Fall 2020: Learning Continuity

Beginning on September 1, students in grades K-8 will be engaged in distance learning, with plans in place to flexibly transition between a Distance Learning model and a Hybrid Learning model throughout the year depending on health directives.

The trajectory of the pandemic and health directives are ever-changing. We continue to make decisions in alignment with Marin County’s Public Health Officers, who are in turn guided by ongoing data and research regarding the pandemic and societal response across the globe.

Mark Day School is a vibrant, inclusive learning community, and we will support one another and continue learning together, no matter the circumstances. We cannot wait to welcome children and families to the new school year and to get students and teachers working together again. There is so much to learn, and the growth mindset, critical thinking, creative problem solving, global perspective, and social and emotional skills that Mark Day nurtures in our students have never been more important than in today’s work. We cannot wait to get up and running together.

Learning continuity is a top priority. The learning structure for the fall is designed to flexibly transition between the two different models below as conditions change while maintaining student engagement, learning, and well-being.

Distance Learning 2.0 will involve live, synchronous learning via Zoom, virtual small group work, 1:1 check-ins, refined schedules and assignments, a timely and robust assessment program, and a reliance on real-time feedback from parents and guardians about individual student/family needs.

All students receive devices including iPads and laptops, depending on grade level, with which to participate in distance learning. Faculty use a combination of class and small group configurations during live lessons, and many offer “office hours” so students can ask questions and receive additional help via live interaction. Students receive between 2.5-4 hours of live instruction per day, depending on grade level, in addition to other asynchronous activities.

Students in grades K-3 have at least 180 minutes per day of live lessons, grades 4-5 have 220 minutes, and grades 6-8 have 240 minutes. Students in all grades also have access to small group time for more individualized instruction each week.

[Learn more about distance learning]

Our Hybrid Learning model will combine in-person learning with Distance Learning. Students engaged in Hybrid Learning will be learning on campus in-person five days per week, with some students continuing to learn from a distance if needed.

There are two phases for Hybrid Learning, depending on health directives:

  • Phase 1: Hybrid Learning for K-5 only, while G6-8 remain in Distance Learning mode
  • Phase 2: Hybrid Learning for all students K-8

When on campus, strict protocols will be in place to protect the health and safety of our students, families, and employees. We will continue to adhere to strict measures to keep our families and employees safe and healthy, including:  

  • Cleaning and sanitizing the campus on a more frequent schedule 
  • Daily required health screenings
  • Restricting on-campus visitors
  • Requiring face coverings while on campus
  • Consistent hygiene

We will also take measures to balance health and safety with sustaining a sense of normalcy and routine during the school day. To maintain social distancing, new routines will be implemented for:

  • Drop off and pick up
  • Cohorts
  • Defined campus movement
  • Lunch and recess
  • Bus transportation and carpool
  • Before and after school childcare

Every facet of our program and every single decision comes from careful consideration and extensive research--and the 2020-2021 school year is no different.

Academic excellence is and always has been the backbone of a Mark Day education. Since the spring, we have been researching and designing frameworks that will allow us to offer the exceptional education that is a hallmark of Mark Day while adhering to local and national health directives. While the educational landscape may look different, our goals remain the same. We continue to regularly refine our cohesive curriculum and assessment system and focus on the objectives and aspirations of our graduates.

Maintaining a sense of community continues to be a top priority as we work and learn remotely. 

In the fall, as we did throughout the spring, we will continue to have whole-school assemblies via Zoom twice per week. This connection to community is in many ways what makes Mark Day’s distance learning program unique. It’s not about checking boxes or filling the day with various activities to keep students busy--it’s about maintaining the feel of a school community while continuing to learn.

Mark Day School has always valued the close partnership between parents and guardians and the school. It’s more important now than ever.

As families transition to distance learning and working from home again in the fall, we know that what families will experience and need will be vastly different from household to household. Easing families into this new learning model and supporting them along the way is an important part of this ongoing partnership. We will continue to survey parents and guardians to identify strengths and areas for support and improvement, as well as offer additional opportunities for virtual conversations with Head of School Joe Harvey, Assistant Head Bonnie Nishihara, and division heads Dave Hickman and Thad Reichley. 

Frequently Asked Questions

When does Mark Day School plan to transition to in-person learning?

We are guided by Marin County Public Health directives, and will follow their guidance on when school can re-open for in-person learning.

What if I don’t feel comfortable sending my student to in-person learning at all during the 2020-2021 school year, either because of my student’s safety or health concerns of a live-in family member?

If a student and/or family is not able to attend school in-person (when health officials state it is safe to do so), we can offer a Distance Learning program for that student. The student will continue to learn alongside peers and teachers remotely.

Once we are back to in-person learning, what if a student or teacher tests positive for COVID-19?

We will be following the strict guidance of the state and Marin County public health directives on different scenarios, including communication directly with families and staff members depending on the exact situation. Our 30-point school site-specific protection plan, including responses to potential positive cases and contact tracing, has been built in alignment with the state and county guidance and requirements.

Can my child participate in his/her extracurricular activities like sports outside of school?

Once we transition to Hybrid Learning, we ask that Mark Day families prioritize their in-person learning cohorts. Contact with groups outside of school, like sports or other clubs, can compromise the health and safety of our Mark Day community by increasing the potential for close contact with an individual infected with COVID-19. 

How can I, as a parent/guardian, stay connected to the community and stay informed about what my child is learning throughout the different learning models?

Parents and guardians are an important part of our community. Our PA President, Rachel Street, will be reaching out with opportunities to stay connected with one another and the school via upcoming events, virtual activities, and volunteer opportunities. Additionally, we will be sending out weekly updates about what’s happening in classrooms across grades to share what students are learning. As always, we encourage parents and guardians to be in close communication with teachers and division heads about individual students’ progress.

Will the school calendar remain the same (i.e. holidays, Closing Day, etc.)?

Yes, the basic structure of the school calendar (holidays, etc.) will remain the same. Annual events like the Book Exchange, Passport Day, and Grandparents & Special Friends’ Day may be adjusted, postponed, or canceled depending on health directives. We would be in touch regarding any other changes with as much notice as possible.

In Distance Learning mode, will we be required to pay our allotted indexed tuition, or will you offer tuition abatement?

We are not offering tuition abatement at this time. There is significant added expense in terms of people, technology, and other equipment of Distance Learning, which is also true for Hybrid Learning. 

Will fees for outdoor education and other additional fees remain the same? 

All fees will be required along with tuition. Our  approach will continue to be what we did last spring, which was to refund to families the cost of any cancelled outdoor education experiences.