Manhattan Country School will continue MCS En Casa, our distance learning program, for the remainder of the school year.
6-7s Building Study: Progressive Education

COVID-19 and MCS en Casa

COVID-19 and MCS en Casa

As the escalating spread of COVID-19 has changed our very way of life – in New York, across the nation and around the globe – the critical importance of maintaining our physical distancing has become increasingly clear. Manhattan Country School will continue MCS En Casa, our distance learning program for the remainder of the school year.

While we navigate this unchartered territory, there are, remarkably, stories about acts of empathy and compassion, reaffirming the ways our schools’ missions have become so much more than words on a website. At MCS, we are fortunate to be a part of a community that lifts one another up. Nurse Stephanie, with help from Jamie and Amanda donated boxes of masks to a local hospital. I encourage you to take this time to lean into your MCS family and share with us your stories of resilience. Now more than ever, we need to take care of one another. In partnership with MCS families, PA leadership and the administrative staff, MCS will keep you updated on ways you can help. Stay tuned for more information.

While we cannot physically be at the Farm, John and the rest of the Farm faculty and staff are in the middle of sapping, welcoming lambs being born and setting up the gardens for summer and fall. They are also thinking about ways they can use video to keep us connected with what is happening at the Farm. Here is a special video from John to remind us of the MCS Community. 

Visit the MCS Community Site. 

Message from the Director, FAQs

MCS en Casa, Michèle Solá Video Journal: April 6, 2020

______________________________________________________________________

March 31, 2020

Dear MCS Families,

I’ve thought of you many times these last two weeks as we have undergone such an abrupt transformation of our lives. New York City is a whole new experience. The kind of love and connection that our diverse community knows is possible has taken on new meaning. 

Any nervousness about returning to school was erased last night at a ZOOM meeting with class reps and members of the board’s executive committee. Mary, Kerry, Cynthia and I wanted to share the distance learning plans that had been coming together with teachers. As familiar faces popped onto the monitor, the beautiful mosaic that is MCS greeted one another and us too. They then shared some of their own teaching experiences, asked questions and made suggestions that helped us finish letters to lower and upper school and a first set of FAQs. 

FAQ #1 - March 30, 2020
FAQ #2 - April 9, 2020

MCS en Casa will launch on Monday. It aims first to reconnect students to their teachers and to one another and reknit the community ties that are physically isolated at home for a while. Lower and Upper School look somewhat different but are the same in their focus on a combination of academic subjects and social emotional development. We will prioritize keeping children at the center of their learning with self-directed exploration in whatever ways we can with the complexities of families as partners who may also be working at home. 

We are mindful of the many signature curriculum units that kids look forward to, like home visits, the post office, farm trips, reading buddies, the “Living the Dream” Book Award, social justice and activism, and of course graduation. Those will have to be reimagined for distance learning as we learn more together. Over the coming weeks, we intend to add more remote programs, including social and emotional support, some after school classes, and collaborations with families that build upon our common goals and expertise. 

We shared our anxieties about helping children who are scared feel more safe, the ways technology has taken over our lives, and concern for the community members who are working in hospitals and other essential jobs and those impacted economically by measures to contain. Mary talked about the anxieties teachers are feeling too.

Gisele Shorter ‘91, the MCS board chair who is also an MCS graduate, added some perspective. School districts all over the country are challenged by this transformation from intensely in-person to a distance-learning model. Whatever the pedagogical choices a school has made, the transition is underway. Initially the process inevitably runs into snags that require patience and adjustments. Having heard that advice from our other school friends and colleagues too, Kerry shared that our aim was “slow and steady.”  

Throughout MCS history, a national crisis and the lives in our community have intersected before. Today’s COVID-19 pandemic and its sweeping economic impact, while still unknown, are bringing into focus those other contexts when MCS was a stabilizing force in the world and for staff, children and families in the community. Children and families have looked to MCS as a place where differences were part of the design, and changing circumstances are the history we are living and have the ability to shape. Throughout our history, we have learned that challenging times require a lot, sometimes a lot more. Greater compassion for one another, and greater opportunity for experiences across virtual divides will surely be meaningful today too. 

Thank you for all you have done to stay connected to one another and for continuing this journey through challenging times.

FAQ #1 - March 30, 2020
FAQ #2 - April 9, 2020

Be Well, 
Michèle Solá

Virtual Events
  • Tuesday, May 5 - Town Hall 
  • Friday, May 8 - Pajama Party Read-Aloud
  • Friday, May 15 - Math Night En Casa
  • Tuesday, May 28 - Town Hall
  • Thursday, May 21 - Upper School Bingo Night
  • Thursday, May 21 - Sing-A-Long and Tertulia for 4-5s through 7-8s
  • Thursday, May 28 - Community Sing for 8-9s through 8th Grade
  • Tuesday, June 2 - Town Hall and State of the School Meeting 
MCS en Casa - Lower School

Program Updates - April 17

Dear MCS Families,

We are thinking of all of you and hoping you are safe and healthy. While we have only had 12 days of MCS En Casa, it feels like longer than that. For children this probably feels like an eternity when combined with the two-week break in March. Children must be wondering when this situation will end, and it must be frustrating that there is not a definitive answer to that question because so much is still uncertain.  

The enormity of the ramifications of this pandemic continues to impact everyone. Through it all, the grown-ups are trying to provide some sort of consistency for children. We empathize with the roles that parents and caregivers are managing -- many staff members are doing the same -- and we know that this is taxing. Most children are not used to their parents being their teachers and most parents are not used to being teachers for their children. And, of course, MCS teachers and your children are supposed to be together -- in classrooms, at the park, on a trip or at the Farm.

Our teachers have risen to the challenge of designing and implementing MCS En Casa in remarkable ways, demonstrating incredible flexibility and creativity as they have learned new ways to teach and to be there for and with children, albeit a bittersweet way to be together. The whole staff is contributing to these efforts with a spirit of purpose and innovation that is characteristic of MCS. When we carve out time to step back from the details it takes to support these plans, we have the pleasure of watching this marvelous production unfold behind the scenes, not unlike how we imagine stage managers might feel, as we can see all the pieces coming together and witness the interdependence that this whole process requires. While none of these dedicated teachers at MCS were thrilled about the prospect of the need for this school-at-home production, we are not surprised that they would approach this monumental undertaking in a true collective effort with such care, energy and wisdom.

There is no guide for what we are faced with now and so the partnership between all the grown-ups continues to be more important than ever as we support the children - and each other - through this time. There are many moving parts to these plans, and we continue to adjust them based on many factors. As we design the plans, we are thinking carefully about the amount of screen time for children as well as considering the wide range of family circumstances and obligations, including many grown-ups needing to work long hours, both at and away from home, and families who have multiple children and other relatives who need care. By providing certain activities as well as recorded videos and audios that can be accessed at any time, there is greater flexibility for families to create schedules that are as manageable as possible for them.

We are giving care and thought to each decision as we implement these plans with the goal of honoring the mission and culture of MCS to the greatest extent possible, given extraordinary parameters. This week we introduced more regular times in the schedule with specialist teachers as well as more electives in the Upper School. In keeping with our objectives for MCS En Casa, it was important to ease the students into these new home routines gradually as they get accustomed to having school at home. The specialist teachers have Google Sites now and they will continue to create material for engaging children’s learning, creativity and imagination.  

Soon, the MCS Community Site will be expanded to include the following tabs: 
Wellness Team, the Farm, Mathematics En Casa and the MCS Food Program. We will update you as we continue to design this Site. The Wellness Team will be posting announcements about their weekly meetings with parents. We are planning some larger community events this spring -- stay tuned for more information about these in the coming weeks. 

An important part of MCS’ mission is being supportive to communities in NYC and beyond. Activism and social studies help to frame the core of the curriculum at MCS. While activism is more challenging now that we are confined to our homes for the most part, people in NYC and around the world are thinking creatively about how to support one another and those in our communities with the greatest needs. We invite MCS community members to send examples of actions families are taking to help in our communities. You are welcome to send photos to Ryann to post on the MCS in the Community Site. Through children’s writing, dictation, drawings and other activities, we will be documenting this time in our history. We also will be providing a necessary vehicle for children to express their thoughts, worries and hopes in order to help them process what is happening -- to them and around them. We recommend the New York Times article below entitled "The Quarantine Diaries" and we welcome other resources that you may come across that address how children are recording this time in history and trying to make sense of it through self expression.   

John joined the 7th and 8th Grade homeroom meeting and took us on a virtual walk through the barn, where we got reunited with the pigs, the sheep and the new calf Buttercup.

To close, the 6-7s were asked what they missed most about school:

"I miss that I can’t go to my classroom.
I’m missing everything including movement, music, art.
School is made to do stuff like learn, not at home! At home my brain is stopping me! 
I miss everything!! I miss most of all going outside and running!
Pretty much math. 
I miss being with my friends at work time
I miss mostly everything but the most, outside."

It is very much how we are feeling, too.

Warmly,
Mary, Cynthia and Kerry

_______________________________________________________________________________________________________

MCS en Casa Objectives, April 5, 2020
We understand how challenging it is for the MCS community to be apart from one another. Children must be wondering when they will be able to see certain relatives and why they cannot return to school and see their friends and teachers. For you, as parents, as well as for various staff members, we recognize that in many cases the grown-ups are expected to perform their job remotely from home while caring for children. We are aware that some in our community are no longer able to perform their jobs, and some are working endless hours as health care providers, first responders and employees in essential businesses supporting us all while they put themselves in harm’s way. We are worried about the health and safety of ourselves, our loved ones and community members.​

Children pick up on their grown-ups’ anxieties and the things they hear and see around them on a daily basis. By now your children probably have been asking more questions about changes they notice in their physical environment as they express their growing concerns. ​They must be wondering many other things about this new abnormal we are experiencing. Hopefully they will share their feelings with their trusted adults and we will try to help them through this. Together, we will provide reassurance for children that everyone is helping to make people safer by staying at home for the time being until we can see one another again and return to our normal routines. ​

It is difficult to plan for any semblance of school routines to coexist within this uncertain global picture in which we all find ourselves. For a school as committed to progressive pedagogy as MCS, this presents an enormous challenge for everyone. Despite all the limitations, careful planning continues on the part of the staff as this stark reality is extended. We have included our objectives and additional components of the plan for MCS En Casa below.  ​

Objectives for MCS En Casa 
Our objectives for MCS En Casa are rooted in what it means to be a progressive school. The notion of “online school” is antithetical to our entire mission, just as it would be for most schools. Yet our teachers are still managing to recreate certain aspects of an MCS education in such inspiring ways. We are continually in awe of their wisdom and creativity as we watch the videos, read the messages and view the activities they are creating for your children. 

As a progressive school, we stand by wanting to create a curriculum that is purposeful and rich. Since most of our teaching relies on hands-on and interactive participation, however, this is a dramatic shift for our teachers to devise these online plans. We are utilizing innovative skills as we work collaboratively to create certain meaningful ways to help children stay connected, to feel as safe as possible, and to be able to engage in some opportunities and activities that resemble school life in some ways. This is a herculean task, even for the most talented of teachers, like ours. There are plenty of schools that rely heavily on worksheets, repetitive drills, and testing and this task would be simpler in those settings. That is not MCS. Therefore, our objectives follow a developmental approach grounded in the tenets of our mission.

Many of our teachers and staff have family members who they are caring for at home. Therefore, we will do our best to respond to emails within 24 hours, but please understand if it takes a little longer. We need to do everything we can to support the staff in this endeavor.  

Schools are juggling the experiences of many families -- each with its own routines -- and within many homes there may be more than one child, and for some families, there are other relatives at home temporarily. In all of this variation, we recognize that some families would like more online time with teachers and some are feeling overwhelmed by the amount of time children are being asked to be in front of a screen or doing “school” work. This is all part of the balancing act that the staff is doing now, and it requires trust and patience on everyone’s part. For families who feel they cannot keep up with the work or the screen time, we understand. 

There will still be plenty of learning occurring for children during this time -- it will just look different. In fact, there will be opportunities for children’s imaginations to be tapped like never before. Let’s remember that every single child out of regular school around the world is in this same boat. When children are back in the classroom, we will all course-correct to meet them where they are and move them along with the skills that they need. Teachers are experts at this work.  

General Program Updates 
Google Sites
We are implementing Google Sites for each classroom from 4-5s through 8-9s in an effort to keep everything organized and easily accessible. If you have questions regarding Sites, please email Tiffany.

Google Classroom
We are building in time, particularly as the children get older, to provide feedback for the children about their work -- whether that be projects, assignments or an art or science activity. Upper School students and teachers are familiar with the Google Classroom platform and 9-10s students are just beginning to learn how to use this tool. Teachers are thinking carefully about how best to structure their “office hours” in the week to fit varying needs.

Wellness Team 
In case you missed it, please refer to the April 2nd letter from Stephanie, Ilene and Chawon.

Farm
Starting soon, the Farm will have a Google Site. They have been making videos and we are sure you will enjoy them immensely.   

Specialist Classes
Starting soon, these Lower School classes will also have Google Sites: Art, Computer, Library, Music, Phys.Ed, Science, Shop and Spanish. Teachers have been working hard to create videos, audios and other projects and these will complement the classroom plans beautifully. In the Upper School, Electives have started and more classes are being added.

An Afterschool Program Message from Chawon
Thank you to all the families who have been patient with us as we transition to an online version of the Afterschool program. We are excited to announce that a few classes for Afterschool will begin on Monday. Please check your inboxes for an email if you have not done so already. Families will continue to receive notifications regarding each class. If you have any questions, please let Chawon or Christine know.

Final Thoughts 
We recognize that this crisis necessitates a tremendous amount of change for us all. We will need to be generous and flexible as we work through this period together. We rely on your partnership and we are grateful for your support of the dedicated work from teachers and the rest of the staff in these efforts. Many of you have reached out with supportive emails, and the staff is grateful for this. In cases where you may have concerns, we ask that you communicate them with consideration for the hard work that is going into these plans and the enormous stress that everyone is experiencing. We also ask that you recognize that these plans can change over time.  

As educators we are thinking about what children need most right now, and that is to feel comforted and loved. They want to know that things are going to be okay and return to normal. At the end of all of this, children’s physical and mental health will be more important than anything else. The fact that they were supported by their trusted adults will stay with them long after the memory of what they did during this time. 

In closing, we are attaching some helpful resources, a quote from Fred Rogers and a few videos, two of which illustrate a sampling of the ingenuity of our staff and the affection we have for you and your children. We hope you enjoy them. We certainly loved watching them and there are more to follow.  

We are thinking of you and your children and we miss seeing you at MCS.

Fondly,
Mary, Cynthia and Kerry 

What we are reading and watching
Fred Rogers Center Support for Helpers During Coronavirus
Greater Good’s Guide to Well-Being During Coronavirus 
NYTimes Now’s a Good Time to Teach Your Kids to Play on Their Own
NYTimes 4 Ways to Help Your Anxious Kid
COVID-19 Tips for Parents

What we are enjoying
Jay reading Too Much Noise
John reading Frederick
Love Sweet Love Performed By Berklee Music Students

 

__________________________________________________________________

March 29, 2020

Dear Lower School Families,

This has been an unprecedented Spring Break and so much has developed and changed since we were last together on Thursday, March 12. Though a great deal is uncertain and the news can be unsettling, we hope that you and your families are safe and healthy and have found ways to relax and recharge, whether through reading, cooking and baking with your children, snuggling up for a family movie night, or whatever you need for your own self-care during this difficult time.

We have had many Zoom meetings over these past two weeks with administrators and teachers to make plans. It has been heartwarming to see teachers and staff on these virtual calls, knowing that they are in safe places and taking care of themselves as much as they can. Teachers have been incredibly thoughtful about making these distance learning plans as purposeful and innovative as possible, given the constraints. 

As we prepare the MCS community for MCS en Casa to begin on Monday, March 30, we ask that you remember we are figuring out this “new normal” together. Teachers are working hard to present our curriculum in a way that is sustainable for you as families and for the teachers. We are seeking ways to maintain our progressive approach, to the best of our ability, given we cannot replicate the hands-on/face-to-face approach that is so central to an MCS education. We will move slowly and deliberately, making changes or additions and shifting our expectations as needed. We are keenly aware that our strength at MCS is our community and what we all need most during this time is to connect in ways that are meaningful.

When we parted for Spring Break, each class planned for two weeks of activities. Here are some guidelines in terms of what you can expect from your classroom teachers:

  • If they have not already done so, classroom teachers will share their two-week plans with families on Sunday, March 29 by email.
  • During these first two weeks, teachers will send a short, daily check-in email by 9 a.m. each school day outlining activities/work, checking in with families and/or inviting feedback. The first of these check-in emails will be on Monday, March 30. Thereafter, teachers will continue to engage in regular communication with families throughout each week. 
  • Classroom teachers will find two mornings, on average, to connect with the whole group via Zoom or a shared video. Specialist teachers and other staff members have participated in planning and will be involved in the implementation of our distance learning plans, often joining Zoom meetings. We believe we have scheduled Zoom meetings in such a way as to avoid conflicting times among MCS siblings. If Zoom meetings across LS and US divisions present a conflict please let us know so we can do our best to make adjustments to the schedule.
  • Some teachers will be sharing a loose schedule to delineate learning times, movement breaks, reading/literacy, clean-up, lunch and so on. These schedules are a tool for those families wishing to incorporate more routine and structure within the day, but should be implemented to the extent that they are helpful and feasible.
  • Teachers will be available for “office hours” for any email questions from students or parents until 3:00 p.m. each school day.
  • Looking ahead to April, we will follow the school calendar in terms of days off from school. Therefore, on Friday, April 3, please keep in mind that teachers are not expected to be available as they will be writing reports. Likewise, school is closed on Thursday, April 9 and Friday, April 10 for holidays.

We are thinking together with other progressive schools about some of the important lessons that children will glean from this challenging time in their lives:

  • Children will be watching and listening to how their trusted adults respond to this crisis and they will learn from our example. Children will feel more secure when they know they can do something to make everyone feel safe. From washing hands to signing a petition, helping children focus on empowering actions is a good idea.
  • Children are experiencing a complicated array of feelings, including boredom, isolation and anxiety. We can best support them with some extra attention and understanding in this challenging time. Stephanie, Ilene and Chawon will make themselves available to families and will offer resources and advice about talking with children during this crisis.

In addition to reaching out to teachers and administrators, please know that your classroom parent representatives are also a great resource for any general questions.  

On behalf of the entire staff, in the city and at the Farm, we are grateful for your children, and for all of you. We find enormous comfort in knowing that we are part of the MCS community. 

Fondly,
Mary and Kerry  

MCS en Casa - Upper School

Program Updates - April 17

Dear MCS Families,

We are thinking of all of you and hoping you are safe and healthy. While we have only had 12 days of MCS En Casa, it feels like longer than that. For children this probably feels like an eternity when combined with the two-week break in March. Children must be wondering when this situation will end, and it must be frustrating that there is not a definitive answer to that question because so much is still uncertain.  

The enormity of the ramifications of this pandemic continues to impact everyone. Through it all, the grown-ups are trying to provide some sort of consistency for children. We empathize with the roles that parents and caregivers are managing -- many staff members are doing the same -- and we know that this is taxing. Most children are not used to their parents being their teachers and most parents are not used to being teachers for their children. And, of course, MCS teachers and your children are supposed to be together -- in classrooms, at the park, on a trip or at the Farm.

Our teachers have risen to the challenge of designing and implementing MCS En Casa in remarkable ways, demonstrating incredible flexibility and creativity as they have learned new ways to teach and to be there for and with children, albeit a bittersweet way to be together. The whole staff is contributing to these efforts with a spirit of purpose and innovation that is characteristic of MCS. When we carve out time to step back from the details it takes to support these plans, we have the pleasure of watching this marvelous production unfold behind the scenes, not unlike how we imagine stage managers might feel, as we can see all the pieces coming together and witness the interdependence that this whole process requires. While none of these dedicated teachers at MCS were thrilled about the prospect of the need for this school-at-home production, we are not surprised that they would approach this monumental undertaking in a true collective effort with such care, energy and wisdom.

There is no guide for what we are faced with now and so the partnership between all the grown-ups continues to be more important than ever as we support the children - and each other - through this time. There are many moving parts to these plans, and we continue to adjust them based on many factors. As we design the plans, we are thinking carefully about the amount of screen time for children as well as considering the wide range of family circumstances and obligations, including many grown-ups needing to work long hours, both at and away from home, and families who have multiple children and other relatives who need care. By providing certain activities as well as recorded videos and audios that can be accessed at any time, there is greater flexibility for families to create schedules that are as manageable as possible for them.

We are giving care and thought to each decision as we implement these plans with the goal of honoring the mission and culture of MCS to the greatest extent possible, given extraordinary parameters. This week we introduced more regular times in the schedule with specialist teachers as well as more electives in the Upper School. In keeping with our objectives for MCS En Casa, it was important to ease the students into these new home routines gradually as they get accustomed to having school at home. The specialist teachers have Google Sites now and they will continue to create material for engaging children’s learning, creativity and imagination.  

Soon, the MCS Community Site will be expanded to include the following tabs: 
Wellness Team, the Farm, Mathematics En Casa and the MCS Food Program. We will update you as we continue to design this Site. The Wellness Team will be posting announcements about their weekly meetings with parents. We are planning some larger community events this spring -- stay tuned for more information about these in the coming weeks. 

An important part of MCS’ mission is being supportive to communities in NYC and beyond. Activism and social studies help to frame the core of the curriculum at MCS. While activism is more challenging now that we are confined to our homes for the most part, people in NYC and around the world are thinking creatively about how to support one another and those in our communities with the greatest needs. We invite MCS community members to send examples of actions families are taking to help in our communities. You are welcome to send photos to Ryann to post on the MCS in the Community Site. Through children’s writing, dictation, drawings and other activities, we will be documenting this time in our history. We also will be providing a necessary vehicle for children to express their thoughts, worries and hopes in order to help them process what is happening -- to them and around them. We recommend the New York Times article below entitled "The Quarantine Diaries" and we welcome other resources that you may come across that address how children are recording this time in history and trying to make sense of it through self expression.   

John joined the 7th and 8th Grade homeroom meeting and took us on a virtual walk through the barn, where we got reunited with the pigs, the sheep and the new calf Buttercup.

To close, the 6-7s were asked what they missed most about school:

"I miss that I can’t go to my classroom.
I’m missing everything including movement, music, art.
School is made to do stuff like learn, not at home! At home my brain is stopping me! 
I miss everything!! I miss most of all going outside and running!
Pretty much math. 
I miss being with my friends at work time
I miss mostly everything but the most, outside."

It is very much how we are feeling, too.

Warmly,
​Mary, Cynthia and Kerry

____________________________________________________________________________________________

MCS en Casa Objectives - April 5, 2020

We understand how challenging it is for the MCS community to be apart from one another. Children must be wondering when they will be able to see certain relatives and why they cannot return to school and see their friends and teachers. For you, as parents, as well as for various staff members, we recognize that in many cases the grown-ups are expected to perform their job remotely from home while caring for children. We are aware that some in our community are no longer able to perform their jobs, and some are working endless hours as health care providers, first responders and employees in essential businesses supporting us all while they put themselves in harm’s way. We are worried about the health and safety of ourselves, our loved ones and community members.​

Children pick up on their grown-ups’ anxieties and the things they hear and see around them on a daily basis. By now your children probably have been asking more questions about changes they notice in their physical environment as they express their growing concerns. ​They must be wondering many other things about this new abnormal we are experiencing. Hopefully they will share their feelings with their trusted adults and we will try to help them through this. Together, we will provide reassurance for children that everyone is helping to make people safer by staying at home for the time being until we can see one another again and return to our normal routines. ​

It is difficult to plan for any semblance of school routines to coexist within this uncertain global picture in which we all find ourselves. For a school as committed to progressive pedagogy as MCS, this presents an enormous challenge for everyone. Despite all the limitations, careful planning continues on the part of the staff as this stark reality is extended. We have included our objectives and additional components of the plan for MCS En Casa below.  ​

Objectives for MCS En Casa 
Our objectives for MCS En Casa are rooted in what it means to be a progressive school. The notion of “online school” is antithetical to our entire mission, just as it would be for most schools. Yet our teachers are still managing to recreate certain aspects of an MCS education in such inspiring ways. We are continually in awe of their wisdom and creativity as we watch the videos, read the messages and view the activities they are creating for your children. 

As a progressive school, we stand by wanting to create a curriculum that is purposeful and rich. Since most of our teaching relies on hands-on and interactive participation, however, this is a dramatic shift for our teachers to devise these online plans. We are utilizing innovative skills as we work collaboratively to create certain meaningful ways to help children stay connected, to feel as safe as possible, and to be able to engage in some opportunities and activities that resemble school life in some ways. This is a herculean task, even for the most talented of teachers, like ours. There are plenty of schools that rely heavily on worksheets, repetitive drills, and testing and this task would be simpler in those settings. That is not MCS. Therefore, our objectives follow a developmental approach grounded in the tenets of our mission.

Many of our teachers and staff have family members who they are caring for at home. Therefore, we will do our best to respond to emails within 24 hours, but please understand if it takes a little longer. We need to do everything we can to support the staff in this endeavor.  

Schools are juggling the experiences of many families -- each with its own routines -- and within many homes there may be more than one child, and for some families, there are other relatives at home temporarily. In all of this variation, we recognize that some families would like more online time with teachers and some are feeling overwhelmed by the amount of time children are being asked to be in front of a screen or doing “school” work. This is all part of the balancing act that the staff is doing now, and it requires trust and patience on everyone’s part. For families who feel they cannot keep up with the work or the screen time, we understand. 

There will still be plenty of learning occurring for children during this time -- it will just look different. In fact, there will be opportunities for children’s imaginations to be tapped like never before. Let’s remember that every single child out of regular school around the world is in this same boat. When children are back in the classroom, we will all course-correct to meet them where they are and move them along with the skills that they need. Teachers are experts at this work.  

General Program Updates 
Google Sites
We are implementing Google Sites for each classroom from 4-5s through 8-9s in an effort to keep everything organized and easily accessible. If you have questions regarding Sites, please email Tiffany.

Google Classroom
We are building in time, particularly as the children get older, to provide feedback for the children about their work -- whether that be projects, assignments or an art or science activity. Upper School students and teachers are familiar with the Google Classroom platform and 9-10s students are just beginning to learn how to use this tool. Teachers are thinking carefully about how best to structure their “office hours” in the week to fit varying needs.

Wellness Team 
In case you missed it, please refer to the April 2nd letter from Stephanie, Ilene and Chawon.

Farm
Starting soon, the Farm will have a Google Site. They have been making videos and we are sure you will enjoy them immensely.   

Specialist Classes
Starting soon, these Lower School classes will also have Google Sites: Art, Computer, Library, Music, Phys.Ed, Science, Shop and Spanish. Teachers have been working hard to create videos, audios and other projects and these will complement the classroom plans beautifully. In the Upper School, Electives have started and more classes are being added.

An Afterschool Program Message from Chawon
Thank you to all the families who have been patient with us as we transition to an online version of the Afterschool program. We are excited to announce that a few classes for Afterschool will begin on Monday. Please check your inboxes for an email if you have not done so already. Families will continue to receive notifications regarding each class. If you have any questions, please let Chawon or Christine know.

Final Thoughts 
We recognize that this crisis necessitates a tremendous amount of change for us all. We will need to be generous and flexible as we work through this period together. We rely on your partnership and we are grateful for your support of the dedicated work from teachers and the rest of the staff in these efforts. Many of you have reached out with supportive emails, and the staff is grateful for this. In cases where you may have concerns, we ask that you communicate them with consideration for the hard work that is going into these plans and the enormous stress that everyone is experiencing. We also ask that you recognize that these plans can change over time.  

As educators we are thinking about what children need most right now, and that is to feel comforted and loved. They want to know that things are going to be okay and return to normal. At the end of all of this, children’s physical and mental health will be more important than anything else. The fact that they were supported by their trusted adults will stay with them long after the memory of what they did during this time. 

In closing, we are attaching some helpful resources, a quote from Fred Rogers and a few videos, two of which illustrate a sampling of the ingenuity of our staff and the affection we have for you and your children. We hope you enjoy them. We certainly loved watching them and there are more to follow.  

We are thinking of you and your children and we miss seeing you at MCS.

Fondly,
Mary, Cynthia and Kerry 

What we are reading and watching
Fred Rogers Center Support for Helpers During Coronavirus
Greater Good’s Guide to Well-Being During Coronavirus 
NYTimes Now’s a Good Time to Teach Your Kids to Play on Their Own
NYTimes 4 Ways to Help Your Anxious Kid
COVID-19 Tips for Parents

What we are enjoying
Jay reading Too Much Noise
John reading Frederick
Love Sweet Love Performed By Berklee Music Students

____________________________________________________________________

March 29, 2020

Dear MCS Upper School,

This has been a uniquely different spring break for everyone. Many of us are getting to know the insides of our homes and each other in ways we probably never thought possible. Over the past week teachers have been meeting online and working together to plan what distance learning, MCS en Casa, can be like for our Upper School students and their families. More than anything we are striving to stay true to our mission of progressive education, to help our students continue to grow as learners and to maintain our connection as a community. There are many ways that will help us to do that.

Email is the fastest method to communicate with your child’s teacher, support team, or administrator. Teachers will post assignments in Google Classroom and students will submit their work there for teacher feedback. 7th and 8th graders are already familiar with this platform and 5th and 6th are still learning. Zoom for Education will enable us to hear and see each other in this time of social distancing. It will also allow students to meet with their teachers/advisors and continue to get the guidance that helps our young people navigate the sometimes choppy waters of adolescence. All teachers are setting up “office hours” to give students and families more individual access and support.

5th and 6th grade will use Monday, March 30 as a day for reconnecting. Shani and Tiffani will send an email which maps out the first week and beyond. Both teachers will post expectations for work to be completed.

7th and 8th grade have a more departmental programmatic system, and individual teachers are planning weekly check-ins and lessons in each of their subjects. Advisement times will happen on a weekly basis and the advisors will continue to be the direct link to hearing about your child’s academic and emotional progress. On Monday, March 30 instruction will begin at 9:30 a.m.. Each student’s advisor will reach out by email before Monday.

Ilene Green, Chawon Williams, and Stephanie Bloom will set up scheduled “office hours” that will be open to students and adults. They recognize the importance their support has been for everyone.

Guidance for speaking to children about the coronavirus and helping them to remain calm
Just as this break was unique, MCS en Casa will be different from what students are used to. We are still asking them to keep community guidelines and rules in mind, so we are asking all families and students to read the new Zoom/Technology Guidelines and sign this Google Form confirming their understanding.

I want to thank all of you for your patience as we transition to distance learning. I can begin to understand the feelings of trepidation and excitement that pioneers experienced as they headed into uncharted territory. MCS has weather storms in the past. Pulling together and remembering that we are still a close community, even though we are apart, will be the glue that holds us all in place.

Cynthia

Wellness Team and Technology Resources

We hope that you are all safe and sound, and processing this difficult time as best you can.

As the MCS Wellness Team, we wanted to share with you a few more resources and make sure you have our contact information. We invite you to reach out to each of us as needed. 

Managing Stress and Anxiety During the COVID-19 Outbreak
Educational Video for Children

The three of us have worked together before this time, to collaborate on supporting all members of our community. While we may have different roles within the community, we share a similar sensibility in working within our areas of expertise to support any and every member of the MCS community. To that end, and in the current situation, we will be sending out resources from time to time, making ourselves available for individual meetings and coming together to sponsor some Zoom sessions for parents and staff members. You can sign up for individual sessions here. Please watch out for further announcements!

Until then, please stay safe and take care of yourselves.

Best,
Stephanie Bloom, school nurse
646-946-7000

Ilene Green, school psychologist 
(212) 222-9396

Chawon Williams, school counselor
(212) 348-0952 ext. 230

From the MCS Tech Department

We have received a number of emails from parents concerning “Zoombombing.” This is where an uninvited participant enters a Zoom meeting and shares graphic video or images and offensive language.  

Your concerns are legitimate and we understand the anxiety you might feel. The security of our children in this new reality of Distance Learning is paramount to all of us at MCS.

What you should know  
All of our faculty have participated in Zoom training sessions with the Tech Dept. We covered the use of passwords, Personal Meeting IDs (PMI’s), removing participants, turning off video, muting participants, controlling chat functions, and screen sharing.

Our default settings for classroom Zoom meetings are configured to prevent these sorts of unwanted interruptions. All of them are private meetings with meeting IDs only shared within our community. 

Around the country, “Zoombombing” has only occurred during public Zoom meetings where the host posted the Meeting ID on the internet, or other public forum.  We do not know of any reported instance where a private meeting has been bombed.  

MCS faculty DO NOT publish Meeting IDs on the internet or on public forums. Zoombombers randomly guessing a 9 or 10 digit meeting ID and entering while a meeting is in session is also very unlikely. That would be like coming up with a valid social security number, then finding the owner in a room filled with millions of people.

As administrators of all MCS Zoom accounts the MCS tech department is also able to jump in and assist in any Zoom meeting if needed.

If you have questions or concerns, we want to hear them. We kindly ask that you share them with your Class Reps so they can communicate them with us. 

David Medina
IT System & Network Manager

Paul Williams
Computer Teacher & IT EdTech Manager

Messages from the Farm

At the MCS Farm, daily life for both children and adults is guided by routines and systems. Now, faced with so many unanswered and unanswerable questions, our mantra, “The land is our most significant teacher,” is helping to guide the work of the Farm staff. Even with student trips cancelled for the foreseeable future, the Farm lives on and must be tended. Lambs have been born and sheep will be sheared. A Jersey heifer calf, which the 8-9’s named Buttercup, was born to her mom Dairy Queen last week. The greenhouse is bursting with fruits and vegetables waiting to be transplanted to the garden beds. As I write this, a new batch of chicks arrived! The stores of Farm food, which was destined for our kids’ plates, are being donated to the growing number of families in our Catskill Mountain community who are food insecure. 

While spring moves forward, we all recognize what is missing from the Farm: children. There are rites of passage during all Farm trips, but spring is that season of growth that we all cherish. While the Farm staff has been creative in producing videos of MCS Farm life to help keep our families connected, we also understand that they are no substitute for this place and the experiences children have here. Our 8th grade class will not have their final Farm trip, one that is especially filled with tradition. The 9-10s, who have been corresponding with their pen pals at Roxbury Central all year, won’t have their important face-to-face meetings. The 7-8’s very first Farm trip is in jeopardy. 

While we rightfully mourn the loss of these times, the Farm, in its stubborn march forward, is a symbol of hope. We will all return to this place, beloved by generations. Food to feed our community both at the Farm and on 85th Street is being raised in greater abundance than ever. The water which flows in the Farm’s stream will continue to nourish New York City residents and tickle the toes of children. And when we come back together again, the sounds and smells that feed our souls will seem even more pungent and the sky, both day and night, even more filled with wonder.

Stay well,
John