Over the last six weeks, the School Committee, administration, faculty, and staff have been engaged in planning for the 2020-21 school year. A task force of many minds has formed to focus on the operational, financial, programmatic, and communication needs for a reopening of school in September. The task force is consulting with professionals in each of these areas and is aligning decisions with guidelines provided by the CDC, state and local government agencies, and the NJ Department of Education. We are planning for the possibility of three different scenarios next school year: on-campus, off-campus, and a hybrid model (combination of distance and on-campus learning).
Although information is constantly evolving, I want to share it as it becomes available. This will be the first of many messages you will receive between now and September.
- School will begin September 9, 2020. While we are unclear at this time about whether we will be allowed to return to on-campus learning, our hope is that by starting after Labor Day, we will be fully ready for re-entry and can ensure health and safety measures are in place before welcoming children back to campus.
- In an effort to ensure a robust academic program, the school year will be extended by one week, ending June 11, 2021. This extra week will provide additional days should we experience disruption.
- When we return to campus, we will provide the same five day a week schedule familiar to students and families, and arrival and dismissal times will remain the same as in previous school years. Afterschool programming will be available for those that need it. If we move to a distance learning model, we will shift to an alternative schedule with both synchronous and asynchronous portions of the day. We will apply all that we’ve learned about virtual learning and improve upon it.
- We will keep class sizes small and use a variety of spaces on campus, including the Great Room, library, and outdoors, to ensure appropriate social distancing. There will be limited entry and exit points for travel throughout the day to avoid spread of germs and exposure. Thoughtful care is being taken to create ways for children to enjoy lunch and recess, and to reclaim play within the school day.
- We will implement safety check-ins as faculty, staff and students arrive to campus to ensure that everyone arriving is symptom-free.
- We will limit building access to faculty, staff and students to mitigate contagion. This will be very difficult, as we pride ourselves on having an open and welcoming campus. I am sure you understand the necessity. As soon as the pandemic is over, we plan to return to welcoming everyone in the Princeton Friends way.
- For students who are unable to attend school in person for any reason, we will offer a hybrid model enabling these students to participate as fully as possible from home through virtual classes.
- Should we again be forced to pivot off-campus, our teachers are developing a rich, project based, interdisciplinary program that honors the values of a progressive, Quaker education. The faculty task force is deeply engaged in work to restructure the schedule and program to meet the needs of children whether we are on or off-campus.
- Faculty and staff will engage in professional development training throughout the summer to prepare for a seamless, child-centered, developmentally appropriate, approach to online learning, should it be necessary next school year.
- There will be a concerted effort to maintain beloved traditions - Blairstown, Winter Arts Festival, Valentalent Show, Homeless Counts, Storytelling, the musical, and Peace and Justice Day - as much as possible. In addition to these and many other events, the Island School Trip has been preserved. This service learning trip is scheduled for June 2 - June 8, 2021, and will take place before 8th graders participate in Moving On ceremonies on June 12.
- This year, PFS summer camp will be an at-home camp experience due to health and safety considerations. Next summer, our plan is to return camp to campus and offer the same rich, wonderful experience it has been for many years.
As time unfolds, we will have more information to share and will communicate with you. We will continue to proceed with thoughtful care as we clarify specific plans for the new school year. Please do not hesitate to reach out with questions or concerns. Your partnership is vital, and we deeply appreciate your confidence and support in allowing us to nurture and educate your children.
While Princeton Friends School may temporarily look a little different when we return, the warmth and spirit of the community remain unchanged. I look forward to getting to know each and every family and welcoming you back to campus with open arms and a joyful heart.