January 14, 2022
As we head into a long holiday weekend and the excitement of snow, I wanted to reach out to you about the current fluidity of staffing and quarantine on all levels of the school. I have been working diligently in consultation with the Board and other MSA administration to shift and adjust as challenges arise and also have kept in constant contact with other schools, administrators, and pertinent professionals. We realize that any changes impact each and every one of you and want you to know that your children's safety and your personal situations are our deepest concerns. We know that no extended day and remote learning are just not feasible for most of you because you can’t take two weeks of leave and you have no other options available for childcare. We understand the feeling that virtual education is not why your children are here. And you are right! The Montessori Method was not developed with COVID in mind and although our teachers quickly pivoted to be able to provide the best virtual experiences possible, virtual school is NOT how we want to operate – as a class or as a community.
In the past few weeks, we have had multiple classes in quarantine and while you were scrambling to make alternate arrangements, we were behind the scenes scrambling to adjust schedules and shift teachers – just to be able to provide coverage in all classes. In the current staffing shortage, even when we have been able to locate well-qualified applicants, the background checks are currently taking a minimum of six weeks to process and clear the state requirements.
This latest COVID variant is sweeping through schools and these are just some of the situations we are aware of:
At least 2 private schools in Greenville have extended their holiday weekends to evaluate whether they need to go to remote learning for a period of time due to extremely elevated COVID-related absences.
Teachers in Greenville County public schools report high schools are preparing for remote instruction as all of the support staff are needed to work in elementary and middle schools where they do not have enough staff who are well to keep the schools running.
Pickens County school district reports record-high numbers of positive COVID cases and related absences with over 60% of faculty absences going uncovered due to a substitute shortage.
The Independent Mail reports that one District 5 school has had so many teachers out that they are unable to supervise all of their classes.
Clemson has implemented stricter testing policies and is considering virtual instruction until cases decline.
An Upstate Montessori school is under a mandatory mask policy until the Omicron spike declines.
The numbers at other schools are alarming, and our numbers are not far behind. MSA has had more positive cases since Jan. 3 than we had all of last year - almost 9% of our school population.
In response to COVID, in April of 2020, MSA formed a Health and Safety Task Force. This Task Force consists of individuals representing our faculty, parents, the medical community, and the legal community. They are tasked with reviewing and revising our COVID policies on a continual basis within SCISA and official government guidelines. While much effort this week has gone into re-evaluating the policy based on DHEC's January 9th revision, just today we were informed by the SC DHEC School Nurse Consultant that the current guidelines for schools and childcare are being reviewed again this weekend. Therefore, we will hold off on releasing updated policies until their deliberations are complete. Once we receive word about any changes DHEC is making to their guidance we will release a revised MSA policy reflecting those changes.
Over these past 22 months, we have faced many challenges together, testing our patience, our stamina, and our endurance as individuals and as a community. Together we continue to face seemingly constant changes - Together we find solutions - Together we model for our children how to face life's challenges. Together we grow stronger.
I hope this weekend’s weather restores a little beauty and wonder in our world. We all need that!
Dr. Dana Hill
Dates to Remember
January 17 - Martin Luther King Jr. Day - extended care available only for families enrolled in monthly extended care, no drop-ins - see below
January 24 - Montessori Monday - wear Montessori attire
February 1 - Priority enrollment opens for current families
February 11 - Scholastic Book Fair begins
February 15 - Priority enrollment agreements due
February 18 - Student holiday, all regular programs closed - extended care available IT-PR
February 21 - President's Day, all regular programs closed - extended care available IT-PR
On Martin Luther King Junior Day, Monday, January 17 we are only able to accept children enrolled in the regular monthly extended care program. Due to DSS staffing ratios, no drop-ins can be accommodated on this date.
Reverse Notification System:
Montessori School of Anderson's Reverse Notification system was tested on Friday, January 14, 2021. All information was obtained by the MSA Data Sheet that you submitted for the 2021-2022 Academic Year. If you did not receive a test notification or if your students' contact information has changed since starting school, please notify the Main Office so the information can be updated.
***Please note: The Reverse Notification system will only be utilized and activated for emergency situations or school closures.
Warm Winter Wear:
Please be sure that your student(s) have warm winter wear available to use on campus. South Carolina weather is unpredictable and we want to encourage outdoor play and exercise as much as possible. Additionally, amid the Covid-19 surge, we do not have adequate staffing to supervise students both outdoors and indoors if a student isn't properly clothed and cannot join in outdoor activities. Included on the appropriate clothing list are gloves, hats, closed toe shoes and coats. This recommendation is applicable to all students - Infants thru High School.
Should your student(s) or anyone in your household have a diagnosis of Covid positive or a Direct or Indirect contact to a person diagnosed with Covid, please notify MSA immediately so we can take the proper course of action to reduce the rate of transmission on the MSA campus. Please send all communication to firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
MSA Infectious Disease Policy:
Children are expected to be in good health when in school. All students must be fever-free for 24 hours before returning to school (without taking fever-reducing medication). Absences, excused or unexcused, will be recorded for all students. Any student experiencing a fever of 100.4°F or greater, vomiting, diarrhea, or simply feeling too poorly to focus or concentrate on classwork will be removed from the classroom. His/her parents/caregiver will be called to pick up the child. The child should be isolated until the parent arrives. No student will be allowed to leave campus without the direct consent of the parent/guardian.
COVID Change: Any student (or faculty/staff) who is diagnosed as COVID-19 positive will be reported to SC DHEC. MSA will follow "MSA Mitigation Strategies" and guidelines to assist you in determining a Return to School Plan. Return to School plans are individualized and will be assessed on a case by case basis. All exposures and positive cases may impact their class(es) and there may be an additional need for further quarantine/isolations.
Blood Donation Request:
The Blood Connection and the Red Cross have an immediate need for blood donations. Because of Covid-19, the usual flow of donors has been disrupted and the need for life saving blood donations is great. If you are able to donate, call the Red Cross or please mention that you are part of the Montessori School of Anderson family!!! Your donation can make a significant impact and save up to 3 lives!
Criteria for donors: The Blood Connection is a non-profit organization. Blood can be donated every 56 days. Donors must be 16 years or older and over 110 lbs. to donate. Sixteen year olds are required to have written consent to donate blood. Before you donate blood, make sure that you drink plenty of water and eat a healthy meal. TBC Donor ID Card (preferred) or photo ID required to donate.
With wishes of peace and continued good health,
Susanna Merriman, RN
$20 million for education savings accounts
"The Governor is directing $20 million in lottery dollars for the creation of education savings accounts, pending a change in the law by the General Assembly. All children should have access to a quality education, and parents should be allowed to make the best educational choices for their children." https://governor.sc.gov/news/2022-01/gov-henry-mcmaster-announces-fiscal-year-2022-2023-executive-budget-arpa
Education Savings Accounts could be coming to South Carolina!
Just this week hearings began at the statehouse on legislation which would allow some education funds to follow South Carolina children to the school of their parents' choice. This successful model has allowed many students in other states to find the school that best fits their needs. In other states these programs have grown due to their positive impact to allow all students access to these benefits. In a recent meeting with members of the General Assembly from the Anderson area, they indicated this is the most likely to succeed school choice bill they have seen over the years. We can all help to make this change in law a reality by voicing our support. Please reach out to your state senator and representatives to encourage them to vote in favor of this use of education lottery funds.
Help make a Montessori education more accessible for all!
MSA Board of Trustees