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Return to School Updates

HEALTH AND SAFETY 

Our priority is the health and safety of our community - students, faculty, and staff. We have designed comprehensive health and safety protocols informed by national, state, and local guidelines, medical advice, and best practices in an effort to minimize the risk of COVID-19. These protocols and measures will continue to be refined until the start of school and we will update you on or before August 14 with additional details. 

MKA plans to start the year in a hybrid mode of in-person and at-home learning every-other-day for students in grades 1-12 and everyday, in-person learning for students in grades Pre-K & K. This plan will allow us to stringently maintain the physical distancing recommendations from the CDC and the State of New Jersey.

With this thoughtful and careful plan, we hope to increase the frequency of in-person schooling over time, while maintaining the health and safety of our community. To do this MKA will assess transmission rates and our community’s adherence to our protocols within the first few weeks of school. If trends remain positive, we will begin to bring more students back into our buildings. More information on this phased approach to returning more students to school, together with the possible timeline, will be included in the August 14 communication.
 

Anticipating the School Year Ahead

It is important to note that until there is a viable treatment option, MKA will not be an environment completely free of risk. Because of this, MKA is offering families the option of beginning the school year in a fully remote mode. If you are considering attending school in remote mode, please reach out to your Head of Campus so that they can discuss your situation and begin planning for this. We ask that families considering this option contact us before August 15.

MKA will be requiring all families and employees to observe the state-mandated quarantine periods from other states and hot spots before the start of school, which means that if a family is travelling from a state on the quarantine list, they need to be in their home no later than August 25 in order to adhere to the quarantine measures in place by the State of New Jersey and begin school in person.

The school is presently evaluating the use of COVID-19 testing for employees and possibly students prior to the start of the school.

We are strongly recommending that all employees and students receive the flu vaccine this year.
 


Arrival & Dismissal

Restricted Visitors on Campus
To begin the year, MKA will have a strict “no visitor” policy on our campuses, including parents. The only exception to this policy will be Primary School orientation days and contracted workers, and they will adhere to all state and local guidelines for entry into school. Parents will be allowed on campus for pick up and drop off at designated locations and entrances while maintaining appropriate physical distancing.

School Times
School will start and end at the same time as in prior years. Student entry into the buildings will either be staggered by cohort or separated by doorway, and you will receive more details about both arrival and dismissal as we get closer to the start of school.

Screening
We are implementing protocols for the health screening of students, faculty, and staff before their arrival at school. These protocols will include a daily health screening questionnaire to be submitted by 7:30 a.m. each morning, reporting requirements to the Nurse’s Office, and a daily temperature check on arrival. Additional temperatures will be taken at random times throughout the day by MKA staff, with the aim that a second temperature check is administered to each student at another point in the day. 

Students and employees who have a fever, report coronavirus symptoms, or have potentially been exposed must stay home and will be required to contact the Nurse’s Office for further assessment. Students and employees who exhibit symptoms during the day will be isolated and follow the protocol for handling suspected COVID-19 transmission that the school has established.
 

Hygiene, Cleaning, Disinfection, and Ventilation

Hygiene
All community members will be encouraged to wash their hands several times a day. Touchless soap stations and, where possible, touchless faucets have been installed. Hand sanitizer stations will be set up throughout all three campuses. Signage will be deployed on all campuses to reinforce good hygiene.

Intensifying cleaning and disinfection
Intensified cleaning, sanitizing, and disinfection procedures have been implemented for all our classrooms, public spaces, and high-touch surfaces. All high-touch surfaces and public spaces will be cleaned throughout the day, and all spaces will be cleaned every night. Desks, chairs, and any equipment in classrooms used by different classes will be cleaned in between student groups. Additional daycleaning staff on all three campuses and the redeployment of MKA facilities staff will support disinfection practices throughout the day. Sanitizing will include the use of electrostatic sprayers and all cleaning practices and products used will strictly follow CDC/EPA guidelines and policies.

Ventilation
All rooms that are being used as classrooms either have windows or central HVAC with an air handler that provides ventilation. Following CDC guidance, doors and windows will be kept open to increase outdoor air wherever possible. In addition the school is working with a certified HVAC contractor to:

  • Install MERV 13 filters in all of our air handlers
  • Upgrade the filters in our split unit air conditioning units
  • Install additional ventilation and filtration systems where required
  • Install additional stand alone air purification systems with appropriate filtration where required.

 

Health and Safety Initiatives

Masks and PPE
Anyone on campus will be required to wear a cloth mask (without vents) at all times when on campus and in the presence of others. Appropriate exceptions will be made for eating, medical conditions, and athletics or strenuous activity. Face shields will be offered to faculty for their use but are not required.

Physical Distancing
MKA will create physical distancing on our campuses in a number of ways:

  • Classroom desks will be spaced six feet apart with classroom spaces set up for about half the density.
  • There will be no large gatherings on our campuses. Larger gatherings will be held via remote meetings or webinars.
  • Plexiglass dividers will be used in classrooms and offices to provide additional barriers.
  • Furniture in common areas has been rearranged to encourage physical distancing, reduced capacity where needed, and in some instances provide additional study areas which are appropriately spaced.
  • MKA will provide protected outdoor space by installing tents around the campuses for developmentally appropriate.
  • Where possible, visual aids like directional arrows, tape, stickers, and decals will be used to illustrate traffic flow and appropriate spacing. Increased signage at eye level will be deployed to help aid physical distancing.

In addition to physical distancing, cohorts will be established in the following ways:

  • Pre-K and K will be organized in classroom cohorts [of half the class in a cohort] and will remain in their classroom during the day, with encore teachers coming to their classroom.
  • In Grades 1-5, students will be organized in classroom cohorts but will travel to art and science classrooms (which will be cleaned and sanitized between classes).
  • In Grades 6-8, students will be scheduled as in prior years, but the grades will not commingle.
  • In Grades 9-12, students will be scheduled as in prior years.

Materials
Every effort will be made to eliminate the sharing of supplies and materials. The school has developed protocols for the handling of paper, books, and other materials. Supplies and materials that cannot be designated for single student use must be cleaned and sanitized between uses.
 

Co-Curricular Activities, Arts, and Athletics

We believe in the value of all of these programs for our students, and it is our intention to offer these activities, with modifications that address the health and safety of our community. Details about these changes will be available closer to the beginning of school.

 

Physical Education
Physical education classes will continue to be offered and will take place outside, while the weather allows, and inside, maintaining physical distance, as an alternative.

Athletics
The state’s interscholastic athletic association (NJSIAA) has a return-to-play protocol for fall athletics. The fall season start date has been pushed to September 14, with no games to be played prior to October 1. All students, provided they are healthy, will be permitted to attend practice each day, whether they are in school or not. Middle School sports are still in a review planning stage and further updates will be provided as we get closer to the return to school. 

Field Trips
Day and overnight field trips have been postponed through December 2020.    

Global Experience Trips
We are placing a pause on planning school-sponsored international travel for the upcoming year. We strongly value our Global Experience program but must prioritize the health and safety of our students and the trip chaperones. We will be developing new programming opportunities and ways to develop our students’ global competence and experiential skills.

Busing

We are working with our busing sub-contractor to develop routes for the upcoming school year. The following measures will be in effect:

  • The bus drivers and students will be required to wear masks on buses at all times.
  • Students will be physically distanced and only students from the same household will be allowed to sit together, and buses will be cleaned and sanitized daily and after each route.
  • There will be assigned seating and protocols for loading and unloading the bus to ensure physical distancing is maintained.
  • Windows and roof hatches will be opened to increase ventilation.

Dining Services

We are pleased to announce lunch will be available at the start of the school year. Dining services will be provided by our new food service provider, Cuilinart. Lunches will be boxed and available to pick up or delivered to classrooms. Lunch meals will be pre-ordered each week, individually packaged and labelled in disposable containers. Primary School parents will be able to sign up for the meal plan in late August. In Middle and Upper School, the school will continue to operate a la carte dining.
 

Extended Day 

MKA intends to provide an extended day program for families requiring this service. Extended Day for Pre-K to Grade 3 will be provided on the Primary School Campus. Children will no longer be bussed to Middle School but will remain on the Primary School campus. Extended Day for children in Grades 4 and 5 will be provided at the Middle School. More details about this program will be provided in August.

 

PROGRAM

Each June, after students leave for summer break, MKA transforms into a mini teachers’ college where our faculty explore new ways they can use technology tools to foster learning and engage with new approaches to Integrated Ethics and instructional best practices.  Adjustment and adaptation of both curriculum and instruction are a continuous focus. This summer, we are doing all of that and more, with faculty members engaged even more persistently and deeply in professional and curriculum development work. MKA has granted each full-time faculty member up to 8 days of summer funding to use lessons learned from remote school this spring, their own professional research, and summer professional development participation to refine or redesign their plans for teaching and learning this Fall.

In addition to their participation in webinars outside of MKA, 152 faculty and administrators have been participating in MKA’s home-grown, online workshops this summer. Our 29 different offerings, facilitated by MKA colleagues and delivered in 60 different sessions, have specifically addressed MKA teachers’ needs in planning forward for hybrid (and potentially remote) learning. Topics have included focus on:

  • Building relationships with students to support robust social-emotional and academic learning,
  • Ensuring that students see a purpose in their learning,
  • Honing teaching approaches from lesson design to assessment and feedback processes in hybrid/remote learning, and  
  • Honoring cultural identities and anti-racism.

PS teachers have been involved in additional workshops, such as those exploring online math and leveled reading resources, as well as learning about new feature updates and a new student log-in process in Seesaw. This professional development aims to support faculty in ultimately teaching students how to gradually grow more independent in accessing learning resources and viewing feedback on their work.

In addition, both asynchronously and synchronously, teachers are training to most effectively use Veracross, a new School Information System that will replace Moodle and offer students more convenient, one-stop access to their daily schedules and assignments.

While the efforts outlined above will ensure that the faculty, as a whole, is creatively and energetically ready to fulfill MKA's commitment to everyone learning every day, individuals and small groups of faculty members are also engaged in the kind of detailed curricular design that endures, even during challenging times. This summer's projects include, for example:

  • Developing new courses, from a college-level Linear Algebra course to Jazz Choir
  • Adding new lenses of inquiry through:
    • New units of study on the implications of COVID-19 in Economics classes and Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You in English classes, and
    • A new framework for AP English Language and Composition that will include more intentional exploration of race and antiracism. 
       

TECHNOLOGY 

This year we are implementing a new School Information System, Veracross. We chose to go with Veracross for a number of reasons—one of the main reasons was to create a single hub for students, faculty, parents, and guardians.

Within Veracross you can see your student’s report cards and comments, complete re-enrollment, search school directories, and view the MKA calendar. Families will have the ability to update their information directly within the system, and students and faculty will have access to a fully integrated Learning Management System.

At the moment you do not have to do anything but be on the lookout for more information!

Do you have other questions? If so, please email responseteam@mka.org.
View complete newsletter from July 31