***Email to Wingra Families sent on Thursday, March 19, 2020.***
Distance Learning: Objects in Mirror Are Closer than They Appear
Droplets. Vectors. Cocooning. Even the words we are saying have changed. And as we adapt to incorporating social distancing into our lives, so too must we navigate distance learning.
What is distance learning? For starters, distance learning is not online learning. For some schools that rely on 1:1 devices and utilize digital learning tools on a regular basis, their distance learning may involve a large amount of screen time and virtual learning. However, this is not the Wingra experience and this is not the expectation for our version of distance learning.
Wingra School has been doing something different since 1972, and we’re going to continue to be innovative and responsive, especially in a time of need. In the wake of standardized tests being cancelled and school day minimums being waived, schools across the country are asking themselves—some of them for the first time—what really matters when it comes to education. At Wingra, we have always prioritized creating a school that children deserve and we will continue to move forward in service of learning, the whole person, social justice, democracy, and the world.
Our goals are always to give our students the tools they need to be active and engaged citizens, and to promote lifelong learning. Each year, the content of our programming is informed by what’s going on around us: what’s in our communities, what’s on our students’ minds. Our Sky students studied watersheds during the Madison flooding; they visited Tenney Locks and researched water contamination. This moment isn’t any different. Our Sky teachers are now crafting a unit on social isolation, connections, and social media and our staff is brainstorming experiences for after spring break.
This is a great opportunity for all of our students to use the skills they’ve been practicing. Skills like identifying problems that exist in their communities and how they can contribute to solutions. Skills like working independently to find personal interest areas and strategies for exploration. Skills like seeking out an expert in the field or citing multiple sources. Skills like facilitating a meeting (now, perhaps, with their family at the dinner table). Even our five-year-olds have expertise in these areas.
Finally, as we look in the rear view mirror, Wingra as we know it may seem distant. But, as we all know, objects in mirror are closer than they appear, and a Wingra education is at our fingertips. With our collective creativity, patience, compassion, and optimism, we will find new meaning in John Dewey’s idea that “the only ultimate value that can be set up is just the process of living itself.”
As always, and especially now more than ever, we thank you for your partnership in your child’s educational journey. We look forward to learning and growing together.
***Email to Wingra Families sent on Friday, March 13, 2020.***
Dear Wingra Families,
As mentioned in earlier updates, we continue to be in close communication with public health officials, scientists, doctors, and fellow schools. We are considering numerous factors and recommendations around keeping your children safe, you safe, and our greater community safe. That said, our COVID-19 Planning and Response Team has two important announcements:
Firstly, there is currently no known or reported case of the COVID-19 virus at our school.
Secondly, Wingra School will be closed the week of March 16 – 20 using banked snow days/hours. Distance learning will begin Monday, March 23.
Based on information from trusted health professionals, we know it is becoming increasingly important to reduce the strain on our healthcare system and to practice social distancing, especially to protect those in our community who are the most vulnerable. We feel it is important for our school to take collective action prior to a confirmed case’s presence in our community. As a school that highly values social responsibility, we aim, in every decision we make, to model that value.
We recognize that the closing of our school and onsite programming will have a significant impact on our families, and so we are enacting plans for interim childcare as well as plans for distance learning.
We will offer interim childcare on Monday, March 16 and Tuesday, March 17 from 8:30am-3:15pm. This care is limited to families who are unable to determine a contingency plan based on this short notice. During that time, we will continue to implement social distancing practices.
•••To assist our planning, we ask that EVERY family indicate whether they need to use this interim care via this Google Form. Please RSVP by 5pm on Sunday, March 15.•••
Teachers will plan for distance learning Monday, March 16 through Thursday, March 19. It is important to know that “distance learning” is not online learning necessarily. For schools that rely on 1:1 devices and utilize digital learning tools on a regular basis, their “distance learning” may involve a large amount of screen time. However, this is not what Wingra promises on a day-to-day basis, and this is not the expectation for our version of distance learning. You can expect to hear more from us about our distance learning curriculum by the end of the day on Thursday, March 19.
Conferences currently scheduled for Friday, March 20 will shift to remote conferences with your child’s teaching team.
We now have a COVID-19 page on our website and encourage you to visit it for the most updated information on travel recommendations, social distancing measures, and other decisions. We will send more information soon regarding conferences, other upcoming events, and other practices to help keep our community and your families safe, informed, and engaged.
We know the choices we make impact others, and the decisions we make as a small community can make a difference. We appreciate your support and, even if not in person, we will be with you throughout — collaborating, problem-solving, and upholding our values as a community.
With gratitude and solidarity,
***Website post from Thursday, March 12, 2020.***
We continue to actively monitor the spread of COVID-19 and the recommendations of our trusted health partners. Public Health Madison and Dane County released a Schools Advisory on March 11, 2020, which we are using as additional guidelines for responding to the virus. We recognize that the situation is changing day to day, and our COVID-19 Planning and Response Team is meeting frequently to stay on top of this.
Potential for School Closure
As of March 11, Public Health is not recommending that we close unless there has been a confirmed case of a student or staff member in the school. They are recommending that, as much as possible, we carry on with our educational program and activities. That said, we are considering other recommendations and want to share that closure is a possibility. We take that very seriously and are actively planning for Distance Learning for students. We will do all in our power to make sure you have as much advance notice as possible, if we were to close the school.
Healthy Habits & Staying Home When Sick
We are following the recommendations of public health officials regarding preventative actions that stop the spread of all respiratory diseases. We encourage students, staff, and families to also do this by:
Washing hands frequently with soap and water
Avoiding close contact with people who are sick
Covering your nose and mouth when coughing and sneezing
Staying home when you’re sick
Cleaning and disinfecting spaces frequently
Social Distancing, Field Trips, and Gatherings
We are following guidelines from Public Health and CDC around large gatherings and general social distancing. We are looking at scheduled activities and field trips and will decide about each on a case-by-case basis. Some cancellations will likely occur. We recommend that people at higher risk of severe illness should stay home and away from large gatherings. Additionally, caregivers of children with underlying health conditions should consult their healthcare provider to determine the best course of action regarding their child and large gatherings.
We are actively considering what Distance Learning would look like, both for students who are home due to an increased risk of severe illness as well as if Wingra were to close for an extended time. We will share more details as the plan is refined and the situation evolves.
To minimize the spread of the illness, we recommend that staff and families postpone or cancel non-essential travel to areas with coronavirus. This includes both international travel to level 2 and 3 travel health notice countries with widespread illness AND domestic travel to states with more than 10 cases. Please see CDC’s state report website for the most up-to-date state level information.
If staff or families travel to any of these countries or states, Wingra may require a 14-day quarantine upon your return. We will be sending a Travel Survey Form prior to spring break to learn of travel plans for families.
Talking to your Child
Some schools are reporting an increase in the number of students with anxiety due to the information they are seeing and hearing about COVID-19 in the media. Some suggestions for talking with your child include:
Stick to the facts. It can be scary to hear about a disease outbreak, but learning the facts can help ease your mind.
Assure your child that their risk is low.
Remind your child that adults are creating plans, and that being prepared with plans is important
Remind family members to avoid making assumptions or stereotypes about who they think might be sick. Viruses do not recognize race, nationality, or ethnicity.