Fall Plan Extended FAQ

Below you’ll find answers to several more questions from parents. These are organized by category.

Off-Campus Learning
Please offer a bit more information about the Off-Campus Learning option.
As stated last week, our two basic scenario possibilities are In Person Learning with an Off Campus Learning Option, and Distance Learning. We want to clarify that there is a distinction between “distance learning” and opting for the “off campus learning option” while in-person school is taking place. Our distance learning plan will take place when an entire class, grade level, or the entire school needs to stay home. Off campus learning will connect students to what is happening live within their classrooms should they opt to stay home.

The Basics of Off-Campus Learning in Lower School: Every grade level will have a webcam or computer camera to display what is happening live within the classroom. Students at home will log into a video call to see and hear what is happening in the classroom, and generally follow along with what their peers are doing (having all of their necessary materials at home with them). As we approach the start of school, those families opting to stay at home will hear from their teachers with more specific schedule and material information, as this will obviously look differently across TK-5th grade. Students at home will be expected to tune in to the required live sessions as set by the teacher, and they will complete and turn in the same work required by their peers at school. While students at home will have opportunities to share and speak to their classmates through these video calls, it will not happen as naturally as it would within the classroom. Immediate access to the teacher is also limited in this format, and while students will absolutely have the chance to ask questions and receive teacher feedback, it may not always happen in real time. Grade level teachers will be sharing webcam duties, so students at home may be instructed by either grade level teacher.

The Basics of Off-Campus Learning in Middle School: Each MS teacher will have a Google Classroom where all needed materials will be posted, and students will be able to log into a Google Meet to follow along with the class synchronously. Students learning at home should have their TDS-issued Chromebook along with any other necessary materials, such as textbooks and workbooks. In order to follow along with the class, students will need to log in at the appropriate times and complete all assigned work. Immediate access to the teacher is somewhat limited in this format, and while students will have the chance to ask questions and receive teacher feedback, it may not always happen in real time.

Health Screenings, Protocols, and Masks
The daily health screenings list reporting fever, chills, shortness of breath/difficulty breathing, new cough and new loss of taste or smell. The CDC has an expanded list of symptoms. Will the expanded list be part of the screening?
Our current plan is to limit the health screening to the five symptoms identified by the NC Dept of Health & Human Services in their Toolkit for Reopening Schools. The health screening is one of many risk mitigation measures. Students experiencing other symptoms should remain home, but they won’t be required to obtain a physician’s note, produce a negative test result for COVID, or wait ten days before returning.
If a child has a symptom that is not included on the list of core symptoms (for example, if a child wakes up with a headache or nasal congestion), would it be advised that the child stay home or would they still be permitted to come to school? Would parents then report that absence through the app?
For this year to be successful, all community members need to act responsibly. A big part of this is staying home when sick. This will be a culture change, and it’s one that needs to happen. Only the five symptoms are reported through the app. Absences due to other symptoms should be reported by contacting the TDS Office.
Can you please clarify what constitutes "close contact" IF a person tests positive?
The CDC defines close contact here. Four of the criteria are potentially relevant in a school setting:

  • Being within six feet of someone with COVID for at least 15 minutes
  • Direct physical contact with the person (touching, hugging)
  • Sharing eating or drinking utensils
  • Getting sneezed or coughed on by the person

We are in the process of reviewing whether spending an extended period of time in an enclosed space (classroom) with an infected person – even while social distancing – would qualify as close contact. We are also attempting to determine from Durham Public Health whether to adopt a policy about quarantining an entire class/homeroom, or whether to proceed on a case by case basis. This might depend on the age of the child. Please stay tuned.

Can we assume that health privacy will be maintained for students/families (For example, when there was lice last year, notifications were limited to classroom or building information.)?

Information will be shared, and privacy will be maintained. Confirmed COVID cases among students or faculty will be shared (without names) with parents of students in that particular class, and also [likely] parents of students in that section of the building (for example: TK/K, 1st/2nd, 3rd-5th, MS). We ask that families respect the privacy of others and direct all questions to the TDS administration.

Are there any specific mask requirements?

Masks with valves are not allowed. Masks should have a snug fit so that they stay above the nose. Neck gaiters are acceptable (so long as they are tight enough to stay above the nose). Bandanas are not allowed. All students should keep at least one replacement mask in a ziplock bag at school.

Have face shields been considered as an alternative for staff and/or students? I’ve seen this as an option in other areas and especially for younger kids.

We have considered face shields. Most experts agree that these shields do not provide the same level of protection as masks. As a result, everyone will wear masks for face coverings. Some teachers will wear a face shield in addition to a mask. Students will have this option as well.

Is it possible to collect a list of the most popular masks for kids that are comfortable and circulate it to parents? How will teachers help kids who struggle with things over their faces keep the masks on properly?

If parents would like to suggest mask brands that work well for children, please contact Mary Stillman in the TDS Office. Masks are one of the most important risk mitigation measures. Please continue to work with your children this summer on mask stamina. Teachers will issue reminders as necessary. Repeated infractions, particularly for older children, will result in the child being sent home.

Do TKers need to wear masks for nap time?

No. During rest time, students in TK and K will not have to wear masks, so long as they remain on their mats.

Logistics During the Day
How will restroom use work?
Most restrooms will have a maximum capacity of two students. We are investigating signage to assist with this. Outer doors to restrooms will remain open in most cases. Lids are being installed on all toilets. All students will be educated on restroom protocols, including hand hygiene.
How will rainy days affect recess?
In a typical year, if inclement weather prohibits students from going outside for recess, they remain in the classroom and play games. The same will hold true this year, though classroom activities will be restricted to those that allow for social distancing. It might be possible for some grades to occupy other spaces (gym, outdoor covered spaces) during recess.
What is the protocol for when a child needs an adult close to help? (newly lost tooth, a child falls and gets hurt, is overwhelmed emotionally, etc.)
Teachers will come within six feet of children as needed, but not for extended periods of time (unless an emergency calls for it). We will work with all children to build their independence and resilience (for example, they might be encouraged to cover a scrape with a bandage by themselves rather than relying on a teacher.
If we choose off-campus learning in the fall, could we bring our child to select outdoor activities like recess to allow some interaction?

Unfortunately, this will not be possible. We are concerned about too many moving parts during the school day. Teachers will be actively focused on their classes.

There is a shorter window for drop-off. If we have a conflict, is it possible to drop our child off at a different time than the scheduled time?
We apologize for any inconvenience. Students may not arrive earlier than their scheduled drop-off time.
Is the schedule set up so that parents can just “opt out” of lunch and PE? Attend for the core classes and then come home for lunch and exercise?
While this depends some on grade level, the Middle School schedule in particular is heavily academic in the morning. Most Lower School classes schedule math and literacy before lunch. A regular pick-up mid-day may be possible. This would need to be scheduled in advance and consistent. Please contact Natalie Ditmore (LS) or Emily McAllister (MS) if you are interested in this.
We know that TDS tries to maximize outdoor lunch time. Do you have enough tables, etc to accommodate social distancing, and will those be cleaned in between rotations (if they are shared) and/or daily?
Lunch will continue to be staggered, with different groups eating at different times. Still, given restrictions (two per table), there are not nearly enough picnic tables to accommodate all students. Many of our upper elementary students typically eat while sitting on the ground. We are both purchasing additional outdoor seating and also considering whether to ask students of certain grades to bring an outdoor chair of their own for the year. Stay tuned for possible communication on this front. Any table used by multiple cohorts will be disinfected between uses.
Curricular Program and Staffing
What is the plan for lower school in terms of assignments, projects, exams, grades? How will feedback, progress monitoring, assignment checking, and grades be run in an off-campus and/or distance learning environment for lower school?
Grading and feedback in LS will vary greatly by grade level. Students will absolutely be receiving feedback on their work in all instructional modes. If we are in person, teachers will grade assignments and leave feedback just like they would in any normal year. The goal of Off-Campus Learning is for students to complete the same work, and receive the same feedback, as students engaged in In-Person Learning. There might be a greater lag time in feedback for off-campus students. Student feedback has been and will continue to be an important cornerstone of our LS classrooms. In distance learning, students received feedback on their work weekly last spring, and this will continue to be the case if TDS is in this mode.
Will the Lower School (2-5) be integrating Google Classroom into their day to day activities to help reinforce how the website works and establish the tool as part of their day to day routine?
Lower School will be incorporating Google Classroom (along with other useful platforms) into their in-person learning models. However, it won’t be to the daily volume that Middle School will be. Our LS teachers are working to strike a balance between using screen-free opportunities during in-person learning with knowing that the students will need to be (ideally) proficient in our online platforms during periods of distance learning. LS teachers have plans to incorporate these platforms into in-person learning in various ways in order to get our students prepared, whether it be through morning arrival work, homework, writing workshop, etc. It will vary by grade level, but every grade level will be incorporating more device-related activities than they would in a given school year.
How many kids will be in a cohort? In Lower School, is the term cohort used synonymously with class?
Yes, in Lower School, a homeroom class is essentially a cohort. That class will remain together for the full day. Two classes from the same grade will be allowed to mix during outdoor recess. The maximum class (cohort) size for Lower School is 14.
The Middle School schedule is a bit more complicated, but students only switch classes during breaks in the day (after 2nd and 5th periods).
Colleges are looking into postponing some sports to the spring. Could that possibly be considered?
We are taking it one season at a time for Middle School Athletics. There will be no interscholastic sports in the fall. We are still deciding whether we can offer an organized, socially distanced physical activity after school. Many TDS athletes typically play both fall and spring sports, so moving them would be complicated. That said, we will have to see what our peer schools intend to do, and whether it’s safe to play sports in the spring.
Are you going to offer electives, such as Science Olympiad, Odyssey of the Mind and Math Counts, etc.?
Our Middle School faculty will be stretched thin this year between adding some sections and electives. That said, we hope to be able to offer some virtual clubs. It’s unclear whether any of these competitions will run this year. We are planning a STEM elective that combines principles from Science Olympiad and Odyssey of the Mind.
How will positions be filled temporarily during the school year if a teacher/staff is ill or required to stay home due to their own health and/or their family health?
There will certainly be times this year when teachers are forced to be out of school for extended periods due to having symptoms or exposure to the virus. During these times, their positions will be filled by a substitute, or with an internal reassignment (a combination of administrators filling in).
With the flexible calendar, what are some of the reasons there would be a "no learning day"?
The flexible calendar identifies three types of days: school days, no-school days, and provisional days (no-school days that could be converted to school days with 2+ weeks notice). Keep in mind that we are starting one week earlier not to increase the number of overall school days, but rather to build in some time should we have to switch to distance learning.
Will any snow days shift to distance learning days?
Armed with a much greater facility to deliver distance learning, the potential exists to convert snow days to distance learning days, provided that students take home necessary materials the day before. We have not yet decided whether this will happen, and if so, in what grades.
How will teachers / counselors talk to kids about being back in school with everything being different?
One focus of Faculty Orientation in August will be how to best support the social-emotional needs of students in all grade levels during this period when school looks and feels different. Teachers and administrators will communicate with parents about this during the first few weeks of school. Please reach out to Casey Villarreal, School Counselor, with additional questions, or specific ideas.
What can we do to support our teachers and the school?
As you might imagine, there is anxiety for many of us surrounding a return to in-person learning. First, prepare your children for the fact that school will look and feel different this year. Second, stress that adhering to the various protocols (masks, hand hygiene, etc) will help keep teachers and students safe. Third, knowing that your out-of-school actions could directly impact the health of others, please act responsibly. Also, do not send your children to school if they are sick. Finally, please share your gratitude for our teachers. None of this would be possible without them.
Will there still be ways for parents to be involved as volunteers?

Yes, but not in some ways that many have grown accustomed to in the recent past. We are planning for many of our larger, signature events, as well as some of our student clubs and parent committees, to be virtual this year, and we will still need volunteer help to organize these. If you have creative ideas in these areas, please let us know.

What is the financial impact of these adjustments on TDS?
For the 2020-21 fiscal year, we are budgeting for increased costs (due to COVID-related expenses and hiring additional personnel) and decreased revenue (due to a reduction in auxiliary revenue and an increase in financial aid). The school has cash reserves set aside for “rainy days,” and we don’t anticipate any financially driven programmatic cuts or other changes. Supporting the Annual Fund will be particularly important this year. As with any independent school, enrollment is the key driver of revenue. This year’s enrollment is similar to that of last year.
Since parents will not be allowed in the school buildings, does that mean we just drop off new students at the door on the first day? Is that the first time the new students will be able to meet their teachers or are children invited to the orientation as well?
Orientation takes place on Mon/Tues, August 17 and 18. All students will be invited to attend one session (approximately one hour in length) on one of these two days. For Lower School students, parents (one per child) are encouraged to attend as well. We will not be able to accommodate younger siblings (pre-school age) on this day. You will receive more information about this from your children’s division director.