2020 Fall Reopening Plan

  • WHEN IS THE FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL? 

At this time, we intend to open on August 18th. However, we will be using Aug 18th, 19th, 20th and 21st for Orientation Days. More information about what these days will look like will be forthcoming. Our intention with Orientation Days are to create safe opportunities for children to meet their teachers one on one, see their classrooms, and walk through new routines and procedures. Remember, even for returning students, the school will look and feel different. We believe these days will be critical for students to feel happy and safe at school. 

The first full school day is planned for Monday, August 24th. 

If this date should change for any reason, we will let you know as soon as possible. 

  • ARE VISITORS ALLOWED ON CAMPUS? 

We love our visitors, including volunteers and guest experts! However, our main job is to keep students safe. Therefore, the campus will be closed to visitors this year. While this is disappointing, we believe it is necessary. 

  • HOW WILL CARPOOL WORK? 

We will walk you through this in detail during our Orientation Days. However, in short, a health screening will be required through PikMyKid prior to your arrival. Upon arrival, administrative staff will check in with drivers regarding the health screening, and make sure students are in face coverings before exiting the car. Students will wash their hands at the hand washing station and then proceed to their classrooms. PikMyKid will aid in managing a smooth, socially distanced dismissal process.

  • WHAT ABOUT OFF CAMPUS FIELD TRIPS? 

In the near term, fall off-campus field trips have been cancelled. We will continue to monitor the safety of such trips and will reschedule at a later date to the extent that is possible.

  • HOW WILL THE SCHOOL BE CLEANED? 

The school will be cleaned and disinfected daily by our contracted cleaning company, JaniKing. In addition, high touch services and areas will be cleaned throughout the day.

Additionally, the school has invested in bipolar ionization technology for all of the HVAC units across the school. Two outdoor hand washing stations have been installed outside entryway doors. We have purchased an electrostatic sprayer to further enhance our cleaning and sanitizing processes nightly. 

  •  WILL FACULTY AND STAFF BE TRAINED IN RISK MITIGATION STRATEGIES? 

Yes. As this is a core priority for reopening, faculty and staff are returning to school one week earlier than originally planned. The purpose of this first week of PD will be risk mitigation training and technology training. 

  • WILL MASKS BE REQUIRED? 

Yes. Cloth face coverings will be required to be worn throughout the school day. At a minimum, students will wear coverings during arrival and dismissal and anytime they leave their cohort room. We are still determining if masks will be required within the classroom.

The CDC has shared that COVID-19 spreads mostly from person to person through respiratory droplets produced from an infected person, and studies have shown that sometimes people with COVID-19 have no symptoms. Even with our diligent health screenings, social distancing measures, and cleaning protocols, the use of cloth face coverings will give us an extra level of protection. The CDC also states “younger children (e.g., preschool or early elementary aged) may be unable to wear a cloth face covering properly, particularly for an extended period of time. Wearing of cloth face coverings may be prioritized at times when it is difficult to maintain a distance of 6 feet from others (e.g., during carpool drop off or pick up, or when standing in line at school).” Therefore, we are still considering and speaking with experts before making a final determination for classroom face coverings for our youngest children. 

If face coverings are required within the classroom, we will provide frequent mask breaks outside, as well as frequent education on how and why to wear face coverings. 

Please purchase cloth, solid-colored face coverings that are at least 2 layers for your student. Teachers will be wearing clear face masks, that allow their faces to be seen. 

Some of you have asked about Gaiters. The guidance we received said, “most neck gaiters designed for winter sports or sun protection are simply too porous to offer enough of a filter for the wearer from outside pathogens.” Also, cotton is better than a synthetic material. Experts say that polyester and spandex (what most gaiters are usually made of) retain germs longer. 

  • WILL MY CHILD HAVE RECESS AND OUTSIDE TIME?

YES! Outside time will be crucial this year! We have created revised recess and break schedules to provide increased time for outdoor play, while limiting the number of students on the playground to the cohorts. 

  • WILL MY CHILD INTERACT WITH OTHER COHORTS? 

Not at first. Cross grade interaction has always been integral to The Cooper School curriculum. However, for right now, our intention to cohort in small groups is critical to our risk mitigation plan, and we are committed to doing it with fidelity. As soon as it is safe to do so, we will create cross grade experiences. 

  • WHAT WILL THE CLASSROOM LOOK LIKE? 

In most ways, the classrooms will look like they always have! Students will absolutely recognize their classrooms as the beautiful learning spaces they are accustomed to. 

Students in K will have a dedicated desk and seat just for them. These will be placed between 3-6 feet apart. 

Students in Grade 1-3 will be seated at a trapezoid shaped table (the same ones they are used to) with a table partner that is 4 feet apart. Plexiglass (designed, developed and installed by TCS parents – thank you Bourne Group!) has been installed in the center of each table, to separate students. I know this may sound dystopian, but trust me when I tell you it looks and feels A-Ok. 

Students in Grade 4, 5 and 6 have dedicated desks and seats that will be spaced between 3-6 feet apart. As previously mentioned, these desks can connect to form tables, which we will utilize when it is safe to do so. 

  • WHAT ABOUT MY CHILD’S SOCIAL AND EMOTIONAL HEALTH? 

I know you all agree that caring, growing and supporting children’s Social and Emotional health is something TCS excels in. From opening day in 2007 to the present, our robust, engaging, developmentally appropriate and research based SEL practices have been a hallmark of the TCS experience. We so value high level SEL practices, that all of our new teachers have received 32 hours each in SEL training this summer. We will continue to draw on the wealth of resources, experts, and materials we have at our disposal to ensure student wellbeing during this complicated time. 

  • HOW WILL THE SCHOOL MONITOR SOCIAL DISTANCING?

Our Medical Advisor and BSN, Heath, and the Administration will work with each teacher to “walk through” the day and troubleshoot any areas of concern. Students will be instructed in safe social distancing practices, and we will use interactive modeling to practice just as we would any other routine. However, we do anticipate moments in which children, in particular our youngest children, forget to stand 6 feet apart. We will handle these moments with patience, gentleness, and understanding. No student will ever be “in trouble” regarding social distancing. 

  • WHAT WILL THE COHORTS IN GRADES 1-6 LOOK LIKE?

Students in Grades 1-6 will be split into two cohorts (Cohort A and Cohort B). Each cohort will have their own classroom, meaning that 10-11 kids will have their own classroom. This is possible due to the extra classrooms in our new Middle School building. The two grade level teachers will spend half the day with Cohort A and half the day with Cohort B. 

Right now we are still collecting information from families. We will release cohort specific information during orientation days.

  • WILL TCS OFFER AFTERSCHOOL DURING THE 2020-21 SCHOOL YEAR?

Yes, however families must sign up for either 5 days a week or 3 days a week. Due to COVID-19, we will be unable to offer the Drop-In option during the 2020-21 school year. We realize this is a disappointment, however, in order to properly staff this program and plan for social distancing measures, we need an accurate head count of students staying each day of the week. 

  • WILL THERE BE SPECIAL AREA CLASSES?

Yes! Students will receive instruction in Art, Music, Yoga, Movement, Drama, and World Language. Additionally, strings is being offered to students in Grades 5 and 6. Students in Grades 1-6 will be grouped into Cohort A, and Cohort B. Cohort A will receive the live teacher/class in week 1, while the same class is live streamed to Cohort B, who participates with the help of their classroom teacher. The next week, they will switch! While this is how we will begin the year, when it is safe to do so, cohorts will combine to have special area classes, perhaps in our outdoor classroom. 

Due to the higher risk associated with singing, this year we are not offering Choir. We look forward to resuming our robust Choir program when it is safe to do so. 

Students learning at home will also have the opportunity to participate in all special area classes. 

  • WHAT ABOUT WHOLE SCHOOL EVENTS LIKE PRESENTATIONS, THE HALLOWEEN CARNIVAL, AND THE HARVEST FEAST?

CDC and DHEC protocols on large events will determine how and when we hold these future events. 

  • WHAT IF A STUDENT OR STAFF MEMBER IS DIAGNOSED WITH COVID-19? 

This will be a case-by-case basis and we will be guided by DHEC in these circumstances. 

We will notify local health officials. We may need to dismiss some students, the cohort of students and/or staff for several days or up to 14 days. We will communicate with staff, parents and students keeping confidentiality at the forefront of our communication. During this time, Heath, in conjunction with DHEC will perform contact tracing. 

Some of you have asked, “Will there be stops and starts?” I don’t have a crystal ball, but we anticipate, based on CDC predictions, that there will likely be additional outbreaks of COVID-19 that could impact on-campus programming during the school year. If so, we may have to quarantine a cohort, a grade, or close the entire school for a short period of time. During any period of distance learning, we remain committed to engaging students in meaningful learning experiences and supporting academic excellence.

  • WHAT IF MY CHILD HAS TO MISS SCHOOL FOR COVID-19 OR QUARANTINE?

It is imperative for your child to stay home if you suspect your child has COVID-19, your child has tested positive for COVID-19, your child has COVID-19 symptoms, or your child or your household members have recently had close contact with a person with COVID-19. It is vital that each family is very transparent about any COVID-19 related situation so we can inform any other community members who may have been exposed. If your child is home, and well enough to participate in school, your child’s teacher will work closely with you to develop the best academic plan for your child while he or she is out. This will include the distance learning platform and you will have full access to the distance learning teacher. 

  • WHAT IF MY CHILD (OR ANY CHILD/FACULTY MEMBER) BECOMES ILL DURING THE SCHOOL DAY? 

If a student or employee begins experiencing COVID-19 symptoms during the day, he or she will be isolated from others immediately. The School has a designated isolation area should these situations arise. Any area the student or employee has visited that day will be cleaned thoroughly. If it is a student, the parents will be called by Heath Neligan to pick up their child immediately, and she will advise them on next steps.

  • WHAT METRICS WILL TCS USE TO MAKE DECISIONS? 

We are relying on public health experts such as the CDC, DHEC, and MUSC to provide up-to-date data regarding the virus.

  • IF CHARLESTON COUNTY SCHOOLS CLOSE, WILL TCS CLOSE? 

One of the best aspects of TCS is that we are not bound by what public schools are doing. As an independent school, we are able to make our decisions based upon what is best for our own school. I do believe it is important for us to explore why CCSD is making the decisions they are making. However, our school size allows us to be more flexible and nimble than larger institutions. While we are in constant communication with other local independent and public schools, our decisions are and will continue to be made based upon what is best for the TCS community as a whole. 

  • WHAT DOES THE DISTANCE LEARNING PROGRAM LOOK LIKE? 

I am so glad you asked! I firmly believe that distance learning will never be a replacement for the in person, magical experiences that occur when we are all on campus. However, I am SO proud of the distance learning program the TCS Instructional Task Force has created for the 2020-2021 school year. It may be interesting for you to know, there is an enormous void in online learning in general in elementary schools. In fact, one very well regarded expert in the online learning field told me in April, “If someone tries to tell you they are an expert in online learning for elementary aged children, they are lying. It doesn’t exist.” Never ones to be deterred, in the absence of an exceptional ready made program, TCS staff and faculty members created one! A group of instructional experts and administrators spent months developing the program and platforms that will give as close to an in person TCS experience as possible to distance learners. We will send more information to those who would like it soon. 

  • HOW CAN WE PREPARE OUR STUDENTS FOR SCHOOL? 

There are many ways you can begin to help your child prepare for this school year. First and foremost, whether you have chosen distance learning or on campus learning, please continue to reassure your children that the adults in their lives are making decisions to keep them safe. Let them know that parents, faculty, and teachers are there to support their physical and mental wellbeing. 
In addition: 

  • Encourage frequent hand washing and the use of hand sanitizer.
  • Practice coughing and sneezing into elbows.
  • Gently remind them to avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Practice keeping six feet apart. Show them what this looks like!
  • Purchase & practice wearing a cloth face covering. 
  • Keep immunizations current. 
  • Children like routines! It helps them know what to expect, and provides a sense of security. 
  • ARE THERE OTHER WAYS WE CAN HELP? 

We have been flooded with messages of support and offers to help this summer.It is truly wonderful to work in a community that is so kind, thoughtful, and places so much trust in the school. As I am sure you can imagine, this has been a very busy summer! Thank you for reaching out with words of support. On hard days, those messages have been a balm.

It is likely that COVID-19 will continue to impact our community until there is a viable vaccine and therapeutic treatment options. For the two weeks prior to the beginning of school, families are asked to diligently follow physical distancing and face covering recommendations. 

While we acknowledge that sometimes these mitigation strategies seem inconvenient, we ask that you take them very seriously. TCS has committed to doing its part in attempting to mitigate exposure during the school day. It is critical that our families understand their own personal obligations in ensuring the same when the school day ends. 
We all want the same thing- for students to learn on campus!

The more we can all do to mitigate risk, the more likely it is our community as a whole will stay healthy. We will be asking families to sign a Covid Community Agreement prior to the beginning of school.