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“Hope is indeed a discipline.”

A Letter from our Head of School

Dear WSP Families and Employees,

Happy New Year! We hope you have had a wonderful Winter Break. It brightened our day to see so many of you during Materials Pickup on Monday, January 4, when whole school distance learning resumed. Welcome back! Our Return to School Committee (RSC) met as planned on Wednesday, January 6, to review current COVID-19 related information in light of our anticipated return to campus on January 19. Yesterday, the Department of Health and the CDC released a recommended return to in-person learning for elementary students. Prior to this announcement, we had been working on ways to create even safer learning environments for our students, faculty, and staff given concerns teachers expressed during times of the day when masks cannot be worn (meal and rest times). While ongoing conversations with Dr. LuAnn Brink, Chief Epidemiologist at Allegheny County Health Department (ACHD), have affirmed the protocols we already have in place and offered no further recommendations, we have taken additional steps by securing the expertise of BranchPattern, a building consultancy dedicated to creating healthy indoor built environments. BranchPattern was also our partner in the building of Heartwood Annex, our eighth grade classroom. They have been developing an impressive tool for the past decade which models indoor air quality. Their Facility Infection Risk Estimator has gained national recognition during the pandemic. BranchPattern has modeled for us some select scenarios for mitigating the risk of COVID-19 transmission in all classrooms. The resulting recommendations (that include limits on the number of people present, the use of multiple portable air filters, limits on the time of exposure, and potentially opening windows) will greatly reduce the chance of additional people being infected when masks are removed for eating and resting (assuming that an infected person is actually present).

Our most critical needs are additional air filters. We are in the process of securing them, and will need two additional days to be prepared for students to return to campus. Therefore,

  • the RSC has made a recommendation to the Board which was affirmed today to extend the date to return to campus to Thursday, January 21.

  • On Tuesday, January 19, we will not hold classes but instead will use one of our snow days as an in-service day for teachers. This will also give us the time we need to set up all remaining HEPA filters, and hold a Materials Pick-up Day for families who wish to continue with parallel learning once we return to campus.

  • Our last day of whole school distance learning will be Wednesday, January 20.

Please follow the information listed below to ensure a safe and smooth transition to in-person/parallel learning beginning January 21.

Help us be prepared for your child’s needs by completing the Google form indicating if your child will continue with parallel learning on January 21 or if you wish for your child to receive in-person instruction. Please note that there is an option to indicate the need to quarantine before returning to campus.

  • If you traveled outside of PA or gathered with others outside of your immediate family during the Winter Break as described in the WSP Community Thanksgiving and Winter Break Survey, you are required to complete a 14-day quarantine prior to returning to campus. We are aware that the CDC changed their quarantine length to 10 days, but WSP’s quarantine length remains 14 days. Quarantine will need to be started by January 7 in order to return to campus on January 21.

  • Continue to wear masks, observe social distancing, and limit travel and gatherings in order to protect the health of our school community.

  • Please contact any member of our Leadership Team (Ms. Anne Clair Goodman, Ms. Jill Zihar or myself), if your child has been exposed to COVID-19, been tested, or contracted the virus.

I wish you and your family a very happy and healthy start to the New Year filled with hope. As we reflect on the violent events in our nation’s capital this week and continue to manage the best we can through a pandemic, it is difficult to feel hopeful. Our hearts can be warmed by knowing that Waldorf Education is fostering moral leaders every day who inspire those around them to be their best selves. As shared by Beverly Amico, Executive Director, Advancement for the Association of Waldorf Schools of North America, “It is the role of Waldorf educators to cultivate a sense of wonder and to inspire children to view the world, even in its most basic form and reality, as magnificent, prompting each student to embrace life with enthusiasm, initiative, purpose, and perhaps most importantly, hope. Hope is indeed a discipline, a phrase attributed to Mariame Kaba. May you continue to cultivate it in the coming year.” Warmly, Kirsten Christopherson-Clark Head of School

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