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A view of the campus on a blue sky day.

Campus & Community Safety Plans

Fall 2021 at DCD

Fall 2021: DCD’s Plans for Campus Opening & Community Safety

Like many, we had hoped that the 2021-22 school year would be more of a full “return to normal”.  However, the evolving nature of the pandemic, driven by the rise of variants, requires that we maintain a number of safety layers even as we resume a classroom-based (rather than pod-based) model.  As you will see in the information that follows, DCD will require indoor masking for all students, faculty, staff, and visitors to campus (outdoor masking will not be required in all settings); ongoing COVID testing; social distancing in classrooms where feasible; daily symptom monitoring at the start of school; lunch served by grade rather than in the Lawrence Room; and some limits on interactions through grade-based pods.

At the same time, much of our campus has returned to its pre-pandemic use and layout.  In addition to classrooms resuming their customary spots, the Primary Gym, Lowell Center, and Technology Center have all return to their original functions.

The plans described here will be in place for the early fall, and we will stay responsive to trends in the pandemic and updates to the science to help guide our ongoing response. As changes to these plans are warranted, we will send new communications with updates. One of our great strengths as a community last year was our ability to stay current with the data and stay nimble in what we were able to offer students. We’ll do the same this year regardless of whether the pandemic requires us to amplify our layered protections or if it makes some of the protections unnecessary.

DCD’s success in pivoting first to distance learning in the spring of 2020, then to a pod-based learning model for the 2020-2021 school year, and now to our “semi-normal” approach to the current year, has been completely dependent on our incredible partnership with families.  Everyone’s willingness to alter routines, and sacrifice for the common good, has enabled DCD to provide a rich and vibrant experience for our students throughout this difficult period – and will be the key to another successful year ahead.  Thank you for your continued partnership on behalf of our students!

Maintaining Community Health and Safety

Below we describe the key elements of DCD’s plans for the 2021-2022 school year to help ensure a safe school environment, and we ask for your partnership in ensuring compliance with these protocols as well as all state safety guidelines.

Indoor Mask Requirement

Pursuant to the latest guidance from the Massachusetts Department of Elementary & Secondary Education (DESE), everyone on campus will be required to wear a mask while indoors, regardless of vaccination status.  Studies have shown that universal masking is one of the most effective ways to minimize transmission.  Masks will not be required at all times outside, but may be necessary for some types of larger gatherings and activities. Students may bring a mask of their choice, and we suggest 2 or 3 ply surgical or cloth masks. Gaiters, bandanas or masks with built-in respirators do not meet our masking requirements.

COVID Testing

All students, faculty, and staff were required to demonstrate a negative COVID-19 test result prior to the start of school. In addition, in order to provide additional layers of protection against the spread of COVID-19 this school year, DCD is participating in the state’s in-school COVID testing program. This program has three components: symptomatic testing for students who show symptoms of COVID-19 at school, routine COVID safety checks to prevent the spread of the virus undetected among students who are not showing symptoms, and test and stay for students who may have been exposed while in school but are not showing symptoms.

Vaccinations

While we are not requiring students to be vaccinated, we strongly encourage all eligible members of the community (ages 12 and up) to get a vaccination, as science clearly demonstrates that vaccines are the best way to prevent serious illness after exposure to COVID-19. As part of our commitment to community safety, DCD has instituted a vaccine requirement for all of our faculty and staff. Those who are not vaccinated (for medical or religious reasons) will participate in weekly COVID-19 testing. 

MyMedBot Symptom Tracking

Initially, all families will be required to complete daily symptom tracking on the MyMedBot app, and must show the green clearance screen at morning drop-off.  As the school year progresses, we will reassess whether to continue this tracking.

Grade-Based Pods

We have returned to classroom-based learning, with a grade-level pod structure in preK – 5th grade. Middle school students, many of whom are vaccinated, will spend limited time outside their grade level pods for outdoor athletics and small group middle school art electives. In making this decision, we weighed the program benefits with the limited risk, and decided that we could safely resume both athletics and middle school art electives this fall. This will enable students in each grade to interact with each other throughout the day, and will help minimize disruption to the school in the event of a positive test or exposure (any quarantine would be limited to all or part of the grade, rather than the broader community).  Outdoor activities at all grade levels, including recess and athletics and will continue to permit cross-grade interactions. 

Lunch by Grade

Given the risks posed by current transmission levels of the COVID variants, especially to our youngest students, we do not plan to open the Lawrence Lunch Room for family-style dining this year.  Similar to last year, lunch will be served by grade level – outdoors whenever possible, and inside when weather requires.  We have worked with our partners at Flik to add greater variety to the lunch offerings this year, and also have developed plans to improve the overall “mobile dining” experience.

Social Distancing

DESE has eliminated any need for social distancing from their protocols. In an abundance of caution, we will continue to maintain social distancing where feasible.

Updated Health Policies

Consistent with new government guidelines and in consultation with our medical experts, our Health Office has updated DCD’s Health Policy for the 2021-2022 year. Please review it here. As mentioned above, DCD has been accepted into the new state COVID testing program, which establishes a “test and stay” protocol to allow close contacts and others to remain in school as long as they maintain negative test results. This program will largely eliminate the need for quarantine in the case of close contacts.

Campus Access

While we must continue to limit visitors to campus, parents or guardians that need to enter the building quickly (for example, to use the restroom or drop off a forgotten instrument) are welcome to do so, but must remain masked at all times while inside.

Limited numbers of visitors will be allowed on campus, provided they have an appointment, wear a mask at all times, and are fully vaccinated (non-vaccinated individuals can participate in approved outdoor activities).

Volunteers on Campus

A small number of vaccinated parents will return to campus for volunteer activities. Parents who volunteer will follow all of our protocols, including universal masking. Our Parent Association (PA) will gather information about interest in volunteer roles for the fall of 2021.
A teacher wearing a mask while teaching.

Everything You Need to Know for the Start of School

All families must fill out their symptom monitoring form by 7:30 a.m. and be ready to show the green clearance screen in carpool.

Please be sure your children arrive between 8:00 a.m. and 8:10 a.m. All students will enter through the main entrance this school year.

Click here to view carpool drop-off instructions and watch the “Fall 2021 Carpool” video here.

All students and faculty and staff will be required to wear a mask while indoors, regardless of vaccination status. Children should be wearing a mask when they arrive at school and carry an extra in their backpack. Due to their lower efficacy, neck gaiters, bandanas, and masks with valves are not permitted.

Dismissal for lower school students is at 3:00 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. for middle school students. Please remember to pull forward as directed by staff members and refrain from cell phone use as you pick up your child. At least through the fall, we cannot accommodate families parking and walking into the building to pick up their children.

DCD’s updated dress code guidelines, designed to promote comfort, readiness for school activities, and a sense of decorum, while respecting students’ desire for self-expression and individuality, are listed in the DCD Handbook of Information. Shorts are not permitted between Thanksgiving and March breaks, and all clothes must still be in good condition and appropriate for school. Students will continue to spend significant time outside, even as we move into the colder months. Please ensure students come to school with layers including sweatshirts, winter coats, hats, and gloves.

The 2021-2022 school calendar is available on DCD’s website. You may also review all school holidays and days off from school here.

The PE department and Middle School coaches are looking forward to working with your children on the fields of DCD! Primary and Lower School PE classes and Middle School interscholastic sports began on the first day of school. Students should wear whatever clothes they are comfortable in when participating in athletics. Please reach out to Mark Jackson, DCD Athletic Director, at mjackson@dcds.net if you have any questions about DCD’s Athletics program.

To facilitate campus traffic flow and assist with campus safety, please drive with extreme care whenever you are on campus. In addition, please remember that the Highland Street driveway between Herrick and Huntington Houses may be used only by families dropping children off at Huntington House for pre-K. All other families should continue to use the main driveway for both pick-up and drop-off.

School Calendar Highlights

While we have published the school calendar for the full year, we recognize that changes may be needed regarding events and other activities as we navigate another atypical year. Some key dates for the fall of 2021 are as follows:

  • September 10: First Outdoor All-School Assembly (parents are welcome to attend)
  • September 14: School Picture Day
  • September 16: No School – Yom Kippur
  • September 20: Virtual Curriculum Night for Middle School (Grades 6-8)
  • September 21: Virtual Curriculum Night for Grades 3-5
  • September 22: Virtual Curriculum Night for Pre-K-Grade 2
  • September 26: LGBTQ+ & Families of Color Affinity Group BBQ
  • September 27: Parent Association Outdoor Welcome Back Coffee & Meeting
  • October 11: No School – Indigenous Peoples’ Day
  • October 15: No School – Parent/Teacher Conferences
  • October 21: 2021 Annual Meeting
  • November 11: No School – Veterans’ Day
  • November 24-28: Thanksgiving Break
  • November 29: No School – Professional Development Day for Faculty & Staff
A teacher teaching a class outside while everyone wears masks.

Important Campus Policies

Health icon

Before arriving on campus each day, all faculty, staff, and students are required to complete a symptom and wellness check, utilizing the MyMedBot app, to attest they are symptom-free. This app is recommended by both our school doctor, Dr. Michael Cocchi, and our school nurses, Sara Payton-Stone, Katie Hawkom, and Emily Osinubi, as it additionally allows the medical team to monitor symptoms among sick community members, and track health trends.

Notifications go out daily to families at 6:00 a.m. and submission must be done by 7:30 a.m. To obtain clearance to access DCD’s campus each day, parents must answer a few simple questions on the MyMedBot app and show the “Cleared to Come to Campus” screen on their phone to staff at morning drop-off.

When completing the MyMedBot app survey each morning, please use discretion when providing your answers. While you must be truthful with your symptom reporting, please frame your answers around whether or not you feel your child is sick or might be getting sick.

Masked hawk illustrationFamilies must send their children to school with two face masks and refrain from using neck gaiters, bandanas or masks with valves, which do not provide the same level of protection. Masks are required indoors for all students (pre-K to 8) during the day, during arrival and dismissal, and should be readily available at all times.

Tools on a tablePrior to the start of last school year, significant work was done on our HVAC systems, with air purifiers, additional sinks, and new windows installed in spaces across the campus. We will continue to utilize updated cleaning equipment (electrostatic).

DCD front entrance

While we must continue to limit visitors to campus, parents or guardians that need to enter the building quickly (for example, to use the restroom or drop off a forgotten instrument) are welcome to do so, but must remain masked at all times while inside. Laura Martinez, DCD’s Front Office Manager, will continue to manage the front office and will be available to answer any questions.
Limited numbers of visitors are allowed on campus, provided they have an appointment, wear a mask at all times, and are fully vaccinated (non-vaccinated individuals may participate in approved outdoor activities).

There may be circumstances during the school year when a classroom or grade needs to close for a period of time. The reasons behind such a closure may include a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19, exposure as tracked through contact tracing, or other health reasons.
In any case of a temporary close, the school will notify impacted families in a similar manner to snow day communications: you will receive an email as soon as the decision is made to close a classroom or grade, which may be the day or night before, or early in the morning.

Please note that, due to HIPAA privacy protections, DCD does not plan to notify families when a student or faculty/staff member is sent home with symptoms of illness or even a suspected COVID-19 case. We will take any appropriate action to safeguard the impacted group(s). However, any communication with families will only occur once there has been a confirmed COVID-19 case, which will be followed by detailed contact tracing, isolation, and potential classroom or grade closure, in consultation with the Dedham Board of Health.

We will return to classroom-based learning, with a grade-level pod structure in pre-K-5th grade. Middle school students, many of whom are vaccinated, will spend limited time outside their grade-level pods for outdoor athletics and small group middle school art electives. In making this decision, we weighed the program benefits with the limited risk, and decided that we could safely resume both athletics and middle school art electives this fall. This will enable students in each grade to interact with each other throughout the day, and will help minimize disruption to the school in the event of a positive test or exposure (any quarantine would be limited to all or part of the grade, rather than the broader community). Outdoor activities at all grade levels, including recess and athletics, will continue to permit cross-grade interactions.

A table in a classroom with books and an appleThough our school may continue to look a bit different this year, our ability to deliver a DCD education reflective of our mission remains unchanged – we are ready and resilient. Students from pre-K to grade 8, have access to a program that embraces each element of academics, arts, athletics, and service-learning.

Members of DCD’s faculty and staff continue to work on every aspect of our curriculum from academics to arts, athletics to service learning, and programming for social and emotional development. They have engaged and continue to engage in many hours of professional development to expand their pedagogical toolset for all forms of learning models.

If conditions in the state of Massachusetts change and we need to pivot to a distance learning model, DCD is ready to do so. With the extensive experience we gained during our distance learning program in the spring of 2020 and the ongoing professional development for all faculty and staff, we are confident in our ability to deliver a robust distance learning program if needed.

The PE department and Middle School coaches are looking forward to working with your children on the fields of DCD! Primary and Lower School PE classes and Middle School interscholastic sports will begin on the first day of school. Students are to wear whatever clothes they are comfortable in when participating in athletics. Please reach out to Mark Jackson, DCD Athletic Director, at mjackson@dcds.net if you have any questions.

While your child’s teacher should be the first line of support for questions about academic content, School Psychologist Erin Albert (ealbert@dcds.net) and Director of Learning Resources and Student Support Dr. Beth Conners (bconners@dcds.net) are also readily available.

We are excited to welcome faculty and students back into the Library this year! Both faculty and students are welcome to browse the shelves for their selections, and are required to use hand sanitizer before browsing. In addition to dedicated Library class time, students and faculty will have access to the Library before school and after school.

In accordance with both CDC and DESE Guidelines, we will not quarantine books this school year. We know good hand hygiene and routines for hand sanitizing before and after book browsing will mitigate the risk of exposure to coronavirus.

Unfortunately, we are unable to host library volunteers this year. We hope to bring back the program in the 2022-23 school year.

Please contact Camille Harrison, Director of Libraries & Research, at charrison@dcds.net with any questions.

The secondary school process is in full swing. As our grade 8 families work to formulate their lists of high schools, a number of opportunities are in place to guide them through the process.

  • Students will begin their “Smooth Talk” program in September, focusing on interviews, applications, and public speaking.
  • Through both virtual and in-person meetings throughout the term, parents continue to connect with Ms. Sidoli and Mr. Edie to further discuss the secondary school process.

 

Daily Life and Logistics

A packaged lunchUnder the guidance of Flik Dining Services, we will continue to provide DCD students with healthful and fresh snack and lunch selections. Lunch selections for individually-packaged homemade meals should be made on a weekly basis using Flik’s online ordering form. Visit https://dcd.flikisdining.com/ to place your student’s lunch order for the week ahead. Please note any food allergies when you make your menu selections. Meal sides and snacks are listed on the menu for reference but do not need to be selected. All students will receive sides and snacks.

To maintain health safety guidelines, children eat outside or remain in their classrooms for their meals. Nuts are excluded from all of DCD’s snacks and meals; if your child has other food allergies, please contact the Health Office at health@dcds.net and if they require food accommodations, contact Chef Jeff Stevens at jstevens@dcds.net.

We are delighted to offer DCD’s Extended Day Program (EDP) on campus for students in pre-K through Grade 5 five days a week for the 2021-2022 school year. EDP will be available Monday through Thursday from 3:00 p.m. until 6:00 p.m. and on Fridays from 12:30 p.m. until 5:30 p.m. At this time, we are not able to allow drop-ins for our program.

If you have any questions or would like more information, please contact Megan Saia at msaia@dcds.net.

Sample Daily Schedules

To give you a sense of what the schedule will look like in the 2021-2022 school year, we have provided examples of Sample Daily Schedules for Grades 1 (Lower School) and 6 (Middle School) so you can visualize how the program will come to life this year.

Key Contacts

Department Name Email
Admissions & Enrollment Emilie Liebhoff eliebhoff@dcds.net
Student Health Services Sara Payton Stone, Emily Osinubi, Katie Hawkom health@dcds.net
Business Office & Billing Bob Santry bsantry@dcds.net
Financial Assistance Emilie Liebhoff eliebhoff@dcds.net
Extended Day Program Megan Saia msaia@dcds.net
Primary School (PK/K) Mary Ellen Maloney mmaloney@dcds.net
Lower School (Gr. 1-5) Carla Haith chaith@dcds.net
Middle School (Gr. 6-8) Nate Buffum nbuffum@dcds.net
Learning Resource & Support Beth Conners bconners@dcds.net
Athletics Mark Jackson mjackson@dcds.net
Technology Support Ali Fernandes support@dcds.net
Advancement Charles Rudnick crudnick@dcds.net
Facilities Phil Holden pholden@dcds.net