COVID-19 & Distance Learning
As early as February, when the novel coronavirus began to spread through the United States, the Mount Tamalpais School administration began to formulate a plan should the school be forced to close due to the virus. Our teachers were advised to begin thinking about how they might transition their courses online, and even to begin planning those lessons in earnest. By the beginning of March, all teachers were prepped and ready for the eventual shutdown. MTS was able to pivot all classes to Distance Learning within one day of the shelter in place order.
Leading with Health & Safety
From the very first meetings with Public Health officials, the health and safety of our students and faculty have been our top priority. We are guided by the World Health Organization definition of health as “a state of physical, mental, and social well-being.” We will continue to be intentional in addressing the physical as well as social-emotional well-being of our community members. This focus on the wellbeing of our community members requires that we be agile in our response to this ever-evolving pandemic.
Prioritizing On-Campus Instruction
The academic as well as social-emotional growth of our students, is best served on the MTS campus through in-person instruction. Knowing this, we worked tirelessly throughout the spring and summer to prepare for students and faculty to return safely to campus as soon as permitted. Granted a waiver in the first round of applications, we welcomed our Kindergarten and 1st grade students— those least well served by distance learning— onto campus on September 8, the first day allowed in Marin County. Each week we have been bringing more students back to campus and plan to have the entire student population back to campus on October 5th for full day instruction for all students, grades K-8. We are confident that our policies and practices will allow us to ensure the health and safety of our students and teachers— our top priority— while having school on campus.
Hybrid Instruction Enabling a Healthy Community
Not all students will be able to return to campus when allowed. Whether a student is remaining at home long-term because of health risks or short-term as a runny nose passes, all students must continue their academic and social-emotional growth. For these students and families, we offer a hybrid instruction model in which the child Zooms into the classroom, leveraging our tremendous technology investment. While Hybrid learning is, undoubtedly, different, it provides a meaningful connection to academics and peers.
Distance Learning Program 3.0 (DLP 3)
Distance learning continues to play an essential role in the MTS response to COVID-19. With a staggered start to the on-campus school year, our second through eighth-graders spent one to four weeks engaged through DLP3. Our third iteration of distance learning incorporated feedback from teachers, students, and families as well as local and national education leaders and professional development learnings. A few highlights of DLP3 include:
- A “Live Start” on Zoom for each class, with many courses continuing to work synchronously throughout the period.
- Regular homeroom or advisory time to address community and social-emotional needs
- Google Classroom, Docs, and SeeSaw apps are utilized to make distance learning more student-driven and requiring less adult support.
MTS COVID-19 Response Timeline
March 16: On-campus instruction ends
March 17: DLP 1.0 Launches
April 13: DLP 2.0 launches with improvements based on surveys and in-depth user interviews
June 10: Car Parade & Commencement
August 19: Waiver submitted to Marin County in first round
August 20: COVID Response Plan released to MTS Community
August 24: Grade level COVID Response Plan Q&A sessions with division heads
September 2-4: On-campus in-person small group orientations
September 3: Waiver to open K-6 instruction approved
September 8: In-person instruction begins for K-1 and DLP for 2-8
September 8: All-school convocation via Zoom and YouTube with live greetings from our Kindergarten students and new faculty; Action! unveiled as our school theme.
September 15: Marin County moves to Tier 2, allowing us to maintain our planned, gradual return to campus
October 5: Planned date to have all 237 students, grades K-8, on campus five days a week.
COVID Response Highlights
The Emergency Supplemental Fund
MTS has always come together in challenging times to support everyone within our community. As soon as the potential for widespread economic devastation became clear, we established the COVID-19 Emergency Supplemental Fund to support families and professional community members who became particularly financially vulnerable, due to COVID-19.The fund has been supported through the generosity of current families, alumni families, and members of our professional community.
COVID Investments for On-Campus Instruction
- 5 Tents for outdoor learning
- 22 hand-washing stations
- Over 100 iPads for student & faculty use
- 18 “Meeting Owls” to facilitate Hybrid instruction
- Fiber internet connection
- Additional 4 teachers & 1 janitor
-JADE Air Purifiers for every classroom
Back on Campus
Since the shelter-in-place order was issued, our administration has been working around the clock to create a safe and speedy return to campus. In August 2020, MTS revealed its comprehensive COVID-19 plan, including testing protocols for all faculty and staff, newly constructed indoor and outdoor learning spaces, outlined best practices for school safety and hygiene, as well as protocols for every eventuality from exposure to contraction of illness.
Based on this plan, as well as falling case rates in Marin County, our waiver to return to school in person after Labor Day was approved by the state, and we welcomed our kindergarten and 1st grade classes back to campus on September 8th. Each week, as outlined in our waiver plan, we have added additional students to our on campus cohort. MTS is committed to the safety of our entire community of teachers, students, and families. We are following the guidelines set forth by the Marin County Office of Public Health and the State. We have asked our families to adhere to these guidelines as well, and sign our Healthy Community Pledge. You can find more about the school's COVID-19 protocols here.
Over the summer, a cohort of teachers and administrators worked to improve and streamline our Distance Learning Program, in order to plan for every eventuality during this fluctuating time. Our detailed planning for the pandemic has also influenced our ability to seamlessly deliver distance instruction when the campus is closed due to unhealthy air conditions related to the wildfires.
Through all of these challenges, we remain as a community, so grateful for our incredible teachers, students, families, and leadership.
The ability of our educators to quickly innovate, create new and exciting ways for our students to learn, and model resiliency and kindness during an unusually challenging time, is something that we will never stop being impressed and grateful for.
Our community has come together and rallied to support those who have needed it, learned from those who are succeeding, and picked up those who are struggling. From our professional community, to our parent community, to our Board of Trustees, we have seen unprecedented levels of compassion, kindness, care, and love. We are so proud of the opportunities for learning, and growth, that have been fostered by our team here at MTS.
We just wanted to say a big thank you to Trish and all of you for making our daughter's first week in 5th grade at MTS so incredibly wonderful and special! Despite the virtual setting she has been so eager and happy to go to school! When she is done she is full of stories and sometimes comes running to us in between classes to show us what she has done or share a small story! It is so wonderful to see her so happy, especially in the current climate of orange, smoke filled skies and the uncertainties the pandemic has brought into all of our lives. You are doing such an amazing job and we know just how much work is going into keeping our children engaged and happy. We just cannot thank you enough!
Mirjam Jooss & Harry Moren (5th grade parents)