May 29 2020
Dear GLM Community,
Today brings us all to the end of week 11 of our shelter-in-place life, almost three months of time apart and at a moment when we begin to contemplate tiptoeing back to some version of our lives in community.
It’s been a very hard week for our country and one that has left me with a heavy heart. It seems there was a convergence of tragic events, first the number 100,000 — all of the American lives lost to COVID-19, more deaths than in any other country and a disproportionate number of these being people of color. And then the murder of yet another unarmed black man, George Floyd, by a police officer in front of a crowd of people gathered in protest and disgust. It all feels like too much to process, at a time when our hearts, minds and souls have already been wracked by fear, overwhelm and anxiety.
However, at GLM we feel it important to acknowledge this terrible tragedy and its reflection of a racist system that fails black and brown people in our country. And because together we are all raising and helping to raise children in this society, it also feels particularly imperative for us to commit to an antiracist approach in doing so. As part of our diversity, equity and inclusion work with students this past year, our kindergarten and elementary students spent some time in the fall learning about race, racism and social justice. Students participated in teacher-led discussions around these ideas, as guided by several books that were shared with families and students alike. At the time, and as we know these conversations can sometimes feel hard, we had shared these books as resources to support parents in talking to their children about race and racism.
As many of you contemplate how to respond to this most recent crisis with the children in your life, we thought that resharing these with you might be helpful. We highly encourage you to have these books for your home library, if possible, and share them with your child as the primary point for opening conversation. Listed next to the book is the recommended age for reading as well as the order to read the books.
All the Colors We Are (2+) – Recommended to be read first alongside many other books with BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) characters and storylines about everyday life (as opposed to hard history or oppression).
Race Cars (3+) – Recommended to be read after All the Colors We Are.
Something Happened in My Town (4+) – Recommended to be read after the first two
Here is another helpful resource that was shared with me today. All of this seems relevant in thinking about the promise of reopening our school, so that we can continue to offer connection, community and learning for our students, who bring us all hope for a better world.
As promised we are very pleased to share with you our presentation (attached) of our plan for the 2020-21 Campus and Home Learning Program. It’s 30 minutes long, so please take your time. We have also compiled this FAQ from all of the data and questions collected on the staff and parent surveys. We hope you find these resources helpful in providing more information about our plans for safely reopening GLM, as well as to better inform you about the new school year. Amendments on our returning families 2020-21 contracts will be sent out next week with more information about this timeline.
Planning for how to bring our students back on campus in this new normal has been a massive task and continues to challenge us in unprecedented ways. It has also felt exciting and inspiring to problem solve our way through something that can bring us all safely back together, so that we may continue on our journey of becoming our best and truest selves, as students, parents, teachers and friends.
Wishing for you some peace and solace this weekend.
May 22 2020
Dear GLM Community,
As we wind down our school year and look ahead to the beginning of a new one, we have some more updates for our returning GLM families.
Over the past few weeks GLM has surveyed both its staff and parents, so as to gain a better understanding of our community’s current needs and concerns. Thank you to all of our stakeholders for partnering with us in this process. After reviewing the data, it has become apparent that some folks still feel somewhat uncertain about when they will feel safe returning to the GLM campus. Given the reality on the ground in Alameda County at present, this is all very understandable. The curve has flattened over the past few weeks, but is yet to decline. Some of our returning families had a number of questions regarding GLM’s COVID-19 health and safety protocols, as did the staff. In response to this and other questions that have come up on the surveys, our admin team is currently putting together a detailed FAQ to be shared with our community next week and before returning families receive their updated 2020-21 contract options.
Due to COVID-19, GLM is moving the 2020-21 contract binding/withdrawal date from March 23rd to July 3rd and our returning families will receive their revised contract options by the week of June 1st. Next week, along with the FAQ, we will be sharing a presentation with more detailed information about our updated 2020-21 GLM Montessori program. We have been working around the clock to get this information to you as soon as possible. This is so that you can make the most informed decision regarding your plans for the new school year.
Essential Care (EC)
As part of our gradual reopening, GLM is pleased to offer toddler and primary care to our essential workers beginning June 15th. Depending on the number of families who qualify for this care, as well as the number of GLM staff who feel safe to return to work, we will determine how many stable groups/pods of 10 children we create. At this time, this care will be open to essential workers only rather than essential and allowed workers. If a student attends the EC, their pod would be reconstituted again when we bring more students back onto campus in the summer or fall, depending on when the shelter-in-place is lifted and/or we feel it is safe to do so.
GLM’s Goal for 2020-21
In consideration of restrictions in place due to COVID-19, our goal for the 2020-21 school year is to provide as much consistent, daily, on-campus learning for as many students as is safely possible. In addition, because of GLM’s commitment to the values of community and relationship, we are making it our goal to have all of our returning students in pods representing versions of their classroom families i.e. Redwood, Ginkgo, Magnolia, Juniper, Jacaranda and Live Oak. While students will remain part of these larger classroom families, due to the small pod sizes, students may be placed in one of two physical classroom spaces. Based on the current guidance and projections around cohort sizes for the fall, our smaller toddler classrooms, Mulberry and Camellia, will remain intact. There will be more detailed information about our plans for podding our 2020-21 primary and elementary classroom groups next week.
As we close our week and look to this upcoming holiday weekend, we contemplate how Memorial Day typically and unofficially marks the beginning of summer, with camping trips, beach time and barbecues with friends — all of which are obviously being discouraged this year while we still shelter-in-place. Perhaps the opportunity then lies in reflecting a little more than usual on the official reason we mark this day on our calendar in the U.S. — as a holiday of remembrance to honor our veterans and all of the people who have given their lives serving in the military.
And maybe it’s also an opportunity to reflect on what it means to be of service to one’s own community, to do what is right to protect and care for one another. Through this shelter-in-place we’ve all been doing a version of this, serving each other by staying home, but our essential workers have truly been on the front lines during COVID-19 and so on Monday let us honor and remember them too.
Wishing you all a restful Memorial Day weekend.
With gratitude for you all,
May 15 2020
Dear GLM Community,
We did it. We got to the end of another week. I hope this day feels like a Friday for you and that you have found ways to enjoy some of the beautiful sunshine.
On my side, this week has been filled with much future planning around GLM’s summer and fall programming. This has included working with the Facilities Team on our options for campus renovations and updates to spaces, as well as with Mariana Bissonnette and our Admissions Team on mapping out programming and our classroom groupings for 2020-21, all so that we can accommodate our new COVID health and safety guidelines around how we can bring students back together on campus. Given the young demographic of our student body at GLM, one of our main goals for the upcoming school year is to provide familiar, daily on-campus Montessori learning for as many students as is safely possible. This is what drives all of our current brainstorming and planning, to keep our beloved GLM community intact and our students learning safely from and with one another, in real time and relationship.
I am going to keep my Friday update short this week, as each one of our returning GLM families have already received a large piece of communication from the school regarding our thinking and contingency plan for reopening GLM. This was sent out on Wednesday, along with a survey link per returning student — a copy of the letter can be found below this email. We very much appreciate all of the returning families who have already filled out the survey. As a reminder, the survey is due back this coming Monday 5/18 and should only take about 5 to 7 minutes to complete. The information we receive from you is going to be very helpful in understanding how to meet the needs of our returning community, so thank you in advance!
To our families moving on from GLM, this last month of school is always a poignant time for us all, but the pandemic has made it even more so. When I contemplate this particular ending with you, my heart aches and wishes for us not to have to say goodbye to our graduating students and families in this way. I know the teachers and Mariana are all working very hard to plan alternative ways for the children to have closure with their classroom families and I join them in making this end to the year, as memorable and meaningful as possible.
Wishing you all some peace and rest this weekend. And at the very least, some lightness, laughter and long, deep breaths because that’s how I’m getting through.
May 8 2020
Dear GLM Community,
It’s Friday again, as we wind down week 8 of our shelter-in-place life — two months of staying home taking care of our families and our community. I’d like to begin this update with a deep collective breath, as we reflect on all that we have done, learned and let go of since we left the GLM campus and began our journey together as GLM at a distance. It feels like years ago and yesterday. I have so much gratitude for the resilience of our community and that we all remain healthy and safe.
This week I have news about GLM’s plans for reopening and I know many of you are interested in hearing more about this.
Finishing up the 2019-20 school year
In March, GLM made a decision to close our physical campus, but not our school i.e. to continue to offer distance learning to all of our students. We also committed to continuing to employ all of our staff to support the Distance Learning Program (DLP) from home. As we remain under the Alameda County shelter-in-place Ordinance until at least May 31st, GLM’s plan is to keep our physical campus closed and continue to offer our DLP across all three of our program levels until June 5th, the last calendar day of the 2019-20 school year.
Our planning for the 2020-2021 school year
Our leadership team has been working diligently on plans for re-opening our school for the 2020-21 school year, how to do so safely and according to state and county guidance, but also with flexible options for our families in mind.
GLM’s first priority, pre and post COVID-19, is always to keep our students and community healthy and safe. As a licenced childcare facility we must answer to strict health and safety guidelines including teacher to student ratios, children’s personal rights, illness and facility safety protocols etc.
Due to COVID-19, the Community Care Licencing (CCL) guidelines have become even more stringent and our school’s planning around how we will reopen must currently adhere to all of these protocols. So for example, for physical distancing purposes, we may now only have students in stable groups of 10 — stable meaning children shall not change from one group to another and if more than one group of children is at the facility, each group must be in a separate space and groups cannot mix with each other. The same providers or educators must remain solely with one group of children and each group. As you can imagine, these new ratio guidelines alone have a massive impact on how we must now operate our school, as typically we have 24 students in each of our environments with the exception of our toddler classrooms. This means for GLM to reopen, amongst many things, we must reimagine and renovate our physical campus and facilities, as well as restructure our staffing teams. All of these new safety requisites also have a large financial and human resources impact. At every given turn, GLM has the health and safety of our community in mind, and are consulting with other schools who are already piloting essential childcare and learning from their best practices.
Options for GLM Families for the 2020-21 school year
Our main goal, in reimagining our school with all of these new and necessary health and safety protocols in mind, is to keep our GLM community intact, as well as to provide as much daily on-campus learning and in-person connection for as many students, as is safely possible. Keeping our community intact includes our staff, as we strive to employ all of our teachers consistently and reliably throughout the school year.
With all of this in mind, we are considering the following options for our 2020-21 GLM families:
- A partial reopening of our physical campus on June 15th (summer sessions one and two) for returning toddler and primary GLM students of essential care workers
- Reopening of our physical campus to our returning toddler and primary GLM students on July 13th (summer sessions three and four)
- Welcoming in new toddler and primary GLM students at the beginning of the fall semester, depending on available spots
- Welcoming back elementary students on campus in August for the beginning of their new school year
All of the above options are dependent on the Alameda County shelter-in-place Ordinance and when and how it is lifted.
New 2020-21 contract binding date
Recognizing the extraordinary impact COVID-19 has had on our families and in order to be as flexible as possible, GLM is moving our 2020-21 contract binding date back from March to June. This is to give all of our families an opportunity to reflect on and reassess their plans for the new school year. Additionally, we will be putting all of the June FACTS payments on hold until further notice.
GLM parent survey
In order to solidify our school’s plans and finalize the details of our reopening, GLM needs to hear from you. Next week each returning GLM family will receive a survey to share your preferences with all of the above options in mind. We want to know if you’re still committed to the 2020-21 school year with us and if so, when you would like your children to return to school on campus. The survey will include more details regarding revised 2020-21 contract and program options to better inform your feedback.
We are sure that the sharing of all of this new information will bring up questions and so we encourage you to utilize the survey next week for this purpose. Once we have a better idea of our community’s needs, we can then provide you all with further details. We once again thank you for your patience, as with things moving so quickly on the ground for us, it is very much a work in progress.
Commitment to our GLM Community
We understand that GLM’s decisions through this process have not always looked and felt like other schools. This is due to the fact that all schools are different and this impacts the way they have made their decisions around COVID-19. Some of the factors to be considered include whether schools chose to lay off or furlough any of their staff, the size of their communities, as well as their contract and tuition structures. What has been most challenging for GLM is that we have an unusually large early childhood program — we are a big school vs a small daycare, with a large staffing footprint of early childhood professionals. We made a commitment early on to support both our families and our staff, keeping our community safe, healthy and intact and ready to take on what now appears to be years of a new kind of normal and a new kind of school.
We truly hope you choose to continue on this new and hopeful journey with us, one in which we will all be stronger together.
With love and care,
May 1 2020
Dear GLM Community,
Today marks the end of week seven of our shelter-in-place life, as we catch glimpses of summer coming with the beautiful warm days and evenings we’ve been having. I hope that you and your quarantine families have found ways to get out and enjoy the lovely weather.
Ongoing school planning:
In the news this week there has been much talk of reopening schools, with Governor Newsom’s announcement on Tuesday alluding to the possibility of this happening in California over the summer. We also received news of the recent extension of the shelter-in-place orders through the end of May. We know that many of you are wondering about GLM’s plans for reopening our campus and our thinking around the summer and the fall. As mentioned in my update last week, this is our big work currently and we are finding it to be magnificently complicated, having to consider the many possible scenarios, all the while expecting the unexpected.
GLM’s goal in this process is to be able to present our families with a few flexible options for the summer and fall, all of which will also need to meet the guidance and criteria of our local health and state licensing authorities, as well as to support the ongoing financial operations of the school. As we all work together on this, we plan to give our returning families the opportunity to weigh in and let us know which options might work better for them. Ultimately, whatever GLM decides, our main priority remains keeping our students, staff and families safe, supported and healthy.
Distance Learning Message from Mariana Bissonnette:
Wow! It’s May! This is typically the time that I begin to reflect on the year and all the time we have spent together over the past year. Given the turn of events so far in the world, I have been thinking about “togetherness” and how that has been reshaped, re-claimed and otherwise redefined. As a parent, I’m finding more “togetherness” with my kids and husband. As we all share space with overlapping work schedules, school schedules and daily routines in one place, it has felt overwhelming and yet reassuring; “throw-in-the-towel” chaotic and yet surprisingly mundane. Despite the complexity of everything that is going on, there have been incredible signs of our (and our students’) resilience and creativity. I think of the saying “April showers bring May flowers” and wanted to take a moment to share some of the “flowers” that have inspired me recently.
I’ve seen older students in classes stepping up to read to their peers and give “lessons” to their fellow classmates, in true Montessori mixed-age fashion. I’ve seen teachers rally around an individualized distance program that has been as much about “learning” as it is about “support”. I’ve seen students in our Kinder and Elementary levels inspire each other and their teachers with some incredible projects, story-telling, research and art. I’ve seen parents find ways to connect with each other with virtual “happy hours”, playdates and now the GLM Parent Circles. I’ve seen the school put together the honoring of much-beloved community events that typically happen at this time of year so that we may all still “mark our calendars” for these important times of transition. And finally, I feel honored that the school continues to support The P.E.A.C.E. Program in providing (now virtual) parent support to families in the broader community through virtual Baby & Me groups and Virtual Home Visits. All in all, quite a few flowers despite the rain. From my home to yours, happy Friday!
Vision Mission Refresh Committee (VMRC):
The VMR committee members regrouped this week, after all finding our feet over the past month and a half. We spent some time checking in and reflecting on GLM’s values and in particular “the core values GLM has exemplified since we closed due to the county-wide shelter in place”. Not surprisingly the value “community” came up again and again, but with the collective feeling that it was necessary to redefine this value in the light of our recent crisis — that community felt more to us like interconnection, empathy, support and love than simply being together and belonging, that there is a resilience and a fortitude in being in community that truly holds us all together. The committee plans to keep you all posted as we find new ways to move our vision and mission work forward.
As we forge ahead together, making our way to the end of this school year, GLM is keeping track of the calendar and attempting to acknowledge our existing events with simple and small nods at a distance. This is so that we may still all anchor back into our school’s rituals and celebrations of each other. With this in mind, next week is GLM’s staff appreciation week and in lieu of our usual on campus celebrations, we invite you and the children to celebrate and honor the amazing educators in your lives.
As it has become customary for me to sign off these weekly updates with a little reflection, this week I was struck by something I heard on this podcast, an interview with Dr. Vivek Murthy, former U.S. Surgeon General. Amongst many other very enlightening and hopeful things he shared, he also recited one of his favorite African proverbs: “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”
Thank you for being on this journey (and not a race) with us. It is our honor to serve such a brave and kind community.
April 24 2020
Dear GLM Community,
Over the past few weeks, I’ve reflected on our collective experience and how it seems like we all are moving through some similar things together, and as a community. Last week we felt a settle, after the initial disbelief, shock and then grief. This week we noticed some new resilience bubbling up and that our curiosity is back, and with that some ability to start looking ahead to the future and beginning to imagine what things might look like when we start to venture back out of our homes again. And for us at GLM, this forecasting and marathon planning began a little while back, but really kicked into gear this week. We’ve also had more questions from our families about GLM’s future plans. We know that this is on most people’s minds, how we will reopen society and what this will look like. I think we all now realize that there will be no one moment when the curtain goes up and life resumes again as normal.
Looking ahead to GLM in the summer and fall
Looking ahead to the time when we all begin to tiptoe back together again and onto our GLM campus, whether this happens in June (crossing our fingers) or later in the summer, we know now that school will not look the same as it did pre-COVID and probably for a little while longer than we had initially hoped. As part of our planning, the GLM leadership team is consulting with professionals, as well as with our Montessori networks and other independent schools. As this is all so uncharted, it’s been very helpful for all of the schools to lean in and on one another and our collective wisdom, as we navigate this unknown reality together. As always, we look to the guidance and authority of our local county health and education departments, as well as Community Care Licensing and the Department of Social Services, who all have the final say as to what we need to do to keep our communities safe and healthy.
Some of the things we’ve been thinking about in terms of our future programming are our class sizes and how we can create stable groupings of children and adults, also how to create opportunities for some form of social distancing for our young kiddos, as well as with our elementary students. And then also thinking about the possibility of a second wave or resurgence of the virus and the idea of a hammer and a dance scenario, where we hammer down, self isolate and physically distance and then open up and dance back together again for a period of time. So with this all in mind, we are also beginning to plan and refine our Distance Learning Program 2.0 for times when we might need to be back at home again. And this all involves thinking about how to support our families in these scenarios, so we are working to put options together for you, that are flexible and manageable and that also support the ongoing operations of the school.
And this is a lot, and hard to imagine and plan, inventing something new with no playbook and all in a time of much uncertainty when we really don’t know what the future holds. But we all forge ahead, because we must and we can; we can do hard things! I know I’ve said this already and a few times this past month, but it’s what we say to each other at GLM, and it even hangs on some of the walls of our classrooms. If ever there was a time for us to remember this and believe in human capacity, now would be it.
The Grand Night Out and donations
This coming weekend in our pre-COVID lives, we were scheduled to come together as a community and celebrate with one another at our Grand Night Out in downtown Oakland. Gathering together in real life sounds like a dream come true right now, and also a little hard to imagine. In lieu of any contributions you would have made to the GNO, and if you have any capacity to give at this time, please consider making a donation to The Oakland Reach, a parent run and led group, committed to empowering families from our most underserved communities. They have recently launched a Reach Relief Fund to help cover basic necessities for Oakland families during these uncertain times. Although we are all going through this together, we are certainly not all in the same boat.
First some deep appreciations for you, the parents on the front lines with your children all day, every day, working and facilitating learning, you are our heroes, and I hope you feel and know that we are all here for you. And to our teachers and instructional staff who have pivoted so beautifully to Montessori at a distance, and in its true spirit are also attempting to support each family individually around their needs, partnering with you to build your capacity as parents holding space for your children’s learning at home. Thank you to our office staff who have been making some fun guest appearances in the classrooms this past week or two. And a special shout out to our teachers who are also parenting, because those are some skills, for sure!
As a parting thought, I wanted to share something that came to my mind this week, and that is the idea of ubuntu. It’s a beautiful South African term used by the Zulu community, and made famous to the world by Nelson Mandela and other leaders like Archbishop Desmond Tutu and President Obama. As many of you know, I grew up in South Africa and so this idea of ubuntu is familiar and precious to me. It’s a concept more than it is a word and translated it means “I am, because you are”. It speaks to the idea of togetherness and that we are all connected, that one can only grow and flourish through the growth and flourishing of others. And sometimes this has felt to me like a very worthy ideal, but not necessarily something we all live by. Until now, that is. Now it feels real and despite all of the pain and the hardship and the suffering, there is this realization, that we are all intrinsically connected and that what each of us does and contributes, really does affect our world and each other.
So here’s to us all having more ubuntu in our lives. Until next Friday, take much care.
April 17 2020
Dear GLM Community,
It’s Friday again and we’re ending another week in our new reality together and still feeling very much apart. This pandemic is a collective human experience that both connects and separates us at the same time, and in many different ways. It’s all the things and all the feelings. It has laid us bare and made us stronger. It’s a wild and intense ride.
At GLM, we notice things feeling more settled this week and as a staff we have shared experiences of finding more rhythm and of catching our breath. Some of our reflections have included noticing how much we all long for in-person interaction again, both with our students and each other, and how zoom calls just don’t cut it when it comes to having real eye contact and relating with one another. Even the introverts among us have been surprised at how the shelter-in-place lifestyle, which in theory seemed like a dream come true, has in actuality left us all with a gaping, empty hole inside. We also notice how we are adapting more easily to all of the new normals, like the strangeness of folks going out of their way to avoid us on our walks and people we don’t know now smiling and saying hello; we have shared how with our masks and gloves, we rush uneasily in and out of grocery stores and don’t even question the crazy, almost obsessive seeming de-sanitizing rituals we follow upon reentering our homes.
On the ground, the GLM teachers have been holding space for our families, some of whom report their kiddos experiencing feelings of loneliness and overwhelm, and a grieving of the loss of interaction with their peers and the familiar, daily routine of school. It seems there are more sleep disturbances and clinginess, bigger feelings and tantrums. We heard the word regression a lot more this week. In our business office our administrative team continues to work with families who are experiencing loss of jobs, businesses and other financial hardship. We hope you know and feel that we are here for each and every one of our families, supporting both our students and parents, through this difficult time.
You have let us know that the experience of familiar connection, of hearing and seeing each other, even if it’s virtual, is very comforting and reassuring to you all. So, in our Distance Learning Program we have introduced more screen time interaction for both our students and our parents. Teachers are doing more circles and group lessons with children, office folks have been making guest appearance videos in the classrooms and our admin team is planning on doing some live video updates. Our volunteer leadership team, the Community Builders, have been thinking and working on ways they can facilitate more opportunities for parents to connect and support one another. Their ideas include the introduction of virtual “Parent Circle” meetings and they will share more about this soon.
And in the meantime and all around us, we see and feel nature continuing on and in much the same way. She is in full bloom right now, exploding with life and all of the signs of spring. On our all-staff zoom call this morning, we had the privilege of meeting the newest member of our community, baby William, born just last week to Ms. Cerniglia and family. He is beautiful and they are all doing very well. At GLM, our school yards and gardens are bursting with flowers, bees and birds. Mr. Joaquin and I were very excited to find a number of monarch caterpillars on the milkweed plants this week. This made us very happy, as last year we found none, and there is a collective concern amongst scientists that the overwintering monarch populations on the West Coast might be on the brink of collapse. We took our find this week to be a sign of hope, resilience and metamorphosis.
Overall, it feels like we might all be moving into a new phase and experiencing a mental shift, one that requires humility and patience while we focus on internal changes that will help us all to embrace how we think and see our new world. With this in mind, GLM is being thoughtful about all of the ways we can support our community in getting through to the other side, one that will hopefully start to feel more natural and make more sense to us all. I think we are all beginning to realize that we are braver than we believed and much stronger than we ever knew.
Wishing for you some rest and breath this weekend.
April 10 2020
Dear GLM Community,
Has it really only been a week since I last wrote to you all?
Time, like most things, has warped and changed in this new normal — it either feels stretched out, flies by or melds into one long week or maybe even a groundhog day. It’s been a month since we last said our “so longs” and left the GLM campus, committing to staying home and taking care of ourselves and each other. One of the things that’s been the hardest for me about this shelter-in-place lifestyle, but that I have also come to appreciate, is how my brain has been forced into new ways of thinking and being. This disruption has led to me seeing things in a new light and has literally taken me on some different paths. On my daily walks, I have discovered parts of my neighborhood that I never knew existed, I notice more acutely all of the small and beautiful things and after identifying as a city dweller all my life, have been surprised by how much I love the peace and quiet. I am trying to embrace all of the change, as I also grieve the loss of the way things were.
I see our GLM community doing this too, as we work hard to adjust to being and learning and working from home. I notice that we all now wear our hearts on our sleeves. And I reflect and hold onto the things that remain true, that have always brought our community together: our vision of making childhood a journey and not a race and that GLM is a place for us all to belong. And that we can do hard things. Thank you to all who have reached out with kind messages of love and support for our school, and for your concern and care for our GLM staff. I thank you for your patience as I have been slowly getting back to families who have written to me. I continue to be in awe of all you do to work and parent from home. A very special honoring goes out to our essential worker parents, who are on the front lines daily, keeping us all alive, fed and well.
GLM Campus Closure Extended Through the End of the School Year
In California, we notice that physical distancing seems to be helping curb the virus, but it’s too soon to tell. We must therefore continue to do our part to stay home for a while longer. GLM will be following the guidance and lead of all six counties in the Bay Area and their associated school districts, extending our campus closure through June 5th. For many of us, this has felt inevitable and we can now confirm that we will all be living through this longer than we hoped and will be engaged in distance learning for the remainder of the school year.
As we bravely continue on our journey as GLM at a distance, the leadership team will be looking at more ways to engage and connect our community. I have a meeting scheduled this afternoon with our parent volunteer leadership team, the GLM Community Builders, to discuss and brainstorm new opportunities for parents and families to continue to build relationships and stay connected over the next few months. Some of our office and admin staff, myself included, will be making virtual guest appearances in our classrooms, reading books, singing songs and reciting our favorite poetry. The school is also looking into how we may provide professional counseling services and support around the challenges both our families and staff are facing while working, learning and being at home.
Distance Learning Message from Mariana Bissonnette
Firstly, I want to thank each of you for your presence, collaboration and resilience during this uncertain time. Since we have moved into Phase 2 of our Distance Learning Program, we have strived to take your feedback from our parent survey and from self-reflections from our teaching teams about how best to support families and students at home. Updates for Phase 2 were sent out last week in the classroom’s “News and Notes” and were a result of our collaborative effort across classrooms to review and reflect on what it is to support children and families during this unprecedented time. I wanted to share my own reflections with you about the program and how we see this enduring for the remainder of the year.
Our Distance Learning Program has been modeled off of the developmental needs/dispositions of each age group and also the individualization that is at the heart of Montessori Education. We were excited that this approach has been validated by the National Center for Montessori in the Public Sector who recently put together a single-page check-list of sorts to model alignment to the developmental needs of each age group. In our program, we have and will continue to maintain hands-on learning opportunities for both the Toddler and Primary levels, lessons, language immersive experiences through story-telling and read alouds, and community connection through photo sharing, room parent facilitated “play-dates”, and family check-ins. We also will continue to support our Kinder and Elementary students with their ongoing connection to follow-up work, lessons and by supporting their curiosity and ingenuity at home.
In addition, especially with regard to the idea of individualization, we have learned in this process of Distance Learning, that each family has their own unique needs, schedule and capacity. These diverse needs, we feel, require the kind of diverse Montessori approach we are offering. We have set up times for families to connect directly with the classroom Lead Teacher so that lessons and activities can be individualized and for families to share about the specific situation they are experiencing so that we can do our best to support families from afar. I am also available for families should you want to set up a time to chat about setting up your home, balancing routines and workloads, activities or more broadly about our program (feel free to reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org). I wish you all health and continue to be grateful to be in collaboration with you and GLM during this time.
Looking Ahead to the End of the School Year and the Summer
A big challenge of living through this time is the ability to live in the present, but also focus on the future, especially with all of the uncertainty that we face. GLM is looking ahead to the end of the year and being thoughtful about ways we can bring our graduating students and families back together again, to celebrate and have closure as they move on from GLM. Our Admissions Team is continuing to enroll and visit with new families, albeit virtually, and we are excited to welcome them into our community sometime in the summer. We will continue to update you as we know more about what our GLM summer program will look like and are committed to being flexible and open to working with all of our families around making changes and updates to their summer plans.
Standing by Each Other
A GLM anthem, one that many of the staff have played and danced to with their students and with each other, is Ben E. King’s Stand By Me. It was introduced to our school as a favorite by our founder, Helen Campbell. Some of you might remember the poignant moment when each one of our staff took a turn to dance with Helen to this song at our celebration of her retirement a few years ago. Helen loved this piece of music, as it reminds us of the importance of standing by each other and of the enduring love and solidarity able to survive, no matter what trials and traumas it encounters. Her favourite version was one performed by a variety of artists across the world from the award winning documentary: “Playing for Change: Peace through Music”. It seems like a fitting and uplifting piece of music for us all right now. I have added it to my home dance party playlist and it’s regularly filling me up with joy. I invite you to do the same!
With love, hope and gratitude,
April 2 2020
Dear GLM Community,
I’d like to begin by saying a huge thank you to our community for all of your support and patience, as we ride this giant wave together and navigate all of the new. I hope that you are holding up and finding some joy and gratitude in this difficult time. I miss you all.
In order to best take care of our students, parents, staff and community, the GLM leadership team has consulted with many professionals and run various scenarios and financial predictions for the current school year and into the summer, as well as looking ahead to 2020/21. I have also been in regular conversations with leaders of Montessori schools both locally and regionally, as well as the EBISA (East Bay Independent School Association) school leaders. The work continues, all within a constantly changing landscape with plenty of future uncertainty.
As part of our process we have spent much time wading through the new COVID legislation with regards to the FFCRA and the CARES act and are still finding this all to be a moving target. We are receiving regular updates from our HR attorney.
The board has been meeting weekly since the closure and together with our leadership team have made decisions determining our immediate next steps.
When will GLM’s physical campus reopen to families?
We do not know yet when we will be able to reopen. We were hoping to be back together again before the end of the school year, but with the recent announcements from both Governor Newsom and the Alameda County Office of Education, it is not looking likely that we will reopen before the summer. This week Alameda County extended the shelter-in-place Order with further restrictions until May 3rd, which is consistent with GLM’s most recent extension. We will continue to update you with any further information, as soon we know more. According to the latest shelter-in-place order, our campus grounds need to remain closed to our community and our staff will need to ask for permission to return to collect Distance Learning materials etc.
Will families receive a tuition reduction while students are not on campus?
As of now we continue to use our tuition dollars to run our Distance Learning Program. All of our employees are still actively engaged in the day to day running of the school and we continue to incur all of the typical costs of running a business. Because of this, we will not be offering tuition reductions. Please note that for those families who have opted to pay for Tuition Refund Insurance (TRP) the policy is still in force. Partial refunds are available for families that withdraw for a covered cause.
How are we supporting our GLM families around tuition payments for the remainder of the school year?
Some of you have written with questions around your April tuition payments. In addition, we realise that some of our families have lost income because of the necessary measures our country has adhered to. If you have lost your job, wages or are a small business owner who has seen a decline in business, please do reach out to us.
These are ways that GLM is supporting our families around tuition:
Working with FACTS to offer payment plan restructures so that families can spread out or delay their April tuition payment through the summer
Creating an emergency fund to assess families who, due to loss of work, loss of business or additional childcare costs, can qualify for short term emergency tuition assistance.
How are we supporting our GLM staff:
We made a commitment to pay all of our staff with full benefits (sick pay, health, dental, disability and our 403B contributions) through the end of our first closure, so until April 3. After carefully evaluating our various options, GLM will continue to pay our staff and will not lay off or furlough any of our teachers at this time. GLM has always been deeply committed to building and maintaining a stable, supportive and flourishing staffing community, as this is one of our deepest values. It’s also one of the reasons we feel our teachers stay on in our community and are committed to their place with us and with you. In addition, Montessori teachers are like unicorns, very hard to come by and worth their weight in gold. We desire for our students and families to continue to have access to all of their beloved teachers and for the teachers to be here, united, bolstered and ready for their students and families when we are back together again. So for now this is our plan.
What is the type of frequency of communication that I can expect to receive from the school?
By now, you should be in the rhythm of communication from the school. I will continue to update the entire community once a week via Friday updates, which is where you’ll find information about closure extensions, a re-opening date, and any other information that pertains to the whole school community. The classroom teachers are in daily communication with their students and will maintain weekly contact with the parents and also based on the needs of the students and families. Mariana Bissonnette, our Director of Instruction, will continue to be in touch with the families with updates or information regarding GLM’s Distance Learning Program. Our business office is open to you daily for any questions or concerns.
What has become most apparent to us since we last connected broadly with our community is that we are all now in for a marathon and not a sprint — we must continue to work together on our plan knowing that we need to pace ourselves, so that we have the stamina to continue on as a community. Another theme that rises up again and again is the collective grief we all feel for the loss of our lives as they once were and the hard work we must do to embrace all of the new, but with so much uncertainty ahead of us. It is most important that we are all kind and gentle with both ourselves and one another in this process, as we take the time to feel all of our feelings, in order to truly move forward and be the amazing resilient humans that we are all born to be.
We do this for ourselves so that we can do this for one another, and for our children. This is because we all belong to each other. And because we can do hard things!
With amazement and much care for you all,
March 25 2020
Dear GLM Community,
I hope you are all staying healthy and settling into your new rhythms together at home. We miss you!
I am writing today to let you know that GLM received notice this morning from the Alameda County Office of Education (ACOE) announcing that “Bay Area county health officers, in collaboration with their county superintendents have made a unified, regional decision to extend school closures and student dismissals from regular school attendance through May 1, 2020 to slow the spread of novel coronavirus (COVID-19) to the maximum extent. The safety and wellness of students, school personnel, and the community are the highest priorities of all schools and districts in these six counties.” The press release is attached to this email. [read it here]
This signaling from the ACOE means that GLM will comply and join with all public and East Bay Independent Schools (EBISA) in the Bay Area extending our closure and Distance Learning Program through to May 1st.
We understand that contemplating having your children at home, and not at school, for another 5 weeks is very hard. We know that you have a lot on your plates! It has been hard on GLM staff too, as we miss being with our students in person, as well as being with our GLM community daily. However, I think we can all agree that at this crucial time we must all work together to take care of one another and keep our community healthy. This is our first priority and we can all do this by staying home.
The GLM leadership team together with the Board is currently working hard on our plan moving forward and the immediate next steps we will need to take around keeping GLM operational and supporting our families and staff through this uncertain time. We will have an update about this for you very soon.
Our Distance Learning Program (DLP) is up and running and we continue to refine it as we go. We thank you for collaborating with us on this! We are interested in receiving feedback about how the DLP is feeling for our families so far and will be sending out a survey, so you can all weigh in. Our teaching teams are working hard to support our students in their learning from home and we are all finding more rhythm and ease in using technology to do so. Please look out for the survey along with an update about the DLP on Friday from Mariana Bissonette, our Director of Instruction.
As we move through our second week of living and learning from home, I have been amazed at all of our resilience as humans, how we have all managed to take on what feels like a completely different life in a week or two and adapt to it, even finding some humor and silver linings in there too! There is something so powerful about this collective experience that both overwhelms and enlightens us to new ways of thinking and being with each other.
We are so grateful for you being on this strange and uncertain journey with us, one that ultimately reminds us all of the most important things: family, community, love and above all else, our health! Please do not hesitate to reach out if you need us.
March 20 2020
Dear GLM Community,
We miss all of our GLM families terribly and hope you are holding up and finding at least some rhythm in this strange and uncertain time.
Everything surely feels different since this time last Friday, when the school made its decision to close our campus. I am writing to you today to let you know about things happening on our side this past week, as well to share the school’s next steps moving forward.
First off, I want to take this opportunity to acknowledge all of our incredible GLM families. You have adapted so quickly to the new normal of distance learning from home, while at the same time juggling all of your own work commitments. We have heard from many of you about your efforts to do Montessori from home and have been so inspired and impressed by your diligence around setting up family agreements and routines, as well as beautiful learning environments for your children. You have continued to build and support our amazing community by finding new and creative ways to connect and hang out with one another online. In addition, we admire your ability to let go of some of your typical expectations around productivity, and just breathe, snuggle, take neighborhood walks and be home bodies together.
School operations this week:
At GLM, we’ve been working hard at finding a balance between moving forward with our Distance Learning program and giving our community the time and space to adapt to all of the new. Mariana Bissonnette, our Director of Instruction, together with our teachers, hit the ground running last weekend, adapting their very hands-on educational approach with children to one that now relies on technology and screens. We admire our teachers ability to shift their mindset and pretty much invent a whole new way of being a Montessori educator in just a week or two. Their daily inspiration, the real life work they do with children to build connection and relationship in learning, is no longer and they miss their students dearly. They are also aware of how important it is to continue to support their students and families at home. Being that they are Montessori educators, they are all equipped with a growth mindset and have been very creative and great problem solvers! We are grateful to them for all of their hard work this week.
As you are aware, our campus is closed to our families, except for the Rosemary House which is being used as a pick-up location for learning material packets. Our facilities team is on the ground daily maintaining our school and keeping it safe. After disinfecting the campus this past week, we made a decision to close all of the classrooms and office environments for seven days, with no access by staff or the church community. We are hoping that this will help to ensure that all of the spaces are given a sufficient break from any lingering germs. Out of an abundance of caution, Hines, our Facilities Management Company, will then spend the following week deep cleaning our entire campus. In the meantime, the facilities team will continue to do daily work on outdoor maintenance projects at our school.
Our administrative and office staff continue to work from home daily, as all of our business operations must continue.
Next steps: looking beyond our April 3rd closure:
Now that our Distance Learning Program is for the most part up and running — this was our school’s first priority, our leadership team will move to focusing on the school’s programming beyond our April 3rd closure. The GLM Board will be meeting early next week to discuss future financial scenarios and other contingency plans such as the possibility of providing financial hardship support for our families in need. We will also be looking at ways the school might be able to provide care for our families with essential work professions who need support with childcare. At this time, Community Care Licensing is allowing a version of childcare during the shelter-in-place Order, but it has many restrictions. Given that we are a large school (and not a daycare) we have a lot to consider, so we appreciate your patience around this. We plan to have more information about our next steps for our community soon.
There has been much learning for us all this week, as our brains have desperately tried to keep up with all of the change and impact this unprecedented global crisis is having on our families, friends, societies and planet. It’s literally been mind boggling, and so taking our time (and some big, deep breaths) to figure out new ways of staying connected and being gentle and kind with one another and ourselves, have all been a big focus for us these past days.
It’s a “both/and” time in which we are both overwhelmed and extremely grateful and amazed by all of the extensions of kindness, love and caring in our communities. We have never needed each other more in our lifetimes, and so we thank you, our precious community for all of your support and understanding as we navigate this new journey day-by-day until we can all be back together again.
With hope and gratitude,
March 13 2020
Dear GLM Families,
This has been an unprecedented and extraordinary week in so many ways. We are grateful for the strength and support of our GLM community, and hope that you are all holding up and doing as well as can be expected. At GLM, the health and safety of all of our students, staff, families and greater community continues to be our very first priority. While we have no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in our school community, the GLM leadership team has decided to be proactive in what feels like a critical time of community spread of the virus.
GLM Campus Closed 3/16/20 – 4/3/20
For now, we are planning to close our school campus from Monday, March 16th until Friday, April 3rd. This was a very hard decision for us to make, but one that feels like it will contribute to the health and safety of our community and the community at large. While our campus is closed, we are not closed to our community and will continue to support families through email, zoom meetings, etc. In addition, we plan to stay in close communication with families with any updates.
GLM Distance Learning Plan 3/16 – 4/3/20
GLM has been working diligently for the possibility of a school closure for the past weeks and we are finalizing our “Distance Learning Handbook” this weekend. This handbook will give families guidance on how to support a school-like environment at home during the closure so as to maintain instruction and learning opportunities while at home. We aim to give this to families by the latest Sunday evening. In addition, we will be sending packets of learning materials home weekly during the closure as well as having opportunities for students and families to connect with classroom teachers through email and zoom meetings. Weekly packets will be available for a drive-through pick up Wednesdays starting Wednesday, 3/18/20. More information to come with specifics on these pickups. In preparation for closure, GLM has been planning for ways we will continue to support all of our staff in extra sick days should they need them, as well as work-from-home opportunities to develop learning materials and individualized instruction for students at home. In addition, we plan to do a thorough and deep cleaning of our campus next week.
Request for Support to Track Illness Trends at GLM
We would very much appreciate your support in helping GLM to have a clear picture of illness in our community by filling out this anonymous form for any recent illness and any illness that comes up during the campus closure. We hope this data – being filled out by staff and parents alike – will help us better understand trends in our own school community.
Today: 3/13 Student Communication & Preparation for At-Home Learning
Today, teachers will spend part of their day gathering as a classroom community to have adult-led, developmentally appropriate discussions about why we will be spending time away from school and each other. Today will be a time for students to gather belongings, brainstorm some favorite activities to do at home and say “so long for now” to classmates. Please see below this email for some developmentally appropriate talking points for a discussion with children about this.
This is such a poignant time for us all, one in which we are reminded of the preciousness and importance of all in our community and how despite not being together for a while, we will continue to be connected by the joy of learning and loving and caring for each other.
We hope you all take much care.
The GLM Leadership Team — Administration and Board