Dear UNIS Community Members,
I hope you have found a way to enjoy the summer months in the midst of the pandemic. I wanted to update you regarding the reopening of school, including additional measures we have taken to reduce risk to the school community, and to provide you with reasoning for the decisions we have made as we prepare to accept students and faculty in September. Of course, all of our plans continue to be subject to the guidance we receive from the State and City governing bodies, as well as from the medical experts. Additionally, I would ask you to complete a short two question questionnaire accessed here so we can better prepare for our opening.
All of our work around educating our students during the pandemic, dating back to March when we first moved to a remote platform, has been guided by overall safety measures and best educational practices. We operated then and now under the premise that we must provide the best educational experience for our community of learners while keeping them safe. We believe we achieved that goal in the Spring, and we hope to do the same as we begin in September.
We are conceptualizing education during the pandemic on a continuum that begins with remote learning and moves closer and closer to the optimal pre-pandemic learning, or stated differently, resuming an education that includes all students on campus with no restrictions.
We know what the fully remote platform looks like, since this is the model we utilized during the Spring. We are keenly aware this is not as effective as students learning in the classroom, but given the nature of the pandemic, the need to respond quickly and through the Herculean efforts of our faculty and staff, UNIS made it work at least as well, if not better, than other schools.
The next stage in the continuum is a “hybrid” model with students alternating between attending school and learning from home. There are many schools that have chosen to have the “at home” learning be asynchronous, while others are creating Zoom lessons that are either tied to the classroom experience or independent of what is going on inside of the classroom. We know this is better than remote learning, but we are confident we can do even better.
The next step in the continuum, and what we will be providing is the hybrid model with live streaming. UNIS students will alternate between being on campus and learning from home, the same as noted above. However, students will now live stream into the classroom using Zoom, with the ability to see the entire classroom on one screen with their classmates and teachers all present. Science experiments will be witnessed with far greater ease. Teacher work on the whiteboards will be seen in person as well as on their screens. This is being accomplished through a significant investment in new technology. Our expectation is that this will greatly enhance the experience for the learners from home. However, is it the same as being physically in the class? No! But this model gets us one step closer to education prior to the existence of COVID-19.
Finally, the last step of the continuum is returning to school with no restrictions. We all hope this happens sooner than later.
We believe coming back to school in-person is important for many reasons providing we take every measure to reduce the risks of infection.
- We have heard from you that many students with learning challenges struggled mightily when studying from home.
- We have heard from you that it is impossible to fully provide the necessary rigor for our IB students on a fully remote platform.
- We have heard from you that your children need to be in school for the social connection that is so fundamental to our school and for their social/emotional growth.
- We have heard from you that working from home and supporting your children’s learning at the same time is challenging at best for many parents, particularly for those with young children.
- And we have heard from you that flexibility of a plan is important because each family has individual circumstances that may mandate the need to have their children study from home.
The topic of COVID testing inside of schools has taken on increased prominence in the news over the past few days.
There are three current forms of detection:
- Screenings--which include daily questionnaires and temperature checks
- Surveillance--which is more of a gross measure of testing but allows for “pooled results” to identify if there is a positive case of COVID-19
- Diagnostic--which is the individual tests that have been administered with a swab
UNIS will be engaging actively in the first two forms of detection, embracing that the more we do as a community, the more we minimize risks for each other. When necessary, we will require diagnostic testing. To that end:
- Prior to each school day all students and staff will be required to fill out an online survey indicating they are asymptomatic. This will be a quick questionnaire asking simple questions about each person’s daily health. We will send further information on the app that we are using in a follow-up communication.
- All students and staff will have their temperature checked each day before entering the building.
Pooled testing is a method that screens samples of saliva from large groups of individuals (24 to 50 individuals) that would be analyzed together in a “pool” to check for the COVID-19 virus. If the virus is found, then that cohort is isolated and further broken down into groups of six. Once that is determined, that small group of individuals would require diagnostic testing (see below).
The advantage of pooled testing is that the results are back in 24 hours, and it provides large groups to be tested quickly and at a greatly reduced cost. To read more about pooled testing, please click here. Additionally, the saliva test is non-invasive and far easier to administer. It is as simple as spitting into a test tube that is provided. See the video instructions here.
We have engaged with Mirimus labs to voluntarily and confidentially test our community, both students and teachers, prior to school opening. The actual procedure for the voluntary testing before school will follow in a subsequent communication. Thereafter, we will be creating protocols for follow-up pooled testing.
We have engaged with Mt. Sinai Hospital who, by virtue of our relationship, will provide expedited individual test results to any UNIS community member who is tested in one of their facilities. We will provide you with a full list of Mt. Sinai testing clinics as we get closer to opening.
When a student or faculty member is diagnosed with COVID-19, a negative test and/or a 14-day quarantine will be required prior to that community member being allowed to return to campus.
In the event of a community member testing positive for COVID 19, here are the school’s protocols:
***If at any time more than one case is identified in a particular class or within a particular division, additional surveillance testing may be warranted as well as a possible whole school closure for 14 days. In that event, subsequent pooled testing prior to reopening school is possible.
We are in the midst of having staff members trained by Johns Hopkins to become contact tracers. If we have a confirmed case, we will use our trained staff to do this important work alongside whatever measures the DOH puts in place when they are informed.
Each day we have discussions about how to best minimize risks at school when we return. You will see a large tent in the parking lot and in the second floor courtyard on the Manhattan campus and one in the back of the Queens campus to help maximize our outdoor spaces. We have installed hand sanitizing stations throughout the school. We are in the process of creating staggered start times, creating designated entrances by division, and purchasing tri-fold plastic partitions to be placed on individual student and teacher desks. We have upgraded our air filters to hospital grade, as recommended by the CDC, and we have purchased “foggers” which are specifically designed to kill all germs and viruses on contact.
Additionally, we have also added air purifiers to all classrooms without a window and protocols for bathroom use have been established by divisions.
We are mandating the use of face masks throughout the day. This has repeatedly been cited as the most important component of risk reduction. We have coupled that with the ability to social distance in our classrooms and in our hallways by reducing the number of students in school on any given day as well as providing signage that has been placed on our floors and throughout the building. There will be a learning curve for all of us, both in using our masks and staying apart, but it is critical to keep each other safe.
Finally we need your help.
- I am asking that you make sure to have all medical records updated prior to the first day of school. We simply cannot have students on campus without updated records. If you have not made your annual medical appointment please do so as soon as possible. No student will be permitted on campus if their medical records have not been received in advance of the start of the school year.
- When school starts, please do not send you children to school if they are manifesting any symptoms resembling the common cold. If they have a sore throat, an upset stomach, fever or even a “runny” nose and/or congestion, you must keep them home. Different than in the past, failure to do so puts all of us in jeopardy. If we notice a child who is showing signs of the common cold, we will ask you to take them home in the spirit of keeping the entire community safe.
- To ensure appropriate social distancing, we have divided our student population into two groups to attend school on alternating days. Group 1 is for children with last names beginning with the letters A-K, and Group 2 is for children with last names starting with L-Z. After working through many different potential groupings, this is the one that provided balanced groups; therefore while we are committed to keeping families together, we are not able to meet requests for other reasons at this time. This is to ensure social distancing so we can minimize risk to all by maintaining good balance in our class sizes. Our youngest learners, Pre-k through J1 will be on campus everyday acknowledging the challenges they incur learning from home.
There will be a Town Hall Meeting for parents next Wednesday, August 19, at 6:30pm. An invite will follow under a different cover. The Town Hall is designed to answer questions you may have about our reopening. I am linking our current plan here for your ease of reference.
Stay healthy. Stay safe.
Dear UNIS Community,
After hearing feedback, concerns, and suggestions from the community and continuing to review CDC guidelines and NY State Education and Department of Health guidelines, we have made the following change to our reopening plans for the fall:
- All students and faculty are expected to wear masks all day (except for eating, drinking and where documented medical conditions won’t permit).
The A/B (alternating day) schedule was chosen after much debate. Unfortunately, we know that whatever plan we presented would come with the knowledge that it will not be ideal for all constituents.
The A/B schedule was designed so that students at all divisions will see their teachers at least once in a two week cycle, (with the exception of Pre-k through J1 and Queens Junior School who will be at school 100% of the time). That would not be the case in any other versions of scheduling, such as one week on and one week off model. Educationally, we know students need to interact face-to-face with their teachers consistently to ensure best practices. Additionally, many of our teachers instruct across divisions, which requires that we have one school-wide schedule. These and other factors weighed heavily in our choice of A/B scheduling.
There have been several parents who expressed understandable concern about transportation. Much of this is out of our control, but nonetheless we recognize this as a real problem. We carefully built the current schedule by dividing groups based on the alphabet to optimize social distancing and to allow families with children in different divisions to attend on the same day. Making significant changes to groupings could impact the social distancing guidelines. Please do not request a change unless it is imperative as we will not be able to accommodate extensive switching. Please complete the attached questionnaire if travel concerns are prominent for your family.
We have started to populate the FAQ section of our plan acknowledging that many in our community have similar questions. To access the FAQ’s please below.
Our goal is to support the education of the students to the best of our ability. Your input is valued and we will make adjustments as we learn more and experience this once in a lifetime reopening process.
Thank you for your support and understanding as we work together toward a successful first day of school.
Stay safe. Stay healthy.
Dear UNIS Community,
Welcome to our reopening plans. We began our process by following certain assumptions. This is an outline of what can be expected on the first day of school.
Safety: We have prioritized the safety of all staff and students when making decisions.
Expert Advice: All of our decisions are anchored to expert advice, particularly as it applies to safety. We must and will adhere to the State and City guidelines and follow recommendations set forth by the Department of Health, CDC, and other reputable sources.
Flexibility: We have heard the feedback from our community for the need for flexibility. We know there are families that will not be comfortable sending children back to school in September and wish to continue their learning remotely. These models will accommodate the parental choice of remote learning and can be utilized flexibly by parents by simply informing the school with 48 hours notice.
State & School Guidelines: We are building models of flexibility that will at all times comply with state and local guidelines . We are presenting two models for each of the divisions.
The model that will be implemented will be dictated by the circumstances of the pandemic as it impacts NYC in September. For more information on each model, please visit the "Schedule" and “Teaching & Learning” sections below.
Junior School (Manhattan and Queens):
- Hybrid Learning Model (Manhattan - preferred model*)
- If NYC or the State disallows bringing all students back, 100% of our youngest learners will return full time (PreK, JA, J1).
- 50% of students will be in their homeroom, 50% of students will be live streaming into their homeroom from another supervised classroom.
- J2, J3, and J4 students will follow our hybrid model, 50% of students will attend school on campus and the other 50% will attend class from home livestreaming into their class. Groups will alternate each day.
- Homerooms will be kept together in one physical space as much as possible throughout the school day, bringing their teachers to them where practical to minimize the number of interactions with new people throughout the day.
- *Queens - due to smaller class sizes at Queens, 100% of Junior School students will be able to return full time.
- If NYC or the State disallows bringing all students back, 100% of our youngest learners will return full time (PreK, JA, J1).
- Distance Learning Model (only if dictated by NYC and NYS)
- 100% of students will follow a distance learning program that is completely online.
Middle School (Manhattan and Queens) and Tutorial House:
At the Middle School and Tutorial House level, we are unable to isolate students to single classrooms due to scheduling constraints.
- Hybrid Learning Model (preferred model)
- 50% of MS and TH students will be on campus learning, while 50% of students will be learning remotely. Students will be on campus on an alternating basis.
- Distance Learning Model (only if dictated by NYC and NYS)
- 100% of students will follow a distance learning program that is completely online, similar to what was delivered in Spring 2020.
The icons below are designed for your easy access to the details of our plan, some of which will be presented more fully later in the summer once we gain greater clarity regarding guidance from NYS and NYC Departments of Education and various health organizations. In the coming weeks we will be continuously updating information as it becomes available.
Stay Safe. Stay Healthy.
We will continue to update this section with questions and answers as they emerge from our community.
1. If State and City regulations allow bringing all students back, will you create a model where all children attend every day?
- Yes. We will keep monitoring the NYS Dept. of Education and DOH guidelines and adjust our plans throughout the summer as needed.
2. What happens if a student, faculty or staff member shows symptoms of COVID 19?
- Any student or employee who demonstrates symptoms upon arrival or during the school day will immediately separate from others and self-isolate in a specifically designated area with the School Nursing Team. Employees will remain in self-isolation until they feel well enough to leave campus. The school nursing team will contact parents immediately to arrange for students to be picked up from school quickly.
- Based on CDC guidance, anyone who presents symptomatic may not return to UNIS until the following:
- WITH A COVID TEST: A negative COVID test and clearance note from MD
- WITHOUT COVID TEST: Must be fever free (less than 100F) for 3 days with no fever reducing medications and improvement of symptoms
- AND must be 10 days post-symptom (No symptoms in last 10 days)
- AND report general feelings of wellness.
3. If someone in the UNIS community tests positive for COVID 19, will UNIS close campus again and resume home instruction?
- In the event of a community member testing positive for COVID 19, here are the school’s protocols:
4. Can my child be in school every day if he/she already had COVID-19 and has tested positive for antibodies?
- No. Unfortunately, research on whether antibodies can protect someone from reinfection is inconclusive at this time, and the school is erring on the side of caution, and in line with CDC guidelines.
5. We are a blended family with children with different surnames. Can UNIS accommodate them coming to campus on the same days?
- Yes. Siblings with different surnames will be allowed to be in the same group and attend classes on the same days: contact your child’s principal to request the change.
6. The original reopening plan states that students will not wear masks in the classroom. Given new recommendations, will UNIS be revisiting this element of the reopening plan?
- Yes. Due to these recent changes, we have revised our reopening plan to expect all students and employees to wear masks in the classroom, including our Junior School students.
7. Can I meet with my child’s teacher, counselor, or principal?
- Yes, but meetings with parents will only take place virtually (Zoom or phone) until further notice.
8. Will students be required to self-quarantine if they are traveling from countries under a US Federal travel ban or from other US States under a NYS travel ban?
- Yes, if you come back from these places, you must self-quarantine for 14 days before coming to school, as instructed by Federal and State authorities. Check with the State Department and New York State for an updated list of these.
Middle School and Tutorial House
9. Will MS and TH students change classrooms and classmates throughout the day?
- Yes. Because both MS and TH students may have selected different courses and/or electives, class lists are not the same for every class. As such, it is not possible to keep the same cohort of students together throughout the day: for each subject, students may find themselves with a different set of classmates.
10. When live streaming their classes via Zoom from home, will TH and MS students be expected to be present for the full 60 minutes class period?
- Yes. Students will follow the same periods of class (60min), whether they are in the classroom, or live streaming from home.
11. Can the schedule for on-site attendance change to accommodate families (e.g. child care needs)?
- No. Unfortunately we cannot make changes to the alternating schedule, as it is designed to optimize face-to-face interactions between the student and teacher during their 10-day cycle.
12. What will the second location look like PK-J1? Who will supervise? Will there be toys and fun things to do?
- The second location will be supervised by a teacher or a teacher aide. Students will live stream with the other half of the class or work on independent activities designed by the homeroom teacher that align with the face-to-face instruction.
- This second space may be a classroom, the JS gymnasium, or another space that we can set up temporarily for our students who are live streaming at school.. We will have educational equipment and learning materials in these spaces and will work to make the environment warm and comfortable, just like our homeroom class.
13. Could the plan shift to accommodate all students in the Junior School returning 100% of the time?
- Unfortunately no because our constraint is our available space. In order to accommodate appropriate social distancing, this is the maximum number of students that we can bring back.
14. We have two children--one will attend every day and the other alternating on the 50% model. Can we ensure that our younger child will be in the homeroom class on the days when our older one is in attendance?
- Since we have largely broken homerooms by alphabet, we believe that siblings will be on the same cycle. We will review this again prior to the start of school to confirm. If for some reason this changes, please contact your child’s principal.
|Medical||Marisa Rivera, Director of School Health & Nursing; COVID19 Coordinatoremail@example.com, (212) 584-3078|
|Teaching & Learning||Dr. Jennifer Amos, Chief Academic Officerfirstname.lastname@example.org, (212) 584-3199|
|Building & Facilities||Ed Peppe, Director of Grounds and Safetyemail@example.com, (212) 584-3035|
|Faculty & Staff||Andrew Byrne, Director of Human Resourcesfirstname.lastname@example.org, (212) 583-3129|
|Technology||Carlos Mojica, Director of Technologyemail@example.com|
|Junior School||Pascal Vallet, Junior School Principalfirstname.lastname@example.org, (212) 584-3037|
Elaine Kelly, Middle School Principal
|email@example.com, (212) 584-3144|
|Queens Campus||Barbara Kennedy, Queens Principalfirstname.lastname@example.org, (212) 584-3106|
|Tutorial House||Antoine Delaitre, Tutorial House Principalemail@example.com, (212) 584-3148|