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 the final part of this three-part blog series, we take a look at the physical planning it took to allow the majority of MMS students to return in person for the 2020 school year.

When planning for the 2020-2021 school year, headmistress and directress Maria Schuermann-Cole’s main goal was to open up campus so that students could return and learn the way Dr. Maria Montessori intended. To achieve this goal, Maria met with Montessori schools across the globe and medical and healthcare professionals to implement a plan that would keep MMS students, families and faculty safe. Since the creation of MMS’ reopening plan, faculty and staff revisit and reevaluate the plan every six weeks or as new information becomes available. This adaptability contributed to the success of MMS’ fall semester.

As the holiday season and 2021 creep closer, it’s important to look back on this year, on what we’ve learned, on what we’ve achieved. What some might consider impossible became possible because of quick thinking, perseverance and support from our community, families and staff. Without you, in-person classes would be unimaginable. 

We learned that planning and preparedness matter. 
Hours spent planning during the summer months proved valuable when the first few weeks of school went off without a hitch. We had a structure in place and a procedure to follow, which added comfort and understanding in otherwise chaotic times. When things needed adjustment, we made changes and shared them. Our plan has continued to grow and evolve, and it is serving our community especially well. 

We learned that children are adaptable. 
We entered the school year with a number of questions, but most present was our inability to grasp how such young children would react to big changes. Any worries were dissuaded during the first week of school when our students took to our plan brilliantly. They adjusted their behavior, supporting each other from a distance and adjusting the time they spent with specific materials to allow for needed sanitization. We even find that the children sometimes remind the adults of our new practices! 

We learned that our community is as important as ever.
While our campus feels incomplete without our virtual learning friends around, we feel that our community is stronger than ever. Each family has contributed to the success of our model by adhering to our plans and prioritizing community over personal comfort. We have been impressed and humbled by the response of our entire community. 

As we look ahead, we strive to keep the same creative and adaptive spirit in our hearts that we’ve had since the beginning of this pandemic. While the future is uncertain, we can see how far we’ve come to inspire us to push forward.