Coronavirus Updates: Current Families

We will use this page to keep our current families updated about the impact of coronavirus on our school community. We are thinking about you and wishing you well during this difficult time! If you need to reach someone, you can contact our Interim Principal, Sara Cotner, at saracotner@montessoriforall.org or (512) 666-7187.

SUMMARY OF MOST CURRENT INFORMATION

  • SCHOOL CLOSURE UPDATES: Our school building will be closed indefinitely and distance learning will be in effect instead. Please do not send your children to school.
  • DISTANCE LEARNING: Distance Learning is up and running and it is very important for your child to complete 100% of their Required Assignments every day. You can see an overview of the plan here.
  • SPECIAL EDUCATION & 504 SERVICES: We will continue to meet the needs of children with IEPs and 504s during Distance Learning. For example, we are talking with our speech therapists, occupational therapist, and mental health therapist to put together a plan for supporting children virtually. The Special Education guides will be modifying classroom assignments, as well as continue their supports. If your children qualify for these services, you will receive more information about your individual situation by 3/27. You can email Katie at klarsen@montessoriforall.org if you have any questions. Please contact saracotner@montessoriforall.org if you have not heard anything by the end of day on 3/27.
  • UPPER ELEMENTARY CAMPING TRIP: The Upper Elementary camping trip has been rescheduled for May 20-22, 2020. We will reassess whether or not to cancel the trip altogether as we see how our area is impacted over the next several weeks.
  • STATE TESTING: The Texas Education Agency has declared that children will not take STAAR tests this year. If children are able to return to school this year, we will explore the option of running our own STAAR tests, so that we have a pulse of where children are with end-of-grade-level expectations.
  • PRINCIPAL SELECTION COMMITTEE: We will move forward with the Principal Selection Committee by moving the process to videoconferencing. Anyone who wants to participate can email saracotner@montessoriforall.org.
  • NEW FAMILY REGISTRATION: We will be adjusting our New Family Registration process based on school closure. Stay tuned for more information!
  • ACCESS TO FOOD: Information about how to access free food can be found here.
  • TUITION: We are kindly asking that families continue to pay tuition (both for families that do not qualify for free Pre-K and for infants and toddlers in El Oso). Our goal is to continue to pay 100% of our staff members, including our hourly employees. Our staff are working very hard to support Distance Learning, and we need the planned revenue from tuition to continue paying out our wages on the expected schedule to support our staff and their families. If your financial situation changes and your family can no longer afford tuition, please reach out to saracotner@montessoriforall.org or (512) 666-7187. Unfortunately, our expenses do not change in the event of school closure, but our revenue is negatively impacted. Thank you for partnering with us during this difficult time!
  • GENERAL RECOMMENDATIONS: Public health experts are recommending that all of us practice “social distancing” so that we slow the spread of the virus—meaning we should stay home and limit our interactions with people beyond our family as much as possible. They are also recommending “self-quarantining” if you traveled to a highly impacted area, if you have a fever/cough/shortness of breath, or if you have come into contact with someone who has the virus. And definitely keep washing your hands, sneezing into tissues and throwing them away, coughing into your elbow, and disinfecting surfaces.

RECORD OF ONGOING COMMUNICATIONS

Tuesday, March 31: Post on LivingTree

Governor Closes Texas Schools Through May 4

Hello All,

Just a quick update to let you know that the Governor has closed Texas schools through May 4. We were expecting this kind of situation, which is why we have built such a robust Distance Learning plan in place. We know you are juggling so much in your lives right now., but please continue to support your children to complete their Required Assignments each day.

Also, please do not be surprised if school ends up being canceled through the end of the year based on how the virus is spreading.

As always, let me know if you have any questions!

Sara

saracotner@montessoriforall.org

(512) 666-7187

Thursday, March 18: Post on LivingTree

Distance Learning Update

Dear Magnolia Community,

We are embarking on an unprecedented journey together: we are transitioning our entire school from a hands-on learning community focused on relationships to a virtual one. While it is bound to be difficult and marked with unexpected hiccups, it is also an incredible opportunity to rally together in the interest of public health, to link arms (virtually!), and to show ourselves and the world that our community is bigger and stronger than the walls of our campus.

Our goals for Distance Learning:

  1. CONTINUE ACADEMIC GROWTH: All children will continue learning and growing and will not regress academically while away from campus
  2. SUPPORT A STRONG FAMILY SYSTEM: All families will feel like they have the right level of guidance: enough to keep children engaged and learning independently but not too much that it feels overwhelming and unmanageable
  3. SUSTAIN CONNECTION & WELL-ROUNDED GROWTH: All children and their guides (Leads, Assistants, Administrators, Interventionist, and SPED team) will maintain a strong connection during our period of Distance Learning, thereby supporting continued social, emotional, and cultural growth
  4. FACILITATE COMMUNITY WELL-BEING: Our hope is that all children, families, and staff will look back on this difficult time and feel like they were part of a supportive and loving community that took care of each other

Let’s work together to bring this vision to fruition!

Our team is working tirelessly to develop our Distance Learning Plan. In this preview message, you will see that it relies heavily on the use of technology. As a Montessori school that prioritizes hands-on learning above screen time, we did not make this decision lightly. The educational apps we have chosen have a track-record of benefiting children. Several of them enable our teachers to specify particular learning objectives from afar, while others adapt to children’s individual levels and help them make the most efficient and effective progress. Using educational apps will free up our teachers to focus on their most important work: 

  1. checking in with children and families about how learning is going 
  2. holding children accountable for completing their daily assignments
  3. monitoring progress 
  4. directly supporting children via videoconferencing or telephone

A worksheet-version of the Distance Learning Plan will be available for families who DO NOT have access to a smartphone. However, our goal is to get 100% of families online because we believe the digital version of what we have to offer will be superior to the paper-based version.

We will send out a survey soon to help teachers collect information about your family’s status. If your family has access to a smartphone, we will be in touch soon with specific next steps for you to implement during the week of March 23 so you are fully set up and 100% prepared to launch Distance Learning on March 30.

If your family does not have access to a smartphone, we will be touching base with you individually to make a plan.

Guides will be calling each family individual over the course of next week (the week of March 23) to make sure everyone has what they need. They will be calling families with technology difficulties first (Monday and Tuesday) and the other families on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday.

There will also be free notebooks, binders with paper, pencils, and pencil sharpeners available in front of the school on Thursday and Friday for families that need them. Ms. Donnell has even dedicated her Spring Break to making sewing kids for interested families to pick up. Those will also be available on Thursday and Friday in front of the school. (Thank you, Ms. Donnell!)

Overview of the DIGITAL Distance Learning Plan

Each classroom will have its own Google Classroom. Teachers will use Google Classroom to assign daily work. The work is designed to be completed as independently as possible, so that families have time to take care of everything they need to do. Work will be assigned in all the core academic subject areas. There will also be Optional assignments in a variety of additional areas.

Level

Approximate Amount of Academic Work Per Day

Children’s House (PK3-K) = ~1.5-2 hours

Lower Elementary (1st-3rd) = ~3 hours

Upper Elementary (4th-6th) = ~3 hours

As children complete their work, they will click that it is completed via Google Classroom.

Teachers will work with each family to set up a schedule of check-ins. Check-ins will preferably happen via videoconference—either with FaceTime or WhatsApp. If neither of those apps work for the family, the check-in will be over the regular phone.

Special Education guides and Interventionists will also work with each family to set up a schedule of check-ins. Equity means that we will try to help each child and family get the amount of time, interaction, and support they need.

We will be in touch soon with more details, but we wanted to continue to share updates as we have them.

In partnership,

Sara

Tuesday, March 17: Post on LivingTree

Free Food for Families in Need

There is free food available for pick-up today, tomorrow, and Thursday. Tomorrow’s locations (Wednesday) are closest to our area. 

Then, starting Monday, there will be free lunch pick-up from 12:00pm-1:30pm Monday-Friday at LBJ High School right now the street from Magnolia. Bring your child, pull into the driveway, and get free lunch!

You can find more information here: https://magnolia.montessoriforall.org/free-food/

New Student Registration

If you need to register a new child in our school and received a spot in the lottery, please make note of the information that was added to our Coronavirus Update page:

NEW FAMILY REGISTRATION: We will be adjusting our New Family Registration process based on school closure. Stay tuned for more information!

The operations team is working to put together a plan for safe yet timely registration for the 2020-21 school year. Re-enrollment for returning children happens later in the year. We thank you for your patience!

Monday, March 16: Post on LivingTree

Dear Families,

We are following AISD’s lead and closing school for the two weeks following Spring Break to help stop the spread of the coronavirus and protect everyone in our community, including those who are most vulnerable to the virus.

Spring Break for children ends on Friday, March 20. Our school building will be closed for two weeks from Monday, March 23 through Friday, April 3 and distance learning will be in effect instead. Please do not send your children to school the weeks of March 23 or March 30.

For planning purposes, please expect for school to be closed past April 3, given everything that public health experts are sharing about how to stop the spread of the virus. The Mayor of Austin has banned groups of 250+ from congregating until May 1. We are guessing there will be 6-8 more weeks of closure, if not the rest of the school year. However, we will let you know by Monday, March 30 what the plan is beyond April 3.

The Texas Education Agency has declared that children will not take STAAR tests this year. If children are able to return to school before the end of the school year, we will explore the option of running our own STAAR tests, so that we have a pulse of where children are with end-of-grade-level expectations.

Magnolia Montessori For All is working with teachers to design our distance learning plan. Families will be able to download information from our website or pick up hard copies of the information from school starting MONDAY, MARCH 23. We will use the week of March 23 to ensure that EVERY family is set up for distance learning. Then the official assignments will start the week of March 30, although families are welcome to start earlier.

We will try to support families that need help finding other families to help them with childcare. We know this process will be very difficult for many of our families. Be on the lookout for that information soon.

We are thinking about all of you during these challenging times, and we are grateful to be part of an incredible community with you! I am having the best experience working with a group of our teacher leaders and administrators to map out our plan for continuing to support children and families. They are such a dedicated, loving, smart group of people. I feel lucky that my children are in their hands!

We will get through this together,

Sara

Saturday, March 14: Post on LivingTree

Hello All,

I hope this message finds you well. There is not a lot of new information to share today

  • As of the last time I looked, Texas has 51 confirmed cases across 14 counties in Texas.
  • So far, 316 districts have decided to close school in 108 different counties across Texas.
  • As of now, AISD has not moved to close its schools. However, it is still true that absences will be excused. 

The staff at Magnolia Montessori For All continues to prepare for the possibility of school closure. If it happens, we want to be prepared to support our families to support their children’s learning at home.

In the meantime, public health experts are recommending that all of us practice “social distancing” to the greatest extent that we can so that we can help slow the spread of the virus. Here is more information about social distancing: https://www.cnn.com/2020/03/14/us/what-to-do-this-weekend-coronavirus-trnd/index.html. It is even recommended that we avoid gathering with small groups because people can so easily transmit the virus unknowingly.

We are wishing all of you the very best!

Sara

Friday, March 13: Post on LivingTree

Hello All,

Our district staff is participating in daily calls with the Texas Commissioner of Education and monitoring the decisions made by the Austin Independent School District. We will continue to share updates as they come in.

Conference Day (March 20)

Our in-person Parent/Guardian Conference Day is CANCELLED. Teachers will be asked to schedule phone calls instead. Please be on the lookout for information from your child’s teacher.

Absences

For the period of March 23-April 3, all health-related student absences will be excused. We know this is an uncertain and anxious time for the community, and we will support parents/guardians to make the decision that is right for their families. Please let us know if you will be keeping your children home. You can email me at saracotner@montessoriforall.org. Initial information from the state suggests that our school will still receive funding for children who are absent.

Self-Quarantine

Based on the guidance provided by the Texas Department of State Health Services, it is recommended that individuals self-quarantine at home for 14 days if they experience any or all of the following:

  1. You have returned from a country with a CDC Level 2 or 3 Health Notice (https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/travelers/index.html)
  2. You have a fever of 100.0 or higher and symptoms related to COVID-19 (fever, cough, shortness of breath).
  3. You have had close contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19.

If a child experiences any or all of the above, the child should self-quarantine and those absences will be excused. A child may not return to school if they have a fever of 100.0 or more until they are fever-free for 24 hours without the use of fever-reducing medication.

We recognize that children and staff who have a weakened immune system due to certain diseases and conditions (like cancer, heart disease, lung disease or diabetes) may be at a higher risk of developing serious illness if they get sick with COVID-19. We are encouraging anyone in this situation to please reach out to their health care provider for guidance. We know each situation will be different. If the health care provider gives guidance affecting attending school, please reach out to me to make a plan.

Deep Cleaning

We are working with our custodial provider to ensure that our school is thoroughly disinfected during Spring Break. 

Please continue to contact me directly if you have more questions!

Sara

(512) 666-7187

saracotner@montessoriforall.org

Thursday, March 12: Post on LivingTree

Dear Magnolia Montessori For All Families,

We hope you are enjoying your Spring Break with family and friends. We also know that there are a lot of questions you may have due to the ongoing developments regarding public health in our country. Fortunately, there are currently no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Austin or Central Texas.

The health of our children, staff and families is a top priority, and we want to keep everyone updated on what we’re doing as a district to mitigate the risk of the coronavirus (COVID-19). 

The CDC recommends avoiding all non-essential travel to China, Iran, Italy and South Korea and has placed restrictions on re-entry to the United States for anyone traveling from those countries. There was also an additional update yesterday that is unfolding regarding European travel as well.

MFA encourages families to follow CDC guidelines regarding travel. Parents or guardians of children who do travel to one of these countries over Spring Break should contact me and plan to self-quarantine for 14 days after returning to the United States, per the CDC’s guidelines. The self-quarantine days will be counted as excused absences for families visiting China, Iran, Italy, or South Korea.

MFA is closely monitoring the situation via the CDC, Texas Department of State Health Services and the Travis County Health Department to ensure that all children and staff are safe and updated with the latest information.

The Upper Elementary camping trip has been rescheduled for May 20-22. We will continue to update you as the date draws nearer and we can reassess the situation. 

We have begun contingency planning in the case of mandatory school closure, including how to support our children’s learning beyond school. 

We follow the lead of AISD in emergency situations for consistency in our area, which means you can monitor their website for the most up-to-date information: http://www.austinisd.org/student-health/coronavirus. We will also keep you updated as more information becomes available.

Please feel free to reach out to me personally if you have additional questions: saracotner@montessoriforall.org or (512) 666-7187. 

Thinking of you all and wishing you well,

Sara