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COVID-19 School Information & Messages

March 16

Dear George Cottage Parents,

I hope that you and your families are safe and doing well.  I wanted to reach out to you today to make sure you understand our plan for continuous learning.  While our interactions with students will be generally less academic than what children in older divisions will experience, we are committed to maintaining contact with your families and continuing to support you as best we can remotely. We aim to provide meaningful learning experiences for the students during this time off-campus, and will continue to share content that will build their skills in all areas. 

Our faculty have been hard at work preparing to transition to distance learning starting this Wednesday, March 18. Below is a summary of our Continuity of Learning Plan (CLP) as it relates to George Cottage families and teachers. 

The Role of the Teacher:
So much of what makes early education special centers around the social elements of teachers and students learning together.  It is our goal to maintain these connections between parents, teachers, and children while the role of primary daytime caregiver shifts back to parents during this period.  

Your child's teachers will check in with you twice a week to maintain a personal connection and discuss the physical and emotional wellbeing of your family. As we know, each family will have different needs during this time. Therefore teachers will have an initial conversation with you this week about your plans (which we understand may be more fluid than consistent) and then will adapt their communication pattern to best fit your availability and need for support.

I have asked teachers to check email and HiMama several times each day, and we will continue to use those forums as our primary means of communication.  We will share activities on a weekly basis using materials that were sent home, that you may already have, or that can be easily acquired. In addition, we plan to share websites and parenting blogs, as well as literacy videos and songs that you can sing together. 

We will also create and share content so that your child will be able to see familiar faces and hear familiar voices during this time. Twice a week, the teachers will share a virtual storytime with videos of them reading books, narrating a nature walk, or sharing an activity.  We understand that each family may be on a different schedule based on the work patterns of parents, the availability of caregivers, and the general health of the family. As such, our current plan is for content to be available on-demand rather than on a live schedule. Any real-time sessions will be advertised with plenty of notice to allow participation by the largest group possible.

Your home is your child's first classroom, so our goals are to support you in keeping your children happy and engaged; to provide you with resources to help your child continue to grow; and to keep you connected to our community even while we are physically apart. 

The Roles of the Parent and Student:
On Friday, your child took home a collection of items that can be used to encourage open-ended learning and to reinforce some of the activities that we use as provocations within the classroom on a daily basis. Items like straws, pompoms, toothpicks, styrofoam balls, chopsticks, and foam shapes can all be used to help your child create works of art, practice fine motor skills, use their planning and imagination skills, and include math within their play.  We have also included a list of high-quality books to read with your child as well as a list of suggested activities to keep them exploring and occupied. We have a bag set aside for each child, so if your student did not receive a bag, please contact me to arrange access. At the beginning of April, we will plan an opportunity for you to replenish your resources.

Because we want to maintain connections with you and your children, we would love to see and share photos of your family in action and hear feedback on how the children responded to the activities that we shared or that you undertook. This is a great way to simulate a playdate while still honoring the recommendation of social distancing. 

Though not a requirement, a journal of your time at home is also a good idea to document things learned, questions that were provoked by your child’s play, and milestones reached.  It can be as simple as keeping an electronic album of photos on your phone or it could be a physical accumulation of work-product in a notebook or binder. Once we reunite, it will be a great way for children to share their experiences with their peers and to reflect all that they learned while they were apart.  

Emotional Support:
Remember that children learn best through play and that they may not always be able to tell you when they are feeling anxious. Children are very intuitive and may reflect the concern that they sense from you in their play. Some changes in temperament are to be expected during this confusing time, so be aware when your child may be trying to navigate some big feelings. Help her or him to name those emotions and to work through them.

Know that we are here to support you and your family during this time.  Please feel free to reach out to me, your child’s teachers, or our counselor, Christina Heath (christina.heath@stmsaints.com).

Flexibility and Understanding:
We understand that this period of distance learning will be a challenge for everyone and that flexibility will be the key to success. The teachers and I are working to help alleviate some of the anxiety associated with having your child at home for an extended period of time. At the same time, we ask that you be equally patient and understanding with our faculty as they navigate supporting families almost exclusively online, a forum very different from the daily face-to-face conversations that we are able to have with most of you. 

I am accessible via email, and messages from my office phone will come to me via email, so you are welcome to reach out at any time - day or night - with any questions or concerns by calling 736.9901, and I will get back with you as soon as I can.

Our overarching goal at George Cottage, as it is for all of St. Martin's, is to be a community of healthy and happy learners. Though we will be physically apart for a short time, we will remain close in spirit and we are looking forward to our reunion.  You will all be in my prayers as you navigate this time.

Together We Are Saints.

Sincerely,
Holly
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