Our COVID-19 Response

Dear Friends,

 

Thanks so much for your interest in The New School. Our Admissions Office is open, and I am available daily for virtual meetings and interviews. Simply click the “Schedule A Meeting” button below to request a meeting. 

 

I’m sure a central question you have is our plan for this fall. Throughout our reopening discussions, our guiding principles and goals have been: 

 

  • A great and ever-improving New School education;
  • Community/student life and happiness;
  • Student and teacher safety. 

 

I’ve included the outline of our reopening plan below, and I’m excited to chat with you to introduce you to our one-of-a-kind program. 

 

All the best, stay well,

 

Steve Roushakes

Head of School

 

Our Plan for Reopening

 

Our plan for September is to have classes fully online with optional on-campus/off-campus enrichment activities on Wednesdays. We consider this Phase 1, and not necessarily the plan for the entire school year. We will be closely monitoring important local, state and national health metrics, including the level of COVID in Northern Virginia and the availability of rapid testing, in the hope that we can open up incrementally over the course of the school year, with safety always our highest priority. Coming to school will be a choice; no student will be required to come to school at any point this year.

 

Classes and Student Life Begin September 8th

 

We will start the year with online classes and online student life. I think it’s fair to say we earned a good grade for how we handled online learning this past spring, especially with how quickly we had to make the transition. However, we are not working under the same duress, and, with the decision to start the year with online classes, we are now putting our energy towards improving our online model. Working online was easier for some students and harder for others; we absolutely get that, and we’re considering the entire student body as we discuss best practices. 

 

Beyond improving academics, a major goal is to create new online community platforms and opportunities for students. Academics are essential, of course, but students need to stay connected and recharge emotionally to stay motivated and grow academically. You can’t have one without the other, and we want to do more to help students create an enriching student life and stay connected and motivated.   

 

The Weekly Schedule

 

We will have a full day of classes (9:00-4:00) on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday, and a teacher planning/student support day on Wednesday. However, we are also offering optional enrichment activities on Wednesday (details below, #3). 

 

Monday: Regular School Day

Tuesday: Regular School Day

Wednesday: No classes. Student Support/Teacher Planning + Student Enrichment

Thursday: Regular School Day

Friday: Regular School Day

 

(Optional) Wednesday Enrichments

 

Beginning the second week of school (September 16th), we will have optional enrichment activities hosted online, off campus, and on campus. We will publish a schedule of enrichment activities weekly, and students will need to sign up for the activities of their choice. Students may sign up for either a half-day or full day of activities, but many off-campus activities will be for a half-day only.

 

Obviously this is something new, and we will most likely be sending a survey to students to gauge interest, so we can schedule activities accordingly.

 

Please know that we are not offering in-person enrichments to fill an academic or community gap with our online model. Our goal is to create an enriching and full academic and community experience online. We see in-person enrichments as above and beyond, i.e., nonessential, yet we recognize, too, that an in-person experience can be very rewarding and energizing for students (and teachers!). We want to make these opportunities for students work, but by no means should they be seen as necessary to student learning and an enriching student life.  

 

We have several teachers excited to offer enrichments, but we’ll also be asking parents to volunteer to lead enrichments. If there was ever an opportunity for parent involvement, this is it. Put your thinking hats on! The sky’s the limit in terms of possible activities. 

 

Here is a sample list of enrichment activities; again, there are so many possibilities:

 

Off Campus (Sample list)

  • Bird watching at local park
  • Hiking at local park/trail
  • Walking tour of DC (perhaps theme-based, e.g., architecture, historical neighborhoods, etc.)

 

Online (Sample list)

  • Clubs
  • Individual help from teachers
  • Test prep
  • Virtual escape room
  • Multilingual Skribbl.io

 

On Campus (Sample list)

  • Math or foreign language study group / test prep
  • Art indoors or outdoors
  • Science lab
  • Writing workshop (essay / fiction)
  • Soccer drills / practice
  • Quiet reading (lunchtime)
  • Lecture series (lunchtime)
  • Student government
  • Theater games and improv
  • Dance
  • Woodworking

 

Safety and Weekly Reassessment

 

No student will be required to come to school at any point this year; we are committed to a great online learning and community experience for students throughout the year, but we will be reassessing weekly the possibilities for expanding on-campus opportunities and a phased reopening of school. We have to consider, too, the possibility of having to close the campus completely, if the state goes on lockdown or if the level of COVID cases in our area makes it unwise to have any on-campus presence. A key factor in any decision about reopening is our teachers’ level of comfort with being on campus.

 

Any time students are on campus we will adhere closely to established safety protocols based on science and in line with state and local guidance. We will require staff and students to wear masks indoors, to wash hands or use hand sanitizer frequently throughout the day, and to socially distance. 

 

All classrooms and common areas of the school will be cleaned and sanitized each day, and we will sanitize surfaces, to the extent possible, throughout the day. We will limit the number of students on campus at any given time. All students and staff coming on campus must agree to daily health checks. Our board and administrators are evaluating a data driven, doctor-managed program recommended by the Virginia Council for Private Education to manage assessments and provide COVID testing and tele-health visits when necessary. 

 

Rationale for Our Decision

 

The decision to start the year online came down to (1) safety and (2) consistency of student learning. It’s a sacred responsibility — guaranteeing the wellbeing of students and teachers — and without quick-turnaround testing, we have no way of isolating positive cases. As things stand, it would be unreasonable to ask teachers to potentially expose themselves to the virus day after day, and we would not feel confident that your children were safe at school.

 

Virginia has adopted Workplace Safety Standards for COVID-19, and a positive case mandates the closing down of all areas that person has been, as well as the removal of that person and those he/she came into contact with. The bottom line is that a positive case would disrupt multiple classes and student learning, and the last thing we want is for students to have an inconsistent education at the start of the school year. We all want normalcy and to be back at school, but starting online guarantees consistency of learning and thus outweighs the risk of a disruptive start to the school year. 

 

The enrichment Wednesdays are different because they happen once a week and the students are in small groups throughout the day, thus making tracing and isolating of possible cases a possibility. We’re designing our on-campus enrichment offerings with safety in mind. We would only use rooms with excellent ventilation—and there are several—and outdoor spaces where possible. Students who choose to sign up will be in a designated area of the school for each activity; more than during a normal school day, we need to be certain students are where they need to be, are wearing masks indoors, and are socially distancing.

    

Finally, all of us at The New School are excited about the year to come and another year of student possibilities. We know who we are as a school, and we are committed to being The New School whatever the circumstances. Our small size has been to our advantage during this challenging period, and we’re committed to staying nimble, student-centered, and innovative.

 

Virtual Tour

 

From the “classroom”

Virginia describes how pets keep things interesting when her German classes go online

 

Our parents say…

“I wanted to reach out and compliment you and the other teachers for organizing so quickly and professionally. I’m sure this was no small endeavor! I’ve spoken to many parents and most of them have shared that their school’s version of online school is really email and assignments with little interaction. It was fun to watch our child engage today. We are thrilled that you all have gone the extra step. Your actions have demonstrated the very essence of what The New School lives and breathes — accountability, consistency and resiliency. Great life skills for our kids!”  

 

“I just want to send a heartfelt thank you for your response to this situation. Our student is fully engaged in her classes and it is wonderful to have her connected with teachers and classmates in an ongoing and meaningful way. I am so grateful to you and your teachers for your quick, well-organized, and thoughtful response. I keep singing your praises to others and wanted to share my gratitude with you directly. THANK YOU!” 

 

“Can I just say that The New School is AWESOME?! We are incredibly lucky to be a part of this community. Thank you so much for all the support you provide our son (and all the students). It’s apparent how the teachers care and how much they give of their time to support each student. It’s actually kind of cool to have more insight into just how awesome everyone is since school is being done at home. Thank you for making all of this possible even during these unprecedented times.”

 

“We just want to thank you for providing not only educational enrichment during this challenging time but reassurance, warmth, routine and flexibility. You stood out in your planning, facilitating, administration, commitment and love of learning and teaching even before all of this; however, in the face of it, we appreciate you tenfold.”

 

 

We love visitors and welcome the opportunity to discuss in depth our one-of-a-kind program.