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REOPENING GISW 2020

Dear GISW Families:

We look forward to starting the new school year with you on August 20th and 24th. Please click on the first blue bar below to see the plan for Reopening at the GISW:

REOPENING PLAN

Dear GISW Community:

After thorough review, solicitation of expert advice by health professionals, and internal conversations among various stakeholders, GISW has reached a final decision on re-opening the 2020/21 school year: the re-opening for SEL-12th grade will develop in various phases beginning with distance learning, and our preschool students will begin the school year as planned on August 24 with in-person and on-campus instruction.

Stage 1: Start of the School Year

  • SEL through 12th grade will begin the year in a virtual learning environment. Despite some political back-and-forth, GISW has chosen to comply with the recommendation of the Montgomery County Health Department that private schools at the Kindergarten (our School Entry Level) through 12th grade not resume in-person instruction at this time.
  • The GISW pedagogical team is confident in implementing improvements and incorporating parental and student feedback in its next iteration of virtual teaching and learning. Three major areas of on-line learning improvements focus on a) fidelity to one and the same platform (SeeSaw in Elementary School, Microsoft Teams in 5th -12th grades); b) a balanced approach to on-screen and off-screen time; and c) a moderated homework schedule.
  • Our preschool program will open every day during its core hours from 8:00 a.m. through 1:30 p.m. This is in accordance with the Division of Early Childhood of the Maryland Department of Education. Afternoon and Extended Care will be limited to dual-working or single-parent working households through 4:45 p.m. Numerous health precautions such as cohorting, wearing facemasks, frequent handwashing, and strict cleaning protocols will be implemented with a clear bias toward outdoor instruction. We are planning to offer lunch but are still investigating bus service. A potential preschool closing may become necessary periodically should public health conditions warrant such a step.

Stage 2: Re-entry – Transition/Hybrid Model

  • If the local health data keep improving, GISW will enter a 50% student capacity phase, during which time students in SEL-12th grade will alternate on-campus and virtual instruction on an alternating weekly basis, based on a new schedule.
  • Students receiving in-person instruction on campus will follow numerous health precautions such as social distancing, wearing face coverings, frequent hand washing, and daily temperature checks. GISW is committed to meeting and/or exceeding re-opening guidelines set forth by the Centers for Disease Control as well as state and local health agencies.
  • During this phase, those students unable to come to school based on actual student health conditions or family preferences will be able to participate in Online Learning.

Stage 3: Return to campus by all students

  • When local health conditions permit everyday in-person and on-campus instruction, GISW will continue the stepped-up approach to in-person and on-campus instruction. Again, this phase must be in line with local, regional and national public health agencies’ guidance or mandates.

Explaining our Phased Re-opening Decision (as described):

  • Our decision follows a recommendation put forth by an expert GISW Health Panel, consisting of four GISW parents with extensive expertise and experience in pediatric and infectious disease, epidemiology, immunology, and child and adolescent psychiatry. We will introduced this panel of experts to you in our Town Hall Meeting on Monday, August 10 at 7 p.m. (Townhall PowerPoint Presentation)
  • Particularly for our second and third phases, we have incorporated a mindset that prioritizes and optimizes in-person and on-campus instruction based on our belief that the social-emotional health is of critical importance in the overall well-being of our students.
  • Our preschool decision incorporates the understanding that social-emotional learning is among the most pivotal components of preschool education. Additionally, we believe that only having preschool students on our campus during the beginning of the school year will allow us to take significant health precautions to reduce risks to students, their families, and our faculty and staff.

Tuition Considerations:

  • All families who have already enrolled their child(ren) for the school year 2020/21 will have until the Close of Business (5 p.m.) on Wednesday, August 12 to make a final decision on enrolling. If you have not notified GISW Admissions at admissions@giswashington.org by August 12, the enrollment contract between you and the school is legally binding, regardless whether or not GISW is in a virtual, hybrid, or in-person and on-campus learning environment
  • The SEL through 4th grade afternoon program, as per the terms of our enrollment contract, are eligible for a $750 waiver that we will be adjusted in future billings, or in the case of one-payment families will be refunded.
  • Preschool/SEL: GISW will permit families to opt out of the virtual program with a tuition credit of 50% for preschool students, if Preschool is required to be virtual, and 25% for SEL students. These tuition credits will be prorated for the period of campus closure.
  • Bus Transportation Services: GISW has included any bus charges in its initial billing but will credit families on a pro-rated basis for any bus service not provided.
  • Lunch Services:  GISW has not included any lunch charges in its initial billing, but will charge families on a pro-rated basis for any lunch charges being requested an implemented by GISW and utilized by families.
  • Tuition Payment Dates have been shifted for the month of August only:
    • Annual Payers tuition is due August 12th
    • FACTS payments due August 5th are changed August 17th
    • FACTS payments August 20th are changed to August 24th

What to Expect in the Next Two Weeks:

Monday, August 10, 2020: Town Hall Meeting. Please use this Zoom meeting address to tune into our Town Hall meeting during which we will present answers to questions you may have on educational and health and safety measures, as well as overall administrative matters. Our comprehensive Q&A segment is based on questions and comments from the recent GISW Family Re-Opening survey as well as inquiries that were sent to GISW2020Reopening@giswashington.org. That e-mail address will be operational today, and the Q&A document will be updated accordingly.

Wednesday, August 12, 2020: GISW enrollment contracts become legally binding, if they haven’t been retracted by this date.

Welcome to School Afternoon on August 19, 2020, 4:15pm: GISW will host a Welcome Afternoon for new families via Zoom. There will be a general Welcome session followed by specific presentations by administrative departments such as Nurse, Administration, Cafeteria, Bus, Book Account and other GISW stakeholders. New families will receive the corresponding Zoom links in a separate communication.

Back to School Night on August 19, 2020, 5:45pm: GISW will host a virtual Back to School Night for all families with their class teachers in individual classes or grade levels via Zoom. You will receive the corresponding zoom links in a separate invitation.

In Conclusion:

The school re-opening decision has become a national, if not global, subject of much debate. This year’s school re-opening has expanded from an educational topic to a social, economic, medical, and political conversation. Now that GISW has formulated a re-opening decision, we believe it is wise to let our pedagogical staff and administrators focus on the tasks ahead, and let us commit that this year especially we will give our teachers and administrators the utmost respect and support in carrying out our school’s educational mission to help shape our young people into independent, bilingual, and weltoffen contributors to a world that at times like this especially requires vision, courage, and good will.

Marc Aurel Löckmann, StD, Acting Head of School                   

Dennis Fehr, Chair of the Board         

Ben Hebebrand, Business Director

 

Further Information

Please see further details below, such as our Health Policy.

Preparation & Precautions:

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.

Screening and Testing
  • 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.”
Preventive Practices
  • 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.
Cleaning & Disinfection
  •         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.
In Case of Illness
  • 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.

 

We invite our GISW school community on Monday, August 10, 2020 at 7pm to a virtual townhall meeting 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

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