We did it. We reopened the Seed. On Tuesday morning we were greeted by appreciative families dropping off their precious children. Some of the kids were apprehensive about not only having their hair checked for lice as they do every first day of school, but also having their temperature taken. Having to say goodbye to their parents at the front gate, instead of their parents walking them to their classrooms or the big playground, was also different. There were some tears, but mostly the children were eager to get back to school, even if it meant extra hand washing and wearing a mask for older students (optional for twos through PreK). The new fancy no-touch paper towel dispensers were a hit right away, as well as the opportunity to be in-person with new and old friends.
We worked for months putting together the plan for reopening with COVID-19 protocols woven into our typical Seed life. I felt nervous, and it did feel a bit surreal donning my face shield and mask that first morning, in preparation to greet parents and help children find their new classrooms and teachers. Once we got started, though, my attention shifted to the children and families, and I relaxed. That whole first day was an educated projection and, with the exception of tweaking a few aspects of our procedures, it was mostly a successful estimate of what needed to happen. The second day was smoother than the first one, and we expect that this trend will continue until we have all the details worked out.
Admittedly, one of the most challenging pieces is balancing the in-person experience with the virtual. Larger schools have the luxury of having a separate teacher for each program. Because we are a small program with limited resources, we were forced to be creative and figure out a way to make it work. Initially we considered combining in-person classes to free up teachers to cover the virtual programs only. What kept coming back to us, though, was the importance of setting up the classrooms and staffing arrangements in such a way that as more students returned to in-person learning, children wouldn’t have to switch to a different classroom and teachers. We also believe that it’s important to start building classroom communities, and this couldn’t happen if the in-person and virtual programs were kept separate.
Right now, in addition to all the adjustments we’ve had to make in response to the presence of COVID-19 in our lives, creating an entirely new way of teaching, learning new technology, and settling into a new school year is a significant balancing process for our teachers. Their time, energy, and thought have been immense. I have full confidence that they will figure it out, and administratively we are doing everything we can to support them. They need your support, too.
We’ve received several kind, appreciative messages already from parents, both in-person and virtually. We certainly want to know about any areas of your Seed experience that need improvement and will openly receive feedback. The teachers are open to feedback as well, and I ask that as you offer suggestions for improvement, you also mention what’s going well. It’s an important time to work as a community, and based on what I saw this week—from students, parents, and teachers—the Seed village is alive and well.