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The Bridge 4.0

Monday September 14, 2020 Hello community! I sit typing this version of The Bridge underneath a tree. Across is a group of socially distanced students & staff arguing about the merits of bananas, Batman, and Ironman, over our lunchtime break. We are tired, hot and so excited to see this vision come to fruition: outdoor school at our new home shared with The Shambhala Center in the Highland Park neighborhood of Pittsburgh. This first week has brought with it adjustment: learning the sun's patterns so we can migrate to shade; hydrating appropriately; appreciating ants crawling over our feet; finding the best way to speak with volume over lawn mowers and air conditioners. While this is not part of our stated curriculum, it quietly puts into practice the broader ethos we hold for the school, to decenter what learning looks like, where it can occur, and become attuned to the Earth as a whole. Welcome to our 2020-2021 school year! Internship dreams have been explored, advisor groups have been created (with a slight competitive edge: a kindness competition), and the time capsule for 2020 has been opened (to be sealed on Monday). We had virtual ball tosses at our morning and closing circles, a coffee cup "mugging" ceremony (wherein each student received their own mug for the duration of the year), cooked a meal over the fire with Fitzhugh Shaw while talking about community through food, and our first meditation with Adam Lobel. Human Centered Design stays central to our mission, as we asked students to identify and ideate their learning environment and what shifts we can make this year. Other classes we've begun include Utopia in Literature & History, Stories of Culture, and Interdependence: Sustainable Cities. Students also met for their language and math placement and we are hurriedly collaborating with other schools to meet the overwhelming student desire to learn ASL. This year's group is amazing. We've also used a lot of hand sanitizer. News & Events: If you are a long-term community member, you may notice a tonal shift in the newsletter and social media. As the new Director of Community Engagement I'll be updating you monthly on our happenings, student work and community events. Never to fear! Randy will have an impermeable spot in The Bridge; I'll just be lightening his load as Head of School (Piano Mover, Curriculum Designer, Head of Fundraiser, Boat School Captain, etc). In addition I'll be serving as our quarantine contact. Please direct all questions, concerns or other COVID-related discussions (such as when to return to school, alerting us of positive symptoms, etc.) to jess@cityofbridgeshighschool.org or 732.687.6092. I have attached our guidelines and community agreements, for any who might have missed the All Community Meeting or earlier email. Stay tuned for an email announcing the date of our Family/Community meeting! We decided to shift back a week to get our bearings a little more. As we adjust to outdoor school we have a few asks of our community: If anyone can help us move a few last things out of our old space we would greatly appreciate the help. We need to be out by the 30th and are getting close! Do you have an outdoor (weatherproof) speaker, a nice megaphone, a mic, or a tent sitting around, collecting dust? We would love to borrow those for the time being as we trial different methods of outdoor school! A note from Randy: The Bridge was one of the first ways City of Bridges began to stretch its wings. The first issue was sent out in the late summer of 2017 before we had a building, before we had any educators and most importantly, before we had any students. The start to this school year was not what we expected, but this school and this community was designed to deal with the unexpected, to find solutions to problems and help young people to chart their paths in life. It seems to me that fostering a learning community in these challenging times is in many ways an ideal opportunity for high school age people to explore a problem and strive to design solutions. I want to personally thank the returning students for being so welcoming this week and I want to thank the new students for being so amazing. Thank you also to all of the parents, supporters and community members who have helped this school thrive. (And of course Justin and Jess for being there every day to make the magic happen.) I am so excited about this school year and for all the learning and laughter that will surround this community. Thank you and be well, Jess, Randy & Justin

Envisioning the Fall...as of the End of July

Hello! 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. Be Well, Randy

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