Dear Lowell Community,
In my last communication, I told you about my August back to school dreams, and how they still arrived on schedule, even though so much had changed since last summer when I started at Lowell. Despite the few challenges of the first weeks of school, I still feel that same excitement as I check in on our classes and listen to our teachers and division directors at Back to School Night. Everything we have accomplished to date, we have accomplished together, and I want to thank you.
To our families, I thank you for trusting that your children’s best interests are at the core of every decision Lowell makes. They are the inspiration that keeps us all going.
To our faculty and staff, thank you for everything you did to plan for this unprecedented year and everything you are continuing to do to make sure that our students have the kind of experience that makes Lowell School unique…whether they are learning in-person or remotely.
Phase 2 Reopening Plan
Our work to make the 2020-21 school year successful didn’t stop once classes began, and our goal to bring students back to campus for in-person learning remains. Taskforce members, faculty, and staff have spent hundreds of hours following the latest research, trends, and infection rates, assessing our physical plant and workforce readiness and making necessary alterations to our campus and educational programming. All the while, we have maintained our guiding principle of prioritizing the safety and well-being of employees, students, and our community’s families.
As I promised you in August, Lowell assesses our ability to have students on campus every four to six weeks, and that is where most of our work has centered since August. Starting on Thursday, October 15, our Kindergarten, 4th grade, and 5th grade will be returning to campus.
I need to share what this decision will mean for those families and students, and what we will be asking of you. First, though, I want to address questions I anticipate many of you will be asking: Why, if you know remote learning is least successful for our youngest students, are you bringing back grades 4 and 5 instead of grades 1–3? And why are you not bringing back any grades in the Middle School?
Many of you have asked what metrics Lowell is using to make these decisions. Unfortunately, while infection rates and community spread in the local area are trending well at the moment, these aren’t the only factors we have to consider.
We must understand whether Lowell’s campus and our on-campus learning plan (in the context of safety and mitigation protocols) will be ready to support our students in the safest way possible. We have to look at the current regulations from local governments and the CDC, and current conditions in Washington, DC, and the surrounding counties (including Montgomery County, where many of our faculty and families live). And we must look at the readiness of our workforce and any staffing situations that may exist.
Different aspects of these variables and more make a return for the Primary School grades in question difficult at this time. Lowell continues to focus on bringing our youngest students to campus as soon as possible, and we are actively working to provide a path back. Until then, our 1st – 3rd-grade teams will continue to offer a rich remote learning experience for our early learners.
A hallmark of Lowell’s excellence is the thoughtful, intentional manner with which we make every decision. As we plan a physically distanced return to campus with safety protocols in place, we are carefully assessing what works and what needs to be adjusted, recognizing that with each phase and increase in the number of students on campus, the relative risk of infection increases. Given the research which shows older children and adolescents can transmit the virus effectively, keeping our middle schoolers in an environment of consistency and connection in a successful remote learning system makes the most sense at this time.
Implementing Phase Two
Kindergarten, 4th, and 5th-grade students will not have classes on Friday, October 8, or Tuesday and Wednesday, October 13 and 14. Pre-Primary and Middle School students, and grades 1-3, will have class on those days. This change is to allow the returning teachers time to prepare their spaces to welcome students. Monday, October 12, Lowell School is closed in observance of Indigenous Peoples Day. Thursday and Friday, October 15 and 16, will be on campus orientation days for the returning students. Detailed schedules for orientation, including each family's time slot, will be provided next week. For 4th and 5th grade, Monday, October 19, will be the first full day of school on campus. For Kindergarten, Monday, October 19, and Tuesday, October 20 will be half days of school on campus. Their first full day will be on Wednesday, October 21.
Families of impacted grades will receive a survey asking whether your child will participate in on-campus or remain in remote learning. Questions should be directed to Linda Chang
We expect families whose students will be newly returning to campus in October to quarantine for 14 days. For families who are currently participating in pods or other arrangements outside of Lowell, this means you will be required to remove your students from that setting and quarantine for 14 days before returning to campus. Additionally, if all guardians in a family have not signed a social compact, the student will not be allowed to return to campus.
We will continue to evaluate our operating status every 4 to 6 weeks, and there will be additional phases of reopening, conditions permitting. Given that we are moving closer to winter, and the holiday season, which scientists say could bring about another wave of infections (combined with our yearly battle against the flu and other illnesses), I cannot promise you when those next phases will be. What I can promise you is that Lowell will do everything possible to bring your children back into the classroom when the time is right.
In the meantime, please continue to take care of yourselves and others. Lowell School is strictly adhering to the DC protocols for travel to hotspots. If your student is learning on campus, and you plan to see your extended families at Thanksgiving, please keep that in mind and notify Nurse Mary if you find that you are required to quarantine.
Inch by inch, row by row, our garden is growing. More than that, it is thriving.
I want to invite you to learn more about our Phase Two Reopening Plan during a community meeting on Wednesday, September 30, at 7:00 p.m. As was the case last time, you will be able to submit questions in advance
or ask during the meeting. I also encourage you to use the COVID-19 pages
of our website as a resource. We will post updated FAQs and other information you may find useful early next week.
I am grateful for your partnership and patience.
Take good care,