Since March, we have prioritized the use of science, data, and state and local guidelines in our planning of a safe return to campus. In August, Washington released the recently developed risk assessment decision tree for K-12 schools. Based on their guidance, King County is still in a high risk category for COVID-19 transmission.
Our progress towards hybrid instruction will follow the established risk categories based on prevalence of COVID-19 within the community.
Multiple teams have been involved in the planning process for the 2020-2021 school year; the school-based leadership team, an advisory committee of faculty, the Crisis Response Team consisting of parents, staff, and experts in various fields, and the Board of Trustees. Each group contributed thoughtfully to the process over the last three months, dedicating many hours in order to develop a plan that realizes our highest priorities:
Ensure a Safe and Healthy Campus
Using science, data, and state and local guidelines, plan for the healthy and safe return to our campus.
Deliver an Effective, Dynamic Program
Establish a safe, consistent, cohesive, educational program that can leverage engaging online and in-person learning environments while keeping our commitment to offering a strong program reflective of our mission.
Enhance Community Connections
Maintain and strengthen our strong community bonds through community building, monitoring and supporting of social-emotional and mental health needs, and engaging the Meridian community in both virtual and in-person settings.
Provide the training, support, and technology so that faculty, staff, and families feel prepared for the new realities of the 2020-2021 school year.
Sustain our School for the Future
Ensure a strong future for The Meridian School by protecting the financial viability of the organization and keeping the community together through this challenging period.
We are currently in a virtual learning model. We will initiate a progression towards a hybrid model when prevalence of cases reaches a moderate level in King County.
In addition to ensuring a safe and healthy return to campus, we are also prioritizing a consistent, cohesive, educational program that can leverage engaging online and in-person learning environments while keeping our commitment to offering a strong program reflective of our mission.
We are enthusiastic about the changes we have made to our learning platform, structure of a virtual day, and ability to differentiate tasks for students to leverage the power of small, flexible learning groups. The entire faculty and staff worked diligently throughout the summer to create a robust virtual learning environment for students.
After an exhaustive search, we have chosen Altitude Learning as our online platform. Altitude Learning integrates the teacher, student, and parent experience so that content is easily accessible and progress can be clearly communicated. Additionally, Altitude Learning helps to facilitate differentiated learning pathways, student goal setting, and capturing evidence of learning. In order to proactively create the foundation for using this new learning platform, we will provide orientations to Altitude Learning for parents the week of August 24th. We will record these orientations for your convenience, as well as provide other resources and tutorials on myMeridian.
Our virtual learning schedule will apply to all grades and will be consistent whether or not we are engaged in the hybrid model or all-virtual instruction. For students who will be remaining home at all times, we will set out specific schedules for attending streaming sessions of classroom instruction when we return to campus.
When creating our virtual schedule we took into account feedback from parents, students, and teachers. One goal was to increase the number of synchronous teaching sessions as well as to create a consistent day-to-day schedule. We also included Specialists classes in our schedule, as they are an extremely important part of our program. Attendance at all of the Live Learning Sessions will be expected of all students.
Students will be engaged in live learning sessions with teachers who will deliver more synchronous instruction that directly connects to their asynchronous learning tasks. Each live learning session will be made up of a variety of components, including whole and small group instruction, independent practice and individual check-ins. Throughout the spring, these smaller online sessions proved to be highly beneficial time for teachers and students to build relationships and solidify skills. You will be receiving a detailed schedule for your child before the first day of school. Please see an overview below.
Planning for student time on campus came down to three main decision points: space constraints, developmental needs, and instructional delivery. For these reasons, we have decided to structure time on campus and time learning online differently for K-2 and 3-5.
Current science points to smaller groups being an effective strategy for reducing exposure and limiting the number of contacts for any one individual student or staff member. For this reason, students will be placed in smaller cohorts. In addition, the staff members who come in contact with a cohort will also be kept consistent. The space needed for appropriate social distancing is considerable, and we are constrained by the footprint we occupy in the Good Shepherd Center. At this time, we do not have permission to temporarily utilize communal building spaces for classroom learning. Even with the use of Meridian Park, there is a limit to how many staff and students we can safely bring on campus at any one time.
Above all, we are committed to a hybrid, blended learning model so that we can achieve our mission and provide students the opportunity to inquire, investigate, innovate, and make an impact through multiple modes of learning. When students have the opportunity to collaborate and participate in meaningful discussions and experiences, they are able to develop stronger relationships with their peers and teachers and enrich their learning. With a blended model, we are doing all that we can to foster these relationships and a sense of community and belonging. This year, these types of experiences will be better balanced when there is a combination of in person and online learning.
Developmentally, kindergarten, first, and second grade students missed the supportive guidance from their teachers during the extensive distance learning in the spring. Further, kindergarten, first, and second grade students require a greater amount of time to establish routines and relationships at the beginning of their Meridian careers. Essential early literacy instruction that takes place in the primary classroom is the most challenging content to replicate through online learning. In addition to space constraints, it is for these reasons that we are bringing K,1, and 2 students on campus 4 days a week.
Our intermediate students rely heavily on collaboration and relationships with their peers to engage in the learning process. Three days of in class learning will allow students to have some in-person connection to learn new concepts or deepen understanding. Online learning will allow students to explore content in the collaborative and experiential way that encourages critical thinking and is so important to a Meridian education. For these reasons, third, fourth, and fifth grade students will be on campus three days a week.
Meridian families, please refer to the time on campus schedule embedded in our internal communication for daily grade level assignments. We will not be publishing this information publicly. If you are a prospective family and would like more information, please contact our enrollment team.
Any student who needs to remain home for any reason will be able to engage in online learning. We will be providing more information on all of the aspects of continuous online learning, which will include streaming of on campus instruction.
When we return to campus, it is our intention to provide afternoon Extended Day by staggering the arrival of a second staff member that will be assigned to a consistent cohort of students. Further, we will be offering a limited amount of Extended Day care during online learning. Extended Day care during online learning will be prioritized for anyone who cannot work remotely. If we determine that we have the space and the staff necessary to support sibling families who may be more impacted by a hybrid schedule, we will take that into consideration. We plan to continue to offer afternoon extended day programming from 3:00-5:30 in the afternoons. We will provide more information regarding Extended Day sign up and dismissal procedures in the next few weeks. Due to space and staffing constraints, Extended Day will not be available on an intermittent basis, and will not be available before school at this time.
We will be working with each individual specialist to develop the best delivery of their program, and it will likely look different for each class. In addition, field trips will be evaluated and postponed to a time when illness transmission is not happening broadly.
Our team is working diligently to implement a full spectrum of social distancing measures to keep our community safe and healthy.
Per the Washington Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction and the State of Washington, masks are required to be worn in K-12 settings at all times unless an individual has a medical exemption. We strongly recommend that families take time this summer to find masks that fit snugly over their children’s mouth and nose and that are comfortable. If students become accustomed to wearing face masks in the coming weeks, we believe they will have an easier time transitioning to the new social distancing policies at Meridian while minimizing distraction during the school day.
We will be implementing six feet of social distance between all students, students and staff, and staff members. Desks will be arranged in a manner that allows for this amount of social distance and will be facing in the same direction to reduce transmission of illness. In addition, all hallways and common spaces will be visually marked for maintaining six feet of distance at all times. Six feet of distance will also be implemented during recess and any outdoor learning activities.
In conjunction with our janitorial service, we are developing a rigorous cleaning and sanitizing protocol for daily cleaning. We have also created a schedule where we will be able to clean and sanitize unoccupied rooms while students are engaged in online learning.
Meridian policies and procedures will reflect current CDC and Washington state guidelines, and will continue to evolve as these recommendations develop. To make our reopening as safe and successful as possible, we strongly recommend that Meridian families and employees limit travel within 14 days of our return to campus, and continue to not travel during the time we are in a hybrid model. All families and staff are expected to follow any state and federal travel restrictions as they are announced. Please see the CDC guidance on traveling for more information.
In the event that a student, teacher or staff member has a suspected or test-positive case of Covid-19, we have developed protocols to provide the best possible care for the affected individual(s) and those who have come in contact with them. We will continue to update these protocols according to any new guidelines from the state, county, and CDC.
Students showing signs or symptoms of COVID-19 should not come to school. Parents/guardians should keep students at home and report the illness to the school.
Symptoms include: Congestion or runny nose, cough, diarrhea, fatigue, fever or chills (a temperature of 100.4 or above), headache, muscle or body aches, nausea or vomiting, new loss of taste or smell, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, sore throat
Students Showing Symptoms While at Meridian
While on campus, if any member of our community is displaying any symptoms that could be an indication of COVID-19, the student or faculty/staff member will be sent home immediately to consult with their health provider regarding testing. Decisions about quarantining cohorts, and the cohorts of a sibling of someone with a suspected or confirmed case of Covid-19, will be made on a case-by-case basis in consultation with public health officials. In the event of a Covid-19-positive test, contact tracing, with the support of the public health department, will determine the need to quarantine or test any other individuals or an entire cohort.
General guidelines for returning to school after signs of suspected COVID-19 will include:
Self-isolation and quarantine requirements will be updated on an ongoing basis per public health guidelines.
Questions and answers have been sorted by common topics and themes below.
Will Meridian follow Seattle Public School’s/King County school closures? Will Meridian open with a hybrid model if SPS decides to open remotely? As an independent school, The Meridian School makes decisions that are separate from Seattle Public Schools or other local districts. One of the main sources of data for opening will be the King County Key Indicators of COVID-19 Activity. We will also consult guidance from the Centers for Disease Control. Although we are not required to follow the same plans as Seattle Public Schools, we will be required to comply with any state or county mandates that specify K-12 programs. Washington’s phases for reopening will also be considered, but no phase is currently specifically aligned to reopening campus.
Is there an option to start remotely and then reconsider our child’s return to campus after we can assess how the first few weeks go? Can we elect to send our children on a partial hybrid schedule? We have received different questions related to families customizing their approach to a staggered start and/or the amount of on-campus learning time, and we are discussing these questions further with multiple constituency groups. While we want to be flexible and responsive to family needs, we also need to maintain a model that is balanced and sustainable for our faculty members.
Will the school calendar be altered in any way? We do not plan to start earlier than our previously planned first day of school, September 2, 2020. As a small elementary school, we are focusing on providing as much consistency in the schedule as possible for students and families. Similarly, we do not plan to extend school over the weekends as we will need opportunities for deep cleaning and sanitizing on a weekly basis. In addition, we will be evaluating the calendar of events to decide which activities will be moved to a virtual format and which may be postponed until later in the year.
How will arrival and dismissal be structure to facilitate social distancing? Each student cohort will be assigned a unique door and time to enter the building. Arrival and dismissal will be staggered within a 45-minute window. Designated doors and locations will be communicated once we have finalized the locations of our cohorts. Second-fifth grade students will be dropped-off at a designated location and time. Parents of K-1 grade students will be able to walk their child to their assigned door. Staff will be located at the drop-off locations to greet children and ensure they get to class safely. We will also conduct a brief health screening at the arrival location. More details on that protocol are forthcoming. Families with multiple children in attendance should follow the arrival times of the youngest child. For dismissal, please pick up siblings at their designated time and location. Meridian families, please refer to the arrival and dismissal schedule embedded in our internal communications. For safety reasons, will not be sharing this information publicly.
How will sibling families be supported in the hybrid model? We will work to align sibling schedules as much as possible as we model time on campus and time spent in online learning.
Can you provide more information on the air filtration system at the Good Shepherd Center? We are fortunate in this instance that the Good Shepherd Center has no central HVAC system. In the North Annex, each room has its own radiator heat and is cooled through open windows. We plan to have classroom doors and windows open at all times, which means that students should come to school prepared for cool temperatures in the classrooms. In the South Annex, each room has an individual heating unit, and some rooms have portable A/C units that have been supplied by the school. In addition, we are purchasing air purifiers for additional circulation of air.
How will the Meridian community interface with other tenants and spaces in the Good Shepherd Center? At this time, we are planning to remain within The Meridian School space at all times, unless there was an urgent/emergent need to travel through the non-Meridian space. We will clarify specific arrival and dismissal procedures in an upcoming communication, but students and staff will not be using any public entrance of the Good Shepherd Center. This will allow us to control the cleaning and sanitizing of spaces where students and staff will be present.
Will parents be able to volunteer in the classroom? As of now, to reduce the risk of exposure to our students and staff, parents will not be permitted to enter the school buildings.
Will you have a way to administer testing, knowing that many cases are asymptomatic? At this point in time, there are not mechanisms in place to do broad school level testing.
Can we use the park as classroom space? We are anticipating that we will continue to use the park frequently for class time outdoors, taking into consideration new or different guidelines for park usage set out by Seattle Parks and Recreation.
Can you tell us any more about the smaller cohorts of students?
Cohorts will consist of no more than 10-12 students. We are still collecting information from families about their preferences for on-campus or virtual learning. This information will affect the formation and staffing of cohorts. We will share specific student cohort assignments closer to the school year when we have more clarity over the size of the returning student body on campus. Our grade level teaching teams will continue to plan collaboratively, and we will prioritize dedicated time for this planning regardless of our mode of learning. Learning Specialists will continue to be committed to targeted support and extension among the entire grade level. Specialists will be using a variety of methods to deliver their program in meaningful ways based on the content that they teach. As always, we want all of the adults who work with our kids to develop strong relationships.
Will there be opportunities for continuous online learning if a student needs to remain home due to high risk factors for themselves or their families? Yes. Every student will have the opportunity to participate in continuous online learning if they are unable to be on campus for any reason.
What improvements will be made to enhance the distance learning experience and increase student engagement? There will be significant changes to our distance learning model as we are able to build a thoughtful, proactive model rather than react to an emergent situation as was necessary this past spring. Please see the Virtual Learning tab for more information.
What are the technology and device requirements for students K-5? Should we purchase a computer for our child(ren)?
Any student who requires a computer will be able to borrow one of our student Chromebooks.
Will there continue to be opportunities to provide feedback? Yes. Short surveys are often the best way for us to collect information from many people in the most efficient manner. We are also always willing to hear your feedback through other, more individual methods such as email, phone calls, and Zoom meetings.
We will continue to communicate regularly as we further finalize various aspects of our reopening plans. The public health situation is very dynamic, and we will continue to adjust and adapt as needed. This challenging moment in time is highly personal and emotional for everyone. We understand that reopening and bringing Meridian back together will bring both risks and rewards. We are here to support you in whatever ways we can.
Often, answers that are brief and direct while providing reassurance are the best way to discuss the current public health crisis with children. Information shared with children should reflect sensitivity to their age and personality. It is important that adults provide a sense of safety and care in this period of uncertainty. We encourage families to continue to reference and model Meridian Cares (I care for myself, for others and for our place), as it is familiar language that is understood by all of our learners.
Part of our distance learning approach will include social-emotional components planned and posted by our Social-Emotional Learning Specialist. Additional resources that may be helpful include: