On Halloween weekend, our annual developmental art show will launch, albeit virtually. Typically, we hold an in-person Halloween costume parade and arts festival, where everyone can look at each child’s artwork and enjoy beer and sausage Octoberfest style. In the time of Covid-19, this is not a possibility, marking one of the many changes that this year brings.
Our desire to share our children’s work drives us to keep what we can from the Arts Festival: the developmental art show itself.
The theme we are asking children to
comment on in this year’s art echoes our commitment to why school is important.
Our prompt this year is: “What do YOU like about school?”
From toddlers through sixth-graders, every child will be given paper, paints, and sharpies to create an image in response to this prompt. Then they will write or tell an adult their answer to this simple question. The results should tell us what our kids are thinking about their schooling in these times.
Despite the challenges this year, every cloud has a silver lining. Sometimes in the great hubbub and excitement of costume parades, band music, and Octoberfest food, families at the Arts Festival do not take the time to look at the children’s art show. This time the art is all we have. I think that looking at one-hundred-fifty plus art pieces and statements by children will be a rich experience. Hopefully, families will scroll through the digital show together.
The children’s prompt makes me question: What do WE value about school?
As you know, Peregrine School has gone to great lengths to stay open, despite challenging regulations, smoky skies, and potential quarantines.
Why is Peregrine School able to stay open when many are not?
First of all, we took seriously the advice of the American Pediatric Association (APA), which announced this summer that schools are essential to kids; a fervent belief at Peregrine School. Here is a part of what they said:
“We recognize that children learn best when physically present in the classroom… Children get much more than academics at school. They also learn social and emotional skills at school, get healthy meals and exercise, mental health support and other services that cannot be easily replicated online.”
The APA also stated that schools need to open safely:
“Returning to school is important for the healthy development and well-being of children, but we must pursue re-opening in a way that is safe for all students, teachers and staff. Science should drive decision-making on safely reopening schools.”
The Board of Directors and staff at Peregrine School agree with the APA that it is important for children to have in-person schooling and that opening must be done in a scientific and safe manner. It would have been easier for us to continue online, but we knew that it would serve neither our students nor their working families.
We have made many accommodations to maintain safe operations this year. We have worked with Community Care Licensing to understand and apply Covid-19 preschool mandates, and have successfully gotten a waiver from the Yolo Public Health Department to open our elementary school. Even when our commitment to teaching outside has been foiled on many days by hazardous air, we have stayed open and made adjustments. Our staff deserves huge accolades, as do you families who have taken the risk to remain at school with us.
Many factors support our programs, but three aspects of Peregrine School make us more resilient than many school communities.
The first factor is our wonderful community. We may not be able to socialize together at a festival, but we rely on each other more than ever to keep safe. We have received affirmation that families and staff who come to our school are being safe elsewhere so that school can be a safe place. We are grateful that people are being conscientious of the whole community.
The second factor is that we have always had low teacher-student ratios that enable us to serve students in a quality way. While we have modified some group sizes, our long-standing commitment to small class sizes has made opening possible.
The third factor is our long-term commitment to outdoor education. In a time of Covid-19, outdoor classrooms are much safer than indoor ones, and our extensive yards and gardens are serving us well.