In pursuance with the Mayor of New York City and NYSAIS, Manhattan Country School plans to reopen on April 20. We will begin distance learning, MCS en Casa, on March 30.
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. We are focused on the safety and health of our community, on our responsibility as part of a broader community and on preparation for various scenarios that could unfold.
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.
Please note, Farm trips for the two 8-9s classes the week of April 13-17. 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.
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.
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.
CANCELLED trips and events
- 6-7s Community Sing; Lightbulb Post Office will be temporarily downsized significantly this week, and will resume for families after the break.
- 7-8s family share
- 8-9s La Tienda
- MLK Book Award Gathering with Children’s Workshop School and CPE II
- 5th Grade Farm Trip on March 30
- Parents' Association PLF on April 7
- 8-9s Farm Trips the week of April 13
- Big Night Out!, April 25 - Postponed
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.
Mary and Kerry
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.
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.
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.
Stephanie Bloom, school nurse
Ilene Green, school psychologist
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.
IT System & Network Manager
Computer Teacher & IT EdTech Manager