It has officially been one month since the Independent Day School reopened its doors to students to begin the 2020-2021 school year. While there was some uncertainty on how the start of the academic year would work, the school has remained open and highly functioning thanks to the incredible dedication and flexibility of the faculty, administration, parents, and students.
“As we mark nearly five weeks in school, we have not had a COVID-19 case in our community,” said Head of School, Dr. Marijke Kehrhahn. “I think this indicator of success has been a result of our community working together to limit exposures, follow social distancing and mask-wearing guidelines, and putting real effort into keeping our community healthy.”
That being said, reopening the school and remaining open was not a stroke of luck, but rather came from a significant amount of planning and work from everyone involved in the community. Many changes were made, including daily health screenings, separate cohort spaces, six-feet distance reminders throughout the buildings and grounds, and students having their own bins for storing all of their books and school supplies, as well as their own hand sanitizer and tissues at their own desks. There have been adjustments and improvements as the school days have gone on, and students and teachers alike are settling into the new routine.
“We are very lucky to have small class sizes and a very proactive board and leadership team who have been working on our return to school plans for months, really thinking about the ins and outs of what this might look like,” said Kindergarten teacher, Tricia D’Onofrio. “I feel very lucky to be able to teach in-person and make sure that our children still get to have those special experiences that can only be facilitated in-person, which really creates those friendships and bonds within our classroom.”
From early childhood to the Lower School and up to our Middle School students, IDS has taken unique and creative steps in each division to not only keep the children safe but also engaged in a nurturing educational environment.
“There is a huge difference between in-person and virtual learning,” remarked third-grade teacher, Melanie Kagey. “Having students in the classroom, while being distant from one another, is a challenge but we have adjusted well. Being in school and watching their eyes light up when they make a connection and watching them grow as learners is the best part of being in the classroom. Working with students on a class project, hanging their paintings in the classroom, and being able to go out for mask breaks to see their smiling faces makes the day that much more enjoyable!”
Another advantage that IDS has is its beautiful 33-acre campus which has allowed for engaging and fun, socially distant educational opportunities. As they have for nearly 60 years, students are able to examine and explore the natural world around them in a safe and supportive environment.
“In all my conversations with students, they have expressed their happiness and relief at being together in the classroom again,” remarked Dr. Kehrhahn. “Parents, too, are thrilled to have their children back in school. Children belong in school, they belong with their classmates, engaged as a classroom community in the important and motivating business of learning. IDS is fortunate and proud to be able to provide a full educational experience for all of our students at this time.”