August 12th decisions
Today, the Governor and the Commissioner of Education announced that the state's public schools will delay their opening for two weeks, to September 14th, to allow faculty and staff additional days for planning.
They also shared that the state would not be able to assess the safety of opening schools for in-person learning until the week of August 31st. At that time, the Governor will announce whether public schools will be able to have in-person learning starting on September 14th.
While independent schools are not obliged to follow the calendar of public schools, this announcement brings up questions for all of us, I'm sure, and I wanted to reach out to you immediately.
Statewide testing still not at capacity
The Governor reminded listeners today that in order to be able to open schools safely, in-person, the state must be able to provide COVID tests to all symptomatic students and staff and get results within forty-eight to seventy-two hours. It was disappointing to hear today that Rhode Island has not yet met this important benchmark.
Gordon's plan to reopen on campus relies on a variety of factors. Some of them are within our control, like meeting the necessary health, facility, staffing and operational requirements outlined by the Rhode Island Departments of Health and Education. We have done this, and we are deeply proud of our reopening plan. Other factors are outside of our control, like the availability of fast, accurate testing, which is number three on the state's list of five conditions that must be met before a school can reopen in-person.
As an independent school, we do have some flexibility in when and how we can reopen. For Gordon, however, the testing benchmark is firm and not something that we can simply disregard.
Given that we will not know if Rhode Island has met this benchmark until the week of August 31st, it would be irresponsible for us to plan to reopen in-person and on campus on September 2nd.
A chance to reopen in person
This still leaves Gordon with a number of options for the first weeks of September.
We could reopen school online on September 2nd. However, given the challenges (and possibilities) that we are sure to encounter in a school year that will be like no other, it is critical that we give ourselves every chance for the best possible beginning.
Gordon is a progressive school where learning is driven by personal connections, between adults and students, between our families and the school, and between the children themselves. The success of last spring's Online Learning Community was fueled by relationships that had formed in person that fall and winter, in Gordon's classrooms, hallways and outdoor spaces. If at all possible, I do not want Gordon’s first days of school to begin on laptops, without a chance for students and teachers to connect in person.
Therefore, Gordon will delay the first day of school until Thursday, September 10th. This delay will allow us to hear the Governor's assessment the previous week, to seek any clarification we need from our state officials, and to prepare the best opening days we possibly can.
The best-case scenario has us re-opening for full days with all students on campus on the 10th. The opening day trainings and orientations for students and families that were previously planned for August 31st and September 1st would happen on September 8th and 9th.
There is also, of course, the chance that conditions at the end of August will not allow us to convene students on campus for full school days in September. This possibility is real, and we should have the Governor’s decision the week August 31st.
The Online Learning Community is ready to launch, if we need to begin the school year online, on Monday, September 14th. This date gives us time to explore some interesting possibilities. Even if our full, in-person reopening plan is delayed, state guidelines may allow us to bring small groups of students and teachers together on campus between September 8th and September 11th for community-building activities, and virtual welcome-back activities can happen on those days as well, for both students and parents. This week would allow us to lay the foundation for a successful entry into our Online Learning Community on the 14th.
Given our plans for a delayed opening, the last day of school will be June 16th.
House lists delayed
Another issue that may come in to play in the coming weeks is the possibility that the state may recommend cohorts of less than fifteen people for on-campus learning.
We need time to get further clarity on this question, so we will delay the house lists—originally scheduled to be issued on Saturday—one week until Saturday, August 21st. Every year, we take pride in getting this announcement just right, and this year should be no exception.
The house lists will arrive in a package filled with exciting news about staff and faculty, parent engagement opportunities, a year's worth of parent dialogues on antiracist education, an interactive surprise, a new car sticker, and everything else your family will need to get excited for the year ahead.
What your children need to know
Thank you for reading this far, and for taking it all in.
There are a number of unanswered questions in this plan, and I appreciate your willingness to stay flexible throughout this crisis. I acknowledge, too, that circumstances may continue to change, and even this flexible plan may need to be altered.
I expect most of you are wondering, as you re-read this, what you should tell your children.
Gordon is ready to get students on campus, together, safely, as soon as possible.
We won't know the final plan until the week of August 31st.
The first day of school will be delayed a few days, until after Labor Day.
The class lists will not be coming Saturday. Gordon will share them as soon as they are ready.
Your teachers are so eager to see you, and they've been getting ready for weeks.
Gordon's fields are green, the hallways are freshly painted, and the school is eager to welcome you back.
Thank you for your partnership in making this year the best one it can be. Please continue to share your questions and feedback at www.gordonschool.org/askgordon.
As a reminder:
Week of August 31
Announcement from Governor Raimondo
If immediate in-person is allowed:
September 8 & 9
Student and Family Orientation
First Day of School
If in-person is delayed:
In-person and virtual community building activities
Launch of Online Learning Community
Gordon's full reopening plan is available at www.gordonschool.org/reopening