Dear Achievement First Crown Heights Families–
We hope you all are having a safe and joyful holiday season! We are writing today with an update on our school reopening plans in the new year!
In our last announcement, we shared that all Achievement First schools in NY would be remote until at least January 25, 2021. Based on recent spikes in COVID cases in our communities, we are writing to share that we have made the decision to extend our period of remote learning. Our hope is to return to in-person hybrid instruction on March 9, 2021.
We know that this decision has a significant impact on our community, which is why we wanted to announce this as soon as possible and share the rationale for this decision. As always with the COVID-19 pandemic, our decisions are guided by two priorities: 1) safety and 2) meeting scholar and family needs. As the pandemic and local context changes, so too must our thinking for how to keep our schools safe and meet the needs of our scholars and families. Sadly, we are seeing another surge of the COVID-19 virus across our country and specifically in our communities. Following predictions from researchers and health experts, this surge has increased since Thanksgiving and current models predict that the virus will continue to spread through December and January, particularly as a result of the holiday season. The worst of this second spike is likely to come precisely as we were originally planning to return for in-person learning. While we are heartened by positive news about vaccines for the virus, we know those vaccines will not arrive in time to stop the current surge we are experiencing.
As we have seen from other schools operating with hybrid learning this Fall in New York and from our own schools in Connecticut and Rhode Island, we have confidence in the safety measures put in place to stop the spread of the virus within schools (e.g., mask wearing, social distancing, symptom screening, small/stable groups, frequent hand-washing / sanitizing). While these measures help to prevent the virus from spreading within the school, the fact remains that if the virus is spreading within the community, it’s impossible to prevent the virus from coming into the school from the outside. As community spread increases, the likelihood that multiple staff / scholars either have the virus or were in close contact with someone who does increases, thus presenting a number of challenges. First, as scholars/staff who have contracted the virus come into school, we are required to quarantine entire classes / grades. Second, it becomes challenging for us to staff our schools as more and more teachers and support staff must quarantine. Our experience this Fall indicates that hybrid learning when community spread is high ultimately leads to frequent and unplanned closures of schools that are very difficult for families and staff to navigate (e.g., late the night before, learning that your child’s class / school will switch the next day to remote learning for 2 weeks) . While our deepest wish is to return to in-person learning, we don’t believe this last-minute, stop-start, high-uncertainty (and anxiety) schooling is good for students, families, or staff. When we are on the other side of this spike in cases, we are hopeful that we will be able to have more consistent, in-person instruction for the students and families who need it. In the meantime, we are very grateful that families are expressing such a high level of satisfaction with our remote learning program.
Of course, we recognize that remaining remote for longer is challenging. That is why we are aiming to return to hybrid learning in March 2021 and are hopeful that our community is able to curtail the spread of the virus by then. We will continue to monitor this situation closely and update you as the situation unfolds while preparing to resume in-person learning.
Finally, we know that this decision both increases the importance of improving the quality of our remote learning experience and being available to answer any and all questions on your mind. To that end, we will host two OPTIONAL family town hall meetings next Thursday, December 17. We will have a morning option from 7:30-8:30 AM and an evening option from 5:15-6:15 PM. To join one of these town halls, please JOIN HERE when the meeting begins. You can access audio on your computer or call in by dialing 1-267-831-0333 and entering meeting ID 377 275 9122.
To say the least, 2020 has been a challenging year for all of us. And yet, throughout this difficult time, we are continually inspired by the love, care, and commitment of our entire Team & Family. We are filled with tremendous gratitude for your flexibility and partnership and don’t know where we would be without you.
We hope you have a safe and wonderful holiday season!
Dacia, Rich and Steph