Updated Opening Information

Dear PPSEL Family,
As you know, I have been investigating the county guidance, working with District 49, and looking closely at current trends.  I want you to know that we have had a plan all along, but COVID puts us in a position to have to be responsive to the almost daily changes to the landscape and guidance.
In addition to the most important factor (health and safety), I am also trying to make sure we make as few changes as possible (dates, logistics).
The updated plan for PPSEL school start is below: 
PPSEL is going to maintain its most currently announced start date of August 13th. The county is strongly recommending that we do not open the building to students until August 17th.  Therefore, August 13th and August 14th will be virtual days for all students.
These two days will be used for teachers to do the following:
  • Conduct crew meetings with their entire class and connect with their entire class in a social way
  • Work with students on what school will look like, how students who are doing e-learning will access the classroom, and set-up procedures and explanations.
  • Give time for teachers to meet with parents who want help with the e-learning platforms, special in building needs, and make sure we are all ready to go for the 17th.
  • This also ensures that we have enough days and hours in our annual calendar without losing 2 more days that we may need to make up if we wait until the 17th.
To Recap Dates:
July 28th: If you would like to sign up for Learning from Home, we ask that you do it by July 28th to help in our planning.  If you need more time, please contact me as this still helps us gauge numbers. Remember, your choice is not permanent.  We will allow some movement throughout the year in large chunks (not daily or weekly). The link for registration is https://www.ppsel.org/home-learning-registration/
August 4th: Meet Your Teacher Meetings, Uniform Sale/Swap, New Family Orientation, Preschool and Kindergarten Meetings (look for links, information, etc. coming soon)
August 13th & 14th: Virtual days for all students.  Individual teachers will be in touch that week with times, links, etc.
August 17th: First regular day of school. If students are learning in the building, this will be their first day. If students are Learning from Home, they will receive instructions from individual teachers about next steps.
District 49 is planning on opening on the 17th. They will be reevaluating their plan on August 10th.  We hope there will be no changes for PPSEL, but as I said in the beginning, COVID is a crisis that requires responsiveness and sometimes changes.
A few other items:
Rapid Response Team: I want you to be aware that we have partnered with D49 to create a Rapid Response Team.  This is a small team of school employees, our school nurse, our health assistant, and the school’s LPN/EMT. The team will be the group of individuals who receive the most up to date health information from the state and county in regards to COVID, school settings, etc.  They will act as one body in the event that a student or school member develops symptoms or tests positive.  As a reminder, if someone in the PPSEL Community tests positive, our response mirrors district 49 very closely.  Our response to any single or cluster of infections will depend on the number of individuals both detected and exposed. We will use contact tracing methods to decide if it is most appropriate to apply quarantine measures to individuals, cohorts of students/staff, or the entire school. All our responses will be coordinated with county health leaders, and compliant with our districtwide protocols for an assertive and measured response to any outbreak of any size. The county has already been practicing robust protocols for testing, tracing and notification for months, so we are following their lead for training and implementation. We will communicate anything and everything that we are allowed to so that families have the most up to date information.
Individualized Plans: Many students have different types of plans (IEPs, ALPs, READ plans, 504s, etc).  We will still be working with families to meet the needs of the students.  In particular for students who are Learning from Home, it is possible we will need to convene a meeting with parents to look at services and the best way to meet the needs of each child.  There is nothing to do at this time, but as school begins, you may be receiving information from the appropriate individual in charge of the plan.  If everything is fine, you may not.
As I did previously, I am pasting my previous emails below in blue.  Please take a moment to read over those areas again.
Respectfully,
Don Knapp
Executive Director/Principal
Pikes Peak School of Expeditionary Learning
We have been working with health professionals and following their guidelines in our decision making.
 
Two options for learning: Families still have the option to attend school physically at PPSEL with their class or to do “Learning from Home”.  At school, classes will be in cohorts and we will not be mixing students during the day to limit exposure.  Families that choose Learning from Home need to fill out the registration that can be found here:  https://www.ppsel.org/home-learning-registration/  
 
Learning from Home Details: We have learned many lessons since we had to do e-learning in the spring.  “Learning from Home” will have many similarities to the spring, but there will be some differences.  We want Learning from Home lessons to mirror the values of our model a little more than they did in the spring.  Parents at home will notice a shift in lessons. We have shifted some responsibilities in the building in order to have some availability for students at home while others are in class. Students will have virtual assignments like they did in the spring with some option to pick up materials from school. There will be some set hours for online support for each grade level, as well. 
 
Change in School Calendar: After much thought, we have decided to delay our start by one week. The new start date is August 13th.  In all transparency, I felt that the extra week would be valuable for us because D49 delayed their start.  By moving our start date, we are able to view any unforeseen obstacles or questions that D49 has and respond to those before we start. The new calendar is attached to this email. I apologize for any inconvenience, but with how quickly things shift and change, we felt it would be beneficial to have the extra week to learn from D49’s opening.
 
Masks: After much discussion, research and thought, we have made a decision on masks that is different than our original announcement. We will now be requiring students in 1st-8th grade to have a mask available for use at the school. Masks will be required at times when 6 feet of social distancing isn’t possible and recommended when social distancing is possible. We are spreading out students and student desks, and providing space.  So in many instances, students will not be required to wear a mask and can work without one. Other times or other classroom configurations will make social distancing difficult and we want students to have masks available for this. We also have plexiglass dividers in all classrooms that will allow for safety when teachers are working in groups.
I know for many this is one of the more hotly contested issues, but there were many factors that played a part in this decision. Some of those reasons are:
  • There are PPSEL staff who live with people with compromised immunity.  While Learning from Home is an option for our families, it is not an option for our staff to work from home.  In order to respect and protect our staff that we deeply believe in and appreciate, we are implementing this practice.
  • We will have D49 staff working in our building. D49 is requiring masks at all times for students, so we want them to know that if they are working physically close with students, that they can expect masks.
  • We have students with compromised immunity who very much want to be in school and we want to create as safe of an environment for them as possible.  I understand that there are some who do not believe that children are at risk, but when we consider the level of care we want to give all students, we believe that anything that gives peace of mind and safety is important.
 
There will also be regular times during the day when students will be able to social distance and remove their masks if they were wearing them, replace with a new mask or other similar things. I have been consulting with an RN on practices that will work to allow maximum effectiveness for our students while allowing any freedoms that we can.  
 
There will also be times in the day that it isn’t feasible for students to wear masks.  Our policies again mirror D49. In settings where masks are impossible (e.g. eating) or impractical (aerobic activity) we will practice alternate safety strategies like rigid cohorting, increased distancing, and moving outdoors.
 
We are allowing some freedom in the type of masks that students will wear, when they do need them.  They can wear a traditional mask, but they can also wear face shields. If you have questions about masks, please contact Brent in the office who can consult with our medical professionals.
 
Masks can be in any color, have names on them, and even graphics.  Think of masks as having to adhere to our Friday dress code.  If there are not words or graphics that are inappropriate or distracting, they are probably acceptable. If you have questions about whether or not a mask is acceptable, Brent in the office will be screening these.  Feel free to email him a photo! (theppseloffice@ppsel.org)
 
Preschool and Kindergarten: While students in preschool and Kindergarten are not required to wear masks at all, it is still recommended.  To help in this, the school will be providing alternate types of masks for preschool and Kindergarten as an option. The masks we will be providing should be easier for students to wear without difficulty.  The optional masks that will be provided to preschool and kindergarten will look similar to the photo below:
 
Specials and Electives: All students will still have class with our specials teachers (PE, Music, Technology, and Art).  To begin the school year, we will not have traditional band and choir as elective choices.  We are still looking for ways to make it work, but with the current requirements to have students in cohorts and not mix students, our 5th-8th grade students will initially be placed in a more traditional “specials” class rather than an elective.  As soon as we are given guidance on ways to change this, we will!  
 
Recess: Students will still have recess, but it will be done in ways that still keep safety in mind. Students will still be able to play with friends, but there will be some new structures in place to make it safer, such as assigning certain areas to cohorts and other similar guidelines.
 
Hygiene and disinfecting: Staff and students will receive training on proper sanitation such as how to wash hands and how often, how to wear masks, and other things that will make our safety practices most effective.
 
Water Fountains and Water Bottles: For sanitary reasons, water fountains will be closed for use.  Please have your child come with a filled water bottle.  We will have ways for them to fill water bottles throughout the day, but starting with a full water bottle is helpful.
 
Expedition Fees: We still need your fees paid!  As a reminder, Expedition Fees do not just pay for fieldwork.  They pay for expedition supplies, classroom supplies that supplement the expedition, art supplies when they connect to the Expedition and items like that. Your fees help us continue the program that is “Expeditionary Learning”.  We may decide to discount fees for the spring if we find that our program during COVID doesn’t require fees in the same way.
 
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS: 
  1. What happens is a student or a teacher receives a positive diagnosis for COVID-19? Our response mirrors district 49 very closely.  Our response to any single or cluster of infections will depend on the number of individuals both detected and exposed. We will use contact tracing methods to decide if it is most appropriate to apply quarantine measures to individuals, cohorts of students/staff, or the entire school. All our responses will be coordinated with county health leaders, and compliant with our districtwide protocols for an assertive and measured response to any outbreak of any size. The county has already been practicing robust protocols for testing, tracing and notification for months, so we are following their lead for training and implementation. We will communicate anything and everything that we are allowed to so that families have the most up to date information.
  2. What if I choose in person learning and change my mind (or vice versa)?  There will be opportunity for changes in decisions.  For example, if a student starts the year at PPSEL, but there is a rise in COVID cases in the county, a parent may want to shift to Learning from Home. We will allow for these types of changes.  We will not be allowing day to day or week to week changes at this time because we do not feel that is best educationally, but we will allow changes over larger periods of time.  Another example might be that a student would begin school in a normal way, do Learning from Home during the traditional flu season, and then return to school in the spring.
  3. Will there be exemptions to wearing masks for those times where social distancing isn’t possible? While most students will need to wear masks when social distancing isn’t possible (1st-8th grade), if students have medical or special needs, decisions will be made in conjunction with District 49 on a case by case basis utilizing nursing and/or counseling staff.  Please contact Mr. Barbera for more information (brian.barbera@ppsel.org) who will be working on any potential exemptions with District 49. 
  4. I signed my child up for Learning from Home, but what are the next steps? You should still plan on attending Meet Your Teacher meetings on August 4th.  Links to those meetings will be sent prior to the 4th. Teachers will have information about the classroom in general, but will also be able to address information for students Learning from Home. Once school begins, you will receive electronic communication regarding lessons, times for support, instruction, and other procedures. 
  5. Can my child wear the type of masks/shields that you are providing to Preschool and Kindergarten?  While the school isn’t providing masks for 1st-8th grade, I know that some people will see the face shields we have for Preschool and Kindergarten and wonder about those for their older child.  Yes, these would be acceptable to any student. 
  6. What is the deadline to sign-up for Learning from Home? We’d like parents to let us know their intention by July 24th.  
  7. Why haven’t I received my yearbook from 2019-2020? I wish I knew!  They still say they are mailing them to us, but COVID has made delays that I am surprised by.  I hope we have them soon.
  8. When will I know which teacher my child has?  Prior to the Meet Your Teacher virtual meetings, the office will send information about which class your child is assigned to.
  9. How will I manage Meet Your Teacher Night if I have more than one child? There will be several options for meeting with teachers so that families with multiple children can meet all teachers.
 
I have also pasted a previously sent email below for you to read.  There is still pertinent information there that you may want a reminder on.
 
Thank you for collaborating with us!  This is a crazy time and it’s a great time to be part of a community that is positive and on the same team.
 
Respectfully,
——————————————————
Don Knapp, M.A.Ed.
Executive Director/Principal
Pikes Peak School of Expeditionary Learning
11925 Antlers Ridge Dr.
Falcon, CO 80831
719-522-2580


 
Dear PPSEL Family,

 
We are excited about the new school year!  The world of COVID-19 has definitely added extra wrinkles, but we have been working hard to make sure that students can still have an amazing year while remaining as safe as possible.
 
Below are some concrete details regarding information to the start of the year: 
 
Student Cohorts: We are still planning on having students in cohorts.  This means that students will not be moved from classroom to classroom and put into different groups of students throughout the day. This will minimize contact with many students and minimize the number of people students interact with. Teachers will also put structures into place to keep students distanced within cohorts. The cohorts will remain under the 25 student maximize that is recommended (and often will be several students lower than that).
 
Morning Arrival: Students will no longer start in the gym in the morning. Students will enter the building and go directly to their classroom. School will still begin at 7:55 and students can begin arriving at 7:30 but not earlier. Students will have their temperature checked and have other symptoms monitored.
 
Meet Your Teacher Night: Meet Your Teacher Night will be virtual this year on August 4th. We do not want to have all families in the building at once. As we get closer to the beginning of school year, you will get links to be able to join a virtual meeting with teachers.  We will accommodate families with multiple children by having multiple opportunities. We will be sending a classroom assignment list as well, so families know which teachers they need to join.
 
Preschool and Kindergarten Meet Your Teacher: We recognize that our youngest students need the opportunity to meet their teacher and see the classroom before school starts.  We will be sending details of a schedule that brings very small groups to the building to accomplish this on August 4th.  Be on the lookout for specifics!
 
New Family Orientation: We will be doing orientation virtually this year, as well.  This will be on August 4th at 4:00. New families can join via this link: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/86994367753?pwd=NUh4emg4ZlhsS0JaaVI5dDRBZzZoZz09 and the password is 5Rs2ZS.  Join me to learn a little about the school and have the opportunity to ask questions. 
 
Uniform Sale: Each year we have a used uniform sale/swap.  This will happening from 9-3 on August 4th.  Come anytime to buy a used uniform or trade your good condition shirt for another. We will practice social distancing that day.  Similar to the grocery store, once there are a certain number of people at the sale, others will be asked to wait outside until there is space.
 
D49 Busses: Due to social distancing issues need to cohort students, D49 is no longer offering busses to PPSEL students in the morning. I apologize for any and all inconvenience. They will, however, still offer this option Mon-Thurs in the afternoon.
 
Cleaning and Disinfecting: We have expanded our supplies and protocols for cleaning and disinfecting in order to maximize our ability to a safe environment for students.
 
Parent Visitors: We will be restricting access to the building during the COVID crisis.  Parents will not be able to visit classrooms, join students for lunch or be
 
Afternoon Dismissal: Dismissal will look similar to past years with some social distancing practices put into place. Drivers who know the procedure should see similar things that they have in the past with more distance between students and classes. (New families will learn about dismissal at orientation).
 
Recess: Recess and being with friends is an important part of school.  We will still have recess, but we may restrict certain activities, sizes of groups, etc. 
 
Lunches: To make sure students are not in very large groups, many lunches will be in classrooms. Students who eat in the cafeteria will be distanced differently than in years past. 
 
Out of Building Learning Registration: We recognize that for some families, learning onsite and in the building isn’t possible in August. The state is allowing us, during this crisis, to conduct learning at home for these families. I cannot stress enough that the strength of our school model is contact with teachers and peers.  We believe that students will do best in the classroom. We do, however, recognize that this isn’t possible for some families due to vulnerable populations, immunity concerns, or overall fear of the virus. Families that choose this option can also choose to return at any time.  Families cannot, however, pick and choose days to be at school.  For example, students cannot learn from home and come for a party, for a guest speaker or fieldwork. If your family needs to choose the learn at home option, your first step is to fill out the following form: https://www.ppsel.org/home-learning-registration/  The school will be in contact concerning details at a later date once the form is received and processed. 

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