August 11th Update
August 11, 2020

Dear Harbor Community,

I am writing to share that, at this point in time, we are continuing to work toward opening for in-person learning on September 8th. A distance learning option will also be available for families to select at any time.

With our young student population, small size, and ability to meet or exceed safety recommendations, Harbor is more similar to early childhood centers and daycares (which have been operating in person since Montgomery County entered Phase Two), than to many of our larger independent school peers. On Friday, when Montgomery County Health Officer Dr. Travis Gayles rescinded his order instructing independent schools to begin the year remotely, it became possible for us to proceed with reopening planning for an on-campus start of school on September 8th. 

Within the past few weeks, our draft Health and Safety Plan has been reviewed by our faculty and staff and endorsed by the Board of Trustees. The plan includes specific measures concerning a number of safety considerations. In particular, students will stay within strict class cohorts throughout the day, wear masks, practice increased hand hygiene, and maintain physical distancing. Symptom screening will take place each morning, with protocols for swift response should a child or faculty/staff present with COVID-19 symptoms during the day. As the safety of our community depends on the personal responsibility of each community member, all families, faculty and staff will be required to sign a community agreement to demonstrate their commitment to upholding our safety standards throughout the year. 

In a meeting with representatives from the Maryland Department of Health last Friday, independent schools were informed that the state will be releasing further guidance for nonpublic schools and outlining the process by which reopening plans will be reviewed by local health departments. While the process for review remains unclear, we are ready to compare our plan to this guidance as soon as it is published. We developed our plan to meet or exceed guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control, the Maryland State Department of Education, and the Office of Child Care, and so we do not anticipate having to make many modifications. We will share the full Harbor School Health and Safety Plan with our community once we are able to ensure that it meets these forthcoming guidelines from the state, hopefully early next week. At that time, we will announce revised dates for parent sessions to answer any questions and support you in talking to your children about what to expect when they return to school.

With less than four weeks until the start of the new school year, there are some important ways new and returning families can prepare:

  1. Please limit any travel for the two weeks prior to the start of the school year if at all possible. If you must travel, we ask that you report this to the school, as it may be necessary to quarantine prior to attending in-person school, if visiting areas with high COVID-19 infection rates. 
  2. Help your child become comfortable with wearing a mask for extended periods of time, and experiment with what is most comfortable and safe. We recognize that this can feel awkward if you have not yet had your child wear a mask regularly. (As a parent, I have found this process easier than I thought it would be, even with my three year old.) It can help to experiment a little bit at a time to see what works best and gradually increase the amount of time.
  3. Mark your calendars with dates for the new school year. Note that the format of our larger, annual events will most likely be virtual. We also look forward to weekly virtual community events throughout the year. 
  4. Have your pediatrician complete school health forms for the fall. Health forms must be completed and signed by a doctor before your child starts school.

I recognize how challenging it is for all of us to make plans with continued uncertainty. However, we remain optimistic that we will be able to be together in person next month. Following last Friday’s move to Har Shalom, we are now in the exciting process of unpacking boxes and setting up classrooms. Once everything is in order, we can’t wait to share photos and provide opportunities for you all to visit the campus in small groups before the start of school. We plan to facilitate meet-and-greets before September 8th, so that both new and returning families have an opportunity to connect. 

Thank you for your flexibility with this evolving situation. I look forward to sharing further updates and our full plan as soon as possible. 

Warm regards,

Leah Musico
Head of School
The Harbor School

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