Westminster School Transitions to Distance Learning
Following the pandemic-related state mandate to close schools in March 2020, Westminster School quickly pivoted to a well-organized, engaging, distance-learning program for all students. Thanks to the remarkable dedication, flexibility, and creativity of its teachers, staff, students, and parents, Westminster was able to successfully deliver its academic program for the remainder of the school year. This included enrichment classes, such as art, music, P.E., and library, plus numerous virtual events to celebrate and bond our school community.
Updates and Information
- Suspicion / Possibility of COVID-19 Within the Community
- Positive Diagnosis of COVID-19 Within the Community
- Provision of General Health Services (Including Mental Health Services)
- Provisions in Case of School Closure
- encouraging and practicing basic health precautions at home;
- taking their child’s temperature / reviewing a health checklist and submitting it to the school daily;
- keeping a child home who is showing any symptoms of illness.
- morning and lunch-time temperature checks for all students;
- in most instances, retaining students in their homeroom classes (average size – 12 students); teachers (except for P.E.) will go to the students;
- physical distancing at all times;
- extra time for frequent handwashing;
- face masks for all interactive activities, including those in class, traversing the hallways, on the playground, etc.;
- Frequent/intense sanitization of all classrooms, offices, gym, and playground;
- In case of illness / suspicion of COVID-19, immediate application of an atomizing sprayer capable of disinfecting a classroom (kills 99.99% of all viruses/pathogens) in 10 minutes.
- in case of possibility/suspicion of COVID-19;
- in case of positive diagnosis of COVID-19.
- All Westminster classrooms have windows allowing for fresh air;
- Many Westminster classrooms have doors leading to the exterior of the building, or to the courtyard;
- Students sit at desks (rather than tables), making the distancing of students from one another an easy process;
- Westminster classes are small;
- Kindergarten and 1st-grade classrooms have their own bathrooms;
- Students eat in their classrooms, rather than going to a large cafeteria;
- Regular hand-washing and wiping down of desks is part of our normal routine (though both will be increased).
- Measured all classroom spaces and determined how many desks can fit in each space with appropriate distancing. (Rooms will be emptied of unnecessary furniture to allow for spacing if needed);
- Purchased a medical-grade air purifier for every classroom, which will purify the air in a room twice every hour;
- Purchased a fan for every classroom, which will be placed in an open window to facilitate ventilation;
- Scheduled installation of newly purchased water fountains that have a water-bottle filling mechanism. (Students will be asked to bring a refillable water bottle to school and will refill it during the day rather than drinking from the fountain);
- Invested in substantial PPE supplies (masks, gloves, gowns, hand sanitizer, etc.). (Parents will still be expected to provide some for their child as well);
- Planned to turn the main office conference room into a sick area, which will have dividers to separate sick children from one another until they are picked up (which we will ask be done quickly);
- Purchased thermometers to screen the children upon entering the building and again at lunch time;
- Worked with our cleaning supply company to facilitate our cleaning and disinfecting supplies and procedures for indoor spaces and the playground;
- Worked with Fairfax Food Services to ensure that safely-prepared box lunches (as opposed to a hot buffet-style lunch) will be available for ordering when school opens.
Rolling into Summer
After a year literally like no other, our staff, students and parents celebrated their perseverance, creativity, and mutual love for one another with a joyous Farewell Carpool Parade! It was so great to see all of our wonderful students and parents (from a distance) and wave goodbye, sending our students into summer with love and appreciation for their hard work all year, but especially during the last three months. While yesterday was the last day of school, we still will have more news and spotlights to share for another couple of weeks, so we hope that you will continue to enjoy the Weekly until we take a little break.
During our time apart, we have been pleased to hold some fun live community events. Over the last couple of weeks, several events took place. The upper-school teachers hosted a Game Night that included charades, scattergories, and logic games, the K-5th graders played several rounds of virtual bingo, Mr. Glover shared a story time with the 3rd and 4th graders and the 6th-8th graders competed in a fun trivia game through the Kahoot! app. All of these events were well-attended and lots of fun. Thank you to everyone.
- Parents will be required to sign a “return-to-school” agreement, including the following guarantees:
- That they are observing all recommended health practices at home, e.g., avoiding anyone diagnosed with COVID-19, avoiding large groups, frequent and thorough hand washing, use of masks in indoor (non-home) spaces, etc.
- That they will take their child’s temperature and screen for other COVID-19 symptoms and risks each day before sending their child to school. Check lists will be provided prior to school opening to guide parents in this task.
- That they will keep their child home if he/she shows symptoms of COVID-19 or has been exposed to a person with a positive COVID-19 diagnosis;
- That they will inform the school administration of any positive diagnosis of covid-19 in their family or immediate contact group. In such a case, the student will not be allowed to return to school for the next two weeks.
- That they will ensure arrangements to pick up a child within 30 minutes of a call from school indicating that the child is ill.
- That they have read and accept the policies Westminster School establishes in its effort to minimize the spread of COVID 19 and protect students and staff.
- Carpool and bus drop-off may need to be staggered.
- Should a student or staff member fall ill or show COVID-19 symptoms at school, he/she will immediately be isolated in a designated area until pick-up.
- In the event that a student or teacher is diagnosed with COVID-19, Westminster School will inform the parents of the affected class. (The school will not identify the person by name.) Those students will then have the option of returning to school or remaining at home and participating in distance learning. A diagnosed staff member will remain at home for two weeks and a substitute teacher will be brought in.
- Westminster School is purchasing supplies of personal protection equipment (PPE) in preparation for the school reopening.
- Students and staff will be reminded and guided to implement basic health-protection practices daily, e.g., thorough hand washing; use of tissues for coughs/sneezes; refraining from touching face, touching others, or touching another’s supplies/materials.
- Students will be required to provide their own reusable, washable face mask(s). The school will keep a supply of single-use masks on hand for back-up.
- Each student will be required to supply his/her own box / packet of tissues, replacing it as needed.
- Each student will be required to supply his/her own hand-sanitizer, replacing it has needed.
- Sanitation supplies, such as hand-sanitizers and antibacterial wipes, will be available in all classes and workspaces.
- Each classroom / workspace will be cleaned and sanitized at least daily.
- A member of the custodial crew will be on duty to sanitize spaces, equipment, etc., as needed throughout the school day.
- Students will remain in a single classroom for the entire day. Teachers will travel among the classrooms. (The 7th/8th grade students may be a possible exception to this.)
- Masks will be required for children and staff needing to go into the hallway to access the bathroom or another classroom, workroom, etc.
- Bathrooms will be designated for specific grades.
- Blackbaud (the school’s new software system) will eliminate the need for attendance to be carried to the office by students.
- The new intercom system will eliminate the need for hand-carried messages and other back-and-forth travel around the building.
- Music and art classes will continue, but they will happen in the homeroom.
- PE will take place outside whenever possible. In-door P.E. activities will be designed with social distancing in mind. P.E. equipment will be designated for specific grades and sanitized after each use.
- There will be no locker room usage. Students will remain in their school uniforms for P.E. (They will change shoes. Girls will be allowed to wear shorts under their skirts, if desired).
- Students will bring lunch, drink, and a bottle of water. (We are conferring with Fairfax Food Services to see whether lunch delivery can be tailored to Westminster’s health protection policies.)
- Students’ desks will be turned to face the teacher.
- Students’ desks will be spaced six feet apart.
- Repurposing of spaces will be considered (e.g., art room, music room, library).
- Smaller class groups may be assigned to smaller classrooms, regardless of location.
- Traveling through the school (e.g., upon arrival, before departure) will be carried out with social distancing.
- Students will not stand “under their numbers” when awaiting carpool. Alternative methods are under discussion.
- Westminster School will provide Zoom classes for students who cannot be at school due to staggered daily attendance (if necessary); to sickness in the family or themselves; and for the children of parents who are not ready to have them return.
- Such classes would comprise video communication of the class as delivered in the live classroom.
- Blackbaud will allow for “google classroom” type lessons.
- The length of the school day may need to be adjusted to allow for extended drop-off and pick up times (if staggering arrival/departure is deemed necessary).
- Time may be added to allow for handwashing, sanitizing desks, etc.
- Regular bus service will be provided.
- Social distancing for seating will be required, except in the case of siblings.
- Buses will be sanitized daily.
- Assemblies may be planned for 50 or fewer attendees. Social distancing among audience members will be implemented.
- Grade plays will take place in the theater, but, possibly, only parents may be allowed to attend. The plays/performances may be live-streamed so that the other students could watch from their classrooms.
- Theater usage (for rehearsals or other activities) would be limited to one grade at a time for a scheduled period of time, followed by deep sanitizing.
- Some live field trips may be possible, observing health policies, including maintaining social distancing and wearing masks on the bus and in indoor spaces.
- Outdoor field trips may be possible.
- Some field trips may need to be virtual.
Westminster School Orchestra
In lieu of a live Westminster Orchestra performance, Ms. Crespo, the orchestra director, has created an original “children’s story” which has been “illustrated” by members of the Westminster Orchestra. This unique project gives orchestra members the chance to shine individually, in small groups, and as an ensemble. You won’t want to miss this musical fantasy, “The Baton that Chose a New Conductor!”
Preschool End of the Year Show
It has been ten years since The Griffin Academy opened its doors for the first time, and from that very first day, it has been a joyful, wondrous place for our littlest griffins to have their first school experience. Under Mrs. Kristine Lee’s leadership, and with the loving guidance of our excellent preschool teachers, these three and four-year-olds have been loved, nurtured, and challenged in ways that make us very proud. At the end of each year, the preschool presents a show where they sing songs, display their art work, and enjoy a celebration of the year. Mrs. Lee also provides a lovely slideshow of the year. This year is different, of course; however, the slideshow is presented for your enjoyment. Congratulations on ten wonderful years!
Mr. Glover recently treated the K-2nd students to a bedtime story. The children gathered on zoom in their p.j.’s along with their favorite stuffed bears and friends. Two of Mr. Glover’s favorite things are bears and books, so he chose to share a book that combines those two things. Dennis Hasseley’s A Story for Bear, is the story of a friendship between a big brown bear and a lady who loves to read. While the bear doesn’t understand the words the lady reads, he falls in love with the books nonetheless. This sweet story, accompanied by its charming illustrations by Jim LaMarche, kept the children quite mesmerized. At the end, the children had the chance to introduce their own bear friends. Thank you to Mr. Glover for bringing everyone together for such a special gathering of sweetness.
Happy Birthday Shakespeare!
Westminster celebrates the bard’s birthday remotely. Not as effervescent as our traditional live celebration, but launched with love and admiration for the great poet/playwright, William Shakespeare, 456 years young today.