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


Message from the Head of School Marifred Cilella 5.24.20

Dear Families,

As we wrap up the school year, I remain awed by the work of our dedicated faculty and staff and their ability to deliver an exceptional Howard School education remotely over these past few months, and I continue to be inspired by your strength and support. I know this has not been easy, and I know you have many questions regarding the operations of the school over the summer and the next school year.

With the health and safety of our community as our guidepost, our team is working through and planning for a number of scenarios for reopening campus. In addition to following CDC and Dept. of Public Health guidelines, we continue to collaborate with our local, state, and national colleagues as we carefully consider what is right for our school. Also, our School Nurse, Julie Teachout, is in contact with the broader School Nurse community, as well as health officials. We are all watching the trajectory of the pandemic closely, and we continue to plan for opening the campus for Summer Safari in July, and the new school year on August 17. There is truly nothing we want more than to see all of our students and teachers back on campus!

So, I want to assure you that we are planning, that we've got this. And, as of right now, we are planning on seeing you in August ... or even earlier in July, if your child is attending on-campus Summer Safari. We can't wait!

Please know that as our plans take shape during the coming weeks, I will share them with you as clearly and as quickly as possible.

Again, I can't say often enough that I am truly grateful—we all are—for you, our families. Thank you.

With deep appreciation,

Marifred

Message from the Head of School Marifred Cilella 5.17.20

Dear Families,

What an exciting week we have had! On Wednesday, with the help of John Fredericks, retired Howard School teacher, we held our High School Giving Ceremony. On Thursday, we recognized our students during the High School Honors Ceremony. Friday, we celebrated our 10 seniors as they graduated and joined the ranks of Howard School alums. And we accomplished all of this, virtually.

We are incredibly proud of each and every member of The Howard School Class of 2020. We know with confidence that they will be successful in whatever they choose to do. How do we know that? The way they adapted to distance learning these past two months, and with such positive energy, has shown that they are adaptable and resilient. These traits will certainly see them through their next adventures, and I know they will shine.

We celebrate the success of our students and we thank their families and their teachers for supporting them through their journey. We recognize that while we continue to prepare to reopen our campus following CDC and Georgia Dept. of Public Health guidelines, it is important that we also continue to celebrate the milestones in the lives of our students, and our school. We are in uncharted territory, but the milestones are familiar to us, and they are important.

Congratulations to The Howard School Class of 2020! We will miss you!

Stay well.

Marifred

Message from the Head of School Marifred Cilella 5.10.20

Dear Families,

You continue to inspire our faculty, staff, and me. We think you are pretty incredible, and we thank you for your messages of encouragement and gratitude in support of our teachers and staff, especially during Faculty/Staff Appreciation Week.

I know that this time has been hard for our entire community. While Zoom connects us, it also reminds us of what we are missing: eye contact, expressions, and laughs, to name a few. The bottom line is that we all miss being with each other.

I am writing to you today with a healthy dose of optimism and enthusiasm about our summer program and the reopening of school in August. As a preface to the plan, I want to emphasize that all plans are contingent upon the Department of Public Health guidelines for schools, which have not yet been published. Also, we will continue to work closely with our local, state, and national colleagues to ensure that our plans are careful, measured, and in-line with what other schools are doing to reopen their campuses.

After collaboration and consultation with our Leadership Team, our School Nurse, and many Howard families, we have decided to offer two weeks of virtual summer camps during the weeks of June 15-19, and June 22-26. We are working on the details of these camps, and we are very excited to offer this special opportunity to virtually jump into summer together in June. We will "move" the four weeks of on-campus Summer Safari to July, beginning on July 6. Because our ultimate guide is and always will be what is best for the health and well-being of our community, we will offer a full refund to parents, if, at any time, they are uncomfortable sending their child to camp, or if public health guidelines direct us otherwise.

Our current plan is to resume school on August 17. We will continue to learn from and be guided by our public health officials as we consider reopening, and I will update you as things evolve.

We are in the final stretch of the school year, and I know that together we will finish this year strong. Thank you!

With deep appreciation,

Marifred

Message from the Head of School Marifred Cilella 5.3.20

Dear Howard School Families,

I hope that you and your loved ones are staying healthy and safe. Please know that I am thinking about you.

May is always an exciting month for students everywhere. Though we are not on campus, with only three weeks remaining in the academic year, The Howard School teachers and administrators are continuing to uncover creative ways to deliver instruction, hold parent conferences, and offer fun activities for the students. Last night's virtual High School Prom was a big success with our students finding joy in just being with each other. Thank goodness for Zoom! And the coming weeks will bring a feeling of (virtual) normalcy in the flurry of activity that always marks the end of our school year. Our annual Giving Ceremony, Awards Ceremony, and Graduation will take place on the originally scheduled dates of May 13, 14, and 15, respectively. We also have a virtual 5K (can't wait to see how this will work), and the always entertaining Lower and Middle School Talent Show coming up. While I know we all wish we could be together to celebrate these milestones and accomplishments, our community has never been stronger or more together than it is right now.

As I reflect on "normalcy," I am proud of our team for maintaining the school's operations at the highest levels. We continue to accept applications for the coming school year as part of our rolling admissions process. And our admissions team is doing what they have always done, developing relationships with prospective families, while ensuring that they provide the best educational recommendation for each child, regardless of whether or not they attend The Howard School. While we would have loved for all prospective families to see our spectacular campus firsthand, and all prospective students to have the opportunity to join "live" classes, we have heard such positive feedback from parents whose children visited Zoom classes over the past few weeks, and saw that our uniquely different approach is making a difference.

I want to extend a special "thank you" to all parents who have offered to serve as ambassadors or PeerPals for the school. Now, more than ever, sharing our powerful and authentic Howard School story is essential to our school's continued growth. If you would like to learn more about becoming an ambassador, I encourage you to contact Anne Beisel, Director of Admissions, abeisel@howardschool.org.

Again, I appreciate your flexibility and support these past months. I could not do my job without the support of each and every member of The Howard School Community. Thank you!

Take care, and stay healthy.

Marifred

Message from the Head of School Marifred Cilella 4.26.20

Dear Howard School Families,

I hope that this message finds you and your loved ones healthy and safe. I am thinking about all of you.

While our state's Governor has issued an Executive Order reopening a number of businesses across Georgia, The Howard School will continue to keep our virtual doors open, and the physical doors to our campus closed through the remainder of the school year. The safety of our community remains our top priority.

I must admit that I have begun to feel that my weekly check-in has doubled as a countdown to our last day of school on May 22. In that spirit, I am reminded that there are only four weeks remaining in the school year. We have been working with our seniors to ensure that the final weeks of their respective Howard School journeys, culminating with Graduation, represent their collective hopes and dreams. We are close to finalizing plans for the Class of 2020, and I will update you on these plans in the next Howard Weekly, if not sooner.

Over these past six weeks, my gratitude to you, our Howard School parents and guardians, has grown exponentially. The partnership between our families and our faculty has never been stronger. You are encouraging your child to embrace our current model of distance learning in such a joyful way, and that encouragement supports our teachers as they work to provide a virtual Howard School education that aligns with our mission. Thank you for that, and thank you for the wonderful photo and video messages from our students.

Indeed, we are all in this together, reimagining what education can be and should be for our students.

Stay well, and thank you!

Marifred

Message from the Head of School Marifred Cilella 4.19.20

Dear Howard School Families,

I hope this finds you well and rested after our timely break.

With only five weeks to go in the current school year, I want to take this, and every opportunity possible, to thank you, our families, for your support. We could not do this without you. You continue to support the school and each other, showing compassion and empathy every step of the way. I am grateful for your support, and I am proud of the way our entire community—parents, teachers, staff, and students—is responding to these unusual times. That is The Howard School way.

I want to thank our expert teachers for their dedication, creativity, and resilience. Each and every day, they uncover new ways to connect with their students, from preparing digital lesson plans, to learning new video software programs and finding ways to incorporate the various technology tools at their disposal. We plan to hold conferences on our regularly scheduled conference days, and teachers are working hard to re-conceptualize end-of-year assessments in our temporary world of distance learning.

I have never been prouder of our team, too, and I believe their tireless preparation has ensured that our students and families are among the best prepared for virtual learning in the state, if not the country.

I am grateful to you for honoring your contract and tuition payments. Fulfilling these commitments is one of the most important things you can do to ensure that the school's operating budget, the majority of which covers faculty/staff salaries and benefits, continues to support a full and robust Howard School education. And, because tuition revenue does not fully cover operating expenses, making a gift to the Annual Fund, or fulfilling your current pledge, is vitally important to the school's ability to maintain the highest levels of technology support, among other key functions of the school.

We are sensitive to the fact that different families have been financially affected in different ways during this time. If you have been impacted and would like to defer your first tuition payment by up to 30 days, please inform our Assistant Head of School for Finance and Operations, Meredith Chase, by email and she will adjust your payment schedule accordingly. You should receive notifications from FACTS, if you have not already, with details of the payment plan you selected at the time of re-enrollment. As we prepare for the 2020-21 tuition payment plans to begin, please don't hesitate to reach out to Meredith or me at any time to talk through your options. We are here for you.

Behind the scenes, we continue to work through plans for the remainder of the school year, including previously paid Athletics, trip fees, and Summer Camps. We are also planning for next year, and we will communicate those plans as they take shape. As these discussions continue over the coming weeks and months, I rest easy in our ability to be thoughtful in our approach and nimble enough to adjust to whatever the future may bring.

The Howard School faculty and staff will continue to be good stewards of your trust and resources, and we will continue to find every way possible to show our appreciation to you for entrusting The Howard School with your child's education. Thank you.

Be well.

Marifred

Spring Break Message from Head of School Marifred Cilella 4.5.20

Dear Howard School Families,

How many times have we all wished that we had more time to spend with our children, our family, or to garden, read, exercise, or just relax. Now, because of the situation in which we find ourselves, we have been given the gift of time.

Just a little more than three weeks ago, we were all together enjoying lunch in the Fred and shopping at the Book Fair. In a very short period of time, life has changed for all of us, and changed dramatically. School is virtual, everyone has a home office, and friends and family are staying connected through technology. Ironically, suddenly we have time. Now it's up to us to make the most of this gift.

Tomorrow is the first official day of Spring Break, an annual ritual that often involves planning months in advance for a special trip, or a week on a favorite beach. Those trips, that week on the water have been canceled, but now we have time. How we use this gift is up to us.

I urge you to embrace Spring Break week as you always have, and in that spirit, spend time outdoors with your children, play games together, teach them how to cook, have family reading time, or enjoy a family movie night. And use your new time to listen to one another, something we can't always do when rushing through our normal day.

I am looking forward to Spring Break, as I hope you are. My hope is that while it is not what you had planned, the week ahead will bring you joy and create memories you will cherish for a lifetime.

Take care, and stay healthy.

Thank you!

Marifred

Letter from Head of School Marifred Cilella 4.2.20

Dear Howard School Families,

We had all hoped that we could return to school in May and enjoy the many end-of-the-year activities in person. Hearing Governor Kemp's decision to keep all public elementary and secondary schools closed through the end of the school year was disappointing for me, as I know it was for all of you. I kept thinking about Battle of the Bands, the Talent Show, and, of course, Graduation. At the same time, I realized that while disappointing, it would be best to complete our academic year virtually, and so that is what we will do.

While I will sorely miss seeing you all every day, I know this is the right decision. I rest easy in the knowledge that together, our amazing community will make the best of this situation and come out stronger and more united when this time is behind us.

We will continue to refine details of our new model and update you on our progress in the coming weeks. I encourage you to read Sunday's Howard Weekly for further information, including some helpful resources and virtual social opportunities for parents and students. We still want to enjoy one another and have fun, but in a new way.

We are here for you, always, and your continuing support bolsters us and keeps us strong. Thank you.

Here's to good health for all.

Marifred

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!

Marifred

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,

Marifred

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!

Marifred

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.

Warmly,

Tara

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: cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/travelers.
  • If you plan travel, or have traveled, to an area for which health organizations suggest self-quarantine https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/travelers/after-travel-precautions.html, 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 tterry@howardschool.org 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:
https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html
https://dph.georgia.gov/novelcoronavirus

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