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BCMS First day fast approaching

Dear BCMS Families,
I hope everyone had a fun, healthy and safe Fourth of July holiday!  We sincerely appreciate your patience and good will as the Board of Directors, Administration and staff work together to create a viable plan for moving into the next school year. This has been a very challenging time, after many years of challenges in our Sonoma County community. We are nothing if not a resilient community, experienced with situations that require flexibility and stamina. With your help, and the help of all of us in the community, we can thrive during adversity.
We are thrilled to announce our re-open date is Monday, August 17.   The school year will go from August 17 through June 30.

Assumptions Moving Forward:
Given that there is still no vaccine or treatment for COVID-19, we recognize that reopening our classrooms is a risk. Weighed with the precautions we plan to implement and the very real social and emotional opportunities that are missed when students are forced to remain at home, we feel that we are ready to try in-class instruction at BCMS. If our Elementary program is forced to close due to COVID, planned power outages, fire evacuations, we plan on implementing a distance-learning curriculum that we are currently developing, adjusting as best as possible to conditions on the ground. Additionally, we plan on offering some distance instruction for those families who are unable or choose not to return in-person but who want to remain part of the BCMS community, for both Elementary and Primary age groups.  

For your review, here is a document released by the Sonoma County Office of Education regarding their re-opening plans:

Changes to the academic calendar
Barring any unforeseen events we will be reopening  August 17th. This will provide enough time to properly prepare the classrooms and implement our plans. We are moving to a year-round (rather than a 10 month) calendar, though with this first iteration it will likely end up being 11 months rather than 12 months. This calendar will allow for greater flexibility in making up missed days in the event of the school closing for any number of reasons. The first month’s tuition payment will be invoiced on August 1.

Most children in our BCMS community are returning students from the previous year, but some are new to the BCMS community. New families will be provided the opportunity to meet their child’s teacher and explore the environment safely on a scheduled orientation. We will be contacting individual families for this. Additionally, the staff and administration will host a Zoom meeting to welcome parents back to the school year. We hope to schedule this on  Friday, August 14 at 1pm, to allow folks to check in (remotely) with our staff before the opening of the program on Monday August 17.

The school day will be shortened from 6 hours to 5 hours, in order to accommodate more time cleaning and disinfecting materials and furniture.  Childcare will be set up as a flat fee that families will need to commit to on a monthly basis. If childcare is needed, please contact us ASAP in order to place your child in the appropriate cohort. Elementary families who need childcare should contact us ASAP in order to develop a plan for their care.

At this time, all school-wide events, such as our annual Pancake Breakfast, Day of Honor, International Potluck, Holiday Parties, Bulb Hunt, School Play and Graduation are suspended/re-imagined to prevent large gatherings.
We have not yet scheduled Parent-Teacher conferences, as we are still working out how these will be conducted.

The Community Service Requirement has been suspended for the 2020-2021 Academic Year.

Policies and precautions
In reviewing recommendations from the Sonoma County Health Officer, Sonoma County Office of Education, Community Care Licensing, the CDC and other sources, we have implemented a set of policies for attending school in the COVID-19. These health precautions are more rigorous than in any previous time, in order to maintain the health and safety of all of the community during the pandemic.

Families will need to sign an acknowledgment statement, recognizing that until a vaccine and/or treatment for the disease is widely available that it is a risk returning to in class instruction. Within the language of this statement will be a commitment by families to our BCMS community to practice as much social distancing and recommended health practices as possible, in order to protect the school from getting exposed. (We recognize that we cannot monitor families outside of our campus and that we’re trusting families to be responsible for their conduct)

Families will conduct and submit a self-health assessment before school re-opens, and then a submit a new assessment on the first day of every week. Students, parents and staff will receive a daily “health check-in” as they arrive, with touch-less thermometers and questioning. Parents will not be allowed to enter the indoor environment. Parents will sign the students in with their own pen or a clean pen provided, in order to prevent contamination of writing implements.  Students will immediately wash hands upon arrival, at every transition period, and frequently throughout the day. We encourage only allowing people living in the child’s home to pick up and drop off at school. Any child with any of the following symptoms 14 days or less prior to entering the environment will be excluded from the program and will need to be evaluated by a licensed healthcare provider:
-shortness of breath/difficulty breathing
-muscle pain
-sore throat
-new loss of taste or smell

If a child in the school’s care exhibits any of these symptoms, they will be removed from their cohort immediately, picked up from school and be required to be evaluated by a licensed healthcare provider before returning.

When families arrive, parents and children will wear masks and remain 6 feet apart while their child is waiting to enter the gate, at designated spots distanced 6 feet apart.

Staff will wear masks most of the day, with breaks when outside and 6 or more feet away from other people. Students under the age of 12 are encouraged to wear masks when they are inside and/or closer than 6 feet from another person.  A new order from the Governor may require students older than the age of 2 years wear masks when they are unable to remain 6 feet apart. Staff will wear protective clothing in the classroom environment.

Classroom changes
Due to the policy regarding stable cohorts of 10 students or less in Primary, BCMS cannot guarantee the exact classroom or schedule that a family requests, though we hope to accommodate requests as much as possible. Those families who think they may possibly need regular childcare should let us know as soon as possible in order to place them in a “childcare cohort”. Only children in these cohorts can be offered the opportunity to get care before or after our program.

All classroom cohorts will be separated from each other as much as possible, with staggered schedules to accommodate outside play on shared equipment/space.

The students will not share materials in ways of the past. Duplicate Montessori materials will be ordered and used by each student for a certain amount of time before it’s disinfected and returned to the community. Alternatively we may “assign” certain materials to each student for a length of time before disinfecting and giving to a different student.  Students will use their own pencils, scissors, etc., and will not share them as in times past.  Students will bring their own water bottle, snack and lunch.

To the extent possible, distancing of 6 feet will be encouraged, with work stations/tables separated by shelving, and shelving removed to allow greater space. Individual work spaces (tables and rugs) will be designated.

New air purifiers are being ordered and the windows and doors will remain open for as long as possible during the school day to allow for greater ventilation. Scheduling for longer outside time is being planned.

Unforeseen Closures
Because COVID presents an ever-changing situation, we may be forced to close due to additional Shelter In Place orders from County or State officials. Also, as we are in an area prone to wildfires, smoke, planned power outages and any other number of natural phenomena, BCMS may need to close for certain periods of time. To help families mitigate these closures, we offer the following plan:
If the school closes for 2 weeks or less, BCMS will not offer any tuition discounts or change schedules to make of for lost days. If possible and safe, the Elementary program will shift to a distance-learning model for those two weeks.
If the school closes for 3-4 weeks, the 3  rd and/or 4  th week will be made up (if possible) with planned vacation/holiday breaks. Again, if possible and safe, Elementary will shift to a distance-learning model. If the unplanned closures happen close to the end of the school year, the 3  rd and 4  th week will be refunded to families.
If the school closes for more than 4 weeks, tuition will be suspended/refunded until school can resume. Exceptions to this are if the Elementary program continues as a distance learning model, in which case families will be expected to continue with tuition payments. Families also have the option of donating unused tuition as a tax write off to our non-profit school.

All closures will need to be assessed on a case-by-case basis, but we hope that this gives families an outline of what BCMS plans to offer in the event of an unforeseen closure.

Thank you all for your careful consideration of this plan. We will continue to keep you updated as developments arise. 
We look forward to seeing our families in August!
Jed Burchett, Head of School

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