Whitby School Gets Ready to Welcome Back Students: Safety & Social Distancing Are Top Priorities

The countdown to August 26, Whitby’s first day of school, is underway. The campus will once again come alive with laughter and learning, even if it is from behind a mask.

The new school year will start with three half-days, which will allow students to reestablish relationships with classmates and teachers, and become familiar with changes in routines.

“Will things look different when the students come back to school? Absolutely,” said Dr. Jack Creeden, Whitby Head of School in a release. “However, what’s not changing is the Whitby spirit and the entire community’s dedication to continuity of learning and meeting the social-emotional needs of our students, their families, faculty, and staff. The physical layout of the classrooms may change, but how we deliver our Montessori and International Baccalaureate programs is not changing, and are even enhanced by lessons learned from distance learning.”

Safety is the number one priority as the campus reopens. Masks will be worn by everyone starting with Kindergarten students, and only students, faculty, and staff will be allowed in the buildings to minimize risk.

Click for vimeo of Dr. Jack Creeden and sneak preview.

Physical space has been reimagined, which will allow plenty of room to create smaller groups or cohorts of students and teachers to minimize contact with other cohorts.

Whitby is also implementing “zoning” so that the Whitby Montessori Children’s House, Lower School, and Middle School groups stay within specific areas of the school.

As an additional safety precaution, cohort areas will include social distance markers on the hallway floors as visual cues, not unlike those in supermarkets. This is especially important for younger students.

Whitby’s facilities team is reconfiguring the classrooms to provide the 6-foot minimum for social distancing. The school has also installed Plexiglass dividers to the two-person workspaces to promote collaboration, but with safety in mind.

Whitby is located on a 30-acre campus, which gives the school plenty of space to take the classrooms outdoors. A 20′ x 40′ tent complete with desks and chairs will be available, and a new tiered seating area is under construction in the school’s Audubon Certified School Habitat area.

“We acknowledge that there will be COVID-19 outbreaks in Connecticut locally, regionally, or statewide that will require schools to close,” the school said in the release. “We anticipate that we will be required to toggle between in-class learning, distance learning, and a hybrid model for students who may have to self-quarantine during the school year.”

To prepare for toggling, Whitby School teachers have intentionally designed their curriculum so that they can deliver continuity in learning and quickly pivot. This past spring, the faculty developed innovative teaching skills for a distance learning environment. They continue their professional development in this area by the required participation in distance learning courses this summer.

Located at 969 Lake Ave, in Greenwich, Whitby School is a co-educational independent school that provides educational continuity for children 18 months through Grade 8. The Whitby Montessori Children’s House for ages 18 months through Kindergarten and the highly-recognized International Baccalaureate (IB) program in Grades 1-8 form the foundation from which students thrive and learn to think creatively and critically, preparing them as life-long learners and global citizens