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COVID-19 Community Communications Archives
COVID-19 Community Communications Archives

Community Communications Re: COVID-19

Letter from Head of School Marifred Cilella 3.29.20

Dear Howard School Families,

I hope that you and your loved ones are healthy and doing well. I appreciate all that you are doing in your homes to support your child's virtual learning during these unusual times, as the faculty and staff could not do our jobs without your support.

Today, I want to provide an update on our campus closure. After considering Governor Kemp's recent decision to keep all public schools in Georgia closed through April 24, we believe that it is in the best interest of our community—both near and far—to keep our physical doors closed through Friday, April 24. Our virtual doors will remain open, continuing to connect us all in many different ways.

I am so proud of the way The Howard School community has come together during this time of remote learning. I have joined a number of classes over this past week, and watched many videos, and I am heartened to see our students looking well and happy. Yet I know this is difficult. We humans, even the most introverted among us, are social beings, and it is more important than ever to stay connected with one another however we can. That is why we have decided to repurpose the Howard Weekly, which is sent to our community on Sunday evenings. Our hope is that these "Virtual" editions of the Weekly will provide you with important updates and news, and also provide some fun distractions and useful tools as we all try to adjust to our new reality. Thank you to the many families who completed the survey sent to you last week. Your input and comments will help guide us as we continue to strive to engage our students and keep our families informed.

I think you know that I am an optimist, and I believe we can do this. We can and will continue to do our part in slowing or stopping the spread of the virus by practicing social distancing. We will continue to lean on each other and support each other as we have always done. And, let's remember that we will all have a much-needed break from our screens (at least from schoolwork) from April 6, through April 13, during our Spring Break and Holiday.

Stay well. Stay connected.

As always, I appreciate your continued support.

Thank you!


Letter from Head of School Marifred Cilella 3.20.20

Dear Howard School Community,

From all accounts, week one of remote learning was a success! The creativity and joy of learning that permeated throughout our community was heartwarming. Thank you for your many expressions of encouragement and gratitude.

I am writing today to provide updated school closing information, which follows an Executive Order issued by Gov. Kemp earlier in the week that mandated the closure of all public elementary, secondary, and post-secondary schools in Georgia through March 31. While this Executive Order does not extend to The Howard School, an independent school, we agree with and support the Governor in his choice, which will help keep us all safe and well by reducing the chance of spreading the virus.

The Howard School will continue remote learning through Friday, April 3. We will proceed with our regularly scheduled Spring Break and Holiday Monday, April 6-Monday, April 13. There will be no remote learning during this week, and we hope to begin school again on campus on Tuesday, April 14. With this longer than anticipated break from physical schooling, I encourage all of you to practice self-care and care of others during the coming weeks. Go for a walk, listen to music, watch a free concert (many artists are now streaming concerts from home), or whatever it is that can relax your mind and uplift your spirit. To that end, we are also looking into ways that we can stay connected through virtual events and social media, and will keep you updated on our progress.

I have the utmost confidence in our exceptional team of teachers and staff and know that they will continue to create virtual learning environments in which our students will continue to thrive.

Please know that all community communications related to COVID-19 may be found in the News section of our website HERE.

I hope very much to be able to see you all back at school on Tuesday, April 14!

With gratitude for your support,


Letter from Head of School Marifred Cilella 3.17.20

Dear Families,

When I wrote to you last Thursday, we were all in the early stages of understanding the scope of the Coronavirus, and the impact it would have on our lives. During the past five days, the news has been filled with messages from public officials who have tried to keep us informed, and health officials who have advised us on how to avoid the virus. In between these announcements, we've heard from the mental health community as this time of unknowns is not without feelings of anxiety.

I continue to be so grateful to be part of The Howard School community. While no Head of School would wish to be leading a school during such a challenging time, I draw strength and confidence from all of you, and the school's talented and dedicated faculty and staff, who are working to ensure that your children continue to receive the best education possible. To that end, please read this UPDATE from Dr. Terry with instructions for our virtual learning, which begins tomorrow.

Again, I am deeply grateful for you and your continued support of our school. Please don't hesitate to contact me with your questions or concerns.

Here's to good health for you and your children!


Remote Learning Plan Update from Dr. Tara Terry 3.13.20

Dear Parents,

As you have read, we have made the difficult decision to close school for two weeks. I'm sure you know this was not what we had hoped, but we are ready as we join other schools in closing our literal (but not virtual) doors. The Howard School has put together and practiced a Remote Learning Plan that will help our students maintain their skills during this (hopefully) short break from in-person learning.

Remote learning is not a replacement for classroom learning, particularly for students with language learning disabilities and differences. We are committed, however, to continuing a school experience for our children as much as is possible during this temporary school closing. As such, we will:

  • Continue teaching and learning in either live or recorded formats.
  • Establish schedules, assignments, and collaborative opportunities to support a sense of normalcy around schooling. Teachers or Advisors will communicate specific daily schedules before online learning begins. This may be as late as next week as all teachers are coordinating schedules.
  • Provide direct instruction, project-based learning, review, and independent practice depending on the age and grade level of your child.

To prepare, our teachers have reviewed with our Instructional Technology Coordinator the tools we already use including Seesaw and Google Suites (Gmail, Google Hangout and Meet, Google Drive, Google Classroom). Teachers have also been trained in the use of Zoom video conferencing as that may be appropriate for some classes. As always, our assistive technology tools such as Learning Ally will remain available and in use.

Students will bring home their school assigned or personally owned devices and chargers today. If your child is absent today/Friday, March 13, and does not already have their technology, The Howard School will be open from 9:00-12:00 Tuesday, March 17, for you to come pick up your child's device. Lisa Prodigo will also be available at that time (on campus only) to answer your questions about using the device.

Teachers will take attendance each day, and make-up days will be determined in coordination with local, state, and national authorities and schools.

Monday, March 16, remains a Student and Faculty holiday. Tuesday, March 17, will be a remote learning test day for teachers only. Teachers will work from home to test their home networks and connect with their colleagues to troubleshoot. Wednesday, March 18, will begin Remote learning with students.

To best support your child's learning, we ask that you partner with us to:

  • Set a place in your home for virtual learning. A desk or table in a quiet space is best.
  • Stick to a regular schedule. It is helpful for students to follow their typical evening and morning routines so they log on ready to learn each day.
  • Stress flexibility. We are breaking new ground as all of Metro Atlanta begins virtual schooling. We all have to expect technology hiccups, and we will do our best to anticipate and deal with those as they arrive.

We are likely all sharing the feeling of information overload. Below are a few resources to help shape your conversations with your children.

Good overviews for crafting a discussion with children:

This article includes developmental expectations including typical reactions and how to cope: NCTSN Parent and Caregiver Fact Sheet

As we all know, we are breaking new ground over the next two weeks, but we are committed to our strong Howard School partnerships and relationships. Reach out to your child's teachers and principals with questions, and keep checking your email to keep track of school communication.

You will receive updates via email as needed. Please also check the website for the most up-to-date information.

I am honored to work with the amazing educators at The Howard School. I have faith that all together we will work through this new experience of virtual learning, and I know you join me in thanking them for their dedication and devotion to your children.

Thanks to all of you for your support of the school and your trust in letting us educate your children. We appreciate you, we support you, and we are in this together.

Please don't hesitate to reach out with any questions. My virtual door is open.



Email Sent to The Howard School Community 3.12.20, 5pm

Dear Howard School Community,

I think it is safe to say that these past few weeks have tested our collective nerves, and we have handled this situation as we have always done at The Howard School--with respect, kindness, and calmness. Just as importantly, we have come together in other ways, sharing knowledge, guidance, and recommendations from experts at the CDC and the Department of Public Health, to protect the health and safety of our community.

While we do not have a reported case of COVID-19 at The Howard School, we understand that social distancing and containment are essential to preventing the spread of the virus. To that end, we have decided to close the school, beginning on Tuesday, March 17 (the school is closed on Monday, March 16 for a spring holiday), through Friday, March 27. All meetings and events, including athletic events, are also canceled during this time. Additionally, all four of our upcoming High School trips to Washington DC, Key Largo, Charleston, and Birmingham/Selma/Montgomery are canceled.

On Tuesday, March 17, we will have a faculty remote learning test day and the school's leadership team will be on campus between 9:00am and 12:00pm to hand out technology to any student who was not here on Friday. The Howard School will provide either an iPad or a laptop for each student who does not currently bring their own device to school. Remote learning will begin for students on Wednesday, March 18.

Remote learning is not a replacement for classroom learning, particularly for students with language-based learning disabilities and differences. We are committed, however, to continuing a school experience for our children as much as possible during this time, and expect the transition to remote learning will be made a good deal easier thanks to the abundance of technology that is already an integral part of our curriculum.

To prepare, our teachers have reviewed the technology tools at our disposal. We will use our early-dismissal day tomorrow/Friday to train the students and further evaluate the plan. Following the training, you will receive an email from Dr. Tara Terry, Assistant Head of School for Academics, with details on our remote learning plan.

While we hope to reopen school on Monday, March 30, for all students, we will monitor the situation and communicate our plan during the week of March 23. As we have seen and heard, we are in uncharted territory, and as such, we will continue to rely on the above-mentioned experts to help us make these decisions.

Again, I am deeply grateful for you and your continued support of our school. I am so proud to be a member of The Howard School Community. Please don't hesitate to reach out to me with questions or concerns.

Be well.

Marifred Cilella
Head of School

Update 3.9.20, 3:00pm

The Howard School has decided to cancel Grandparents and Special Friends Day on Friday, March 13, out of a sense of responsibility to our community. This follows the CDC recommendation to consider canceling or postponing non-business critical events or large gatherings. Knowing how much our families look forward to this special day every year, we also wanted to fully remove the burden of the decision on whether or not to attend from our wonderfully devoted grandparents. Our hope is to have this event in the fall, and we will send more information out as plans take shape.

Because we are acutely aware of the toll that the constant flow of information about the coronavirus can have on our children, we want to offer some guidance and resources to help avoid anxiety. We have shown BrainPop videos and age-appropriate NPR materials to students, but thought you might also appreciate additional resources for home.

When discussing the virus with your children, we would suggest that you assess what they know, discriminate fact from opinion, and provide only the information they need. Children take their cues from parents, so remaining calm and composed is essential as you have these conversations. It may also be helpful to limit access to the news media and social media regarding the topic of the virus- this is especially important for older children who may not know how to appropriately filter information to which they are exposed.

Below are a few resources to help shape your conversations with your children in the coming days. Please don't hesitate to reach out to us with any questions or concerns.

Good overviews for crafting a discussion with children:

This article includes developmental expectations including typical reactions and how to cope: NCTSN Parent and Caregiver Fact Sheet

Update 3.8.20, 6:30pm
The Howard School is closely monitoring the evolving COVID-19 situation. As always, keeping everyone in our community healthy and safe is our top priority, and we continue to be proactive and extra vigilant with our safety procedures at school, including frequent and thorough disinfecting of commonly-used surfaces and community-wide education to ensure proper hand-washing and covering of coughs and sneezes.

The school continues to rely on, and follow recommendations from, public health officials and the experts at the CDC.

Here are a few reminders for families based on the current situation:
  • As always, keep children home when they are ill. This helps to prevent the incidence of all viruses in our community. If your child becomes ill at school, we will contact you to arrange for immediate pick up.
  • As outlined in the Student/Parent Handbook on page 11, children must be free of symptoms of contagious illness (including, but not limited to fever) for 24 hours without medication or until cleared (in writing by a physician) to return to school.
  • Please encourage your children to take hand washing (for at least 20 seconds) and use of alcohol-based hand sanitizer more seriously than ever. Likewise, stress the importance of covering coughs or sneezes into the elbow or a tissue rather than into hands or open air. We are reinforcing this education in the classroom.
  • Use disinfecting wipes or solutions to clean frequently touched objects and surfaces. Our Operations team has implemented enhanced cleaning protocols within the school.
  • Families who plan to travel over spring break should monitor alerts from the CDC at this link:
  • If you plan travel, or have traveled, to an area for which health organizations suggest self-quarantine, we ask that you contact us as soon as possible so we can follow appropriate guidelines. Please reach out directly to Dr. Tara Terry, Assistant Head of School for Academics, at or 404.377.7436. All contacts will be treated appropriately and confidentially.
For additional information on COVID-19, please visit the CDC and Georgia Department of Public Health websites:

We will continue to update you as new information becomes available.