Mid-Summer Updates
July 9, 2020

Dear Harbor Community,

I hope this letter finds you safe, healthy, and enjoying summer, albeit in a different way this year. We miss you and the children, and look forward to returning to school in just under two months. It’s been nice to see many of you at our Harbor@Home Summer program, and during the materials pick-up days in late June. (Please reach out to administration@theharborschool.org if you still need to pick up your child’s school materials and class album; we can arrange a time to meet you at school!)

As we plan for the 2020-21 school year, two Harbor task forces are hard at work - each with representation from the administration, faculty, and the Board. Our Relocation Task Force is responsible for organizing the logistics for our exciting move to 11510 Falls Road in Potomac, which is well underway. In addition, our Re-Entry Task Force is actively monitoring current guidance from health authorities regarding an in-person return to school, and for developing a thorough plan for the fall to re-enter as safely as possible.

At this time, we are anticipating a physically distanced, in-person return in September so long as conditions allow. As an intentionally small school with plenty of classroom and outdoor space in our new facility at Congregation Har Shalom, we are fortunate that students will be able to learn in person with their teachers for five days a week - which is a significant challenge for public schools and larger independent schools. A final decision about a return to in-person school will be made following guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Maryland State Department of Education, with support from our independent school associations (The Association for Independent Maryland and DC Schools and The Association of Independent Schools of Greater Washington), and following advice from health and legal experts and authorities. Although we will carefully follow and weigh the actions and decisions of Montgomery County Public Schools, it is important to note that independent schools are not obligated to follow the local public schools, and Harbor will be making its own decisions.

As the pandemic dynamics in the United States continue to be very fluid, we are making preparations and plans for both scenarios - a full in-person return to school (with an option for families to continue learning at home through our FLEX distance learning plan), and the potential for distance learning for a portion of the school year (families can choose the more asynchronous FLEX or primarily synchronous MAX option in this case).

Our Re-Entry Task Force is considering various policies and practices regarding safety, following guidance from health authorities. These considerations include:

  • Space and scheduling considerations, including maintaining class cohorts or “bubbles”

  • Classroom ventilation and outdoor learning

  • Methods and frequency of cleaning and disinfecting

  • Facial coverings

  • Personal health practices such as hand washing and use of hand sanitizer

  • Temperature taking and monitoring of symptoms

  • Visitor access to building

  • School policies for closures and staying at home/ quarantining

As you consider vacation plans for this summer, please be aware that schools may require a 14-day quarantine for families returning from out of state from certain hot spots. 

Guidelines are continually changing, due to the dynamic nature of emerging research and understanding of COVID-19. We will share more about our plan as the school year approaches, with regular updates from the task force. We will also be sure to provide multiple ways for families and children to understand and become comfortable with the way it will look and feel to return to in-person learning. 

I’d also like to share updates regarding The Harbor School’s work with issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion, given that systemic racism and issues of inequity and injustice are being appropriately given heightened awareness this summer. You may remember that at the beginning of the 2019-20 school year, we put together a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee, which met regularly throughout the school year. One charge of the committee was to develop a philosophy statement for the school, which will serve as our guidepost for our work with diversity, equity, and inclusion. A draft can be found here; please feel free to reach out with any feedback you may have as our statement nears completion. In addition, earlier this year, our faculty adopted Social Justice Standards, an anti-bias framework published by Teaching Tolerance, and began to map these standards into our curriculum. I shared updates from these two initiatives in this letter from late February

Prior to the end of the school year, the faculty and staff chose a book to read and discuss, and settled on How To Be An AntiRacist, by Ibram X. Kendi. Feel free to join us in reading this powerful book, as the adults in our community who are responsible for understanding the issues and helping our children understand their role in promoting inclusion, equity, and justice at a developmentally appropriate level. If you are looking for more guidance about talking to your children about race, I recommend the parenting workshops available from Roots Connected, which, from my personal experience, are well worth the small fee and hour of your time.

As always, I am available for questions or conversations at any time. Here's wishing you all a safe and healthy summer!

Warm regards,

Leah Musico

Head of School

Harbor School