2020-21 School Year

Lowell School is open in a hybrid model that includes fully in-person learning for our Pre-Primary students, Kindergarten, 4th, and 5th grades. Remote learning will remain for 1st-3rd and 7th-8th  grades. The week of November 30, 6th grade will return to campus for in-person learning.

Mask wearing, hand washing, and social distancing is required on campus.

We will reevaluate our operating structure every 4-6 weeks as the year progresses. Please see our calendar for up-to-date information regarding all-school meetings and events.

School Communications

List of 3 items.

  • Head of School Letter—November 5, Reopening Next Phase Announcement

    Dear Lowell Community,
    We are heading into our ninth month of the pandemic, doing what is required, and we are tired. But we cannot stop now, because the things we are doing as a community are working--even if it doesn’t always feel like it. The science has shown, so far, that schools don’t create community spread of the virus, but that community behavior can create virus spread in schools. We have had no COVID-19 cases on campus to date due to our collaborative diligence and commitment to each other. Thank you for doing what is required.
    Also, thank you for making necessary adjustments to your lives as we learn from our experiences and modify our program for students. It has meant that you needed to change schedules, arrange for childcare, and be flexible even when you were spent. Your feedback in meetings, phone calls, and emails, even when it is difficult to hear, has been helpful; so too, have your words of encouragement. Thank you for your quick response when we surveyed the community for your feedback, especially last week’s survey, the results of which can be found here. The data helps us strategically and thoughtfully make plans to continue offering remote learning for those who need or want to be off-campus while adding more options for those who are comfortable learning on-campus.

    Given the unpredictable nature of the virus, we are prepared to adjust at any time, but we are pleased to share the next phase of our plan, which will impact Pre-Primary, Primary, and Middle School. We share this plan keeping in mind the disproportionate impact that COVID-19 is having on communities of color and our responsibility as a school committed to equity to be mindful of the experiences of our families of color during this time. I invite you to join me at a community meeting on November 10 at 7:00 pm to learn more--the meeting information will be shared next week (and was included in today's issue of The Loop). The advance question format has created some confusion in our last two community meetings, so we will be returning to a format where all questions will be submitted during the meeting itself.


    As I mentioned in my letter last week, we decided to move to a remote platform in January, following the holidays, to balance our community’s health and safety with the challenging impact of remote learning on families’ home lives. Having heard from several of you, we recognize that this impact is perhaps most significant in our Pre-Primary division. At this time, we are exploring options for leveraging our licensing as a childcare center and restructuring our staffing to reduce the amount of off-campus time in January for our youngest students. Dawn and Iris will contact Pre-Primary families should any of the solutions we are investigating come to fruition.

    Primary School

    In Primary School, Linda and the teachers have worked to respond to feedback about remote learning and issues that were named in the parent meetings from a few weeks ago. All Primary teachers are now using Google Voice as a tool for communicating with families, which we hope will reduce the frustration with reaching out to teachers without success. She has also made adjustments in some grades on the process for when a teacher is sick, so the student experience stays more consistent and has tweaked the specialist schedule to help improve the experience for remote learners. 

    We have also signed a contract with a staffing company and are in the final stages of interviewing candidates for some of our assistant, lead teacher, and aide positions in the Primary School. As individuals are hired for each position, particularly in 1st through 3rd grades, we look forward to offering on-campus learning for additional grades as early as the week of November 30. We are also using results from the survey families completed last week and the feedback and suggestions from teachers currently on campus to refine and maintain robust and engaging offerings for students who remain in a remote learning environment.

    Middle School

    We are ready to expand our student population in Parkside by bringing back interested 6th graders for in-person learning the week of November 30. The decision to bring the 6th grade back as the first middle school class acknowledges that this grade is a key entry point for many new students and families who have not been able to form genuine connections in their new school. The 6th-grade team also does not have any crossover teachers, therefore reducing the transmission risk. 

    At the same time, we are using our experience with 5th graders, both on-campus and learning remotely, to refine the experience for 6th graders who may choose to continue in a remote setting. 

    Sixth grade families will have the opportunity to learn more about this new phase and what it will mean for their students as in-person or remote learners, at a meeting with Kavan on Thursday, November 12, at 6 pm. The meeting information will be shared next week.

    Equity in on-campus opportunities

    We hear your pleas to make on-campus events for students who remain in remote learning longer and more frequent, and we are working to increase the presence of all grades on campus. We have to do so while allotting time for the logistics and operations required for socially distanced field use, and that limits the number of students we can have during any given period. Nonetheless, we have developed some new ideas, and I look forward to sharing an improved plan by the end of the next week.

    Some of you have questioned the equity of some students being on campus full time, while others are perceived as being deprived of the opportunity. We don’t deny the feelings of unfairness that our decisions have created, even though we have made choices we feel confident will successfully keep people in low-risk environments. Each moment of success that we can apply to the next phase of in-person student experiences is matched by a challenge related to the addition of bodies on campus.

    Both Primary and Middle School leadership is working to create a path forward. Primary School will be announcing additional on-campus events next week. Today, Middle School has put the finishing touches on the dates for additional 7th and 8th-grade meetups:
    • Tuesday, December 8th
      • 7th Grade, 8:30–11:30 am
      • 8th Grade, 12:30–3:30 pm
    • Thursday, December 17th
      • 7th Grade, 8:30–11:30 am
      • 8th Grade, 12:30–3:30 pm 
    The conversations we have had with teachers currently on campus, and our observations of on-campus learning with students engaged remotely, are pointing us in the direction of re-imagining learning in January to reflect a hybrid model that provides increased equity. While a hybrid model solves the problem of access and addresses the increasing challenge of appropriate and safe staffing of duties, it would mean a reduction of in-person time for those currently on campus every day.

    This is a pivot away from what many of you--but not all--have expressed a need/desire for: your students learning in-person on Lowell’s campus five days a week. However, after considering the results of the last two months and the voices of those who have lived the experience firsthand, we believe that moving to a hybrid model will serve all our students better than what we have been able to provide to this point. I hope you will recognize the imperfect nature of this work we are trying to do, striving to make the best of a less than ideal situation.

    “As conditions allow”

    We are monitoring the health metrics at Lowell and in the DMV rigorously. As an independent school, we are subject to the Mayor's Public Health Emergency Orders and will close if that is the mandate. However, we feel more confident based on our experiences this fall and the growing body of research regarding the relative lack of virus transmission in schools. As long as our entire community holds firm to the social compact tenets and continues to exhibit vigilance in using mitigation strategies both on and off-campus, we could possibly continue on-campus learning for longer than we initially imagined. Nothing is set in stone, of course, and we will pull back on our plans if we feel it is in the best interests of our students and community.

    At the same time, we are challenged by our ability to staff lunch, recess, and other necessary duties in a low-risk risk manner, while allowing the teachers the time they need to plan; our capacity to restructure the use of space to accommodate additional students and adults safely for things like indoor recesses and lunches; and the status of surrounding counties. We acknowledge the strong feedback from teachers sharing the advantage of having a few days for preparing classrooms, learning protocols, and practicing technology for being on campus, and we know that providing such time will require a decrease of instructional days for students in grades returning to campus. Combined, this means that as much as we would like to bring students back before November 30, at which point it is entirely possible that the situation regionally will make it impossible for us to follow through on the plan I have laid out, doing so puts the success of our on-campus experience at risk. 

    In Closing

    We are asking a great deal from everyone in our community and making hard choices every day. I want to share my gratitude for our parents, staff, faculty, and students during this challenging time. The options before us have been and will continue to be less than perfect, but we are determined to continue doing what is required to maintain our community and the Lowell experience.
    In solidarity,

  • Head of School Letter—October 14, Reopening Carpool Procedures

    Dear Lowell Families –
    With Lowell’s Phase Two Reopening rapidly approaching, we need to share some additional details with you about the new drop-off and pick-up procedures and timelines. Adhering to the rules below will minimize the health risks for our students and faculty/staff while they are on campus and protect everyone’s physical safety while navigating the carpool line.
    1. It is critically important that you stick to the schedule as much as possible. Doing so will allow us to minimize the risk to all students as much as possible. Failure to do so may result in you being asked to wait until the current window is over to drop off or pick up your student. If you do not arrive during your drop off or pick-up window, you must contact your division director for further instruction.
    2. Each grade will be assigned a drop-off and pick-up spot. Parents must drop their students off (and pick them up) at the designated spot only.
    3. The Pre-Primary School drop-off windows are from 7:45 to 8:00 am and from 8:00 to 8:15 am; the pick-up windows are from 1:45 to 2:00 pm and from 2:00 pm to 2:15 pm. On Wednesdays, the pick-up windows for Pre-Primary are from 1:45 to 2:00 pm and from 2:00 to 2:15 pm. Pre-Primary School’s drop off/pick-up spot is located at the black gate near the Pre-Primary School entrance.
    4. The Kindergarten drop off window is from 8:15 to 8:30 am; the pick-up window is from 3:15 to 3:30 pm. On Wednesdays, the pick-up window is from 2:15 to 2:30 pm. Kindergarten’s drop off/pick-up spot is located near the pool entrance in the Main Building.
    5. The fourth-grade drop off window is from 8:00 to 8:15 am; the pick-up window is from 3:00 to 3:15 pm. On Wednesdays, the pick-up window is from 2:00 to 2:15 pm. Fourth grade’s drop off/pick-up site is the furthest bench down the driveway.
    6. The fifth-grade drop-off window is from 7:45 to 8:00 am; the pick-up window is from 2:45 to 3:00 pm. On Wednesdays, the pick-up window is from 1:45 to 2:00 pm. Fifth grade’s drop off/pick-up site is located in front of Parkside at the bottom of the hill closest to the driveway entrance. 
    7. Lowell faculty and staff will not assist your student in exiting or entering your car, nor will they assist in gathering your child’s belongings from the car. Parents who need to exit the vehicle to help their children should do so carefully, being mindful that other vehicles may pass in the adjacent lane. Students should only exit a car from the curbside. If you exit your vehicle to help your child, you should not linger, as this will slow down the drop-off or pick-up process for others. If your child can exit and enter the car on their own, please have them do so.
    8. If you have students returning for in-person learning whose grade has a different drop-off and pick-up times and you have not contacted Linda already to make arrangements, please do so a.s.a.p. If you have already reached out to Linda, you will be hearing from her soon.
    9. The SchoolPass app screening, including the temperature check, must be completed before arriving on campus. Doing this will help speed up the drop-off procedure for all families and help Lowell minimize the risk to our students and faculty/staff. Failure to do so may result in you being asked to wait to drop off your child until all other families have departed. If you receive a red mark when filling out the app, do not proceed to campus. Instead, check-in with Nurse Mary and await further instruction.
    10. The speed limit during drop off and pick-up is five mph, and parents should use extra caution when moving along Lowell’s driveway during carpool times. Cars will be merging in or passing by regularly, and we ask you to be courteous and careful. 
    As with all of our reopening plans, Lowell will be regularly evaluating the success and challenges we encounter with drop-off and pick-up. This allows us to adapt to any needed changes flexibly. As a result, we ask two things of you:
    1. If you encounter any problems, please inform Dawn or Linda after you have dropped off or picked up your student(s). In-person conversations during the carpool times will not be possible. 
    2. Please be patient with your students, our faculty and staff, and other parents. This is a new experience for all of us, and there will be hiccups…but we can get through it if we all work together. 
    Thank you, and we look forward to welcoming you back to campus.
  • Head of School Letter—Sept. 25, Reopening Plan Phase Two

    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?
    Decisionmaking Process
    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.
    Next Steps
    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,

Quick FAQs

List of 5 items.

  • What is expected of families returning to campus?

    For a safe return to campus, we strongly encourage Lowell community members to follow the most current (as of July 22) DC guidelines from Mayor Bowser, including mask-wearing, social distancing and adhere to travel restrictions and quarantine recommendations after returning from a high-risk state. For a full list of guidelines, visit https://coronavirus.dc.gov/phasetwo.
  • What is not permitted on campus?

    • No – Parents or caregivers allowed inside any Lowell buildings.
    • No – Tutors permitted inside any Lowell building.
    • No – Delivery personnel allowed inside any Lowell building.
    • No – Teachers allowed to go inside a family’s car to retrieve a child during carpool.
    • No – Students allowed in school who have not completed their daily morning screening via the SchoolPass app.
  • What is required on campus?

    • Yes – Masks are required outside on campus and in the buildings.
    • Yes – Lowell will provide masks for teachers.
    • Yes – Social distancing (6 ft.).
    • Yes – Lowell will provide hand sanitizer.
    • Yes – Parents or caregivers of children will assist children out of and into the car during drop-off and pick up times.
    • Yes – Parents self-report and provide a temperature check via SchoolPass app before drop-off/arrival to school every day.
    • Yes – Parents or caregivers adhere to assigned staggered drop-off and pick up times.
  • 2020-21 Reopening Models

    • In-person
      • All students on campus.
      • Remote learning provided as needed on a case-by-case basis.
      • Traditional Lowell School experience.
    • Hybrid
      • Hybrid A: All students on campus in small cohorts; specialists teach remotely.
        • Students are grouped into cohorts of up to 9 students (Pre-Primary) or up to 12 students (all other grades), with each cohort having one teacher.
        • Students are on campus five days a week.
        • Students interact with learning specialists and content specialists remotely from within their on-campus classroom.
        • Cohorts will use outside learning space whenever possible and will be given regular breaks to go outside for fresh air.
        • Physical activity will be emphasized, even if P.E. instruction looks different.
        • Division Directors work with students who require a remote environment on a case-by-case basis.
      • Hybrid B: Some grades on campus in small cohorts; other grades learning remotely.
        • Students are grouped into cohorts of up to 8 students (Pre-Primary) or up to 12 students (all other grades), with each cohort having one teacher.
        • All students will participate in learning five days a week, to include possible "remote learning practice days." If Lowell needs to move into an all remote environment, practice will allow students to make a smoother transition.
        • Students interact with learning specialists and content specialists remotely.
        • Physical activity will be emphasized, even if P.E. looks different.
        • As needed, supplies will be provided by Lowell via a pickup or drop-off mechanism.
        • Plans are underway to provide weekly optional in-person interaction time on campus for students. 
        • Division Directors work with students who require a remote environment on a case-by-case basis.
        • If participating remotely, students in Pre-Primary - 1st grade will use a combination of Seesaw and Zoom
        • Students in all other grades will use a combination of Google Classroom and Zoom.
        • Cohorts participating remotely will receive synchronous learning each day and will have designated screen-free time.
        • Cohorts participating remotely will have an increased focus on social/emotional connections throughout the day.
        • Cohorts participating remotely will have more learning during the day and less homework.
        • Cohorts participating on campus will use outside learning space whenever possible and will be given regular breaks to go outside for fresh air.
        • For Pre-Primary School, if a cohort is learning remotely or in-person, two plans will be offered. One is a more structured model, while the other offers synchronous participation during the daily key anchor points, while also providing materials and ideas for inquiry inquiry-based exploration.
        • For Primary School, if a cohort is learning remotely or in-person, their experiences will be largely similar. Synchronous learning, including the daily anchor points, will be provided, but interactions with specialist teachers and learning specialists will remain remote. Adequate breaks and time for physical activity and going outside will be a part of the daily schedule.
        • For Middle School, if a cohort is learning remotely or in-person, their experiences will be largely similar. Synchronous learning, including the daily anchor points, will be provided, but interactions with specialist teachers and learning specialists will remain remote. Adequate breaks and time for physical activity and going outside will be a part of the daily schedule.
    • All Remote
      • All students learn remotely.
      • Combination of synchronous and asynchronous learning, plus device-free time.
      • Additional programming and events build connections between families, teachers, and the community.
      • Students are grouped into cohorts of up to 8 students (Pre-Primary) or up to 12 students (all other grades), with each cohort having one teacher.
      • Students will participate in learning five days a week.
      • Students will receive synchronous learning each day and will have designated screen-free time.
      • Students will have common anchor points in the day so that students and families have predictability and routine and so the school is moving together in concert.
      • There will be an increased focus on social/emotional connections throughout the day.
      • There will be more learning during the day and less homework.
      • Physical activity will be emphasized, even if P.E. instruction looks different.
      • As needed, supplies will be provided by Lowell via a pickup or drop-off mechanism.
  • 2020-21 School Year FAQ and Plan

    2020-21 Reopening Plan - Updated 9/30

    Reopening Plan and COVID-19 Details and FAQs - Under revision.

    Parent-led Pods

    Social Compact Form - Must be completed by October 7 for families whose children are returning to campus.
Lowell School is a private PK-8th grade school located in NW Washington, DC. At Lowell students gain the knowledge, skills, and social-emotional literacy to be the bold leaders and creative problem solvers our world needs.