Dear Branksome Community,
We hope your summer is going well so far, and that you and your families are finding ways to unplug and recharge. We are writing today to share with you our modelling and school reopening plans for the Fall.
While a number of details still need to be worked out, and the announcement expected from the Ministry of Education in early August may impact some of our planning, we want to update you on our initial decisions for reopening our Junior School, Senior & Middle School, as well as our Boarding program. We are also sharing today a preliminary outline of what we can expect campus life to look like for the initial months of the academic year.
Shaping Fall 2020 for Students
Let me begin by thanking all of our families who provided feedback in webinar sessions, parent surveys or by email, and whose input is reflected in the shaping of our plans. As I stated in the parent webinars in June, our first choice will be, if it is possible, to open the school as usual, with all students on campus every day, all day, as a community.
To ensure we plan carefully for what lies ahead, I am working closely with a Transition Team that includes the Senior Leadership and Risk Management groups to prepare for various possible scenarios and to develop safety protocols and procedures. The group is moving through important reopening considerations, such as keeping the density of students as low as possible on campus, while maintaining the flexibility we will need to adapt to changing public health concerns and requirements. Many of these considerations are outlined below.
Health and Safety
To mitigate the spread of illness within the Branksome Hall community, strategies have been implemented using guidance from government agencies, as well as infection prevention and exposure measures for communicable disease models.
To raise awareness about these measures and to support the safe return of the Branksome Hall community to campus, a comprehensive suite of training, resources and communications are being prepared that are informed by provincial health and education requirements, and, starting in August, these will be shared with our community.
Many of our families have been inquiring about policies around screening, testing and the use of masks on campus. While these protocols are still in development, we encourage families to find, over the summer, a mask that will feel comfortable for your child as masks may be required indoors. In the meantime, the Transition Team at the school is working on a number of health and safety measures that include:
- Signage and decals to ensure physical distancing and safe access to buildings.
- Microbial AEGIS spray on all surfaces across the entire campus, along with routine cleaning and disinfecting of high-traffic areas and high touch surfaces.
- Staggered start and end times.
- Modified athletics and co-curricular programming, including planning for as much outdoor physical education as possible.
- Implementation of explicit screening, illness and hygienic protocols.
- Employee and student health and safety protocol training and education.
We expect to communicate a decision regarding these protocols and others once we have more information from public health authorities.
Our school architects have provided detailed drawings of our campus facilities that provide us with data regarding the number of students we can accommodate in our classrooms based on a two-metre distance rule. We are able to accommodate approximately 11-15 students per classroom or in alternative non-traditional spaces that can be adapted for learning and teaching. We have decided that gymnasiums will continue to be used for physical education classes.
The Academic Models for 2020-21
As you are aware, classes will begin on September 8. Our Academic Teams have been hard at work designing academic models in the Junior and Middle and Senior Schools that are in line with current Ministry of Education guidelines. These include physical distancing, cohorting students in small groups, hybrid learning and maximum flexibility to respond to an evolving environment—all while ensuring the academic and social-emotional wellbeing of our students. In designing our approach to our academic models, we followed these principles:
- Flexibility to be fully on campus, fully virtual, or hybrid.
- Reduce density.
- Distancing at 2-metres apart.
- Reduce cohort mixing.
- Improve contact tracing.
- Accommodate students who wish to be fully virtual.
- Mitigate against loss of curricular time and maximize curriculum coverage.
Junior School: Return to School Modelling Every Day, All Day
In the Fall, the Junior School will be hosting classes on campus, all day, Monday to Friday. Virtual learning support will be provided to families based on individual circumstances and requests.
To accommodate physical distancing protocols, classes will be held across the west campus, including the Junior School and the Athletics and Wellness Centre (AWC), with the allocation of facilities and spaces made based on the age and stage of the students.
Maintaining the culture of a vibrant Junior School and strong academic program, balanced with the need for health and safety, is essential. To that end you can expect the following:
- Daily literacy, numeracy, inquiry.
- Specialist instruction.
- Addition of Advisory groups to enhance small-group Social-Emotional Learning (SEL).
- Grade-level recess times to maintain safe play during unstructured times.
- Physical distancing and cohorting of students, requiring movement of teachers, with students staying in their classrooms.
- Continuation of activities and events to support students’ social-emotional learning and well-being, including clan and spirit events, assemblies, Fit Fridays, and action initiatives.
A brief video message
from Amanda Kennedy, Head of Junior School and Erika Lo, Assistant Head and PYP Coordinator, will provide you with a clear and concise outline of the Junior School reopening model.
Over the course of the fall academic term, there will be staggered pick-up and drop-off times. In addition, only school employees and students will be permitted inside the school buildings, for the safety of our community; this includes parents. We appreciate your understanding.Senior & Middle School: A Hybrid Learning, Modified Semester Model
Our first choice is to open school as usual, with all students in attendance all day, every day. However, we will be able to move forward with that plan only if the province allows it. Currently, we anticipate activating a plan that respects cohorting of a maximum of 15 students in a space, and distancing of two-metres apart. This means we can accommodate about half of our Senior and Middle School students on campus at one time, alternating between learning on campus and learning online. To enable this scenario, we are looking at a hybrid learning model which will allow us to follow a modified semester program.
The key factors underlying the decisions are:
- Student and employee health and wellbeing
- Academic success
- Flexibility to pivot out of hybrid to a different mode—either fully on campus or fully online, according to what the Province’s evolving pandemic response will demand.
From the health and wellbeing perspective, as it relates to the academic program, we need to create small cohorts of students with limited movement between spaces in the school, keeping students in different grade levels in separate zones within the school buildings. This will mean that, to the greatest extent possible, students in Grades 7-10 will work in the same homeroom groupings for the majority of their courses. For our Diploma students, where there is more personalization of course choices, a greater degree of movement may occur, still within defined zones and specified spaces in the school. To meet the cohorting requirements, half of each class will be on campus on any given day, while the other half engages with asynchronous materials and activities prepared by the class teacher.
From a mental health and student well-being perspective, managing student workload is more important than ever as we plan for a robust online learning element. In our model, students will study half of their courses at once, allowing them to focus on a narrower range of material while still providing the intellectual stimulus of studying several courses together.
This video message
from Heather Friesen, Head, Curriculum Innovation and Professional Learning, and Kate Hebdon, Assistant Head, Academics, will provide you with details on the modelling for the academic program, including what the plan for the distribution of courses will look and feel like for students.
We will continue to provide updates, including how students will access the online learning components, as we continue to develop the details.Boarding Program
We are planning for the safe reopening of a smaller Boarding program in the Fall, with some modifications. Boarding students returning to school will be required to self-isolate for 14 days before arriving on campus, and we will be incorporating Orientation activities during this time to engage and support students. Reopening Boarding will require physical distancing measures, infection control protocols, robust student well-being supports as well as enhanced staffing and training. The modified Boarding model will involve a combination of some students on-campus and some learning virtually.Major Dates and Co-Curriculars
We are currently building out the calendar in alignment with the model, including parent-teacher meetings and Professional Development days. We will republish Major Dates as soon as possible to reflect this fine-tuning.
Advisor group meetings, co-curriculars and athletics are essential elements of school life, and we will ensure that these can take place in robust and meaningful ways. You will learn more about these opportunities before school opens.
Regrettably, we are unable to plan for and proceed with overnight excursions. This includes international service learning trips and exchanges, the Grade 9 Study-Abroad Program, Week Without Halls and Norval excursions.
We are looking at on-campus and in-person Week Without Halls programming that is outdoors as part of ReConnect Week, and we are also looking at a fully virtual program with Alive Outdoors in October.
Modified Uniforms for 2020-21
For students in the Junior School, the uniform remains unchanged, with the exception that we do not require blazers or ties for this year. We have added the expanded option of black pants/capris or BH navy pants. This gives families more choice in how their daughters dress. We also expect students in the Junior School to come to school in freshly laundered uniform clothes each day.
JS Daily Uniform
|On the bottom||On the top||Shoes||Other considerations|
|Kilt||BH Polo shirt||Black shoes that take a shine||Tie, blazer not necessary|
|Skort||BH Button down||Open to all black walking shoe|| |
|Tunic||BH Green quarter-zip or BH V neck||Student will still require indoor and outdoor shoes|| |
|Black or Branksome navy Capri or long pants (no shorts)|| || || |
|Fit Friday on bottom||Fit Friday on top|| || |
|BH sweat pants or black leggings (no other colours and designs)||BHPE t-shirt | Clan T-shirt | Red PE Hoodie|| || |
Senior and Middle School
As we prioritize student health and safety, we have modified the uniform for the 2020-21 school year for students in Grades 7-12. We continue to be a uniform school, while at the same time, we require our students to come to school each day in freshly laundered clothes. To avoid families having to purchase additional uniform items, please note the modified uniform expectations for Senior and Middle School students while on campus:
|Monday-Thursday||Friday (Fit Friday)|
|On top: Branksome Hall green quarter-zip, v-neck, turtleneck, or polo shirt. White or black Branksome Hall Phys. Ed. shirt||On top: Any athletic top that has the Branksome Hall name or crest on it.|
|Black track pant (BH or student’s own) or black yoga pant/legging||Black track pant (BH or student’s own) or black yoga pant/legging|
|Full length or capri length | No shorts||Full length or capri length | No shorts|
|Running shoes||Running shoes|
Please note: Senior and Middle School Students are not required to have a blazer, tie, or kilt this year.
For your convenience, students and parents may make purchases via an online shop that will be available ahead of school opening. We will open the physical uniform shop on campus when safe to do so. A new form is now active for Senior & Middle School parents and ready for completion on the Portal to authorize billing of purchases to your account (both for the online shop and the physical shop once it opens). Should you have any questions or requests for personal uniform accommodations, please contact Siamak Boroomand
, Assistant Head, Senior and Middle School, Operations.When will we know more about Fall 2020?
As noted above, we will communicate final decisions with respect to school reopening to our parent and employee community in August, in line with expected announcements from the Ministry of Education.
We will be offering Zoom webinars for all parents starting in mid-August, with dates and times to be confirmed shortly. At this time, we will share further details about school reopening and answer your questions about the model and school reopening. Should you have specific questions in the meantime, please write to email@example.com
In closing, we look forward to having students and employees back on campus and bringing it alive with joy, laughter and the love of learning.
Karen L. Jurjevich