VCS will reopen on Tuesday, September 8th as Virtual VCS for all students, allowing us to continue to monitor infection rates and assess potential risk as many fellow New Yorkers return to school and work. If infection rates continue to decline throughout September, we will begin a staggered transition of pods and cohorts back into the building during the first week of October and resume full in-person learning on Thursday, October 8th, with the option for families to continue participating remotely if they so choose. Significant changes will be instituted to our daily routines to preserve the health and safety of the community; more details on in-person learning can be found in the “Return to West 10th Street” section below. 

If cases of COVID-19 begin to rise in September to a rate we deem a risk, we are prepared to decide to remain remote until the conclusion of Winter Break in January. Regardless of when we return to the building, we will extend the school year by one week to offer additional instructional and community building opportunities.

In order to be able to move seamlessly between Virtual VCS and in-person learning, many features of our reopening plan remain consistent whether students are in the building or learning from home.

This fall:

  • Students will be organized into grade-level “pods” of 6-16 children; a grade-level cohort will be comprised of multiple pods.  
  • In order to provide more individual attention to the social-emotional and academic needs of the small pods, there will be no mixed-grade Homerooms in the Lower School.
  • Students will follow a block schedule, reducing the number of transitions per day. Social time and breaks will be built into the schedule, and class times will be adjusted in Virtual VCS to reduce Zoom fatigue. 
  • Digital platforms will serve as the homebase for all classes, providing a centralized location for students and families to: find assignments, links, and resources; communicate with teachers; and submit work. All students will utilize Google Classroom; students in Kindergarten-4th Grade will also utilize Seesaw, a digital portfolio through which students and teachers can easily communicate and students will submit work. More information about each of these platforms will be provided to students and families at the September Orientation. 
  • 1:1 Each student is assigned a personal computer they will use throughout the year. 
  • Activities that take place after dismissal - with the exception of Aftercare offered during in-school learning - will be held via Zoom. This includes Lower School AfterSchool courses (starting at 4:30 p.m.), Upper School clubs, the Upper School drama production and instrumental lessons. 
  • Interscholastic sports are postponed until further notice.  
  • Students’ social-emotional well-being will be supported through active engagement in relationship-building lessons and activities, starting with understanding their own feelings and emotions. Interested students may also participate in grade-level mindfulness activities via Zoom.
  • Antiracist and Anti-Bias learning will be integrated into Morning Meetings, Advisory and curriculum.
  • Parents and teachers will have increased opportunities to connect one-on-one via phone or Zoom. If you have a question or concern to discuss with a teacher outside of a scheduled meeting, please reach out via email, with an awareness that teachers may take up to 24 hours to respond. If there is an emergency, parents should call the Front Desk. Students in K-4th Grade will communicate with teachers through their learning platforms and during class time; students in 5th-8th Grade may also contact teachers through email.
  • Virtual attendance is always available. After we have returned to the school building, families may choose to continue to participate from a distance, with students joining the lessons and activities of their pod via livestream.

Every dimension of community remains at the heart of VCS. Care for that community means prioritizing the health and safety of our students, staff, and families. Since the spring, our Deans & Directors, Educational Leadership Team and Task Forces, in consultation with independent firms focusing on strategic planning and health and safety, have been working to identify the safest ways to reopen school. These deliberations have been guided not only by the latest recommendations from the CDC, Department of Health, NAIS and NYSAIS, but also by the VCS Mission, which promotes the kind of flexibility and creative thinking this challenge required. 

With the ideals of that statement leading our thinking, we determined our reopening plan. A consistent set of principles guided the design process, including:

  • Our responsibility to protect the health and safety of every member of the VCS community
  • Honoring the VCS Mission and Diversity Statements
  • Ensuring the vigor and excitement of our academic program is maintained in Virtual VCS and in-person learning
  • A commitment to providing equitable access to VCS programming for all families
  • Prioritization of social-emotional learning and interpersonal connection
  • Integrating technology in innovative ways to increase engagement and accessibility

Virtual VCS represents the understanding of best practices around remote instruction - and the specific needs of our VCS community - that we gained through our experiences in the spring and professional development completed over the summer. 

Students and families will be supported throughout our time in Virtual VCS by the Guidance Team, who will offer opportunities to meet in small groups and be available for individual meetings. 

 

  • A virtual community-wide Orientation (September 8th-11th) will offer workshops for parents; acquaint students with their teachers and the new systems in place; and give everyone time to organize materials, resources, and technology. 
  • Teachers are assigned to fewer subjects, Grades, and/or students to promote more manageable, sustainable planning.
  • Additional one-on-one and small group support will be available during block time not spent in class. 
  • Distance Learning Coordinators (DLCs) will serve as liaisons to students and families, helping to strengthen communication and provide support for families. There will be one dedicated DLC for K-2nd Grade, one for 3rd-5th Grade and one for 6th-8th Grade.
  • In the Lower School, certain specials have been integrated to streamline the class schedule and allow for in-depth study: in K/4, students will have one class - Arts - rather than Woodshop and Art; in 5th Grade, Art and Science will be integrated into a STEAM course in which science drives the content and art, engineering and tech drive the process and product.   
  • Seesaw (K-4th Grade); Google Classroom (K-8th Grade) will be used as students’ homebase. These age-appropriate digital platforms will help students stay organized and build autonomy. 
  • In addition to 1:1 computers, VCS will provide all students with personal materials kits to ensure equitable access and optimize engagement.

  • All classes and social activities will be held via Zoom.
  • Students follow a schedule of live classes that closely resembles the schedule they will follow in school; virtual classes will have similar start times but shorter run times than in-person classes to allow for scheduled one-on-one and small group time with teachers.
  • Breaks are built into the schedule, with adjusted class times to reduce Zoom fatigue. 
  • Technology is utilized to deliver extra-curricular programs and activities outside of the school day, including instrument lessons, Lower School AfterSchool programming, and Upper School clubs.
  • Time for social interaction will be built in throughout the day. Inter- and intra-grade events and connections - including grade-level lunches, assemblies, community meetings, Big Buddies/Little Buddies and Book Buddies meetings, “recess” and more - will be scheduled.

On October 8th, if we can safely do so, all students and staff will return to the building for the full school day, five days a week, with modifications to daily routines to preserve the health and safety of the community.  

We are fortunate to have a number of flexible spaces within our school building that can be reconfigured to create the additional classroom areas necessary to accommodate all students while fulfilling state health requirements regarding group and space ratios. 

Ongoing workshops will help prepare students and families for a return to school and the Guidance Team will offer support throughout the transition and beyond. 

  • Students will remain in the same classroom space with their pod for the entirety of the school day, with the exception of breaks for physically-distanced outdoor play. 
  • A team of teachers will be assigned to each grade-level cohort, working together on a rotating schedule to deliver the academic program to each pod. 
  • In the Lower School, certain specials have been integrated to streamline the class schedule and allow for in-depth study: in K/4, students will have one class - Arts - rather than Woodshop and Art; in 5th Grade, Art and Science will be integrated into a STEAM course in which science drives the content and art, engineering and tech drive the process and product.   
  • Select specialist classes, such as Music and Spanish, will be delivered via Zoom.
  • Social time and physical activity will be built in throughout the day. Outdoor time will be scheduled using the Rooftop.
  • PlayGroup has temporarily been renamed as “Aftercare” and will be for families with essential needs. Aftercare will not be a “drop-in” program. 
  • Students will remain in the same classroom space with their pod for the entirety of the school day, with the exception of breaks for physically-distanced outdoor play. 
  • A team of teachers will be assigned to each grade-level cohort, working together on a rotating schedule to deliver the academic program to each pod. 
  • Smaller class sizes will allow for more one-on-one time with teachers and promote meaningful connections between students.
  • Select specialist classes, such as Music and World Languages (Spanish, Mandarin, or Latin), will be delivered via Zoom.  
  • Electives and Community Meeting will be held over Zoom.
  • Upper Schoolers - particularly our 8th Graders - will continue to act as the student leaders of the school, with virtual Big Buddy/Little Buddy and Book Buddies meetings built into the schedule.
  • Participation in student affinity groups will be available through Zoom, including GSA (Gender and Sexuality Alliance), POW (Power of Women), SOCS (Students of Color Support), and SOAR (Students Organizing Against Racism).
  • Students have access to a number of after-school options, including clubs and the fall drama production, which will be conducted over Zoom. 
  • Social time and physical activity will be built in throughout the day. Outdoor time will be scheduled using Pier 40.
  • Some specials will function on a 10-15 week rotation and/or will be delivered on Zoom.