Reopening Gordon's campus
An extensive frequently asked questions document is now online at www.gordonschool.org/faq
above: Dr. Thomas López's July 22nd message to families, following up on the July 1st plan outlined below. The full text of her July 22nd message is here.
Barring a stay-at-home order from the Governor, Gordon plans to reopen campus for full-day, in-person classes, Monday to Friday for every grade in the fall.
While the routines will have changed since students left campus this past March, the priorities should feel quite familiar: the health and social-emotional wellness of the community, a substantive and high-quality educational program, and the long-term financial viability of the school.
Students will enjoy after school care, outdoor learning, in-person connection with teachers and peers, arts and physical education as well as core academics, a rich multicultural curriculum, access to Gordon's world-class library, and all the other essentials of the Gordon experience. Parents will continue to connect with one another and with Gordon's professionals in a partnership that will keep students learning while keeping families healthy and safe. Some of these experiences will be on campus, some will happen virtually. All of them will be thoughtfully executed and authentically Gordon.
The modifications needed to return to campus safely reflect public health and government guidelines, scientific data and research, and guidance from Gordon's consulting physician and other experts in the field.
A continuing conversation
This page was first posted July 1st, 2020, as a followup to the information shared in the June town halls. That information, including the video of one town hall, is still online.
An additional message from Dr. Thomas López was added July 22nd.
Parent questions and feedback continue to be important in this process. Please use www.gordonschool.org/askgordon to share ideas and concerns!
Being together is good for children
Home and school partnership
A campus of houses and neighborhoods
An all-day experience
Planning your fall
Your family's role
A healthy campus
To mask or not to mask?
Optimism with deep roots
A safe and healthy community
Gordon's school day is demanding. For any student to engage fully and completely, they need to know their school is taking good care of them: their minds, their bodies and their hearts.
A Gordon education is a progressive, hands-on education, where students learn from one another as they forge a classroom community. The best place for this work is Gordon's twelve-acre campus.
Joyful, meaningful, engaging academics
Joyful learning is at the center of Gordon's mission and an indispensable strategy for creating lifelong learners and compassionate leaders. Gordon's faculty are ready to reconnect with students in an all-day, full-week schedule designed to facilitate mastery of new content and skills.
Responsiveness and adaptability
In the classroom, on the playground, and in the boardroom, Gordon has prided itself on its ability to recognize shifting circumstances and to respond to new challenges. By approaching this pandemic with a growth mindset, the Gordon community has discovered a new level of resilience and resourcefulness.
Social and emotional wellness
Gordon asks that students bring their full, authentic selves into the classroom. In return, the school provides students with the tools they need to care for themselves and one another. Self-care is a skill, and Gordon prioritizes wellness by embedding it in the classroom curriculum.
Equity, access and transparency
A successful, healthy reopening of campus will require trust, collaboration and open communication, between everyone in the community. For this work, Gordon will be drawing on skills and relationships forged over the course of the school's history as a racially diverse community that seeks to hear, and be courageously responsive to, every voice.
Gordon's approach to the new school year aims to keep students as safe as possible while allowing them to resume the in-person, on-campus experience that is essential to a Gordon education.
The American Academy of Pediatrics addresses this balance when it writes:
Policies to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 within schools must be balanced with the known harms to children, adolescents, families, and the community by keeping children at home.
The American Academy of Pediatrics strongly advocates that all policy considerations for the coming school year should start with a goal of having students physically present in school. The importance of in-person learning is well-documented, and there is already evidence of the negative impacts on children because of school closures in the spring of 2020.
Gordon families have always relied on each other to be careful, informed and considerate. This pandemic takes this to a new level, but it is not asking anyone to do anything fundamentally new. In the end, families and faculty will need to take care of one another, just as they always have.
Families must stay up-to-date on Rhode Island health guidelines, and follow them outside of school as well as on campus. It will be impractical for Gordon to provide each family with a running list of guidelines and expectations for preventing the spread of COVID-19. Every adult in the school community needs to take responsibility for their family's health in the interest of keeping everyone at Gordon safe.
The details below make up the current plan for beginning the school year.
Families all need to allow for changes to the specifics between now and September 1st, and circumstances will inevitably shift as the school year progresses. But families can remain confident that the school's mission and priorities will remain the same, approached with the care and transparency that Gordon brings to every new challenge.
Research from the Centers for Disease Control, the Rhode Island Department of Education, and the American Academy of Pediatrics have made it clear that physical distancing is an effective way to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in a school.
This is especially true in a facility like Gordon's where careful planning can limit the number of students and adults a child is exposed to over the course of the school week.
To that end, Gordon has developed a houses and neighborhoods model to organize how students and adults will use the campus and connect with each other while limiting the risk of spreading the virus.
This model will:
- cover the full school day and before and after school care
- allow students to learn alongside each other while maintaining basic physical distancing
- provide students ample access to outdoor spaces
- limit the number of students and adults each child will come into contact with each day
- limit the rooms, doorways, bathrooms, hallways and other physical spaces individual students will come into contact with over the course of the day and the school year
- allow small groups of students to quarantine in the event of infection without requiring the entire campus to shift to the Online Learning Community
Each grade will be separated into houses, with a roster of students that will remain stable through the year.
Each house will have their own dedicated:
- classroom where instruction will take place for most of the day
- door to the outdoors, which will serve as students' main entrance and exit
- outdoor spaces for academic classes, recess, and breaks
Within each house, students will maintain distance from one another to minimize transmission risk but will be allowed to interact more closely for limited periods with additional safety measures like face coverings in place (see more about this in “To mask or not to mask”).
Houses within a grade will not mix for classes, but they will be able to do activities together in the indoor community spaces (see map) or outdoors. In those cases, the houses would remain fourteen feet apart.
Each house will have dedicated staff assigned for after school care.
As of July 1st, Gordon plans to have two houses per grade level in Nursery to sixth grade, and one house for Young Kindergarten. Seventh and eighth grade will have three houses each.
Gordon has the capacity to increase the number of houses per grade if the state asks schools to further decrease classroom density.
Each grade's daily activities will be organized around a specific set of spaces called a neighborhood. This map shows indoor spaces that belong to each grade's neighborhood. Most spaces in a neighborhood will be specific to a house and will be identified by the house color. Note: houses will eventually be assigned identifying colors; the colors on this map are for presentation only and do not correspond to those colors, which will be determined later this summer.
A neighborhood includes some shared spaces:
Community spaces are large indoor spaces where it is possible to have full grades together for meetings or activities. Houses would remain fourteen feet apart.
Flexible classrooms provide the opportunity for houses to have an indoor class outside of their dedicated classroom (e.g., having visual arts in one of the art studios).
All shared spaces will be cleaned and sanitized between use by different houses.
Academics on campus
Each grade will have an interdisciplinary teaching team assigned to them for the year. Teams will have up to five teachers, except in seventh grade, Gordon’s largest class, which may have as many as six teachers.
The core academic program will be taught by homeroom teachers in Early Childhood and Lower School and subject-specific teachers in Middle School.
Each grade’s science, Spanish, physical education, library, health and wellness, and visual and performing arts curriculum will be taught by specialists, in-person whenever possible or, when necessary, over live video.
Students will receive most, if not all, of their instruction in their homeroom and outdoor spaces, and they will have scheduled access to community spaces and flexible classrooms in the building.
Students in Nursery to eighth grade will have dedicated staff assigned to each house for after school care.
All students who need laptops or other electronics will have a device of their own to use all year.
Students will each have their own learning kit containing the supplies they need for individual work. There will be more information about collaborative learning materials like wooden blocks and LEGOs in the next update.
Gordon's outdoor campus will get heavy use this fall. Students at every grade level can expect new outdoor learning spaces, and more classes held outside (especially science). Time that would have been spent traveling between classrooms will be directed towards more outdoor recess.
The academic schedules for each grade have been modified to reduce the number of interactions between different groups of children and adults.
More detailed schedules of the school day will be shared later this summer.
Gordon@Home Learning Team
There will be a small number of families whose health vulnerabilities will prevent them from sending their children back to campus in September. For those students, Gordon will be offering an online learning option that will facilitate dynamic learning and meaningful engagement.
The Gordon@Home Learning Team will be made up of teachers dedicated to small groups of students learning from home. This team of faculty will complement and extend live streamed lessons from the classroom by providing additional instruction, practice, connection, and support.
In addition to the tools employed during the spring of 2020, Gordon is also exploring technology that will optimize live streaming from on-campus classrooms to provide an enhanced at-home learning experience.
Decisions on eligibility for Gordon@Home will be made in consultation with the Head of School, Assistant Head of School, and the Division Director. If you believe your family may need to pursue this option, please drop a note in the Ask Gordon form and someone will be in touch to discuss your situation.
Online Learning Community
If Rhode Island does see a second wave of COVID-19 at any point and schools are ordered by the state to close their campuses, Gordon will need to return seamlessly to the Online Learning Community.
Under the leadership of the Division Directors and the Assistant Head of School, faculty continue to reflect upon the strengths and challenges of last spring's schedule and are exploring how to adapt and innovate for the possibilities ahead, including an emphasis on student-teacher and student-student connections, engaging and meaningful content, and the balance between live Zoom instruction, recorded lessons, and independent work time.
The tools of the Online Learning Community will also be useful if a group of students needs to stay home for an extended period, allowing their house, including their teachers, to transition temporarily to an online learning environment.
Gordon will continue to offer in-person, on campus care from 7:15am to 5:30pm every day that school is in session. Before school care will take place in shared spaces with children from different houses remaining fourteen feet apart. After school care will be organized by houses and neighborhoods. Advance sign-up will be necessary; drop-ins cannot be accommodated.
As announced last winter, the cost of after school care has been significantly reduced. A full year of care for Early Childhood and Lower School students will be $2,500 and $2,000, respectively. The cost of after school care for Middle School students has also been reduced to $900. However, this pricing may be reduced further once the plan for theater and athletics is determined.
Early Childhood and Lower School Gators will have a variety of activities offered. Middle School activities and spaces will be determined once the school learns more about guidelines for athletics and makes a final decision on how we will approach performing arts.
Athletics and performing arts
Gordon is waiting for the Rhode Island Department of Education's guidance on fall sports, expected later this summer.
RIDE currently recommends that activities such as chorus and any group rehearsal or performance be suspended, or occur virtually. If these activities do happen in person, students and staff should be at least fourteen feet apart. Gordon's performing arts department is still determining their approach to individual and group instruction both during and after the school day. More details will be forthcoming.
Changes to programming
August Summer at Gordon has been cancelled as faculty and staff will be engaged in professional development and reopening training at this time.
All fall field trips have been suspended, including the Middle School overnights. Some of these may be rescheduled for the spring.
Opportunities for students to connect across grades and in affinity and interest groups are essential. Gordon is exploring ways to bring students together through the use of Zoom and other technologies.
Gordon is prepared to support families who rely on bus transportation provided through the Rhode Island Department of Education. If a city or town is not providing suitable transportation and busing is a family's only option, Gordon will work with that family to determine a viable and consistent transportation solution to and from school. The RIDE bus plans are expected later this summer.
Parents and extended family members are key parts of the Gordon community, and Gordon will continue to bring the adults of the community together through the use of Zoom for GCA meetings and events, grade-wide check-ins, Ages and Stages, affinity groups, workshops and presentations, and more.
In order for our reopening to be as safe and successful as possible, we recommend that Gordon families and employees do not travel within fourteen days of August 31st. Families are also expected to follow any state and federal travel restrictions as they are announced.
Before leaving for Gordon each day, families will be required to screen everyone in the household for COVID-19 symptoms and use a web-based app to attest that everyone is symptom-free. All Gordon employees will follow the same protocols.
If anyone in the household is experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 before the school day begins, the Gordon student or employee must stay home.
Information about Gordon’s approach to testing as a screening strategy will be addressed in a later update.
Quarantine and contact tracing
The school nurse will have an isolation room ready to use every day.
If a student or employee develops COVID-19 symptoms while at school, they will be moved to the isolation room immediately.
Parents and caregivers will be notified to pick up the student within the hour. Employees will go home immediately.
Parents and caregivers and sick employees should seek medical advice within forty-eight hours and schedule a COVID-19 test as needed.
Students and employees who exhibit symptoms cannot return to school until they provide documentation from a medical provider indicating testing was negative and there are no other restrictions. If the test result is positive, individuals must complete a period of isolation as directed by the Rhode Island Department of Health.
Gordon will follow direction from RIDOH on contact tracing and quarantining of individuals or houses.
Parents on campus
Rhode Island guidelines provide for one adult to accompany a child into their classroom, and Gordon will allow for this accommodation in the Early Childhood division only. These adults should be included in the household's morning health screening, as reported through the app, and will be required to wear a mask and physically distance on campus.
All adults on campus will wear masks throughout the school day. Students will wear face masks as much as possible in the classroom and will be required to wear them when traveling outside of their classroom. (see more details in “To mask or not to mask" below)
Teachers, staff and any other adults on campus will maintain a distance of six feet from other people as much as possible.
Physical distancing is especially important among adults. The house structure is intended to include students and their dedicated teachers; parents are not part of a house cohort and should maintain distance from teachers and from one another.
Enhanced cleaning and sanitizing
The Buildings and Grounds staff will be reassigned to a daily schedule of disinfection of all touched surfaces and bathrooms. The scope of Gordon's contract with its cleaning company has been expanded to include nightly disinfection of all touched and flat surfaces.
All Gordon students, employees, and visitors will follow a strict hand washing or sanitizing protocol throughout the day. Hand sanitizer dispensers will be available at every door into a house in Kindergarten to eighth grade. In Early Childhood, teachers will dispense hand sanitizer as necessary.
Large group gatherings
For large group gatherings like Middle School Meeting, Lower School Town Hall, community-wide assemblies, faculty meetings and Board meetings, Gordon will follow the current Rhode Island Department of Health guidance, recognizing that it may be necessary to hold these virtually.
Evidence continues to mount for the importance of universal face coverings (i.e., masks) in mitigating the spread of COVID-19. However, schools that have reopened since March have found that mask use is not always possible; the use of a mask may not always be feasible for all members of the community and mask use by teachers may impede instruction.
Some students will have difficulty wearing face coverings all day and physical distancing may not always be possible, which is why Gordon has taken the following steps, all detailed above, to mitigate the risk of transmission:
- Organize grades into houses—small, stable cohorts—to limit crossover between students and adults
- Limit each house's movement to a specific area of campus, a neighborhood, for the school day
- Limit the number of teachers assigned to a grade, and bring teachers into classrooms for instruction, either in-person or virtually, instead of having students leave the room
- Use outdoor spaces as much as possible
- Make hand hygiene a part of classroom routines and rituals
- Limit unnecessary visitors to the classrooms and the building
Gordon will begin the school year with a conservative approach to mask use. Further details about masks will be shared as September approaches, but for now, Gordon is planning for the following:
- All Gordon employees will wear masks throughout the school day.
- Students will wear face masks as much as possible in the classroom and will be required to wear them when traveling outside of their classroom: in hallways, in bathrooms, and when in close proximity to other cohorts of students.
- When masks are not possible or interfere with instruction, other measures like physical distancing and plexiglass partitions will be employed.
- Visitors to the building will be required to wear masks.
Compassionate Community Fund
Many members of the Gordon community are experiencing financial hardship as a result of this pandemic. The Compassionate Community Fund was created to help families who have suffered economically as a result of COVID-19 to remain at Gordon School. It will also be used to help pay for facilities expenses related to reopening safely in the fall, and to address other pandemic-related financial needs that may arise for students, faculty and staff.
As of July 1st, Gordon has raised nearly $250,000 for the Compassionate Community Fund!
If you are able to support Gordon through a gift to the Compassionate Community Fund, please visit www.gordonschool.org/compassionatecommunity.
Many families were due for a reevaluation of their Family Individualized Tuition this spring. The tax filing deadline has been extended to July 15th, and Gordon will now complete these FIT reevaluations during the fall of 2020.
If the state mandates that Gordon close for more than ten consecutive school days, Gordon will provide an 80% per diem credit to Early Childhood families.
This decision reflects the school’s careful consideration of feedback from families as well as the school’s responsibility to ensure Gordon's long-term financial sustainability.
The school is working with the Rhode Island Department of Health to determine if, in the event of a mandated school closure, Gordon would be able to keep Early Childhood open under the day care regulations.
With nine weeks to go before the first day of classes, Gordon's Futures Planning Team has been able to deliver a detailed plan that brings students and faculty back together, on campus, for an experience that includes all the essential elements of a Gordon education.
This plan has come together against a backdrop of national uncertainty, as state and federal authorities continually revise their guidelines for safe and healthy conduct.
To get this far by July 1st, Gordon has built on a number of long-standing traditions and core values that set this school apart:
Gordon was founded by a pediatrician as the “Open Air School,” with a focus on health and wellness that has never wavered. The school has always taken a fact-based, science-driven approach to learning and living on campus.
Gordon's beautiful twelve-acre campus allows tremendous flexibility when thinking about classroom spaces and room for children to learn and play in safe ways. From the playing fields to the woods, gardens and ponds, Gordon's campus is a living laboratory ready for year-round outdoor education.
Facilities that serve students
Gordon is at a comfortable size with two sections per grade, in a building that could accommodate a 25% increase in enrollment and three sections per grade. Gordon has the space it needs to welcome every student back, on the first day of school, and there's no need to move children off campus in order to keep them in small, safe groups.
Trust and transparency
This plan relies on a strong partnership between parents and the school. Families have fueled this work with their questions, their observations and their expertise. The result demonstrates the school's earnest commitment to deep listening and transparent communication. This relationship will be central to a successful fall, when the community's health and wellbeing will depend on every family's care and cooperation.
There are, of course, many details to work out, and many exciting ideas still taking shape. Families can expect another communication about reopening campus before the end of July. Until then, Gordon welcomes your questions and ideas at www.gordonschool.org/askgordon