A message from Dr. Thomas López
July 22nd, 2020
Hello, friends and members of the Gordon family!
Earlier this month, I shared with you the big picture thinking and plans that Gordon thoughtfully developed in preparation for starting school in September. This effort, outlined at www.gordonschool.org/reopening, was designed to intentionally include all members of the community, and we are proud of all the hard work that has gone into the reopening plan thus far. As you know, that work is continuing full steam as we head towards the fall.
In recent weeks, we’ve seen an increase in concern over plans to open schools. A national conversation has intensified over the risk of sending students and teachers back into school buildings in the continued absence of a COVID vaccine or treatment. And like many aspects of this pandemic so far, the conversation can often move beyond issues of health and safety and into a more politicized space. I wanted to reach out to you today to say that Gordon will always keep our focus on what is best for the health, safety, and well-being of our students, faculty and staff.
While many schools are still wrestling with the complexities of when and how to reopen their school buildings, we want to affirm that as of today, Gordon is planning to reopen full time, in-person, on campus this fall. I’d like to review three reasons why we feel confident that this decision is the right one for our community:
- The deep thoughtfulness and care with which our Futures Steering Committee, Working Groups, and faculty and staff have developed the reopening plan
- The unique assets of Gordon’s buildings and campus which allow us to creatively convene in a safe manner
- Gordon’s culture of trust and transparency, which you have all played a part in building, especially this past year.
First, our planning: on July 1st, I was happy to share with you the first communication about reopening Gordon and have enjoyed the various meetings and discussions that have greatly informed our thinking. I also had the opportunity to meet with Gordon faculty and staff this past Friday to allow time and space for their questions, suggestions and concerns.
The plan to organize students and classes into houses and neighborhoods and the myriad decisions, large and small, made by our team I hope demonstrate to you that Gordon’s first priority for reopening is the health and safety of you, your children, and our deeply committed and hardworking faculty and staff.
The team continues to work tirelessly through the summer to both prepare for September and stay abreast of the latest developments from the Governor’s office, the Rhode Island Department of Health, the Rhode Island Department of Education, and medical professionals, AND we are learning from our colleagues in public and independent schools locally and nationally who are also engaged in this challenging and important work.
Secondly, there are our assets: as you know, the Gordon School was founded in 1910 as an open air school and this important aspect of our history will have a special impact on our ability to return this fall. With our unmatched outdoor spaces, open air ventilation, and dedicated classroom entrances and exits, Gordon faculty will be able to maximize space usage while minimizing the risk of transmission and spread. Every grade will have a dedicated outdoor classroom, and our buildings and grounds team will ensure that all surfaces are appropriately cleaned and sanitized throughout the school day and every night. The New York Times recently reported that educators are looking back at the open air movement for guidance on how to use those strategies this year. We are grateful for the ability to get back to our roots as soon as our doors open in September.
Lastly, our confidence in reopening is based on the open communication and trust we have cultivated as a community over many years, and I’m deeply grateful for the trust you have placed in us. We do not take it lightly. However, if there is one concern consistently coming my way, it’s “Noni, we know we’re doing everything we can to follow the rules, stay safe, and keep others safe, but not everyone is.” And that’s the rub. In order for our plan to be successful, it will require everyone in our community to understand and hold sacred our responsibility to one another by following the rules and guidelines from our Governor, the Department of Health, and Gordon School and trust that everyone in the community is doing the same.
We trust that families will do the hard work of educating your children on the proper usage of masks, the importance of social distancing, and trust that families will communicate with the school around issues of testing, exposure, and quarantining. And we’ll be here to support you through all of this. We know that this year will not be school-as-usual, but we believe that working together in transparent dialogue, we will be able to enjoy a wonderful educational experience, and I am confident in the Gordon community’s ability to do all that is required in order to make this happen.
I want to assure you that we will continue to monitor announcements of our elected and appointed officials and ground any decisions we make about reopening the school in science and facts, fueled by love and concern for each other. Should there be any changes in our ability to return to campus, we are prepared to resume our Online Learning Community and will continue to provide a quality learning experience for our students and families.
So, what can you do to help us return to campus this fall?
- Wear masks and practice social distancing
- Stay home if you’re sick
- Maintain healthy hygiene habits, especially handwashing
- Keep your immunity up! Get sleep, eat well, exercise, and spend time outside
Commitment to mental and physical well-being will ensure that we all return to Gordon safe, healthy, and ready to take on a new school year. As always, if you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me or a member of our leadership team. And look out for our next reopening update at the end of the month. I’ll let you go back to your summer break now but I’m looking forward to seeing you very soon.
Noni Thomas López
Head of School
Please review Gordon's full plan for reopening at www.gordonschool.org/reopening