June 21, 2020
Dear City of Lakes Waldorf School Community,
I hope that you and your children are enjoying the longest days of summer. In a time when many are experiencing a broad range of emotions and we are all facing so many unknowns, I hope that you are finding some happiness and inner calm in the simple joys of the earth such as fresh foods, nature walks and thunderstorms, as well as a good book, your favorite music and connecting with close friends and family. These times demand deep reflection, radical understanding, profound kindness and altruistic action. In order to do the necessary work ahead, we must take care of ourselves and one another.
While this communication focuses on our Return to School planning in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic, I want to acknowledge that we are also forming a response and action plan in relation to the equally urgent and more entrenched pandemic of systemic racism. It is imperative that we continue, with increased effectiveness and efficiency, to advance strategies, plans, and initiatives to work towards racial justice and educational equity for our children, families, and communities. Our Board and College led by our newly renamed Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee are working on a unified statement, response and action plan which will also be shared with you in the weeks and months ahead.
In preparation for the 2020-21 school year, we have entered a season of summer planning unparalleled by the work of any previous summer! In this letter, we will repeat several key messages, provide an overview of the work we are doing and a timeline for important communications. Please note that we are considering an early start of the school year on Wednesday, August 26 (rather than Wednesday, September 9) to potentially maximize in-person schooling. More information about our back-to-school timeline is included below.
As we have stated previously, our top priorities are the health and safety of our students and school employees; to retain our students, families, teachers and staff; and to maintain our commitment to provide a rich Waldorf educational experience for our students as we collectively weather this unordinary time. In addition, we must ensure the future and protect the long term financial health of City of Lakes Waldorf School, and make decisions that reflect our mission and embody the shared values of our school community.
In order to support our students and families, we provided additional financial assistance this spring to families whose income was negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. In an effort to retain all of our families in the 2020-21 school year, we have offered additional tuition assistance to many families who reported ongoing COVID-19 related financial hardship as a part of their tuition assistance application. We have renamed our Annual Fund as our Resiliency Fund and redirected financial gifts towards the support of current school families. We continue to welcome any family undergoing financial hardship to reach out to us by contacting the Tuition Assistance Committee at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In acknowledgement of the fact that many families are uncertain of how their finances will look in the fall, we have extended the deadline for withdrawal without financial penalty from June 1 to August 1. While we may extend forgiveness through the first day of school, we urge all families to inform us of their intentions by August 1 so that we have sufficient time to finalize our budget, confirm staffing and prepare for the opening day of school.
The School Year Ahead
On Thursday, Governor Walz and the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) provided an update on state guidance for the 2020-21 school year. As expected, the MDE document outlines three scenarios that parallel our current planning efforts for low, medium and high risk levels related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Scenario 1: In-person learning for all students
Scenario 2: Hybrid learning with strict social distancing and capacity limits
Scenario 3: Distance learning only
In partnership with the Minnesota Department of Health and the Governor’s Office, the Minnesota Department of Education plans to announce a decision for which model of educational delivery will be in the best interest of the health and safety of students, school staff and school communities for the 2020-21 school year by the week of July 27, 2020.
Our Return to School Task Force
As communicated in May, we have formed a Return to School Task Force to oversee all of the work that must be completed prior to the start of the next school year. Serving on the Return to School Task Force are: Marti Stewart, Administrative Director; Marcee Hansen, Faculty Chair; Soni Albright, Admissions Director; Nancy Lyons, Board Chair; Scott Ackman, Treasurer; and Melissa Wright, Parent Association Co-Chair. The work of the Task Force is being carried out by five Working Groups with a focus on: 1) Health and Safety, 2) Curriculum and Teaching, 3) Finance/Legal/Human Resources, 4) Facilities/School Operations and 5) Communications and includes more than twenty teachers, administrative staff, board members and school parents.
So far, the Return to School Task Force has been working to define key tasks and questions, research emerging guidelines and recommendations, and articulate principles and parameters for decision-making. We are prioritizing the work of the Curriculum and Teaching Working Groups to clearly define our three primary learning models (in-person, hybrid, and distance learning) that will correlate to the three levels of health risk due to COVID-19: low, medium and high. Our goal is to communicate our educational plans for the 2020-21 school year to our teachers, staff and families as soon as possible while continuing to develop more detailed scheduling, staffing, and health and safety plans in order to successfully deliver our curriculum across the spectrum of age groups and subjects.
City of Lakes Waldorf School will adhere to the health requirements and recommendations in MDH 2020-21 Planning Guidance for Schools and will consult MDE 2020-21 Planning Guidance for Minnesota Public Schools as an additional resource as we continue to develop plans for our two campuses.
Governance, Guiding Principles and Decision-making
Our Board of Trustees and College of Teachers are the two primary governing and decision-making bodies of City of Lakes Waldorf School and have formed the Return to School Task Force (RSTF) to carry out the planning work for the 2020-21 school year. The RSTF, along with the five Working Groups are responsible for developing plans and recommendations based on research, available resources from AWSNA, ISACS, NAIS, NBOA, and guidance and recommendations from the CDC, WHO, MDH, MDE. All plans and recommendations will be shared with the College of Teachers and Board of Trustees, as appropriate to their sphere of governance, and will require approval when plans have significant implications to the pedagogy, policies, health and safety of students and staff, and/or the legal and financial life of CLWS.
The College of Teachers and Board of Trustees, in partnership with the Return to School Task Force, have identified a set of Guiding Principles for decision-making:
- Act with intention and faithfulness to the CLWS mission, and to the core values and principles of Waldorf Education as articulated by the AWSNA Principles for Waldorf Schools.
- Prioritize student, faculty, and staff health, safety, and well-being over other principles.
- Ensure hygiene and health-related policies are research-based, defined as best practices from guiding institutions (CDC, WHO, MDH, MDE, DHS) clearly communicated, effectively implemented, and diligently enforced.
- Promote practices and policies to reduce risk of virus transmission and support our capacity to be responsive and agile when facing changing health circumstances.
- Prefer in-person over remote learning whenever it is safe to do so.
- Consider the financial health and stability of the future of CLWS, and create a financial plan that includes long-term and short-term strategies.
Timeline of Communication and Activity
The timeline reflects Plan A and Plan B for the start of the coming school year. If we are able to begin the school year with in-person learning, our start date will be Wednesday, August 26. Starting the school year two weeks ahead of schedule will maximize in-person learning and allow greater flexibility for No School days during the school year to support anticipated transitions between learning models. Please mark your calendars to plan for a possible early start date.
|Monday, June 22||Parent Survey|
|Friday, June 26||Early Childhood Program Plan Overview Communication|
|Friday, July 17||Grades Program Plan Overview Communication|
|Late July (TBD)||Virtual All School Meeting|
|Wednesday, August 26||Plan A: First Day of School for the Grades|
|Thursday, August 27||Plan A: First Day of School for Preschool and Kindergarten|
|Wednesday, September 9||Plan B: First Day of School for the Grades|
|Thursday, September 10||Plan B: First Day of School for Preschool and Kindergarten|
Please plan to complete the Parent Survey next week; your input will play an important role in informing critical decisions in the next two months. We will continue to be in communication with you according to this schedule and throughout the upcoming weeks to keep you informed about the extraordinary year ahead.
Thank you for being a part of this incredible school community. We are so grateful for the many gifts each of you bring to our shared work on behalf of the young human beings we serve – who will live lives of meaning and purpose.
Marti Stewart, Administrative Director