Return to School 2020

Since moving to Virtual MFS in March 2020, the Administrative Council and School Committee at Moorestown Friends School have been in deep conversation about how best to reopen school when the time is right. We have been engaged in detailed scenario planning that would allow our students to return to in-person learning, continue in Virtual MFS, or engage in a hybrid learning experience, as the ever-evolving situation requires. This webpage will be updated throughout the coming months as we share plans, logistics, and decisions related to starting school in the Fall.

Guiding Principles

The following principles will guide our leadership team as we make the best decisions possible for our community.

  • Our top priority is the collective health and safety of our students, faculty, staff, and families. We will strive to make decisions that can be sustained by all community members over the course of the school year.
  • Clear and regular communication with our community is critical for maintaining trust and ensuring the smoothest experience for all involved.
  • Our foundational Quaker values of integrity, community, equality, and stewardship will be core to how we make decisions. We are committed to maintaining a strong educational experience for our students through the pandemic and will make sound financial choices to ensure the long-term sustainability of the institution for generations more.
  • The “power of small”–as a small school, we will adapt as needed to meet the changing situation and to reduce disruption for students.
  • Remaining inclusive in our decision-making will help us best address the needs of our diverse constituents. 
Assumptions
  • In order to balance the educational and health needs of our community, we understand that unless all families and employees are under strict quarantine, there will always be an element of risk to convening in person. Our goal is to mitigate that risk and create the healthiest environment possible in which children can learn.
  • The school year will look different from what we have known in the past and may include some combination of virtual, face-to-face, and hybrid learning, as waves of infection impact our geographic area.
  • We will operate on campus only if it is in alignment with our local and state authorities and if we can successfully and reasonably follow the CDC guidelines available at the time.
  • Moorestown Friends expects a phased re-entry to the school year and will prioritize getting our youngest learners (Lower School – Preschool through Grade 4) on campus as much as possible, as they require the greatest hands-on support to grow and adapt to the changing environment.
Frequently Asked Questions (Updated August 28, 2020)

Under what conditions would you consider moving to Modified Remote or All Virtual Learning?

At any time, we may be asked by the state or the county to move to remote learning, should the community spread of COVID-19 rise to concerning levels. At times, the Governor makes decisions that affect public schools only; other times, decisions affect all schools, including independent institutions. There may be times when the state or county allows for in-person learning, but Moorestown Friends School may determine that remote learning is safer for our community. This decision would always be made in consultation with our local department of health. There are a number of important factors that would influence our decision to move to a modified program or All Virtual Learning.

  1. If the state, county, or infectious disease experts recommend moving to remote learning, all or in part
  2. If we have inadequate staffing on-campus to support an in-person program
  3. If there are local outbreaks connected to our community or if cases of COVID are impacting school-aged children at increased rates in our area
  4. If there are two or more cases of COVID-19 on our campus within a 14-day period and the local department of health recommends closure depending on the circumstances of the cases
  5. If rates of community spread of COVID-19 rise to concerning levels in our county or region (Southwest region of New Jersey is defined as Burlington, Camden, Gloucester, and Salem counties)
    1. The State Department of Health defines a “moderate” COVID-19 activity level as up to 10 new daily cases per 100,000 as calculated over a 14-day period and/or 3%-10% positivity. A “high” activity level is over 10 new daily cases per 100,000 or over 10% positivity. 
    2. Should we see county rates (primarily Burlington and Camden counties) in the 7-10 new daily case range or 5% or more positivity rate, MFS would be in close contact with our local department of health to understand the root cause and to consider moving to a more hybrid or all remote learning model. Cases consistently greater than 10 new daily cases per 100,000 would likely lead to all virtual learning. 
    3. We will be looking at how quickly cases are increasing, ICU capacity in our region, and the rate of transmission, with greater than 1.0 being of concern. 
    4. Moorestown Friends School is consulting a variety of sources for the latest metrics, including the New Jersey Department of Health, Covidactnow, and the Harvard Global Health Institute, as well as county and regional data. 

It may be determined that complete campus closure is not necessary, but that de-densifying the campus or prioritizing our youngest students may be more advisable, given the circumstances. 

Are face coverings required?

When worn correctly and consistently, face coverings can help slow the spread of COVID-19, together with other preventive actions and social distancing. In accordance with recommendations from the CDC and the State of New Jersey, Moorestown Friends School requires that face coverings be worn by students, employees and guests at all times indoors, unless they are under two years of age or have difficulty breathing. Any student or family requesting a medical exemption to the face covering requirement may take advantage of the MFS@Home learning option. Although the school will provide a cloth face covering for every student, families are encouraged to have a supply of comfortable cloth face coverings that are at least two layers and fit securely around the nose and mouth. Students should wash their face coverings daily, and it is advised to have a back-up face covering available at school or in backpacks, should one get soiled or wet during the day.

What types of face coverings are permitted? 

There are a variety of cloth face coverings to choose from on the market, but MFS requests that coverings be a minimum of two-ply material that securely covers the nose and mouth without gapping on the sides. Disposable face coverings can be used if they meet these same requirements. Face coverings with exhalation valves or vents will not be permitted, as they allow air to exit through a hole in the material. Bandanas, neck gaiters and other coverings that are one layer are also not permitted. It is important to select face coverings that your child can tolerate for an extended period of time, so consider ear loops, ties, and materials that are breathable and gentle on the skin. Please refer to the dress code section of the Family Handbook, as the same guidelines that apply to selection of clothing will also apply to face coverings. Note that face shields are not a substitute for a cloth face covering.

Can students and employees take breaks from their face coverings?

While indoors, face coverings may only be removed briefly during meals when social distancing can be maintained, although outdoor lunch will be encouraged. For young students who have nap time as part of their day, they may remove face coverings since social distancing between mats will be ensured. Face coverings may be removed outdoors only if more than six feet of social distance can be maintained. 

Will MFS be doing universal testing of students and employees?

Currently, the CDC does not recommend universal testing of asymptomatic individuals in a school setting. One-time or universal entry testing could miss COVID-19 cases in the early stages of infection, and it could miss exposures that happen after testing. In consultation with our local department of health and our nurse’s office, Moorestown Friends may recommend a student or employee follow up with their health care provider to consider testing if they are exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19 and may have known exposure. 

When will my child(ren) be asked to stay home from school?

Individuals with COVID-19 have had a wide range of symptoms reported, ranging from mild to severe. There is no single symptom that is uniquely predictive of COVID, and symptoms may appear anywhere from 2-14 days after exposure to the virus. Possible symptoms include, but are not limited to, the following: Fever or chills; Cough; Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing; Fatigue; Muscle or body aches; Headache; New loss of taste or smell; Sore throat; Congestion or runny nose; Nausea or vomiting; Diarrhea.

Parents should not send students to school when sick. After completing the daily symptom assessment, a student will be asked to stay home if they exhibit:

  • At least two of the following symptoms: chills, shivers, myalgia (muscle aches), headache, sore throat, nausea or vomiting, diarrhea, fatigue, congestion, or runny nose; OR
  • At least one of the following symptoms: fever (100.4 degrees or higher), cough, shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, new loss of smell, or new loss of taste.

Parents should keep their child(ren) home if they or anyone in the household has been diagnosed or has been exposed to COVID-19. Additionally, if the child has traveled to any location with high rates of community transmission, they will be asked to quarantine at home for 14 days.

When can my child return to school?

If a student stays home or is sent home with symptoms of COVID-19, you must send to the nurse’s office either a negative COVID test or a medical note with an alternative diagnosis in order to return to school. In addition, the student’s fever must be resolved for at least 24 hours without fever reducing medication and other symptoms must have improved. If a student has tested positive for COVID-19 or is a close contact of a confirmed COVID-19 case, they will receive explicit instructions from the nurse’s office on when it is acceptable to return to campus. 

What will happen if there is a positive case of COVID-19 on campus?

If a child or family member of a child receives a positive COVID-19 diagnosis, we ask that you contact the school immediately. Once the school learns of a positive case–either student or employee–we will notify the local health department and they will begin the contact tracing process in collaboration with the school. Close contacts are defined as being within six feet of someone with suspected or known COVID-19 for at least 10 consecutive minutes. If the school cannot determine whether individuals have met this criterion, an entire cohort, classroom, or other group may need to be considered exposed, particularly if people have spent time together indoors. As long as routine cleaning and disinfecting have been done at least daily, additional cleaning measures are not necessary unless the COVID-19 positive person is in school on the day the school officials learn of the positive test. If this is the case, MFS will close off areas used by the person who is confirmed positive, open windows to increase air circulation in the areas, and wait 24 hours before cleaning and disinfecting all affected areas. In consultation with the local health officials, the school administration will determine what closure (classroom, division, school), if any, would be necessary. 

Will I be notified if there is a potential exposure or positive case of COVID-19 on campus?

If there is a potential exposure to COVID-19, the school will notify students, families, or employees who have been identified as close contacts. If there is a positive case of COVID-19 in the school–either student or employee–the entire parent/guardian population will be notified. In all cases, confidentiality will be preserved as required by state and federal laws. Out of respect for those involved, we ask that community members not speculate or spread misinformation surrounding suspected or confirmed cases of COVID-19. 

How will contact tracing work at the school?

Contact tracing is a strategy used to determine the source of an infection and how it is spreading. Close contacts are defined as being within six feet of someone with suspected or known COVID-19 for at least 10 consecutive minutes. If there is a positive case among students or employees, the school will provide to the local department of health any information on the types of interactions (close contacts, length of contact) the person may have had with other people in the building or on the campus. If the school cannot determine whether individuals have met this criterion, an entire cohort, classroom, or other group may need to be considered exposed, particularly if people have spent time together indoors.

How will the nurse’s office work this year?

Two rooms will be used to manage all medical needs. The nurse’s office will handle all non-COVID-related needs. The Moriuchi Room in Stokes Hall has been designated our COVID isolation room. This room is outfitted with floor to ceiling plastic panels for three separate spaces: a space for evaluation and two isolation bays for COVID symptomatic students or adults. The space is a short term isolation room where suspected cases will stay awaiting immediate parent/guardian pick up.

What outdoor spaces are being provided for learning, lunch, or other activities?

We have identified more than ten spaces on campus grounds where outdoor classrooms can be held. Some sun shade sails and canopies will be installed to provide more shade and shelter for comfort. On a daily basis, teachers will take into consideration class content and technology needs, which will guide their decision on outdoor learning.

Communications Regarding Reopening School
Social-Emotional Wellness Webinars and Resources for Families

Social-Emotional Wellness Webinars and Resources for Families

Monday, August 24, 7 p.m. – Webinar: Supporting Children’s Social and Emotional Wellness
As the school year approaches, parents and guardians are invited to a virtual evening with Dr. Al Freedman, licensed psychologist with specialized experience in school settings. He will share advice and expertise to support families in the unique challenges associated with the pandemic.  

Teens, Tweens & Quarantines is a virtual Minding Your Mind presentation by Jon Mattleman for parents and caregivers, focusing on the impact of COVID-19 on our children. It is available to download for free and to watch at your convenience.

Previously Recorded Webinars:

CASEL CARES: Owning Your Power to Raise Kids Who Challenge Racism from June 5, 2020 by Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) 

Managing Anxiety and Boosting Family Resilience in Uncertain Times from April 8, 2020 by Family First Psychotherapy 

Articles by the Child Mind Institute:

Will My Child Bounce Back From the Coronavirus Crisis? 

Helping Kids Face the Challenges of Reopening 

Managing Anxiety During Reopening 

Additional Articles:

Kids Feel Pandemic Stress Too. Here’s How To Help Them Thrive

Committee on Reopening School

In May 2020, Head of School Julia de la Torre formed the Committee on Reopening School (CRS), whose mission is to plan for how MFS will open the 2020-21 school year, whether it be virtual, face-to-face, or hybrid. The CRS oversees the work of five sub-committees listed below. Each committee is clerked by senior administrators and directors and is supported by teams of employees with deep expertise in their respective areas of focus. The CRS and clerks collaborate across committees to ensure the most informed, sound decisions on behalf of the school.

Committee on Reopening School Structure

Academics
Clerk: Meredith Godley, Upper School Director (Associate Head of School and Academic Dean starting July 1)
Mission: To address the teaching and learning needs of the community in a virtual, face-to-face or hybrid learning model.

Technology
Clerk: Steve Kolaris, Director of Technology 
Mission: To plan for the infrastructure and training needed to support learning in an equitable way.

Social-Emotional Wellness
Clerk: Dot Lopez, Director of Diversity and Inclusion
Mission: To tend to the social-emotional wellbeing of our community as we transition through summer and into the school year.

Health, Safety, & Logistics
Co-Clerks: Lisa Carbone Warren, Director of Finance and Operations & Martha Cameron, Director of Auxiliary Programs
Mission: To plan for all of the operational logistics that will allow us to start school in the healthiest and safest way possible.

Athletics
Clerk: Danielle Dayton, Director of Athletics
Mission: To explore–in partnership with our leagues–the possibilities for opening school with athletics as part of the experience.

The CRS and sub-committees are carefully reviewing reopening plans from around the world and are considering the latest guidance from the CDC, the state of New Jersey, and our local health officials. Moorestown Friends belongs to several associations, including the National Association of Independent Schools, the New Jersey Association of Independent Schools, the Association of Delaware Valley Independent Schools, and the Friends Council on Education. We attend webinars and briefings almost daily with experts from a variety of industries and are in close contact with our local law enforcement as well as other regional schools to coordinate the best plan for MFS. In addition, we are fortunate to call on several esteemed alumni and community members who work in infectious disease, child psychology, social work, and higher education to lend their expertise as we explore possibilities for next year.

While we will be communicating regularly throughout the summer, you can always check back here for updates on our plans to reopen school for the 2020-21 academic year.

Questions and concerns may be sent directly to the Committee on Reopening School (CRS) at reopening@mfriends.org.