School Year 2020

August 28, 2020

Dear Parents,

The Lawrence Douglas County Public Health has created a Unified Task Command board who are making recommendations to schools, both public and independent, with regard to school opening during the COVID-19 pandemic. Each Thursday they are publishing their analysis of the findings regarding community health to determine the tier level they recommend for schools. Last week, the county was in level green. Yesterday we learned that due to increasing numbers of positive cases, they moved the county to level yellow, which is a recommendation for schools to be open in a Hybrid mode, reducing the number of children in one group. You can read their recommendations and rationale here.

In the interest of the health of Raintree’s families, staff, and our community as a whole, we have decided to follow the health department’s suggestion and change what we had planned to do for next week (beginning Monday, August 31). This is what we feel is best for our community at this time.

What does this mean at Raintree?

Erdkinder: We will follow the same schedule as the week of August 24-28 with 8th years attending in person on Monday and Wednesday and 7th years attending in person on Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday. Students at home will attend classes online following our normal daily schedule. (More information coming by email.)

Elementary: Next week we will continue to follow the schedule that began this week. If your student attended on Monday, Wednesday during the week of August 24-28 they will attend Monday and Wednesday this coming week. If your student attended Tuesday, Thursday during the week of August 24-28 they will attend Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday this next week. Work will be sent home to students for the days that they are working from home.

Toddler/Primary: These programs will continue to operate and are not affected by the above recommendations because they are licensed by and already follow guidelines from the Kansas Department of Health and Environment.
When will this change?

The Lawrence Douglas-County Public Health website is updated each Thursday. Raintree will evaluate their recommendation and update families on Friday (as early as we can) for the following week. (link)

Fee Credit:
For any weeks Raintree elementary is in an Alternating Day schedule, those families that signed up for early AM or lunch, will receive a credit for those days not in attendance.


August 6, 2020

Dear Parent,

First of all I want to thank you for your patience. In our school’s 42-year history, we have never experienced anything like this. Again, we appreciate your understanding as we make some changes to welcome our students back to Raintree. With a few adjustments, our staff will return to the classroom to welcome their returning students and new students.

Fully Online Students As you know, Eric Matthews, has taken on the role of teaching our online students, but the number of families interested in this option made it necessary to add another classroom teacher to work alongside Eric. Sarah Grace will step out of the classroom this fall to work with Eric to teach the Fully Online students. Both of these teachers have extensive experience navigating the digital world. They will provide additional materials for the students to use at home as they work on the lessons. An example would be the lesson on Pythagoras. Not only will the teacher tell the story of Pythagoras, but the students will get a ziplock bag with materials to create their own Pythagoras board. Once that is completed, then the student solves problems using the board s/he has made.

In-Person Students Sarah Grace’s students will be temporarily taught by Kathy Klocke and assistant Lucy Diamond Moore. Over her career Kathy has taught both lower and upper elementary and she is excited to return to a lower elementary classroom. Eric’s students will remain together in their classroom and will be taught by Ben Rumback and Katherine Dick. Ben just finished his Montessori training and has been Ann Anderson’s assistant in the upper elementary for many years; he knows the students and is working closely with Eric to make this a smooth transition. Kathy’s returning students will transition to Ben’s class with Katherine Dick. The new fourth-years who would have transitioned to Kathy’s class will instead join Ann’s or Lisa’s classes. A placement letter will follow this email for those students.

We are lucky to have so much space, large classrooms with decks and patios to spread out for additional work spaces. Even our outdoor environments are being adapted. Our Erdkinder, for example, has created two additional outdoor classrooms for their students. Modifications have been made to the elementary classrooms, too. For example, staff are storing extra masks, setting up sanitization stations, arranging their rooms to provide distance between students, and more. As you know we are sanitizing every classroom each morning, and the students will be taught a system to sanitize each piece of equipment after they use it.

Our first goal is the health of our students. Therefore, we will make sure all the protocols are in place which we have been practicing this summer plus more. Tomorrow (Friday) you will get an email from your child’s teacher with details regarding orientation days/times during the week of August 17-21 and what days your child will attend during the week of August 24-28.

Sincerely and with much hope,

The Raintree Administration


July 31, 2020

Dear Parent,

We’d like to begin by apologizing for the absence of communication this week. Thank you for being patient with us as we determine the best steps to begin the 2020-21 school year.

Month of August – Beginning the School Year
We have been looking for other applicable models or guidance that would make sense for our school. The plan that we have put in place aligns with local independent schools who, like us, have unique learning models and campuses. More about the decision for the school year is below. Thankfully, we have been preparing all summer researching, gathering safety equipment, and practicing new safety protocols. Many of our staff have had lots of practice!

Toddler and Primary students

  • August 13 – 1st day for returning toddler and primary students
  • August 17 – Beginning of a staggered start for new toddler and primary students (This allows children and parents to become comfortable to the new protocols and procedures and keeps our numbers lower.)
    Orientations will be scheduled by your child’s teacher. Please follow all necessary safety protocols.

Elementary students
We are beginning the year with a graduated plan. This allows us to begin with lower numbers and in the case of the elementary and erdkinder, practice a model that could be mandated in the future. It also allows us to make personal and direct connections with new and returning students, as well as allotting us time to give specific guidance and training on possible short-term distance learning scenarios.

  • August 17-21 – Scheduled orientations for students and parents, providing specifics on distance learning
    Orientations will be scheduled by your child’s teacher.
  • August 24-28 – Hybrid Model – In-person classes begin for ½ size groups in a rotating schedule
    • Group 1 – Monday/Wednesday in-person
    • Group 2 – Tuesday/Thursday in-person
    • Friday – virtual meetings
      (Groups to be determined first by looking at matching siblings on same days.)
  • August 31 – Full in-person classes begin

Because we have a large enrollment in our fully online program, our in-person class sizes will be much smaller in the elementary. Class sizes will be between 18 and 22 students.

For the month of August we discounted tuition to reflect time for the gradual start.

Raintree (Fully) Distance Elementary Online Learning
We are excited to say, that the Raintree online option, “Raintree (Fully) Distance Online Learning” is a go! It begins August 17. We are still waiting on decisions on about 30 elementary students. Once that is complete, we will decide on the best plan for the students in Eric’s class for the school year. We will send that information out next week.

Erdkinder

  • August 17-21 – Individual virtual conferences for students and parents/tours for students scheduled by Erdkinder staff
  • August 24-28 – Hybrid Model – In-person classes begin for grade levels
    • Group 1 – Monday/Wednesday in-person for 8th years
    • Group 2 – Tuesday/Thursday in-person for 7th years
    • Friday – Virtual meetings
  • August 31 – Full in-person classes begin for 7th and 8th years
    For the month of August we discounted tuition to reflect time for the gradual start.

Erdkinder Online

  • August 17-21 – Individual virtual conferences for students and parents scheduled by erdkinder staff
  • August 24-28 – Hybrid Model – On-line classes begin for grade levels
    • Group 1 – Monday/Wednesday online for 8th years
    • Group 2 – Tuesday/Thursday online for 7th years
    • Friday – Virtual meetings
  • August 31 – Full online classes begin for 7th and 8th years
    For the month of August we discounted tuition to reflect time for the gradual start.

Hybrid Model
We are practicing a week with a hybrid model in the event that our state/community must return to a mandated “Phase 2.” If that happens, we will know how to make that work. In addition, the smaller groups allow us to practice our health and safety protocols with lower numbers.

SCHOOL YEAR 2020-21
Because our toddler, primary, and summer camp programs are licensed through KDHE, we have been in constant contact with our surveyors these last two months and felt confident with the plans we put in place. Our plan is to continue with these practices. Yesterday, however, we learned that a local task force was formed called School Unified Command. Their mission is to create guidelines for schools during the pandemic. For more information: https://douglascountyks.org/depts/administration/county-news/2020/07/27/douglas-county-develops-education-unified-command  At this time, it seems that it is up to this task force to give additional guidance for independent schools outside of what the State mandates. We are awaiting that information.

In our earlier research we found the Johnson County Health Department’s guidance for area schools that was published on July 28th. The document is a tiered model indicating certain restrictions for the different educational levels depending on the community’s health. This made sense to us for several reasons. One, it is looking at community spread (and uses real numbers to determine opening strategies) and two, it recognizes the initial research that younger children are not spreading the virus as readily as older students. You can find the document here: https://jocogov.org/sites/default/files/documents/DHE/PBH/School%20Reopening%20Criteria%20News%20Release%202020.pdf

We are hopeful that the task force is looking at a similar structure. Until we receive specific guidelines from School Unified Command for independent schools, we felt it makes sense for us to create and follow a similar model. The one below is what we would like to use until or unless more restrictive measures are recommended which is modeled after the JCDHE guidance.

schoolYear2020_21PlanTiers


July 21, 2020

To help you with your decision between the semester-long/year-long distance learning option and in-person learning for the elementary, we are linking the descriptive summary of the online plan, which includes many answers to the questions we have received. Please use it to help you decide if this option is right for your family.

https://raintree.hubbli.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/115/_mediavault/2020/07/raintreeOnlineLearningPlan.pdf

Our goal is to know by Friday, July 24th how many families want and need this fully-online experience. Once that is determined we can better assess and answer questions regarding class size, placements, and other procedures directly related to in-person instruction.

Below is a link that takes you directly to our enrollment agreement where you can indicate your preference. Thank you.


July 20, 2020

As we await to hear further news from the State, we want to assure you that we are planning to open our toddler and primary communities in-person in mid August as planned. These groups will be smaller in number (similar to our summer months) initially and they will be stable groups. For more information: https://raintree.hubbli.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/115/_mediavault/2020/07/raintree2020SchoolYrHandbook7_13_2020R.pdf

We had hoped we would have answers today regarding the Governor’s executive order and how it affects our elementary and erdkinder programs, but we do not. We may not know until the Kansas State School Board meets on Wednesday. That said, we can definitively say that we are prepared for the executive order requiring masks, social distancing, handwashing, and daily temperature checks.

With regard to the question we asked about the Raintree semester-long/year-long distance learning option,  we are sending a detailed description tomorrow (Tuesday, July 21) including answers to questions we have received thus far. In this way, you will be able to make a more informed decision regarding this opportunity. Again, we thank you for your patience.


July 13, 2020

Dear Parent,

Thank you for your support during these unusual and difficult times. Before the summer session, our primary and toddler staff worked tirelessly planning the details for our reopening. We planned for health screenings, disinfecting, spacing of children, arrival, drop-off, etc. Then we wondered, would these new procedures affect the children? What we found on that first day of class filled our hearts with joy. The children were so happy – happy to see their friends, meet new ones, and get to work. As you know Montessori children find joy in the work they choose. It certainly did not feel like two months had passed!

“As we observe children, we see the vitality of their spirit, the maximum effort put forth in all they do, the intuition, attention and focus they bring to all life’s events, and the sheer joy they experience in living.” -Maria Montessori

As we began our summer session with small, stable groups and shorter days in both our toddler and primary communities and in our summer camp, we hoped that by August, we would be able ease some of those restrictions. However, these past two weeks, Kansas and Douglas County have seen a significant increase in the number of Covid cases, making that possibility unlikely. That said, we are confident in our plan in implementing what we have learned this summer in our design for the coming school year. Maintaining stable groupings in each of our classrooms, whether it is a toddler community, a primary community, or an elementary class. We have both the indoor classroom space and the outdoor environment to work, play, and explore. These environments allow for great flexibility and educational possibilities.

One challenge we have is the hours. This summer our toddler and primary communities are open 8:00-4:00. We can increase those hours to 7:30-4:30 with a minimal increase of staff. Adding late afternoon (3:30-5:30) to primary, elementary, and erdkinder means at least 21 additional staff.  Our goal is to provide the safest environment possible for the children and to minimize possible closures. For this reason we have made the decision to begin the school year with the hours of 7:30-4:30 for toddler and primary and to not offer late afternoon to our elementary and erdkinder classrooms which means those hours will be 8:30-3:45 with the option of adding early AM. Once it is safe to add the late afternoon time, we will let you know. Toddler and primary families will receive a credit to their account each month that we cannot provide the full 10-hour day. If you are a family that will find this arrangement a great hardship, please reach out to Sheila (sheila@raintreemontessori.org) to see if together, we can find a solution.

In addition to the protocols we have in place, we recognize that we all have responsibilities both at Raintree and outside Raintree, because those decisions impact our Raintree community. We expect staff and families to follow recommendations from our federal, state, and local health departments to reduce the spread of COVID-19, including good hygiene practices such as proper hand washing, and in public, social distancing and facial coverings. In the “olden days” the Raintree community felt much like a family for the people who worked here and the families who attended. Even now with 21 classroom communities, we think of our staff and children’s families as one large family community. Let’s all do our part to keep each other safe and healthy.

“We shall walk together on this path of life, for all things are part of the universe and are connected with each other to form one whole unity.” —Maria Montessori

Sincerely,

Lleanna McReynolds
Head of School

Supporting materials:

  • Raintree Parent Handbook Amendments for School Year 2020-21 (Additional Health and Safety Protocols and Tuition and Fee 2020-21 Amendment )
    Link to Handbook Amendments
  • Elementary 2020-21 Schedule Question – below
  • Elementary – Determining Interest in the Raintree (Fully) Online Learning Plan – Link to description of Raintree (Fully) Online Learning Plan
  • School Year 2020-21 Enrollment Agreement – below
BEFORE COMPLETING THE FORM BELOW, PLEASE MAKE SURE YOU HAVE READ THE HANDBOOK AMENDMENTS