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.
Take a virtual tour of our two outdoor campus areas.
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:
At Bellamie’s Playground, students will learn and play on The Garden’s original playground and classroom deck area.
In Luna’s Forest, 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.
Covered areas at both, Belleamie’s House and Luna’s Nest will provide sheltered spaces.
* 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.
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 Children’s Garden is in the process of creating its COVID-19 screening protocols, policies, and procedures which will include, but not be limited to, the following CDC guidelines. By August 24th, we expect to have complete Policies and Procedures posted on our website and integrated with Brightwheel’s Health Check platform.
All Policies and Procedures followed by The Children’s Garden and Branching Out are in direct accordance with the guidelines published by the CDC and Public Health- Seattle & King County for current childcare operation. Additional information about these policies and procedures can be found on the CDC website.
View, download and print our
Branching Out Family Handbook.
1. All families should complete a daily home screening of their child before they consider leaving the home. They should also verify that there are no members of the family that have/display symptoms of COVID-19.
- If the student/parent/caregiver answers YES to any question in Section 1 but NO to any questions in Section 2, the student should not attend school that day and remain at home (e.g., until symptom-free for 24 hours without fever reducing medications).
- If the student or parent or caregiver answers YES to any question in Section 1 and YES to any question in Section 2, the student should be referred for evaluation by their healthcare provider and possible testing.
2. Upon arrival at school, all families and children will remain in their vehicle in the school parking lot until approached by a teacher/staff member that indicates that it is your turn to exit your vehicle for the daily health screen.
3. Before exiting the vehicle, both you and your child should be masked. Your child will be given a touch-less temperature check and you will be asked to provide answers for the daily health screen for both yourself and your child. This information will be logged into the child’s personal Brightwheel account.
- If the student/parent/caregiver answers YES to any question in Section 1 but NO to any questions in Section 2, the student/parent/caregiver will be asked to return home, monitoring symptoms until all individuals have been symptom-free for 24 hours without fever reducing medications.
- If the student or parent or caregiver answers YES to any question in Section 1 and YES to any question in Section 2, the student should be referred for evaluation by their healthcare provider and possible testing.
4. Once the health screen and temperature check have been verified, your child will be escorted by the teacher to a designated area outside of the parking lot where they will be greeted by and wait with their other teacher until their classmates have joined them to begin the day.
If A Child Develops Symptoms While At School:
1. Any student who develops any of the symptoms in Section 1 while at school will be placed in an isolation area separate from staff and other students. Parents will be notified and asked to pick-up their child from school immediately.
- This isolation area will be located in the office portable, in the room adjoining the main office area. The child will be able to exit the portable via the backdoor where they will not come into contact with any child entering or using the portable restroom.
- This room will be cleaned and disinfected after any child has been isolated for any symptoms or illness.
2. Any child with symptoms that develop while at home or while at school will be permitted back to class after they/parents/caregivers have remained symptom free without fever reducing medications for 24 hours.
If A Child Is Diagnosed With COVID-19:
1. Students diagnosed with COVID-19 or who answer YES to any question in Section 1 and YES to any question in Section 2 without negative test results should stay home, isolate themselves from others, monitor their health, and follow directions from their state or local health department. Students and their families should be advised that the local health department may contact the family for contact tracing. If contacted, families should notify the contract tracer that the student attended school.
2. Students diagnosed with COVID-19 or who answer YES to any component of Section 1 AND YES to any component of Section 2 without negative test results will be permitted to return to school based upon the CDC’s recommendations found here: “When Can I Be Around Others”
- 10 days since symptoms first appeared and
- 24 hours with no fever without the use of fever-reducing medications and
- COVID-19 symptoms have improved (for example, cough, shortness of breath)
Most people do not require testing to decide when they can be around others; however, if your healthcare provider recommends testing, they will let you know when you can resume being around others based on your test results.
- A negative test or doctor’s note is not required for return if all aforementioned CDC protocols have been followed.
- Questions regarding return to school will be jointly decided in consultation with parents/caregivers, school staff, and the student’s healthcare provider.
3. Any positive test result of a student/parent/caregiver must be reported to the school immediately.
School Protocol If A Student Is Diagnosed With COVID-19
1. We will report our positive case status to the local authorities: King County Coronavirus Call Center: 206-477-3977, identifying ourselves as a child care program
2. We will dismiss students and most staff for 2-5 days. This initial short-term dismissal allows time for the local health officials to gain a better understanding of the COVID-19 situation impacting the school. This allows the local health officials to help the school determine appropriate next steps, including whether an extended dismissal duration is needed to stop or slow further spread of COVID-19.
3. We will notify families and adhere to the protocols outlined by Public Health- Seattle & King County.
If A Child Has Been In Close Contact With A Positive Case of COVID-19:
Anyone who has had close contact with someone with COVID-19 should stay home for 14 days after their last exposure to that person.
However, anyone who has had close contact with someone with COVID-19 and who:
- developed COVID-19 illness within the previous 3 months and
- has recovered and
- remains without COVID-19 symptoms (for example, cough, shortness of breath)
does not need to stay home.
Our individual and community health depends on our choices and actions. Our ability to stay safer is only as strong as our shared commitment to each other. We are asking each of you— Garden families and staff—to practice behaviors that support the well-being of our community and keep each other as healthy and protected as possible, knowing that many of our families have high risk members within their households.
View, via link, our Community Commitment and Assumption of the Risk and Waiver of Liability Relating to Coronavirus/COVID-19 forms. Hard copies are provided to each family to sign.
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:
- 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.
- Teachers will provide their input regarding placement for each child that will best accommodate the individual and group social learning environment.
- 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.
Q: If The Children’s Garden finds it necessary to close and discontinue the Branching Out program, is there another program that will replace it and how is tuition affected?
A: The Children’s Garden’s Board of Trustees has not made any decisions about a replacement program at this point, given our current push to launch the Branching Out program. We hope to be able to post a definitive answer by the week of August 17th.
If we move forward with an online option, it will be fee based. This will most likely evolve from survey-driven interest within the current community. We will try to serve our families’ and teachers’ needs if we must transition out of the Branching Out program, but we have not pursued these details present.
If people call with these questions, you can also tell them that we are currently scheduling a Board meeting this coming week and hope to be able to provide many more answers the following week of August 17th
A special note from our teachers:
Q: How will the staff decide which group my child will be in?
A: At The Children’s Garden, we have always strived to have gender balance in each class along with a mix of new families and returning families. We will continue to look at those aspects, but in addition, we will look at each individual child and find what we feel is the best placement for them. We will look at how they have been most comfortable in the past, perhaps with a best buddy, or perhaps with a teacher that the student works especially well with. We will also consider family requests. Perhaps you have been in a bubble with another Garden family, or you need to organize carpools or childcare with another family. Please let us know if you have any special requests and we will do our best to take everything into consideration and find the best placement for your Gardener.
Q: How is Branching Out going to be like “The Children’s Garden” we love so much?
A: If there is anything that we have learned over these past 6 months, it is that the staff of The Garden bring ‘The Children’s Garden’ wherever we go! Whether it be a drive by to your home, a parking lot Art Show, a video greeting in your weekly mail, or a socially distanced graduation!
When we take on a new project or new curriculum, the first thing we ask ourselves, is how can we make this “Gardenesque?” The curriculum at The Children’s Garden has always been about social emotional and play based learning, along with community building. We are fortunate to have two large outdoor natural settings to carry out our mission safely during this time.
Our classes will alternate weekly from the Belleamie campus on the playground to the Luna campus in The Garden Next Door. Above all, the most important reason that we are returning to an in-person program is for our students to get back to a social emotional setting, being able to play and learn, to share and make friends and to problem solve. That is where The Garden excels. We love to guide and model and watch students’ social emotional skills grow and develop moment by moment, day by day, whether it is outside, in the classroom, or walking down to the gazebo. Our goal for our students is to learn how to be a good friend, an advocate for themselves and for others and a good citizen.
We also understand that our community craves the classic events, routines and ‘rite of passage’ activities and presentations that are so beloved at The Garden. These activities too, help to promote a strong and confident voice in our students. While on the Belleamie campus we will have the space and surfaces more conducive to teacher led projects and crafts. On the Luna campus we can follow a more child-led approach with less formal lesson time and more exploration of the beautiful landscape, learning about the natural environment, nature crafts, science, drama, and reconnecting with friends in dynamic child-led play. On both campuses, we will continue to do news, have an opening and closing circle, calendar, Second Step, poetry recitations, nursery rhymes, songs, celebrations and thematic studies. For example, for a two week time period, the children on the Luna campus might be learning about fall leaves, while the children on the Belleamie campus will be learning about salmon. There could be art projects, stories, dramatizations, poems, nursery rhymes, fairy tales etc. that tie into each subject for each campus. Then after a week, the cohorts will switch campuses and curriculum themes.
Our special events are already being discussed amongst the staff with regards to how we can celebrate with confines of social distancing and CDC guidelines. Rest assured, we will do our best to recreate the community building and spirit of each celebration.
We are excited to get back to school. We’ve missed the students and missed working with our families and our friends! We are all going to be learning this fall as we take on this new adventure of Branching Out at The Children’s Garden
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.
Please use the following links for reference to the information, guidelines, policies and procedures that The Children’s Garden will be following during Branching Out. Please 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
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