A “You Belong Here” sign greeted me when I first toured the Green Acres campus as a candidate. The words had a calming effect on me then, and that feeling endures as I reach the end of my first week as Head of School. I’ve begun to settle into my space here, and with excitement, I’ve started to deepen my sense of where things are, though the spaces are palpably absent of people and chatter. Our students’ masterpieces and projects still adorn the wall, vibrant vestiges of your children’s creativity and hard work—and a bright reminder of the invigorating environment that awaits us all when we return to campus.
Speaking of returning to campus, I sense the immediate pressure to share a detailed plan of what fall will look like, as we keep abreast of the ongoing changes that government and health professionals advise. While our decision-making is driven by the safety and health of all community members, as well as by our mission of child-centered, progressive teaching, it takes time to understand the needs of both individuals and the community, and to hear your voices, hopes, and concerns. The following is what I can share with you as of today:
Our plan is to establish a HyFlex model, which is a flexible plan that provides for various combinations of on-campus and remote learning. Once we finish evaluating class size related to classroom space configurations, we will secure any additional space, resources, and support that may be needed. At the same time, we will build out a robust, remote-only plan should regulations require a change, or if certain circumstances dictate a return to remote.
Many teachers and staff are meeting biweekly to address the student experience and staff considerations. A staff COVID-19 task force meets regularly to fine-tune our procedures as we learn more from the experts at the CDC, and from the leadership at NAIS. Now, as our plans finalize, we will be incorporating additional perspectives from our Board and advisors who hold expertise in relevant fields, such as epidemiology, medicine, and risk management. We will share a more comprehensive plan framework in the next week or so, which will take into account the updated requirements from the County and from the State of Maryland.
You as parents played a role by participating in our recent survey about Fall 2020, for which we had 120 respondents. According to our findings, the breakdown of parents who indicated that they would or probably would send their child(ren) to campus this fall is as follows:
- Early Childhood Unit: 69%
- Grades 1-4: 67%
- Middle School: 71%
For those of you who are unsure or uncomfortable with the idea of sending your child to campus, please stay tuned for more information about how our HyFlex model may accommodate your family's needs.
Hearing and seeing students and their parents at the virtual Popsicles on the Playground was a treat! We had over 100 participants, including staff and families, returning and new. We even had a few special appearances by beloved pet members! I could feel the effusive energy through the screen. At that event, I announced Friday virtual office hours to give us a chance to get to know each other. Please find the link to sign up here. I look forward to hearing your Green Acres stories, as well as hopes and ideas from our new community members.
In my next blog post, I will share a summary of the end-of-year survey results. Our data tell a story not only of lessons learned from our atypical end to the school year, but also point to opportunities we can leverage to our benefit as we navigate the ever-changing landscape of our new normal. I will also share some thoughts about the work we face in answering our nation’s cry for help, as we heal and learn together from incidents that have both divided and united us.
I leave you with the words of Booker T. Washington, historic educator of color who founded the Tuskegee Institute (in my mother’s hometown of Tuskegee, Alabama): “Success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life as by the obstacles which he has overcome.” While today we face many obstacles, I am buoyed by your caring, your engagement, and most importantly, your love for Green Acres that inspires our work to overcome whatever is thrown across our path. I am excited to journey along that path, wherever it leads us, together with you and your families.
Rebecca Geary (she/they)
Head of School