At the end of 2019, we were looking forward to a new decade, a fresh start and another year at MMS. However, this year turned out differently than anyone could have imagined. We were left with a number of questions to confront as we started planning for the 2020-21 school year. Was it possible to provide a virtual Montessori education? When would we be able to return to our environments? If we were able to have in-person lessons, what would that look like? What precautions and safety measures would need to be taken? In part two of this three-part blog series, we take a look at the procedural planning it took to create a cohesive plan for returning to campus.
By the end of the 2019-2020 school year, MMS staff began planning for the fall. Conversations were held with medical professionals, local and state officials and other Montessori schools across the globe. These discussions dictated our decisions to create our reopening plan, an adaptable guide outlining procedures and protocols currently in place at MMS.
Early on, headmistress and directress Maria Schuermann-Cole realized that if plans were executed correctly, COVID-19 could come into the school but proper protocols and procedures would prohibit it coming from the school. To limit on-campus interactions, the staff restricted visits from parents, loved ones and other guests. Additionally, select guides began working from home to offer virtual learning to elementary and middle school students.
Three procedures that are mainstays in our fight against COVID-19 are wearing masks, handwashing and social distancing. Each student wears a facial covering all day in the classroom, washes hands after using materials and drops them off at sanitization stations to be cleaned after use, and completes tasks from dedicated tables assigned to certain group members to abide by social distancing protocols. All bedding and clothing are returned home after each day to be washed before returning with the child the next school day. Snacks and meals are no longer served family-style or made on campus, but instead brought from home by each child.
Before arriving to campus each day, students and their parents must complete a health screening to ensure their child isn’t exhibiting any symptoms. Upon arrival – at staggered times – an MMS staff member checks temperatures of each person inside the vehicle before a child is walked inside. Walk-up and bike arrivals and departures are prohibited for the time being. Community gatherings, environment observations and parent-teacher conferences are postponed until further notice.
Preparing for a wide variety of scenarios allowed our families to feel comfortable bringing their children back to campus. Our procedures and protocols created a safe environment for children to learn and grow. In fact, some of our students remind us to social distance if we’re too close!