REOPENING GISW 2020
Dear School Community, the email with our reopening plan is still in the works and has not been sent yet. After the email goes out, the reopening plan will also be published on this page. Please accept our apologies for the delay. Thank you for your patience! (last updated: August 8, 2020 - 3:00 am)
Dear GISW Families:
We thank you for your collective patience and understanding as we continue to work toward safely opening our school. This communication is lengthy and detailed, and we appreciate your investment of time and care in processing our school’s current plans to re-open by our scheduled first days of school on August 20 and August 24.
Pending results of the survey mentioned above, GISW at this point is making plans to bring back all students five days a week. However, our final reopening plans most certainly will take into account your feedback, and the Board of Directors has pledged to pay close attention to the survey results prior to its scheduled Board Meeting on August 6 with plans to communicate the entire reopening plan to all GISW families on Friday, August 7. Thus, please note that GISW is investigating and planning for alternative reopening solutions including hybrid schedules during which half the class will remain at home in a virtual learning program, while the other half attends school on campus.
Should we adopt the plan to have all students on campus five days a week, we anticipate a daily school dismissal time at 1:15 p.m. The shortened school day is a result of GISW’s current prioritization of “cohorting”– an approach that keeps students inside the “bubble” of their class all day, thus minimizing interaction with students outside their class. Afternoon programming will begin online or virtually at 2:30 p.m. and will include academic classes where cohorting is less feasible (e.g. mixed classes in foreign languages, religion, and resource classes in English and German for students requiring an additional language help). The afternoon program will not be available at the beginning of the school year, but will be phased in as the school year progresses. There will be no extracurricular team sports. GISW will meet or exceed all safety precautions recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Our focus on re-opening every day with all students present is based on our belief that a return by our students to school – even under strict health and safety precautions – is in the best interest of our students, particularly their social/emotional well-being as well as their actual learning. This line of thinking is consistent with the American Academy of Pediatrics which “strongly advocates that all policy considerations for the coming school year should start with a goal of having students physically present in school.” Maryland’s governor and education superintendent have declared that schools can open provided they meet CDC guidelines. We are, of course, keenly aware that the physical health and safety of students, faculty, and staff remains a threshold consideration, and we will follow all State of Maryland or Montgomery County public health mandates including the closure of our campus, if necessary.
We are also aware of the plans to close campuses in large public school districts in the DMV region. These school systems – several with well over 100,000 students in their care – operate in some cases with thousands of students in single school buildings that are bursting at the seams, and they tend to have a very dynamic class schedule, requiring students to mix with different peers and different teachers on a regular basis. By contrast, GISW projects that we will begin the school year with an enrollment of 475 students in a facility that is designed for over 600 students. Our students and staff will be spread out over several buildings such as our Preschool, Elementary School, Main Building, and Science Building. We are in the fortunate position of having small classes (our average class size is 15), and a class schedule that allows for strict adherence to a cohort system (i.e. no mixing of groups) for all classes that will be taught in-person. In order to ensure appropriate social distancing (of at least six feet), we plan to hold classes in all appropriate spaces, in addition to the many outdoor spaces where classes can be held.
Many of these procedures are captured by our COVID-19 Screening & Prevention policy. Within the next week, GISW will develop a special Re-Opening page on its website.
- Families with students on GISW bus routes will be expected to take their childrens’ temperatures at home every morning. Every student will need to present a signed note to the bus driver, stating that the student does not have a temperature above 100.4 ° F/ 38°C.
- All students, faculty, and staff will have their temperature taken each morning at one of three designated temperature-taking stations. Faculty, staff, and students arriving late will either report to the Nurse’s Office for a temperature check or be screened by a thermal imaging camera that GISW is attempting to secure. We will use contactless thermometers, and if students register a temperature above 100.4°F/38°C, they will be screened by our nurse, who will make a final determination about whether the student may enter the building or will need to be picked up. Students, faculty, and staff will be issued daily stickers, indicating that their temperature is at or below 100.4° F/38°C.
- Lastly, all families, faculty, and staff will be issued a Health Pledge form, indicating their responsibility to follow school guidelines and the promise to report confidentially any family member’s diagnosis of COVID-19. This practice reinforces our mantra: “We’re in this together.”
- Our Nurse’s Station has been relocated to the building adjacent to the preschool entrance, giving her space to create “wellness” and “sickness” stations as well as restroom facilities. This new location is not in the immediate vicinity of any teaching spaces, and it also offers easy access for families picking up children. Our Nurse will also work with an assistant.
- Physical distancing of six feet will be mandated whenever possible between persons on campus indoors or outdoors.
- Face covering (face masks) will be mandated. GISW will furnish a mask for each student. However, we recommend that students wear a clean mask each day, and, thus, we recommend that you have a supply of masks for your children. Please work with your children in the upcoming weeks on getting used to wearing a mask for prolonged periods of time. There will be designated times when students may remove masks, i.e. eating or drinking.
- Frequent hand washing and/or sanitizing will be required of all students, faculty, and staff, and we will of course offer support to younger students with handwashing, mask-wearing and physical distancing. There will be multiple hand sanitizer stations available throughout the campus, and each classroom will have its own supply of hand sanitizer.
- Visitors to enter any school buildings will be limited to essential visitors such as school personnel, public safety and health officials. Unfortunately, parents will not be able to enter any GISW buildings. Drop-off for younger children will take place outside their respective classroom buildings. There will be no school tours during school hours, shadow days or visiting students until further notice. In addition, per applicable regulations, no visitors will be allowed in the preschool at any time.
- Finally, we request your help and cooperation: If you have traveled internationally, we ask that you self-quarantine for 14 days, as recommended by the CDC or provide evidence of a negative COVID-19 test and a doctor’s note indicating that it is appropriate for your child to return to school. Likewise, if a member of your family has been to a large gathering, visited a U.S. state with high rates of COVID-19 infections, or engaged in any other high-risk activity, please self-quarantine or obtain medical clearance for a return to school. Please consult these two CDC sites here and here.
- Our Facilities and Cleaning crew will circulate throughout the school day, repeatedly disinfecting all high-touch areas such as door knobs. All classrooms will be equipped with disinfectants. There will be separate cleaning personnel assigned to the preschool. All buildings will be cleaned thoroughly each night.
- Air Filtration: The school will install a high standard of HVAC filters, changing them on an accelerated schedule.
- School Buses: All seating areas of the school buses will be disinfected after each route has been completed.
- All cleaning and disinfecting agents will meet recommended CDC guidelines. Please note that German Languages Courses, our Saturday school, will not be on our campus, allowing us greater opportunity to clean thoroughly over the weekend and minimize access of non-GISW students.
- Faculty, staff, and students must remain at home if presenting with symptoms of illness.
- An administrative team will take on all tracing and tracking, informing those with whom an individual diagnosed with COVID-19 may have been in contact. Confidentiality regarding the sick individual will be maintained.
- If a COVID-19 diagnosis is confirmed, the school will work with the local and state authorities to determine an appropriate approach to any necessary facility closures. At a minimum, the classroom/office of the individual with the diagnosis will be closed for 24 hours. A case of illness may require a potential three-day cancellation of classes in which the individual who was diagnosed with COVID-19 is enrolled. Any decision to reopen will be made in consultation with local and state authorities.
- For anyone with a family member diagnosed with (or testing positive for) COVID-19, a mandatory 14-day self-quarantine or a negative COVID-19 testing result will be required to be able to return to school.
Please also allow us to outline some financial considerations:
- Enrollment contracts become legally binding as of August 12, after the final reopening plan has been published on August 7.
- GISW will invoice full tuition and bus service fees as per the standard schedule. Our first round of billing is scheduled to arrive at your home early next week. Please let us know if your financial circumstances have changed and you may need to take advantage of our tuition adjustment program (or request an increase in your award).
- Due to the challenging economic impact of COVID-19, we remind you that GISW offers Financial Assistance, especially in cases of loss of employment.
- GISW will announce a plan for lunch service in the August 7 reopening plan, after considering the survey results. Lunch fees will be invoiced at the end of the semester as per actual consumption
- Preschool families may count on the 1:30 through 3 p.m. afternoon preschool programming with a final communication on the availability of extended care from 3:00 to 4:45 p.m. being announced in the final Re-opening Plan.
- SEL to 4th grade Elementary School parents can opt out of afternoon program and receive a tuition reduction of $750. There will be no change fees assessed for opting in or out of the program. Based on survey results, we will communicate in our final re-opening plan what we can offer to SEL-9th grade students in the afternoons until either 3 p.m. or 4:45 p.m.
- Parents/guardians will be asked to sign an “Assumption-of-Risk Statement,” acknowledging that while GISW will implement and/or exceed recommended CDC guidelines, there remains a degree of risk. This form is similar to field trip waivers, and acknowledges that there are risks of infection.
In case of closure of the GISW campus beyond a 2-week period, please take note of the following:
- 1st –12th grade: Distance learning will be provided, and full tuition will be charged. There will be no credits or refunds if GISW must switch to a virtual learning program.
- Preschool/SEL: GISW will permit families to opt out of the virtual program with a tuition credit of 50% for preschool students and 25% for SEL students. These tuition credits will be prorated for the period of closure.
- Bus Transportation Services: GISW will provide credit for bus services prorated for the period of closure.
We thank you for reading this communication. Please be advised that our final reopening plan will be shared with the school community on August 7. We anticipate hosting a virtual town hall meeting on Monday, August 10, 2020 at 7pm with our school community to address all questions and concerns. Most importantly, let us resolve to work together in the best interest of our students, faculty, and staff.
We’re in this together,
Marc Aurel Löckmann, StD Dennis Fehr Ben Hebebrand
Acting Head of School Chair of the Board Business Director