Florida Ruffin Ridley School Principal's Blog

  • What's Happening at the Hive #8

    Posted by Jennifer Buller on 1/17/2022 6:30:00 PM

    Hello Florida Ruffin Ridley School Families and Friends,

     

    I hope that you had a chance to spend the long weekend reflecting on the ways in which you positively contribute to our community and our work towards social justice.  I spent some time re-reading Cultivating Genius: An Equity Framework for Culturally and Historically Responsive Literacy by Gholdy Muhammad and examining our current approaches and practices to support achievement and excellence for all students.  And while we have a lot of work ahead of us, I am proud of the goals and work our staff is currently doing to raise the academic growth and achievement of all our students.  

     

    Below are some updates and information for this week including:

    • Health and Safety update
    • Lunch and snack group pause
    • Vaccine Clinics
    • School Council Meeting THIS WEEK 
    • Family Volunteers Needed 

     

    Health and Safety Update

    This week we saw a decline in our case numbers as well as the percentage of staff and students out of the building.  This data presented below has us hopeful heading into this 4 day week at school.  

    Date Student Absence Percentage* Staff Absence Percentage*
    Monday January 10 12.8% 9.5%
    Tuesday January 11 18% 14%
    Wednesday January 12 11.8% 10.7%
    Thursday January 13 11.4% 11.3%
    Friday January 14 12.8% 10.4%


    *as a reminder these absences for both students and staff, account for positive COVID-19 results, illness, child care issues, and other non COVID-19 related absences.  

     

    We continue to send out positive case notifications to individual classrooms in K-5 and grade levels in grades 6-8.  Despite the surge we will continue to do our best in contact tracing and identifying individuals in K-5 that qualify for the Test and Stay program.  As a reminder, based on the current guidance from the state, individuals who are eligible for the Test and Stay program are those individuals who, for 15 minutes or more cumulatively throughout the day, were either within 0-3 feet of the positive individual during their infectious period while masked or within 3-6 feet of the positive individual during their infectious period while unmasked AND are not fully vaccinated at the time of exposure.

     

    Lunch/Snack Group Pause

    Due to the rising cases because of the Omicron surge we are temporarily pausing lunch and snack groups that are typically led by our Clinical Team (guidance counselors, school psychologists, and social workers).  Because these groups meet in small office spaces that do not allow for additional distancing, we are taking extra precautions and pausing these groups for this coming week and will reassess based on case data at the end of the week.  

     

    Vaccine Clinics

    The following clinics are scheduled for Brookline Residents:

    COVID VACCINE/BOOSTER CLINIC – TUESDAY, JANUARY 25, 2022 6PM-8PM RUFFIN SCHOOL, 345 HARVARD ST

    Link for Jan 25 COVID Vaccine Clinic Registration:

    https://www.appointmentquest.com/scheduler/2180061935?schedule=brooklineschool

     

    BROOKLINE DRIVE THRU COVID TESTING (AVAILABLE TO EMPLOYEES, FAMILIES AND RESIDENTS)

    Drive-thru and walk-ups available. Appointments preferred, but not required. Link:

    https://www.brooklinema.gov/2050/COVID-19-Testing-Vaccine-

    Clinic Details:

    Location: Town Hall/Library Garage

    Drive-thru testing is accessed via the garage on Washington Street – between Town Hall & the Library. Walk-up testing is accessed via Harvard Street, walking up the Pierce School steps across from the Brookline Spa / Homer St. (Harvard St between School & Pierce Streets)

    Dates & Times:

    Sunday, January 23, 2022 | 9:00 am - 2:00 pm

    Sunday, January 30, 2022 | 9:00 am - 2:00 pm

     

    School Council Reminder and Agenda

    Our next School Council meeting will take place THIS Wednesday January 19th at 6:00pm via Zoom.  This earlier start time allows us to meet for our full hour and still allow families to attend the Ruffin Ridley Readers that starts at 7:30pm.  Next Wednesday, Brookline Select Board member and vice chair Dr. Raul Fernandez will be the special guest Reader and he will share about how our Town Government works.  I encourage everyone to attend if you are able! 

     

    January 19th School Council Meeting

    Meeting ID: 987 2544 5666

    Passcode: FRRCouncil

     

    Agenda:

    • School Improvement Plan updates
    • Student/Family Handbook draft feedback
    • SIP action steps check in for 22-23 school year 
    • Community concerns
    • Public Comment 

     

    Family Volunteers Needed

    On Wednesday February 2nd and Thursday February 3rd, Corneilus Minor will be here at FRR to work with a larger group of our staff as part of our partnership with the Minor Collective this year. 

    We are looking for 15-20 volunteers who are able and willing to volunteer for a half day to cover a classroom so that our educators can connect and learn with Corneilus Minor.  

    If you are interested and able to volunteer please fill out this brief form.  The more volunteers the more educators are able to benefit from this amazing professional development opportunity! 

      

    We are in a tough spot right now as we deal with this surge and its impact on our students and staffing levels.  I continue to be grateful for our FRR community and the support, kindness, flexibility, and strength all of us have shown over the past two weeks while also not wavering from our commitment to our school wide goals around elevating academic growth and achievement and increasing self efficacy, sense of belonging, and emotional regulation for all our students.  As hard as these past two weeks have been for us, it has most certainly highlighted the strength, resilience, and commitment to connection and support that runs deep within our community.  

     

    I hope you all stay healthy and safe, and please do not hesitate to reach out to myself or any member of our staff if you and/or your family needs support at this time.

     

    Jen

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  • What's Happening at the Hive #7

    Posted by Jennifer Buller on 1/10/2022 2:45:00 PM

    Hello Florida Ruffin Ridley Families and Friends,

     

    I hope that the unexpected long weekend because of the snow day on Friday afforded you some extra opportunities to rest, read, and play outside safely.  This morning as we came back together I held another all school virtual version of our Monday Morning messages to share reminders about our updated health and safety guidance as well as share gratitude for the incredible job your children are doing following these new protocols and procedures.  

     

    Below you will find some updates about what’s happening here in our hive including information about:

    • Updated absence data from last week
    • Health and safety reminders
    • Reminders about arrival procedures and safety
    • Cold weather gear reminder
    • School Council reminder and agenda

     

    Updated Absence Data from the Week of Jan 3rd

    After my email on Tuesday, January 4th I received some feedback that seeing our absence data for students and staff was helpful for some families.  Below is the data from the three days we were in school last week and today:

    Date

    Student Absence Percentage

    Staff Absence Percentage

    Tuesday, January 4th

    16.5%

    17%

    Wednesday, January 5th

    16.6%

    12.5%

    Thursday, January 6th

    15%

    12.5%

    Monday, January 10th

    12.8%

    9.5% 

     

    As a reminder these absences, for both students and staff, account for positive COVID-19 results, illness, child care issues, and other non COVID-19 related absences. 

     

    Health and Safety Reminders

    • Please keep your child(ren) home if they are symptomatic and follow up with your child(ren)’s primary health care provider and our nurses Brianna Cormos (brianna_cormos@psbma.org) and Jana Young (jana_young@psbma.org)
    • All COVID-19 related absences and positive test results should be reported to our nurses as soon as possible.
    • Send your child(ren) to school with well fitting masks and when possible those with higher filtration, such as KN95 or KF94.  We have spare surgical masks in smaller and larger sizes for any child who forgets a mask at home and/or needs a better fitting mask when they are here in school.  
    • If you haven’t already, please fill out the Test and Stay permission form
    • Because of the high volume and surge of COVID-19 cases here in school, we are unable to conduct thorough contact tracing.  Where and when we are able we are prioritizing identifying those individuals who are eligible for the Test and Stay program. Please monitor your child(ren) closely for symptoms and keep them home if they present any COVID-19 related symptoms.  
    • Individuals who are eligible for the Test and Stay program are those individuals who, for 15 minutes or more cumulatively throughout the day, were either within 0-3 feet of the positive individual during their infectious period while masked or within 3-6 feet of the positive individual during their infectious period while unmasked AND are not fully vaccinated at the time of exposure.

     

    Reminders About Arrival Procedures and Safety

    As the colder weather approaches some families may choose to drive their child(ren) to the school building.  These families MUST use the rolling drop off lane on the LEFT side of Stedman Street to drop off their child(ren)

    • There is no parking on either side of Stedman.  The LEFT lane is to be used for a rolling drop off.  Adults may not park on the LEFT of Stedman and exit their vehicles and walk students to the building.  In order to help our neighbors have a smooth start to their day there is no school parking on the RIGHT side of Stedman. 
    • When exiting the drop off lane on Stedman Street please check your mirrors and blindspots for pedestrians, vehicles, and bicycles before pulling back out on to Stedman Street. 
    • There is NO driving in the front loop off Harvard Street between 7:45 - 8:10am with the exception of school vans.  
    • Anyone wishing to park and walk their child(ren) to the building must use parking on Harvard Street or the Centre Street lot.  
    • Doors close and lock at 8:05a.  Anyone arriving after 8:05a must use the entrance off Harvard Street and sign in at the main office. 

     

    Cold Weather Gear Reminder

    We eat outside when possible and get outdoors for recesses and some Physical Education classes.  

     

    Please help your child(ren) dress warmly for the temperatures we experience during the winter months.  We will only go outside for recess and outdoor eating periods when we are in the yellow or green zones.  

     

    School Council Reminder and Agenda

    Our next School Council meeting will take place on Wednesday January 19th at 6:00pm via Zoom.  This earlier start time allows us to meet for our full hour and still allow families to attend the Ruffin Ridley Readers that starts at 7:30pm.  Next Wednesday, Brookline Select Board member and vice chair Dr. Raul Fernandez will be the special guest Reader and he will share about how our Town Government works.  I encourage everyone to attend if you are able! 

     

    January 19th School Council Meeting

    Meeting ID: 987 2544 5666

    Passcode: FRRCouncil

     

    Agenda:

    • School Improvement Plan updates
    • Student/Family Handbook draft feedback
    • SIP action steps check in for 22-23 school year 
    • Community concerns
    • Public Comment 



    I again want to share my gratitude with you all for all the efforts you are putting in at home to keep our Hive happy and healthy.  Your children are doing amazing here at school and meeting each challenge this pandemic has thrown our way with flexibility and grace.  Our staff continues to also be beacons of light, filling in the staffing gaps that are persisting (yet easing up a bit) and sharing their joy, warmth, and care with your children each day.  Our strength as a community has surely shown through in this past week! 

     

    Tomorrow is going to be bitterly cold.  We will not be going outside for any outdoor eating times or recess.  Even still, please help your child(ren) remember to dress warmly, especially if they are walking to the building.  

     

    Stay warm and safe at home and be well!

    Jen

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  • First Day Back Update

    Posted by Jennifer Buller on 1/4/2022 3:00:00 PM

    Good Afternoon Florida Ruffin Ridley School Families and Friends,

    I thought I would reach out to you to provide you a brief status update as we returned to school today.  

    Overall we had a great first day back from the break.  Your children did an incredible job following our new protocols and procedures and reinforcing the ones we had in place.  We held our all school virtual meeting at 8:10a to go over the information I shared with you all yesterday.  I appreciate the work you did at home to share those messages and ask that you continue to reinforce proper mask wearing and distancing with your child(ren) at home as we move through this wave together.  

    In total toady we had roughly 17% of our staff absent due to positive COVID-19 results, illness, child care issues, and other non COVID-19 related absences.  Typically our largest and most complicated days for absences and staff coverages is around 7%. Our student absences are also hovering around 17% spread out across kindergarten through Grade 8, not including the 6 students we sent home because they became ill here at school.  

    I want to share my gratitude first to our amazing staff who stepped up to fill the 24 of 27 absences we had today that did not have substitute coverage.  Many staff stepped into different roles, helped deliver lunches during breaks in their schedules, and were out and about offering their support wherever it was needed.  

    I also want to offer my gratitude to each of you for your patience today.  With both of our front office staff members out as well as one of our nurses, I appreciate your understanding with attendance calls and the speed in which we are able to follow up on voicemails and emails today.  We were so fortunate to have a wonderful substitute nurse, Elizabeth Hendrickson, join us to fill in today as well as back up from central office staff members Michael D'Onofrio and Kelley Durgin to help in the main office.  Our nurses are still working hard on making their way through all the reports of positive student cases and symptomatic students.  I anticipate it will take us a few days to work through all the calls and emails that came in over the break and the last 24 hours.  

    And of course I want to share my deep appreciation for your children.  Those that could, arrived ready to greet today and follow the changes we have put in place.  Flexibility was the keyword of the day, and the students here showed it all day long.  It was absolutely joyful to greet them on their way in and have them fill our classrooms with their curiosity, enthusiasm for learning, and spirited energy and engagement.  For our students who are home because of illness, please know that we missed them today and hope they have a speedy and safe recovery.  Please connect with your child(ren)’s teacher(s) to ask about how to access work if your child(ren) is(are) able to complete work at home at this time.  

    I know there are some lingering questions in the community about “silent” lunch.  The intention of us having a mostly silent eating period is to limit the time students spend unmasked indoors.  When students have their masks off and are talking with friends around them it often distracts them from eating thus prolonging the time that their mask is off.  Eliminating the social chatter and component of lunch, for now, will help us reduce the amount of unmasked time in the building and help reduce our risk of spreading illness.  

    This morning in my message to students I shared how hard it was to have some of these stricter measures return.  It is tough on us all, students and staff, to have to temporarily tighten protocols, increase distancing, and reduce more collaborative social experiences with students.  I emphasized how our hope is that these measures, in combination with rising vaccination rates, will help us move through this wave quickly and most importantly keep us in school together.  

    As I mentioned in my email yesterday, we expect that these next few weeks will really test our strength and resolve as a community.  I remain confident that our efforts here at school, coupled in partnership with your efforts at home, will allow us to emerge as one healthy hive.  

    Take care and get some good rest tonight.  

    Jen 

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  • What's Happening at the Hive #6: Return from Winter Break

    Posted by Jennifer Buller on 1/3/2022 12:00:00 PM

    Hello Florida Ruffin Ridley School Families and Friends, 

    I hope that you all found some space over the winter break to slow things down a bit and that you and your families remained healthy and safe during this week away.  As you know from the district’s message last night our school is closed today due to the overwhelming staff shortage that we are experiencing currently due to COVID-19 positive cases, symptomatic staff members, staff out taking care of sick and COVID-19 positive children, and other absences unrelated to COVID-19.  This is an ever evolving situation and I appreciate your grace, patience, and understanding as we navigate this challenge together.  This was not an easy decision to make and over the break we were all planning for our return to school today.  It is eerily lonely in the building, reminiscent of the first days of the pandemic in March of 2020, and I missed welcoming all your children back through our doors this morning.  And I know that I will get the chance to see you and all of them again very soon once we solidify our plan forward.  

    Today, principals and Central Office staff are hard at work making contingency plans and determining how we can safely staff buildings in the coming days as the case numbers continue to climb. The district will continue to provide updates as plans are developed and I will reach out following those communications with how they impact our day to day here at FRR. Saeed, Erin, Steve, and myself are here at school today preparing for a reopening tomorrow. 

    I also thought I would share the timeline of how we got to this point today to help provide you a window into the decision making process and what the last week has entailed.

    • On Wednesday, December 29th, just before 3pm, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) announced that that the state had purchased Covid antigen test kits for every educator in the state, and that those kits would be ready for distribution to districts on Friday, December 31st.
    • On Thursday, December 30th, our central office staff began making plans to distribute the tests to all staff on Sunday, January 2nd.  Central Office staff, School Committee members, principals and other administrators signed up to staff two pick up locations, one at BHS and one at Baker School in South Brookline.  Meanwhile, our custodians were distributing the district purchased KN95 masks to staff work spaces.
    • By Friday, December 31st it was publicly announced that the delivery of the state purchased test kits had been delayed. Principals met with the superintendent Friday afternoon to assess our current staffing situation and discuss the contingency plans that were in the works in the event that tests were delayed.
    • The afternoon of Saturday, January 1st our incredible facilities staff went and picked up the tests that were available.  The state did not have enough for us, but the Brookline Health Department was able to fill the gap and we procured enough tests for every employee of Brookline Public Schools.  Pop up tents were delivered to both test pick-up locations so that we could safely hand out tests outdoors in a drive up fashion, despite the predicted rain.
    • Sunday, January 2nd we set up tents at 9:30am and began distributing tests at 10am.  Staff came through both sites at a steady pace, and we closed down the pick up locations at 2pm.
    • Between December 29 and January 1, positive tests had already been reported at most (if not all) schools. Principals were actively monitoring staff absence calls and reporting numbers to the Superintendent multiple times each day.
    • Last night the principals, Superintendent, and Central Office staff met to continue to discuss plans for safely opening schools today.  At the beginning of the meeting, many schools were reporting higher than typical absences and increasing numbers of positive tests.  By the end of the meeting, just before 9pm, the number of staff absences across the district had reached a tipping point where we could not safely staff all buildings.  The Superintendent made the incredibly difficult decision to close school today and notified families within 45 minutes.

    As we prepare to return many of you have reached out with questions about how we will be handling the rising COVID-19 cases in our community.  I wanted to take a moment to outline what we are planning to implement, revise, and will be continuing to do to help keep our community as healthy and safe as possible during this pandemic.  I will be live streaming our “Monday Morning” announcements when we return tomorrow for all students to go over some of these changes and reminders.  Please set aside some time to read this communication thoroughly and review the relevant updated guidance with your child(ren) before returning to school.  Should any of this guidance change as the situation develops I will be sure to update you all.  

    Updated Distancing Guidance and Visitor Protocols

    • Classroom and small group specialists’ furniture will continue to be arranged at 3 feet spacing where possible 
      • All clustered seating will be removed for now and increased distancing will be implemented where possible
    • When possible clustered seating on the rug will be limited or omitted 
    • At this time we are limiting visitors in our building to only before or after school hours
    • Whole class in person celebrations (ex: work shares) are on hold until further notice 
    • Until further guidance there are no spectators (students or adults) allowed at our grades 7-8  basketball games 

     

    Updated Guidance for Unmasked Times 

    • Snack will be held outdoors when the real feel temperature is the yellow or green zones
    • All indoor eating times will be silent for the time being
    • Masks must be put back on as soon as a student finishes eating
    • Breakfast
      • Students must space out with at least one seat between them during breakfast
      • Students must remain seated throughout the breakfast period 
    • Eating lunch in classrooms
      • Desks/chairs will continue to be spaced out at 3 feet with all students facing forward, increased distance will be implemented where possible 
      • Windows will be opened during the lunch period in the classroom regardless of outdoor temperature in addition to continue having the portable air filters running in classrooms that require the device for additional air filtration
    • Eating lunch in the cafeteria
      • All students must remain in their seats for the duration of the lunch period.  We are currently assessing and revising seating arrangements in the cafeteria.  
      • Items such as utensils and napkins and the removal of trash will be brought to tables
      • Only 2 students will be allowed in the bathroom at a time 
      • Cafeteria doors (playground and Stedman) will be propped open during lunch periods to increase air exchanges 

     

    Updated Guidance for Providing Work for Students at Home 

    • For any student who is absent related to COVID-19, they will be provided work that will allow them to keep pace with what is happening in school. 
    • Families can expect the classroom/homeroom teacher to reach out, first to check on your child(ren)’s wellbeing, and  secondly to communicate the plan for accessing remote learning.  
    • For students with special education services, families can also expect the liaison to reach out to check in on your child and communicate a plan for accessing work related to their missed in school services 
    • Educators may use a combination of ways to engage students who are out of school related to COVID-19.  This may include, but is not limited to, accessing work on the Learning Management System (Seesaw, Google Classroom, Canvas), video conferencing with educators to support work that has been assigned during absence, families picking up physical work at school and student submitting it upon return to school.  

     

    General Health and Safety Reminders:

     

    • Stay home when sick

     

      • It’s important for us all to work together to keep our hive healthy.  Please keep your child(ren) home if they have symptoms consistent with COVID-19 and follow up with our nurses Brianna Cormos and Jana Young for further guidance around testing and return to school 
      • Please report all positive at home and/or PCR test results to our nurses as soon as possible 
    • Masks must be worn at all times in the building unless actively eating.  
      • All students are encouraged to wear a high filtration mask while in the building (KN95, KF94, etc).  
      • Staff will be issued KN95 masks from the district and are encouraged to wear them
    • Classroom and homeroom staff will review the updated distancing and lunch guidance with students each morning at least through the first week we are back, please help review this information at home as well 
    • Classroom and homeroom staff will review proper mask wearing with students and provide reminders through the day when students’ masks may slip or they fatigue
      • Replacement masks for students are available in the main office 
    • We will continue to practice and reinforce healthy hand hygiene
    • We will continue to keep updated and accurate seating charts to help facilitate accurate contact tracing in the event of a positive case
    • We will continue to keep current bathroom logs and allow only one student per gendered bathroom to be sent out at a time from class.  
    • We will continue to utilize the Test and Stay protocol for students and staff who become symptomatic at school and/or are identified as close contacts in the school setting.  

     

    Our nurses are invaluable resources as we navigate this time in our community.  Please reach out to them with any questions you may have about your child(ren)’s health as it relates to attendance at school and to report positive cases. (brianna_cormos@psbma.org and jana_young@psbma.org)  Brianna and Jana are incredibly busy during the day fielding phone calls from families and returning emails in addition to caring for the sick and injured students in our school.  Please extend your patience and grace with them during this time of high volume need on their time and understand that they may need some time to respond to your calls and emails.  

     

    The next few weeks will really test our strength as a community.  We need to work together, follow guidelines and protocols, and offer support when able in order to make it through this wave inside the pandemic as a healthy and whole Hive.  I am confident in our mitigation strategies we have in place at school and in each member of our community to step up and help us all stay healthy by following protocols, getting vaccinated if eligible, and wearing well fitting masks when indoors, especially in our school building. 

     

    I look forward to seeing your children soon!

    Jen 

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