Saddle River Day School: A Master Class in Re-Opening Success

Gretchen Lee

“Stay safe.” “Be well.” This is the way we end our emails, zoom calls and masked encounters with friends around town these days. Those words were also the guiding principle last summer as the Saddle River Day School administration, faculty and staff began to plan for the return to school in August. They knew that, as their families have invested their time, talents and resources in the school, it was important that the school invest just as heavily in the successful transition of students back on to campus.  After nearly four months of in-person learning, SRDS has proven that its parents made a wise investment. 

For the team, “stay well” pertained first and foremost to the physical well-being of the entire SRDS community. So, the implementation of the safety measures was priority one. The school is now equipped with better air filtration, physical distancing protocols, new drop off and pick up routines, plexiglass barriers, health screenings, handwashing stations and a food service overhaul that enabled them to be on campus, full-time.

The Saddle River Day community has come together to make sure that their return to school was nearly flawless. 90% of SRDS students have been safely attending in-person classes, five days a week! Even better, in a recent survey of parents and caregivers, 100% of families felt that their students were safe on campus and 97% were very satisfied or satisfied with the academic rigor and instruction in their new pandemic teaching model.

After routines became established, the team set out to re-imagine the traditional school day.  In keeping with their commitment to challenge students academically but also support them emotionally and socially, additional enrichment and academic opportunities were identified and implemented. These included: giving the go-ahead for the varsity boys and girls soccer teams and the girls tennis team to compete this season, hosting an outdoor Broadway Comes to Saddle River event, offering a STEAM boot camp for grades 2-12, hosting an Upper School movie night, opening its doors for multiple Admissions Open Houses, and the presentation of their outdoor fall play, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. In addition, events for the parents and the larger community like monthly Parent Guild meetings, grade level coffees and parent/teacher conferences have been reimagined to work in such unprecedented times in order to keep the SRDS community connected and safe.

The excitement and energy on campus is palpable. Students are so glad to be back in school and parents have expressed their gratitude in comments like this, “I am extremely pleased at how well SRDS has planned and executed its response to COVID. My daughter is thrilled to be back learning in person and seeing her friends. Though not exactly the same – we are grateful for the opportunity to be there and the diligence it takes to keep students there.”

The faculty is also receiving high marks for their work in reviewing curriculum, rethinking pedagogy and updating classroom technology to accommodate students who have chosen the remote learning option. One parent wrote, “We just want to thank all the devoted teachers and administrators for the herculean work put into getting the school open and feeling as normal as possible during COVID. SRDS could not be doing a better job... just fantastic. We are hearing similar kudos from other SRDS families we speak to.”

These accolades testify to the fact that it has taken the efforts of each member of the community to make this return to school such a success. The faculty, staff and administration has shown patience, vision, creativity and leadership.  Saddle River Day continues to focus on the positive ways they can provide an exceptional educational experience, even in these most unusual of times.  For parents and students, SRDS has clearly been well-worth the investment.