Dear AFCHES Families!
We hope that you have been able to find ways to enjoy the summer months. It was so nice to be “together” with so many of you during our reopening town halls. We miss you and our wonderful scholars!!!!
During the town halls, we shared some of our preliminary thinking for what the 20-21 school year will look like and got your input and feedback. We’re now ready to share our updated plans. One of the decisions we’ve made based on your feedback is to begin our school year remote for all scholars. We will start school – 100% remote – on September 1 for scholars in Grades K, 5, and 9, and on September 2 for all other grades. All scholars will learn remotely through at least October 2. Assuming that it is safe to begin in-person learning on October 5 (which may change at any time based on the situation with the pandemic), we will start a slow and safe phase in of those students who are coming in-person.
There are several advantages to starting all remote. First, this will allow us to teach all of our safety procedures to students before we are together in-person and the risks are greater; this will also enable us to learn from other schools who return to school in-person sooner. While we normally like to lead, given the high risk for our community and the reopening challenges we are hearing about across the country, we don’t want to go first and put our children and staff in danger. Second, starting all remote will enable students, families, and staff to become familiar with our remote program and get in a good rhythm around remote learning before we add the complexity of our hybrid, in-person instruction. One thing at a time! And, let’s be honest, the odds are very high that we will need to spend a significant portion of the year in remote learning, so we all need to get good at it. See the calendar below for more specifics on the first few weeks of school. Of course, the situation surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic and school reopening changes frequently so we may need to alter these plans over time, especially as Mayor De Blasio makes school reopening decisions in New York.
With this context in mind, we’re writing today asking you to take a survey In this survey, we are asking you to make your selection about whether you’d like to have your scholar learn remotely or in-person for the first “chapter” of the school year from October 5 – October 30. You will be able to make another choice for November and December. Please review the updates below and complete THIS SURVEY by 5 PM on Friday August 21 to let us know where you’d like your scholar to learn from for Oct 5-Oct 30 and share other important details. It is critically important that we know what each of our families wants and needs so that we can plan accordingly. This is also the survey that tells us if your scholar needs a computer or Wi-Fi.
Your options: To help you make this important decision for your family, please review our detailed plan available on our website. Here are your choices at a high level.
- Fully Remote: We recommend remote as the safest and best option for any family that can make it work. We believe the virus is still very high-risk, especially in our communities, and we want to err on the side of keeping everyone safe. We are investing heavily in a high-quality remote learning option. What we did in the Spring was some of the strongest in the country– and it’s going to be even better next fall thanks to your feedback. Based on your feedback, remote elementary school students will now log onto full, “live” teacher-taught classes on Zoom, similar to what our middle school students got last year. Our remote middle school students will actually be logging onto the same classes as their in-school peers in a way that will enable them to be together even though they are physically apart. We are developing a remote learning option that will BOTH help students learn AND help them build community with their classmates and teachers. We will be providing all remote students with their own dedicated AF laptop if you need one and do not have one already.
- In-Person 2 days per week, remote 3 days: We know some families will want or need in-person school. For most of you, our recommendation is that your child attend school 2 days in-person and 3 days remote. This will allow us to have very small class sizes and will limit your child’s exposure to other students and staff. We will work with you to make sure that siblings from the same family are in-person on the same days. If you need your child to learn in-person, this is our recommended option for all grades (and, at the moment, the only in-person option we can guarantee).
- In-Person 4 days per week, remote one day: If you really need 4 days per week, please let us know. We may not be able to accommodate you based on staffing and facilities, but we will try. We will prioritize interested Kindergarten students and families for this option. For grades 1-12, we will do the best we can.
- I’m Flexible: We are doing our best to accommodate the needs of all of our families while maintaining the small, stable classes that are essential to keep everyone safe. If you are flexible in terms of your ability to have your scholar learn either remotely or in-person, please select this option This will enable us to accommodate the people who most need in-person instruction first and then we will let you know what else is available.
We are committed to family choice, but we are also committed to safety. As we discussed during the Town Halls, we will put in place a number of layered safety precautions for in-person instruction (masks for both students and teachers, wellness checks, frequent hand-washing, deep clearing of the facilities, maintaining six feet of distance between desks and during transitions, and other safeguards). All of this means we must have significantly smaller classes than during traditional school. As long as you complete your survey by August 21, we will confirm with you by August 28 what we’re able to accommodate in terms of in-person school (which will start on October 5).
During the town halls, one major question we heard from families is around uniforms. Given the challenges posed by the pandemic, we have decided to temporarily adjust our uniform policy.
- There is no uniform requirement for scholars learning remotely. Students can dress casually; students may not wear sleepwear (e.g. pajamas, undergarments, sleep bonnets/head ties, wave caps/du-rags, or bandanas) low-cut shirts (including tank tops and camisoles), cut-off/revealing bottoms that will be visible during remote learning, hats/hoods, and clothing with inappropriate or profane writing or images. Headwraps (e.g. Kente wraps, scarfs/headwraps for religious purposes) are permitted. There may be exceptions to the dress code for special dress down days, e.g. Pajama Day, Represent Your Country/Flag Day.
- Students will not be required to purchase formal uniforms for scholars learning in-person until ALL students and staff are permitted to return to the building safely. For scholars learning in-person, they must follow the casual dress guidelines above and should wear rubber soled shoes (for safety purposes). Individual schools may require scholars to wear an AF shirt (e.g., polo, sweater, a college T-shirt). If so, schools will provide at least one AF shirt to all new families.
- See this FAQ document and communications directly from your school for more details!
Another question that came up during the town hall was about busing. We are currently working with the NYCDOE on transportation options. Given the safety risks of increased exposure on the bus, we would recommend that any family that has a private transportation option uses that instead. We have included a question on the survey to understand your family’s transportation needs.
We cannot wait to see you and your scholar for the 20-21 school year. While we will start safely with remote learning, we cannot wait to have our community together again!
Dr. Sade Johnson