LREI@home Update #1 - March 25, 2020
LREI@home Update #1
March 25, 2020
 
Dear LREI Community, 
 
Hello from the last days of Spring Break ‘20, with a few days to go before the beginning of LREI@home on Tuesday, March 31. (We added one day to spring break to give our faculty and staff time to meet together to prepare for the transition to our online selves.) You will receive more information about LREI@home from the principals on Friday and Monday. I send this note primarily to check in and to let you know that we, all of us at LREI, are thinking about you, students, families, and colleagues, keeping you in our thoughts and looking forward to a time in the future when we will see each other in person.
 
We sit here, each of us in our homes, trying to understand the world’s situation, grappling with our individual and collective concerns, checking in with family and friends, all from a distance. How strange this feels to be in a moment when our instincts tell us to rush towards each other, to cling together as a our communities, to be “there” for each other, that we have to be there by being apart, by being here. As we head towards LREI@home we may feel the same sense of otherworldliness, of our school-world being turned topsy-turvy, asking how can you do LREI at home?
 
I could not be prouder of the work that the faculty and administrative staff have done in the past few weeks. They have worked to translate their vibrant classrooms into LREI@home. Your children will begin to experience the product of this work early next week. In addition, early next week you will begin to learn of our plans for other community events, for adults and children, with new opportunities coming on line as we plan them. As I speak with and listen to educators from schools all over the country, one thing is clear, those students who are in schools with what we would call a more progressive, inclusive, active program seem to be having an easier time adapting to being online, to learning in a manner that is novel for them. This is not a surprise to us.
 
As we care for our community we think about those whose lives and livelihoods have been especially impacted by the pandemic. To support these community members we have created the LREI 360 Support Fund. The LREI 360 Support Fund is a designated fund intended to give the director of the school the means to provide immediate financial assistance to students, families, faculty, and staff who have lost part or all of their income and have essential living expenses that they cannot meet as a result of the pandemic. Over the next few months, this fund will support unanticipated, critical needs that require a timely and compassionate response. If you have a need for assistance please contact me or the member of the school’s administration with whom you are most comfortable speaking.
  • The LREI 360 Support Fund is separate from the Fund for LREI, which supports financial aid and program.
  • To contribute to the LREI 360 Support Fund, please visit LREI.org/giving.
    (Click on “Give Now,” scroll down to “Gift Details” to find “LREI 360 Support Fund.”)
In addition, lower school dad John Samuels is offering his services as a healthcare advisor with significant experience in public health. If a member of the LREI community needs support in navigating the healthcare system and would benefit from this sort of advisory conversation, John is offering his services free of charge. You can contact John directly at john@betterhealthadvisors.com.
 
Tomorrow you will receive an email from Jim Harris, the chair of LREI’s Board of Trustees and on Friday and Monday you will receive updates and invitations from the divisional principals. In the coming days and weeks we will settle into a communications routine, more at first, a little less but steady thereafter. If you have questions that we have not answered, do not hesitate to be in touch with me, or any member of the school’s administrative team.
Wishing your family the very best in these uncertain times.
 
Peace and health,
Phil
Coronavirus Update #7 - March 16, 2020
Coronavirus Update #7
March 16, 2020
 
Dear LREI Community,
 
Greetings from LREI. Classes ended just four days ago yet so much has changed since then. As you know,  yesterday Mayor DeBlasio closed the NYC public schools. As we have communicated, when the public schools are closed LREI will move to remote learning. We will be moving LREI’s programs online after our Spring Break.
 
The first day of LREI@home will be Tuesday, March 31, 2020. The earliest possible return date to onsite LREI is April 20, 2020, as this is the earliest day the public schools might return to class. We will be in touch during April with updates on our plans for the end of April and for May/June. You can visit LREI@home to get a preview of our plans. You might review this site with your children and ask them what they remember from their conversations with teachers and principals. We spent the last few weeks before the break preparing for LREI@home and have so many ideas for how we can keep in touch, keep the community whole and, most importantly, continue LREI’s rich learning experiences. We will be in touch as we approach March 31 with updates and opportunities, and we will continue to add resources to the LREI@home page at LREI.org.
 
We know that the coming weeks and months offer challenges. Some we can imagine and others we have yet to imagine. If LREI can be of support to you, please be in touch. Be in touch with me, with the principals, with the school psychologists, or with anyone you trust. You should know that while we are creating LREI@home and navigating the Spring’s challenges, we are also already planning for the 2020-2021 school year – LREI’s centennial. There are many events on tap to celebrate the history and future of our amazing institution.
 
A few reminders:
  • Wash your hands, stay home when sick, check in with a healthcare provider as needed. These will be essential to keeping your family, and the rest of us, as healthy as is possible.
  • A reminder  from our nurses that, alas, social distancing means to limit or eliminate playdates.
  • Suspected exposure – If you suspect that a member of your family has been exposed to the coronavirus, please alert the school nurses by emailing nurses@lrei.org. You can always email your child’s principal or me. I can be reached at pkassen@lrei.org or on my cell phone at 917-593-1787.
  • All LREI offices and buildings are closed. If you need access to someone or something, please email us after Spring Break, March 30 or later. If you need to reach someone between now and March 30, please email me at pkassen@lrei.org or call me at (917) 593-1787.
  • At LREI@home – Additional Resources you can find information about the coronavirus and COVID-19 and resources for ongoing learning/activity at home. Do you have family learning or student resources/activities that you want to share with other LREI families? Email them to at-home@lrei.org.
Moving into an uncertain period, while we MUST practice social distancing, I ask you to read this essay encouraging us to also practice social solidarity, written by LREI dad Eric Klinenberg. I hope that we can all take solace in the strength of our community, in the inherent goodness and strength of the people and institutions of the City of New York, and in the optimism and resilience our children model everyday. Few things are more inspiring.
 
Peace and health,
Phil
Coronavirus Update #6 - March 12, 2020
Coronavirus Update #6 
 
March 12, 2020
 
Dear LREI Community, 
 
On the eve of our Spring Break I write with a few updates / reminders and some thoughts.
 
Update:
 
Exposures, tests, closings both temporary and indefinite – the landscape of challenges and responses to the coronavirus and COVID-19 continues to evolve. Over the course of the past few days many of your children have asked me whether we would return to school after Spring Break. My answer has been and remains, “I hope so but it is hard to know for sure what the state of the pandemic will be in two weeks and we have to be ready to respond, to be nimble, and to be resilient.”  
 
We can look to colleges and universities for answers, though they have the added responsibility of housing and feeding their students. We must also contemplate our larger responsibility to join others in containing the virus, all of us staying home to slow the rate of exposure. Impossible for some and generally hard for all, though it is clearer and clearer that to the extent possible this is our individual and collective responsibility. We weighed our need to finish the term with the need to slow exposure and felt that we should end today and head into break a day early and that we must all do what we can over the next two weeks to minimize contact. I encourage you to do the same in your lives.   
 
Where will we be in two weeks? I don’t know. You should know that we are in touch with the administrators of other schools and universities, with the NYC Department of Health, and with a variety of other members of our extended community who bring knowledge and wisdom to this discussion. The administrative team has scheduled a number of meetings over the break and I will be in touch with members of LREI’s Board of Trustees. We will do our best to make a timely decision about reopening. We are currently planning for both a scheduled return on March 30 and for learning via LREI@home for a period of time after Spring Break, as needed.  
 
Reminders:
  • Not just when school is in session – Wash your hands, stay home when sick, check in with a healthcare provider as needed.  
  • For families that have planned travel for Spring Break – We will be in touch near the end of the break with reminders of public health suggestions as to which areas, when visited, will require self-quarantine. Do not hesitate to be in touch if you have any questions. Clearly the impact of travel is a changing landscape.
  • The above note on travel is important. New York City and surrounding communities have a growing number of cases. We will have to make decisions about school being open/closed based on both exposure outside of New York and the requirements of living healthfully in New York.
  • Suspected exposure – If you suspect that a member of your family may have been exposed to the coronavirus, please alert one of the school nurses by calling the school’s main number, 212-477-5316 or by emailing them. For the lower school and middle school, Ava Dawson – adawson@lrei.org. For the high school, Linda Perlmutter – lperlmutter@lrie.org or Joanne MacDonald – jmacdonald@lrei.org. You can always email your child’s principal or me. I can be reached at pkassen@lrei.org or on my cell phone at 917-593-1787. 
  • Tomorrow, Friday, March 13, the divisional principals will send more specific information about LREI@home. These plans will be put into practice AFTER Spring Break IF we are closed. We are sharing them this week to allow families to have some idea of our expectations for their child’s participation in our daily LREI@home program. These missives will be posted to our LREI.org/updates page.
  • As part of LREI@home we are working on ways to continue to support each other as a community – parent meetings, affinity groups, access to the psychologists, etc.  We will be in touch with a plan if we close for some period of time.
  • LREI@home will include Afterschool for those students who are enrolled in core Afterschool, enrichment classes, and/or instrumental lessons. The Afterschool office will be in touch with details.
  • If your family will have challenges accessing LREI@home’s online program at home for technical reasons, please speak with your child’s teacher, advisor, or any trusted LREI adult.  We will work with you to find a solution.
  • When we return we will be in touch about which LREI events will go on as planned and which may be postponed or changed in some way.  For now, we have decided to postpone April’s Art Auction. Details to follow.
 
Writing this pre-Spring Break note is, for two reasons, a more “bittersweet” task than other years. In a more typical year the last day of school before Spring Break would be celebrated as Founders Day – a day dedicated to the memory of Elisabeth Irwin, the amazing founder of our school. We would spend time in buddy groups, gather for an assembly, watch the (in)famous Founders Day Play and eat ice cream to commemorate the meeting, held in an ice cream parlor, that led to the founding of the school. Elisabeth Irwin is a daily inspiration. She knew that a progressive education prepared students to learn and live in a manner that readied them, at each step, for the next phase of their education and for life; for a fulfilling life and a life that, in the words of our mission statement, brings meaningful change to the world. Miss Irwin, as she was called, was a brilliant writer and while I can read her words, I wish that I would have had the chance to meet her and to hear her ideas, her beliefs, her passions directly.  
 
Not to get too sappy, but the second reason that this is a bittersweet Founders Day Eve is that I don’t know when we will see each other again. I know that we will be okay, that we will be safe and that we will be supportive and caring of one another. I have no doubt about the strength of our community. Yet the uncertainty of when our reunion will occur is unsettling. 
 
I leave you with a particularly stirring thought from Miss Irwin, Above all things, the progressive schools believe that childhood is a part of life and not just a preface to something more important, and that at every age children should have a chance to respond to the romance and adventure of the world around them.”  
 
I hope that this break brings many chances to “respond to the romance and adventure of the world wherever you happen to be and whenever we are reunited. 
 
With great gratitude, 

 

P.S. Please give your kids some Founders Day ice cream today. They’ve earned it.
 
 
Coronavirus Update #5 - March 10, 2020
Coronavirus Update #5
 
March 10, 2020

Dear LREI Community, 
 
I write to tell you of a change in LREI’s schedule for this week. LREI will be open for full days of school through Thursday, March 12. We will be closed for students on Friday, March 13. We will offer free childcare for all students in the 4s through sixth grade on Friday. (In order to sign up for childcare complete the form that Kenna Mateos will send home on Wednesday.)
 
It is important for me to be clear that we have not been informed of any member of the LREI community who has been exposed to the coronavirus. There are no increased risk factors, that we know of, for the next two days.  
 
For the past few weeks, the faculty and staff throughout the school have been providing the daily program that your children enjoy all year long and have been keeping the LREI operation humming along. At the same time, we have all been preparing for the possibility that we will need to translate our progressive program and vibrant community into its digital doppelganger – LREI@home – for some time after Spring Break. The school’s administrative leadership team decided this afternoon that we need more time to ready our plans and will spend all day Friday dotting our digital “i’s” and crossing our digital “t’s,” much in the same way that we plan each day of our mission-driven program.
 
We realize that this will create challenges for families and we apologize for this. While we do not like to give up even one day of school the time the faculty and staff will have together on Friday will make LREI@home more fruitful and meaningful, if indeed we are closed. We especially don’t like missing Founders Day. Given the circumstances, I think that Elisabeth Irwin would understand. We will reschedule parts of our Founders Day tradition for after the break.  
 
To recap:
  • LREI will be open for all children on Wednesday, March 11 and Thursday, March 12.  All programs and events will run, as well, including the High School Winter Theatre Showcase on Thursday evening.
  • We will be closed for children on Friday, March 13.  
  • We are closing to support the added workload the teachers and staff have in preparing for the potential for remote learning in April. There has been no known coronavirus exposure at LREI.
  • We will offer free childcare on Friday, March 13 for students in the 4s – sixth grade. Kenna Mateos will send a sign-up form on Wednesday morning. It is important that you sign up if you want to take advantage of this childcare opportunity.
  • Our current plan is to reopen on schedule on Monday, March 30.  We will be in touch over the break to confirm this.
As always, we appreciate your understanding and encourage you to be in touch with questions or concerns. 
 
Warmly,
Coronavirus Update #4 - March 9, 2020
 

Dear LREI Community,

 

Welcome back for the last week of school before Spring Break. Our plan is to have school all week unless it becomes safer not to do so. Two thoughts on this:
  • As I said in my Friday, March 6 message (which can be found at LREI.org/updates), while we will definitely close if the public schools close, we may decide to close if the public schools remain in session.
  • It is possible that we will close, for a day or longer, with little or no notice. In addition to whatever other preparations you may be taking, it would be prudent to begin to plan for childcare, as needed.

 

Reminders from earlier Updates:
  • Wash your hands, stay home if sick, seek medical help as needed.  Can’t say it enough.
  • LREI Lunch Service – in order to limit exposure during lunch service, we will be offering fewer options at the salad bar and on the hot food line. All serving will be done by adults. We will continue to have vegetarian options, etc. For the time being, lower school and middle school students will use the hot food line to get their lunches rather than eating family-style.
  • For families that have planned travel for Spring Break – We will be in touch near the end of the break with reminders of public health suggestions as to which areas, when visited, will require self-quarantine. Do not hesitate to be in touch if you have any questions.
  • We know that many members of our community are required to travel for their professions. Please keep the school informed if your travel has resulted in exposure to the virus or if your health care provider has additional guidance for you and your family as a result of any business travel.

 

New Items
  • Suspected exposure – If you suspect that a member of your family may have been exposed to the coronavirus, please alert one of the school nurses by calling the school’s main number, 212-477-5316 or by emailing them.  For the lower school and middle school, Ava Dawson – adawson@lrei.org. For the high school, Linda Perlmutter – lperlmutter@lrie.org or Joanne MacDonald – jmacdonald@lrei.org.

  • You have or will receive some general information regarding our plans for

    LREI@home. By Wednesday, we will post more specific plans for all three divisions on LREI.org/updates. These plans will be put into practice after Spring Break IF we are closed. We are posting them this week to allow families to have some idea of our expectations for their child’s participation in our daily LREI@home program.

  • For older students, we are asking students to bring their school assigned devices and many of their other school materials home with them each evening and back to school each day. Thanks, families, for helping to keep students organized.
  • LREI@home will include Afterschool for those students who are enrolled in core Afterschool, enrichment classes, and/or instrumental lessons. The Afterschool office will be in touch with details.
  • If your family will have challenges accessing this online program at home for technical reasons, please speak with your child’s teacher, advisor, or any trusted LREI adult. We will work with you to find a solution.

 

A childhood friend who is the excellent head of an excellent school emailed a list of illnesses that have impacted the lives of many more people than COVID-19 has, thus far, and likely more than it will in the long run. Another friend posted on social media the question of what would happen if we were able to create the same energy we have around the coronavirus in service to preparing for and responding to the issues brought on by climate change the way we have in only the past few weeks regarding the novel coronavirus. I was at a meeting of NYC school heads last week and one member of the group asked why we were able to motivate so many to prepare for school closing, to respond to this illness, but we have a harder time motivating all in our communities to respond to the “sickness” of racism? I am still thinking about this one.

 

I like these questions. I like the idea that one thing that could possibly come out of our current situation is that we recognize the power of science and truth, the power of clear communication, and the power of collective action.  Let’s all remember this when we are through this current period.

 

I will be in touch again soon.
 
 
Warmly,
 
Coronavirus Update #3 - March 6, 2020
 
 
Dear LREI Community,
 
I write at the end of a week that began with my saying that I would be in touch once per week. That said, it seemed prudent to communicate with you as we head into the weekend. Some of the information below is included as a reminder and is similar to our last communication. Some of the information is the result of the work done by the administrative team, the faculty, and the staff. Some speaks to the hard work of our health team and the maintenance crew. Amazing people all!
 
Updates:
 
Healthy Habits
  • We continue to remind students and adults to wash their hands, sneeze into tissues or elbows, not to touch faces, and to be generally aware of themselves and others. PLEASE join us in these efforts.
  • Stay home from school/work if you are ill.
  • Contact your healthcare provider if a member of your family is ill.
  • We will be modifying some of our lunch service to make sure we are minimizing the ways in which kids pass along germs.
  • One of the best tools we have to fight this illness is our deepening understanding of how it is transmitted and how one keeps oneself healthy (see above) and a basic understanding of the tools that can be brought to this endeavor. The teachers have and will continue to explain this to students and to answer their questions in age-appropriate ways. Check out this list of “myth-busters.”
Travel
  • We know that many families have planned travel for Spring Break. We will be in touch near the end of the break with reminders of public health suggestions as to which areas when visited, will require self-quarantine. Do not hesitate to be in touch if you have any questions.
  • We know that many members of our community are required to travel for their professions. Please keep the school informed if your travel has resulted in exposure to the virus or if your health care provider has additional guidance for you and your family as a result of any business travel.
School Closure / LREI@home
  • If the public schools close, LREI will close. If the public schools stay open, LREI may choose to close based on the needs of our community.
  • The teachers in all three divisions are hard at work creating LREI@home. If LREI is closed we will be in touch with contact schedules for students in all three divisions. You will hear from the divisional principals in the next few school days.
  • If your family will have challenges accessing this online program at home for technical reasons, please speak with your child’s teacher, advisor, or any trusted LREI adult. We will work with you to find a solution.
I could not be more impressed with, and grateful for, the work of the teachers and administrators as we plan for this possibility. They are amazing, but you already knew that.
 
Communication
  • We will continue to send home at least one email per week. If the coronavirus news cycle continues at its current pace you will likely hear from us more frequently.
  • If LREI will close and before we begin LREI@home, we will communicate with you via email and a phone call to make sure we contact everyone.
A few thoughts on COVID-19 as it relates to LREI’s mission and your children’s education:
  • As we think about the possibility of closures and quarantine it is important to recognize the privilege that the ability to prepare represents. How well can one prepare when living paycheck to paycheck, if you don’t have a home, or if you rely on some form of assistance to feed your family? Preparing for quarantine is a challenge if missing work means missed pay or if you live in a multigenerational home or if your access to health care is tenuous at best. Who will have to go to work in order for many of us to be able to stay safely at home? As this virus challenges our institutions, the marginalized are only marginalized more, and those of us who can, should consider what we can offer our communities.
  • It is important, as we each can, to step back and be a bit clinical as we think about the coronavirus. If we can, we will see that there are some good lessons in this moment. There are statistics lessons, basic math lessons, geography, biology, virology lessons, and on and on. One way to make this situation less scary is to understand it. The situation will not be less serious, but at least we can know what the threats are. We can tell fact from fiction, serious from inflammatory, valid warnings from propaganda. Knowledge is power. Learning is the key. The adults must teach the children and each other.
  • We know so much more about viruses, sickness, and the human body than we did, let’s say, during the 1918 flu epidemic. We understand this particular virus to some degree and are hustling to learn more. We can draw on our knowledge of other illnesses and a deep store of knowledge that a hundred years of science has provided. That said, until medical therapies and/or a vaccine is developed we have to take care of ourselves and we may have to limit our activities in order to help our communities. We may have to sacrifice to support others. The most effective prevention strategies continue to be some level of community-mindedness, some level of understanding of our obligations to each other, even to people we don’t know. There is something inspiring in this. As far as the world has come the oldest strategy will make all of the difference – we must depend on each other, one and all. Thanks for having my back!
Coronavirus Update #2 - March 2, 2020
Dear LREI Community,

Following my email last week, I write today to share our current plans regarding the coronavirus (COVID-19) and in response to the suggestion from federal and local authorities that schools prepare for increasing local impact and for the unlikely event of prolonged school closure.
 
In formulating our plans we are following the guidance of local and national health agencies. We sought input from other schools and we are taking advantage of the generous advice of members of the LREI com
munity who work at universities and corporations and those who have access to information to which we would not be privy otherwise. We are grateful to all who have supported our planning.  Please read this email carefully.
  • Student Travel – Out of an abundance of caution, and recognizing how quickly the coronavirus landscape is changing, we have decided to cancel our eighth grade trips to Spain and France. With an increasingly unpredictable path, we cannot be assured that the students’ experiences will be what we have been promised nor that their travel will be safe and uninterrupted.
  • While School is in Session – For the next two weeks and then continuing after break, we will:
    • Reinforce healthy habits;
    • Disinfect the buildings on a more frequent schedule;
    • Continue to look for ways to minimize transmission of communicable diseases;
    • Educate the students about the virus and will reassure them that they are safe.
  • Family Travel – If a member of your LREI student’s household(s) has traveled to a country or state that has had significant incidence of infection and/or is listed at Level 2 or higher by the CDC or you have hosted a guest from one of these states or countries, we ask that you immediately contact your health care provider and, on their advice, consider that you may have to keep your child home for 14 days from the day of last contact. If you have planned travel over Spring Break to one of the areas noted above we ask that you self-quarantine for 14 days after your return.
  • School Closure – While we hope that we do not have to use them, we are hard at work creating plans for LREI@Home, through which we will provide educational programming for students in the event of a school closure.  If your family will have challenges accessing this online program at home for technical reasons, please speak with your child’s teacher, advisor, principal, or any trusted LREI adult.  We will work with you to find a solution.
  • We take this opportunity to remind all of a few simple means for minimizing the transmission of any illness:
    • Children and adults should stay home when sick. Children must be fever and symptom free for 24 hours before returning to school;
    • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth;
    • Clean and disinfect surfaces frequently, especially when someone is sick;
    • It is not too late to get this season’s flu shot.
  • Communication:
    • You can expect to hear from us at least once per week with updates concerning
    • LREI’s planning/response to this situation. You might hear from us more frequently if there is urgent news;
    • Please make sure that your family’s contact information in LREI Connect is up to date;
    • A reminder that urgent/time-sensitive communications will be sent to you via email and our auto-call phone system.  “Home” phone numbers will get notification calls. All numbers will receive emergency calls
While the coronavirus – its quickening pace and all that we don’t yet know – can be scary, we are fortunate to have modern medicine and science, many smart and learned people, and reason on our side.  We will base our decisions on the the best information we have at the time and on the advice and input of experts. We will balance our concern and fear with facts, forethought, and compassion. We will be guided, in part, by what we will teach our children through our decisions and actions.  We will communicate with you in a timely and transparent fashion. We are available to you, as individuals and as a community.
 
All best,

 

 
Coronavirus Update #1 - February 26, 2020

Dear LREI Community,

You may have read this article in yesterday’s NY Times, or similar articles / reports elsewhere, regarding comments about the coronavirus made by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Rather than waiting for each of you to follow the suggestion in the article that you contact the school, it seemed better for me to contact you all.

 

Three thoughts on the impact of the coronavirus on life at LREI:

 

1) A group of administrators and faculty are meeting today to consider the question of the eighth grade’s Spring Break trips to France and Spain. We will make a decision about these trips ASAP.  There is no planned trip to China this year. 

 

2) The school’s administration and others will meet soon to discuss plans for keeping students healthy at school if the coronavirus appears in NYC, or nearby.  

 

3) We will also begin to plan for how we serve students in what we hope is the unlikely event of schools being forced to close due to the coronavirus. 

 

Thank you for your attention and I will be back in touch as we have more definite plans.

 

Best,

Phil

LREI@Home Overview

Divisional Updates

Additional Resources