Announcement from Head of School, 6/8

Dear Palm Valley Community,

Please forgive the length of this communication as there is much to cover. I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge the recent chain of events in our country that has led to widespread, global demonstrations surrounding racism and its influence in our society. As an independent school, it is our responsibility to lean into these challenging societal topics on an age appropriate basis. In fact, one of our core values as a school is being a diverse population. More than that, we are obliged to consider the plight of all people who are marginalized and treated without respect or dignity. It is my hope that the events of the past few days will be a catalyst for societal change and that we, as a school, make the ideals of inclusion and empathy a lens through which we view all others - especially those that look or act differently than we do. 

I would like to take one last opportunity to thank the administrators and teachers who so deftly navigated the past three months. The situation was not ideal for anyone. However, their love for their students and skill as educators helped us to journey through a very challenging time in our school and nation’s history.

As promised in an earlier communication, I want to provide greater detail to our plans for the Fall of 2020 and the reopening of our school. We are more confident than ever about the opening of our school on August 26th. Last week, with advantageous timing, the California Department of Public Health gave written guidelines to schools to help assist them with planning for a physical opening of school campuses. We have thoroughly read all guidelines and our plans align with or in some cases exceed all recommendations. In addition, I carefully walked our campus and reviewed the physical characteristics of each and every building on our campus to evaluate our new protocols and guidelines. I was pleased to discover that the configuration of our classrooms and the wealth of open space that we enjoy position us well for the opening of our school in August under those health guidelines. While it is impossible to convey all of our policies in this communication, I have highlighted a few specifics below. We have also staged several classrooms, by division, for you to view in person, should you prefer to do so. Each division will publish their new policies and regulations in light of the Department of Public Health as part of their handbook revisions. That will be available to you in early August. However, feel free to contact the respective Divisional Head should you have any questions or concerns beforehand. Please keep in mind that these are interim guidelines and policies given the information that is available at this time.

While we will be implementing divisional procedures that are age appropriate and ‘building specific’, the following are Schoolwide Guidelines:

  • Teach and reinforce use of cloth face coverings, masks, or face shields for K - 12 students and all adults
  • Suspending use of drinking fountains - with the exception of the touchless water dispensers for water bottles
  • Intensified cleaning, disinfection, and ventilation procedures
  • Implementation of appropriate distancing both inside and outside of classrooms and offices
  • Severely limit the sharing of materials and supplies
  • Enhanced training and education for the entire school community
  • Staggered drop off and pick up times at different locations to avoid congestion:
    • K - 2nd:  8 - 3
    • 3rd - 5th: 8:20 - 3:20
    • MS/US: 8:50 - 3:50
  • Regular and systematic screenings for temperature and symptomatology
  • Regular and situational hand washing during the school day
  • Limited and reduced nonessential vendors and parent visitors on campus
  • Utilization of outdoor space for classroom transitions
  • Designated exit and entry routes to maximize both ventilation and social distances
  • Remaining in student cohorts throughout the day when practical

We have created “staged classrooms” at each division to be able to get a clearer vision of these procedures in place. I would like to encourage anyone interested in touring these classrooms to contact Abby Sturgeon at asturgeon@pvs.org to schedule a classroom walkthrough.

We are still awaiting additional guidelines for our sports programs and after school activities, but am confident that they will be forthcoming soon, as well.

As I have shared in the past, it is also very important that we offer an alternative online option as well as a physical school experience. I am excited to report that we have decided to implement a Hyflex model of instructional delivery in grades 2 - 12 for those families desiring to remain socially distant for a longer period of time. The Hyflex model or (High Tech-High Touch Model) involves the teacher delivering instruction in-person and online synchronously (at the same time). This has been more commonly implemented at the collegiate level. Our plan is to install technology in grade 2 - 12 classrooms to make this daily instruction possible. We recognize that this is a new pedagogy and we anticipate that you may have questions. I have included some links below to help you further understand the Hyflex Model of instruction:

https://www.insidehighered.com/blogs/learning-innovation/fall-scenario-13-hyflex-model

https://www.teachthought.com/learning/what-you-should-know-about-hyflex-blended-learning/

In addition, there will be regular ‘office hours’ inserted into the school day for the teacher to meet virtually with students who opt for this method of instruction for additional support. While we still have some details to work out regarding its implementation, we look forward to offering this option to our families.

As a reminder, if you have yet to send in your enrollment contract for next year, I would like to encourage you to do so. We use our enrollment data to inform and shape staffing and program needs for next year.

Thank you for taking the time to read through this lengthy communication. I am so appreciative of the many of you who have taken the time to connect with me on the phone or meet with me in person. Your perspectives have been invaluable to me as I begin my tenure. As always, I remain available to connect via email (ssherman@pvs.org), phone or if you’d like, feel free to schedule a “socially distanced” meeting by contacting Sarai Jimenez (sjimenez@pvs.org).

Warmly,

Dr. Steven Sherman
Head of School