Fall 2021 Reopening Plan
We look ahead to the 2021-2022 school year with optimism and excitement. Not only does the coming year represent a step into the future of VCS with the opening of our long-awaited addition – it also marks a return to many of our previous modes of teaching and learning, including in-person learning five days a week with no remote learning option and in-person after school activities. We remain hopeful that some community events can be held in person following the opening of our new wing in late fall.
Our collective health and safety remains our foremost priority, and we approach these changes cautiously, with continued commitment to the strategies that have proven successful in protecting our community against the spread of the virus.
The information below reflects our current thinking for fall 2021. Please note that once the school year is underway, elements of the approach outlined below may change based on the latest recommendations of the CDC, the New York State Department of Health and our own consulting physician; we will remain nimble and responsive to the evolving data, prepared to tighten or loosen our protocols as necessary.
Opening the year
- We look forward to welcoming back all staff and students in person.
- Students who spent the 2020-2021 school year learning remotely will participate in a workshop at the end of Summer Break to help them transition to in-person learning.
- Students new to VCS will participate in an in-person Orientation prior to the start of the school year; new parents will be invited to a New Family Information Session.
- Each Pod will spend time on the first days of school going over the health and safety protocols and digital classroom platforms.
- As is our custom, the first two days of school – Thursday, September 9th and Friday, September 10th – will be half-days for Kindergarteners, who will be dismissed at 12:00 p.m.
General Health & Safety Protocols
- All staff have been required to be fully vaccinated prior to their return to school, with the exception of those who have received a legal accommodation.
- Students ages 12 and over are strongly encouraged to receive the Covid-19 vaccine; when younger students become eligible, we strongly recommend the vaccine for them as well.
- All students, staff and visitors will wear masks for the duration of their time at school, regardless of vaccination status. Masks will only be removed during Lunch and Snack – when students will be separated from one another by partitions – and some periods of outdoor play.
- Unvaccinated students will participate in in-house Covid-19 testing on a weekly basis; vaccinated individuals will be tested monthly.
- Daily pre-school screening of Covid-19 symptoms on the Magnus Health App will no longer be required.
- Hand washing will be a regular component of the school day.
- Physical distance of 3-6 feet will be maintained, depending on the space and the activity.
- Nurses will travel to students who require assistance, rather than have students come to the Nurses' Office.
- We do not currently foresee any periods of length in Virtual VCS.
- Families will not have the option of choosing for their child(ren) to learn remotely.
- In the event that a Pod or Cohort must enter quarantine, they will pivot to Virtual VCS.
- Families of any students who must temporarily shift to remote learning due to Covid-19 exposure will receive instructions for navigating Virtual VCS.
- If a single student must quarantine due to an exposure that does not affect their classmates, that student will be able to Zoom into classes remotely.
- The building will open to students at 8:20 a.m. and the school day will begin at 8:30 a.m. for all grades.
- Each period will be 40 minutes long, enabling more classes to meet more frequently. Some Upper School classes will continue to meet for double periods.
POD STRUCTURE & STRAIGHT GRADEs
- A Pod is a group of students designated to spend the year together as a group and take the majority of their classes together. A Cohort is a collection of grade-level Pods, ranging from two Pods to a full grade level.
- Students will be assigned to a Pod with students of the same grade and will remain with that Pod for most of the day.
- Pods will vary in size according to the square footage in each classroom, ranging from 9 to 17 students.
- The Pod structure will provide us with the ability to quickly reduce student mixing if necessary, without disrupting in-person learning.
- Each grade will have whole-grade in-person experiences on occasion.
- Students will also enjoy safe mixed-grade experiences.
Arrival & Dismissal
- Doors will open for student arrivals at 8:20 a.m., and the first class will begin at 8:30 a.m.
- Students will be assigned a door for entry and can enter at any time during the arrival window.
- To limit the number of people inside the building during Drop-off and Pick-up, parents will not be able to walk their child inside. Once students enter the building, they will walk directly to their classroom.
- At Drop-off, sign-up sheets or a digital registration form will be available for that day's PlayGroup and Study Center; parents who plan to have their children participate in these drop-in activities after school should sign up at Drop-off or call the Front Desk before 12:00 p.m.
- We will follow a staggered dismissal schedule and students will be dismissed from the same door as arrival.
- Lower School students will be dismissed to a parent, guardian or caregiver; Upper School students may leave independently following dismissal.
Materials & technology
- We anticipate a significant decrease in students' screen time in the 2021-2022 school year.
- Every student will be issued a laptop or iPad for use throughout the year. K-2nd Grade devices will remain at school; 3rd-8th Graders may bring them home.
- The school will be providing students with their general school supplies, as well as subject-specific materials. Over the summer, parents were sent a list of additional supplies to purchase and keep at home in the case of a pivot to Virtual VCS.
- Our previous policy of no cell phone use permitted at school or during school activities will be back in effect in 2021-2022.
DIGITAL CLASSROOM PLATFORMS & VCS EMAIL ADDRESSES
- We will use Google Classroom as the main platform for all Grades K-8.
- Seesaw will be an additional tool that will help to facilitate teacher to student communication and allow for the creation of a digital work portfolio for students in K-4th Grade.
- Students in 5th-8th Grade will be provided with a VCS email account to correspond with teachers, submit assignments and utilize digital platforms.
- In the case of a shift to Virtual VCS, Zoom will continue to be used as our video conferencing platform.
After school programming & instrument lessons
- PlayGroup (K-5th Grade) will be offered as an in-person drop-in activity. We ask that parents who plan for their children to participate in that afternoon's PlayGroup sign up during morning Drop-off or call the Front Desk before 12:00 p.m.
- Students participating in PlayGroup will be grouped by age into one of three groups; each group will meet in a separate area and be supervised by a designated teacher.
- Study Center will be offered on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays as an in-person drop-in activity for 4th and 5th Graders only. We ask that parents who plan for their children to participate in that afternoon's Study Center sign up during morning Drop-off or call the Front Desk before 12:00 p.m.
- Lower School AfterSchool courses will be offered in person. Course offerings and registration information will be shared prior to the start of school.
Instrument Lessons Program (4th-8th Grade) students studying drums, guitar and bass guitar will have the option to participate in in-person lessons this fall. Students studying trumpet, trombone, clarinet, saxophone and flute will continue with virtual lessons until further notice.
Our Drama Teacher will stage at least two Upper School productions; we are closely monitoring guidelines with the goal of staging a live performance.
A final determination on whether Upper School interscholastic sports will run in 2021-2022 has not yet been made.
All students will wear masks during after school activities, with the possible exception of those held outdoors.
When complete, the new Eve K. Kleger Wing will nearly double our available square footage, giving us a second Gym; a new Library, Woodshop and Sky Yard, as well as a state-of-the-art Tech Lab, World Language Lab and Science Lab. Opening our new addition allows us to not only place each Pod in their own classroom, but also to return specialist classes to their dedicated spaces.
Library & woodshop
- Library classes will resume for 2nd-5th Grade students.
- Woodshop class is returning in Grades K-5.
UPPER SCHOOL CLUBS & ELECTIVEs
- We are planning to hold meetings of Upper School student groups and clubs in person.
- Upper School electives will meet in person, as well.
- When open, our new addition will allow us to return specialist classes to specialist classrooms and increase student movement in the building throughout the day.
- Beginning in late fall:
- K-1st Grade students will travel to their P.E., Woodshop, Art, Music and Science classes.
- 2nd Graders will travel to their Art, P.E., Woodshop, Music, Science and Library classes.
- 3rd-5th Graders will travel to their Art, Music, P.E., Woodshop, Science and Library classes.
- Upper School Pods will leave their classrooms for PAC, Science, Art, STEAM/Coding, and P.E. classes.
- In Upper School, some students will travel to their World Language and Math classes.
play & Outdoor time
- The opening of the new building will provide access to two new play spaces: a second Gym and the rooftop Sky Yard.
- Lower School students will enjoy daily recess and P.E. three times a week.
- Recess or Open Gym time will be incorporated into Upper School students’ daily schedule and all Upper School students will have P.E. two days a week, still utilizing Pier 40 for a double period of large-space play.
- Lunch will be eaten in the classrooms, with each student at their own work station.
- K-2nd Grade families will continue to place lunch orders ahead of time for their children in the NutriSlice app and lunch will be delivered to those classrooms.
- Students in 3rd-8th Grade will travel to the Lunchroom and select what they would like to eat as they move through the lunch line, giving them more autonomy and choice. Students in those grades will bring their lunches back to their classrooms independently.
- Physical barriers will be placed on desks during Lunch and Snack when masks can't be worn.
- As has always been our policy, no outside food will be permitted within the school building.