Return-To-School Plan - The Birch School

January 13, 2022

Dear Birch Families,

I am writing with an update about our back to school plan. We are all anxiously anticipating our safe return to school and it looks like we will be returning shortly.

This week we received specific information and guidance from the New York State Department of Health concerning the latest protocols and procedures for a healthy return to in-person learning.

We also were grateful to receive a number of at-home covid antigen tests this week.

Our Outdoor Forest School will resume operations on Tuesday January 18th. We are asking Forest School students to come prepared to social distance during the program, and to wear a mask. It is cold, and masks keep us warm too, so until the worst of the surge is past we want to take all precautions to keep us all safe.  Even though the virus is often harmless for children, many of our families share their homes with vulnerable folks and it is our community responsibility to protect them too.

At this time our plan is to return to in-person, in-building learning on Tuesday January 25th. This allows us time to implement the new guidelines and also allows a few more days for the local infection rate to fall.  This week the local rate has been falling slightly each day, although it remains high: today 23.4% of all tests were positive in Orange County. If the rate begins to increase again we may need to adjust our plan, but so for we are moving in the right direction.

This Return-to-School plan comes with several additional procedures:

We are asking that staff and students have a negative covid test before we return to school.  To assist with this goal, on Monday January 24th we will have our last virtual learning day.  In the afternoon on January 24th school will be open from Noon to 4 for families to come to school and test their students using our testing supplies. The tests that we received require you to come to our facility to test.  These tests will provide results in 15 minutes. The entire process will take about 20 minutes.  Or, if you have access to your own covid test you can test on your own and provide proof of a negative test within 72 hours of Jan 25th 9am, or proof of covid infection within the last 90 days. Let us know if you need more information.

Moving forward we will adopt the updated guidance we recently received from the Department of Health.  One major change is that contact tracing will no longer occur. Instead, we will utilize the ‘test-to-stay” method. This means that if there is a positive case identified among staff or students, anyone who was vaccinated and exposed could potentially avoid quarantine and instead test daily.  If students test negative they can stay in school for the day. More information and details are available by request.

Thank you for your patience and understanding as we work hard to protect our students and their families during these uncertain times.

We look forward to welcoming students back to school and as always, please let us know if you have any questions or concerns.

The Birch School Team

As of now (late August 2021) we plan to offer a full-service virtual program, an in-person program for Middle and High School, and afternoon outdoor options for elementary school. Call us to find out our latest program offerings.

As educators, we know that families have experienced many changes over the course of this pandemic. Some of these changes are stressful and some are welcomed. At Birch our goal is to offer a variety of learning arrangements that will compliment families’ desire to have more flexibility in schedule, pace and program.

Our central goal is to offer robust, consistent learning for students, supported by enthusiastic and engaged teachers. We want to do this in the safest manner possible, based on current Health Department guidance and considering the local COVID infection rate.