Health and Safety
The safety, health, and well-being of our students, families, faculty, and staff are always our top priority. We follow guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NC DHHS) to minimize the risk of exposure to COVID-19 on both our main campus on Horse Pen Creek Road in Greensboro and our 37-acre satellite campus in Oak Ridge. We regularly consult this source material to help guide our operating procedures, which are themselves regularly reviewed and updated based on evolving recommendations:
- CDC | Schools and Childcare Programs
- CDC | Cleaning and Disinfecting Your Facility
- CDC | Reopening Guidance
- NC DHHS | StrongSchoolsNC Public Health Toolkit (K-12)
- NC DHHS | StrongSchoolsNC Public Health Toolkit (K-12) Frequently Asked Questions
- NC DHHS | Reference Guide for Suspected, Presumptive, or Confirmed Cases of COVID-19 (K-12)
- NC DHHS | Know Your Ws: Wear, Wait, Wash
For families choosing in-person learning for the school year, Greensboro Montessori School has developed seven strategies for minimizing the risk of exposure to COVID-19 for individuals while on campus.
At this time, all persons — students, family of students, school employees, contractors, and visitors — must complete a symptom screening and temperature screening before entering any building on campus. The School follows screening procedures as recommended by NC DHHS and may choose to add additional screening protocols above and beyond their recommendation. The School also monitors student and employee health throughout the day.
Families and employees complete a web-based symptom screening by 7:15 a.m. on days they are coming to campus. Scheduled contractors and visitors follow the same procedure when possible, and if not, they complete the symptom screening from the parking lot accessible through a tiny URL or QR code. The symptom screening currently includes four questions:
- Have you or your child had close contact (within 6 feet for at least 15 minutes) in the last 14 days with someone diagnosed with COVID-19?
- Have you or your child been advised by any health department or health care provider to quarantine?
- Do you or your child have any of these symptoms?
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
- New cough
- New loss of taste or smell
- Since they were last on our campus, have you or your child been diagnosed with COVID-19?
If a person answers "yes" to any of these questions, the person is not allowed to be on our campus. The School will contact the family or employee individually to review the specific health criteria the student or employee must meet before they are able return to school. If the person answers "no" to all these questions, the person is permitted to be on campus.
At this time, all persons — students, family of students, school employees, contractors, and visitors — must pass a temperature screening before entering any building on campus. All temperature screenings are conducted by a school employee wearing a cloth face covering using a touchless forehead thermometer.
If a person's measured temperature is 100.4°F or greater, following NC DHHS protocols, the person is not allowed to be on our campus. The School will work with the family or employee individually to review the specific health criteria the student or employee must meet before they are able return to school. If a person's measured temperature is 100.3°F or less, the person is permitted to be on campus.
If anyone on campus presents with at least one of the following COVID-19 symptoms — fever, chills, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, new cough, or new loss of taste or smell — the School will immediately require them to go home. If the person is a student, the School will immediately isolate them and call their emergency contact with the expectation that the student will be picked up immediately. The School will work with the family or employee individually to review the specific health criteria the symptomatic student or employee must meet before they are able return to school.
At this time, the specific set of five COVID-19 symptoms reflects required exclusionary symptoms as identified by NC DHHS. Greensboro Montessori School reserves the right to require a student or staff member to stay home from school if they present with other known symptoms of COVID-19.
When responding to suspected, presumptive, and confirmed cases of COVID-19, Greensboro Montessori School follows protocols issued by NC DHHS. Their Reference Guide for Suspected, Presumptive, or Confirmed Cases of COVID-19 (K-12) includes response protocols — including, but not limited to, exclusion; infection control; cleaning; closure; communication with students, families, and staff; and notification to local health department — based on a variety of permutations between:
- Exposure, No Symptoms
- Diagnosis, No Symptoms
- Upon Arrival at School
- During the School Day
The School has three dedicated spaces for symptomatic individuals that will not be used for other purposes. These wellness rooms are used to isolate symptomatic students from their Pods while the student is waiting to be picked up.
As NC DHHS updates this Reference Guide, Greensboro Montessori School will adjust their procedures accordingly and may choose more restrictive measures at any time.
The School has a vigorous density-limiting strategy focused primarily on creating independent student groups called Pods. Each Pod is led by one or two teachers and operates in isolation from one another. The number of adults that come into contact with any one Pod is minimized to the extent possible.
Pod schedules include plenty of outdoor play and lessons ensuring students continue to receive the physical, social, and academic benefits of being outdoors, while also taking advantage of the lower risk of transmission from being outdoors. Pod schedules are strategically designed to limit the number of physical spaces shared by any one Pod on campus.
To prevent Pods from mixing during the day, the School has limited opportunities for Pods to come together. We do not host school-wide assemblies, group lunches, Primary singalongs, or other events that bring people together in close physical space for sustained periods of time. Furthermore, our drop off and pick up procedures purposefully limits adults' ability to congregate during these times. Students and families follow specific entrance and exit routes from their vehicles directly to their Pods, either through a designated car line or exterior paths through campus.
To further reduce opportunities for mixing, the School has limited its after-school programming only to those students enrolled in All-Inclusive and After-School CASA and grouped together in their respective Pods. Students are no longer able to "drop-in" for a single afternoon of care. All-Inclusive CASA days, when the School is closed but CASA is open (e.g., teacher workdays, parent-teacher conference days, some days over spring and winter breaks) will no longer run from 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. due to staffing impossibilities. Instead, CASA will be open from 7:30 a.m. until 2 p.m. on these days.
In creating pods that are effective, both as learning communities and independently operating units, the following criteria are taken into consideration and vary by division:
- A pod size we can safely and logistically manage.
- Placing siblings in the same Pod when feasible.
- Grouping students who participate in our Extended Care program (CASA) together, as CASA counselors will now be coming individually to a Pod, rather than having all the children congregate as one large group after school.
- Striving to place students in a Pod with at least one of their teachers from the 2019-20 school year.
- Montessori curriculum featuring multiage learning communities.
Pod structures will look different based on division:
Our Half-Day, Academic-Day, and All-Day classrooms will operate in three separate pods of 10-13 children and a minimum of two teachers throughout the day. Each pod will have a dedicated outdoor play space, ensuring classes remain isolated from each other.
We have six Primary Pods, each with 11 to 15 students and two teachers. (Three of the six pods include students who participate in CASA, our extended day program.) While exposure to other adults is limited, students receive Cultural Education lessons from other teachers, both via virtual lessons (live and recorded videos) and limited, physically distant, in-person lessons. Primary Pods rotate their outdoor play spaces between the athletic field, Downhill, North Beach, the Primary permaculture garden, Uphill, and The Woods.
We have four Lower Elementary pods, each with 12 to 15 students and one lead teacher. (Two of the four pods include students who participate in CASA, our extended day program.) While exposure to other adults is limited, students will receive academic and Cultural Education lessons from other teachers, both via virtual lessons (live and recorded videos) and limited, physically distant in-person lessons. Lower Elementary Pods rotate their outdoor play spaces between the athletic field, the Lower Elementary permaculture garden, North Beach, Uphill, and The Woods.
We have three Upper Elementary pods with 12 to 15 students. (One or two of the three pods includes students who participate in CASA, our extended day program.) Each Pod is primarily led by one Upper Elementary teacher. While exposure to other adults is limited, students will receive academic and Cultural Education lessons from other teachers, both via virtual lessons (live and recorded videos) and limited, physically distant in-person lessons. Upper Elementary Pods rotate their outdoor play spaces between the athletic field, North Beach, Uphill, the Upper School permaculture garden, and The Woods.
We have two Junior High pods with 12 to 15 students. (One of the two pods includes students who participate in CASA, our extended day program.) Each Pod is primarily led by one Junior High teacher. While exposure to other adults is limited, students will receive academic and cultural education lessons from other teachers, both via virtual lessons (live and recorded videos) and limited, physically distant in-person lessons. Junior High Pods will rotate their outdoor play spaces between the athletic field, North Beach, Uphill, the Upper School permaculture garden, and The Woods.
Social DistancingStudents, faculty, and staff will maintain 6 feet physical distance when feasible. Additionally, structural and physical space modifications exist throughout campus to increase the efficacy of social distancing. Examples include:
- Sneeze guards in the Office.
- Semi-private work spaces — or nests — for students in Primary, Lower Elementary, Upper Elementary, and Junior High.
- Temporary walls and carrels where needed in classrooms.
- Decreased furniture and materials in classrooms to create more space for students to remain physically distant.
- Floor markings indicating 6 feet physical distance in waiting areas.
To minimize exposure, we have restricted access to campus. Nonessential visitors and activities involving external groups or organizations are not permitted on campus. For students and adults permitted on campus, opportunities to physically congregate are limited. Staff meetings, parent-teacher conferences, meetings with prospective families, etc. will be virtual when feasible.
Greensboro Montessori School requires all faculty, staff, parents, and visitors wear a cloth face covering when on our campus. Students in Primary, Lower Elementary, Upper Elementary, and Junior High are required to wear cloth face coverings.* Students in our Toddler division are not required to wear a cloth face covering; the School will support a Toddler family who chooses for their child to wear a cloth face covering as long as the child is 2 years old and can safely remove the face covering without assistance.
NC DHHS provides exceptions from wearing cloth face coverings for:
- Anyone who is unable to remove the face covering without assistance.
- Anyone who cannot tolerate a cloth face covering due to developmental, medical or behavioral health needs.*
- Any child under the age of 2.
Students, faculty, and staff will take mask breaks as needed in settings where risk for transmission is lower (e.g., outside and all people are consistently 6 feet apart). Additionally, masks will not be required outside unless individuals are or may be within 6 feet of each other.
*As our population is school-aged children, each Pod will work hard to follow NC DHHS guidelines about cloth face coverings. And as our population comes from various medical, developmental, and behavioral backgrounds, we anticipate some individuals will qualify for NC DHHS-approved exceptions from wearing cloth face coverings. It is therefore possible that not every student in every Pod will be wearing a cloth face covering at all times. We ask and expect that families will accept these circumstances and respect these exceptions. If you feel your child may qualify for such an exception, please contact the head of school to discuss.
As a Montessori school, we teach and promote caring for oneself, caring for each other, and caring for the environment. This culture provides a strong foundation for increased cleaning and hygiene in response to COVID-19.
In addition to Greensboro Montessori School's routine cleaning procedures, the School is disinfecting surfaces and common spaces with increased frequency. Following all NC DHHS and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) disinfection guidelines, the School maintains an ongoing and systematic daily cleaning routine which includes:
- Tactile learning materials and Montessori works sanitized after each use.
- Midday disinfection of high-touch areas.
- Nightly disinfection of classrooms and high-touch areas.
We are also limiting the use of shared supplies in the classroom and limiting the use of supplies that cannot be easily cleaned and disinfected.
- Students in Toddler, Primary, Lower Elementary, and Upper Elementary have their own work rug, which is sent home each weekend to be washed and brought to school the next school day.
- Some learning materials and school supplies are assigned or provided for individual use.
- Students' personal items are stored in separate and individually labeled cubbies, containers, or shelves.
The School has a systematic hygiene routine for COVID-19, which builds upon our already strong culture of "grace and courtesy," which includes caring for oneself, caring for each other, and caring for the environment.
- Faculty provide age-appropriate lessons on limiting the spread of germs by caring for oneself and each other. These grace and courtesy lessons include:
- Proper hand-washing technique using soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
- Coughing and sneezing etiquette, which means coughing and sneezing into your elbow, or to cover your coughing and sneezing with a tissue. Used tissues are thrown into the trash.
- Reminders to avoid touching one's eyes, nose, and mouth.
- How to properly use, wear, and remove cloth face coverings.
- Students wash their hands upon arrival in the morning; before and after playing outside; before and after eating meals and snacks; after blowing noses, coughing, sneezing or when in contact with body fluids; after toileting; and after any physical contact with another student or adult.
- Hand sanitizing stations are available for use when hand-washing with soap and water is not available. Hand sanitizing products have at least 60 percent alcohol. Please note, children under 6 years old receive support from an adult when using hand sanitizer, and they may not bring their own personal bottles of hand sanitizer to school.
- Handshaking and hugging are minimized. When a student's well-being demands close physical contact from a faculty member (e.g., administering first aid, providing a hug to a crying child, etc.), health and safety precautions will be taken, and both the student and faculty member will wash their hands after coming into contact with each other.
- All students provide their own refillable, water bottles, and the School has discontinued use of drinking fountains.
- All students provide their own lunch, including food and utensils. The School does not provide access to refrigerators or microwaves, so students and families are encouraged to use ice packs and thermos as needed.
- Students in Primary and older provide their own nut-free, mid-morning snack in the form of fresh fruit, vegetables, food made with whole grains, or a protein, such as cheese, meat, or sun butter. All Toddler and after-school snacks provided by the School are packaged and served in individual portions.
The School regularly performs maintenance on all heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems to ensure they are working properly and efficiently. In response to COVID-19, the School has taken additional precautions:
- All classroom HVAC units have newly installed air scrubbers which use ionization — charged atoms that attach to and deactivate harmful substances like bacteria, mold, allergens, and viruses — to produce cleaner air.
- All classroom HVAC units have new filters featuring the highest allowable filtration capability for each respective system. Filters will be updated regularly based on the manufacturer's recommendation.
Greensboro Montessori School is working with families, faculty, staff, and community partners to protect high-risk individuals by:
- Offering remote learning for students.
- Offering remote teaching for faculty when possible.
- Asking families with students who have asthma, allergies, diabetes, seizures, or any combination of these conditions, to work with their doctor to update their child's Health Action Plan as needed to decrease their child's risk for exposure.
- Are 65 years of age or older.
- Have a high-risk condition that includes:
- Chronic lung disease or moderate to severe asthma.
- Heart disease with complications.
- Compromised immune system.
- Body mass index of 30 or higher.
- Other underlying medical conditions, particularly if not well controlled, such as diabetes, renal failure, or liver disease.
Greensboro Montessori School's Pandemic Preparedness Committee (PPC) meets daily to weekly, based on the needs of the School and the evolution of COVID-19. This working task force includes the head of school, the associate head of school, and the respective directors of upper school, finance, human relations, admission, and marketing. The PPC works in tandem with the board of trustees and internal legal counsel to monitor national, statewide, and local trends and guidance from reputable sources such as the CDC, NC DHHS, our local health department, and local health care providers.
To maximize the health, safety, and well-being of our students, families, faculty, staff, and local community, the PPC and the School play an active role in providing transparent, ongoing communication with the school community. The School also provides ongoing cognitive, social, physical, and emotional support to students and shares information about other, reliable support services.
Communication and Combating Misinformation
The CDC reminds us that "Schools, working together with local health departments, have an important role in slowing the spread of diseases and protecting vulnerable students and staff, to help ensure students have safe and healthy learning environments." As such, we proactively engage our students, families, faculty, and staff in ongoing dialogue about COVID-19. The School use multiple communication channels to share information:
- The School's evolving response to COVID-19 is detailed in this COVID-19 Resource Center and an Addendum in the School's Family Handbook.
- Posted signs in highly visible locations (e.g., school entrances, restrooms, etc.) promote everyday protective measures and describe how to stop the spread of germs.
- Monthly virtual Head of School Huddles over Zoom create a safe space for ongoing conversation between families and school leadership.
- The School regularly sends emails from the head of school, weekly digital newsletters, and communication from the Pod teachers to families.
Coping and Resilience
Greensboro Montessori School provides access to coping and resilience support services to students, families, faculty, and staff. Students' return to in-person or remote learning will focus heavily on reestablishing healthy classroom routines that support students' cognitive, social, physical, and emotional well-being. We also provide training and support services for faculty and staff throughout the school year, and we are partnering with other institutions and service providers in the community to promote communication and cooperation in responding to COVID-19. NC DHHS also recommends:
- Individuals talk with people they trust about their concerns and how they are feeling.
- Individuals take breaks from watching, reading, or listening to news stories about COVID-19, including social media if they are feeling overwhelmed or distressed.
- Individuals focus on eating healthy, exercising, getting sleep, and finding time to unwind.
- Individuals seeking support for mental health and wellness dial 211 or call The Hope4NC Helpline (1-855-587-3463).