About
COVID-19 Information

Middle School COVID-19 Plan

The Middle School faculty and staff are looking forward to welcoming students back on campus in late August. We have spent these past few months connecting with our colleagues at Ellis and around the country to share our remote learning experience from the spring, to plan for a return to on-campus learning, and to refine our remote learning plan in the event that we need to transition to it for a few days or a more significant length of time.

In many ways, our priorities for the beginning of school remain the same: placing students and our mission at the center of our decision-making, transitioning students and families to the next grade level, and building our classroom communities. This year, our most important consideration as we begin school is the health and safety of our Middle School community—students, families, faculty and staff. In order for students to feel safe and to have a robust experience, we must support and grow our Middle School community, from the transition of the rising fifth grade students into Middle School to our eighth grade students who will become our student leaders. 

We know that establishing classroom learning communities for students helps them to feel valued and respected, to gain insight from listening to others’ opinions and perspectives, and to develop skills in working with their peers to solve problems. As we navigate the beginning of the school year, our building, classrooms, and some curricula will look different. We have redesigned our classrooms and common spaces to comply with Center for Disease Control (CDC) and Pennsylvania Department of Health guidelines on smaller groupings, face coverings, social distancing, and hygiene practices. 

We will prepare our students for our remote learning contingency plans with lessons on attending class via Zoom and utilizing our available technology and resources––Unified Classroom, Google Docs, and Chromebooks. As we prepare to return and in the first weeks of school, we will focus on our social and emotional learning as it is necessary to ensure that all students feel connected and have a toolkit of resources as they deal with the transition to feeling comfortable in school after several months away and the new dynamics of social interactions.

Schedule

We have created a two-week schedule with classes scheduled Monday through Friday, rather than on numbered days. Class times and time spent in classes will remain the same or increase. This will allow a more seamless transition to remote learning if needed and prevent a complete schedule change. It also ensures that students will have access to their complete schedule of classes whether in school or learning remotely. Our Tiger Day activities will be integrated into two days of this schedule. Students will still wear House Shirts and have House Games—although they will look a bit different. 

Student Cohorts
 
We have reenvisioned our spaces in order to limit mixing between groups during the school day—at lunch, in classes, advisories, homerooms, and common areas. At no time will students be in groups larger than 25 when indoors. In order to meet these guidelines, students will be grouped together by grade level as much as possible. Students in a different grade level math or world language class will still access that class in-person with face coverings and six-foot social distancing. Our fifth and sixth grade students will travel together as a cohort for Performing Arts, and our seventh and eighth grade students will attend Performing Arts classes and electives together. For Band and Choir, students will play and sing outside with twelve-foot social distancing and face coverings, and in the Auditorium and Alumnae Hall if weather conditions are not conducive to being outside. Our teachers will further mitigate performing in each period by integrating lessons that do not involve singing/playing.

Homerooms and Advisory Study Hall

Homerooms will be divided in two sections for grades 5, 7, and 8; and one section for grade 6 given its smaller size. For morning homerooms (8:00–8:10 a.m.), students will be supervised by two grade-level advisors and will have staggered times to visit lockers after morning arrival. Our new schedule will still include an Advisory Group Study Hall at the end of the day during which students will meet with their small advisory group in a designated location. 

Snack/Lunch 

Students will eat snack and lunch in grade-level homerooms, supervised by faculty and with social distancing. One grade will be assigned to eat lunch in the courtyard at least once during the week if they choose, and students will be able to have recess outdoors as well. Students will not be required to wear face coverings when eating nor when outside at recess with six-foot social distancing.

Common Spaces

Our common spaces, such as the Middle School Lounge, have been rearranged to accommodate social distancing. Some hallways will convert to one direction. In order to prevent any congestion and respect social distancing, we will have staggered dismissal times for homerooms and classes to visit lockers. Students will be allowed to carry their backpacks with them from class to class to avoid trips to lockers.
  • Restrooms: We will reduce occupancy in our Middle School restroom and convert the doors to one entrance and one exit. Students will be allowed to wait outside the restroom on floor signage with teacher permission. 
  • Water Fountains: Water fountains will be covered except for bottle filling. Each student is asked to bring their own labeled water bottle to school with them each day.
  • Outdoor Spaces: In order to maximize our time outside, we have created an outdoor spaces calendar which allows each division to schedule access for classes, lunch, and recess. 

Materials

In addition to our school supply list provided at the beginning of the summer, we are asking families to provide some additional supplies to remove the need for shared materials: glue sticks, colored pencils and markers (one pack of eight), scissors, tape, and a ruler. 

Classrooms

We have redesigned our classroom layouts to accommodate six-foot social distancing between students. In order to accomplish this, we have reduced the occupancy of our classrooms and created new room schedules and classroom seating configurations. Sanitizer stations will be located in the front of all classrooms, and students will be asked to sanitize upon entering and leaving the classrooms. Furniture will be sanitized by teachers between classes. 

Co-curricular Programming

In order to comply with the current limit on inside gatherings, we will hold House Games and Middle School meetings virtually. We will continue our club programming while maintaining cohorts and small groups. 

Our field trips are an important part of our Middle School experience, and we are looking closely at each trip. Field trips that take place outside are being closely evaluated, while we are not making plans for trips that take place indoors at this time. 
  • After a review of safety protocols, we have made the decision that the eighth grade day trip to Camp Guyasuta in Sharpsburg will take place on September 23. 
  • We are waiting for the Frick Environmental Center and Lutherlyn Camp’s safety protocols prior to making a decision about these trips for grades 5 and 6. We are also investigating day options for the fifth grade trip to Lutherlyn. 

Family Events

We deeply value our partnership with families, and we have worked to develop a plan for advisor conferences, Curriculum Night, and our fall conferences that provides families with important information and feedback. Our advisor conferences will take place via Zoom, and advisors will send out individual links to families. We will keep conferences scheduled for August 31 and follow the schedule that families signed up for through Sign Up Genius
  • Our Community Picnic will go virtual this year, and I am thrilled that our Middle School Ellis Parent Association representatives and room parents are joining me in planning a fun and festive kickoff to the beginning of the school year. Stay tuned for more details about this event on September 1!
  • Curriculum Night will offer a Zoom meeting at each grade level with the grade-level advisors that will provide an overview of the year and information specific to that grade.  Our faculty members will share video recordings of their class organization and structure, and we will share this information with families through email. This information will also be posted on Unified Classroom pages.  
At this point, we plan to conduct fall conferences in October in the same manner as the August advisor conferences and include feedback on individual students from each teacher. We are in discussion with the Educational Record Bureau (ERB) about their plans for fall standardized testing, and we will provide this information to families along with any anticipated schedule changes. 

Remote Learning Access

Middle School students who are unable to be on campus due to COVID-19 related health concerns will have remote access to all of their courses. Students will follow the same schedule for both in-person and remote classes, and Zoom links, assignments, and materials will be provided via Unified Classroom in advance of all class meetings. Students accessing their courses remotely are responsible for joining class at the designated start time and are expected to be engaged and present throughout the class period, just as they would in the classroom.

We recognize that the physical setup of our building and the structure of our classrooms will look different this fall. We are committed to providing the same robust learning experiences, and our faculty have worked hard this summer to re-envision their curricula with these guidelines in mind. Our experience in remote learning taught us that our students are resilient and they grow in independence. I have faith that they will rise to the occasion again as we walk through this challenge together. We know that all of us will spend this fall in various degrees of adjustment, and as community members, we must work together to ensure the health and safety of all.

Middle School FAQs

List of 11 items.

  • Can a student switch to remote learning after starting online?

    We are eager to be as flexible as we need to be in this regard. Teachers will teach assuming they have students both on campus and accessing school remotely from home. If you decide your daughter needs to switch to remote learning, let your division head know and they will communicate that with the teachers. Everyone will have the Zoom links for every class, so the only lag would be in getting materials.  And the same is true for a student who has been learning remotely and is coming back to school: let us know so we can be prepared.
  • How will you encourage students to be forthright when they are not feeling well and to seek out guidance?

    We will go to homeroom meetings during the first week to address these issues. Middle and Upper School students can let their teachers know if they aren’t feeling well, and go see the School Nurse.  

    In the past, it was common for kids that weren’t feeling well to still come to school. Now, it needs to be a whole family responsibility for those students to stay home instead. For us to be safe as a community, we need parents to pay attention to their children’s symptoms, and if there’s any doubt, keep them home. This is a key reason behind our decision to make it easy to access school remotely from home.
  • How will spaces be used for lunch/snack?

    We have set up a schedule for all outdoor spaces, and have already scheduled activities that have to be outside like singing and P.E. We will also be allowing students to eat outside as often as possible. For lunch, both outside and inside, students will be in small groups with adult supervision. They will be required to be socially distanced, and not to take masks off unless sitting and eating.  
  • How will you make sure that extroverted students feel nourished and cared for, instead of being told to back off?

    We will talk with the students about that in Advisory and encourage them to be outside as much as possible where they can be more free and demonstrative. We will also talk about how to share feelings and how to communicate emotion and affection without touching and being close to someone. We don’t want girls to feel they need to be something other than who they are. We will also ask girls for suggestions and share what has worked for them.
  • If students aren’t able to come to campus, will they still be able to attend school remotely so they don’t miss any content?

    Yes. All Upper School teachers are going to teach every class assuming someone is at home. They will have a Zoom meeting link on their Unified Classroom page that is a dedicated link for a virtual classroom. If a student is absent for any reason (assuming they are not too sick to come to class), they can join the remote classroom that day and find the materials that are posted. We want to make it as easy as possible for students at home. If a student is too sick to attend remote classes, then the makeup work will be posted on Unified Classroom and the student should check in with their teachers and advisor for the best schedule for making up the work.

    It’s the same for Middle School: a student will have access to the links and materials that they need for remote learning. During orientation, we will go over all of it with students in case that happens.
  • What is the dress code for remote learners and can masks be different patterns and colors?

    Any cloth mask with more than one layer or surgical mask that is comfortable and fits well works. It’s most important that students can tolerate the mask.

    Our expectation for remote learners in the Upper School is to adhere to non-uniform guidelines, which are posted on MyEllis. In Middle School, students need to wear a uniform for remote learning—at least the part that we can see (polo shirt). We will continue to have dress-down days and Tiger Days in House shirts.
  • What types of masks are acceptable?

    They need to be cloth masks with multiple layers or surgical masks. Bandanas and neck gaiters are not acceptable. Face shields alone are not allowed.
  • What will the student experience look like for remote learners?

    The teachers have had training, the rooms have been set up with an additional camera and microphone, and the School has been exploring ways to engage students who are remote and how best to incorporate them into discussions and activities, including when social distanced in a group.  

    For example, if there’s an experiment that can’t be replicated at home, they will find a similar way that it can be done at home. From seeing the board work to hearing in-class discussions, our goal is for students at home to see and hear what is happening in real-time so that they feel like part of the classroom. The expectations are the same for students at home as at school: to feel engaged and connected.
  • When can students buy lunch from the cafeteria?

    Our food service provider, Metz, is creating a process through which food can be ordered ahead of time. We will not have a cafeteria line, but individually wrapped salads or sandwiches. Money will need to be put on your Metz account in advance, and then the food will be delivered to the rooms where the students will be eating. Students can bring food from home, but all food must be nut-free since students will be eating throughout the campus and we can’t designate nut-free areas.
  • Who gets contacted if there’s a case?

    Please see our response flow chart.
  • Will the locker rooms be used during P.E.?

    There have been many questions about athletics and team sports. Our goal is to prioritize the health and safety of our students while enabling them to move and exercise. We are loosening up uniform rules on P.E. days, so they won’t need to use the locker rooms for class. Locker rooms will just be used as bathrooms and with limited occupancy.

    On P.E. days, students should wear shorts, leggings, or some form of comfortable legwear underneath their kilt and tennis shoes so they don’t need to go into the locker room. They can take off their kilt and leave it in a place that is designated for them during P.E. class. Please make sure your student’s name is written on their kilt.