SENT April 3, 2020

Friends,

I just wanted to check in with all of you. Please watch this message and tell your children hello from all of us.

As always, please call if you have any questions.

Best regards,

Comer Yates 404.245.0327


SENT March 26, 2020

Dear Speech School family,

I will try to make this communication much briefer than some earlier ones.
I hope that everyone is well. There is no way to express sufficiently how much we miss our days with the children. At the same time, we cannot say enough about your obvious efforts to give your very best to your children as their parents, home school teachers and "co-workers." We appreciate when those efforts include reaching out to provide us with feedback regarding how we can do our best to support your children and you in this very challenging and demanding moment. Of course, one the greatest challenges results from the daily changes to the technology landscape caused by unprecedented local/global usage of the internet. Therefore, we are particularly grateful for our IT team's constant work to anticipate and respond to this moving target.

With Mayor Bottoms' "shelter in place" notice yesterday (ending April 7) and other public health reports, we will continue, subject to any change in circumstances, with our virtual learning until at least Tuesday April 14. Between now and that time, we will continue to evaluate conditions for purposes of determining when we may be able to return to our Northside Parkway campus.

I was on a very helpful conference call yesterday with 20 heads of Atlanta independent schools. A number of schools are operating on a similar timeline as ours while several have announced that they will continue virtual learning through the end of April. Ongoing weekly calls with this group and communications with our public school colleagues will be an important part of our deliberations.

As always, thank you for your partnership and trust and never hesitate to contact me if I can help in any way possible.

Comer 404.245.0327


SENT March 21, 2020

Dear Families,

First and foremost, we so hope you are giving yourselves a LOT of grace. This is particularly true when you are being bombarded every day with never ending opportunities to consider yourself a failed parent as you can't find time to help your child experience a virtual donkey ride to the bottom of the Grand Canyon, take a guitar lesson from James Taylor, or mold a replica of The David from Play Dough etc. .*

You never signed on for homeschool, which is a large part of each staff member's motivation in ensuring that you have what you need each day, and feel fully supported. Rest assured: you are doing great.

Our staff ramped up in a few short days – going from teaching-in-class to developing and executing a virtual learning and experiences designed to try meet children and families where y'all are, to continue providing a learning experience that aligns with what our families need and expect each day. After a week of this effort, it is time for a moment of reflection. So just put your child in front a computer screen for a few minutes on teachyourparenttocode.com and read on.

We were fast out of the gate – and are now recognizing, with the unfolding news and science, the truth of the phrase, “this is a marathon, not a sprint.” We have already learned that Governor Kemp has ordered Georgia schools closed through March 31 and any honest appraisal of the situation suggests that there is no likely change in circumstances anytime soon.

Therefore, we need to lengthen our stride and make sure that everyone can keep pace – children, families and staff. The intersection of home/work/family is a big adjustment for all of us. With that in mind, we are finding a few ways to modify our gait and keep all of us “in the race.”

1) We are moving to a 4/1 week. That is – we will have four days of instruction, and one day of “application.” Application day is an opportunity for children to put into practice what they learned during the week. We will also host social media “events” during this time on a closed Facebook page to which we will send you a link well ahead of next Friday (along with more information.)

2) What we know is “Application Day” will be referred to as “Fun Friday.” (Do not dare tell your children that they will still be learning still learning!)

3) Now that we have some idea of what this looks like, we will be adding community engagement activities – Fun Fridays will be part of that, and there is also a community service component to the reading incentive program coming this week. Please keep your children reading and reading with your children.

4) Many of our staff are also parents, so we are learning first-hand what this way of working / schooling / living requires of each of us. Thank you for your efforts to give teachers the space and grace to continue to support all our children, while also balancing their own lives. Thank you for your efforts this past week and going forward to help them structure days that fall more closely within the hours of a “normal” school day and evening preparation – so that everyone has time to re-set before the next day.

Lastly, take a look at what else our Rollins Center/Cox Campus team worked on this week. We’ve created a family-focused page on the Cox Campus to share some of what our preschool children are experiencing every day. Please share it with anyone you know with young children (birth through kindergarten) who are not receiving virtual learning guidance. We are keeping it simple: talk, read, play. Each post will cover ideas for each category. It is designed to take pressure off parents, as the single stop for keeping children engaged, learning and building their reading brains. www.coxcampus.org/talkreadplay.

In the meantime, try not to be overwhelmed. Keep in mind what matters: safety, family, exercise – and keeping ourselves open to the learning that is happening, every day. Please see the attached graphic to assist in this effort. In all moments, please never forget that we are here for you and your children. Again, "If you aren't sleeping, we should not be either." So, get some sleep but always call us when you need us.

All the best to you and your children – and again, you are doing great.

Comer and Sondra

*If you are tempted to email us about how to sign up for these activities, you really have to get a grip - even though they do seem like good ideas. I guess that's why I made them up.


SENT March 17, 2020

Dear Speech School families (apologizing in advance for the length of this communication),

On behalf of our staff and our Board of Directors, we hope that you are well. Consistent with the message we sent the children by video on Friday, please know that you don’t need to have signed in with Jackie upstairs or Jeannie downstairs to be on our minds.

We also hope that you are ready to embark upon this new virtual learning journey with us and the children we all love.  We are aware that what we do virtually cannot be the same as our having the opportunities to see the eager faces of our children and to connect with them daily in person. We are doing all we can, however, through our Renweb Learning Management System and Zoom, to give them the best possible instruction, without their actually being in the classroom. As reflected in the attached email sent to you last Friday, please also remember that all this work is being done for the larger purpose of keeping our covenant that your children will discover their voices here at the Speech School and that we are seeking to meet that commitment in the most meaningful way in this singular moment of challenge and uncertainty for our families, community and world.

Thank you so much for the many responses expressing your support for our staff’s work in this pursuit. We share those sentiments as we are overwhelmed by the lengths to which our colleagues, through the internet, are seeking to bring to life the children’s experiences that they would be having here.

At the same time, we need to hear from you when technological challenges are interfering with our teachers’ virtual instruction and engagement and your efforts to partner with us in that interaction. By example, we are learning from some of you that internet speeds, possibly linked to vastly increased telecommuting and virtual education, are inhibiting access to assignments. We are experiencing similar challenges in uploading some of our lessons and resources for your children. These are difficulties that we anticipated and continue to work through them and make adjustments accordingly. One parent called saying that their daughter was concerned that these difficulties might make it hard for her to get an assignment in on time. Please don’t allow your child to despair when we are all learning from this experience. Things will get better. Just promise that you won’t hesitate to communicate with your teacher and/or our technology team when difficulties arise.  For the IT team, please email helpdesk@atlantaspeechschool.org.

Several parents have reached out to ask about technical assistance regarding the Renweb Learning Management System as we are now underway. Here is the link Parent Training Video – Learning Management System (password –factslms) that Aaron Spitalnick our IT Director shared earlier, possibly buried under the countless communications that this situation has demanded.

Of course, we are all trying to adapt to the dynamics of CDC and other governmental alerts and guidelines that are constantly changing. Specifically, given public health updates yesterday and over the weekend and Friday’s declaration of a national state of emergency, we are changing our policy on staff access to the building in the days ahead. By example, as we prepared for a transition to virtual learning, we had planned to have the school remain open to have available for staff the IT troubleshooting, resources, work space, and child care that might assist them in their work. Such access is no longer viable as it is not consistent with our overarching priority of the safety and health of all members of our community – in this instance, our staff and their families.

I will close this email by urging you to watch with your children the attached outtake/blooper from Julia Stoll resulting from her attempt to engage our preschoolers in virtual a “sunshine circle” along with her dog Ruler.  As I hope you already know, our staff always aspires to be great but sometimes the greatness is in letting ourselves just be in the moment.

Please let us know what we can do – at any hour. As Sondra has told countless new parents, “call me, because if you can’t sleep, I shouldn’t be sleeping either.”

Sincerely,

Comer (404 245 0327) and Sondra (678 793 7115)


SENT March 11, 2020

Dear Parents – We continue to appreciate your trust in us, particularly as we are all in the uncharted territory of the COVID-19 Virus. Continuing our communications with you as circumstances evolve, I wanted to let you know that we will be using Monday as a staff work day to ensure that we have maximized our ability to provide the best possible virtual learning experiences, if they become required, for the children. 

To put it in a child’s terms, a student asked me yesterday about that possibility: “Would it be as fun at the Speech School?” My response: “We are trying our best for it to be the Speech School.” For that purpose, we have determined that Monday will be important to meet that standard. I apologize for the inconvenience that this schedule change imposes on you. We look forward to being with your children “live” tomorrow and then again on Tuesday.

As always, please do not hesitate to call me (404 245 0327) if you have any questions or concerns. For context, here is the email that I sent all staff notifying them today of this change.

 

Everyone - The impact of your work and modeling of resilience in every moment is obvious in watching our children go about their days and their own work, joy and play here. I cannot tell you how much I admire your efforts for this period not to be defined by the COVID-19 Virus but instead by how you and our children have responded to it.

Of course, part of that response involves being prepared to provide the best possible virtual learning experience, both individually and collectively, for each of our children. I am grateful for all the work and resources that have been invested in advance of this circumstance and over the past weeks in order to meet this responsibility. We will be taking Monday to complete this process and will notify parents this afternoon that we will not be in session that day.

 

Please don’t hesitate to let Sondra or me know if you have any questions or concerns. 

Comer


SENT March 9, 2020

Dear Families,

It was so great to see everyone again and hear our children as they greet their teachers and friends after the time away. We do have the kindest students! In light of the announcement regarding Fulton County Schools, we wanted to assure you that we continue to closely monitor the situation regarding COVID-19 virus, holding the safety of each of our children as our highest priority. At this time, no Speech School families have confirmed a visit to any of the countries of concern. If we receive notification of travel to one of the Level 3 countries, we will follow the CDC recommendations with the greatest fidelity.  For your convenience and to reduce the number and frequency of emails to your inbox, all future updates will be posted on our website: https://www.atlantaspeechschool.org/schools/covid-19/ which will be “live” tomorrow.

As described in our earlier emails, we also continue to implement our procedures to support prevention of the virus as suggested by the CDC, including: “deep cleaning” of the building (that occurred over the break), increasing hand washing opportunities and techniques, etc.. You can continue to help by keeping your student home when they aren’t feeling well and staying informed when situations change.

Lastly, please be aware that the Montag Lecture series will now be held virtually, here.  Maryanne Wolf is still fully engaged, and enthusiastic about the opportunity to further the importance of virtual learning while not backing down on the critical mission to eradicate illiteracy. (Look for an email specifically on this topic to come tonight.)

Thank you


SENT March 2, 2020

Dear Parents,

I hope you all have a wonderful spring break and that you return to us on March 9th safe and sound as we move into the final months of the school year. This email is meant simply to advise you, given the unpredictable status of the Covid-19 virus, that a plan for “Virtual Learning Instruction” is being developed now. In the event that the Speech School is required to close for a lengthy period of time, we are working on a plan for our students to continue to receive teaching and learning from us in your home.  Presently, we intend to use FACTS (RenWeb) LMS as our platform for Virtual Learning as it already contains all staff and student information and is Cloud-based and platform agnostic. In other words, it should work well for all of our students, families and teachers. The developing plan is for teachers, including Classroom Teachers, SLPs, OTs, Reading Teachers, Assistant Teachers, Enrichment Teachers, etc. to have the capability to provide appropriate learning experiences for your students during an extended school closing. While lessons will need to be recorded rather than livestreamed, our students will be able to receive documents and respond to their teachers during teaching times determined by individual school directors in concert with their teaching staff.

We will be in touch as the Covid-19 situation evolves and our plan is more fully developed.  If necessary, we could jump start the plan within a days’ time.

you so much for being our partner and for taking this journey with us.


SENT February 25, 2020

Dear Speech School Family,

We understand that many of you have continuing concerns regarding the respiratory virus, novel coronavirus (now called COVID-19) that has affected many in Wuhan, China and the impact the virus may have here in the U.S. As always, we are determined to do everything possible to keep you, our Speech School family informed, while we work to keep our children and staff safe and healthy. To that end, Nurse Katrina is continually monitoring the notifications and updates related to the virus and is overseeing the School’s response to the recommendations provided by the CDC.  Please click on the following link if you would like to follow the CDC’s updates about flu and COVID-19:

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-nCoV/guidance-hcp.html .

According to the CDC and the Georgia Department of Health, the best way to prevent infection with any respiratory virus is to use the same strategies used during normal cold and flu season. Therefore, the Speech School continues to take a multi-faceted approach to prevention of illness in our building.  Our approach includes: Health and Wellness, Buildings and Grounds, and Food and Nutrition.

HEALTH AND WELLNESS

In order to continue to promote health and wellness, especially in response to COVID-19 concerns, we are reminding all families and staff members to follow the Speech School’s health and wellness policy:

Wash hands often with warm soap and water (the Happy Birthday Song is the correct amount of time to wash)

Cover coughs and sneezes (with elbow or tissue)

Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth

Avoid contact with people who are sick

Avoid sharing utensils (cups, water bottles, etc.)

Stay home when experiencing symptoms of illness.

Anyone who has vomited or has a fever greater than 99.5 (the threshold has been temporarily lowered) should remain at home until “fever free” for a minimum of 24 hours (without the use of Over the Counter antipyretics).

In addition, on February 6, 2020, an advisory from DPH stated the following:  All individuals (which may include parents, students, or staff) who have traveled to China within the past 14 days and returned on or after February 3, 2020 must remain at home and be monitored for COVID-19 symptoms by the Georgia Department of Public Health (404-657-6588). Students, faculty or staff whose family members have traveled from China in the last 14 days (and are being monitored for symptoms) do not need to be excluded from school.

BUILDINGS AND GROUNDS

We are also dedicated to making sure our building is a healthy environment for our students, staff and our families.  Please see our standard operating procedures and what we have done recently to respond to flu season and COVID-19 below:

Buildings and Grounds utilizes a hybrid cleaning staff with 2 crews – an in-house cleaning crew and an outside vendor. Both crews are required to clean and disinfect surfaces and objects that are touched often or daily, such as desks, countertops, lunch tables, doorknobs, faucet handles, and stair rails. Both crews are trained to use cleaning techniques that help prevent the spread of germs and cross-contamination. They use microfiber cleaning towels to capture more bacteria and EPA-registered disinfectant to kill germs. Hand hygiene supplies and SANI-CLOTH® HB GERMICIDAL disposable wipes are readily available to all classrooms for use throughout the school day. In response to flu season and to allow the outside cleaning crew more time to target specific areas (leaving cleaning solutions longer, etc.) in the evenings, we have added more hours to their contract.

FOOD AND NUTRITION

Chef’s Advantage and all kitchen staff members pride themselves in serving healthy, nutritious meals to our students and staff.  For best health outcomes, make sure that children get plenty of sleep, are physically active, drink plenty of fluids and eat nutritious food to help build the immune system and avoid illness. The COVID-19 virus is respiratory and, therefore, is transmitted between people and not food. However, our food service precautions are listed here:

Hand washing after eating, drinking, coughing, sneezing, blowing nose or touching exposed skin (face, arms, etc.)

Hand washing before putting on gloves and between glove changes

Hand washing before leaving the restroom and again before starting to work in the kitchen.

Covering face with arm/elbow when coughing or sneezing

Kitchen Staff who have experienced diarrhea or vomiting in the previous 24 hours are excluded from work

Our dishwasher sterilizes with heat:  rinse water at 180° or higher for 5 seconds

Sterilizing surfaces with approved anti-microbial sanitizers

Washing fruits & vegetables with approved anti-microbial

Heating hot food to 165° or higher and holding it at 140° or higher

Keeping frozen food at 0° or lower

Holding cold food at 41° or lower

I hope this glimpse of what the Speech School routinely does and is doing in response to the CDC’s recommendations regarding flu and the COVID-19 virus has been helpful to you. The listing above is not meant to be exhaustive.  We mean only to keep you informed about precautions we are taking on behalf of our students and staff in light of recommendations by the CDC and the Georgia Department of Health. While COVID-19 is being carefully monitored to reduce the spread of the virus, the CDC continues to believe the immediate risk to the general public in the U.S. remains low at this time. As with seasonal flu and strep infections, the above are precautions we can all take to remain as healthy as possible now and throughout the year. If you have further questions, please email our nurse, Katrina Henley, or me.  As a community and as individuals we must be mindful of our health and wellness by protecting ourselves and our children, as well as the health of those around us. In saying that, I will leave you with these final words:

Remember to practice good hand hygiene, stay home when sick and educate others!

To a healthy remainder of the year,

Sondra Mims, M.A., CCC-SLP                            Katrina Henley, R.N.

Chief Academic Officer                                      School Nurse

Atlanta Speech School                                       Atlanta Speech School

smims@atlantaspeechschool.org                  khenley@atlantaspeechschool.org