Re-Opening Frequently Asked Questions (updated 9/22/2020)
Q: Can you explain the reasoning behind revising the June plan?
A: The plan was revisited to make sure the recommendations for Health and Safety set forth in June were enough to keep our children, faculty and staff safe based on current COVID metrics in our area, with additional guidance from IDPH based on new information and updates to existing CDC data.
Q: Can you describe the decision process behind this revised plan as it relates to educational delivery models for the different levels?
A: This was a difficult decision. We looked at the success of summer camp at NNM and determined the success was largely due to the limited number of students in the building and the ability to control the implementation and fidelity of the health and safety measures in place. At this time we feel uncertain that we can assure the fidelity of the health and safety requirements if we bring over 550 children and 100 adults back into the building at the same time. We feel that a cautious and conservative approach to reopening school will present less risk of transmission of the virus for everyone. When we know that we can successfully mitigate the spread of the virus at school, we will consider increasing the number of students and staff in the building. Determining who starts school in person versus remotely was based on the developmental needs of all of the children and who is most likely to successfully navigate remote learning. Our decisions are closely aligned with many other private and public schools in the country. We also looked at recommendations from trusted institutions about How to Re-open Schools Safely.
Q: Can you please explain the science behind the particular decisions, including the color table?
A: The decision to revise the plan was based on data from the City of Chicago COVID-19 Dashboard and the Illinois Department of Public Health, with a focus on key external indicators, including new cases, % positive tests and reproduction numbers that showed the city has steadily worsened since mid-June. You can review an explanation behind the science of the revisions in any one of our Aug 19 town hall recordings.
Q: Can you identify the different groups of the Near North Community who were involved in the planning process of this revised plan?
A: Medical professionals presented recommendations to the school administration and NNM Board of Directors. Given the need to provide accurate information about the changes to the plan to the community, we were unable to slow down the process to allow for input from a broader community. Administrators met with teachers who are responsible for the cohorts (classroom leads), and developed a plan to present back to the Board. The plan saw unanimous support from the Board of Directors and classroom leads.
Q: Can you speak more to the experts who collaborated with NNM Administrators on this revised plan?
A: We are very grateful to the team of NNM parent doctors who generously shared their time and expertise with the board and administration. Many of these parents were on the initial COVID Impact Task Force and collaborated to create the plan shared with parents in June as well as the revised plan shared with the parents in early August. Listed below, the doctor’s diverse areas of expertise have been exceptionally helpful as we strive to balance the conflicting needs of our community.
- Ashti Doobay-Persaud, MD, MPH (Hospital Medicine, Northwestern)
- Karen Johnson, MD (Obstetrics/Gynecology, Advocate Christ)
- Ali Khan, MD, MPP (Internal Medicine, Oak Street Health/UChicago)
- Erin McCann, MD (Pediatrics, AMITA Health)
- Theresa Rowe, DO, MSc (Internal Medicine, Infectious Disease and Geriatrics, Northwestern)
- Seth Trueger, MD, MPH (Emergency Medicine, Northwestern)
Q: Is there any consideration given to having outdoor classes?
A: We will use all NNM outdoor spaces for lunch and recess (at 3-6) and classes. We will also use local parks. These outdoor spaces will be available for older students for weekly afternoon meet-ups. Elementary teachers plan to use walks around the neighborhood to support opportunities for outdoor learning.
Q: Which levels start on Sept. 8 and which levels start on Sept. 14?
A: Students at the 9-12 and 12-14 levels will start back to school on September 8. All other levels will start on September 14.
Q: What does the end of the school year look like?
A: It is difficult to plan for the end of the school year at this time, however we expect to make up the days lost due to the delayed start for the younger children.
Q: What will trigger a move to full remote learning?
A: Moving to fully remote learning could be triggered by the following reasons:
- We are mandated to close by either City or the State authorities. This could be due to an outbreak of COVID at NNM or the issuance of a stay at home order.
- Fully remote learning could also occur based on the Color Coded Chart in our Revised Plan.
Q: Why October 30, and what happens if flu season or other impacts keep Chicago in orange past this date?
A: October 30 gives ample time to monitor both internal and external metrics before bringing all students back on campus for in-person learning. We will monitor these metrics weekly and move to bring students back to campus earlier if we feel confident that we can fully implement all health and safety standards with the larger student population on campus.
Q: Can you identify key internal indicators that the school will be monitoring?
A: Teachers and staff will submit a daily survey to help monitor how the NNM community complies with Health and Safety measures. We will strive for 100% cooperation from parents, faculty and staff to submit daily symptom checks, mask wearing, following health and safety guidelines and mandates both inside and outside of school. We will also track absences at school and the number of cohorts who have had to isolate due to exposure to a positive case of COVID.
Q: Why 15 students to a cohort and not fewer?
A: Due to staffing and spacing constraints, we were not able to break the groups down any further than this number. However, due to some families opting for the Remote Learning Plan, many cohorts are less than 15 students.
Q: Why absolutely no mixing of cohorts?
A: Not mixing cohorts will decrease the risk of exposure among children and families and reduces the number of close contacts to a case. If someone in a cohort tests positive for COVID, that cohort has to be isolated for 14 days.
Q: Can you please provide additional details on what self isolation measures are required for families and Near North staff?
A: You can learn more about this by reviewing the community convent that was sent to Near North staff.
Q: If a parent has COVID, will the child’s cohort be moved to remote learning as well as the cohorts of all siblings of all students in the first cohort?
A: If a parent has tested positive for COVID they are considered a close contact to their child/ren. According to our NNM Decision Tree that is based on the most recent IDPH guidelines, when there is an exposure or case of COVID in one cohort, that entire cohort, teachers, and any close contacts must move to remote learning for 14 days. Siblings of other children in the impacted cohorts, however, would not be considered a close contact and would not be required to move to remote learning.
Q: Is the school asking students not to socialize outside of school hours with kids from other cohorts?
A: We are asking families to make responsible decisions for the greater good of the community. Socializing with members outside of a child’s cohort will increase the risks of exposure, putting the community at risk and increasing the likelihood of cohorts needing to be isolated for 14 days.
Q: What procedures will be taken to minimize risk during lunch and snack time?
A: Children at all levels can have a snack during the morning period. They will sit alone in a designated spot where they can remove their mask briefly and eat their snack. For 3-6, lunch will be outdoors when weather permits. All other levels will eat lunch at home.
Q: When and who will complete daily classroom and materials cleaning and disinfection standards?
A: An older student or adult will clean, sanitize and return materials to shelves. Materials that are hard to clean will be removed from circulation until cleaned at a later time. Please review the sanitizing and disinfecting section in our Health and Safety Policies and Protocols.
Q: What will the health screening process look like for students and faculty?
A: All staff and students are expected to complete the Wellness Survey every morning whether they will be in-person or remote. In addition, temperature checks will be conducted every day for anyone entering the building. You can view our NNM Covid Screening Procedure to learn more.
Q: How has the school addressed bathroom safety in the school?
A: Classes who will be sharing bathrooms will follow a daily schedule where children are using the bathroom one at a time. Our maintenance staff will be scheduled to clean bathrooms after a cohort uses it. For students who need to use a bathroom in between a scheduled time, an adult will help to clean that specific toilet/sink after the single use.
Q: What changes have been made to the HVAC system in order to keep students and staff safe while in the building?
A: Watch our elementary town hall recording beginning at the 59 minute mark for a detailed response regarding our HVAC system.
Q: Can you explain the classroom dividers that were installed and what protections for cohorts they will provide?
A: In the current phase we have not divided classrooms and have instead opted to use additional classroom space for the separate cohorts. When we can return to full in-person learning, classrooms will be separated by flame retardant vinyl laminated polyester dividers to allow for two distinct cohort spaces.
- Opting for Full Remote
- Pick Up/Drop Off
- Training and Improvements
- Co-curriculars and School Facilities
- Hybrid Learning
- Remote Learning
- Junior High Weekly In-Person Meetings
Q: What measures are put in place for students with an IEP to ensure they are receiving adequate supportive services during remote or hybrid learning?
A: Each teacher reviews all IEP/504 plans for their students before the school year starts. Some of the typical accommodations are not relevant in a remote-learning setting (e.g., student sits close to the front of the room, student is allowed to take a stand-up-and-stretch break). The teachers will continue to support the students by checking for understanding of instructions and lessons and work closely with the child during office hours. Tier 2 and Tier 3 support will continue to be available to students remotely.
Q: What is the plan to prepare students for the MAP test remotely?
A: Students who have borrowed a school computer already have access to the NWEA browser on which the test is taken. If a student is not using a school computer, they will need to enroll in a program called Moslye. Once that happens, the NWEA browser will be available on their device. The IT team is working on the logistics of making that process possible remotely.
Q: Will students who opt for full remote be integrated with their in-person classmates?
A: Yes, 9-12 and 6-9 will be integrated in spanish class and co-curriculars, which are both synchronous learning opportunities.
Q: If a family starts remote or in person, can they switch to a different model at a later time?
A: At the primary and elementary levels, you may re-enter at one of the points when there is a significant calendar break. (after winter break; after spring break; Sept., 2021)
Q: Can students be moved from full day to half to align schedules?
A: Yes, please reach out to Reena Morgan to request switching your TC or 3-6 student to half day to align with the schedule of an older sibling.
Q: What will drop off/pick up look like?
A: See the Drop Off Document for 2020-21
Q: If I need to pick up my 6-9 child at midday, can I pick up my 3-6 child then as well?
A: Yes. Please contact Reena Morgan and your child’s teacher with this preference.
Q: Are cohorts able to carpool to school together?
A: If the children in the carpool are from the same cohort, yes. We ask that families take additional precautions such as keeping masks on and windows open (if possible).
Q: What has the school done to prepare for remote and hybrid learning?
A: We have a dedicated Remote Teaching Team that will be collaborating with each other and lead teachers, as appropriate. Teachers have been taking additional training to better utilize tools such as Seesaw, Google Classroom, and Zoom.
Q: What additional training has been provided for teachers?
A: Assistant Teachers at the 0-6 and 6-12 levels have taken additional pedagogical Montessori courses over this summer. Lead teachers have taken additional technology training, related to the tools and platforms that their levels will be utilizing. Three Junior High teachers/advisors attended Professional Development on running successful Advisories. With SEL (social-emotional learning) an important part of our work every year, and even more so this year, we are implementing much of what those teachers/advisors learned and brought back. Additionally, the Junior High Director participated in a four-week on-line class focused on remote-learning strategies.
Q: Can you speak to how communications between teachers and parents will work?
A: We understand that the school-parent partnership is particularly important now more than ever as parents are not in the building. More virtual Parent Ed nights have been added to the school calendar to share updates, discuss curriculum, and explore other topics relevant to student wellness and development and parent support. Additional lunchtime and evening open chats with directors are offered to parents throughout the year. The teachers will offer myriad office hours for parents to schedule meetings. Additional formal conference times have been built into the schedule (in October, November, and March) to allow for more consistent communication between teachers and parents.
Q: How will co-curriculars work?
A: All co-curriculars will take place in the afternoon and will be remote. See the Elementary schedules.
Q: Will the students be able to use facilities such as the library?
A: The Library is being used as a classroom and not available for students to utilize. However, the school has a significant on-line catalog that is available to everyone through Worldbook Encyclopedia Online and eRead Illinois. You can find the login information in the parent portal under “helpful links.” Teachers will also be able to access books from the library to bring into their classrooms as needed.
Q: How will Primary recess work and how often with the students have recess?
A: At the TC and 3-6 levels, children will have daily recess. The cohorts will rotate between use of spaces such as the Bosworth playground (divided in quadrants), Rooftop, and the Courtyard. Students will have 45min - 1 hour outdoors. Teachers will wipe down equipment before another cohort arrives.
Q: What is the plan to provide Junior High students with alternatives for gym, swim classes, Model UN, sandwich shop, internship, canoe trip?
A: The Junior High schedule includes PE classes Monday-Thursday, although swimming is not an option. We are not planning any trips this year, due to health and safety restrictions. The 8th grade jobs and 7th grade internships usually happen in the spring and we will attempt those, if the health and safety restrictions are loosened. We continue to monitor the MMUN website and read about their burgeoning plans to offer a remote conference in the spring. There’s not enough information at this time to commit; however, we will continue to monitor any updates. Each class will run Sandwich Shoppe during one quarter, in this order: Red, Green, Brown, Blue. Before they begin, the Sandwich Shoppe teachers will send a lengthy introductory message to parents about the program.
Q: Will the Flex Friday’s continue?
A: Yes. A weekly, Friday afternoon in-person gathering is on our regular weekly schedule. We will be limited in how far we can travel from the school building, as we are not using CTA at this time. We are putting our focus on exploring the various neighborhoods within the vicinity of NNM, plus several cultural institutions nearby (e.g., the Inuit Center for Outsider Art)
Q: How will afternoon virtual learning work?
A: See the Elementary schedules for details.
Q: While attending half days, will the students be allowed to bring and eat snacks?
A: Yes. The snacks must be peanut free and must not require warming up because students will not have access to microwaves. Students will sit by themselves at a designated area where they can briefly remove their mask to eat their snack.
Q: What will remote learning look like?
A: You can review the Junior High, the Primary Full Opt In Remote Schedule, the Elementary schedules, and the remote learning section of our June reopening plan.
Q: If the school is moved to full remote, can students meet in pods for remote teaching?
A: It depends on the reason that caused the school to move to fully remote learning. If we are in full remote as a school as a result of a stay at home order, it is unlikely that pods can meet up. We would look to the CDPH for further guidance on this matter.
Q: Will the remote lessons be live or pre-recorded?
A: The majority of lessons will be live, with some pre-recorded lessons offered to allow for later access, should a student need it.
Q: Will junior high return to school in person later in the year?
A: This was designed to be a flexible plan that can adapt to changing conditions, so any decision to switch from remote to in person will be based on the metrics as described in the revised plan. As you can see in the plan, we are planning to be remote until October 30, when we will reassess. We continue to monitor the metrics on a regular basis and will be flexible based on that information.
Q: How will STEM lab experiments work for junior high while they are virtual?
A: There may be some experiments that a teacher can do from their work space as students watch online. There may be some experiments that a teacher asks students to gather supplies from home and do themselves. There may be some more dangerous experiments or others that require complicated equipment that a teacher may ask students to view from an online video.
Q: How long are the weekly in-person meetings?
A: During the week of 9/8-9/11, the Junior High students will begin their remote learning each morning and meet at NNM in-person each afternoon from 1:00-3:30PM. Once the Junior High’s regular weekly schedule begins on September 14, the students and teachers will meet in-person at NNM from 1:00-3:30pm for Flex Friday activities.
Q: Are connections weeks meetings in person or online?
A: It’s a combination of both. The Junior High parents have received a general schedule for the week of September 8-11. The mornings include remote learning to kick off several classroom culture activities, plus some introductory academics. The afternoons include in-person gatherings mostly outside, with some time in the building.
Q: Will 6-9 students and 9-12 students be required to bring chromebooks to school with them?
A: Yes, they will be brought between school and home in order to remain prepared for the possibility of the need to shift to full remote learning.
Q: What is the policy on repair and replacement of any chromebooks that are damaged?
A: Please refer to the policy included on the last page of the Elementary Schedule document
Q: What precautionary measures are installed on the Chromebooks to ensure students are using chromebooks exclusively for school appropriate activities?
A: Only academic apps are permitted to install, incognito browsing is disabled, and Google Safe Search is force-enabled. It is recommended that home internet connections filter inappropriate content by setting up OpenDNS Family Shield (a free service).
Q: Who will be using seesaw and when?
A: At the 3-6 level only P3s (or 3rd years) will be using Seesaw. All 6-9 children will be on SeeSaw, all 9-12 children will be on both Google Classroom and SeeSaw. Students will be introduced to the use of SeeSaw to support their remote and in-person learning when they are in school. We expect the transition from in person to remote learning this year will be much improved from last Spring.
Q: Since the primary age kids will already be in school, is there the potential that afterschool will also resume until 4:30?
A: Not until we have guidance that it is safe to mix cohorts again.
Q: Are there any virtual afterschool activities?
A: The Programs Office is finalizing these options and will be sharing information soon.
Q: Can teachers, assistant teachers and support staff supervise small pods in the afternoon either in school or off site, for those who need this support?
A: All classroom staff are working to support the classroom lesson each afternoon, whether children are remote or in person. However, this option will be extended to at-risk students.