting will happen through a safety app, available on personal phones and computers. All employees of The Valley School will follow the same protocol. 
All classrooms will be arranged so that desks are spaced in accordance with the guideline of six-feet physical distancing. Each grade will be contained as a “pod” during the course of the day, with no interaction with other grades. Lunch will take place in classrooms, and there will be no mixing of grades/students during morning and afternoon recesses. Specialist teachers will teach in the grade-specific classroom, rather than, for example, each grade going to the library or science room. PE/Health classes will take place on the playground or, during inclement weather, in the classroom. 
During this pandemic, The Valley School is taking measures to restrict access to the campus by both community members and neighbors. The campus is no longer open to the community during off-hours. Gate codes that permit community members to enter the campus are no longer functional. All visitors will enter through the Main Office and, in general, social interactions are discouraged on campus. As a security measure and a mechanism in support of social tracing, all visitors will sign in and out at the Main Office.
The schedule on campus in 2020-21 will be similar to the schedule of previous years. School will start, as usual, at 8:30 a.m. and end at 3:20 p.m. In the morning, students are expected to go directly to their classrooms. Playgrounds will be closed both before and after school. Half-day Pre-Kindergarten will end at 1:00 p.m. All students will stay in their classrooms through most of the day, with outside breaks for recess in the morning, between 10:00 and 11:00 a.m., and in the early afternoon, between 12:00 and 1:00 p.m. Grades will have separate schedules on the Upper and Lower School playgrounds, thus ensuring the separation of class “pods.”  Lunch will take place in classrooms. Specialist classes – Creative Arts, Library, PE/Health, Science, and Spanish – will take place in the afternoons, with the exception of PreK, which will have specialist classes before lunch. All students will take PE/Health classes once a week throughout the year. Students will have two other specialist classes, such as Science and Library, twice a week for half the year, with the other two specialist classes, such as Creative Arts and Spanish, for the second half of the year. This schedule supports our efforts to minimize the interaction of teachers with students. It will also facilitate the transition to remote learning, if necessary.
Everyone on campus, children and adults, will be expected to wear face masks.  Face masks prevent exposure to others when the wearer coughs or sneezes. They do not replace the need for physical distancing, frequent hand washing, or staying away from people who are ill. While the school will have a supply of face masks, for both adults and children, we ask families to supply their children with their own cloth face masks for each day of the week. Teachers may remove their face masks temporarily if a specific instruction task requires it. There are exceptions to the masking requirement for some people, such as those with disabilities, respiratory conditions, or particular medical needs. Face masks can be removed for eating, for recess, PE, and for other outdoor activities.
In the event that we need to discontinue on-campus learning sometime during the year, all classes will immediately transition to remote learning. During the summer, all teachers contributed to the planning of a more responsive, engaging, coordinated, and mission-centered approach to remote learning. These improvements include more effective methods for communication, assessment, digital learning, and scheduling. Our goals for Virtual Valley are to:
 
  • Ensure that all children remain fully engaged in their learning while at home
  • Continue our regular curriculum
  • Provide ways for both students and teachers to remain connected in meaningful ways
  • Be responsive to the pressures and needs of parents and guardians, as they take on more responsibility for the education of their children.
 
A “Remote Learning Handbook,” available on the school’s website in August, will provide more detail about our plans for an engaging learning experience at home.
Every day will include a mix of synchronous, live classes with teachers; asynchronous, independent learning activities; and optional, self-directed activities. The remote learning program will include instruction and activities with lead, assistant, and specialist teachers. Recognizing that children learn at different rates and engage in varied ways, we still aim to offer a remote learning program with a consistent expectation of time requirements. In general: 
  • PreK and Kindergarten will be one hour
  • First and second grades will be two hours
  • Third, fourth, and fifth grades will be three to four hours

 

The Valley School enrolls a wide range of normal learners, and we value the diversity of skills, talents, and passions children bring to the classroom. During remote learning, teachers continue to differentiate and individualize their instruction, with the aim of giving all students a variety of ways to demonstrate their understanding and growth. For some students, digital learning opens up new possibilities for engagement and self-expression. For others, the challenges of remote learning help them develop new skills of perseverance and self-direction. The schedule during remote learning affords opportunities for teachers to work with small groups and with individuals. Students with Student Support Plans continue to receive accommodations and are able to meet with our Student Support Coordinator. Our School Counselor and Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Access (DEIA) Coordinator also provide consultation and resources for families and children.
At all times, the most important responsibility for parents and guardians is to support the learning and growth of their children. Parents and guardians support their children – and thus the school – by upholding our Mission and Values. Reinforcing the importance of their efforts and the value of hard work, perseverance, and resilience can also help children through the transition back and forth between on-campus and remote learning. We also urge all members of The Valley School community to conduct themselves in ways that support the collective health of our immediate and wider communities. Now more than ever, the wellbeing, health, and safety of our children depend on an ethic of care and concern for others.
All School Sing, our gathering in the Big Room each Friday morning, cannot happen in its traditional format, given the risks of large groups gathering indoors in a single room. Nevertheless, we are creating new virtual gatherings that will take place at the same time every second Friday. These Zoom gatherings, like All School Sing, will give students an opportunity to share their talents and creativity with the wider community.
We depend on all members of the community – parents, guardians, students, Board members, faculty and staff – to stay connected at all times. The current pandemic places new pressures and complexities on every community, but we are turning to both new and old communication tools to share encouragement, inspiration, resources, and concerns. In the coming year, you can anticipate regular updates from the Head of School and other administrators and frequent emails from teachers. F@V (Families At Valley), with four leaders and two class representatives at each grade, provides an effective channel for communication about school-wide and grade-specific topics. We also encourage you to address questions and ideas that relate to the different facets of school life to the appropriate members of the administration: 
 
Alan Braun, Head of School: alanb@thevalleyschool.org
Alice Baggett, Director of Teaching and Learning: aliceb@thevalleyschool.org
Fernando Viana, Director of Finance and Operations: fernandov@thevalleyschool.org
Lora Kolmer, Director of Admissions and Community Relations: lorak@thevalleyschool.org

Families at Valley (F@V): families@thevalleyschool.org