Ready or not, here we go! It’s the start of the 2020-2021 school year and Saddle River Day School IS ready. After a summer spent in task force meetings, researching safety protocols and best practices, and carefully planning our return, SRDS opened our doors and welcomed students back onto campus for the first time since March.
As the faculty, administrators and staff began planning for our fall reopening, our priority was not only to survive but to thrive in this difficult time. It was critical that we maintain the expected level of academic rigor and excellence, that we continue to innovate in the ways we delivered instruction and that we construct a program that allowed for a nimble, seamless pivot to fully remote learning if that model once again became necessary (fingers crossed that it doesn’t).
Our challenge was to ensure that we served the diverse needs of our SRDS family. It was important that all students and their families felt welcomed, safe and supported, whether planning an in person return to campus or a remote start, and to follow safety and health requirements set forth at the state and federal levels.
So, first we stepped up our technology game. We are now the proud owners of an upgraded, dedicated broadband line for the SRDS campus. This enabled our most impactful improvement, the installation of webcams, speakers and headsets for teachers. Students learning at home now have access to daily blended, synchronous learning that includes in-person and “live feed” instruction. In other words, remote students have been integrated into the classroom in a way that delivers the same lessons and instruction to every kid, regardless of location.
Students returning in person might have had a hard time recognizing certain parts of our campus. Every classroom, common area, gathering space and passageway has been evaluated and transformed as necessary to keep our kids safe. But consideration was also given to how our students would feel in these spaces. As often as possible, we tried to preserve the cheerfulness and warmth that have always made our campus feel like our students’ second home.
Then the moment arrived. The culmination of all the hard work and thought our SRDS family had poured into the plans for reopening came on Tuesday, September 1st, Orientation Day. Students arrived back on campus, followed our new drop off protocols, had their temperatures taken and then spent the day getting reacquainted with each other and briefed on our “new normal." Our first day of classes for grades PreK – 12 was on September 2nd. There were snafus and a few “lessons learned” but two weeks in, we can say that our full, Monday – Friday class schedule has become fully operational.
There are many people who are responsible for our return to school. Our committed administration, faculty and staff who spent their summers educating themselves on technology, adjusting pedagogy and curriculum and keeping themselves healthy. Our parents who have encouraged, supported and trusted school leadership. And our students who have proven their capabilities through resilience, patience and unflagging desire to make things better. This special group has shown all of us what it means to thrive under difficult circumstances. We’re excited and guardedly optimistic about what this year will bring.