Return to Campus for In-Person Instruction
Catlin Gabel continues to adapt campus plans for in-person instruction as state metrics change. We now are welcoming back students in every division for on-campus learning four days a week. Our state-certified preschool continues to operate on campus Monday-Friday.
When the Oregon Department of Education (ODE) updated their guidelines related to classroom space requirements for students on March 22, Catlin Gabel quickly redesigned our curriculum to four-day a week, in-person instruction for all grades, beginning April 6. ODE’s guidelines now align with those of the CDC, which reduced the physical distance required between students in classrooms from six to three feet when masks are worn and when there are low local community transmission rates. An overview of our transition from fully remote learning began in February and can be viewed here.
We continue to follow all requirements established by the Oregon Department of Education (ODE) that are shared in its Ready Schools, Safe Learners to reduce the spread of COVID-19 in schools. The Catlin Gabel campus has been designed to meet and exceed all health and safety standards, which are outlined in our Pandemic Management Plan. And all community members -- students, teachers, staff, and visitors are expected to follow all of our protocols.
Students are on campus Monday-Thursday from approximately 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. (Times are slightly staggered between K-2 and 3-5 to help alleviate congestion during drop-off and pick-up times.) Fridays are remote. Grade level classrooms have been assigned to different areas on campus, beyond the typical spaces. (Preschool continues to operate as it has done since school began in September.) We are not offering Catlin Gabel After School Programs this spring.
All Middle School students returned to on-campus instruction on Monday, April 12. Wednesdays continue to be remote and asynchronous learning days. All other days instruction is in-person. Teachers move between classrooms, allowing students to remain in their cohorts all day.
Students follow the overall grade-level curriculum in a multi-grade small group with a teacher specific to this group, similar to a one-room schoolhouse style. For literacy and math, students work in either grade-level bands (K-2 and 3-5) or small groups. Monday-Thursday, students have Morning Meeting, Literacy, Math, Art. (Chinese and Spanish may be offered depending on how many students take part). On Friday, students participate in Community Meeting, Affinity Groups, Student Council, and other optional activities.
Students who do not come to campus for instruction follow their cohort’s schedule through audio/video technology. This system allows them to communicate with classmates and teachers, ask questions, and participate in learning activities, but the overall learning experience is different from that of students in the classroom. If there is group work, a remote student joins via Zoom to communicate and collaborate. Advisors check-in with all students, regardless of whether they are fully remote or in hybrid.
Students who remain in remote learning Zoom into class, which allows them to participate in classes through two-way communication with peers and teachers. Classrooms have cameras and teachers have microphones to help facilitate the process. However, the overall learning experience is different from that of students in the classroom. All students work for approximately 75 minutes during class time, regardless of whether they are on or off campus, and work for that class period is due at the end of that period.
- THURSDAY, APRIL 29: COVID-19 Protocols Update
- TUESDAY, MARCH 30: On-Campus Learning Update
- THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 18: COVID-19 Student Testing Announcement
- THURSDAY, JANUARY 28: Transition to Hybrid Learning
- MONDAY, JANUARY 11: Returning to Campus Plans
- MONDAY, NOVEMBER 16: COVID-19 Updates
- FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 6: Pandemic Update: New Guidance and Metrics
- FRIDAY, OCTOBER 30: Return to Campus Update
- FRIDAY, AUGUST 7: Launching the 2020-21 School Year
Dear Catlin Gabel Community,
While most teachers and students have settled into on-campus routines over the last few weeks, we are mindful that it is not school as normal, especially as COVID-19 cases continue to rise locally. With these thoughts in mind, please read these important updates regarding school protocols and policies.
Travel Advisory Change
Over the last several months, the school has held to the governor’s travel advisory, adhering to the state's definitions of essential travel. Although this had not been an OHA or ODE requirement, the spirit of following the state’s guidelines was to limit possible campus exposures. But the evolving COVID-19 landscape and changing rules in various states for required masking have highlighted the limitations of following the stated guidance. For instance, currently, if a student travels by plane to compete for an athletic event at a location with looser masking requirements, that student may return to campus without a quarantine period. Whereas if a family travels to see healthy relatives, adhering to the strictest of safety behaviors, that student would have to quarantine. Science and data indicate that travel itself is not the concern, the behaviors and activities conducted during the trip are.
Given this, and with the collective goal of sustaining community health for the school, especially for the next seven weeks, we are moving away from the state’s definitions of essential travel and are removing school travel policies in general. Instead, we ask:
- all community members to take all possible health and safety precautions in the days and months ahead in your behaviors and decisions about exposures beyond your households, including travel.
- families not to travel unnecessarily. If travel is absolutely necessary for your family, please take every measure to ensure healthy decisions, including full masking, distancing, and ongoing hand hygiene at all times.
- everyone to think twice about activities in which you decide to participate and limit your interactions and exposures.
- that you continue to monitor all family members carefully and answer Magnus Health COVID-19 symptom screening questions with absolute honesty.
Our intent in making this change is to align our policies and protocols with our values as a school. This should not be interpreted as an invitation for lower standards in our behaviors, in fact, we hope for the opposite.
We continue to encourage all community members who are eligible to get vaccinated. Vaccination is proving to be essential in the fight against COVID-19. With most employees vaccinated and increasing numbers of students becoming eligible, we know this will be a key strategy for continued school health.
Several weeks ago we shared that the school would adhere to a 10-day quarantine time period for exposed individuals, following state guidance. With rising local cases the OHA and ODE are now recommending a full 14-day quarantine after exposure. The school has adopted this guidance until further notice.
CDC Masking Update
This week the CDC announced that those who are vaccinated may be unmasked under certain conditions. While on campus, all individuals, vaccinated or not, must remain fully masked, except while eating or drinking. This will provide better protection to the more than 50% of our school population (children under 16 years) who are not yet eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, as well as avoid confusion about mask wearing while on campus. In addition, the OHA is now allowing athletes participating in non-contact sports to compete unmasked. Catlin Gabel athletics will be following this same guidance for non-contact sport athletic competitions.
Activity Risk Levels
With students back to school, some aspects of life are feeling more normal. And yet, we remain in a pandemic. As we navigate the next seven weeks, please continue to make decisions for your families that reduce public health risks. We hope this visual of risk levels will help as you consider activities.
The Pandemic Management Plan has been updated to reflect these changes and the Magnus Health COVID-19 symptom daily screening will be updated on Monday, May 3. Many thanks again for the ongoing partnership and for recognizing that our individual decisions directly affect our goal of overall school health and safety.
Tim and Barbara
Dear Catlin Gabel Community,
We hope that Spring Break was restful for you and your families. The recent weeks were important for our K-12 students and teachers, as they were able to practice first-hand the many COVID-19 health and safety protocols in place for in-person, on-campus instruction. The joy of students being together after a year away could be seen and felt across the campus.
As we have all learned, managing COVID-19 is an iterative process in which we, as a school, and the world around us, continue to learn and evolve. Today, we write with another update to campus plans for in-person instruction.
On March 22 the Oregon Department of Education (ODE) updated its requirements and guidance for schools to align with the CDC’s allowance to reduce classroom physical distance from six to three feet. The CDC and ODE’s revisions to maintain at least three feet of distance apply specifically to classroom spaces for students when masks are worn and where there are low local community transmission rates. Six feet of physical distance is still required between adults, between adults and students, in common areas, during activities with increased exhalation (such as physical activity or singing), and when masks are not worn (such as when eating).
Given this update from the ODE and our continued efforts to support in-person instruction, we have decided that, effective next week, Catlin Gabel will adopt the three-foot classroom distance allowance. We believe this change will benefit student wellbeing, learning, and relationships.
In the Middle and Upper Schools, this change will allow us to transition to four full days of in-person instruction per week for all students and discontinue our hybrid model of A/B split groups. Wednesdays will remain asynchronous, remote workdays. Specifically, this means:
- The Upper School will welcome all students on campus starting Tuesday, April 6. Since the change is coming soon and will require logistical adjustments, students may continue to attend classes remotely next week if preferable. Families with drop-off conflicts are welcome to request an 8 a.m. arrival (please email Aline directly). Aline will follow up with more information in the divisional newsletter on Friday.
- The Middle School will begin having all grade levels on campus starting Monday, April 12. Ted will follow up with more information in the divisional newsletter.
- In both divisions, if students who committed to an April 19 shift from remote to hybrid learning want to return sooner, please contact Aline or Ted.
- The Beginning and Lower School will not have any schedule and classroom location changes as these students are already on campus four days a week. It will, however, allow teachers to reconsider classroom layout and design under the new three-foot guidance.
- We will continue to offer the current CG@Home remote option for K-12 students.
We know that this shift may affect your family’s choice of in-person or remote learning. If this changes your family’s decision, please contact Ted, Aline, or Dawn directly.
We want to assure you that all protocols and COVID-19 mitigation strategies will continue to be enforced. During our hybrid weeks prior to Spring Break, students showed great responsibility in following all of the necessary steps to keep one another as safe and healthy as possible. We know they will continue to demonstrate this maturity and community care.
This shift to four days of in-person learning in grades K-12 will help us to learn more as we prepare for the fall, which we currently anticipate will be a return to five days per week on campus for all students, and will include before and after school programs.
We are grateful for the opportunity to bring more students to campus this spring. Thank you for your ongoing partnership, feedback, and understanding, all of which have allowed us to successfully navigate the last twelve months as a school community.
Tim and Barbara
We hope you are managing safely through this complicated week with the unforeseen circumstances of a winter storm that led to power and internet outages for many. Thank you for the continued support and spirit as we journey through this year together.
We are writing today to share a new health and safety layer of protection for the community.
We are adding mandatory COVID-19 surveillance testing for students to our return to campus plan. Thanks to the generosity of a current Catlin Gabel family, the school is partnering with NW Mobile Testing to conduct regular student testing through the rest of the school year. As you may recall, the school launched employee surveillance testing in February. Regular testing of employees and students will help lessen the risk of COVID-19 transmission in the school community, which we hope will bring peace of mind to families and employees.
As the first step, all students will be tested prior to their respective division’s transition to hybrid learning. Starting in April we will begin weekly surveillance testing of approx. 25% of each cohort each week. We are still working on the details, but we plan to conduct this testing on campus during school hours to minimize the impact on families.
Tomorrow’s divisional newsletters will include more details about the testing process, Q&A, and sign up information, but for now please note these important days and times for initial student testing, which will be conducted in The Barn.
Beginning/Lower School: Tuesday 2/23, 3 - 7 p.m.
Middle School: Saturday 3/6, 12 - 3 p.m.
Upper School: Saturday 3/13, 12 - 3 p.m.
We recognize that COVID-19 testing might be a challenging concept for students, especially younger children. Here are tips for talking with your child about COVID-19 testing process to help prepare them. If you are unable to make your divisional testing day, please contact Barbara.
As we move into the next stage of returning to campus and hybrid learning, we recognize that adding the testing program may create another inconvenience for families to manage. Let’s continue to keep the health and safety of our community at the forefront of our decision-making, with the end goal of happy and healthy students and teachers on campus.
Please look to tomorrow’s newsletters for more details and reach out with any questions.
Tim and Barbara
January 28, 2021
Dear Parents and Guardians,
Today, we are pleased to share with you the school’s return to campus plans. We believe they will provide the best possible education for our students while sustaining the health and safety of our community. At the core of a Catlin Gabel education is our connection to one another, a connection that thrives when we are together. While school will look and feel different in hybrid learning, we believe that students learning with classmates and teachers on campus is essential for their development and will provide the joy and inspiration that we all want for them.
Input from you, our parents and guardians, has been invaluable throughout this planning process, as has been feedback gathered from teachers and staff. Their ingenuity, creativity, and passion for your students and their work continues to inspire us. We are grateful for the countless hours they have spent redesigning their plans and mastering new systems and new ways of connecting with students. We also want to acknowledge and express our gratitude to you for the many ways you have helped to sustain your children's education.
After careful consideration, we have developed a plan to transition from remote to hybrid learning over the next 8 weeks, starting February 1. Our goal is to transition all grades before spring break. We believe this approach will result in the most sustainable solution for a long-term return and create the least amount of interruption to student classwork. We also know that our approach may be different from other schools in the area. Every school and district is developing plans based on their unique needs, and our approach at Catlin Gabel reflects ours.
We want to acknowledge that the transition period to hybrid learning will place new challenges on families as well as teachers. The plan intentionally includes various visit days that allow for students and teachers to practice being together on campus. We believe these days will be crucial to adapting to the health and safety protocols necessary for a return to campus. This will create short-term inconveniences for families; thank you for your understanding.
Each division will have different activities and timelines over the next 8 weeks, but the overall goal is the same: providing students with increased on-campus opportunities (OCOs) that connect them with teachers and lead to a healthy return to in-person instruction. Here is an overview of the schoolwide transition plan. Divisional plans provide more detail and are linked below. They also will be available in the parent portal. Please note that dates and details are subject to change based on health and safety concerns. Bus service is scheduled to begin the week of March 8 for families who indicated in the last survey that it is essential for their return to campus. The transportation department will be in communication with those families in the next two weeks.
As these timelines and schedules were developed, we kept the following considerations at the forefront of our decision-making, with the overarching goal of offering a full hybrid program for all students in all grades from April-June:
- The health and well-being of our students, teachers, and staff
- Local and regional health data, ODE, and OHA guidance and metrics
- Vaccine availability and information, tracking of employee vaccination rates
- Access to COVID-19 surveillance testing for employees
- Protocols developed in the Catlin Gabel Pandemic Management Plan
- Our ability to hold all community members accountable for safe behaviors
As you review the plans, please note that the week after Spring Break is remote learning for K-12 students. As families may travel during this time, we have reserved this week for employees and students to come to campus for COVID-19 testing. Please do not extend your spring break plans beyond Sunday, March 28. These tests are mandatory, and will provide another layer of safety as we move toward in-person learning. Students will be scheduled to come to campus during this week to take a COVID-19 test.
To ensure we can prepare our classroom spaces, technology, and in-person and remote teaching methods appropriately, we need all families to commit to hybrid or remote learning by Monday, February 8. Next Friday’s newsletters will include instructions to confirm your preference. We hope and are planning for most students to return to campus for hybrid learning except in the case where a family medical condition may limit this option. We believe the layers of health protection the school has in place to limit transmission, which can be reviewed in our Pandemic Management Plan, will help foster an active and joyful learning environment for students so that they can learn together in person. Division heads will provide more information in tomorrow’s newsletters and host Q&A Zoom meetings next week to continue to answer questions for families.
Beginning and Lower School: (No change to preschool schedule)
BLS Eight Week Transition Plan
Q&A with Dawn: Thursday, February 4, 4-5 p.m.
MS Eight Week Transition Plan
Q&A with Ted: Monday, February 1, 8:15-9:15 a.m.
US Eight Week Transition Plan
Q&A with Aline: Thursday, February 4, 8:30-9:15 a.m.
Next Friday, we will share an updated form that includes more information about returning to campus and a community agreement, which we will ask all families to sign via Magnus Health.
We continue to be grateful for your ongoing partnership, which is essential to our transition to a spring of learning on campus, as well as our long-term success. We recognize there will be challenges ahead, but we are confident we can do this together and continue to be the community that our students need.
Tim and Barbara
Dear Parents and Guardians,
Since the Governor’s announcement on December 23 changing the reopening school metrics from mandatory to advisory, we have carefully considered how to best support our school community in assessing a return to campus. We continue to examine data related to schools and the virus, confer with medical experts and community members, review our safety protocols, discuss work and wellness implications for employees, attend ODE and OHA information sessions, partner with Washington County public health, and take into account the mental health, wellbeing, and academic progress of our students. Teachers across divisions are beginning to train for a return to campus, as well as orienting themselves to new teaching spaces and technology tools.
Return to Campus Plans and Considerations
Based upon this ongoing review, we are developing a comprehensive return to campus transition plan and timeline for K-12 students that incorporates all health and safety protection measures outlined in our Pandemic Management Plan. When we begin a return to campus for hybrid learning, the lower grades will transition first, followed by the upper grades, until all grades are on campus and following divisional hybrid plans. Each division’s transition to hybrid plan will include teacher prep and student orientation days. We are likely to initiate our return to campus in February, but do not have specific dates yet because we believe it is important to wait until the next ODE advisory metrics update, which is expected on or before January 19. While these metrics are advisory, we think they should inform our decision-making. A detailed all-school transition plan to hybrid learning will be finalized and shared soon after ODE’s guidance is released. Beyond the advisory metrics, all schools still must follow the mandatory guidelines established last fall by the Oregon Department of Education in its Ready Schools, Safe Learners plan for reducing the spread of COVID-19 in schools. We are fully committed and operationally ready to meet and exceed all health and safety standards.
We recognize the tensions that deciding to return to campus create. While access to a vaccine is on the horizon, COVID-19 is still present in the wider community. Though Oregon numbers are lower than other states, community spread continues to present a health risk. Since school campuses first closed last spring, we have learned a tremendous amount about COVID-19 and schools. The majority of independent schools in the U.S. opened in September and remain open. We also have learned much from our own preschool program, which has successfully offered full-day, in-person instruction to our youngest students since September.
Our teachers have done a remarkable job of designing and providing remote learning. And we believe that students learning on campus with one another, forging relationships, and grappling with real-world problems is at the core of our progressive mission as a school, and that it is best for their mental wellness and overall well being. We also believe that Catlin Gabel can effectively reduce the risk of transmission through our policies and practices, and because we are a caring community that understands the importance of making responsible decisions in and out of school that may negatively impact one another. More than large schools and school systems, we can determine and enforce the procedures to which all community members must adhere while on campus.
Schoolwide Differences during Hybrid Learning
Health and safety protocols and strict behavior rules will be essential for a return to campus. Being at school during a pandemic will be different for students than it has been, just as everyday interactions are different in every sphere of our lives. To make in-person instruction successful and sustainable, we will need everyone to follow new protocols and understand that being on campus is a privilege. Student and family noncompliance with the protocols will result in students being sent home. In order to provide effective hybrid learning, several daily operational aspects of school have been adopted or changed. These are outlined in the Pandemic Management Plan, but several noteworthy differences in daily life on campus include:
- Not coming to school when anyone feels even mildly sick. The school will require students to be picked up if they exhibit any symptoms of illness.
- Students must have their Magnus Health app screening completed each morning on time (BLS by 7:30 a.m. and MS/US by 8:30 a.m., or 30 minutes prior to riding the school bus or arriving on campus) to attend school.
- Everyone on campus must wear a mask, indoors and outdoors.
- Campus will be zoned to limit student movement throughout the different divisions. Students in all divisions on campus will be supervised at all times. Upper School students will not be allowed off campus during the school day.
- Parents and guardians will not be allowed to enter any school buildings.
- The Before and After School Program will not be available for any division. We will re-evaluate ASP for Beginning and Lower School students after Spring Break.
- Students must arrive on campus close to the start of the school day and be picked up promptly at the end of the school day. Drop-off and pick-up will be staggered and parents/guardians will remain in their cars and not come onto campus.
- Middle and Upper School students will not use lockers or cubbies during the day; they will keep all of their belongings with them in backpacks throughout the school day.
- Food service will not be available and food may not be delivered to campus. All students must bring their own lunch and snacks; lunch will be eaten outdoors.
- Drinking fountains are not available, though many have been converted to bottle refill stations. All students will bring reusable water bottles.
- Bus transportation will be limited due to the health and safety bus protocols. Bus service will be available only for those families for whom bus transportation is essential for attending school.
These new schoolwide guidelines will be crucial to a successful return to campus. We will continue to assess them to ensure the best conditions for safety and learning and make adjustments as necessary.
Divisional Hybrid Plans
At the division levels, we have fine tuned the hybrid learning plans to meet health and safety standards and reduce overall density on campus. The divisional hybrid plans, which will be updated as we learn more, include details about how classrooms have been redesigned, how students will be grouped, and how instruction will be offered. Please take time to read carefully the return to campus hybrid plans that are relevant to your family, as each one contains many details and schedules. These plans are also accessible on the parent portal. Remote learning options are available at each division for students for whom hybrid learning is not an option due to a health condition or family situation.
BLS Hybrid Plan:
- Students will be on campus M-Th from approximately 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Fridays are remote.
- Students will be in stable homeroom cohorts all day. Grade level classrooms have been reassigned to allow for more space for each homeroom group (K groups in the K classroom and the Village; 1-3 in LS buildings; 4-5 in the Creative Arts Center top floor).
- Students who need to stay remote will follow the overall grade-level curriculum in a multi-grade small group with a different teacher.
MS Hybrid Plan:
- On-campus instruction will alternate every other week: 6th and 7th will come to campus while 8th is remote; the next week 8th is on-campus and 6th and 7th is remote. All students will be remote on Wednesdays for community day.
- Students will be in cohorts all day; teachers will move between classrooms, not students (with the exception of PE and math where students may transition to a new space).
- Students who need to stay remote will engage in instruction through classroom technology. It will not be an identical experience to that of students participating in on-campus instruction.
US Hybrid Plan:
- Students will be on campus two days and remote two days each week: Group A on campus M/T, remote Th/F; Group B remote M/T, on campus Th/F. All students will be remote on Wednesdays for community day.
- Students will not be in stable cohorts all day. They will, however, have ongoing supervision and limited freedom of movement around campus, which will be the largest shift for upper schoolers who are used to more flexibility.
- Students who need to stay remote will follow instruction through classroom technology. It will not be an identical experience to that of students participating in on-campus instruction.
To further explain and answer questions, Division Heads will host Zoom sessions this week at the times below. These sessions also will be recorded and shared.
In addition to the divisional zoom sessions, families are invited to join us on Monday, January 25 for a schoolwide Q&A during our standing Parent/Guardian Drop-In time.
In this Friday’s newsletters, a mandatory family survey will be conducted to collect essential information from your family about the return to campus transition. Please have one parent/guardian per student fill it out by Tuesday, Jan. 19 at 5 p.m. Your responses will directly impact our decisions and planning.
Also in preparation for our return, all families and employees are asked to complete the Magnus COVID screening on both Thursday, January 14 and Friday, January 15 to ensure proper usage of the screening tool.
If you have questions, please contact either of us or your division head. We also continue to welcome input in the Return to Campus Feedback Form.
Please know how grateful we are for your support and flexibility as we continue to adapt together to changing circumstances.
Tim and Barbara
Dear Catlin Gabel Community,
During this pandemic, as a school, we have sought to follow national and local guidance to keep our students and employees as safe as possible. Our preschool students and teachers continue to follow safety guidelines that have allowed them to thrive and stay healthy while on campus. This same cooperation has allowed us to host small-group activities and athletics for older students. Thank you to all who have contributed to the success of these programs.
We are writing today to ask families and employees to help reduce the spread of COVID-19 by following the Governor’s Two-Week Statewide Freeze (with an additional two-week extension in Multnomah County), which includes limiting social group gathering sizes to a total of six people and no more than two households. The Governor has put this freeze in place to most importantly save lives, but also to help counties meet the metrics to allow for in-person instruction. The success of this effort will require the efforts of all Oregonians.
In addition to the statewide freeze, we ask that all families and employees adhere to the travel advisories set forth by Governor Brown on Friday, November 13 to avoid non-essential travel, and if travel occurs, to quarantine for 14 days upon return. A question about travel will be added to Magnus health screenings this week. The ODE asks all schools to communicate and help students and staff self-quarantine to support the travel advisory.
We ask that all community members assess their possible exposure level before returning to campus after Thanksgiving break.
- Preschool children should not return to campus if your family has traveled outside of the state until after a 14-day quarantine period at home.
- Students and families participating in after-school activities, including athletics, should not come to campus if your family has traveled outside of the state until after a 14-day quarantine period at home.
We realize that this announcement may interrupt upcoming plans for some families. We apologize for any inconvenience; however, we must prioritize the school community’s health and safety and take all measures to avoid COVID-19 transmission, including following the state’s travel advisories now in place.
If you have any questions or concerns, please let us know.
Tim and Barbara
As we shared last week, Governor Brown and the Oregon Department of Education (ODE) released additional guidance and updated metrics for reopening schools. Even with the new metrics that better align with other Western states, our local case levels currently do not meet the threshold for returning to on-campus instruction. With local cases projected to increase in the coming months, we do not expect an immediate return to campus for hybrid learning. Nevertheless, we have reviewed our existing hybrid plans across all divisions in preparation for that return. Given the new guidelines and what we have learned from other schools, we will redesign them to better meet student and teacher needs. This planning will take time, and we will share changes we are making as they develop. When a transition to on-campus learning is possible, we will use a phased-in approach starting with the Beginning and Lower Schools, per state requirements, and then add middle and upper grades. All plans will continue to center on the health and safety of teachers and students.
As we continue to plan for our return to campus, we ask all families to take this 5-minute survey to help inform our design process. Responses will require your family-specific information, but they do not commit your family to a decision at this point.
Because we draw more than 10% of our students and employees from Multnomah and Washington counties, cumulative cases in both regions per 100,000 residents must fall below 100 over a two week “look back” (the sum of weekly cases for both weeks) before we can begin to bring children back to campus for instruction (beyond small group activities). See here for the school metric data for Washington and Multnomah counties in alignment with the new ODE guidelines.
The new ODE guidance cites emerging research indicating school openings across the country have not led to significant increases of COVID-19 in those areas. It also outlines proven mitigation strategies to decrease transmission in schools. It will be incumbent upon all of us to follow these strategies while also understanding that these safety measures will help reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission, but not eliminate it.
Last Friday’s guidance also updated the rules for small group activities, what we are now calling On-Campus Opportunities (OCOs). We understand the profound benefits of in-person connections during this time for students. In the weeks ahead, divisions will share more opportunities to bring students to campus via divisional newsletters.
In support of our shared desire to return students safely to in-person instruction, we want to reiterate ODE’s message about our collective responsibility: “Every Oregonian can help us return our children to in-person instruction. You can reduce spread by wearing a face covering and maintaining physical distance whenever you are around others, by washing hands frequently, and by avoiding group gatherings. Let’s do what we can to put the health of our families and children first.”
We will continue to share weekly updates via the divisional newsletters, as well as communicate decisions and hybrid designs as they emerge in the coming weeks. We will have time for questions on this topic at the PFA Town Hall on Thursday, November 19 at 4 p.m. Please revisit our Pandemic Management Plan and review our COVID-19 webpage for more information on school plans.
We appreciate your continued resilience and faith in Catlin Gabel School in this unprecedented health crisis. If you have questions, please contact your respective division head or either of us.
Tim and Barbara
You may have read or heard in the news today that the Governor’s office has changed school reopening plans for the state. We are assessing how the new guidance aligns with existing plans that we created based on the August state requirements. That includes analyzing the details of the new guidelines to understand how they will affect the school’s programs, facilities and technology needs, and above all, the health and safety of the Catlin Gabel community.
In the days ahead, we will assess case and positivity numbers in Washington and Multnomah counties based on the new metrics. We will develop our plans and timeline for a possible return to campus, working with the Oregon Department of Education, local public health authorities, and peer schools. To support that work, we will send you a survey next week that will help to inform our decision-making. Please respond to this in a timely manner.
We acknowledge this news may bring with it varied emotions and questions for which we do not have immediate answers. We will share an update next Friday, but in the meantime please know that we will plan for a measured approach while keeping health and safety at the center of decision-making.
Please reach out to either of us with questions, thoughts, or concerns. We also welcome ongoing feedback here and remind you that we have an informal drop-in meeting already scheduled for Monday, November 2 from 12-12:45 p.m. in Barbara's Zoom Room.
Tim and Barbara
Dear Catlin Gabel Community,
Since our message last week, we know many students are saddened by the prospect of not being in one another’s company, and we deeply appreciate the challenges faced by parents and guardians as they have had to stretch their energies and time in never-imagined ways. We not only empathize with these feelings, but genuinely share them. We, too, wish that we were able to return to campus together. However, we must follow state requirements, and we must continue to adjust to the dynamic nature of this virus. But this does not mean we have stopped moving forward. We remain focused on creating meaningful educational experiences for all students. We continue to innovate, see opportunities among the challenges, and of course, are ready to pivot!
Today, we write with an all-school update, as well as division-specific information. Please mark your calendars for divisional Q&A Zoom sessions with your respective division heads. Middle and Upper School students are invited to join the Q&A session as well. Please note that Monday’s Beginning and Lower School session will be focused on grades K-5; preschool families will participate in a separate session.
- Preschool Parent-Guardian Q&A with Dawn - Tuesday, August 18, 4-5 p.m.
- Kindergarten-5th Grade Parent-Guardian Q&A with Dawn - Monday, August 10, 3-4 p.m.
- Middle School Parent-Guardian-Student Q&A with Ted - Monday, August 10, 1-2 p.m.
- Upper School Parent-Guardian-Student Q&A with Aline - Tuesday, August 11, 1-2 p.m.
Understanding State Requirements
Last week, we announced that K-12 will be in remote learning through at least October 2 in response to the new metrics set for schools by Governor Brown. To clarify, the state mandate does not explicitly say schools cannot open in a hybrid in-person model, but the benchmarks established for on-campus instruction would require the Portland metro area to rapidly reduce the number of cases of COVID-19. Our medical advisor, Kristine Rabii, developed this chart to help our community interpret the current data (it will be updated weekly). No school can open until the metric benchmarks are met, and the data indicates that meeting them will take more time.
We know the question of tuition relief is on families’ minds. We recognize families are being impacted by COVID-19 and may be facing additional costs to support your children at home. This is a complicated and difficult moment as none of us can predict the trajectory of the virus. At this time, we are assessing and modeling the financial impact of remote and hybrid learning modes. We do not yet have enough data to make a commitment regarding tuition relief possibilities. We need to start the school year and gather further information in the months ahead so we can fully address and answer these questions.
Community During COVID-19
Physically being apart from one another creates distinct challenges for our school community, which thrives on campus interaction. Children miss one another and their teachers, and families want to re-establish in-person connections. We understand some families are creating pods or co-ops together. Though the school cannot manage these groupings or adapt school programming around them, we know these may be necessary to manage work schedules. We ask families to consider our collective public health responsibility to do what we can to reduce community spread of the virus. We encourage everyone to adhere to all health and safety measures at all times, as well as be inclusive and welcoming with new families and fellow community members.
From a school activity perspective, we are working on ways to foster community spirit through virtual gatherings and online games in the coming weeks and months. We are also working closely with the Oregon Department of Education (ODE) to advocate for the school’s ability to gather small groups on campus for community building events when the school year resumes. We will look to next week’s ODE requirement update to gain clarity.
Over the past several months the Emergency Response Team, the Contingency Planning Team, and the School’s Leadership Team have been planning our return to campus. We have reviewed local and national recommendations, tracked emerging research, implemented new protocols, and discussed countless issues related to the various plans. Though we are not starting the school year on campus, we are ready to do so as soon as possible. Please take time to review our Pandemic Management Plan, which provides details on school life on campus during a pandemic, and our Communicable Disease Manual, which explains the school’s response and protocols for various diseases. The Pandemic Management Plan will take full effect when hybrid learning begins. We welcome feedback and questions on these by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Preparation for Remote and Hybrid Learning
In anticipation of the agility this fall might require, the foundation of our hybrid learning plans were based on online learning methods. In other words, while planning for hybrid, we also have been preparing for remote learning. This summer marked the highest level of professional learning engagement for teachers ever. Faculty across the grades engaged in training, coursework, and curriculum revisions to support their classwork and students. This foundation ensures that Catlin Gabel can shift smoothly between remote and hybrid learning plans as the landscape changes. Our commitment to students and families this year, regardless of the learning model, includes:
- Simplified and streamlined learning platforms: These platforms will make it easier for students to find their assignments and understand what they need to do.
- Revised daily schedule: Every division has developed new schedules, incorporating feedback from the spring, as well as professional guidance about remote learning environments. The schedules are also designed to facilitate both hybrid and remote learning environments.
- Social and emotional learning and relationship-building foundation: Teachers will prioritize time and teaching practices to lay a foundation based on relationships and positive rapport. We are committed to knowing students well and supporting them as whole children.
- Continued parent partnership: Divisions will have more systems and structures for feedback loops between families and teachers about student progress. Teachers will be more explicit to help parents and guardians better understand the work students are doing, and how they can best support them.
Dawn, Ted, and Aline have collaborated with their teams over the last several months to determine how to best manage the complexities this coming year will bring. Specific information about each division, including schedules, student groupings, and their overall philosophical approach to divisional work with students can be found here:
Beginning and Lower School (K-5)
Information for All Families
To prepare for a smooth return this fall, we need your help in attending to a number of action items.
- Because we are starting school remotely, families do not need to inform division heads if they plan to use remote learning all year. Families can make that decision when we transition to hybrid learning.
- Magnus Health, our online yearly form tracking system, has documents that require parent/guardian review and signatures. We have streamlined the number of forms to be completed to make the process as easy as possible for you. Please complete these forms no later than Monday, August 10. Click here to sign into the portal. If you need help, please email email@example.com.
- Please mark your calendars for our virtual Back to School Nights:
- Beginning and Lower School - September 17, 6 p.m.
- Middle School - September 15, 6:30 p.m.
- Upper School - September 10, 6:30 p.m.
While challenging to see right now, let’s take heart in reminding ourselves that remote learning continues to be a short-term solution that helps ensure the health and wellness of our broader community. We look forward to reconnecting with your children and you in the weeks ahead, and to a robust and engaging year of learning.
We look forward to seeing you at next week’s Q&A sessions.
Tim and Barbara
Are you anticipating any learning loss as a result of COVID? How will Catlin Gabel address this?
We do not anticipate learning loss. Teachers did not change or lower learning outcomes, and areas for growth or concern were included in end of year reports. If parents or guardians have specific questions, we encourage them to contact teachers directly.
Will the academic year be extended?
No, we are not planning on extending the school year. We intentionally started the 20-21 school year on August 31 to provide more instruction time.
Do you have programming/ supports to help address the mental health/ social emotional impacts for students?
Social Emotional Learning for mental wellness is the center of our plans. We adopted the CASEL framework PS-12 across all grades and divisions to support individual wellness and to shape curriculum themes, advisory and homeroom experiences, and community connections.
Are remote learning sessions recorded for parents and students to review?
Yes, sessions are recorded and accessible for students.
What technology is used?
Each division has a consistent learning management system to help simplify learning for all students. (Beginning and Lower School: Seesaw; Middle School: Google Classroom; Upper School: Canvas).
What would need to happen to transition to a normal 5 day school week for all students?
Multnomah and Washington counties would need to meet advisory metrics related to coronavirus infection rates set by the state as well as guidance established by the ODE.
The open air school movement was a big part of early progressive education. Have you thought about re-looking at some of this movement and trying it out at Catlin?
We know being outside helps reduce health risks. We are using the outdoors for lunchtime, as well as play, learning, and exploration to support classroom learning.
Is Catlin Gabel testing for COVID-19?
When we first began returning to campus, we regularly tested all employees who were working on campus, and we periodically tested students at critical junctures in our return. We plan to test any symptomatic employees and students when needed.
What is the status of teacher vaccinations?
Because Oregon has prioritized teachers, many educators have received both doses of the vaccine. We are tracking the number of employees who have opted to be vaccinated.
What will happen if there is a case on campus?
We have developed a detailed communicable disease management plan that outlines our procedures for a variety of situations, including a confirmed case on campus. We will also follow OHA and local health authority instruction.
What guidance are you following now?
We continue to follow the on-going guidance from the CDC, ODE, OHA, and local medical experts on the best ways to reduce exposure to the coronavirus and other respiratory pathogens. Further details about these and other safety measures are in our pandemic management plan.
What kind of chemicals or cleaners are being used in classrooms and offices?
All facilities cleaning materials follow CDC guidelines for safety and usage.
Does Catlin Gabel have fresh air HVAC systems?
All classrooms and offices meet guidelines either though the type of HVAC system installed or through a combination of the HVAC system and through opening doors and windows associated with that space.
Will we have a school nurse available at school?
We have hired a health coordinator who oversees COVID-19 school protocols, and we have on staff a part-time medical advisor, who helps develop our health policies and structures during the pandemic.
Our Guiding Principles
These five guiding principles inform our decision-making at every stage as we plan for a return to campus:
- We are committed to the physical and emotional well-being of our students, employees, and families, and equally committed to social responsibility and public health.
- We cannot eliminate all risk; our goal is to take reasonable steps to mitigate risk exposure and communicate those clearly, while considering local, national, and international health organization mandates and guidelines.
- We are committed to analyzing decisions based on their implications for the community’s health, the student experience, our families’ circumstances, and the financial implications for the school.
- We are committed to supporting the community through timely and accurate communications.
- For the safety of the community, decisions can change as more information becomes available.