Dear Laurence Family,
I want to take this opportunity to express my sincere gratitude for your partnership throughout the past several months. It has undoubtedly been a challenging time for all, and we never could have imagined that we would be ending our school year with remote learning - having pivoted overnight back in March. But we did it, together, and I am so thankful for each of you.
As we look forward to our next school year, many have asked, "What will it look like?" We are eager to be back on campus, and we are moving forward with planning to do so in a safe and healthy manner. Although we cannot say exactly what it will look like with total certainty at this moment in time, we are planning for all scenarios to ensure we are ready.
To that end, I want to take a moment to share with you the plans we are considering and the work we are doing to put us in the best position to resume in-person learning this fall. We continue to make decisions guided by our top priorities:
- To ensure the health, safety, and wellbeing of our students, faculty, and staff; and
- To provide your children with the educational experience that you expect from Laurence.
Given the fluidity of the situation, I will keep you informed of any material changes to our plans as they evolve throughout the summer months. With that understanding, below is a snapshot of our plan at this moment in time, with a much more detailed plan to come as we approach the start of the new school year.
We Are Working with Experts
In planning for the reopening of our campus, we are working closely with a task force of medical professionals - pediatricians, front-line responders, ER doctors, and other health experts who are responsible for the safe opening and operation of a variety of facilities. We are focusing on all aspects of health and safety, including reviewing best practices specific to protecting everyone on our Laurence campus.
We are also in regular contact with our independent school associations and the local independent school community regarding re-entry plans. Additionally, we consult with Joffe Emergency Services, a national firm specializing in safety, disaster, and emergency preparedness for schools. We are also mindful of the social and emotional toll on children that comes from missing in-person learning and social interaction with peers, and are working with experts to mitigate the impact of this harm in the safest way possible.
Our experts and consultants tell us that we are uniquely positioned to meet the challenges presented in returning to campus this fall. We are small and nimble, and can implement easier and pivot faster than large school districts. Our small student population, low faculty-student ratio, five-acre physical campus, and Southern California weather provide us with great flexibility to adjust our scheduling and classroom environments. These advantages work in our favor as we plan for the safe return of our students.
Potential Scenarios for the Fall
Although the situation is fluid, based on the best information currently available to us, we are developing the following multiple scenarios:
- Our best case scenario and absolute preference is that we can have our entire student body on campus with necessary health and safety modifications. We can make the most of our beautiful indoor and outdoor spaces to re-imagine how we use our campus for learning. This option will potentially include utilizing additional campus spaces, such as the science and technology labs, the library, art, music, and drama rooms, the PAC, Lightning Field, and Sports Court.
- A hybrid scenario with a staggered school schedule that would combine on-campus learning with our technologically and educationally advanced remote program. This scenario would limit the number of individuals on campus at any one time, while still allowing our students to spend time in their school environment with classmates.
- Although we hope to avoid this scenario, we have contingency plans in place to temporarily re-engage in full remote learning if we are mandated to close our campus again for a period of time this fall or winter.
Plans for High-Risk Community Members
As we look ahead, we also recognize that our community includes people who fall into the high-risk category, or who may be uncomfortable or unable to participate in an in-person learning environment in the fall. We are considering a range of approaches to deliver a high-quality remote learning program simultaneously with our in-person instruction. We will update you on these plans as they develop. In the meantime, we encourage you to let us know if your family falls within this category.
Plans for Health & Safety
Below are plans and protocols that we are preparing to implement this fall, as necessitated by best health and safety guidelines and requirements. This preliminary list will continue to evolve as the fall approaches.
- Our enhanced campus cleaning will include a Clorox Total 360 Electrostatic Sprayer, which can clean and disinfect a large classroom within minutes.
- Numerous portable sinks have been installed throughout campus, to increase the frequency with which everyone can wash their hands during the course of the day.
- Hand sanitizer stations will be installed throughout campus, and we have secured a significant supply of sanitizer.
- Bathrooms and other high-touch common areas will be cleaned and sanitized frequently during the course of each day by our on-campus Facilities Team and cleaning crews.
- We are looking at scenarios where every student or limited groups of students have their own school and art supplies, as well as P.E. equipment.
- We have acquired contactless, temporal thermometers, and will be prepared to screen everyone as they arrive on campus each day, should the government and our medical task force recommend this approach.
- We are considering having our parents complete a daily symptom screening questionnaire for each of their children before they are allowed on campus.
- Any student or employee who is ill will have a strict protocol to follow before being allowed to return to campus. We are working with our medical experts to develop this protocol, which will necessarily evolve between now and late-August.
- We are remapping every space of our facility, and are prepared to adapt our classroom spaces, enrichment programs, and athletic activities to implement distancing, while providing opportunities for kids to be together. To do so, we will maximize our usage of indoor and outdoor areas as needed and described above.
- It is possible that the daily/weekly on-campus schedule may need to be altered and/or staggered to ease crowding at the beginning and end of the school days, or to limit the number of people on campus at any one time.
- Lunch and snack/recess changes - Freshlunches will be implementing changes, including providing individually packed boxed lunches that will be delivered to each child, eliminating the lunch line. Additionally, we hope to allow students to spend snack/recess time and eat lunch outside in small groups, allowing them to enjoy time with friends in the fresh air.
- We are working with our bus company, Tumbleweed Transportation, on plans for a multitude of health and safety precautions. We will update you on these plans as they develop.
- At this time, masks seem to be one of the best options for allowing us to be back on campus together, while still keeping our community as safe as possible. The school has acquired thousands of cloth and medical masks.
Training and Support
As we reopen and students embark on a new year, we will make sure that each student feels supported. We are compiling and drafting training materials so each student understands the new policies and what is expected of our Laurence community as a whole. We will also make sure that our school counselor, Dr. Rachel Kavanaugh, is on campus to foster deep and meaningful conversations as we enter a new normal. Our goal is to implement health and safety protocols with our students' emotional wellbeing in mind, understanding that for small children these changes can feel scary. Please know that our team will do everything we can to provide the best school environment possible for each Laurence student.
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Finally, as I have written before, we understand that the pandemic has created significant financial hardship for some Laurence families. We are here to help. If you have been impacted, please reach out to our CFO, Shawn Shahmiri. The Board has allocated additional funds to provide temporary, emergency financial assistance, and we can discuss other options to address your unique situation and to determine the best solution to make sure that our community can stay together.
It is important to keep in mind that what will be possible at the end of August/beginning of September may be very different from anything we can accurately predict today. We will provide updates to you throughout the summer as plans evolve and our knowledge increases.
Thank you for your continued support and candor as we navigate this time together. I believe that the time we have spent physically apart has highlighted just how important this community is to each and every one of us. We will get through this together.
Stay strong, stay hopeful, and stay optimistic! We will be here for you every step of the way. My door is always open, so please reach out with any questions you may have.