Fulton School News

Parent Communication, COVID-19, May 13
Dear TFS Community,
 
Over the last three months, I have been thinking in three buckets: Now, Next, and Later.  In March, Now was the biggest bucket, demanding lots of time and attention. My emails to you have mostly been about Now, maybe a little Next. Today, I'm writing about Later.
 
Later is a tricky topic because as I think about starting school in August, it feels light years away.  There is so much we don't know.  What we know now could change.  Our emotions will likely change because our fears and our wishes will evolve with time and circumstances.  I've been listening to a lot of speakers, experts if you will, and have pages of notes that could all be obsolete in a few weeks.  One of the speakers said last week that we should know a lot more in mid-July after infectious disease specialists have observed flu season in the southern hemisphere.  Isn't it amazing that what happens during the flu season in someplace like Brazil will likely affect our decisions about next school year?
 
I say all of this to reassure you that we are actively researching the upcoming decisions.  We are participating in meetings with national experts in pediatric epidemiology; in school law and liability; iarchitecture, infrastructure and ventilation; and in anxiety and depression in students due to isolation or increased online activity.  The association memberships we have -- Independent School of St. Louis (ISSL), Independent School Association of the Central States (ISACS), and National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) -- have all been invaluable for training and collaboration over the past weeks.
 
As I listen to fellow school professionals discuss scenario planning for next year, I realize that our small size will be an asset to our safety when we return to the building. We are uniquely set up to apply innovative social distancing measures, effective health habits, and nimble schedules.  Our goal is to resume classes inside the building in the fall, following all safety recommendations in place at that time. We don't know what those will look like yet, but they could include:
  • Elimination of student gatherings outside the classrooms (no Friday Gatherings or Upper School Morning Meetings)
  • Lunchtime in classrooms instead of sharing the dining room
  • A course schedule that limits movement throughout the building and keeps students with the same "pod" all day
  • Increased, scheduled handwashing 
  • Alternate school calendar with more built-in days off
  • Increased ventilation in classrooms and more outdoor work
  • Increased cleaning of high usage surfaces and spaces (like bathrooms)
  • Increased symptom checking, per the best symptom information we have in August
These are just a few of the options schools are exploring. We will also be ready to switch between TFS@TFS and TFS@Home as needed if called upon to do so.  We are brainstorming alternatives for families who cannot allow their students to be exposed at school, and we are brainstorming ways to meet the greatest needs if we are only allowed a certain number of students in the building. We are learning about protocol should we discover a case in our community and the potential for quick testing or antibody immunity.  We are tracking schools in session in Denmark and Sweden as well as Taiwan and Korea.
 
I will hold a Parent Town Hall Meeting via Zoom in late May to discuss these options and answer your questions (and likely more throughout the summer), but feel free to call or email me anytime as events unfold and more information emerges.
 
Warm Regards,
Kara


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