FAQs: Creative Minds’ Plan for Reopening

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Updated on July 30, 2020: New questions are marked in red.

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Schedules & the School Year
Learning & Instruction
Social-Emotional Support, Development & Activities
Technology & Other Resources
School Meals & Food Delivery
Health & Safety: The School Building
Health & Safety: Community Members
Learn More: Meetings, Community & Contact Information

Creative Minds is starting the 2020–21 school year, which begins on Monday, August 31, on a virtual-only schedule. All students will be learning remotely. Our guiding principles are the health and safety of our community, the continued learning and growth of our students, the Creative Minds mission and philosophy, and the importance of maintaining an inclusive environment.

The protocols for safety and health that will be implemented if we eventually offer in-person schedules are based in science. They follow all requirements from OSSE, the DC Department of Health, the Deputy Mayor for Education, and the DC Public Charter School Board. They also follow the recommendations of these organizations, whenever possible.

This FAQs page is evolving. Please check back for updates.

Schedules & the School Year

Why did you choose to start the school year on a virtual-only schedule?

Choosing to start the school year on a virtual-only schedule was a difficult decision, one we made after hundreds of hours of discussion, debate, and analysis. We were guided by consultations with city agencies and by feedback from staff and families.

We acknowledge that remote learning is a particular hardship for parents and caregivers who are unable to work remotely. We also know that in-person learning is best for most, if not all, students. Both realities meant that deciding to start the year virtually was not easy for any of us.

What took precedence was the health and safety of our community. Enhancements that will make our building safer are in progress. We’re developing safety protocols for any return to in-person learning. But we knew that we could most safely start the school year, with the most consistency for students, if we returned to class via remote learning.

We are committed to the growth and learning of our students and to delivering high-quality instruction, resources, and support through our virtual-learning program. Please see the “Learning & Instruction” section below for details.

For how long will students be learning remotely?

The simple answer is that we don’t know. Safety is our top priority, and much depends on the public-health situation. We would like to offer in-person schedules, though a virtual option would remain in place for any family that chooses it. See the next question for more information.

What will the schedules look like for each grade?

We’re still working on our schedules and will share them with you after they’ve been finalized. This is what we’re considering right now:

Assigning all students to grade-level, six-student groups. These groups will be students’ cohorts and will promote community, collaboration, and social interactions.

Preschool & Prekindergarten: We’re planning for five days a week of synchronous and asynchronous experiences that are as close as possible to authentic in-person learning. Our recommendation is that families aim for their children to participate in morning meeting, three learning centers, and social groups when offered. We know that this may not be possible for all families, and we’re flexible about students’ participation.

  • Live Morning Meeting, at 9:00 a.m.: A chance to connect in real time.
  • Learning Centers: Six learning centers, both live and recorded, will be offered every day: math, art, science, music, read-aloud, literacy, and movement. We recommend selecting three or four centers a day, if possible. Learning-center participation is flexible, according to families’ needs.
  • Social Groups: Three times a week, we’ll offer live teacher-facilitated games and activities that focus on student interaction.
  • Enlightenment Classes: We’ll offer art, PE, Spanish, and Mandarin classes—one of each class per week. Classes may be live, recorded, or both; we haven’t yet decided. Music will be offered in the second semester.

Kindergarten–4th Grade: Students in these grades will likely have a five-days-a-week schedule of live sessions, recorded videos, and time working on independent tasks—both on their own and in small groups.

  • Live Morning Meeting, at 9:00 a.m.: A chance to connect in real time and get ready for the day.
  • Live Instructional Small Groups: Two to three times a week, students will learn with teachers in small groups: math, literacy, and the International Primary Curriculum. Students will participate in learning activities that support the daily recorded lessons. They’ll also spend time collaborating with peers on their work. All groups will have live office hours with teachers.
  • Recorded Lessons and Independent Tasks
  • Live Social Groups: Teacher-facilitated games and activities focused on student interaction.
  • Enlightenment Classes: We’ll offer art, PE, Spanish, and Mandarin classes—one of each class per week. Classes may be live, recorded, or both; we haven’t yet decided. Music will be offered in the second semester.
  • Live Share Time: Two to three times a week, for each subject. These will be opportunities for students to share and take pride in their work and build community with their peers.

Fifth–8th Grades: The middle school team is planning for a program that looks much like a regular school day, with an emphasis on students being in class and engaged. As Lorna Dill, director of middle school, says, “Grades will count!”

Touch points, when teachers will check in with students about their academic and other needs, are being built in to the schedule, as is time for social-emotional learning and support. The Student Wellness Team will be available for one-on-one sessions with students who need help with executive functions.

Still being determined is how many days per week students will have a schedule of live classes, on Zoom. Teachers will provide assignments for students to work on independently when live classes aren’t in session.

All classes, except Advisory, will last for 45 minutes. This is the tentative schedule for live classes:

  • Morning Meeting: 9:00 a.m.–9:45 a.m.
  • Advisory Period: 9:50 a.m.–10:20 a.m.
    A time for teachers to focus on community, well-being, and social-emotional learning with students.
  • Second Period: 10:30 a.m.–11:15 a.m.
  • Lunch: 11:30 a.m.–12:10 p.m.
    A teacher-facilitated live lunch on Zoom, to give students the chance to make social connections.
  • Third Period: 12:15 p.m.–1:00 p.m
  • Fourth Period: 1:15 p.m.–2:00 p.m
  • Offline Independent Work: 2:00 pm.–2:45 p.m.
    A time for scholars to finish work and check in with teachers to get help with assignments. This is also a time when teachers will be available to answer questions from families.

On Wednesday, teachers will host office hours, when they’ll meet online with students and offer one-on-one or small-group support.

Live enlightenment classes—music, PE, and Spanish or Mandarin—will also happen on Wednesday.

We know that this is a big transition and will do everything we can to support our students.

What will schedules look like for students with IEPs and 504 plans?

Students with IEPs and 504 plans will participate in related services online, a delivery method that was successful for many of our students last spring.

We will continue with the inclusion model of special education students participating in the general education program, with support from inclusion staff. In addition, inclusion staff will work with special education students in small groups or one on one to support IEP goals. These services will be scheduled around general education classes to ensure that special education students are given equal access to all learning opportunities.

Will attendance be taken? What are the attendance requirements, and what will count as “being at school”?

Attendance requirements come from the Office of the State Superintendent of Education. OSSE is requiring 180 days of school for 2020–21, the same as in previous years, and mandating that attendance be taken. Schools have some flexibility to determine what counts as “being at school” for virtual-learning programs.

We’ll share information soon about how Creative Minds is taking attendance and defining participation.

Will you eventually offer options for in-person learning? When might this happen?

We would like to offer in-person schedules, if we can safely do so. Our first check-in point, when we’ll send an update to our community, is early October; the V Schedule (all virtual) will remain the only option until at least the end of October.

When we check in, we’ll look at the public-health situation and the status of our safety enhancements for the school building and determine whether in-person instruction is feasible. The V Schedule would remain an option, even if in-person schedules were implemented.

We’ll also consider the number of families that might choose an in-person schedule for their children. To help us determine this, please share feedback via our Google form.

How will you determine that it’s safe to reopen the school building and offer in-person schedules?

Any decision to reopen the school building and offer in-person schedules will be based in science and will happen only if we think it’s safe to do. For the first two months of school, we’ll be tracking how well our virtual-program is going. In early October, we’ll look at the public-health situation, review guidance from city agencies, analyze feedback from staff and families, and share information about whether in-person schedules will be offered in 2020 (before winter break).

What schedules might you offer for in-person learning?

We have considered the I Schedule (four days at school, one day remote) and the AA/BB schedule (two days at school, three days remote).

Our intention would be to make the I Schedule available to students whose parents and caregivers are essential workers or otherwise unable to work remotely, or to families with significant childcare challenges.

My child is starting at Creative Minds this year in preschool/pre-K3. Do we have the option of starting only when you reopen for in-person classes?

We are waiting for guidance from the city on this topic, and we recommend that your child begin the year with other students on the all-virtual schedule. Our hope is that all preschool students will engage in some virtual learning, but we are very flexible as to which activities they select and how often they participate.

Would you consider starting in-person instruction earlier for students in preschool and prekindergarten if it’s proved that transmission rates are lower for children of this age?

We might consider this, but we can’t promise it will happen. Science will drive any decision to open the school building and welcome students back for in-person learning.

Would you consider outdoor instruction if you offer in-person schedules?

We have considered holding classes outdoors, and we’re fortunate to have so much outdoor space available to us on campus. No firm plan has been developed, but discussion is ongoing. Abby Sheffer, director of lower school, and ten of her teachers will be attending a conference on outdoor education to learn more about this approach.

Have you considered assigning students to “pods,” or small groups of peers who would limit their in-person interactions to one another for academic learning or social activities?

We aren’t planning to sponsor or staff pods for Creative Minds students. These are our two biggest concerns about pods:

Safety: Students and teachers could be exposed to COVID-19 outside their pod meetings and bring the illness back to pod members. We’re unwilling to sponsor activities that put our community members at risk of contracting COVID-19 or that might contribute to the spread of this illness in our city.

Equity: Our students come from all eight wards of the city, and inclusiveness would be a challenge if we were to form groups among this dispersed population.

We ask families that are considering pods for their children to know the risks and keep in mind how these activities might affect other people.

If you offer in-person schedules, will you still offer the V Schedule—the remote-only option?

Yes, for as long as the public-health situation warrants it, we will continue to offer the remote-only schedule.

If you offer more than one in-person schedule, will siblings be able to attend school on the same days?

We would allow families to request that siblings attend school on the same days and aim to accommodate this, whenever possible.

Are you considering offering in-person related services to students with IEPs and 504 plans while Creative Minds is on the virtual-only schedule?

We’re considering providing in-person related services to select students. This will be determined as we get closer to the beginning of the school year and will depend in part on the public-health situation at that time.

Please email Amita Lathigra at amita.lathigra@creativemindspcs.org with any questions about related services.

When will the full-year school calendar be available?

We’re still finalizing the 2020–21 calendar. Our goal is to provide that to families in late July or early August.

Please email Heather Hesslink, director of operations and compliance, at frontdesk@creativemindspcs.org with any questions about schedules.

Learning & Instruction

What are synchronous and asynchronous learning and instruction?

With synchronous instruction and learning, students are learning with a teacher in real time. Learning and feedback take place concurrently through online experiences or phone calls. An example of this is when students join their teacher at a specific time for a live Zoom lesson.

Asynchronous learning and instruction happen when students are learning away from the group, on their own schedules—for example, when they’re completing a lesson that a teacher has assigned or they’re watching a recorded video of their teacher. Students learn and get feedback on the same material at different times and locations.

Our virtual-learning program will offer a combination of synchronous and asynchronous learning and instruction. The goal is to offer consistency through a set schedule, opportunities for engagement through live online classes, and flexibility through assigned lessons and recorded videos.

What did you learn from delivering remote instruction and services this spring? What are you changing about remote delivery?

Our switch to virtual instruction and learning happened very quickly in March, and remote delivery was a learning process. Though we had planned ahead, the circumstances were unprecedented, and we weren’t able to anticipate every requirement.

In June, our instructional staff participated in three weeks of professional development, in which they discussed their remote-learning takeaways and began planning for the next school year.

The result of our reflection, discussion, and analysis is that this year’s virtual-learning program will improve on what we offered in the spring, and it will include the following:

A focus on academics: A strong academic model that mirrors the regular school day as much as possible and promotes all students’ growth and learning.

Clear expectations and schedules: A school day that begins at 9:00 a.m. for all students. Students and families will know which lessons will be synchronous and at what times these lessons will be offered. They will also know where to find asynchronous lessons—for example recorded videos. And there will be clear distance-learning expectations for students and families.

Flexibility: A variety of opportunities for instruction and learning: small group, whole group, synchronous, and asynchronous.

Methods for engaging all students, at every grade, in learning: We’ll offer small-group, large-group, and one-one-one experiences. There will be regular touch points between teachers and students, as well as teacher-facilitated social activities and daily morning meetings.

A single learning platform: After success with Seesaw in third grade, we’ll be using this platform in all grades. We will share videos about using Seesaw with families.

Community building and support for student’s social-emotional needs: Activities will include regular touch points between teachers and students, check-ins from the Student Wellness Team, small groups of grade-level cohorts for students that promote social interactions, and teacher-facilitated social activities.

How much screen time will be required for students?

We haven’t yet finalized our schedules, but we’re estimating that students in preschool through 4th grade will spend about three hours each day with screens, and students in 5th through 8th grades will spend about four and a half hours.

Flexibility will be built in for our youngest learners—for example, families will be able to choose how many online learning centers their preschool or prekindergarten children participate in.

Some screen time will be real-time, or synchronous, learning with teachers and peers. Other screen time will be asynchronous, when students are completing assignments or watching recorded videos.

Students with IEPs and 504 plans will receive related services online.

We are calling virtual learning imperfect by nature—because we know that students learn best with in-person instruction—but necessary for a safe start to the school year.

We will be balancing meaningful, developmentally appropriate screen time with offline breaks and assignments, while making sure that grade-level learning continues through a high-quality education program.

How will new students be assessed for special education services? What about new students who already have IEPs and 504 plans—how will services be set up ?

New students with IEPs will meet virtually with our special education coordinators, Maura Hoyson and Amy Nicholson, to discuss prior service implementation. We will continue to implement all IEPs and services to the greatest extent possible, in collaboration with families. Related services will be provided online, in keeping with IEPs, and specialized instruction will be layered on top.

New students who may require special education services will follow the IDEA-mandated evaluation procedures. Students can be referred for evaluation by a member of the multidisciplinary team or a parent or guardian. Referrals to assess for disabilities must be made in writing and submitted to Amita Lathigra at amita.lathigra@creativemindspcs.org.

What online resources and platforms will be used for instruction and learning?

In lower school, teachers and students will be using Seesaw and apps that are accessed through Clever.

In middle school, teachers and students will be using Seesaw, Google Classroom, and apps that are accessed through Clever.

We will be distributing a digital device, such as a tablet or laptop, to each student and WiFi hot spots to families that need them, before the first day of school. Please stay tuned for more information.

What other, offline resources, such as books, will be used for instruction and learning?

Additional resources will be used for instruction and learning, and we’ll contact families about how we’ll distribute these resources before the first day of school.

How will teachers track assignments and make sure students are engaged and completing their work?

In lower school, teachers will measure engagement and progress through students’ participation in live instructional small groups and sharing sessions and through the work submitted to Seesaw.

In middle school, student engagement will be measured in various ways. Teachers will provide entry and exit tickets and use breakout rooms for small-group activities, which students will have the opportunity to lead. Students’ questions, journaling, and partner activities and presentations will also allow teachers to measure student engagement.

How will students’ grades be determined?

In lower school, formative assessments will use the same grading scale as usual:

B: Beginning
D: Developing
A: Approaching Mastery
M: Mastering

In middle school, formative assessments will use the same grading scale as usual:

A: 90–100
B: 80–89
C: 70–79
D: 60–69
F: 59 and below

Will students be taking state assessments, such as PARCC, this year? Will Creative Minds be assessing students?

The state superintendent of education has said that the PARCC assessment is planned for the 2020–21 school year, but no details have been released.

At Creative Minds we’re still determining the best way to collect a baseline assessment of students at the beginning of the year. Our assessment working group is focused on this issue, and we’ll share more information when we have it.

Will students be assigned to a teacher, as in the regular school year? If so, when will we learn about teacher assignments?

Students will not be assigned to one teacher when the school year begins on August 31. Students will get to know and work with all the teachers in a grade level. This will ensure a smoother transition during any return to at-school learning.

Will Enlightenment classes—art, music, PE—be offered during remote learning?

In middle school, students will participate in Enlightenment classes every Wednesday.

In lower school, students will have one Enlightenment class a day, similar to a regular school year.

Will you be offering family workshops on supporting children’s learning—for example, a training on Seesaw?

Yes, we will be hosting this kind of workshop. Our Seesaw training will begin with a pair of how-to videos for families, and we’ll follow up with more support, if needed.
We’ll share more information soon.

Please email Abby Sheffer at abby.sheffer@creativemindspcs.org with any questions about lower school learning and instruction.

Please email Lorna Dill at lorna.dill@creativemindspcs.org with any questions about middle school learning and instruction.

Please email Amita Lathigra at amita.lathigra@creativemindspcs.org with any questions about special education.

Social-Emotional Support, Development & Activities

How will you build community, promote social interactions, and support social-emotional development in students?

Whether students are attending school in person or attending classes remotely, social and emotional experiences are vital to their growth and learning. Our virtual-learning program places a strong emphasis on supporting social-emotional development through an approach based in Conscious Discipline, which we began adopting last year.

In all grades, students will begin the school day with their teachers and peers, at 9:00 a.m., in a live Zoom meeting. This chance to connect will help everyone get ready for a day of learning.
During regular touch points, teachers will check in with students about academic, social-emotional, and other needs.

Students in preschool and prekindergarten, will have options throughout the day for live, online interactions with teachers and peers through teacher-facilitated social groups and learning centers.

In kindergarten through 4th grade, students will participate in these activities:

  • Social Groups: Live teacher-facilitated games and activities focused on student interaction.
  • Small Groups: Collaboration with teachers and peers on content learning in math, literacy, and the International Primary Curriculum.
  • Live Share: Two to three times a week, per subject, students will share their work with teachers and one another.
  • Office Hours: The chance for students to meet with teachers for help with assignments and for teachers to check in about students’ academic, social-emotional, and other needs.

In 5th–8th grades, students will have these opportunities to socialize with peers and connect with teachers:

  • Advisory Period: Teachers will focus on building community and promoting students’ well-being and social-emotional development through practices like mindfulness exercises and breathing techniques.
  • Live Lunch: Students will have the option to meet their peers on Zoom for a live, teacher-facilitated lunch.
  • Office Hours: Regular times when teachers are available for one-one-one or small-group support.
  • Last Period: An opportunity for students to end the day by collaborating with peers and getting help from teachers.

The Student Wellness Team will also support middle school students and teachers in building age-appropriate skills.

While the school building remains closed, will families have access to the play space?

We know that families and students are eager to use the play space, especially while many activities have been canceled and many resources are unavailable because of the COVID-19 pandemic. For now, the play space is closed.

At this time, we aren’t maintaining or disinfecting the play space, and we haven’t yet received guidance on doing so. Our first priority is the start of the school year and our education program. We’re also preparing the school building for an eventual, safe return to in-person instruction.

Opening the play space requires coordination with the AFRH, guidance from the DC Health, the implementation of best practices for health and safety, the ability to regularly disinfect surfaces, and the monitoring of safety protocols.

In our recent start-of-the-school-year meetings, families asked whether they could use the play space on their own. We are discouraging this. Note that the AFRH is limiting access to campus: an appointment is required, and all visitors must pass a health check.

If we’re able to open the play space, we’ll contact the members of our community. Please know that we have heard your request and are taking it seriously.

Will there be classroom celebrations during remote learning?

Classroom celebrations are a vital part of building community, one that students especially enjoy. In lower school, we will try to create opportunities for parents to join celebrations through Zoom.

Our Instructional Leadership Team is working on a comprehensive plan for hosting celebrations as we return to school on a virtual-only schedule.

Technology & Other Resources

Will you be distributing computers and WiFi hot spots to families that need them? What if our family needs a computer for more than one Creative Minds student?

We will be distributing a digital device to each student and WiFi hot spots to any families that need them. Students will receive a tablet or a laptop, depending on grade.

We’ll share a distribution date and method with families before school starts.

Will you be distributing school supplies? What about books and other resources?

Yes, we’ll distribute school supplies and other resources with families before school starts. Please stay tuned for more information.

Please email Andy Charrier at andy.charrier@creativemindspcs.org with any questions about technology.

School Meals & Food Delivery

With school starting on the all-virtual model, will the free-meals delivery program continue?

The free-meals delivery program, which began on April 15, will become a program for delivering five breakfasts and five lunches to Creative Minds students who qualify for free and reduced-price meals. The last delivery for the current free-meals program will happen on August 26.

Families on the current meals program will need to sign up for the new program. We’ll share more information soon. In the meantime, if you believe your child qualifies for free and reduced-price meals but you haven’t applied for the program, please fill out an application and submit it to Heather Hesslink, director of operations and compliance, at frontdesk@creativemindspcs.org.

You may also fax the application to (202) 588-0263. Or you can mail it to Heather at this address:

Creative Minds International Public Charter School
Sherman Building #217
3700 North Capitol St
Washington, DC 20011

If we implement any in-person schedules, FARM-qualified students will still receive school meals on remote-learning days.

If you offered at-school learning, where would students eat breakfast and lunch?

All students would eat in their classrooms, with breakfast and lunch delivered to those students who participate in school meals. Students who arrived late would pick up breakfast and bring it back to their classrooms, with social-distancing protocols in place.

With a return to the school building, would the drinking fountains be in operation?

We would shut off the drinking fountains and require students and staff to use their own water bottles. Bottles could be filled only at water stations.

Please email Heather Hesslink, director of operations and compliance, at frontdesk@creativemindspcs.org with any questions about school meals.

Health & Safety: The School Building

What steps are you taking to make the school building safer for students, families, staff, and teachers if we return to in-person learning?

Building Assessment: In June we commissioned a comprehensive clean-air building assessment from Setty & Associates, a building engineering firm. Setty recommended immediate, intermediate, and long-term actions.

Some of the immediate actions are highlighted below, such as improved cleaning protocols and air filtration. Possible longer-term actions include bringing more fresh air into the building; this is under investigation.

Cleaning: We are working with a new cleaning vendor that was chosen for its COVID-19 protocols, its rapid-response capabilities, and the training of its cleaning teams.
Our standard cleaning solutions have been upgraded to disinfectants. High-contact surfaces would be frequently disinfected throughout the day. Once a week, on Wednesday, we would do a hospital-grade cleaning of the building. All classrooms would be disinfected each evening, including cots in early childhood classrooms.

Air Filtration: We have purchased HEPA/UVC filtration devices for every classroom and office. These devices are safe and do not expose humans to UVC light. They kill 99.9 percent of airborne coronaviruses and influenza viruses and clean the air every ten minutes. Because these devices are quiet, we expect that they wouldn’t distract students from learning.
We’ve modified construction plans for Sherman South to add UVC filtration, with a MERV 13 rating, to heating and cooling units. The units capture coronavirus-size particles. Learn more about MERV ratings.

Other Measures: We would work with staff to increase classroom humidity during the winter; increased humidity is linked to decreased coronavirus risk.
Shoe-sanitizing mats would be placed at all entrances, and hand-sanitizing stations would be placed throughout the building.

Reminders: We would also display signs and markers throughout the school building: handwashing reminders in the bathroom, floor markings at six-foot intervals in areas where we usually line up, reminders to stay at least six feet from one another when possible.

What can you tell me about the safety of the cleaning and disinfectant solutions you’ll be using? Do they pose any risk to my child?

A cleaner, such as dish soap, removes dirt and grime, while a disinfectant, such as a diluted bleach solution, kills bacteria and viruses. Our new cleaning partner will use a product that does the work of both cleaners and disinfectants. The product is Green Seal–certified and is safe for use around people when manufacturer directions are followed. Our cleaning crew is well trained in the safe and proper handling of these products, as well as in using these products to prevent the spread of contagious diseases.

All of our cleaning products are stored out of the reach of children.

Please email Heather Hesslink, director of operations and compliance, at frontdesk@creativemindspcs.org with any questions about health and safety.

Health & Safety: Community Members

If we returned to in-person learning would teachers be required to show a recent negative COVID-19 test before entering the building for the first time?

We considered requiring each teacher who returned to the school building to show a recent negative COVID-19 test but decided against it. The limit of this test is that it records only one moment in time. The DC Department of Health does not recommend requiring negative COVID-19 tests of teachers. We would require that each person entering the building meet certain conditions. See the next question for more information.

If the school building reopened, what entry conditions would have to be met for students, staff, families, and visitors? For example, will students, families, staff, and visitors be required to have their temperature checked?

We’re required to define the conditions under which a community member or visitor will be allowed into the school building and the conditions for denying entry to anyone who appears to pose a health or safety risk. These protocols are in the works and would be released before any return to the school building.

As always, we would ask our community members to play a role in keeping one another healthy: to stay alert to any symptoms of COVID-19 in their children or a member of their households and to keep children at home if any symptoms develop.

If we returned to in-person classes, what personal protective equipment would people be required to wear in the school building?

All adults would be required to wear face masks in the school building, including common areas and classrooms. An exception would be made for someone with a documented medical condition that prevents the wearing of a mask. Face masks wouldn’t be required for anyone eating, drinking, or working alone in an office.

We’re following guidance from the DC Department of Health and the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Education and not requiring students to wear face masks, though students will be allowed to wear face masks if they or their families choose.

Guidance from city agencies told us that wearing masks is not developmentally feasible for many students, especially for our younger learners, and that maintaining at least six feet between one another at school should take precedence over requiring students to wear masks.
The use of gloves isn’t recommended, except during food preparation and other tasks that usually require gloves.

We’ll provide this personal protective equipment on request:

  • Reusable, washable face masks to staff
  • Disposable face masks to visitors
  • Plastic shields, which must be worn with a face mask, to staff or visitors

If the school building reopened, would you limit the number of visitors—for example, allow only related-service providers or delivery people to enter the building?

All entry into the building would be tightly controlled. Only visitors with a valid reason would be allowed to go beyond the front desk—for example, maintenance personnel, related-service providers, and vendors critical to the operation of the school. These visitors would follow the same stringent entry protocols in place for staff, students, and families.

We’re also planning to move the front desk so that it’s closer to the main entrance.

If students returned to the building for in-person classes, what social-distancing protocols would be in place?

In the school building and on campus, we would all be required to maintain a distance of at least six feet from one another. Staff will receive training on how to ensure that students follow the rules of social distancing. Signs and floor markers would also guide students, staff, and visitors in staying at least six feet apart.

Capacity: The elevator capacity would be limited to two people. No more than 12 people would be allowed in a room. This would likely mean ten students and two staff members in each classroom. Thirteen people would be briefly allowed in a room—for example, when a related-service provider joins a class.

Furniture: In classrooms, desks would be spaced at least six feet apart and would all face the same direction, as recommended by the DC Department of Health. We won’t be installing dividers between desks. The Department of Health does not require dividers, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends dividers only when social distancing can’t occur.

In early childhood classrooms, cots would be placed head to toe so that there would be at least six feet between children’s faces at nap time.

Classroom Interactions: We’re developing a plan for how staff, teachers, and related-service providers can safely interact with students, and how students can most safely interact with one another. This plan will provide guidance on how to respond when a student is upset or a young learner falls and needs help. Also at play are interactions during drop-off, when staff often assist students into the school building. We will have a plan in place before any return to in-person learning.

Hallways: In hallways, we would follow the stay-to-the-right rule, sticking to single file when in groups and maintaining a distance of six feet between one another. We would mark the floor with a divider to create two lanes for travel. Only necessary movement would be permitted in hallways. We’re planning for hallway and bathroom monitors to help enforce the rules of social distancing, whenever possible.

Cohort Interactions: Students in different cohorts or classes would not interact with one another.

Restrooms: We’ve developed new protocols for restrooms. Sinks will be marked off to encourage social distancing. Signs and stickers will remind students about social distancing and proper hygiene. Staff members will monitor bathrooms for congregating students and will promote hygiene practices and social distancing.

With a return to learning at school, how would staff and teachers monitor social-distancing practices among students? How would lapses be addressed?

Staff will receive training on how to use a common language and consistent expectations to support students in following the rules of social distancing. We’re working on a developmentally appropriate plan for addressing lapses in safety practices. Our instructional team recognizes that adhering to safety protocols would be easier or harder for some students, depending on age and ability. Our goal is to be both supportive of students’ individual needs and rigorous about maintaining a safe school environment.

In middle school, teachers would use advisory time to teach scholars safety protocols, such as social-distancing and hygiene practices.

Signs and floor markers would guide students, staff, and visitors in staying at least six feet apart. We’re planning for hallway and bathroom monitors to help enforce the rules of social distancing, whenever possible.

What about students’ personal belongings and other items in the classroom—how would you try to prevent the spread of viruses among these items if students went back to the classroom?

We would request that families send their children to school with only the bare necessities. Students wouldn’t be permitted to bring toys, games, balls, and similar items into the school building. Cubbies and lockers wouldn’t be in use. Any unnecessary items brought to school would be safely stored and sent home with students at the end of the day, along with a reminder about not bringing those items to school.

We would require that all bedding in early childhood classrooms be taken home at the end of each school week—whatever a child’s last day in the building is—to be washed. Students would also be required to bring home backpacks, lunchboxes, and water bottles at the end of each week for cleaning.

All classrooms, including cots in preschool and prekindergarten rooms, would be disinfected each evening.

In the classroom, each students’ at-school items, such as crayons and pencils, would be kept separate from the items of other students. We’re still determining how best to do this for each grade but would have a protocol in place before any in-person learning resumed.

What would happen if a student, teacher, or staff member developed symptoms of COVID-19—or otherwise became ill—while at school?

We are turning the nurse’s station into an isolation suite. To help stem the spread of any illnesses that developed and limit the number of people in the nurse’s office, we would place basic first-aid supplies on each floor throughout the building so that teachers could attend to things like cuts and scrapes in students.

Students would be taken to see the school nurse for emergencies, other serious injuries or illnesses, and the administration of medication, and to have symptoms of COVID-19 addressed.

With a return to the school building, would the creative, or sensory-friendly, spaces be in use?

It would be difficult to disinfect these spaces, between uses, during the school day so they would be unavailable, except during an emergency.

If you implemented in-person schedules, how would you respond if there were a COVID-19 case diagnosed in the CMI community or on campus?

We’re updating our plan from earlier this year to take into account current guidance and best practices, and we will share our comprehensive COVID-19 response plan in the coming weeks.
DC Health requirements are the foundation of our plan, which will be enhanced with our own protocols. Any response to COVID-19 will include additional cleaning of the school building, self-quarantine for exposed individuals, and communication with the Creative Minds community that maintains the privacy of the affected person. We’ll provide more information soon.

Would Extended Creative Day—Before School, After School, and Creative Clubs—be in session with a return to the school building?

We are unlikely to offer a Before School program. Offering an after-school program would depend on having the staff to support it.

If we did host an after-school program, all safety protocols would be in place, and the program would look different from its previous incarnations. For example, we are unlikely to offer Creative Clubs. Outside time would be structured so that we can practice the same safety protocols we use during outdoor time in the school day.

If you would be interested in after-school programs with any return to in-person learning, please share your feedback via our Google form.

How would recess be handled for students at school?

Students would still enjoy recess, with social-distancing and other safety protocols in place. An approach to inclement-weather recess is still being defined.

During recess, students would most likely use the grassy areas outside and not the play space, which would eliminate the need to disinfect play-space equipment between recess periods.

How would drop-off and pickup happen if in-person classes were offered?

We’re still working on a plan for safer drop-offs and pickups. The logistics would depend on the number of students on our in-person schedules. We would share the details of drop-off and pickup before any at-school learning begins.

Please email Heather Hesslink, director of operations and compliance, at frontdesk@creativemindspcs.org with any questions about health and safety.

Learn More: Meetings, Community & Contact Information

Will Creative Minds be distributing a list of families, with contact information, for each grade?

Yes, we will be distributing family lists by grade—with the contact information for families that have consented to being included—but please bear with us! These lists won’t be available the first week of school, and we ask for your patience.

How will you welcome new families to Creative Minds and integrate them into the community?

We are very excited to get to know our new families! We’ll start by asking new families to share information about themselves and their children through a survey. New families will be welcomed to Creative Minds at online orientations: for middle school, kindergarten through fourth grade, and preschool and prekindergarten. We’ll also host grade-level online meetings. Please stay tuned for dates and times.

Whom can I contact with questions?

Instruction, Learning, and the School Day

Lower School: email Abby Sheffer at abby.sheffer@creativemindspcs.org

Middle School: email Lorna Dill at lorna.dill@creativemindspcs.org

Special Education: email Amita Lathigra at amita.lathigra@creativemindspcs.org


Email Andy Charrier, director of IT and instructional technology, at andy.charrier@creativemindspcs.org

Health & Safety

Contact Heather Hesslink, director of operations and compliance, and her team by emailing frontdesk@creativemindspcs.org or calling (202) 588-0370, ext. 112.


Contact Heather Hesslink, director of operations and compliance, and her team by emailing frontdesk@creativemindspcs.org or calling (202) 588-0370, ext. 112.

How can I view a recording of the family meetings about the return to school?

We hosted start-of-the-school-year meetings for returning families on July 22 and July 25 and a meeting for new families on July 25.

We’ve posted our July 25 new-families meeting to YouTube and Instagram.

You may also view a recording of any of the meetings by emailing Stephanie Kime at stephanie.kime@creativemindspcs.org for access information.