Hear directly from Brenda Crawley, Head of School, in her letters to the community.
Dear PMFS Families,The PMFS campus is quiet; yet there is quite a bit of energy and action underway in preparation for the upcoming school year. Four faculty committees have submitted recommendations to inform the planning process for 2020-21. I have been reviewing the committee notes and utilizing some of the shared information in order to offer families the plan for reopening school.
Schools around the country are seeking answers to myriad unforeseen questions. We all recognize the need to provide the best educational programs possible for our students; and we remain fixed on the absolute priority of keeping students and faculty members as safe as possible. Currently schools in every state, county, city and town must formulate a plan for serving their students while following the mandates and guidance from different branches of government. PMFS continues to monitor state and local directives, as well as updates from the CDC, CHOP, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and other local medical professionals.
The Pennsylvania Department of Education is requiring that all public schools create a reopening health and safety plan. Non-public (private, independent, parochial) schools are strongly encouraged to do the same. With input from the faculty and administration, I am in the process of working on PMFS Reopening Plan which will include policies, protocols and practices related to reopening campus. The plan will also include some preliminary information about community expectations, safety measures, usage of indoor and outdoor spaces, and FAQs about other critical issues that families may have. The completed PMFS Reopening Plan will be sent to families and posted on the PMFS website before the end of the month.
The devotion of the PMFS faculty team is boundless; and they share the deep desire to welcome students back to campus and into our learning spaces. The school’s top priority is the wellbeing and safety of its students and faculty. We are working diligently to take as many measures as possible to keep your children and our faculty team safe as we start a new year of learning together.
When you receive the PMFS Reopening Plan, please take the time to review it carefully. Make a note of your questions and concerns. During a series of upcoming parent socials, we will discuss what you’re wondering or concerned about, and share ideas about coming back together as a school community.
I hope this note finds you safe and healthy. I am writing to offer an update on the preparations for the upcoming 2020-21 school year. During this summer break, the PMFS faculty, staff and administration are working on plans to facilitate a smooth transition back to school. We are actively engaged in committees, focusing on the critical aspects of creating and maintaining safe and supportive learning spaces for our students and faculty. Our main priorities remain the health and safety of all community members. We continue to rely on directives, guidance and recommendations from the CDC, American Academy of Pediatrics, CHOP, The PA Department of Health and the PA Department of Education. Because of our membership in governing and accrediting organizations such as The National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) and PAIS (Pennsylvania Association of Independent Schools), we have access to data, information and best practices related to school re-entry, as well as distance learning, from schools across the country. This information, combined with the passion and expertise of the PMFS faculty, allows us to plan accordingly for next school year.
During our faculty meeting this week, four committees reported on their work to the group. Members of each committee include senior administration, administrative support staff and/or an assistant teacher, a lead teacher and a specials teacher. All committees are charged with brainstorming, researching, scenario planning and problem solving in order to make recommendations to the Head of School and inform decisions for the 2020-21 school year.
- The Facilities Committee focuses directly on the safety and health of community members in relation to learning and workspaces on campus. Group members attend Zoom meetings and webinars with local organizations and stay apprised of the latest directives and data. The Facilities Committee focuses on aspects of creating and maintaining safe, socially distanced learning spaces for students, as well as re-envisioning and re-allocating learning spaces. Committee work centers on procedures around school entry, health monitoring, PPE, transportation, supply storage, cleaning protocols, student/teacher campus transitions, outdoor learning spaces and other matters pertaining to how best to support community health and safety.
- The Curriculum Committee focuses on the exploration of research and resources to support classroom instruction. Group discussion seeks out information related to pedagogy, including academic programming for mixed-aged groups and vertical class groups. The Curriculum Committee is charged with exploring the integral components of a PMFS educational experience through the lens of best instructional practices for online and in-person learning. Committee work centers on obtaining resources for faculty professional development, student assessment, investigating various learning platforms, establishing protocols for screen-based learning, and researching project-based learning. Notably, the Curriculum Committee seeks strategies to maintain the continuity of student and parent support both during on-campus and online instruction.
- The Scheduling Committee focuses on examining and planning for different scenarios for instruction and learning during the upcoming school year. Group members gather information from faculty and families in order to create an daily and weekly instructional schedule for each class. The Scheduling Committee focuses on the continuity of academic instruction, given the constraints of social distancing within our campus’ facilities. The group is exploring the scheduling of classroom time, specials classes, outdoor breaks and other components of students’ weekly routine with consideration given to directives and recommendations from medical experts, the CDC, PA Department of Health and PA Department of Education. In addition to formulating a plan for on-campus instruction, the Scheduling Committee is charged with offering recommendations for distance learning.
- The Social and Emotional Committee focuses on the well-being of PMFS students as we transition into a new school year after our prolonged separation due to COVID-19. The group discusses creating systems of support for each student that extend beyond classroom teachers. The cultivation of community remains a goal during on-campus and online learning. The Social and Emotional Committee is charged with exploring ways to monitor and assist students, in collaboration with classroom teachers and parents.
I am grateful to my colleagues for their work on the many critical pieces that require our attention and energy as we prepare for the start of the next school year. As recommendations from local and national government evolve almost daily, our procedures and practices will be consistent with the CDC, PA Department of Education, and PAIS guidelines. We rely on medical professionals, including those at CHOP, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and school physicians who monitor COVID-19 data in educational institutions across the country.
Each week, I have the opportunity to connect with the heads of small schools in the Philadelphia area. I also meet with heads of Quaker schools from all over the country, a group of NAIS school heads, and the heads of small local Quaker schools. The collective wisdom in those groups offers collegiality and support that creates space for sharing, problem-solving and collaboration in a time of unknowns and unpredictability. As school leaders, we are all focused on serving our communities, while remaining committed to the priority of doing the best we can to safeguard the wellbeing of our community members.
During the upcoming weeks, PMFS families can expect explicit information about specific health and safety preparations and requirements for students and PMFS employees as we prepare to transition back to campus. A brief parent survey about starting school in September will be distributed to families within the next few days. Several parent “happy hours” will be scheduled in the near future to offer families opportunities to connect, share ideas and ask questions. The 2020-21 school year will likely challenge us to stretch, innovate and evolve. While we cannot know all of the answers, we can work together to plan, strategize and prepare.
Stay safe, healthy and connected!
Typically, at this point in time, a school community turns its attention toward both the end of the current year and the upcoming school year. The faculty and I have begun discussing and planning ways to lift up our graduating Sixth Graders, as well as their Pre-K through Fifth Grade schoolmates. Past traditions will look and feel different; yet, we hope to maintain the heart of Plymouth in everything we do.
Over the last several weeks, Heads of School across the country have become fully immersed in planning for 2020-2021. We must rely on clear agreement among local, state and federal agencies that schools in the area can reopen safely. PMFS is in continuous contact with and relies on guidance from the Pennsylvania Association of Independent Schools (PAIS), The National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS), the Association of Delaware Valley Independent Schools (ADVIS), the Pennsylvania Association for the Education of Young Children (PENNAEYC), and the American Federation of Teachers (AFT). The Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the Pennsylvania Health Department, and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regularly update guidelines, recommendations and best practices for creating and maintaining safe and healthy learning spaces.
Ever mindful of the unpredictability of the effects of COVID-19 on our school community and areas in which PMFS families live and work, various scenarios are being considered for the upcoming school year. These include, but are not limited to:
- Beginning the school year on time, in-person and on-campus
- A brief or extended delay before returning to campus
- An interruption/disruption of on-campus learning in response to a resurgence of COVID-19
- A hybrid learning program that allows for a combination of on-campus classes and distance learning
- A staggered schedule that designates assigned days/hours for on-campus learning and distance learning for specific grades and/or “cohorts” of students.
While we explore each of these scenarios, the health and safety of students and faculty remains the highest priority. Maintaining safety protocols, monitoring the usage and cleaning of facilities, and working through the logistics of utilizing on-campus spaces are just a few of the critical issues being investigated as we think about a plan for returning to school for classroom instruction in the fall.
Though all schools are dealing with myriad unknowns related to the global impact of COVID-19, we share a deep desire to sustain our school communities. Our PMFS community is a small, sturdy one grounded in the Quaker Testimonies: the SPICES. Social distancing and isolation challenge us to embrace Simplicity in how we live, entertain and “pamper” ourselves. We find Peace when we manage conflicts that inevitably arise while house-bound and then settle into a place of acceptance or agreement. Learning at home pushes us all (teachers, parents and students) to release the need for perfection and to just do the best we can. That is Integrity.
Are you reaching out to others in the Community? If you’re all Zoomed out, instead of a Zoom-fest, I encourage you to set aside time for a Zoom-fast. Give up the screen for a while and call a friend, loved one, or someone you’ve been out of touch with for a while. Get connected and stay connected.
Starting in Pre-kindergarten, PMFS students learn that they have a voice and that their voice is valued. This is how Equality shows up in our school. When a child asks “Why?”, we know that curiosity (not disrespect) is at the heart of that inquiry. Keep this in mind, allow them to wonder and seek the solutions together.
Finally, Stewardship is the heart and soul of our 240 year old school. The care and concern for Plymouth Meeting Friends School, its students, families and faculty spans generations. It will be that care and concern that sustains us now, amid the unforeseen, unpredictable and unresolved. I encourage you to be stewards of each other, your families, friends and communities. If you need care and concern, I encourage you to reach out and grab onto the love and connection that binds us and keeps our PMFS community whole.
Dear PMFS Families,I am writing to offer an update on our state-mandated school closure due to COVID-19. This afternoon, Governor Tom Wolf announced that all Pennsylvania schools will remain closed for the remainder of this 2019-2020 academic year. As the number of diagnosed cases of the virus and fatalities continue to rise in our state, the governor persists in his efforts to protect the health and safety of students, parents and educators.
Both the governor and the Pennsylvania Association of Independent Schools (PAIS) have articulated the expectation that schools will maintain a “continuity of education” program. PMFS has begun the implementation of our distance learning program and will continue to offer resources and support for students and families through PMFS Connect. Our faculty, staff and administration are committed to providing instruction and support in order to sustain an engaging and enriching distance learning experience for our students.
Over the last several weeks, I have attended Zoom meetings with heads of school across the country. These meetings included long-time heads, first-year heads, Quaker school heads, and heads of color. We all share similar concerns about our students and their families, our schools, our employees, and notably the culture and history of each school community. We each hope that the connections between our community members will keep our schools alive, even though we cannot make those connections in person.
Today’s announcement from the governor, though not surprising, was incredibly difficult for me to hear. I know that closing schools is critical to community safety—to our PMFS community’s safety. I am deeply saddened that class trips, special occasions, events and celebrations that were planned for this spring will not happen this school year. As a new PMFS community member, I looked forward to enjoying these events “from the inside”, with students, families and my colleagues. I now realize that, come March 2021, I will be “new” again for these celebrations.
During the upcoming weeks, the administrative team will begin to investigate and explore ways that we can recognize the passages and transitions typical at the end of a PMFS school year. Despite the current cancellations and losses, we will seek out ways to reconnect in the future to acknowledge the accomplishments of our students and the cherished connections in our wonderful school community. Our hope is that, in time, we will be able to do this in person.
Thank you for your continued support and your willingness to hold Plymouth Meeting Friends School close to your heart during this difficult time.
Dear PMFS Families,Recently, a wave of “Zoom bombing” has impacted some organizations and schools who use Zoom for meetings and classes. This disruption involved outsiders violating private gatherings by interrupting those Zoom sessions with inappropriate videos, images and verbal messages of a bigoted or pornographic nature.
Zoom has addressed these issues by making all meetings password protected. Jill Work (Library/Tech Teacher) and Joyce Colzani (Admissions Director) compiled a list of “Zoom bombing” solutions, incorporating security tips to help protect the sanctity of our online learning and meeting spaces. Jill also provided the faculty with instructional videos for setting up these security measures. As we move forward, teachers will utilize passwords and waiting room features to allow only known members of the community participate in scheduled Zoom gatherings. In most cases, the host of the meeting will allow entry to invited participants. Your child’s username must be a recognizable one to assure entry into classes and meetings.
Though barely a full official week of distance learning has occurred, families will receive a brief survey within the next several days, to give faculty and administration a sense of how things are going. Our goal is to continue to support families while the children are at home; to continue the connections between home and school; and to sustain the relationships between PMFS community members.
Every Thursday, we have Community Meeting for Worship at 9am. Each week, a few more community members join us as we settle in silent worship. I hope that you will join us tomorrow, Thursday, April 9 at 9am. Remember to mute your device and unmute to speak your reflections into the silence. [Zoom link redacted. Please check your email.]
What better way to end our week, than with laughter? Every Friday, we will gather for a “Meeting for Silliness”. This Friday, April 10, drop by in your “jammies” or favorite comfy outfit for a Pop-up Pajama Party at 3:00pm. It will be a quick, silly way to finish out a week of hard work! [Zoom link redacted. Please check your email.]
Next Friday, April 17, our Meeting for Silliness will be a celebration of Crazy Hats. I can’t wait to see what everyone comes up with! (The sillier the better.)
The warm weather encourages us to step outside for a moment and take in a bit of sunshine. Whether that involves an open door, an open window, or simply an open imagination, I hope that you draw deeply from the gifts of warmth and light.
Dear PMFS Families,We begin our full transition to distance learning tomorrow, Wednesday, April 1. The faculty has worked to establish a system and schedule for the students, as well as a plan for ongoing support of and communication with families. Though the governor’s mandate has closed the PMFS campus through April 30, school is “open”; and we are committed to not just surviving but thriving as a learning community.
Please keep the following important information in mind as we begin classes tomorrow:
- Each class’ posted academic materials can be found in this folder on Drive: (link redacted — parents, please check your email)
- PMFS Connect, our distance learning resource hub for families, is a new landing page on the website. https://pmfs1780.org/pmfsconnect.
- PMFS Connect is the place to find classwork, schedules and links, extra activities to engage your children, school calendar updates, tech help, and more. Within the site, there are multiple sections:
- PMFS Classwork: class schedules and info.
- Communication Archive: all PMFS Communication around COVID-19
- Supplemental Digital Activities: a list of some learning and fun activities your child may enjoy while at home (curated by Jill Work, Library/Tech Teacher and Maura Sutherland, Learning Specialist)
- COVID-19 Information: articles about supporting your child through this situation and links to the latest information
- Adjusted Calendar: posted changes to the 2019-20 school events
- How to Contact Administration: links to all admin emails
- Technology Resources: descriptions and help on the platforms PMFS will be using during remote instruction. Forms, such as the PMFS Device Loan Agreement and the PMFS Digital Citizenship Expectations are posted here as well.
- SPECIALS teachers will upload all of their classwork into the SeeSaw platform. Your child will receive a unique and personal code from the classroom teachers that gives them access to the lessons. New content will be posted each week; and students will have the ability to upload their responses to each assignment. Assignments are due within a week from when they are assigned. Specials lessons will be uploaded in SeeSaw, following this schedule:
- Mondays: Gillian and Meg will upload Art and Science.
- Wednesdays: Jill and John B will upload Library/Tech and Music/Drama
- Fridays: Kelly and Gladys will upload Gym and Spanish.
You are welcome to email any of the Specials teachers with any questions. For help with how to log in and out of SeeSaw, click here.
- Learning Specialist, Maura Sutherland, will resume her work with students on her schedule and looks forward to joining the conferences of many of our students with Educational Care Plans. All PMFS families are welcome to email Maura at email@example.com with learning questions or concerns as we navigate this distance learning landscape.
- We are required by the state of Pennsylvania to report attendance during our period of distance learning. Teachers will take daily attendance during “live” Zoom sessions and instructional periods. Please notify teachers if your child is ill and will not be “in class” on a given day. Likewise, please keep us informed if you experience technical difficulties or scheduling conflicts that prevent your child’s class participation.
- Our PMFS Community Meeting for Worship will be every Thursday at 9:00am. Join us via Zoom at (link redacted – check email or Drive folder) for reflection and worship in this silent space. You may come and go as you are able. If moved to speak into the silence, please unmute your computer and share. Feel free to invite PMFS alumni and past community members to join us.
- In-person Parent Conferences (April 9 & 10) will be replaced by Zoom conferences held between April 6-10 or April 13-17. Conferences will be 30 minutes in length. Teachers will contact families to schedule conferences at a mutually agreeable time.
- Parents & students in Grades 3 – 6, please read and submit the PMFS Digital Citizenship Expectations
Adjusting to our “new normal” requires that we all push ourselves to find reserves of resilience, patience and flexibility. Now, more than ever, we can count on our PMFS community. If you feel lost, ask for guidance. If you need help, call a “lifeline”. If you wonder, ask the questions. The connections are just a text, email, phone call or Zoom away.
Dear PMFS Families,I hope that this note finds you safe, healthy and in good spirits. Please take the time to read to the end of this letter for important information related to you and your child.
I am writing to offer an update on the state-mandated school closures due to concerns about the spread of COVID-19. Yesterday, Governor Tom Wolf announced that all Pennsylvania schools will remain closed for an additional two weeks, until Tuesday, April 7. As our spring break officially ends on Tuesday, March 31, distance learning will commence on Wednesday, April 1, 2020.
PMFS lead and assistant teachers, specials teachers, administrators and staff have been actively collaborating to formulate a robust plan for learning at each grade level. Notably, we are driven to maintain developmentally appropriate programming and curriculum delivery, supporting students as learners and as members of our class and school communities. We recognize that connecting students to their classmates and teachers is critical during this period of forced isolation. Maintaining these connections requires us all to embrace a spirit of collaboration and innovation. It is critical that we keep the lines of communication between home and school open and lean into the discomfort of imperfection and not having all of the answers all of the time.
Here is what you can expect, as we transition from spring break to distance learning:
- Your child’s school day begins at 9:00am and ends at 3:00pm (Monday through Friday), unless otherwise communicated by the teacher. (Your child will not be online for the entirety of a school day.)
- From 2:00 – 3:00pm daily, teachers will respond to emails from students and parents during this “office hour”. With the exception of urgent matters, teachers will respond to later correspondence from parents within 24 hours.
- Each day, your child will connect with teachers at least once during a “live” or recorded gathering. This may be a Morning Meeting, Morning Check-In, or Morning Circle. This may also involve direct instruction (synchronous learning). This gathering time is a critical time for students to connect with the class community.
- Throughout the week, students will have contact with specials teachers (via SeeSaw) through posted videos, assignments, challenges and other resources. (Access codes to SeeSaw are forthcoming.)
- PMFS Community Meeting for Worship will be on Thursdays at 9:00am. (Use the link at the end of this letter.)
- The daily and weekly schedules during distance learning will offer a combination of synchronous and asynchronous learning. Students will be given activities and assignments to be completed independently (based on grade level).
- Classroom and specials teachers will specify due dates for the completion of assigned work.
- Dedicated space on the PMFS website is being created to provide resources, information and support for students and their families during distance learning.
Governor Wolf’s office has stated that essential “travel to or from educational institutions for purposes of receiving materials for distance learning” is allowed under his stay-at-home order. Your child’s teacher will inform you of the best way to pick-up supplies and materials, if necessary. (Please let teachers know if you need to have these items delivered to your home.)
We are aware that every family’s situation is unique. Please notify your child’s teacher of technology access limitations, including devices that are shared between family members. As the teachers create and modify class schedules, they will make every effort to stay mindful of siblings who cross grades, as well as the availability of parental support while students are working online. If you need additional support with navigating distance learning, feel free to contact the Educational Care Team (Brenda Crawley, Head of School; Genevieve Schmidt Camacho, Coordinator of Student Care; Maura Sutherland, Learning Specialist; Dr. Adam Berman, School Psychologist) either individually, or via the group email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
As a faculty team, we want to assure families that we are committed to the intentionality of maintaining the bonds within our amazing school community. Conversations, connections and contact are the “social glue” that holds us together. I encourage you to reach out (albeit virtually) to other PMFS community members daily to share ideas, updates and laughter.
I ask that you remain mindful that all teaching faculty, staff members and administrators are dually tasked – as are you— with supporting the students, as well as their own families. Please remember that virtual access to the faculty is not 24-hour access. This shared understanding between school and home will allow us to respect our time, space and personal boundaries so critical to the positive relationships in our community.
Friends, we are in uncharted territory. Once again, I invite you and your families to Meeting for Worship for 25 minutes this Thursday, March 26, beginning at 9:00am. We will meet on a Zoom video conference. Use this same link weekly to quietly enter the space: (link redacted – check email or Drive folder). You may come and go as you are able. If moved to do so, please unmute your computer and share during the silence. At school, we guide students to share only once during Meeting and remind them that they should not respond to what others share. Community members simply lift up their reflections and release them.
We continue to hold our PMFS community in the Light.
In the spirit of gratitude and connection,
Dear PMFS Families,Every day of this unprecedented global health crisis, we face the unexpected and unknown. I hope that you are finding the time, space and energy to take care of yourselves as you care for those dear to you.
Please take the time to read to the end of this letter for important information related to you and your child.
Our sudden closure last Thursday, March 12 sent us off without resolution and farewells before spring break. Though we all understood that this disruption was out of our control, we are now realizing the stress of figuring out “what happens next”. Many questions will be unanswered for the time being; and much will remain out of our control. Because we did not use any days reserved as “snow days”, the period between the governor’s mandated closure (March 13) and March 19, 2020 will be considered an extension of spring break. Beginning April 1, 2020, the academic program will resume, likely utilizing a combination of resources, including digital/distance learning. Specific resources and the method of instruction will be shared with you prior to April 1.
The PMFS faculty, staff and administration are working daily to offer support to our students and their families. Lead and Assistant Teachers have already communicated with families of their students. Unless you received specific direction from your child’s teacher, there is no need to submit completed work for assessment by the teacher during spring break.
You will continue to receive updates from me throughout our school’s closure. I invite you and your children to communicate often with other families using video-chat, in order to alleviate the sense of isolation that many are experiencing. I recognize that families are likely feeling overwhelmed as managing work, home, school and childcare have now become daily demands. This reminds me of advice I once read in a Disneyland guidebook: “If one member of the family is not having a good time, soon all members of the family will not be having a good time.” Keep this in mind and ask for guidance, advice and help. Here are some tips that will help everyone stay happier:
- Remember that stress and anxiety are contagious. Incorporate deep breathing, settling, quiet music, laughter, outdoor time and “veg” time into every day.
- Avoid trying to have intensive, prolonged periods of instruction for your child. Down time is critical to processing information. Bursts of activity followed by breaks and “choice” times are more sustainable.
- Set up a daily routine. Consistency and predictability give children assurance and comfort.
o Every school day starts with some sort of group gathering (Morning Meeting), that offers a general and/or specific plan for the day.
o Your child typically has a snack and an outdoor break around 9:30am daily. This is also a time for socializing and silliness.
o Engage your child in making charts and checklists for task completion. These can include illustrations.
o When your child is working, keep track of time. Recognize that when working in the home environment, children may have limited cognitive stamina, since they lack the stimulation a peer group (class) setting provides.
o Your child typically eats lunch between 11:00 and 11:45am. (If you notice a change in affect or attitude around this time, chalk it up to “hangry”.)
o Factor in outdoor time around midday. (Remember: play is a child’s work.)
o Explore opportunities for experiential learning: building, gardening, sculpting, planning and cooking with an adult, drawing, board games, card games, dancing, etc. Household chores and responsibilities are also a form of experiential learning and skill-building!
o Factor in time for reading silently, listening to a story (audiobook), and/or reading to your child, every single day. This boosts fluency, comprehension and an appreciation of literature at all levels.
o Allow space for whining and complaining. Set a timer and then “reboot”.
o Keep a consistent nightly sleep schedule. This applies to (and benefits) children and adults.
Every Thursday morning, we enter the Meetinghouse on campus for Meeting for Worship. Gathering in that space and settling into silence allows us to connect on a spiritual level. The benches in the Meetinghouse face each other, allowing us to minister to each other— a reminder that we see “that of God” in every member of our community. For 25 minutes, we sit and listen. Sometimes, a small voice rises up and speaks into the silence; sometimes not.
I invite you and your families to Meeting for Worship for 25 minutes tomorrow, Thursday, March 19 beginning at 9:00am. We will meet on a Zoom video conference. (Link redacted – check email or Drive folder). During this time of uncertainty and constant change, we can enter this silent space together. You may come and go as you are able. If you are moved to so, please unmute your computer and share during the silence. At school, we guide students to share only once during Meeting and remind them that they should not respond to what others share. We simply allow community members to lift up their reflections and release them.
Friends, please join me in holding all of our PMFS families in the Light. Our commitment to and connections in our school community will sustain and strengthen us.
Feel free to email me and/or your child’s teacher directly with your questions or concerns. If you need ideas, help and advice, please do not hesitate to reach out for support.
In peace and friendship,
Dear PMFS Families,I am writing to share that Governor of Pennsylvania, Tom Wolf, held a press conference this afternoon and announced the closure of all schools in Montgomery County at the close of business today, Thursday, March 12, 2020. The closure extends for 14 days, effectively beginning on Friday, March 13. ALL schools, gyms, and other entertainment type venues will be closed at the end of the day today, Thursday, March 12 through the next two weeks in an effort to stem the spread of COVID-19. For this reason, we are closing PMFS and our school campus this afternoon.
Here is what families need to know:
- School is closed tomorrow, March 13, 2020.
- There will be no vacation care on campus during the school closure.
- Our plans for faculty professional development to support students and families during prolonged school closure have been disrupted by the Governor’s announcement. Please expect contact from your child’s teacher by Monday, March 16 for information about activities and resources for at-home learning.
- Unless school closure is prolonged, classes will resume on Wednesday, April 1 after spring break.
- While closed, all learning and workspaces on campus will be cleaned with medical grade disinfectants.
- We will continue to speak with health officials and await word from the state government about the length of the mandatory closure.
- Campus will close effective today, with no access with the exception of cleaning crews or members of our administration under limited circumstances.
At this time, it is important to mention that we know of no one in our PMFS community who is infected with or has come in contact with individuals infected with COVID-19. Today we close campus under the directive of Governor Wolf and hope to re-open school as soon as we are permitted to do so after our spring break.
Thank you for your support and flexibility during this challenging time. We understand that this forced closure will bring about inconveniences and unpredictable obstacles that are new to all of us. Our priority remains the safety and health of our PMFS community members. To that end, I ask that you hold our community in the Light as we continue to navigate this every-changing and evolving period.
Head of School
Dear Friends,We continue to monitor developments of COVID-19, coronavirus, in the United States and in local communities. I am writing again this week to share information about strategies and approaches that we are undertaking as a community as we prepare for the coronavirus in our area. Please read this document to the end, as it contains critical information for all PMFS families.
Local authorities from the CDC (Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention), the Pennsylvania Department of Health, the Montgomery County Department of Health, ADVIS, PAIS, and local school districts that transport PMFS students share updates and guidance daily. We review these resources and have consulted with a medical professional who specializes in infectious diseases in order to determine the best way to support students, families and faculty. The health and safety of PMFS community members is a shared responsibility of the utmost importance. To that end, the following action steps are in process:
- Formation of the Community Care Committee
Members of the Committee include PMFS Administration (Ralph Henninger, Joyce Colzani, Genevieve Schmidt Camacho, Brenda Crawley); Facilities Director (David Mettler); Lead Teacher (Will Starr); Clerk of the PMFS Faculty (Gillian Pokalo); and Specials Teacher (Kelly Vidovich)
The Community Care Committee will offer recommendations for preventative practices and universal precautions in respect to facilities and general operations, including events, school activities and programming. The Committee will assist with keeping the school community apprised of health and safety recommendations, as well as disruptions or cancellations of school.
- Programmatic Changes
Remaining mindful of recommendations from the aforementioned health organizations, the following programmatic changes have been made with the best interest of our community in mind:
- The March 13 and March 14 Fourth Grade Circus performances are cancelled.
- Our celebration of Grandparents and Special Friends Day on Thursday, March 19 will be cancelled.
- PMFS will be open and classes will remain in session next Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday (March 16, 17 and 18).
- The students will have a noon dismissal and begin Spring Break on Wednesday, March 18.
- School be closed to students on Thursday, March 19. PMFS faculty will engage in a professional development day of collaboration, preparation and planning for possible future closure related to COVID-19.
- Vacation care during the PMFS spring break is cancelled.
- The Community Care Committee will continue to review upcoming PMFS events, including class trips, in respect to updates on the progression of COVID-19 in our area in order to communicate changes or cancellations to families in a timely manner.
- Fifth Grade International Travelers
During the fifth graders’ time in Mexico, the situation with COVID-19, coronavirus, has been evolving in the global, national and local communities. Special attention is given to travelers returning from international destinations. Our Fifth Grade students return to the US tomorrow, March 12 and will not be in school on Friday, March 13. The weary travelers will spend Friday at home, resting and recuperating from their Exchange experiences.
The Montgomery County Health Department advises our Fifth Grade families to monitor the children throughout the weekend. MCHD follows the CDC’s directives which note that, unless an individual had direct contact with someone with a confirmed positive or presumptive positive case of COVID-19, there is no need for isolation or self-quarantine at this time. Fifth Grade parents have been informed that if a child starts to show symptoms such as a high fever, dry cough and shortness of breath, they should contact and visit a doctor. Sniffles or a runny nose are most likely related to cold or allergies (as Mexico is in full bloom). Fifth Grade students who are symptom free may return to campus on Monday, March 16 to resume classes.
- Cleaning Learning Spaces
Our cleaning services are contracted with Compass Service Group. The crew who works to maintain the cleanliness of our learning and working spaces has been directed to intensify their cleaning and disinfecting practices, paying special attention to all table & desk surfaces, doorknobs, entry panels, and water fountains. The cleaning team will use a medical grade disinfectant. Each classroom has a supply of tissues and disinfectant wipes. Hand sanitizer is available; and we encourage the students to wash their hands with soap.
- Steps for Health & Hygiene
- Students who are sick need to stay at home.
- Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds (one verse of Happy Birthday to You), especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
- All PMFS students are encouraged to bring a refillable water bottle to school. Students can fill their water bottles at water fountains; however, they will not drink directly from the water fountain.
- Paper cups will be available for student & faculty use as necessary.
- “Elbow bumps” will replace handshakes and high-fives.
- Limit touching the face, mouth and nose with bare hands.
- Community members will be reminded to cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue. If a tissue is not in hand, cough or sneeze into the elbow or upper sleeve, not into hands.
- We will engage students in ongoing age-appropriate conversations about hygiene/cleanliness to sustain good health for all community members.
- Families are welcome to send in additional hand sanitizer and tissues with their children.
- Family Trips & Spring Break Travel
The upcoming spring break is a time when many PMFS families and employees have travel plans. We strongly recommend that families consider not making trips outside of the United States for spring break, and/or to areas with a CDC Level 2 or Level 3 travel advisory related to COVID-19. Before deciding to travel, please consult the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the US State Department for the most recent health status of your destination. Families and faculty who travel to a country designated as a Level 2 or Level 3 risk by the CDC must:
- Inform PMFS of your travel itinerary upon your return.
- Self-monitor at home for 14 days before returning to campus after returning to the US; or self-monitor at home for 14 days after flu-like symptoms (cough, fever, etc.) in the household have subsided.
- If symptoms develop during the 14-day monitoring period, call/visit your primary care physician’s office or contact your local health department and share details of your recent travel and symptoms to determine if further medical care is needed.
If you are travelling domestically, please keep apprised of areas in the US which have been designated as higher risk destinations because of concentrated occurrences of COVID-19. The above self-monitoring steps also apply to travelers who visit those locations.
During our faculty meeting this week, we discussed options for providing educational programming in the event of school closure due to coronavirus. Because of the wide developmental range of our students, we want to offer families meaningful, age-appropriate support for their children, should the need arise to keep them at home.
Please expect continued communication and updates in the days leading up to spring break. By working in partnership, we will strive to keep our PMFS community members safe. I appreciate your flexibility and support during this ever-evolving situation.
Brenda C. Crawley
Head of School