Branching Out

Welcome to The Children’s Garden’s Branching Out webpage!  

Branching Out is The Garden’s comprehensive reopening plan for the 2020 – 2021 academic year that prioritizes health and safety of our children, staff and community in response to the current COVID-19 outbreak while continuing to embody the curriculum, values and connection that define The Children’s Garden School.  

Branching Out was developed by The Garden’s Reopening Committee, a task force comprised of staff members, board members and community advisers united by the common goal of determining how The Garden can safely open its doors to our children and community this fall.  At all times, our Reopening Committee’s work is led by the most current guidelines and information available from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), Public Health- Seattle & King County and the Washington State Department of Health (DOH).

These guidelines, combined with the unique opportunity to provide two, 100% separate outdoor program campuses are key components of Branching Out.

We will be using this webpage to post the most up to date information regarding Branching Out and our return to The Garden this September for all Ladybugs, Crickets and Honeybees.  At this time, we plan to open with exclusively outdoor programming as proposed. Should the local transmission and infection rates of the current COVID-19 outbreak continue to trend upward to a point that our in-person programming can no longer meet the Reopening Committee safety standards and/or state and local policies mandate closure, we will inform you of and adhere to all such policies accordingly.

If you have any immediate questions, please do not hesitate to contact Brin Hamilton, our Office Manager.  She can be reached by phone at (425) 392-1563 or by e-mail at b.hamilton@childrensgarden.org.

Please check back often for updates and we will look forward to seeing you soon!
 

With over six acres of private forests, streams and open play areas, Branching Out relies upon the The Garden’s incredible natural setting and extensive outdoor space to allow small groups of students to gather and learn together while continuing to prioritize health and safety in our programming. 

Branching Out is distinguished by two independent and physically separate outdoor learning spaces that provide opportunities for social and emotional growth through creative play and curriculum geared toward utilizing the unique characteristics of each space:  

Belleamie’s House
At Bellamie’s House, students will learn and play on The Garden’s original playground and classroom deck area.  

Luna’s Nest
In Luna’s Nest, students will learn and play at The Garden Next Door, based in the Tree Circle area.

Each learning space has been updated with new handwashing stations and outdoor shelters. These are in addition to the school’s existing indoor sink and bathroom facilities that have been isolated and designated for exclusive use for each learning area.

Classes will be divided into two, fixed groups that consist of two teachers and up to nine students that will remain together for the duration of Branching Out.

Class groups will rotate learning spaces every other week, allowing all students to experience the unique characteristics of Bellamie’s House and Luna’s Nest while Branching Out.

Ladybugs: $395/month*
Crickets: $450/month**
Honeybees: $540/month

* The first week of Ladybug classes will consist of one-hour parent/child orientation classes to familiarize new students with our outdoor classrooms’.  

** Cricket tuition reflects a reduced rate based upon reduced classroom hours to allow for all-school cleaning.  Full tuition of $490/month will resume once health regulations allow a return to our regular/full-time class schedule.

All classes will be asked to pay our annual materials fee of $225 that now includes a $50 PPE fee.

Our health and safety measures will continue to follow the most recently updated guidance from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), Department of Health (DOH) and Public Health- Seattle & King County.  These measures remain subject to change at any time.  Please check back often for updates.
 
Recommendations for wearing face coverings will be followed by the school.
Routine cleaning and disinfecting of high touch areas between classes.
At car drop-off. Teachers will receive each child at their car.
Daily touchless temperature checks and health screening before entering class areas.
Regular handwahsing and sanitization throughout the school day.

The Policies & Procedures portion of our Branching Out re-opening plan is currently under development.

Please check-back soon for details!o

The Community Commitment portion of our Branching Out re-opening plan is currently under development.

Please check-back soon for details!o

Programming

Q: Will The Garden return to indoor classroom programming this year?

A: Yes, we hope so!  Branching Out is our direct response to the aerosol transmission-based concerns of the current COVID-19 outbreak.  Should case transmission and infection rates fall significantly in King County, a vaccine become readily available and/or a cohort of students and their teachers feel comfortable moving to an indoor environment (given parameters meet school health and safety standards), we will begin transitioning back to indoor classroom programming as soon as possible.  Our Reopening Committee continues to monitor and assess current local information provided by the Washington State Department of Health (DOH) and Public Health- Seattle & King County.

Q: How are class groups being decided?

A: There are several factors that will impact how students are grouped:

  1. All enrolled families will receive an online survey before school begins asking if there are children/families that already spend time together and/or know it would be helpful for contact tracing if their child is grouped specifically with another child/family.
  2. Teachers will provide their input regarding placement for each child that will best accommodate the individual and group social learning environment.
  3. We will also be considering where families reside and will make an effort to have groups reflect physical proximity and location to further reduce contact tracing within our community.

Q: Can my child be placed in a class with his/her friends?

A:  Likely, yes.  We will try to place children in classes with their close friends.  From a health and safety perspective, it’s preferable to group children together with other children that they see outside of school because it minimizes contacts.  We also understand that an important part of our community-focused school is for children to see and interact with friends.  After enrollment is confirmed, we will send out a survey for families to list other families that they either already see or anticipate seeing outside of school.

Q:  My child has a special bond with a certain teacher.  Will we be able to request a specific teacher?

A: One thing that sets The Children’s Garden apart from other preschools is the focus on its community, which in turn allows the teachers to really know the children and family of the Garden.  Together the teachers will consider each child and select the class that they believe will be the best group for each teacher.  We will place our trust in the teachers to know and acknowledge the special bonds both between the children and the teachers.  One of our first priorities, once health and safety standards permit, is to resume teacher rotations so that all children will be able to have time with each teacher in addition to experiencing both learning spaces.

Schedule and Tuition

Q: What is the $250 deposit currently requested for enrollment?

A: The Garden collects June tuition for the upcoming academic year as a non-refundable deposit to confirm enrollment status.  This year, because of the number of unknowns moving forward, we have chosen to make this a reduced and fixed amount. The remainder of the uncollected June tuition deposit will be collected in early 2021 once we can confirm programming will continue as planned and will vary according to the class in which the student is enrolled.

Health & Wellness

Q: Are masks mandatory for the kids?

A: Yes.  A Washington State mandate is currently in place requiring that masks be worn while outside the home.  You can find this information here.  We understand that it is recommended, but not required, for children under the age of five.  However, given that we cannot enforce a six-foot distance between children at all times, we are choosing to encourage mask wearing as a school policy to increase health safety onsite.  We understand that this is a new, and often times uncomfortable, adjustment for our young children.  Our teachers are committed to helping all of our children and families adapt to this new skill while at school.

Q: How will you enforce your mask policy?

A: Our top goals at The Children’s Garden are to provide social-emotional learning while maintaining a safe environment in our programming.

Part of social emotional learning is knowing how to take care of yourself and others. Wearing a mask is a way we can all show care for our classmates and teachers in keeping our bodies safe. 

We understand wearing masks is a new habit to form, and will be firm that children wear masks in interactive settings. This said we support children in checking with their own needs, in and helping build these skills in a safe and supportive way. 

Q: What social distancing measures will be practiced?

A: Our move outdoors, combined with limiting each group to a maximum of nine children, is critical to ensuring that we have adequate space to allow social distancing to occur among many children without having to make it the focus of our activities. Teachers will not call on students to participate in activities that would require them to touch or be in close contact (i.e holding hands), but also cannot guarantee that there will be no immediate contact as children play together.  All group activities (drop-off, snack, circle, pick-up) have been modified so that only one student will travel with a teacher to and from the parking lot to the assigned learning space.  Snack will be in pre-designated seats/areas that maintain recommended three- to six-foot distance between children while eating.  Circle will take place in an expanded format that allows students the suggested minimum of three feet of distance at all times.

Q: Will teachers be able to help a student in the bathroom?

A:  We will continue our current policy and expectation that students should be potty-trained before enrolling at The Garden.  We know that for some, especially our young Ladybugs, potty training is still inconsistent and that accidents will happen.  Our teachers will continue to be able to assist students in the bathroom but, if it is a daily/consistent issue, the teacher will problem solve with the parent and/or the student will be asked to arrive at school in pull-ups or other training pants that do not require an unnecessary increase to hygienic risks.

Policies & Procedures

Q: What is the school policy for children arriving at school with symptoms such as a cough or runny nose, but no fever?

A:  Our daily arrival protocol will include the touchless temperature check as well as a health screen.  This health screen takes into consideration additional COVID-19 symptoms such as a cough or sore throat as well as gastrointestinal symptoms that may not be visible upon arrival.  The health screen, in addition to the temperature check, will dictate whether a child may attend school, or should return home until symptom free, without medication, for the next 24 hours.

We both recognize and understand that this policy will result in an increased number of sick days and absences for both students and teachers.  We ask that families err on the side of caution at all times given the current health concerns, making the difficult decision to keep a child home more often than not, and recognize that our community’s safety is paramount to our continued operation.

Q: Will teachers be self-reporting symptoms and be subject to a daily temperature check as well? 

A: Yes.  All teachers will participate in a daily temperature check and home health screen before arriving on campus.  Should a teacher have or display any of the known COVID-19 symptoms, they will isolate away from the school until they have remained symptom free for at least 24 hours without medication.  Should a teacher come into contact with a positive case, they will follow the guidance provided by the CDC, remaining isolated away from school for 14 days while following the guidance of their healthcare professional. 

Q:  Will teachers and student be required to submit a negative test before starting school?

A: No.  Unless a teacher or student has had exposure to a positive case in the last 14 days and/or displayed symptoms in the past 24 hours, we will not be requiring proof of a negative test prior to the first day of school.

Q: What will the school ask of community members that test positive or are exposed to a known positive case?

A:  All families will sign a contract prior to the first day of school that requires reporting of a positive test by a student or a member of the student’s household and/or exposure to a positive case by the student or a member of his/her household to The Children’s Garden immediately.  A positive case of the student will result in the immediate closure of the school for at least two days following the CDC’s recommendation of complete closure for 24 hours before deep cleaning.  All students and teachers that may have been in close contact (within a six-foot distance for 15 minutes) with the positive case will be notified and asked to remain home and isolate from others for 14 days per the CDC’s guidelines.  Similarly, if a student is in close contact with a positive case, he/she should remain home from school and self-quarantine for 14 days without symptoms before returning to school. 

Resources

Please use the following links for reference to the information, guidelines, policies and procedures that The Children’s Garden will be following during Branching OutPlease note that as a preschool, The Children’s Garden is a childcare facility and adheres to the recommendations and guidelines published for childcare centers, not K-12 schools.

Centers for Disease Control (CDC): National guidelines

CDC guidance for Schools and Childcare settings: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/schools-childcare/index.html

Daily Home Health Screening: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/downloads/community/schools-childcare/Daily-Home-Screening-for-Students-Checklist-ACTIVE-rev5A.pdf

Self-Quarantine measures if you have been in contact with or suspect you have been in contact with a positive case: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/if-you-are-sick/quarantine.html

Washington State Department of Health (DOH): State guidelines

Current Washington State mask mandate: https://www.doh.wa.gov/Portals/1/Documents/1600/coronavirus/Secretary_of_Health_Order_20-03_Statewide_Face_Coverings.pdf

Washington State COVID-19 outbreak data dashboard (by county): https://www.doh.wa.gov/Emergencies/NovelCoronavirusOutbreak2020COVID19/DataDashboard

Public Health- Seattle & King County: County & City guidelines

Guidance for schools and childcare facilities: https://www.kingcounty.gov/depts/health/covid-19/schools-childcare.aspx

Daily COVID-19 Outbreak Summary for King County by city: https://www.kingcounty.gov/depts/health/covid-19/data/daily-summary.aspx