I know that it is rather cliché at this point, but this summer has not been like any other summer that I have experienced. As July draws to an end, uncertainty continues to be the most apt description of the world of education and schooling, in this region and across the country. Here in southwestern Pennsylvania, school districts are sharing their return to school plans as the infection rates, as of this letter, remain steady after rising in a second wave earlier in the summer.
Today, I am writing to share our values and plans, as they currently stand. Our values will not change and our plans will always be informed by them. It is our hope that due to our small size, agility and flexibility we will be able to enact our current models for learning this fall, and we will continue to work with those assumptions in place. First and foremost, here is what we value:
1. We believe that school in the 2020-2021 school year will change, shift and at times be uncertain and we believe that our agility will help us to ride the rapids of change.
2. We believe that the safety of our students, staff, families, and community is essential to being a humane organization and we believe that our planning and small size will enable us to be as safe as is possible.
3. We believe that learning is joyful, interconnected, and relational and we believe that learning experiences should be all of these things regardless of format.
4. We believe face-to-face learning carries specific benefits that are important to a student's education experience and We believe that striving to maximize face to face time is a cornerstone of our work.
5. We believe that each person and family will have different needs and we believe it is our responsibility as a caring community to meet the needs of all of our community members.
City of Bridges is a mission and values-driven community and we exist to be flexible, responsive, and personalized in our approach. We must always be ready to reflect on our practice and adjust in order to ensure that we are being true to our values. Considering the current circumstances here are the plans as of the end of July.
The first day of school will be on Tuesday, September 8th.
As many of you know, City of Bridges made the decision to relocate to the Highland Park neighborhood for the 2020-2021 school year. We are moving into a space that allows us to spend the majority of the fall outside while also having ample well-ventilated indoor space. This space allows us to maintain our programming while being able to enact our COVID-19 safety plan. We continue to enact safety systems (temperature checks, cleaning protocols, bathroom procedures, etc.) and will continue to do so in response to shifts and changes in recommendations from the CDC, Pennsylvania Department of Education, and the Allegheny County Health Department.
As a result of our space, our small size, and our dedicated staff and community it is our intention to return to school physically on the 8th of September. We are enacting the following procedures as elements of our COVID-19 plan in order to stay in alignment with our values.
1. The majority of our school day will be outside and students and staff will be physically distant from each other at all times.
2. When indoors, all students and staff will wear masks and rigid physical distance and cleaning protocols will be followed.
3. All students and staff will have a wellness check (temperature and symptoms) upon arrival each day.
4. Enrollment will be capped at 25 total students for the 2020-2021 school year.
5. Students will be on campus Monday-Thursday. Fridays will be reserved for project work, internships and independent studies.
In addition to these measures, we have also devised a hybrid model and a virtual model for any families or students who would prefer those options. These models will also allow us to shift more seamlessly to a virtual format if necessary at any point in the school year.
We are also making some subtle but important changes to our curriculum to meet each student’s needs. We have shifted the calendar to have three trimesters divided into two sections each. This will result in more time for each block, project, or experience so that we can adjust to changing circumstances with a minimum of lost learning time.
This summer has also given us the opportunity to create a database of our competencies, which will be ready by the start of school. This database will enable students to demonstrate their learning in many different ways, including but not limited to, a class, a project, an independent study, an internship, or other learning experiences. Regardless of the current circumstances, students will be able to gain knowledge, skills, and understanding and demonstrate their learning.
I am so grateful and honored to be a part of this community. I know that the water is still murky and likely will be even after the school year begins, but if we continue to live our values and treat each other with the respect and love that are the foundation of this community, I am confident that we will navigate these waters with grace.
As always, thank you for your support and your inspiration.