June 26th, 2020 - Update from Executive Director
Day School Fall 2020 Plans
June 26, 2020
A message from Executive Director, Summer Dittmer
I hope your summer is off to a wonderful start. As you know, we can’t predict how the pandemic will evolve and what challenges we will face as we go forward, but we are extremely grateful that our small class sizes will allow us to be back on campus in the fall. Throughout the last two months, our faculty and staff have been collaborating with the goal of creating a safe and meaningful educational experience come September; based on the most recent state and county guidelines and recommendations, we are laying out several plans below for what seem to be the most likely scenarios. These plans are quite detailed, as we know you are eager to learn what your son’s school experience will look like upon returning to campus. First, though, I’d like to provide you with a summary of the priorities and principles that are guiding our decisions:
· We are confident that we can return to school for in-person classes in the fall of 2020. The only circumstance that would preclude in-person classes would be a second government-ordered shutdown.
· We are confident that we can meet all the safety guidelines set by the state and the county (and, if needed, adapt to these guidelines as they change).
· Our campus space will be reserved for day school students and staff throughout the 2020-21 school year or until a widely available vaccine eliminates the threat of community spread of Covid-19. Until such time, afterschool choirs will not meet on our campus, nor will we rent our facilities to outside groups.
Furthermore, we are in negotiations with St. Leo’s School, which is located two short blocks from PBA at 4238 Howe St, to borrow or rent some of their facilities. St. Leo’s has already announced that all of its classes will be held online in the fall, so their campus will be empty. Some of the ways we hope to use St. Leo’s facilities are outlined below.
Plan A is based on the state and county guidelines that are in place right now. This plan allows groups of up to twelve students to learn together in a dedicated classroom space, interacting with no more than two teachers. In this model, students will wear masks and remain socially distanced from one another at a distance of six feet. Teachers may remove their masks when they are teaching, but they will remain behind transparent plexiglass shields while their masks are removed. Teachers and classrooms may be reassigned no more frequently than every three weeks. Outdoor spaces like our front play area may be shared, but only one cohort may use the space at any given time. Each cohort will have its own balls and other play equipment.
PBA’s plan under these guidelines is as follows:
· We will create two middle school cohorts of approximately nine students each in grades 6-8. Our multi-age elementary cohort will remain together as planned.
· Each cohort will have 2-3 designated indoor spaces, one designated outdoor space, such as one of PBA’s back gardens or the 8thgrade lunch area, and one music rehearsal area. Providing multiple spaces for each group will allow teachers to group students by grade to work on separate assignments, separate instructional space from an area where project materials can be spread out, or simply move from space to space throughout the day for a change of scenery.
· One academic teacher and one music teacher will be assigned to work with each cohort in person. Students may receive instruction from other PBA teachers via Zoom. In addition to teaching the subjects of their specialty, teaching teams will make sure students participate in art, P.E., and social-emotional activities regularly.
· After each three-week period, cohorts will rotate to work with two additional teachers. All classroom spaces will be deep-cleaned before a new group begins to use them.
· Pencils, pens, books, scissors, glue, and other classroom supplies will not be shared. Students will have their own supplies to keep in their desks. In addition, each student will be provided with a school-owned laptop or ipad for his exclusive use.
· Students will eat their snacks and lunches with their own cohorts in their designated spaces, and each cohort will use the playground separately for recess and PE at designated times. Hand and surface sanitation products will be available in each classroom. No public water fountains will be available; students will be allowed to drink only from their own water bottles.
· Each cohort will be assigned its own arrival and departure time on school days. Unfortunately, we will be unable to offer early-morning supervision and aftercare. Middle school students will not be assigned lockers. They will store their belongings in their classrooms instead.
· Bathrooms: Each cohort will be assigned to a specific restroom, and usage will be staggered. Signs will be posted with handwashing guidelines, and no-touch soap dispensers will be installed. We have also developed a schedule for increased routine cleaning and disinfection of our restrooms.
· In certain situations, such as the need to administer first aid, teachers may need to violate social distancing regulations. In these instances, teachers will wear masks and gloves. Band-aids and other common first aid supplies will be available in classrooms for students to access themselves whenever possible.
· While these guidelines are far from ideal, we will treat them as opportunities whenever possible. Spending all day with a team of two teachers will allow students to make deeper dives into subject matter, take on more detailed projects, and explore more meaningful connections between music and academics than we can manage in our usual framework of 40-minute classes. At the same time, we will also ensure that students are receiving frequent practice in key skills (math, reading, writing, Spanish) regardless of which academic teacher is assigned to their cohort at any given time.
· While some classroom lessons may be virtual, all cohorts will participate in a live music rehearsal each day. In many cases, rehearsals will be held outdoors, with a minimum of ten feet of social distancing between choristers. This added distance will allow the students to sing without masks. In the event of rain, we will use the indoor rehearsal spaces provided to each cohort. Because of its small size, we will not hold any music rehearsals in the music room. However, if we are able to use a large rehearsal space at St. Leo’s, we may be able to allow both middle school cohorts to use it at once, with a large space between the cohorts to allow for social distancing. In effect, we would be able to hold full varsity choir rehearsals in person!
Plan B will be applied if state and county restrictions are loosened somewhat. For example, Alameda County has indicated that it may be possible for groups of up to twelve students to have contact with four teachers over the course of a school day. In this event, we would modify Plan A so that students could participate in most of their academic classes in person. In this event:
· Students will continue to remain with their assigned cohorts all day, in their designated classrooms, rehearsal rooms, and outdoor spaces. Teachers will rotate from room to room.
· All guidelines above regarding masks, social distancing, and hygiene will remain in place unless we are notified by authorities that we may lift them.
In the event that restrictions are loosened before we return to school in the fall, we will craft a more detailed Plan B and share it with you as soon as we can.
Plan C allows for the possibility that we may be required to close school again and make another transition to distance learning. While we hope this doesn’t happen, we think it is important to learn from both our mistakes and our successes this spring and craft the best possible distance learning program for our students and families. To this end, we are holding a Community Town Hall from 5:00-6:00 pm on Wednesday, July 1, and we invite all day school families to join us and share your feedback on what did and did not work for your child during our quarantine this spring. After this meeting, we will meet as a faculty to review your feedback and draft a plan for high-quality distance learning programs in academics and music. We will then release that plan to you as soon as possible.
Our students are essential to everything we do at PBA, and they are close to our hearts even during our summer vacation. Our faculty and staff have been also working hard to adapt our summer camp offerings to a Covid-friendly format, and we invite you to check out our website for more information on Camp Choirantine and Bishops Ranch Off-Site Camp (BROS). In late August, all students and parents will also be required to attend an online orientation, in which we will review these guidelines, along with our new campus expectations regarding healthy behaviors, environments, and operations implemented at PBA in order to reduce the spread of COVID-19.
The past few months have been an interesting learning experience to say the least, but despite the stress and uncertainty, we feel extremely fortunate that we will have the opportunity to be back on campus in the fall; we continue to think of our families and hope that you and all your loved ones are healthy and safe. See all of you next Wednesday!
Pacific Boychoir Academy
May 15th, 2020 - Update from Executive Director
What I Am Certain of During These “Uncertain Times”
May 15, 2020
A message from Executive Director, Summer Dittmer
During these trying times, these unprecedented times, these uncertain times – all phrases that have become commonplace in the last 45 days. Nearly every email or letter I open, and yes, even ones that I have written, begin with one of those phrases. What I have come to realize is that these times have made our school, our programs and our community even stronger; while many educators have expressed levels of anxiety and uncertainty, at PBA, we are more certain than ever; our history of flexibility and resilience has provided a solid foundation throughout this unforeseen crisis. We have hit our fundraising goals three months in a row, classes are taught daily, instruction remains meaningful, music rehearsals are held each school day, and students are still participating in school clubs and community meetings; we have transformed in the face of adversity. I attribute part of this to our community’s prior focus on growth mindset, just over a year ago. During challenging times, a growth mindset unlocks our ability to learn and to grow, and allows us to thrive. In this newsletter, you will find many examples of how we are thriving, keeping our heads up, and pushing forward. As we celebrate teacher appreciation week, I want to recognize the incredible teachers we have at PBA who are working day and night to serve our students, and creatively as ever. I meet with them throughout the week, and one thing is for sure, we are all missing our students dearly and long to see them, sans Zoom, once again. We are beyond appreciative of our parents and staff for their positivity and support since the minute our campus closed. In the words of the legendary football coach, Lou Holtz, “How one responds in the second half, will determine what they become after the game.” With a month left of school, as we cross the finish line, we will all be stronger, smarter, and more resilient because of this journey. Our past experiences at PBA will undoubtedly make us stronger when we come out on the other side of the COVID-19 pandemic. While this seems overwhelming and extremely unfamiliar to all of us, history is being written, and we hold the pen. Together, with your continued support, the Pacific Boychoir Academy will continue to write the most magnificent story for our students and choristers, one they will remember for the rest of their lives.
Summer Dittmer with Head Boy, Cadence Strange, honored by the City of Pittsburg
March 13th, 2020 - School Closure Announced
As you know, the coronavirus pandemic continues to be rapidly evolving, and PBA is taking a proactive approach to protecting our community. As concerns about coronavirus have risen, the PBA academic faculty, music staff and I have been working closely with the Alameda County Public Health Department (ACPHD) and the Alameda County Office of Education (ACOE). Last night I attended a COVID-19 county video conference, led by the Alameda County Health Advisor, Erica Pan and Karen Monroe, the County Superintendent of Schools; the goal was to discuss the possible closure of districts within the county. PBA has continued to stay in contact with local agencies that have kept us up-to-date on the best recommendations for how to conduct school business during this time of uncertainty. This is why we have kept our schools open until today. As of 6:00 p.m. today, the Pacific Boychoir Academy, along with all schools within OUSD will be closed to students through Sunday, April 5, the end of Spring Break. Because of the evolving nature of the coronavirus pandemic, we hope to be able to resume instruction on Monday, April 6, but will continually assess the conditions to determine if this is the best time for reopening school. There will be no rehearsals or previously scheduled events throughout the closure, including this evening’s Studio Launch and Listening Party and the Shakespeare production. We will notify families when these events are rescheduled. During this period of closure, our school will receive a deep cleaning.
Hopefully this time will allow all students, choristers, school staff and families to do what they need to do to keep themselves healthy and help prevent the spread of coronavirus. This is an imperfect solution, because ACPHD experts tell us that unless children stay in their homes away from other people for the duration of the closure, then they still run the risk of potential exposure.
Choristers can expect updates from the music faculty regarding any additional performance postponements or cancelations. Our day school families will receive lessons and instructions within the week, including information on laptop and book check out that will be available within the next few days. Day school faculty will provide assignments to our students throughout the closure using Gradelink and other platforms that our students are already familiar with; families can expect to hear from teachers by Monday, March 16. This effort is not designed to replace in-person classroom instruction, but it will help keep students engaged and prepared to resume class when it is safe to do so. We will continue to communicate with you as information becomes available.
Again, thank you for your support and cooperation as we work together to keep our students and PBA community safe.
Head of School