School Amidst a Pandemic

The Open School looks forward to a time when we can resume school on campus in all its communal richness. But until the COVID-19 pandemic has been resolved, life at The Open School will need to adjust accordingly.

We are committed to being flexible, creative, and inclusive through this crisis, and will continue to meet the needs of our students and families as best as we can.

Modes

Beginning in September, there are four possible “modes” that our school can be in:

  1. Online only
  2. School on campus
  3. Worldschooling (field trips and family homes only)
  4. Pods (groups that are not allowed to mix with other pods)

Which mode we choose at any given time will depend on recommendations and regulations from the government, as well as whether the temple we’re leasing from is open. It is possible that we will be able to open the campus for a month or two, then have to close it for a month or two, and so on, in alternating periods of open and closed as COVID-19 waxes and wanes.

It is also possible that we will adopt a hybrid of two or more modes, to allow families to choose the level of contact they are comfortable with. This way the school can accommodate the different preferences of different families. For example, we might have school on campus while simultaneously offering a highly regulated small group setting for families with members in the high-risk category.

We are keeping a close eye on all of the regulatory bodies that impact our school operations, and do need to ensure we are following any new legal requirements as we go. As such, things may shift a few times as those requirements change, and we appreciate your patience and flexibility as we navigate this new landscape.

1. Online Only

The Open School has been practicing Online Mode since March 19, so we’ve got it down.

Admittedly, it’s not ideal to have a community-based school move to completely online events. However, our school body is staying active and are connected daily. We have a very active school Discord server for our students and staff. We use this to organize ad hoc events as well as schedule activities for the future. Examples have been baking, 2d art, sewing circle, Dungeons and Dragons, Skribbl.io, playing Minecraft on a school server and more.

online pictionary with skribbl.io

The Open School recognizes that child care is a significant part of what families’ tuition pays for. If it turns out that we are not able to gather at all in the fall, and are stuck in Online Mode for an extended period of time, we will modify our enrollment contracts to allow families to unenroll mid-year without being on the hook financially for the remainder of the year.

2. School on Campus

You may have seen photos of schools that have reopened, with masked kids sitting in desks 6 feet apart. The Open School won’t look like that — but what will it look like?

  1. Facility cleaning. We will use U/V lamps and wands to sterilize entire rooms at the beginning and end of each day, as well as frequently used items during the day. We’ll also use this non-toxic highly effective cleaner on surfaces twice per day, especially tables where kids eat.
  2. Hand washing. We already have a sink with soap in every room. We’ll supplement this by adding hand sanitization stations at a few places, like the playground. We will also have regularly scheduled hand washing times throughout the day.
  3. Air circulation. One of the biggest transmission risks in indoor spaces is that we’re all breathing the same air. To mitigate this, we’ll keep all doors open all the time. Every room in our school has a front door and back door, so this will create a steady flow of air through the rooms. We’ll supplement this by installing fans in each room.
  4. Masks. The school will provide masks for every student. We can’t say for sure right now if everyone will be required to wear them, or if they will be required only in certain situations, or if they will be recommended but not required. What we are sure of is that this issue will be hotly and frequently debated in School Meeting.

Homemade mask

3. Worldschooling

The school may switch to the Worldschooling mode if schools are allowed to open but the Temple remains closed, or if schools are not allowed to open but small gatherings are permitted.

In this mode, we will be doing lots of field trips, preferably to outdoor spaces (where the risk of transmission is lower). We will use multiple vehicles to get from place to place, to limit the number of people in each vehicle. Also in this mode, we will host small gatherings at family houses, where we can bring school supplies and largely resume normal school activities.

4. Pods

The Pods mode can serve as a safer variant of the Worldschooling mode, if such safety is deemed necessary. In the Pods mode, the school is divided into two to four pods consisting of students who typically spend time together. Members of a pod can meet on field trips, on campus or in family houses, but cannot mix with members from other pods.

Sidewalk chalk

Financial Assistance

We’ve created a Tuition Hardship Grant for families who have been economically impacted and cannot pay their tuition. Please consider giving to this fund to help our community stay together as we weather this storm.

Our school operates on a shoestring budget, and though our expenses are not lower during this time, we understand that many parents cannot continue to pay full tuition with their kids at home and their income decreased. Our community has committed to make sure the school remains strong throughout this time so when it is over, we have a school to return to.

Current families who need to apply for the grant can do so here. Grants are given out each month, so please re-apply each month. We love you!

Illness Policy

To stop the flow of COVID-19 within our school, we’ll need to keep a lookout for it in our students and staff. To this end, we will use whatever testing methods are sufficiently available and convenient. This may include taking student temperatures at drop-off each day using a laser thermometer.

In any of the in-person modes, if a student or any member of their family displays symptoms of COVID-19, the student must be immediately picked up and won’t be able to come to school until a certain amount of time has passed, or sufficient evidence is provided that the person does not have COVID-19. We will look to health professionals when deciding the specific criteria.