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My Journey Through Mindfulness and Parenting

My Journey Through Mindfulness and ParentingMany years ago, I attended a talk by Dr. Laura Markham, a clinical psychologist renowned for her parenting blog based on child-development research. I came out of that talk with a mantra “stop, drop, and breathe.” This meant that whenever I began to have strong emotions, I would stop what I was doing, drop my agenda, and take a deep breath to calm myself down.1 For a while, these actions felt unnatural and contrived. However, I kept the mantra in my parenting toolkit because I knew that if I let my emotions run high, I would risk exploding at my children and feeling really bad about it afterward.

A few years ago, I started practicing mindfulness more regularly through observing my breath, bodily sensations, emotions, and thoughts as they passed through my mind. I started to become more aware of the shift in my emotions. In the beginning, when I felt triggered, I would pinpoint my children’s unruly behavior as the emotional trigger. I would try to stay calm, often by taking long deep breaths. Later on, as awareness about my emotional shift became clearer, I realized that the culprit for my difficult emotions was not my children’s unruly behavior, but rather my unruly restless mind. The unruly mind from a long busy day at work, plus a lack of rest and sleep, caused me to lose my cool as soon as my children behaved differently from what I had expected. According to Dr. Dan Siegal’s hand model of the brain, I “flipped the lid”, losing the state of integration.2 The insight into understanding my restless mind improved my relationship with my children. Whenever I noticed that I was feeling tired from a long day, I verbalized to my children that I could be quick to short-circuit, and needed to take a break so that I could be a peaceful mom.

In some ways, I began perceiving a mindfulness practice as playing a game with the mind. As I continued to get more familiar with watching my mind, and saw an improvement in my relationship with my family, I felt encouraged to be more mindful. At some point, a deeper insight started to appear. I noticed a pattern of my emotional reactivity when I “flipped the lid.” According to Jon Kabat-Zinn, founder of Mindfulness-Based-Stress-Reduction (MBSR), open-mindedness and curiosity are the attitudes to cultivate in mindfulness practice.3 With a beginner’s mind, and an interest in parenting and psychology, I came to realize that my emotional triggers were habitual reactions to my own unmet needs in the past. A self-inquiry into these unmet needs helped me identify the soft-spots that often triggered an emotional upset. With the attitudes of non-judgment and acceptance, which are cultivated in the mindfulness practice, I gradually became more accepting of my habitual tendencies that led to upset and worry. This does not mean that I made an excuse for my anger, but mindful awareness gave me space to notice the trigger and to show compassion to myself. As Viktor Frankl, holocaust survivor and author of Man’s Search for Meaning said “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” In between my emotional triggers and my reactions, I can make a better choice.

You may ask what a mindfulness practice has to do with parenting, besides not yelling at our children. I believe it has everything to do with the social-emotional development of our children. The Polyvagal theory, proposed by neuroscientist Dr. Stephen Porges, explains co-regulation in mammals when parenting their young.4 The theory focuses on the evolutionary adaptive mechanism of the vagal pathways, which are the primary component of our autonomic nervous system – parasympathetic and sympathetic response. Utilizing the mammalian ventral vagal pathways, children detect social cues from their parents’ physiological states in order to distinguish safety from threats. These social cues include head and hand gestures, breathing patterns, facial expressions, and vocal intonations. The detection process called neuroception is a reflex, without cognition. When children perceive a sense of safety, they can play, learn, and grow.  The sympathetic nervous system involved in a fight-flight response, which may be triggered when we raise our voice or yell at our kids, is down-regulated. The theory highlights the co-regulation between parents and children as the foundation for the children’s emotional self-regulation. When children lose their calm or have a tantrum, they are telling us that they need our help to co-regulate. In the midst of the chaos, parents can help their children co-regulate by embodying mindful awareness of their own feelings and emotions (hint: stop, drop, and breathe), thus indirectly teaching children how to self-regulate, and develop emotional resilience.

Not only do we co-regulate with our children, but we also are their role models, quite literally. Neuroscientists tell us that mirror neurons found in human brains play an active part in the acquisition of social skills, and the ability to empathize with the feelings of others. Mirror neurons are the neurons that fire both when a person performs an action, and when the person witnesses the same action performed by someone else; hence the name “mirror.5

At Casa di Mir, students learn, from preschool age, the practice of Nonviolent Communication (NVC). They practice mindful awareness by learning to recognize their own feelings and needs, as well as those of others. They learn to express themselves and make requests for their needs while respecting the needs of others. This process fosters connection and understanding. As parents, we can teach children empathy by practicing mindfulness ourselves. The ways children develop empathy for others are twofold. First, through mindful awareness of their own feelings and needs, the awareness extends outward towards the feelings and needs of others. This is the NVC practice. Second, through empathic mirroring of their parents, when parents are mindful of their own feelings and needs, when parents show care and concern for their children, and acknowledge the children’s needs, the children mirror the same prosocial behaviors, strengthening their empathy for others.

Imagine the ripple effect of empathy in ourselves spreading through our children, their friends and families, and the community. How amazing it is that we can create a better world for ourselves and for our children through practicing mindfulness!

Bay Thongtheppairot
Current Casa Parent
Casa di Mir Montessori

References

[1] “Are you using this essential parenting tool?” , 25 Aug. 2020, https://www.ahaparenting.com/blog/are-you-using-this-essential-parenting-tool.

[2] Siegel, D., Bryson, T. P. (2012). The whole brain child. New York: Bantam.

[3] Kabat-Zinn, J. (2013). Full Catastrophe living. New York: Bantam.

[4] Porges, S. W. (2015). Making the world safe for our children: down-regulating defence and up-regulating social engagement to optimise the human experience. Children Australia, 40, 2, 114-123.

[5] Rizzolatti, G., Fogassi L., Gallese, V. (2006). Mirrors in the mind.Scientific American, Nov. 2006, 295 (5), 54-61.

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Casa di Mir Welcomed Our Family and Enriched Our Lives

First Day at Casa

First Day at Casa!

Casa di Mir Montessori welcomed my son during a challenging transition period for our family. He had just finished Kindergarten at Montessori of Westfield when my husband got a job interview with a big tech company. The interview meant a great career opportunity and a chance for a new family adventure. However, it also meant facing the decision to uproot our life of 14 years in the Midwest and move to the Silicon Valley.

One big concern, in addition to the cost of living in the Bay Area, was my son’s education. We needed a traditional Montessori school with great reviews, that had space available for a first-grader and could enroll him with very short notice. After my husband successfully completed a couple of job interviews, I approached the two Montessori schools near the area where we were planning to look for rental homes. The first school had one spot left and could not assure us it would still be available by the time my husband anticipated a job offer. The second school was Casa di Mir, and it was this school that made all the difference.

Casa helped me breathe a little easier and get on board with our potential move. The school had a classroom with space for a couple more students and the Admissions Director put me at ease by assuring me I didn’t need to confirm our exact arrival date. From there, our experience with Casa di Mir just got better and better. Soon after we arrived in the Bay Area, we took our son to the school for his enrollment evaluation. During this process, the staff was very friendly and inviting. On top of that, Casa was exactly what I was looking for, the perfect equivalent to the Montessori education that my son had received in Indiana. I felt an immediate connection with the school and was eager to enroll my son. In fact, I seemed so eager that a staff member asked me if I should see more before making a decision, to which I responded, “I’ve seen all I need to see, this feels like a great fit!”

The cherry on top for the entire family was Casa’s amazing community. We quickly made connections with other families, and very soon, we had a new social circle. Our friends from Casa helped us adapt to our life in California a lot faster; they made us feel at home.

In the last five years, I have consistently volunteered for Casa helping out in different marketing-related projects. This past summer, I took my involvement with the school to a new level when I became the new Manager of Development and Marketing. At Casa di Mir, I found a meaningful way to utilize my professional experience and true purpose in helping families, new to Montessori, learn everything the school’s program has to offer.

My son is now a Casa 6th grader. Thanks in great part to the school, he has blossomed into a witty yet gentle pre-teen. He loves his school, his friends, and he definitely is in an educational environment where he’s thriving. I will be forever grateful to Casa di Mir for welcoming my son, my husband, and I, and enriching our lives in so many ways!

Erika Ruiz
Manager of Development and Marketing
Casa di Mir Montessori

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The Relevance of Casa di Mir’s Montessori Education During Distance Learning

Casa di Mir’s educators are well-instructed in the developmental stages of children. While our students are engaged in Distance Learning, their development remains a critical focus and top priority. Casa guides maintain a connection with their students in between lessons and academic instruction. This connection is critical since most of the delivery of information is done directly by the guides, with their own inflection, their energy, and their passion – a very important component in a Montessori education. Our approach to Distance Learning is essential as we embrace the need for flexibility and preparedness; we will need to be both flexible and prepared to enable our community to shift smoothly between on-site learning and Distance Learning programs as the current situation evolves.

In a non-Montessori Distance Learning setting, it is possible to design a schedule that delivers a programmed curriculum, where you just follow along in a sort of computerized system that is devoid of the most important Montessori elements. At Casa di Mir, the development of the whole child is a driving force in the planning stage. We include lessons where students need to use materials, which allows them to continue their hands-on experience. Our youngest children need to keep developing their sensorial life; they can’t only be touching the screens and living life by their two fingertips. We are tailoring their digital learning to encourage sensorial experiences. These experiences help the children wire up their brains to support their future frontal lobe thinking and help to develop the kind of neurological connections they will need for a higher-order of thinking. All children need to use their hands, and that kind of motor function is very closely related to the area of the brain where language development occurs. In our program, we are requesting work to be done by hand when possible, photographed, and uploaded to Google Classroom. We do not want to wed our children to the keyboard.

The language that our guides share with their students during Distance Learning is meant to create consistency. We are still focused on practicing mindfulness, our choice of words, and being respectful. Consistency in relationships is the foundation of stability. We are continuing to build values of respect, courtesy, and kindness. Our students have a pretty strong sense of what Casa’s core values are, and we continue to uphold those values during Distance Learning. While we are online, we are looking for new self-regulation opportunities. If our students need a break from Zoom, they can excuse themselves from a lesson, and they can go get a glass of water or do something physical like jumping rope. After their break, they can come back to the lesson feeling refreshed. Reflectiveness, mindfulness, and self-regulation are a very high priority when we are learning on-site, and they continue to be a very high priority while we learn off-site.

At Casa, we believe that challenging situations are opportunities for growth. Our mindsets are currently being challenged. We want to encourage our community to create mindsets that say I can, or I will learn, instead of a negative thinking mindset that says “we can’t grow.” By helping our students develop a positive mindset, a sense of independence, empathy, and love of learning, we are setting them up for success in the classroom and in life.

Wanda Whitehead
Director of Education
Casa di Mir Montessori

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The joy of being back in school with your children!

Community Update

Dear Casa di Mir Families,

I would like to share the joy of being back in school with your children!  As you know, most of our classes are operating as Distance Learning programs, and it has been a treat to pop in and out of virtual lessons. The creativity and initiative of our faculty are evident – not to mention the incredibly adaptive skill sets of our teachers!  With so many highlights to point to, it is hard to focus on one… Consider 1) Pod Parents who are paving the way to connect and build small social bubbles of community and trust, 2) children who are gracefully navigating their first-ever remote beginning of school, 3) the commitment of parents in helping their children get into the groove of online learning, and 4) the unintended benefits from this moment.  Yes, there are silver linings in this unique and challenging situation!  For example, I’ve heard more families are enjoying whole family dinners much more regularly, and also how some children are already finding new ways to be independent – surprising both parents and teachers!

Without question, a key highlight for many of us at school is to have children back on campus.  Currently, we have two Pods, both Primary, who have the run of the land on Lower Campus.  There are large windows of time here, where students are zooming – not on a computer, but on their trikes and all over the playground.  Each morning the students are completing health screening from home (using a phone app), and upon arrival, our team greets, takes temperatures, and walks these eager young folks to their classrooms.  Part of our morning routine often also includes getting to meet their new favorite stuffed animals, telling quick stories, and learning about what breakfast was just eaten.

Throughout the day, our faculty and these students are pioneering our return to campus, and it is lovely to witness.  What once felt so distant, is now right here in front of us.  Children are learning together in person and practicing what it’s like to maintain physical distancing.  Children are accessing our beautiful environments, utilizing precise materials, and our cleaning and sanitizing protocols are being executed and followed.  All people are wearing masks when required, and it has appropriately become the norm.  This morning I was fortunate to sit in on a birthday circle for a young Primary student, and the parents zoomed in while their daughter ‘walked around the sun’ in celebration of her birthday.  It was a lovely stamp of approval of this moment.  While changes have occurred and systems reflect the needed changes, time ticks onward, and children still want to grow up – no matter what the world presents.  The child went back and forth from smiling widely, to looking down at her hands as she rolled the small globe around in her lap.

With a flicker of excitement, I’m happy to encourage you to project into October.  As has been communicated, we are hoping to be on-site for the elementary Pods within the month of October.  Our county’s numbers are improving, and our school has pushed forward on work for a waiver that may allow us to reopen our campuses.  We have been working with our liaison to make this happen, and are continuing our plans to shift into our Modified Programs.  On our Parent Calendar, you’ll see that we will hold a meeting on Oct. 1st, to communicate what our next steps can be.  The most up-to-date Reopening Plan is posted here for you to read through for more details.

May your air be clean and the temperature just right for your family to enjoy the weekend!

Take care,

Tyler Bourcier
Head of School
Casa di Mir Montessori

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Excitement is building for the beginning of school!

Community Update

Dear Casa di Mir Families,

We are in the midst of a heatwave, right at a time when excitement is building for the beginning of school! The teachers have been hard at work preparing the classrooms, both digitally and On-Site. They’re thrilled to see you on campus for our Get-To-Know-You-Week, and you should have (or will soon be receiving) a schedule for your window of visit during the week of Aug. 24th. We are working with a new system of email groups. Yesterday, we sent out the schedules for primary through upper elementary. If you did not receive this information via Wanda’s email, please email her to let her know at wwhitehead@casadimir.org. We want to get this new system in working order before we’re off to the races! 

Please know that our school’s Parent Calendar is updated, and available on our website. Check it out! For new families, certain sections of our website are password protected, and only available to our families. We will be adding to this during the year, as things come up. The calendar is one of those protected areas, so you’ll need the password: CasaM1rFamily@17!

Since March, we’ve prepared for the time when we’re able to return to On-Site instruction. Due to many of our classrooms starting in Distance Learning (K-8), we shifted some thinking. The individuals who chose to start their year with Distance Learning (when being On-Site was available), have been folded carefully into the Pods with some of their peers. That is why you may notice your student’s names associated with more people! There were several reasons for this, including our desire to include them with their friends and peers close in age, as well as to foster collaboration and connection between the Pods. When we near the ability to be back On-Site, we will reassess and make space for them to return to Distance Learning, as needed. Again, this reflects our efforts to provide appropriate connection and instruction, while balancing the need for flexibility with the changing circumstances.

Finally, we’d like to make sure you’ve received the packets of information this past week, as they’re filled with critical information. If you didn’t receive a large packet in the mail, which included the Community Care Agreement, etc., please contact Anne Nguyen at anguyen@casadimir.org. Thank you!

Please make sure to check out the Weekly Announcements on Monday for information and links for the Orientation Meetings next week.

Enjoy your weekend!Tyler Bourcier
Head of School
Casa di Mir Montessori

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Tracking Media Stories and Data Points

Community Update

media stories and tracking points

Dear Casa di Mir Families,

While I’m not of the generation that is made up of ‘digital natives,’ I have grown (slowly) accustomed to internet technologies over the years, as well as the gifts and challenges that arise from them. Early on in this period of COVID19, I read an article which highlighted the challenge of not just dealing with a pandemic, but the simultaneous grappling of what the author called an “infodemic.” By no means am I suggesting that the challenges of lightning-fast information outweigh the strengths and superhero capabilities it can provide. However, at this moment, we’re experiencing a deluge of information and receiving such data at a dizzying speed, it can be nearly paralyzing for many.

You’re likely reading stories about various school districts, either about them starting the year on-line or starting the year nearly as normal. Mixed in with this media recipe are reports from politicians, county officials, unions, and even social media and entertainment-influencers. As an Administration Team at Casa di Mir Montessori, we’re tracking these stories and data points, too, and we can empathize with your desire to manage all of this input, as well. This is no easy time for synthesizing information.

Later this week, we will send out our class lists (Pods) and will be focusing Wednesday’s Community Check-In to share about our Distance Learning details. We absolutely still anticipate opening as has been communicated, with Pods and new protocols (distancing, hygiene, etc.). Yet, we also are prepared to shift into Distance Learning, if the need arises. As usual, please send anguyen@casadimir.org any questions you may have regarding this topic of Distance Learning, and we’ll aim to address them at the Check-In.

Take care,
Tyler Bourcier
Head of School
Casa di Mir Montessori

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Happy Independence Day!

Community Update

4th of July Fireworks

Dear Casa di Mir Families,

In considering the imagination of our community, I have no doubt that each of our families is making the most of a holiday weekend during our physically distancing era! I’ve heard stories of hills being camped upon for viewing the Bay Area, homemade fireworks, hikes planned, and virtual family barbeques. Truly, it brings warmth to my heart hearing how our community is connecting and making the most of an abnormal time.

For this week’s Community Update, I’d like to plant some seeds for our next Community Check-In. Each Wednesday, we’ve been hosting an online gathering for further updates from our school, while also sustaining a very real and on-going conversation about planning for August. I am grateful for those of you who’ve brought ideas and questions to those gatherings, as I trust that providing regular, real-time conversations about updates is essential to maintaining clarity and transparency of how our dynamic situation evolves.

For this upcoming Wednesday, we’re planning to share more about how our operational practices are adapting to manage the new circumstances. In a school, under normal scenarios, of course, it is expected that children and families fall ill and recover! In this era, new lenses and protocols are needed to tend to illness during the school year. We’ll be sharing more about how we manage these circumstances as they may rise up during ‘20-21 on Wed. If you’re interested and have specific concerns, please do send questions about the handling of illnesses in our community so we can work to answer them on Wed. Please send such questions to anguyen@casadimir.org who is our gatherer of such questions.

Now, let’s turn the page to a non-COVID19 topic… On Wed., we’d like to present the first showing of our… Cultural Night performance for Europe ‘19-20! Cutting back our weekly meeting a bit (Primary will be focused from 5:00-5:30 and older age groups from 5:30-6:00), we are going to showcase our finalized video performance of Cultural Night at 6:00! As each week, we’ll send out a separate invite for that event next week, but please do put that on your calendars. Again, Casa di Mir Montessori’s European Cultural Night will be broadcast at 6:00 pm, though popcorn and snacks will completely fall to your responsibilities. Personally, I will be preparing lefsa, and my stomach will grumble loudly for the treats that I can visualize all of you snacking on during that time. The presentation is shorter than normal, yet still a creative triumph over the separation we’re experiencing. Please tune in, and I look forward to seeing your face and food!

Take care,
Tyler Bourcier
Head of School
Casa di Mir Montessori

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Happy Belated Summer Solstice!

Community Update

Dear Casa di Mir Families,

Happy summer to all of you! Gratefully, the world is still spinning on its axis, and the sun rises and sets. Thank goodness for the seasons that bring us reminders of how there are bigger systems than our individual personal worlds, networks, and news cycles. Even with all of this beautiful weather, many of you are working long days, fitting for this Summer Solstice time, and here at Casa di Mir Montessori, we’re doing the same.

My intention in this week’s communication is to shine some of this light on the degree to which effort and resources are needed to manage a return to school in August. As shared, we’re thrilled to have this work in front of us. I’m hearing clearly the gratitude for the information and updates we can provide our parents and students. Thus, I’d like to elaborate some on the efforts being put forth to create safe spaces and strong programming at this time.

To adapt to the needs of physical distancing and smaller pods (cohorts), as well as more complex hygiene practices, we’ve needed to modify our physical spaces. This has meant creating brand new classrooms, distinct areas for sanitizing materials, as well as several facility upgrades. While complicated, we’re fortunate to be able to invest in this period to meet the need. With the help of an amazing administrative team, our school has moved to build the infrastructure and gather the supplies needed to address the needs for such modifications. Budgeting for the costs of multiple modifications is major, and I think it is important for you to understand the depth we’ve dug to make this happen. At this time, we expect the cost to be about $75,000 to attend to just these elements to keep our community safe, while providing the education we strive to offer. These expenditures include: healthy stocks of masks, gloves, face shields, aprons (PPE), ample cleaning supplies, hand washing stations, additional sinks installed at both Upper and Lower Campuses, plexiglass barriers, room dividers, additional desks and tables, UV light boxes, as well as UV scrubbers for our air conditioning units.

It takes tremendous resources to make our programming happen. Of course, without our families and their support, it wouldn’t be possible! We are over the moon to offer full-time programming for August, even though it may look different than “normal.” There may be levels that require modified scheduling (partial week on-site, partial week distance learning), and all of these program models require full-time faculty to operate and guide compassionately and successfully. As a private, independent school we rely on tuition revenue to fund such strong programs- especially during times of crisis.

Thank you for sharing your commitments, ideas, and questions with us over the past few weeks. We will continue communicating weekly with updates, and you’re welcome to join us each Wednesday for a Community Check-in (5:00 for Pri. and 5:45 for Elem./MS). Each week, we’ll send out an invite for the event.

Take time for yourselves, and have fun and meaningful experiences with your children. Let that be what they remember of this summer!

Take care,

Tyler Bourcier
Head of School
Casa di Mir Montessori

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Critical Information From You via Survey

Community Update

Dear Parents,

We are getting critical information from you via the survey sent out last week.

Thank you to all who responded!

Here’s the information we’ve collected from the survey, so far:

  • 79 students are ready to come back for on-campus learning.
  • 26 students are in an “undecided” category.
  • 15 students are interested in continuing with online learning only.
  • 43 families have not responded.

We realize you are all waiting for more detailed information. It is an intricate dance for our community as our plans depend on you – and your decision about your child returning depends on our plan! This letter is to give you a deeper view into our planning to help move us along in the dance. We do need to hear from all families in order to make decisions regarding staffing for our modified schedule, as well as an online learning option, if possible.

We see coming back to school as a community effort. We all have a role to play in keeping us safe. Careful choices by all of us while away from school makes a difference to the whole community. At school, we will closely follow the guidelines from the CDC and local agencies in order to keep our whole community safe.

Guidelines from the CDC and local agencies are requiring us to maintain smaller, static groups of 10 or 12 students. If all/most students can return to school on-site, we will see the following configurations:

Middle School and Upper Elementary

  • MS with two teachers in two rooms, full time
  • UE with three teachers, in three rooms, full time (pods of about 12 students/one teacher)

Because we have additional classroom space available at the Upper Campus, we’re able to offer full-time schedules on-site.

  • LE students will be divided into six “pods” of about 12 students each, with a dedicated teacher for each pod.
  • Schedule for LE and Primary:
    • 3 days on-site, 2 days online; alternating with 2 days on-site, 3 days online (So, a student might be on-site M-W, and online Th-F. The following week, that student would be on-site M-Tue, and online W-F. The other group would be reversed with classes on-site every Th-F and alternate Wednesdays.)
  • School hours for on-site learning will be:
    • MS – 8:30am to 3:30pm
    • All elementary 8:30am – 3:15pm
    • Primary 8:30 am – 1 pm or 3 pm or 5 pm (depending on the length of day you enrolled your child for)
  • In class and online learning will be blended and your child will be with their designated teacher for all 5 days.
  • Primary: Given space configuration, Kinders will be given their own classroom space that is separate from the primary program. There will two pods for this group. The younger primary students will be grouped into 4 pods.
  • We plan to continue Spanish, Art and Music classes. Aikido will be suspended until regulations allow it.

Plans will have to adjust based on the numbers of students who join us on-site for classes. Allocating staff for solely online learning will definitely be considered, if we can manage this along with the on-site classes. Please consider that starting a new year online will be very different than ending the year after relationships have already been established.

Facility Modifications

There will be facility changes to support the safety and health guidelines. Among the changes are the following:

  • Additional classrooms spaces are being designed to so we can accommodate several pods at a time.
  • Multiple handwashing stations will be added outside as well as inside .
  • Hand sanitizing stations set up at all entries, classrooms & high traffic areas.
  • Signs posted to:
  • Report symptoms of respiratory illness
  • Handwashing practices
  • Coughing/Sneezing etiquette
  • Support physical distancing practices

Entry & Visitation

  • Limited visits on site-only: essential, emergency (very brief)
  • Parents wash hands (and assist the child washing hands) before drop off, prior to picking up the child, and when they get home.
  • Rely on carline for drop-off and pick-up to drastically limit adults on site.
  • Visual Wellness checks at the cars of all children upon arrival. We will ask health questions, if concerned.
  • Temperature/symptom screening at the cars at drop-off and pick-up. Anyone with a temperature of 100.4 or higher may not enter the facility.
  • Bring your own pens for signing in and out.
  • The entry point for students on Lower Campus is at the back of the school.
  • Enter rooms one at a time to allow for physical distancing.
  • Handwashing or hand sanitizing upon entry is required for all staff, students and visitors.

Mitigation Strategies

  • We will communicate ongoing updates about COVID -19.
  • Daily disinfecting and cleaning service, as well as teacher/student wipe down
    • Commonly touched surfaces will be cleaned and disinfected daily, such as doorknobs, light switches, Montessori materials.
  • There will be no whole group community activities.
  • Internal group activities have been limited to foster physical distancing.
  • We will utilize outside spaces when possible.
  • No field trips unless outdoors with proper distancing. Transportation by family car or proper distancing possible.
  • Carefully define the allergies of your child and the typical symptoms present.
  • Keep children with cold or flu symptoms home.
  • If your child shows symptoms of COVID-19 or there has been an exposure, we will notify you and ask that you contact your child’s medical provider. Your child should remain home until tested and cleared to return to school.
  • We can provide food and medication following strict rules when a child is waiting for parent/guardian to pick up.
  • Emergency contact information is updated prior to the start of school and updated when needed.
  • Students will have a kit of frequently used materials at school for their own use.

What we’ll need from parents:

  • Sign onto a Care for Community Agreement
  • Clarity on safe choices when you are away from Casa
  • A thorough read through the guidelines we will be preparing in detail as an addendum to the student handbook.
  • Help teaching the basic hygiene requirements to your students (see below)

Hygiene Support

The instruction children will need is something that has to begin at home. We would appreciate you discussing that these are precautions that each child must take at this very unique time. Giving context to children in a matter of fact way with a sense that this won’t always be the case is important to settle fears or worries. Please start instruction on the following:

  • They must use a tissue or an elbow for coughing and sneezing and wash hands afterwards.
  • Older children are requested to wear masks, so practicing now and becoming more familiar with the feeling of this is helpful.
  • When using the bathroom, children can take a bit of toilet paper and use it to push the knob or handle and then toss in the toilet. Students must wash hands and use a paper towel or long sleeve to open the door.
  • Create opportunities for some outside “play dates” with friends to help practice distancing in a social situation. Explore ways to greet each other while maintaining physical distance.

There will be necessary changes in procedures on campus when we open in August. In order to maintain the health and safety guidelines from our local public health department and the CDC we have revised our drop-off and pick-up procedures, lunch procedures, visitors and tours, among other things. Look for more detailed information in the Parent/Student Handbook Addendum which will be provided in August. Our staff will be fully involved with their pods seeing them through both the on-site and online parts of their weeks or fully engaged on-site with the UE and MS students. They will receive training and guidelines for implementing the health and safety procedures while focused on the academic and social-emotional development of the child. For LE and Primary, students’ time on site will be concentrated on lessons and hands-on experiences and building relationships that will carry them through the online times, as well.

We are fully aware that this is a very fluid time for plans. This letter contains an abbreviated look at our on-site planning so you have an idea of what we are offering. If we’re required to go back to sheltering in place, of course, we are prepared to return to online learning.

We hope that receiving this information will help you feel more confident in making the decision to allow your child to attend school on campus in August.

If you are a parent who did not respond to the survey, or you responded with uncertainty, we need to hear from you! You’re important to us and our decision-making. If, based on the information provided here, you have better clarity on what you are wanting for fall, please send an email to Anne Nguyen @ anguyen@casadimir.org to clarify your choice. If we don’t hear from you by June 15th, we’ll reach out to you.

Thank you!

Tyler Bourcier Head of School

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Working Together to Find Success and Balance

Dear Casa di Mir Families,

With the burst of heat and wildflowers, I hope you feel an injection of hope and optimism.  As we continue the journey working together to find success and balance in your child’s Continuation of Learning plans, I wish to stress our collective power to adapt.  As a species over the millenia, we spread out across the globe, and we have survived countless disasters and challenges.  Of course, this fact doesn’t necessarily make this particular moment any easier when our children may be struggling with Zoom mute buttons or pushing back on your request for them to clean up their make-shift bedroom cubby!  However, reminding ourselves that we will get through this together can definitely be one powerful vitamin.

The week prior to closing our campuses, our Middle School students were very vocal with their concerns about how our school will handle the seriousness of COVID-19.  After their elective class one day, they essentially cornered me in the MP Room and asked really difficult questions about our school’s official stances.  Remember, this was prior to local schools being closed, and states had not given official clarity on what was best.  I was thrilled that our MS students were engaged in the debate, and that they didn’t hesitate to ask tough questions to the Head of School.  As you’re aware, new questions keep coming, our circumstances keep shifting, and so we adapt.

We are in the midst of formalizing plans for the future.  We have pathways through the immediate crisis for this year, and are finalizing what graduation will look like in June.  We are coordinating with our teachers and health officials to prepare for what is possible for our summer programs.  All the while, we are using our shared values, strengths and unique characteristics as the foundation for building incredible possibilities for the upcoming school year.

As we hear about various states opening up, with varying degrees of ‘business as usual,’ schools have a special role and challenge.  As an institution, Casa di Mir Montessori is in a sound place, making plans before they’re needed, and ready to keep our programs and community together.  We will absolutely keep you informed with decisions and schedules as soon as they are set for the upcoming months.

As always, I have gratitude for the teachers, staff, parents, and extended family who engage in this work with children.  Many lessons learned from this experience will likely come from our youngest watching our responses to this challenge, and I’m thrilled to see such positivity and resiliency.

Thank you!

Tyler Bourcier Head of School

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