Hayground School opened September 2 — two weeks earlier than normal — to be better prepared for the challenging road ahead as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We will close two weeks earlier in December, a shift that will allow us to maximize use of our outdoor classrooms and minimize indoor classroom time during the flu season,” school officials said in a statement. “Hayground’s 13-acre grounds, well-ventilated buildings, large classrooms and small class sizes make it uniquely well positioned to be a school that operates safely with social distancing. Our plans for opening are capitalizing on these assets.”
Faculty Chair Marcelle Langendal said students and staff are adapting to the changes.
“Things are going very well,” Ms. Langendal said. “So far so good.”
The Bridgehampton school leader said even lesson plans have needed to be adjusted, with early teaching focusing on how to wear masks, and the importance of them and social distancing. All students are required to be dropped off at the driveway and are greeted by a staff member. Temperatures are taken at the door, and questionnaires on how faculty and students are feeling are filled out daily. If any student exhibits even a runny nose that might be a result of a cold, they will be sent home.
The “new normal” can seem daunting to many, but Ms. Langendal said the kids are more than excited to be back.
“They’re so happy to see each other — in real life,” she said, laughing. “It makes a big difference.”
Students eat meals and snacks in their cohort outside or inside classrooms with appropriate 6-foot social distancing. There has been protocol put in place for limiting the sharing of any materials and objects, and hand washing or sanitizing is required before and after contact with shared writing utensils, toys, notebooks and laptops.
The Hayground School does not have an all-remote learning option, and as a result of this Ms. Langendal said a few families have opted to enroll their children elsewhere or homeschool. At the same time, the faculty chair said the school has received more than its fair share of new enrollment applications — so much so, that there’s now a waiting list.
Some have been New York City families that have migrated out east, but Ms. Langendal added “even local families want to be on a campus like ours.”
“I haven’t had any pushback on what we’re doing,” she said. “We’ve been very careful about everything. We have these protocols in place that I think are going to really help us — keeping track of who goes into what room in case we have to do contact tracing, and I’m watching the numbers everywhere to make sure we’re safe. Nothing is foolproof, but we’re doing the best we can.”
Following the Thanksgiving break, the school will switch to the virtual learning portion of its hybrid model. Teaching will continue for one more week, where staff will live stream either from their classroom or homes, and then close for four weeks instead of the usual two, before reopening online in January.
“We felt that since a lot of families will be gathering during the holiday, we’ll switch to the hybrid model then,” Ms. Langendal said. “This is all about safety and staying well. We want to do as many live lessons as possible because we’ve realized the more live the better.
That’s what we did in the spring, and I think we’ve gotten better at it. Our goal is to replicate the day as much as possible starting at 8:30 a.m.”
Avenues Studio Expanding
Avenues: The World School’s new Hamptons Studio opened its doors to students for the first time two weeks ago, operating out of East Hampton Indoor Tennis before gaining access to space at Hampton Country Day Camp, which staff moved into September 7. Students have been in class in person five days a week.
“It’s a beautiful space,” said Tara Powers, global director of communications for Avenues: The World School, of the space that accommodates 60 students in fourth through 11th grade. She said it was also recently announced that the school is expanding to a second location at the indoor tennis center to accommodate another 30 to 45 students.
“We also are expanding to serve students in first through 11th grade,” Ms. Powers said. “The decision to expand came out of continued demand from families, and we are currently accepting applications.”
The original campus was constructed to serve a maximum of 150 students. The combined capacity at both Hamptons locations now is 120. Enrollment is currently at 75, and the director of communications said an existing applicant pool is still being processed.
“Avenues’ commitment throughout the COVID pandemic has been to provide options and flexibility for our families,” Ms. Powers said. “One of these options is our studio campus which is a concept we were exploring pre-COVID, but became more urgent as the needs of our families became clear. This expansion allows us to meet the needs of more parents and students, both returning Avenues families and those who are new to our community.”
Employees were required to be tested for the novel coronavirus five to 10 days before school started. A retesting protocol is currently being worked on. Families and colleagues are also asked to complete a daily at-home health check using the Avenues mobile app. If any of the symptoms or conditions are present, the student or staff member will be denied access to campus. Families were also required to arrange the drop off and pickup of students.
Students arrive at their designated entry point at the appropriate time per instruction from the school, and present to staff that they are cleared for entry via the mobile app. All students will be required to have their temperature taken before proceeding to their cohort space.
The only food being served is snacks, so everyone is responsible for bringing his or her own lunch. Physical barriers separate students while eating, and desks and tables are wiped down before and after.
Each evening, all regularly-used hard surfaces like desktops and tabletops, used learning materials and high-touch points such as lights switches, door handles, hand-rails and restroom fixtures will be wiped down with cleaning agents that are certified as disinfectants for coronavirus. All floors will be mopped with disinfectant cleaners and all carpets will be vacuumed. Electrostatic disinfectant sprayers will be used as an additional layer to kill viruses as appropriate.
During school hours, restrooms will be monitored and common areas will be cleaned with increased frequency. Avenues also increased the frequency of cleaning the heating, ventilation and air conditioning ductwork, and will inspect and replace all filters at an accelerated pace. Additional air purification capabilities will also be deployed, as well as leaving windows open when appropriate.
“Our ability to bring our community together for in-person learning at the studio will depend greatly on the actions of our entire community — colleagues, students and parents alike,” said Maggie Wollner, the head of the Hamptons studio. “We all have a personal responsibility to do our part to try to stay healthy and help others stay healthy. By committing to do what is required, at home and at school, we can all help to create the conditions for our students to learn and our communities to stay safe.”
The global director of communications said the feedback so far has been positive, citing examples of responses the school has already received.
“It’s been going so well, and at least twice a week — usually more — I find that either the kids are saying to me, or I’m telling other people, how grateful we are for the kids to have the opportunity to go to school and interact/socialize with other kids every day while being in a safe environment,” Ms. Powers said one parent wrote. “There is a close resemblance to normalcy, which is quite a gift to have. … I know you are all working hard and balancing many factors in an extremely challenging environment. I’m delighted that the girls have the opportunity to see teachers and their friends daily in this beautiful place and look forward to a memorable year.”