School Re-opening Updates to The Pennfield School Community

By August 14, 2020August 15th, 2020News
Friday, August 14 – update from Pennfield
On August 12, Governor Raimondo announced that the start of public schools in Rhode Island will be delayed until September 14 “to give administrators and families more time to prepare amid the coronavirus pandemic.” While Pennfield faculty and administrators are still preparing for the start of school and classes to begin, The Pennfield School will be fully prepared to begin instruction on Thursday, September 3, 2020.  As a smaller school, we have been preparing since June for a variety of scenarios, a luxury many public schools do not have.
Pennfield has a 19-acre campus, with the ability to have our small stable groups spread out, both inside the classroom and outdoors. Additionally, we have implemented policies and procedures fully adhering to the Rhode Island Department of Health and CDC guidelines. While the faculty and administration are ready and eager to begin in September, everyone must be united in our efforts to collectively “do the right thing” to better ensure a safe return. In these final weeks of the August, please remember to quarantine. A little restraint now, will go a long way in keeping Pennfield open!
We know that you have received a lot of information about school re-opening in the fall, and we will continue to keep you updated. We have compiled all of our Re-opening Plans in one document for easy reference.
View the 2020-2021 Re-opening Guide

Friday, August 7 – update from Pennfield

The faculty and administrative team are working tirelessly to prepare for the safe return of our students to campus. That said, Pennfield is ready to pivot to remote learning should the need arise, and the faculty are similarly prepared to teach students at home for periods of time, even when in-person instruction is occurring at Pennfield.
Clarifying information about COVID-19 and Rhode Island’s response to this crisis is continually in the news and on our minds. Flexibility and patience are needed now, more than ever before. Schools across Rhode Island eagerly await the State’s release of a “playbook” to further guide decisions. I anticipate that The RI Department of Health and The RI Department of Education will release the official school playbook within two weeks.
There has been a new directive as of 7/29/20 on face covering which Pennfield School will follow:
Face coverings play a critical role in mitigating risk related to COVID-19. As of 7/29/2020, the 
Governor, Commissioner, and RIDOH have decided that face coverings are required for staff and students in the K-12 setting, even when students are in stable groups and socially distanced (6+ feet apart). Schools may want to refer to the CDC guidance for wearing face coverings. Schools should acquire additional face coverings for students and/or staff who may forget them or not have their own. Additionally, when necessary and if available, teachers may use clear face coverings to improve communication, but face shields do not replace the need to wear a face covering. Any visitor must also wear face coverings. Children should be provided with the opportunity for mask breaks when it is safe to do so. 
Mask clarification for Preschool and Pre-Kindergarten
NB. At the moment Preschool and Pre-Kindergarten may wear face shields or masks but are not required to so. This is subject to change. We are listening closely to the governor’s recommendation and recent studies on how much of the viral load the younger children carry. This policy may be updated. When primary students are unable to be socially distanced, when co-curricular faculty enter the stable group, or whenever students leave their classroom space, students will be required to wear masks.
Cleaning Policies 
  • Faculty and students will be washing their hands or using hand sanitizer whenever transiting in or out of the stable group. At a minimum, this will occur hourly.
  • Students will not share supplies; they will have individual kits or baskets with classroom materi- als.
  • The week of August 17, over a three day-period, the building will be thoroughly disinfected and cleaned by Coastal Cleaning, using CDC approved materials, including electrostatic disinfection machines.
  • In the event of a person with COVID-19 entering the building, all potentially impacted areas will be thoroughly disinfected and cleaned by Coastal Cleaning using CDC approved materials, in- cluding electrostatic disinfection machines.
  • Nightly, the building will be cleaned and sanitized using CDC approved materials. All tables, chairs and surfaces that student may touch in classrooms will be disinfected.
  • Twice during the academic day, surfaces in public area, e.g. all door handles, railings, walls that students may touch, etc. will be disinfected.
  • The classroom teacher will disinfect all surfaces that the teacher has touched, prior to the space being used by a co-curricular teacher. Prior to exiting the classroom, the co-curricular will disinfect surfaces that they have touched.
  • If a stable group moves to another space in the school, i.e. a tent outside, the art room, etc., all surfaces that students may touch will first be disinfected.
  • In the Lower School, all materials will be disinfected prior to being used by another student.
  • Hand sanitizer dispensers are located outside of all bathrooms. Touch-less soap dispensers willalso be in bathrooms. Fans pushing air outside or air filters will be added to bathrooms.
  • After a student in the Primary Department (PS, PK3/4, PK 4/5) uses the bathroom, surfaces will be disinfected and will be thoroughly cleaned in the evening
  • Bathrooms will be thoroughly disinfected mid-day and every evening.
Air Quality 
  • The primary function of our air flow system, as it was designed and constructed as an integral part of the building, is to provide a dedicated and continuous source of fresh outside air to interior spaces. New air is pushed in, existing air is not recirculated, rather it is exhausted outside. The system is continually operational, day and night, and is not time based.
  • Each class room is individually ducted with filtered fresh air. Existing air is exhausted separately, through other ducts.
  • Fresh air is filtered as it enters the building and classroom spaces. Filters are changed quarterly and regularly monitored.The system is designed for a closed building environment. As individual doors and windows are opened, the system cannot filter that air, however the system is still functioning and the air is still being filtered in and exhausted outside via the ducts.
  • In addition to our current system, a window fan will be added to each learning space to further exhaust classroom air. These fans will remain in operation throughout the winter months, but the windows will be closed at the end of the day. When appropriate and weather permitted, outside doors will also be opened in classrooms.
  • The make-up air system operates independent of our boiler supplied hot water heated baseboard radiators.
  • In conclusion, each class room and shared spaces are mechanically and naturally aspirated with fresh air. Natural ventilation will be augmented by fans in each class room. This combination will be continuously monitored for health and comfort.
Playground Spaces
Pennfield School has a 19-acre campus, with two playgrounds. Stable groups will be assigned to specific areas throughout campus for recess and lunch (weather permitting) and for outdoor classroom space. Stable group access to the playgrounds will rotate weekly, ensuring that no two stable groups will use the same outdoor equipment during any given week.
In-Person Instruction vs. Optional Distance Learning
Pennfield is prepared for full in-person instruction, yet we are similarly prepared to pivot to remote learning, should the need arise.
Some students may be required to stay home for a two-week quarantine or be required to stay home until receiving a negative COVID test result. Therefore, faculty are also prepared to teach in-person, while some students remain at home. In-person 5 day a week instruction, as you all know, is preferred and ideal. That said, parents may also opt to have their child to stay home for other reasons, too. In those cases, students will be able to Zoom into the live class for instruction and to ask questions and materials will be made available either through Google Classroom, Seesaw, or Bloomz, depending on the grade. The schedule for partial in-person instruction is still being formulated.

Friday, July 31 – update from Pennfield

The faculty and administration have been working throughout the summer preparing for in-person instruction. Classrooms are being reconfigured to ensure six feet of social distancing within stable groups. Technology is being prepped in each academic space to enable students to connect remotely with classes should some students be home, due to illness or the need to self-quarantine; and of course, faculty are ready to pivot to full distance learning should that be required. The Physical Plant Staff is reviewing air flow patterns throughout the school, with the objective of bringing even more fresh air into the building, and they are updating and expanding cleaning protocols throughout the building, including bathroom logistics. Class schedules are being established to ensure that stable groups remain separated from each other, and plans are in the works to hold classes outdoors whenever possible. Details about all of this will be emailed on Friday, August 7. Please refer to the calendar below for important dates.
The main objective of this letter, though, is to emphasize the essential recommendation that each member of the Pennfield community must follow to ensure our safe return to full in-person instruction. Two weeks prior to the school opening on September 3, please do everything that you possibly can to self-quarantine.
Self-quarantine is defined as staying home, avoiding visitors, not going out to restaurants, retail stores or public places, wearing masks when around others, practicing 6′ physical distancing when around others, practicing frequent hand washing and hygiene practices, and not touching your face.
The two-week mark begins on August 19. In today’s New York Times article, “The Risk That Students Could Arrive at School With the Coronavirus,” there was a pull-down menu with details, by county, of “how many infected people might arrive if classes started today.” Look at these results.
While comforting, we must be willing to sacrifice some end of the summer fun for the good of the whole. In college, I was on the rowing team. Only crews pulling together prevailed. We are as strong as our weakest link. Like you, I want in-person instruction – you have the power to see that to fruition. One family who chooses not to follow the self-quarantine could jeopardize the opening of school for all.
In the August 7 mailing, there will be lists of needed back-to school supplies. Of course, Pennfield will be providing many items. That said, two items, which I suspect that you may already have, are needed: a thermometer and a small beach chair. As a reminder, Pennfield is requiring students and faculty to submit an attestation form with a daily temperature reading, prior to 7:30 a.m. each morning. So, if you don’t have a working thermometer, you need one. Since students will be spending more time outdoors, we ask that you purchase a camping/beach chair, labeled with your child’s name, that can remain at school.

Face Coverings at The Pennfield School (updated 7/31/20)

  • Access to the building is very restricted. All necessary visitors and contractors must wear face masks at all times when on the campus. It is recommended that all face masks are three-layered with a snug fit. For more information about proper masking fitting see https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/how-to-make-cloth-face-covering.html
  • All visitors will be screened, with temperatures taken, and be required to sign in and out.
  • All students and faculty, when entering or exiting the building,  are required to wear face masks.
  • Students and faculty, when moving from one location to another whether in the hallways or outdoors, are required to wear face masks during transition times.
  • While in stable groups, students in PS, PK, and K, are encouraged to wear face masks, but are not always required to do so unless a parent requests that their child is always masked. Teachers will promote social distancing between students to the best of their ability. Faculty will wear face masks in stable groups, unless 6 feet of social distancing can be strictly enforced, the group is outside, or during snack/lunch. When anyone from outside a stable group is introduced, everyone is required to wear face masks.
  • Students and faculty within stable groups (Grade 1 through Grade 8) are required to wear face masks, except when there is 6 feet of social distancing inside the classroom, the group is outside and 6 feet apart, or during snack/lunch. When anyone from outside a stable group is introduced, everyone is required to wear face masks.
  • Students will only eat snack/lunch in stable groups and with proper social distancing. If there is more than one stable group in a space there will be 14 feet between each group. Most students will be eating lunch in classrooms. Students will bring in their own snacks, lunches, and refillable water bottles. Water fountains will be closed; however, refillable water bottle stations will be open.
  • Students should have access to at least three clean face masks daily. Pennfield will provide additional masks, should the need arise. Students and faculty will be trained on the proper use of face masks, prior to the start of school.
  • All faculty and administrators when entering stable groups may choose to wear face shields, along with masks. In addition, faculty may teach behind a plexiglass shield.

Friday, July 17 – update from Pennfield

Pennfield’s COVID-19 advisory team has been meeting weekly and is making significant progress. An approved plan will be posted on our website on Friday, July 31. That said, there are important features of that plan that are ready to be passed along and warrant your close attention. 

First off, I fully expect that Pennfield School will be opening for 5 day a week in-person instruction in September. Pennfield has a 19-acre campus, with plenty of outdoor space, class sizes easily accommodate  social distancing, all classrooms in our Lower School with doors leading directly outside, and the faculty, our strongest asset, who are flexible and eager to welcome your children back to school.

Before highlighting important modifications and adjustments to our daily routines, please note that the faculty are prepared to teach remotely, should we be required to do so. We are prepared to live-stream instruction, via Zoom, for students who are unable to attend class in person. Class materials and recorded lectures will be available for students and parents on Google Classroom, See Saw or Bloomz, depending on a student’s grade level. Further details about remote learning will be published at the end of the month.

We ask that Pennfield families and faculty limit travel two weeks before the start of school and self-quarantine as a family unit as much as possible. This helps to ensure a safer return to school.   

Daily Procedures

Before arriving at school

Parents must attest to their child’s health every morning, by using the COVID-19 Screening Tool. Each day, parents will be required to fill out an online google form, attesting to your child’s good health. Forms must be submitted no later than 7:30 a.m.  Parents must record their child’s temperature. Students must stay home should any COVID-19 symptoms be present, including any temperature reading of 100.4 F or higher.  Parents should then seek medical advice from a healthcare provider and inform the school.

Faculty must also attest to their health every morning by using the COVID-19 Screening tool, including the submission of a temperature reading. Forms must be submitted no later than 7:30 a.m.  Faculty must stay home should any COVID-19 symptoms be present, including any temperature reading of 100.4 F or higher.  Faculty should then seek medical advice from a healthcare provider and inform the school.

Students or faculty exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms during the day must return home and should seek medical advice from a healthcare provider and inform the school. While waiting to be picked up from school, students with COVID-19 symptoms will stay in a separate COVID room, adjacent to the nurse’s office, under the care of the nurse who will be wearing the appropriate PPE.

The Beginning of the  School Day

There is no Early Bird; however, classrooms will be open starting at 7:45 a.m.

Students should arrive between 7:45 and 8:15 a.m. Everyone arriving on campus must wear a face mask.

When arriving at school, students must adhere to social distancing. The walkways will have signs reminding students about distancing.

Only one parent for each student in PS, PK and K may accompany their child to the classroom door.  Students in PS and PK will walk directly to the outside classroom door with a parent and be greeted by a teacher.  Students in K will walk to the side stairwell with a parent and will be greeted by a teacher. Parents will not be permitted into the classrooms.

Faculty members will be assigned to monitor students during drop-off and checkout.

Parents of students in grades 1 through 8 should remain in their cars, unless there are extenuating factors.

Students in grades 1 through 3 will walk to their outside classroom door, adhering to social distancing,  and be greeted by their teacher.

Students in grades 4 and 5, adhering to social distancing, will walk through the glass atrium to enter the outside classroom door by the playground and be greeted by their teacher.

Students in grades 6 though 8, adhering to social distancing, will use the spiral staircase to go directly to their homerooms. They will not use their lockers when they arrive. Instead they will be assigned a time later in the morning to go to their lockers.

A diagram/map of traffic patterns will be included in the August letter.

Daily Routines for Faculty and Students

Students and faculty will wash their hands throughout the day, beginning upon arrival in the morning.  Hands will be washed and/or hand sanitizer will be used before and after recess, whenever using iPads or computers located within stable groups, before eating snacks or lunch, and before and after using the bathroom.

Stable groups in Primary; PS and PK3/4 are limited to 10 students, PK4/5 is limited to 12 students, and K is limited to 15 students.

Based on current state regulations, Lower School stable groups will consist of grouping of 15 students. Upper School stable groups will not exceed 30 students, and in most cases will be lower.

Throughout the day, students will stay within their stable groups. In most instances, co-curricular teachers will travel to stable groups.

Whenever feasible and educationally appropriate, classes will be conducted outdoors.

Athletics for Students in Grades 4 through 8

In the fall term, outdoor sports activities and skill development will occur. Should outdoor practice be cancelled, students need to be picked up at regular dismissal. Changes to the athletic schedule will be determined no later than 11:00 a.m. on any given day.

Athletes will remain in three stable groups: Grades 4 and 5; Grades 6 and 7; Grade 8.

Interscholastic games will not occur this fall.

It is unclear if practice will occur daily. The schedule will be determined by August 7.

End of Day Procedures, for those not involved with athletics and Extended Day

Students will exit school, accompanied by their teachers, in a similar fashion as morning drop-off.

When leaving for the day, students must adhere to social distancing and wear masks.

Parents, guardians, or babysitters picking up students must must stay in their cars and wear masks during pick-up. We encourage the same person who dropped off to pick up when possible.

There will be three dismissal locations and set dismissal times for each grade. 

PS & PK 1:00 p.m. (if not attending extended day)

PS, PK & K 2:45 – 2:55 p.m.

Grades 1-4 2:55-3:05 p.m.

Grades 5-7 3:05-3:15 p.m.

Grade 8 3:15 p.m.

Due to the necessity to maintain stable pods of students Extended Day is only available for PS and PK until 2:45 p.m.

Staffing for Extended Day is complex, with added significant expenses, due to COVID-19. That said, The Pennfield School would like to offer this service for an additional fee of $15/hour instead of the previously published rates. There will be five extended day stable groups: K, Grades 1, Grades 2-3, Grades 4-5; Grades 6-8.  Families must sign-up in advance, before the start of the school year. Drop-ins are not permitted. Extended Day will only be offered if enough families enroll. Details along with a form to sign up will be emailed by August 7.

Procedures for students, faculty and family members who have traveled to an area with COVID-19

  • Review updated CDC and the RI Department of Health information for travelers.
  • Strictly follow all guidance from Health Officials.
  • Inform the Front Desk before and after your travel and communicate any post-travel restrictions that are required by the RI Department of Health.

Should a confirmed case of COVID-19 enter the school, Pennfield will adhere to  the following CDC’s recommendations.

  • Pennfield School will coordinate a response with the RI Department of Health.
  • Daily updates will be communicated to families and faculty on the status of the situation.
  • Students and faculty in the impacted stable group will be dismissed for 2-5 days and remote learning will be immediately implemented.
  • Students, faculty and family members will be discouraged from gathering and socializing.
  • The school building will be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected, using CDC approved methods.

Friday, July 3– update from Pennfield

On June 19, Rhode Island released “Back to School RI: Health and Safety Guidance to Reopen Rhode Island’s Elementary and Secondary Schools.” Using that template, along with weekly consultations with other RI independent schools, Pennfield is in process of formulating detailed instructions and guidelines for parents, students, and faculty to ensure our safe return to school on Thursday, September 3. Our plans will be vetted by a COVID advisory committee, which consists of board members, administrators, and medical professionals. The next advisory meeting is on July 7.
Pennfield is drafting plans for three potential scenarios: full in-person learning, limited in-person learning, partial in-person learning, and full distance learning. Given RI’s success in controlling the spread of COVID, full in-person learning at Pennfield is the scenario we are expecting and hoping for in September.
Pennfield’s first priority is the safety of all our community members. Our policies will be strict and conservative, to better ensure that full in-person learning is maintained. As mentioned before, Pennfield’s enrollment and the design of our school building enables students and faculty to maintain social distance even within stable groups. Whenever possible, students will spend time outside in stable groups.
To maintain a safe environment, partnership with parents is essential. We must consider how individual actions impact the entire community group. To that end, I strongly request you not travel outside of Rhode Island for at least two weeks prior to the start of school and to self-quarantine as a family unit as much as possible during that time period. Please consider restricting travel over all school vacations during the 2020-2021 school year. This is to help ensure the safety of our entire community when school opens.
Together, we will make the upcoming school year joyful, safe, and enriching. I am eager to welcome students back on campus, of course from a safe distance and while donning a mask.
Final plans will be emailed to you no later than July 31 and will be posted on the school’s website. That said, specifics regarding face coverings, arrival and dismissal procedures, COVID screening, lunch, before and after school care, recess, and co-curricular instruction will be passed along to you on July 17.
Prior to the start of school, a series of orientations will be held so that students and parents are familiar with new procedures. Dates and details will be available on July 17.

Wednesday, June 17- update from Pennfield

Now that Commencement is in our rearview mirror, all attention is focused on the safe return to campus on Thursday, September 3. Establishing protocols and procedures is a collective effort, involving the school’s administrative team, a COVID Advisory Committee, consisting of board members and school personnel, independent school associations, and published guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control, the Rhode Island Department of Health, and the Rhode Island Department of Education. To ensure transparency, the Pennfield community will be updated twice a month on our latest developments and plans. While directives and recommendations for the opening of school by the State of Rhode Island and the CDC are still unfolding, much is already known. We have many advantages over larger school communities.
  • Pennfield’s classes average around 10 students per section. We have plenty of outdoor space in our 19-acre campus, and Lower School and Primary Department classroom doors open directly to the outside. Social distancing throughout the school and within contained pods, therefore, is much easier. Classrooms will be arranged to maximize social distancing.
  • It is predicted that schools or individuals within schools may need to return to remote learning for periods of time during the 2020-2021 school year. Pennfield is fully prepared to teach pods of students or whole classes remotely, if needed. The faculty will continue their professional development using Zoom, Seesaw, and Google Classroom. The faculty and administration will thoroughly review this spring’s remote learning and make adjustments, as needed. Similarly, the administration will look to standardize the remote learning experience for students.
  • The school’s internet access points have recently been enhanced and additional video stations, like the one used at Commencement, are being created for faculty to record and live-stream lessons and activities.
  • Over the summer, faculty will be trained on COVID safety protocols and safety measures which are being created by the COVID Advisory Committee. (The next Advisory meeting is on 6/24/20.)
  • Pennfield has hired a full-time nurse, Dr. Carrie Davis-Boyer. Carrie holds a Doctorate of Nursing Practice, a Master of Science in Nursing, and a Bachelor of Science in Nursing.
  • The Business Office will be relocated and the current space turned into an annex for the nurse’s office, should a student need to be isolated when showing signs of fever or ailments related to COVID until their parents come to pick them up.
  • School employees will wear masks when working with students, and parent and guest access to the school will be very limited. Pennfield is waiting for further guidance from the State regarding when students should be masked.
  • At this point, parents should not plan trips for March Break 2021. Should a second wave of COVID materialize, spring break dates may be adjusted.
  • Parents will receive details about Pennfield’s safety protocols by mid-August.
  • The school will be thoroughly cleaned every evening, and surfaces will be disinfected throughout the day.
Life on campus will be different. Flexibility and empathy are essential. Please note that this brief letter is simply an overview; more will be forthcoming. That said, I cannot wait to have happy children back on campus.

Wednesday, June 4– update from Pennfield

I look forward to welcoming everyone back on campus in September. Should the State of Rhode Island mandate school closures for periods of time next year, we will be ready to shift to remote learning, having gained much insight into what works well. Details about the various scenarios and COVID-19 protocols for the 2020-2021 will be shared in early July.

As we think about the Pennfield community and what is best for our community during all that is going on in the world, the school administrators have decided we will not offer Pennfield sponsored summer camps on campus. The reason is straightforward. Throughout the summer, the administrative team along with our Medical Advisory Committee will be focusing on the safe opening of school in September, following the guidelines and procedures outlined by the RI Department of Health, the RI Department of Education, and the Centers for Disease Control. Limiting access to the school building over the summer months will allow us to make physical changes to classrooms and other spaces, as needed, and allow administrative resources to have the time to properly inform, train, and educate our community about new protocols. Safety is our first priority.

Monday, June 1– update from Pennfield

The Board of Trustees and the Administrative team are reading everything they possibly can about how to safely reopen schools in the fall. A task force has been put together, which includes among others, local health officials and our highly qualified school nurse. The Task Force is watching what is happening in places such as Europe where schools have already reopened, and reading the guidelines from the CDC and other schools, while at the same time awaiting more guidelines from our governor. We are collaborating with other Rhode Island Independent Schools through weekly Zoom meetings. Pennfield is an NAIS school (National Association of Independent Schools), and they provide us with a wealth of information too.

We are planning for various scenarios and will start out the year with the strictest measures. We hope that as testing becomes more widely available, the state might let us ease up some of our restrictions if it is safe to do so. Pennfield is very fortunate. We have small class sizes and extra space to spread out and even have a few rooms that can be turned into additional classrooms if needed.

At this point, we do not have specifics to share with our community but be assured the focus right now is planning for the safety of our students and teachers in the fall. As you know, things are changing so rapidly that what we plan today might look different in September, but we have a very able group of nimble, bright professionals working on this. As we have more specifics, we will share them with you.

In addition to looking at safety protocols, the faculty are focusing on what has worked well with our online learning program, what we can improve in case we need to go back to this mode again at some point for a brief time, and also what has worked so that it can be included in the classrooms to enhance teaching and the students’ experience.

Entry for Preschool through Grade 3

Entry for Grades 4 and 5

Entry for Grades 6-8