Dear CCS families—
I am back from my parental leave, and I have missed you all so much! I know this has been a super inconvenient time for the director of a school to be on parental leave—I am so grateful to all of your support. Baby Noah is adorable, and Henry, Amelia, and I are all doing well 🙂
I want to give a huge thank you to Naima, who stepped into far more than she bargained for when she initially agreed to be interim director, approximately seventy five thousand years ago. But of course, the thoughtfulness and care with which she’s addressed the needs of the school in the last month are exactly why the board and I were so eager for her to be in the director’s chair in the first place. Thank you, Naima. Speaking of which—I am so pleased to let you know that Naima has agreed to stay on as interim co-director of CCS for the rest of the school year. With so much going on right now, the school and I will very much benefit from her continued leadership and support. Naima is going to take a well-deserved week off this week. Starting next week, she and I will share the role of director, while still staying involved with the Redbud team and families.
As you probably heard last week, CCS has received a loan from the Payroll Protection Program! This is huge news for us—along with the donations many of you have made (thank you!!!), this gives us the stability to commit to paying staff through the end of their contracts for this year. We’re also able to guarantee that we’ll continue offering the online programming and community we’ve built through at least the end of June, and perhaps through the summer. So much of our thinking to this point has necessarily been week-to-week—the PPP gives us the opportunity to start thinking a few months ahead. As we start planning what the summer and fall may look like, there will be opportunities for families to get involved; look for information next week.
Someone said to me the other day, “What we are being tasked with right now is to hold so much uncertainty.” I know so many of us are feeling overwhelmed, stressed, confused, stressed, exhausted… did I say stressed yet? This is not something any of us are or could possibly be prepared for—and yet here we are. But as I look at everything going on at CCS right now (I’m catching up on a lot of reading), I’m put in mind of our mission: “The mission of the Children’s Community School is to create a collaborative community of young children, families, and educators that honors and empowers children to be active agents in their learning and lives.” Well, I’ll be darned if, in the most trying of circumstance, y’all haven’t been doing exactly that. I’m so glad to be back with you, and I’ll talk to you soon.
Dear CCS Families,
As many of you have likely heard, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf announced today that all K-12 schools will remain closed for the rest of the current academic year. While CCS is not a public school, we have historically followed the lead of public schools in regards to closures. CCS continues to remain closed under the state’s March 19th order to ‘non-essential businesses’ – a directive we expect will be extended beyond the current April 30th deadline. Together with our Board of Directors and administrative staff, I will continue working hard to monitor developing information, and examining ways to sustain the school until closure orders are lifted.
Governor Wolf’s press release also calls upon schools to “provide continuity of education for all students in the most appropriate and accessible ways possible. As such, we are still exploring how to best provide continuity in education through our online programming, particularly given the American Academy of Pediatrics’ recommendation of only one hour of adult-facilitated screen time per day for preschools, and the fact that online learning is not something they generally recommend.
I mention this not to shame or discourage anyone for whom screen time may be their saving grace in order to keep their child occupied for certain moments of the day, or to suggest that watching short videos of teachers or participating in Zoom meetings is detrimental to your child’s development. Rather, we are doing our best to make sure that our approach to connecting with students is as developmentally-appropriate as possible under our present circumstances.
Thanks, all. As always, please forward any questions or concerns to myself or to Stephanie.
Dear CCS families—
We are at the end of the second week of the closure. How are you? How is your health? How is your heart? I hope that, along with the obvious and perhaps overwhelming stresses of this time, you are also finding opportunities to slow down, to focus on fewer things, to stay connected to each other, perhaps in new ways. Last week the poet Lynn Ungar wrote something that I’ve kept coming back to; I’ve attached it to the end of this email for you. It certainly isn’t the whole picture, but it gave me some hope.
I’m writing with some updates.
First of all, you may have heard that Governor Wolf has mandated that all schools be closed through at least April 6. Personally, my read of the news and what public health experts are saying is that we can expect to be closed through at least early May if not longer, but of course none of us know right now. When the schools do reopen, the governor’s mandate includes a provision that staff will have two days back for planning and preparation before children return. When we have any kind of plausible date of reopening we will of course be in touch about logistics immediately.
Obviously there is a tremendous amount of uncertainty right now. Our board of directors has formed an Emergency Response committee to help plan for a wide range of possible timelines and scenarios, and is working with me to make plans to support the needs of children, families, and staff in every way we can, for as long as we can, while ensuring that the program will be ready to open again as smoothly as possible when the time comes. I want to particularly thank Dan Burke and Becca Zinn for helping to create financial models that have been incredibly useful in our decision-making so far.
I know how deeply you and your children care for the teachers, and I have been so grateful to those of you who have reached out in response to the work teachers are doing to keep children connected and learning during this disruption. I am pleased to say that CCS has committed to continuing to pay all staff through the month of April; we’ll be analyzing carefully to see if we can pay for longer than that, and closely following the news from the various levels of government about the possibilities of relief efforts for small business payrolls.
We know that some of you have questions about tuition payments during our closure. If your family is able, we ask that you please continue to make full or partial tuition payments during the time we’re closed. As of April 1, all incoming tuition payments for the 19-20 school year will be considered donations, which support our continued ability to sustain pay for our wonderful staff and keep the program ready to reopen when this crisis passes. We are doing as much as we can to reduce non-staff costs while we are closed—everything from contacting our landlord about possible reduced rent payments to unplugging the fridge—but pay and benefits for staff are 76% of our expenses every month. If your family’s income has not been substantially impacted by the coronavirus, please support our school community by continuing to make payments. We absolutely understand if you are not able to continue paying, and we want to assure you that no one is at risk of losing their seat this school year for lack of ability to pay. All families will continue to be fully included in their classroom and CCS online community, regardless of payments while we are closed.
The more we know about folks’ ability and plans to pay, the more certainty we can give our staff and the better plans we can make. Please fill out this short survey to let us know, to the best of your ability, what you’ll be able to do. Please respond by next Wednesday, April 1, so that we can continue making thoughtful, responsible decisions for our teachers and the school. https://forms.gle/Txewgd2xQbKr7fZk8
Speaking of surveys, there will be one more coming your way in the next few days. The teachers have been doing their best to send you and your children content and resources that will meet your needs, but this is unmapped territory—none of our teachers have taught online before, preschools generally don’t operate online at all, and of course the entire world is new right now. As teachers continue working for your child and family, we want to make sure that their efforts are serving your needs. We’ll be sending out a survey about how their efforts so far are doing, and if there’s anything different you’d like to see.
Thank you all, for the ways that you are pulling together and supporting each other in this bizarre and frightening time. I am deeply, powerfully grateful to be a part of this community right now. We will get through this, together.
PS As of right now, we are not envisioning any of this impacting the 2020-21 school year. If anything is changing for you with regard to next fall or beyond, please notify Stephanie of any changes before July 1 in order to avoid early withdrawal fees or program change fees.
Dear CCS families—
I hope you are holding up in this profoundly disorienting time. You may have heard, yesterday Governor Wolf announced that most businesses, including early childhood centers like CCS, must close through at least Monday March 30 (one school-day beyond what CCS had already announced). Further guidance and directives, I’m sure, will be forthcoming soon. I am working with the board of directors to make plans for various possible lengths of closures—obviously there are a lot of unknowns right now, but we are doing our best to be prepared. I am also in touch with early childhood directors across Philadelphia, who are collaborating to make a map of how to weather this storm together. All of us operating on very thin financial margins in the best of times, and are constrained by a variety of regulations. I’ve said many times that early childhood education is the most collegial of any professional field; this is far from the first time that I’ve seen “competitors” sharing information and supporting each other in the most generous of ways.
Which is not dissimilar from what I’ve already seen from so many of you. So many of you have reached out to me, to Carrie, to your teachers—to ask for support, to offer support, to simply be connected. “Social distancing” feels to me like some sort of heavy-handed metaphorical lesson being handed down to us in a strange morality play, but the response of our community—to immediately reach out to connect in new ways—is a testament to the values of our school.
To that end—just a little later this morning I will be sending out info to join CCS’s new Slack channel (thanks to Amelia Green for getting it set up!). If you haven’t used Slack before (hey, I haven’t either!), there will be some tutorials coming your way—but don’t worry, it’s super user friendly. Basically it’s a set of chat rooms, for our community to communicate directly with each other. You can live chat with a group, and also read back through previous conversations. You can direct-message individuals as well. Carrie and I will be scheduling some live times, and anyone who wants to join us can talk about how we’re coping with this trying time, ask questions, share resources and suggestions. We’ll also create places to post ideas of activities to do with your children and other topics. You’re not in any way required to use Slack, but for connecting and discussing as a community it will be much more helpful than email.
To close out this email, a few social justice perspectives on what’s going on.
From Ellen Moscoe (parent of Thea in Juneberry): “The burden of this crisis will fall disproportionately on service sector workers, domestic workers, and those in caregiving professions, who tend to be women of color. I’ve been mentioning to anyone I know who has a nanny or regular housecleaner to please keep paying those people even if they don’t use the services for awhile.”
From Betsy Ogburn (parent of Simon in Redbud and Nina in Juneberry): “Our behavior affects the health of our most at-risk neighbors. Most of us at CCS (parents and kids) are unlikely to get severe symptoms no matter how bad the epidemic becomes. But because we are able to shrug off the risks to ourselves, if we don’t practice responsible social distancing we are more likely than others to be disease vectors. It’s our behavior that will largely determine how much risk others will face: older people, people with underlying health conditions, and anyone who needs to use the soon-to-be overwhelmed health system. In Italy right now there are not enough resources to adequately treat older people and people with underlying health conditions, and my understanding is that the probable main driver of the current crunch is the fact that young and healthy people did not move quickly enough to change their usual habits when the epidemic first took off ~2 weeks ago. (Not to put the blame on that demographic–it’s probably more accurate to say that the government didn’t move quickly enough to ensure social distancing.) This of course doesn’t answer the all-important question we’re all struggling with of how much we should change our behavior, but I think it can be helpful and motivating to sell any behavior and policy changes in terms of a duty to protect others rather than concern about our own health.”
Thanks, everyone, for staying so connected, and for doing everything you are doing already to care for yourself and those around you.
Dear CCS families—
We hope you are well, here in the early stages of what promises to be some uncertain and trying times. As you know, following the lead of the Philadelphia public schools, CCS will be closed through Friday March 27. I hesitate to make a prediction about what the weeks after that might entail, and I expect that lots of new information and recommendations will be coming our way before then. We know that the temporary closure is inevitably a burden on each of you, and we are very grateful for the understanding and solidarity many of you have communicated already.
Our foremost priority, during these two weeks and beyond, is to maximize the safety and physical and mental health of CCS children, families, and staff. Within that, we’d like to cultivate children’s ongoing learning and community connections, as well as support each of you in your needs as best we can. To that end, we’re making some plans for the coming weeks.
Starting by Tuesday of this week, you’ll be getting daily emails from your child’s teachers. Each day there will be a video of a teacher talking to your children, as well as reading a favorite book or telling a story. Teachers will also be recommending a few activities each day that you and your children can do at home, with the goal of continuing some of the learning that has been going on at school. Teachers will also be suggesting ways that your child can stay in touch with their classmates, even when we’re not all seeing each other face to face.
We’ll also be planning a few whole-school activities. Carrie will send a weekly “book club” video, continuing her ongoing practice from Forest Friends (as well as suggesting read-aloud tips for adults). And every Friday I’ll lead a “sing-along”—we won’t all be together, but we can all have the same songs in our hearts.
We’re also thinking about some programming and resources just for adults. We know that many of you will have lots of questions in this time—about how to manage children with way too much indoor time, or how to talk to children about what’s going on, or how to manage your own anxiety. Rather than try to email out tips about what we THINK you’re wondering, we’re going to try to set up some online chats, where we can talk (well type at) each other directly—Carrie and I can do our best to answer questions, and you all can share tips and resources directly with each other. We’ll probably be setting up a Slack channel for this (tutorial forthcoming—I’ve never used Slack either!), and setting some “live” times for chats. Stay tuned. In the meantime, if you’re looking for ways to cope with everything that’s going on, a good place to start is Care for your Coronavirus Anxiety, a website with a wide variety of resources and articles and tools for all the stress and uncertainty we’re facing.
In terms of what to do with your child at home all day, when you’ve still got the rest of your life to take care of… well, different solutions will work for different families, but we recommend that you create a daily “School at Home” schedule, similar to what we use at school. (Your teachers will be emailing on the schedules they use at school.) Write the schedules on a big piece of paper, and look at it together every day. Start the day with a family morning meeting, where you’ll talk about what the day will hold (and, ideally, sing a song or two). Have a designated snack time, and activity time, and (if at all possible) outside time. Read with your child, at least 20 minutes every day. If there’s more than one adult in the house, plan which parts of the day each of you will be in charge of child care, and which parts you can each get work and/or self-care done. But predictable schedules really, truly help. Most young children find predictable routines comforting and organizing. (For that matter, so do most adults.) It can also help to make a designated “peace corner” somewhere in your house—anyone who needs to calm down can take themselves there. (Hey, a great activity for your first day of School at Home would be to design the peace corner together, and decide what comfy cozy things should be in it.)
To the extent you can stand it, turn off the news and limit conversations about all the stressful stuff when your child is around. That’s not to say you should hide what’s going on, but rather that they are probably paying attention, even when you think they’re not, and trying to make sense of a lot of partial information, and their conclusions can lead to a lot of stress. Think carefully about the conversations you want to have with them.
Okay, that’s plenty of information for now. Coming your way in the next day or two: information about online chats, and some more social justice tips for these trying times.
Please, please take care of yourself, and take care of each other. If you need help, reach out to us. As Carrie often says, “You should never worry alone.” None of us are going to stop worrying right now, so let’s at least support each other.
Jarrod Green, Director
All District schools will be closed starting Monday, March 16, 2020 through Friday, March 27, 2020.
CCS does NOT have any suspected or confirmed cases of COVID-19 (coronavirus) in the school or office,
See below for recent communication to families:
Dear CCS Families—
I’m writing to give you some information about CCS’s response to COVID-19, the novel coronavirus. Thank you for your patience as we’ve gathered information and made plans. This is, of course, an emerging situation, and it’s likely that as new information becomes known we will need to continue making new plans. We will be in communication with you as frequently as we can. We are committed, first and foremost, to the health of CCS’s children, families, and staff.
There is a lot of information in this email; please read all of it.
COVID-19 is a new strain of coronavirus. There are many coronaviruses, ranging from harmless to quite severe. This particular virus can cause fever, dry cough, fatigue, and shortness of breath. The majority of infections cause mild symptoms, and in some cases no symptoms at all; in a small but significant minority of cases the symptoms can be severe and can lead to death, especially in older people or people who were already sick with something else. As of today, there is one presumed case of coronavirus in Philadelphia, with a few dozen confirmed cases in the region; there are well over 100,000 cases worldwide.
While there is some disagreement about this, most sources are reporting that children are unlikely to experience symptoms from coronavirus, but they may be carriers of the virus.
It is important to remember that while the coronavirus is getting lots of attention, the common cold and the flu are, at the moment, much more common. It’s March in preschool, so it is quite likely that your child will have a cough or runny nose, and even a fever, as a typical part of growing and being exposed to the world.
WHAT CCS DOES TO LIMIT THE SPREAD OF DISEASE IN GENERAL
We are being especially attentive to our normal policies and practices that limit the spread of infections at all times. These include:
Good hand-washing practices (making sure children wash hands before eating and after bathrooming; making sure staff wash hands before and after feeding children, before and after assisting with bathrooming, and after cleaning or working with garbage; making sure handwashing goes on for 20 seconds and follows all proper procedures; etc.)
Washing and disinfecting tables before and after each meal
Sanitizing all dishes after use
Sanitizing all toys that have been in children’s mouths or otherwise come into contact with bodily fluids
A variety of procedures around bathrooming and diapering (e.g., teachers wearing gloves; disinfecting changing tables in between uses; enforcing handwashing for children and adults afterwards)
Enforcing AAP-recommended policies regarding exclusion from school for illnesses
Our cleaning service, which comes four nights per week, disinfects doorknobs, light switches, banisters, sinks and faucets, toilets, and bathroom floors; they also disinfect the mats in the common room weekly. We are communicating with them to add the edges of tables and the sides and backs of chairs to their weekly disinfecting list.
More information about these and other practices can be found in our family handbook, available on our website.
NEW PRACTICES IN RESPONSE TO THE CORONAVIRUS
We are regularly monitoring recommendations from the CDC, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services, and the Pennsylvania Office of Child Development. We are working each day to make sure our practice aligns with the most current recommendations.
Starting immediately, we will make sure that children and teachers wash hands as soon as they first enter school each day. Redbud and Oak teachers will let you know how you can support these efforts at drop-off time; Juneberry and Magnolia children, who drop off in the yard, already wash hands when they come inside. Children who use early drop off will wash hands by 8:35.
Per recommendations by the Office of Child Development, we are monitoring the number of absences in each classroom, and will report any spikes in absenteeism to the Department of Human Services.
We are also asking all families and staff to let the school administration know if anyone in your household has recently traveled to a country with a CDC Level 3 Health Notice—currently China, Iran, South Korea, and Italy. Recent travel to those countries comes with specific recommendations, and we will follow up with individuals as appropriate.
WHAT YOU CAN BE DOING
Recommendations from all the sources we are following indicate the best thing families can do is to simply be rigorous about general good hygiene practices. Make sure you are washing your hands well, and teaching your child to do so as well. Here’s a slight update to a well-known handwashing song—it includes instructions on commonly-missed parts of the hand, and if you sing it once through just a little slowly you’ll hit the CDC-recommended 20-second mark with no trouble. Make sure you are reminding children to cough and sneeze into their elbow (which means with your elbow pressed up against your face, not just generally nearby your mouth).
Please make sure your child stays home if they are sick, per the normal CCS illness policies. Most relevantly for this situation, that means a child with a fever of 100.4° or higher, who also has other symptoms, must stay home until 24 hours after the fever resolves. Also, children should stay home if they have “Severe congestion causing difficulty breathing, with or without a persistent cough,” or “Congestion or nasal discharge that interrupts child’s participation in activities and/or requires continual intervention/care from the staff throughout the day.”
If your child is staying home from school for any reason (illness or other), please let us know.
Are you signed up for CCS text alerts on “Remind”? It’s how we’ll let you know if there’s any school closure or other emergency. Sign up at https://www.remind.com/join/
Please let us know if anyone in your household has traveled recently to China, Iran, South Korea, or Italy.
Finally, some of you may be wondering how, and whether, to talk to your children about what’s going on. If you are talking about it with other adults, or are even just worrying about it, your child is likely picking up on some of what’s going on. Don’t let a child draw their own conclusions—information can be comforting! Here are two articles—one from the New York Times, one from ChildMind—with some suggestions. (Also, it’s probably not a good idea to leave the news playing when children are around—they may draw incorrect and frightening conclusions from what they hear and partially understand. As may we all 🙂
It’s important to think about how moments like this intersect with issues of justice. Certainly there are broad issues of economics and access to health care that bear consideration (especially when you’re voting in the coming months!). But there are a few very concrete things you can be mindful of right now.
First, many people of Asian descent in the United States are reporting increased incidents of racism since the novel coronavirus was first reported in China—everything from subtle suspicious glances in public to outright racial slurs to significantly reduced business at Chinese restaurants. Read more in this piece from Teen Vogue, or listen to this short podcast from NPR’s Short Wave; both contain descriptions of racist actions and words. Please be aware of what spoken and unspoken messages are being conveyed to the people you run into, and what your child is seeing and hearing. Consider how you might be an upstander if you see or hear something.
Also, we are entering a time when people who are sick—with everything from chronic illness to seasonal allergies—are going to be looked at with unwarranted suspicion. Start paying attention now to how you react when someone coughs in your vicinity. The people around you—including both the person who coughs and your child—are noticing whether you flinch or scowl, or you react with kindness and care.
Remember that, according to both the CDC and general human decency, social stigma of any kind causes real harm.
We currently foresee no closures in CCS’s future, but it makes sense to think ahead about possibilities.
As mentioned above, we are monitoring the recommendations of public health officials and the Department of Human Services, and we will follow those recommendations as they come out. If there are any situations that apply to CCS specifically, rather than preschools in general, we will consult with officials at DHS and the Department of Health about what decisions are appropriate to make.
While we foresee no closures, it may be wise for you to consider what you would do if we needed to close temporarily. Is it possible for you to work from home? Could you trade off childcare with another family? Think ahead, just in case.
Again, this is obviously an emerging situation, and we will keep you updated as much as we are able. Please keep in touch with us about your needs in this time. As Carrie often says, “You should never worry alone.” We would be happy to talk with you any time you need.
With gratitude, and fortitude,
Jarrod Green, Director
Children’s Community School
1212 South 47th Street, Philadelphia, PA 19143