Dear WSP Families,
As promised in our July 24, 2020 newsletter, I write to you today to share with you our start of school plans. This week, our Board of Trustees and most representatives from our Return to School Committee met to consider all facets of returning to school. Our discussion included input from all of our resources: the most recent COVID-19 data with possible projections, the perspectives of our faculty and administration, written and verbal feedback shared by WSP parents, and Governor Wolf’s recommendations. While we are aware of other schools’ plans, those plans did not guide our decision making.
After 3.5 hours of meeting, the Return to School Committee made a recommendation and the Board of Trustees unanimously voted that the best decision for our community is to start the school year with six weeks of distance learning (detailed in our Learning Options document) beginning on Tuesday, September 1, 2020 as stated in our current school calendar. Our anticipated return to in-person whole class instruction with the option of parallel learning is October 12. Information related to our on-campus plans will be regularly reviewed and any changes to this plan will be communicated to families by October 5. This decision was not based on one factor but many and represents our values as a school and our continued commitment to taking care of people in our community and in the greater city of Pittsburgh during a critical time in this pandemic. In making this decision, we saw hardship and challenge with every pathway forward.
We believe beginning the school year in this way gives us a better chance of a strong, healthy, and steady start to the school year with less risk of opening and closing in the first few weeks of school. This plan also gives everyone a chance to ease into new protocols that will become a part of daily life on campus in the foreseeable future.
These six weeks will include opportunities for every student whose family wishes for them to have an in-person orientation session and/or check-in with their teacher(s) on campus. Additionally, teachers will schedule a virtual parent meeting prior to the start of the school year, so every parent has an opportunity to preview how distance learning will work for their child(ren).
We ask for your continued partnership and commitment to the Waldorf School of Pittsburgh. Preparing for this school year has required more time, energy, and financial resources than any other school year prior to this. We are committed to keeping our community whole and to providing clear, consistent communication during a time when information is constantly changing. We have planned our school year with every enrolled student in mind by capping class sizes, improving outdoor spaces for increased learning time outside, completing the 8th grade classroom, outfitting each classroom with HEPA air filters and additional sinks where possible, hiring a full-time cleaning staff person, improving WIFI on campus, and more.
In keeping with our back-to-school traditions, we invite you to help prepare the school campus for whole class learning during Beautification Week which will look different than in previous years. This year, Faculty and Administration will work alone August 17–18, and we are offering shifts for parents to sign-up throughout the week (August 19–22). Please sign-up in advance through this link, carefully read details about the event prior to your arrival, wear a mask, and practice social distancing while on campus. Students in grades 6–8 who are able to help and who can be supervised by a parent while they work, are welcome to attend. Younger children may not attend this year. We are limiting two families per classroom/space at a time. We understand that not everyone is ready to return to campus. Please know that there will be many more volunteer opportunities throughout the year!
In closing, on behalf of the Board of Trustees and the Return to School Committee, we wish to extend our heartfelt thanks for being part of this extraordinary community. In the weeks and months to come, we will be called on to be creative and flexible in order to meet the needs of our students, teachers, and families. Together we will rise to the challenges that face us. Even while distance learning is taking place, all faculty, administration, and teaching assistants will continue to prepare for a safe return to whole class learning on campus. We look forward to a time when we can all be together.
In partnership, Kirsten Christopherson-Clark Head of School