NAVIGATING THROUGH COVID-19: CARING, COMMUNITY AND WHAT'S NEXT FOR OUR FOREST SCHOOL
Updated: Jul 24
These have been an intense few months for everyone. We have missed our students, families and campus immensely. Our dear school has been closed since mid-March yet it feels like an eternity!
We're grateful to be an all-outdoor program with a small class size, two factors which greatly reduce our risk and exposure. We're also thankful that Buncombe County and surrounding areas have had a relatively low number of confirmed cases compared to the rest of the state.
After deliberation and discussion with our Forest School Foundation board of directors we are excited to share some changes that will take place as we move forward in this unprecedented time. These new precautions are outlined as the most recent addendum to the Growing Wild Forest School Family Handbook, which every family will receive upon enrollment. These protocols and safety measures will stay in effect until further notice.
Spring Program Closure
Growing Wild Forest School will remain closed for the month of May and June as we continue to honor local shelter in place ordinances and social distancing recommendations. We feel this cautious timeline is important in ensuring that the curve continues to flat and spread of the virus slows.
Summer Program Reopening
We plan to reopen on Monday, July 6th with the launch of our annual summer day camp, with several new safety protocols in place to reduce the risk of COVID-19 exposure and spread. We've reduced our typical 12-week programming into 8 action-packed sessions. Check out our themed weeks and camp registration page here!
Sliding Scale Tuition Rates
We recognize that finances look different for everyone now. We want to support our families and community however possible in this time, so we've shifted tuition to a sliding scale, with the option for a 20% reduction from our regular rates. Check out these rates on our tuition and registration page for a breakdown of these rates.
If you are a family that is blessed with abundance to share, you can pay the full tuition rate (or more!), and know that your extra donation will go to support our scholarship program, our teacher's professional development, and other wonderful growth initiatives of the Forest School Foundation. Please contact us for details if that is something you're able to do!
Please note that if it is necessary to suspend the GWFS program for a period of days or weeks for quarantine, tuition that has already been paid for weeks that our program does not meet will be applied to future weeks when we reopen.
Reduced Class Size
To further reduce the risk of exposure and spread, we have decided to decrease our already-small class size even more. For the summer camp sessions we will have a maximum of 8 children (previously 12), which will be an optimal facilitation ratio for our two adult teachers. We may also opt to continue this measure through the fall and winter sessions depending on second-wave pandemic projections. As these coveted summer spots are guaranteed to fill quickly, we encourage families to register ASAP!
Family Agreements for Social Distancing & Limiting Contacts
Persons A, B, and C who live in a home together touch and share the same space, and so may be considered a ‘pod’ of health or possible virus exposure. If Person A goes out and hugs Person D, who doesn’t live with A, that pod of exposure now includes persons A, B, C, and D, plus E and F, who live in a home with D. Persons A and D should inform those who live in their home about their contact.
It is important to note that GWFS will NOT enforce social distancing between the children. Vital social-emotional learning depends on them being able to play freely in close proximity with each other, and being able to see the entire faces of the other children and teachers. We are only opening our program if it’s safe enough not to wear masks together.
Therefore, each family sending their child to our program, plus our teachers, create a health pod. In order for the children to play together safely, families and teachers must continue social distancing measures outside of their own regular home pods, and limit addition of new contacts. We must be able to trust each other.
Honesty & Disclosure
Please inform us if anyone in your family’s health pod has been tested for SARS-COV2 so that we can inform the other families and quarantine effectively until test results come back.
Families are asked to wear masks at drop-off, until their child has been checked with a forehead thermometer. Teachers will meet you at your car for this check.
Hand-washing & Sanitizing
GWFS has hands-free foot-pump handwashing stations so that we may use soap and water. Children wash hands before eating snack and lunch. Regularly used tools are sanitized as needed.
Fall Session Changes
We currently plan to begin the fall session on Monday, September 7. This will be for the usual 4-hour day, 5 days a week and still with a 20% reduction in tuition! The price of our fall/winter sessions will be dependent on the number of enrolled days per week. We are also discussing the possibility of shifting our operating hours to fill a need for afternoon programming in the community. Please let us know in this anonymous survey if this is something that interests your family!
We are informing ourselves daily on the evolving virus situation in the community of Asheville in order to help protect the health of all. We will continue to closely monitor scientific reports and governmental recommendations about the pandemic. Each of these new operating decision are based on current projections, which can change at any time. If it becomes clear that we'll need to delay our reopening or change plans any further we will notify families immediately. In the case that future state and/or county stay-at-home orders are issued, we will observe them by closing our program until it is again safe to reopen.
Our Mission & Vision
The health and safety of our students, families, teachers and the larger neighborhood has always been, and will continue to be, our number one priority. As such we value open and honest communication with our community.
Now more than ever our society is seeing the value of experiential, hands-on learning and discovery. We realize that outdoor spaces and unstructured play are crucial to our children's development. We see that no matter who you are, nature is healing and that we all need it physically and mentally in order to be our best selves.
From the bottom of our hearts, thank you for being in this together with us. Sending safety, health and comfort to all. We look forward to connecting (or re-connecting) with you soon!
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