Covid-19 Response and Reopening

Woodside Priory School is dedicated to providing a high standard of distance learning for the fall semester. 

The Priory is doing everything we can to prepare for the fall semester, and our faculty, staff, and Monks are working hard on our plan to bring our students an engaging and online experience of high expectations and a nourishing community.

Covid-19 Testing Dashboard

We plan to control the spread of COVID-19 on our campus and in our community by using reliable, frequent testing, along with appropriate safety measures to mitigate transmission.
 
Our protocol consists of screening everybody prior to coming onto campus.  This consists of weekly testing for our students, faculty, and staff.  Testing will be offered on campus, and instructions will be communicated each week by our Dean of Students.  These measures allow the Priory to identify infected individuals and close contacts in a timely manner.  Thanks for your support, and if you have any questions, please contact Kate Johanson, Dean of Students.

2020-21 Covid-19 Communications

List of 10 items.

  • October 22, 2020- Head of School Communication- Return to Campus Plan

    Dear Priory Families,
     
    This academic year has been a different experience for all of us.  The COVID-19 pandemic has challenged us to reimagine every aspect of the Priory experience — academic, social, and personal.  Taking steps to minimize the risk of COVID-19 infections at the Priory is a shared responsibility.  With the first quarter closed, I hope you have been able to see the many ways we have worked to provide our students with an engaging experience.  From opportunities to come to campus for chapel talks, socials, enrichment experiences, service experiences, clubs, activities, retreats, and sports, we recognize the importance of building relationships, socializing, and creating moments to engage with each other.  I am proud of the way our faculty, staff, and administrators are working to create and strengthen connections through creative experiences and events and I encourage you to take advantage of those opportunities to engage with our Priory family!
     
    Until a vaccine or curative treatment is developed, there is no single strategy that will stop COVID-19 or make it possible to return to pre-pandemic life.  However, there is hope that through planning and working together, we can begin to return to in-person learning on campus.  This will include symptom monitoring, frequent COVID-19 testing of the highest quality, wearing face coverings, physical distancing, and a variety of changes to other aspects of life on and off campus.
     
    We have closely watched the schools that have opened to understand their successes and challenges and we recognize we have much to learn from others as we make decisions that are best for the Priory.  We have consulted extensively with experts in the fields of medicine and epidemiology, including a small advisory group of doctors to help us understand the virus, the impact on teens and pre-teens, and the protocols and procedures we need to ensure safety for our entire community.  We have also learned so much from our own events and the 17 families that call our campus home.
     
    We recognize the risk tolerance for each family is different; we each have our own personal tolerance for the pandemic.  It is imperative we understand this in order to take into account everyone else in the Priory community.  One’s risk tolerance does not supersede local and state health policies; it is subjective and formed through personal experience.  Sensitivity to our own risk tolerance and that of others, and being responsible for our choices is critical to our ability to open up the Priory in a safe way for all.
     
    As we look ahead, our goals have remained consistent:
    • Safely return to in-person learning in January
    • Build on the meaningful connections established through enrichment, sports, retreats, socials, and Chapel services
    • Have more students on-campus in meaningful and extended ways with ties to the curriculum
    • Develop comfort level with students being on campus for longer periods, practicing transitions, and experiencing weekly testing
     
    With that, and the extensive planning we have done to utilize our campus safely, we are planning a phased approach to returning to campus.
     
    Phase 1 - On-going
    Campus Preparation
    Please see our Health and Safety Guidelines for more details about our plans, safety protocols, and adjustments as we prepare for in-person learning.
     
    Phase 2 - October 26
    Faculty returns to campus to teach DL from their classrooms
     
    Phase 3 - November 9 - December 11
    Middle School H Block - an OPT-IN experience at Priory for curricular activities and sports.
     
    When will H block take place?
    Four full weeks
    Week 1 (November 9-13): Humanities & Performing Arts
    Week 2 (November 16-20): Science & Visual Art
    Week 3 (November 30- December 4): Theology & World Language
    Week 4 (December 7-11):  Math & Computer Science
    No H Block the week of Thanksgiving or the week of exams
    3 Days a Week- Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday (Wednesday will remain community/enrichment days) 
     

    How will H block work?
    H block will include two afternoon sessions:
    Session 1:  Curriculum Extension Activities: 3:15pm - 4:15pm
    Session 2:  Sports/Adventures: 4:15 - 5:15pm  

    To allow ALL middle school students the opportunity to participate in H-block, we have shifted the times for music classes to start and end earlier.  Starting the week of November 9th, all music classes on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays will go from 2:05-2:55pm for middle schoolers.  This new time slot will also be reflected in Blackbaud.

    Departments will be paired up to plan one week of extended-learning curriculum.  The curriculum will not be tied to a particular course, but focus on authentic elements of the featured subject areas.  Examples might include the following:
    • Collaborative, project-based activities
    • Experiential, hands-on activities
    • A combination of teacher-directed and student choice activities like a science experiment, role-playing debate, art project, performance, mandala, math puzzles or games, scavenger hunts, or robotics challenge

    Families will have flexibility and opt-in for the week (weekly testing will be required to be on campus for the week; more information about testing will be shared in the next two weeks)
     
    What are the benefits of H block?
    • Students will get to see each other more consistently, build connections, and get to know the teachers and the campus better
    • Students will practice transitions and testing
    • Priory will have a better understanding of how to revise protocols for maintaining a safe campus and effective learning
    • Students will get the opportunity to engage in more hands-on, student-centered learning experiences that are less feasible on zoom
     
    Upper School grade level experiences on Wednesdays
    Each grade level will be invited to campus for a full-day on Wednesdays (November 4, November 18, December 2, and December 9).  More information and details will be provided next week but Upper School Advisory groups will have the opportunity to meet in person with their Advisor when on campus.  Flex period programming will enable students to gather safely in small groups.  Grade levels not on campus on a given Wednesday will still participate in Advisory and Flex remotely, and on-campus enrichment activities continue for Upper School.
     
    Phase 4 - January 4, 2021
    Middle School students return to campus for in-person learning
     
    Phase 5 - January 19, 2021
    Upper School students return to campus for in-person learning
     
    Phase 6 - pending
    Upper School students enrolled in the boarding program move back onto campus.
     
    The Priory is dedicated to providing the highest standard of care to our boarding students.  Earlier this month, the California Department of Public Health issued a state-wide directive closing all boarding programs until further notice.  In the state's judgment, adolescents living in congregate settings during a pandemic pose overwhelming physical risks.  As such, the Priory's boarding program will remain closed.  We can neither anticipate precisely when the state will reverse this order nor when the circumstances on campus will permit the safe reopening of the dorms.  We certainly understand that this is frustrating for our boarding families.  As always, we will keep the Priory community apprised of any new directives or changes to existing directives from the Governor's office.  In the meantime, our Residential Faculty will continue to support boarding students while they are living off-campus, our Facilities Department will continue to prepare the dorm's physical plant for a safe reopening, and our Administration will continue to assess how/when dormers can begin to live on campus once again.
     
    Testing
    All people returning to campus will be tested each week using an FDA approved PCR test.  The cost for all testing will be covered by the Priory and conducted on campus.  More information about testing will be available in the coming days about when, where,  and how the testing will be done.  We will provide regular updates about our testing results and keep you informed about adjustments to our plans.

    We know that, even with the best plans in place, the virus will remain, but our goal is to make the Priory a “transmission free” zone.  We will work closely with our medical advisory team to review the data we collect each week in testing and follow the trends and research that continue to emerge about COVID-19.
     
    We began our academic year with the Mass of the Holy Spirit, asking for courage, knowledge, and understanding and we are certainly leaning on the Holy Spirit at this moment.  One month ago, we celebrated Rosh Hashanah, a time to engage in introspection and rejoice in new beginnings. Finally, at the beginning of this month, we celebrated the Mid-Autumn festival, formed around the concepts of family gatherings and reunions, contacting friends and celebrating the love we share.  As we begin to return home to campus, we have much to look forward to in the weeks and months ahead, and I am grateful that we are on this journey together.  If you have specific questions, please do not hesitate to reach out as we work to partner with you for a safe return to campus.
     
    In a separate email, I will send out a survey to our Middle School families to collect your decision about our afternoon options.
     
    Through all of this, our priority remains to ensure the safety and wellbeing of our students, our families, and our staff. We are proud of our community and look forward to providing Benedictine education for your child at 302 Portola Road in just a few months.
     
    Always we begin again,
     
    Patrick Ruff
    Head of School
  • August 12, 2020- Head of School Communication- Financial State

    Dear Parents,

    Finally, we are ready to begin!  I am thrilled we will be welcoming students to campus on Friday for orientation and have very much enjoyed our new parent orientations this week.  It has been a grace to spend time with the newest members of our community on campus and I look forward to getting to know all of you over the next few weeks and months.

    As we begin, I am excited and proud of the comprehensive preparation by our faculty and staff to deliver a meaningful, intimate, dynamic, and engaging curriculum to your daughters and sons.  Their dedication and hard work to make this transition has been inspirational and I know the experience your children will receive, in and out of the classroom, will be transformational.

    Consistent with our ongoing commitment to clarity and transparency, I want to share our current financial picture with you.  While Priory remains on a firm financial footing, with reserves and other resources available if needed, the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in a one-time loss in revenue through the cancellation of this summer’s Mountain Camp (a summer camp hosted on our campus for over 20 years) and the closure, for this first semester, of our dorms. However, because of the hard work and wisdom of our Board of Trustees and Board of Directors, as well as our Business Office, we are especially stable compared with other schools in far more tenuous conditions.  In addition, we are blessed by the extraordinary financial support and generosity of the community, and for that, I am very grateful.

    Please know that the loss of these two revenue streams (Mountain Camp and first-semester boarding fees) in no way impacts the quality of our academic and co-curricular program and no layoffs to our faculty or staff are predicted.

    Consistent with our value of integrity, we will issue refunds for the consumable portion of tuition, our daily lunch, in the amount of $800.00 per student, which will come in the form of a check through the mail in the next week.

    Guided by our Benedictine values, the dedication of our talented faculty and staff, and your continuous support, we move forward together with hope and promise for the new year.

    Ora et labora,
     
     
    Patrick Ruff
  • August 5, 2020- Head of School Communication- Distance Learning Handbook, Athletics, Visual Arts

    Dear Parents,
     
    Since the emergence of this pandemic, we have been preparing, tracking, and responding to possible impacts on our community.  Over the past several weeks, we have been forced to adjust, as the pandemic has spread.  As we have encountered difficult moments and faced many challenging decisions, we have remained steadfast in our deep commitment to the health and safety of our community and to our Benedictine values and priorities.  Members of our community – faculty, staff, students, parents, and friends – have demonstrated extraordinary compassion and resilience over this time, supporting one another in generous and authentic ways.
     
    While I wish we were not starting in a Distance Learning format, I am very excited about our positioning to offer our students a rich and robust curricular and co-curricular experience as we approach the new semester.  We undertook a systematic evaluation of how to enhance our remote teaching, we reviewed carefully the feedback you and our students offered about their experience last semester, and our entire faculty has been collecting and sharing best practices for remote instruction, with an eye toward how to implement these ideas in creative and effective ways across all disciplines.  In just a few weeks, when the learning comes to life, I am very confident you will find lively classrooms with engaged learners connecting with their teachers and classmates.  Our Distance Learning Handbook (PDF) is an important resource that will serve you well during this semester.  Please take some time to go through it as it is packed with key information and helpful tips.
     
    I also am mindful that you, like me, are missing the vibrant on-campus experience we treasure about the Priory.  Please know Kate Johansen, our Dean of Students, and Mark Stogner, our Athletic Director, as well as so many of our faculty, are hard at work thinking about how we can best promote and preserve our sense of collective community.  From Advising to Chapel, from sports to clubs and activities, we will find ways to invite small groups of students to campus so they can gather safely and experience the joy that comes when we are together!
     
    I am deeply grateful to be part of this community and look forward to the work we will do together to respond to these changing and uncertain circumstances.  This is a moment in which our generosity, our understanding, and our flexibility will demonstrate the depth of our care for one another and define our spirit.
     
    With gratitude,
     
    Patrick Ruff
      
     
    ATHLETICS
    Important Information about the 2020-2021 Athletic Year
     
    On July 20, 2020, the CIF (California’s governing body for high school athletics) released the new schedule for sports due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Our three traditional seasons are now compacted into two seasons with the hope of completing all sport seasons.
    • Season 1 begins December 14th and includes girls volleyball, boys water polo, football, and cross country.
    • Season 2 begins in March and will include soccer, basketball, boys & girls tennis, swimming, boys & girls lacrosse, baseball, and track and field.
    We are currently reworking our league schedules. Once that is complete, we will begin to figure out a possible non-league schedule.

    Please note two new CIF Rules: 
    1. Athletes may now play the same club team sport at the same time as the high school season.  For example, a soccer athlete may now play high school and club soccer at the same time. Our coaching staff will have conversations with those athletes and parents who plan to play club sports during the same season as Priory sports.
    2. New CIF Rule: August through December will be considered “summer” and all teams may practice during that time leading up to the start of  Season 1.
    Finally, our seasons will overlap this year. With many multi-sport athletes in our program, we will work with our athletes to ensure they have the same opportunities as in past years.
     
    Priory’s Plan for the Fall
    We will begin optional pre-season workouts in September. Coaches for football, cross country, volleyball, and water polo will be communicating directly with the students who signed up for those sports. We will be sending all students a google sign up.

    In addition to the Season 1 sports, we are thrilled to be offering girls water polo. This will be an introduction to the sport. No experience is necessary.

    We will also be offering two separate strength and conditioning programs, utilizing outdoor space, for those that are not playing a Season 1 sport. More information to follow.

    Outdoor Education will also be offered. Our plan is to lead one or two trips per week exploring the outdoors. More specific information to follow.
     
    Physicals
    All physicals must be current within a year in order for athletes to be approved to participate in athletics. Due to Covid-19, the CIF has approved an extension on physicals. All athletes who have not had a physical in the last 12 months should try to make an appointment to have it completed by December 14. Contact Athletic Trainer, Andrew Hasson, with any questions about this process.
     
    Online Gear Store
    Priory Athletics has its very own athletic gear online store. There are many options to choose from. Take advantage of the August promotion of 20% off of your $85 purchase.
     
    Please feel free to contact Director of Athletics, Mark Stogner, with any questions.
     
    VISUAL ARTS
    Information about Visual Arts
    During a time when many things in life feel out of control, making art is a productive, challenging, and rewarding experience that sets the maker on a fresh adventure, giving that person an opportunity to get away, get lost in the moment and return with a treasure made by their own hands.   
     
    The faculty members of the Visual Art Department are excited to welcome students to our virtual and physical art studios in just a few short weeks!  They have spent the summer diligently preparing new projects and engaging in professional development opportunities that have enabled them to offer a full selection of courses during our semester of Distance Learning.  
     
    Students enrolled in art classes will have two hours every week to add balance to their academic schedules through hands-on art projects created in a supportive community that embodies the values of curiosity and individuality.
     
    Some highlights:
    • Professional tool and material kits will be provided for each art student
    • Live synchronous teaching every class period
    • Potential opportunities to sign up for in-person studio time with instructors, including torch work (1-2 students at a time following all safety protocols) 
    • Self-service material and supply cabinet stocked with items when refills are needed
    • Regularly scheduled kiln firings
    • Potential opportunities to use the 3D printers and laser cutter (small group and following all safety protocols) 
    • Instruction on how to set up a spot in your home for making art  
    Whether your student is enrolled in an Art course or not, we encourage you to remind them that making art is a great way to getaway…even while stuck at home!   
     
    For questions or more information, please contact Reed SullivanShawn MatsonLisa Wood, or Christine Hemiup.
  • July 27, 2020- Head of School Communication- Important Announcement

    Dear Parents,
     
    Earlier this month, we celebrated the feast of St. Benedict whose life and spirituality animates our community.  This 6th century saint lived in a time of uncertainty, turmoil, chaos, and confusion…not unlike today.  From that, he found a sense of peace that led to the creation of a system of monasteries that changed the course of our world.  Benedict focused on relationships, integrity, stability, and community and his blueprint has transformed our world for 1500 years.  Those same values have been cornerstones of the Priory and our fidelity to those values have allowed us to face this challenge with confidence and hope.
     
    Although we know more about the virus than we did at the time of our first letter on May 22, and more about how we will modify our campus and programs to protect our community’s health than we did when we wrote again on three different occasions this month, the uncertainties associated with the pandemic remain considerable, and the epidemiological data is trending in the wrong direction.  Because of this uncertainty and data, we are compelled to pivot to distance learning for the first semester of the school year.  Like all of our decisions, this was grounded in our desire to keep our students, faculty, staff, and Monks healthy and safe.  The decision was also guided by our Benedictine mission, values, and priorities.  Like many of you, I am disappointed that we will not gather in person to start our 64th year of educating in the Benedictine tradition; however, I am confident that our learning experience will be meaningful, dynamic, and intimate.  We will continue to reassess both the situation and the decision.  If, before the end of the first semester, more positive and stable indicators support a safe return to campus we are ready and able to do so. 
     
    Our teachers have been focused on preparation for online learning throughout the summer, recognizing it was very likely we would need to switch to this platform at some point during the year.  Our remote learning experience will maintain Priory’s high standards for learning and community and maintain the balance that is hallmark of our experience.

    Our Distance Learning will include:
    • an engaging and online experience of high expectations and a nourishing community
    • the robust and caring support necessary for students to thrive and grow
    • opportunities to build and sustain relationships with peers and teachers in small groups on campus (if allowed), so that students feel an authentic sense of belonging
    Please be clear, this will be a very different experience from last March.
    • We have facilitated (and continue to provide) in-house professional development around optimizing student-centered learning and engagement online.  In our workshops and trainings, we draw from the expertise and research-based practices of such programs as Stanford Online High School and Global Online Learning. 
    • All teachers are now trained and familiar with zoom, our primary platform, as well as other tech tools that facilitate interactive and developmentally appropriate online learning. 
    • Department chairs have been working with teachers to streamline curriculum, assessment and instructional strategies, and expectations to best suit the distance learning format.
    • Crystal Matsuoka, who has done a fantastic job as our Director of Curriculum and Instruction will now serve in the role of Academic Dean.  One of her first responsibilities has been to ensure that our distance learning experience is consistent with the high expectations and the balance that we enjoy at Priory.
    • We have revised our guidelines and conventions for Blackbaud posting to ensure a higher standard for clear and consistent communication between teacher and students.
    • Based on the feedback from last spring, we have revamped our DL schedule to balance increased instructional time with increased community time. Teachers will use both classes for synchronous, interactive instruction.
    We are particularly sensitive to our newest Panthers and will provide opportunities to build meaningful relationships in many different ways.  Ms. Caitha Ambler and Ms. Kate Johansen, our Dean of Students will reach out with more information about orientation activities as we get closer to the start of school.
     
    This unprecedented job requires creativity, flexibility, and teamwork; a focus on health and safety for all community members; and a relentlessly student-centered approach to all activities.  Even in my short time at Priory, I know this approach is already well-established in our community.  Even though we can’t know what the future holds, the strength and spirit we have developed through years of practice and critical reflection equip us to be nimble and to adjust as needed for this moment.
     
    Last March, unprecedented circumstances forced us to enact a plan of emergency distance learning.  During the Spring we grew in our knowledge and practices in this new paradigm.  After the end of the last school year, we continued to evolve and amplify our programs.  Now, as we enter the 2020-2021 school year, we offer a deep, authentic, quality experience that accelerates learning and maintains the balance that is so important in the lives of our students.  This will be a year unlike any other.  It will demand our best.  I am confident that our community will meet whatever comes our way with grit and grace, and that, on the other side of the pandemic, we will be proud of what we accomplished together.
     
    Always we begin again,
     
     
    Patrick Ruff
     
     
  • July 22, 2020- Head of School Communication- Counseling, Athletics, Performing Arts

    Dear Parents,
     
    This pandemic presents the most serious public health crisis our world has experienced in generations.  The information about the virus continues to evolve and we continue to learn more about how to respond.  Looking forward to the fall, we are resolved to offer in-person and on-campus learning; we also recognize the need to find a pathway for reopening our campus safely with the health and wellbeing of our entire community in mind.  Balancing those two priorities is a challenge!

    Last week’s announcement from our Governor may impact our current plans to open in person in August and I want to assure you we are watching San Mateo County and the data closely.  The situation is fluid and requires us all to be flexible and nimble.  We remain committed to providing a robust experience for our students while maintaining the health and safety of our community.  Governor Newsom said it perfectly: "Learning is non-negotiable and neither is safety."

    Our values matter, especially during this time.  They allow us to orient ourselves and set priorities. They permit us to navigate confusion, an ever-changing landscape, turmoil, and emotion.  They compel us to reflect on our relationships and, most importantly, they inform our decisions and actions.  Our mission continues to animate us during these unprecedented times.  It allows us to cut through competing priorities and make difficult decisions with integrity.  Furthermore, it reminds us that we are all connected – individuals part of one community.

    Thank you for all the support these past few weeks; the strength of Priory is clear!
     
     
    Patrick Ruff

     
    The following are updates from Counseling, Athletics, and Performing Arts.

    COVID-19 Counseling Resources
    The spread of the virus has presented new challenges for addressing mental health concerns.  As we deal with new stressors that arise from distancing and the exponential growth of COVID-19 cases, it is vital that we work to maintain good mental health. 
     
    Tools to help you regulate feelings
     
    For more information on supporting your child(ren), please consider these offerings from Child Mind Institute and this presentation from Children's Health Council.
     
    If you need to connect with someone immediately, please explore these resources, available 24/7:
    Crisis Text Line:                               Text "Hello" to 741-741
    Star Vista's Crisis Hotline:                (650) 579-0350
    San Francisco Suicide Prevention:     (415) 781-0500
    Santa Clara County Crisis Hotline:     (855) 278-4204
    National Suicide Prevention Lifeline:  (800) 273-8255
    In case of a psychiatric emergency, dial 911 or go to your nearest emergency department.
     
    For more information, including referrals to local therapists, please reach out to Ms. Sandra Kelly, our Director of Counseling.

    Athletics
    On July 20, The California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) released an official statement announcing the 2020-2021 athletic season schedules.  The athletic season will begin in January 2021.  Instead of three separate seasons, the CIF has created two seasons:
     
    The "Fall Season" will run from January - March.  The following sports will be hosted: 
    • B/G Cross Country 
    • Football
    • Girls Volleyball
    • Boys Water Polo
    The "Spring Season” will run from March - June.  The following sports will be hosted: 
    • Baseball
    • Boys and Girls Basketball
    • Boys and Girls Lacrosse
    • Boys and Girls Soccer
    • Boys and Girls Swimming & Diving
    • Boys and Girls Track & Field
    • Boys and Girls Tennis 
    Performing Arts
    Priory’s Performing Arts faculty have spent the summer researching, attending workshops, and developing ways for students to thrive through making music and theatre for this upcoming school year.  Student safety is our top priority and we have strategies and best practices in place for students and performers to maintain their physical health while growing their skills and performing at a high level.
     
    Supporting students in making work that surprises them, developing their craft, and working together in this art form they love is what we are about…no pandemic can stop that!
     
    Plays and Concerts will occur throughout the school year.
    • All performances will be streamed online, live-streamed, or recorded without an audience in the theater.
    • We will use our outdoor plaza stages, with appropriate distancing for live performances.
    • Virtual ensemble recordings (consisting of musicians playing/singing separately and then edited together to make a larger ensemble) will allow singers and musicians to come together in a unique way.
    Choral, Instrumental, Drama and Theater Tech classes will be held with instruction that is mindful of student safety using appropriate distancing, masks, and face shields.
    • Masks, face shields, and physical distance between students will be utilized, along with “flipped” online lectures and other digital teaching tools to maximize in class exploration.
    • The classroom will be a space of creative exploration and education to grow all student’s skills and understanding.
    • Larger choral and instrumental classes will be held, outdoors, on the Priory stage, or the concrete floor of the PAC to ensure students can spread out to appropriate distance. 
  • July 15, 2020- Head of School Communication- On Campus Preparations

    INTRODUCTION

    With the Governor’s latest announcement, our landscape changes, but we continue to plan for re-opening in August, and our top priority remains the health and safety of all members of our community while delivering a vibrant and engaging educational experience to our students.

    While the routine will look different, our mission remains the same: to assist all students in creating meaningful and balanced lives, developing lifelong learners and stewards, and productively serving a world in need of their gifts.
     
    We eagerly await the opportunity to welcome students back to campus in a healthy way to start the 2020-21 school year.  We will continue to be guided by updates to the San Mateo County framework and the latest research and findings.  We will welcome students back on campus while maintaining a healthy and safe environment including appropriate physical distancing, face coverings, attention to hygiene, and avoiding large gatherings. In addition, members of our community (faculty, staff, and students) will stay home when they are sick, we will stagger drop off and pick up times, and we will create traffic flow to keep students distanced and safe.
     
    We are prioritizing care of the individual student and the community by focusing on:
    • health and safety precautions and mental health support
    • student engagement and connection
    • living out our mission
    • high-quality education 
    The following information will provide more insight into how we are thinking about keeping our campus as safe as possible.  The Priory–through its size and availability of space, and its number of students–is blessed with the opportunity to keep our students safe and enjoy learning on campus.
     
    SCHEDULE

    Woodside Priory is committed to delivering an education and student experience that is distinctive and true to our Benedictine mission while assuring that all members of our academic community are safe and well.

    When students and faculty return in August they will experience the same, familiar ABC schedule they are used to, with a few alterations that will enable us to maintain a safe and healthy environment. The schedule will continue to be robust, and will enable a dynamic and flexible academic experience in the classroom. 
     
     
     
     
    Alterations
    • There will be added passing periods between classes, which allows more time and less rushing between classes.
    • Hallways and other thoroughfares will be well marked to allow for maximum physical distancing while students are passing from place to place.
    • Before release from a classroom, there will be a cleaning time allocated to clean work areas, and to wipe down light switches and door handles.
    It is likely that Priory will move between the different scenarios of in-person and fully remote learning at different points in the year, as conditions in our immediate and larger community dictate.  In the case that we must pivot to distance learning, we have created a new Distance Learning Schedule based on feedback from teachers and students last spring.  The schedule increases instructional time and builds in essential community time: chapel, advisory, FLEX, and faculty meetings, student-led clubs.  Other features of this DL schedule:
    • Students attend academic classes 4 out of the 5 days a week.
    • Each class meets 2x a week for 60 minutes.
    • Wednesdays are used for teacher prep and community activities.
    • Easy to have A-week/B-week schedules to rotate when classes meet so that classes do not always meet at the same time. 
    • Collapsed on 4-day weeks.
     
    CLEANING & DISINFECTING

    Below are some of the safety measures we are planning at this time.  These guidelines are based on recommendations from San Mateo County, the CDC, and in consultation with other peer schools.  It’s important to note that this is a dynamic situation, and as new guidelines are put in place, we anticipate some of this changing over time — perhaps even before school begins, or after the school year is underway.

    Hygiene
    • We are adding 12 hand washing stations to give all students access to hand-washing throughout the day.
    • Every classroom and other key parts of campus are equipped with hand sanitizing stations.
    • We also suggest that students carry their own small bottle of hand sanitizer to use if necessary.
     
    Cleaning and Sanitizing
    • Additional staff has been hired to clean our campus and enhanced cleaning procedures will be put in place.
    • Our entire facility will be cleaned and disinfected daily, with high-touch, high-traffic areas cleaned during the day.
    • Each classroom will have disinfecting materials for students to use to clean their desk before each class period.
    • Bathrooms will be disinfected and sanitized regularly during the school day
     
    FACILITIES AND FOOD
    • We will tent key areas on campus to create different spaces for students to learn.
    • Our indoor spaces (PAC, Student Center, Dining Hall, and classrooms) have very good HVAC units and we use MERV 12 and MERV 13 air filters, which are replaced quarterly.
    • When possible, classrooms will keep windows and doors open to increase the exchange rate of fresh air in rooms.
    • Our Dining Hall, food preparation, layout, distribution, and menu selection have been redesigned to keep our community safe and to provide healthy and nutritious food options for our students.
    • Physical (plexiglass) barriers are being installed in areas where distancing is not possible.
    • Hallways, staircases, and building entrances will all be one-way to aid with appropriate distancing.
    • Lockers will not be issued; students should carry their belongings in their backpacks. 
    • All rooms will be labeled for maximum capacity.
    • All furniture with soft coverings has been removed.
     
    COVID CASE ON CAMPUS
     
    In the event that someone on campus tests positive for COVID-19, we will be able to determine those who have come into close contact with that individual, and in accordance with the CDC and county health guidelines, we will contact those who may have been exposed.
     
    We will have a designated space on campus to isolate anyone who becomes sick during the school day until he or she can be picked up.
     
    Those who are sick will be required to remain home (faculty, staff, and students).  Because we know that a number of students will stay home throughout the year, we will be extremely well-equipped for sick students (if they are able) still to attend class remotely and not fall behind.
     
    CLASSROOMS
    • In all classrooms, desks will be arranged to ensure six feet of physical distance between all students and the teacher.
     
    DAILY ROUTINE
     
    Drop Off and Pick Up
    • Middle School drop off will be 8:00 - 8:20 AM; drop off will be at the Upper School breezeway
    • Upper School drop off will be 8:15 - 8:35 AM; drop off will be at the Upper School breezeway
    • Middle School pick up will be 3:00 - 3:20 PM, pick up will be at the Upper School breezeway
    • Upper School pick up will be after 3:20 PM at the Upper School breezeway
    Face Coverings
    • Approved face coverings (masks or shields) will be required to be worn throughout the day.  This will become part of the dress code.
    • Training on the proper wearing of and care for masks will be done during student orientation.
    Symptom Checking
    • Each day, every student, faculty, and staff member will do a health check including taking temperature and answering health-related questions.
    • Health check will be done on an app prior to arrival on campus.
    • Training on using the app will be provided.
    • Any student who has not completed the temperature and health screening prior to arrival on campus, and submitted the results via the app, will be sent to the Health Center for the screening and temperature check.
    Sick Policy
    • Rules regarding sick policies for students and employees will be enhanced and strictly enforced to minimize the number of sick people on campus, as well as to allow continuity of learning from home for mildly ill or asymptomatic students.
    • We urge parents to keep sick children at home. Please contact the Attendance Office if your child will be out of school (650-851-8227) or email tirizarry@prioryca.org before 9:00 AM.
    Quarantine Space
    • We will have a designated space on campus to isolate anyone who becomes sick during the school day until he or she can be picked up. 
    Visitors
    • Visitors to campus will be limited and those that must come to campus will be screened appropriately.
    • We request that parents not drop by campus unless they have a scheduled appointment.  Parents must also wear masks at all times when on campus. 
    CHAPEL and CO-CURRICULARS

    We know how important Chapel and other spiritual activities are in the life of our community, and we are committed to providing as many meaningful activities for students as we safely can.  Unfortunately, we are not able to gather in the chapel as an entire student community, but we are exploring other opportunities for classes or groups to gather to engage in these formative times. We will provide creative virtual experiences or small group opportunities for our community to learn about, experience, and celebrate our Benedictine traditions.  Also, we are in the process of reimagining retreats and service opportunities.
     
    We are working with the moderators of our co-curricular activities such as robotics, Model UN, drama, choir, yearbook, JSA, Dedicated to Diversity, PRISM, sports medicine, and Latinx United to enable students to work with one another.  With an emphasis on meeting in-person as much as they safely can, these activities will provide great opportunities for students to take a break from their screens, make friends, and deepen skills by joining with like-minded peers to pursue their interests.  Moderators will communicate regularly as specific plans are developed.
     
    Athletics are also an important part of our day and we are proud of the number of students that participate on our teams.  The California Interscholastic Federation (CIF), will announce its plans for the upcoming year on July 20.  Ultimately, we do not know what the decision will be with respect to competitions, but our coaches are committed to working with our students to form meaningful bonds, stay healthy, and form character.
     
    COUNSELING and SOCIAL AND EMOTIONAL HEALTH

    As we prepare to return to school, managing anxiety and stress will be a factor in how we navigate this transition.  Ms. Sandra Kelly, our Director of Social and Emotional Health will provide more resources in the coming weeks.  If you have questions or concerns, feel free to contact her directly.

    COMMUNICATION

    We will continue to provide weekly communication each Wednesday and next week, we will begin to host weekly Webinars for parents.  More information to follow next week.

    If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to reach out.

    Thanks,
     
     
    Patrick Ruff
  • July 10, 2020- Letter to Residential Program Parents

    Dear Parents,
     
    We continue to keep you and your families in our thoughts and prayers, and I hope this letter finds you safe and healthy.
     
    While the COVID-19 pandemic has brought many disruptions to all of us, you and your children have experienced disproportionate challenges as a result of the crisis.  We also know the travel plans continue to be problematic and the latest guidance issued by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) only adds to the anxieties and uncertainties and we believe these proposed changes are unfair and harmful.  We are actively working on ways to mitigate this change and will be in communication as we find out more information.  Because of our decision to provide in-person learning, this does not apply to us, but there are many details and scenarios that still need examination.
     
    Please know how important you are to the Priory and we want you back on campus.  You provide unique and indispensable contributions that enriches our campus and our wider community.  All of us benefit from the gift of your sons and daughters – they foster a diverse and innovative environment, offer fresh and important perspectives, and connect the Priory with the world.  You are always welcome, you belong with us, and we will do everything we can to support you.
     
    If your son or daughter is not able to secure the VISA travel documents in time for the fall session, we will adjust the Boarding Fees.  Please contact Ms. Josie Castaneda (jcastaneda@prioryca.org) for more information.  In addition, Mr. Adam Siler (asiler@prioryca.org) will contact you about learning options should your child not be on campus at the start of the academic year.
     
    For over 60 years, the Priory has been a place where dormers, including international students have thrived and succeeded.  It is our obligation, like generations before us, to uphold these values. We are a family, and together, we will emerge stronger beyond the pandemic, complete with your daughters and sons.
     
    Sincerely,
     
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    Patrick Ruff
  • July 8, 2020- Update on Plans for Fall 2020

    Dear Parents,

    It is hard to believe we are over a month into summer and that 4th of July is in our rear view mirror.  We are in day 3 of our Summer Enrichment Seminars and I am proud that we are offering 83 seminars over the next four weeks for our students.  I am grateful to our faculty and staff who generously stepped up to provide these moments of connection and enrichment in a very challenging time.
     
    I want to give you and update on our plans for the fall semester.  It will certainly feel different from what we are used to at 302 Portola Road, but while we live, learn, and engage in new ways, we will also continue to build an even stronger community through this unprecedented shared experience.

    Last week 10 faculty members (Team Future) tasked with developing different teaching and learning scenarios for our community completed their work and delivered a very thorough and robust plan for Distant Learning and Hybrid Learning.  Our plans are grounded in our core values and clearly articulate how we could come together as a community, what our classroom experiences will be, and how co-curricular offerings will look.  This week, 10 different members of our faculty, staff, and Monastery (Team Safety) gathered to coordinate and share information on the steps we are taking to ensure our facilities are ready to support students on campus in August.  In addition, we have met with medical experts in the field and continue to be in regular contact with them as we make our plan.

    While we still have many details to work out and communicate to you in the coming weeks, our plan for the fall is as follows:
    • Woodside Priory will open in August for in person learning on campus.  The first and most fundamental consideration in making this decision is the safety and well-being of our students, faculty, staff, and Monks.  Therefore, guidance from public health officials will be followed in all reopening protocols.  The reopening of campus will also follow a fundamental consideration that is core to our Benedictine mission: care for each individual.  Care for the person, in this context, is reflected in the recognition that student wellness is dependent upon interpersonal connections and relationships.
    • Our outdoor space and classroom space make us uniquely suited to provide our students and faculty a safe and healthy place to learn.
    • Everyone on campus will be required to adhere to a number of measures to comply with public health guidelines. These include, but are not limited to, wearing face coverings, maintaining appropriate physical distance, appropriate hygiene, and limiting large gatherings (San Mateo County Recovery Framework Four Pillars).  
    • We recognize that some students will not be able to return to campus in the fall.  We will communicate more details about the different scenarios and options next week.
    • We are working practices and procedures for our dorms and will establish isolation and quarantine spaces for students. Our boarding students will receive more information from Mr. Adam Siler about this process in the next week.

    We will have new procedures for almost every aspect of Priory life and there will be significant shifts to the services and opportunities we can provide but I am grateful we will be able to learn and grow together and in person because that is where and how we learn best.  Our return to campus will only be successful with your flexibility, creativity, and generosity; thank you in advance for making this happen!

    Please know our plan is still subject to the course of the virus itself as well as by the restrictions that may be imposed by San Mateo County, the Governor, and the CDC.  Also, our plan will need to be flexible, and will evolve as the facts dictate.  Our website has been updated and will be the place to find the most current information on our plans.  In addition, I will update our community each Wednesday through the summer but please feel free to reach out anytime if you have any questions or concerns.  Finally, I invite you to fill out this brief survey by Monday, July 13 as it will provide us with valuable information.
     
     
    Always we begin again,
    Patrick
  • June 21, 2020- Plans for Fall 2020

    Dear Parents,

    With the close of the  2019-2020 academic year, I want to provide you with an overview of how we are preparing for the coming year and the practical assumptions that are guiding our decision-making. We do plan to return to campus for in-person learning this August.

    Since the very beginning of the pandemic, our community has come together in extraordinary ways, and I want to thank you for how you have enabled the faculty, staff, and administration to respond as they confronted the challenges and the uncertainty of this moment.  Your patience and support as they faced complex and difficult decisions that required the most careful planning and preparation were very much appreciated.  As I prepare to begin to serve our school, we will continue to rely on that support as we focus on the ways we can protect the health and safety of each member of our community and pursue our mission during a time of uncertainty.  That has, and always will be, our top priority.  We are animated by the values that have shaped our community since our founding, including a deep sense of care for each person; and our commitment to the foundational aspects of our mission: the formation of our students, the support of our faculty, and our faithfulness to our Benedictine charism.

    This has been a time of great challenge.  Some of us are experiencing deep grief and pain for the people we have lost and the ways that our lives have been impacted as a result of this global pandemic.  We also realize the disproportionate experience of the worst impacts of COVID-19 on essential workers-in healthcare, in roles that support our daily lives, and in African American communities and communities of color.  The racial injustices and atrocities committed against African Americans and in communities of color, while always inexcusable and in need of immediate action, are especially abhorrent when these communities are at their most vulnerable.  We recognize the opportunity we have, moving forward, of strengthening our vision of a community deeply invested in the care of each person.  Doing so requires us to direct our energy not only to our response to COVID-19, but also to issues of equity, inclusion, and justice, and to issues of racism that we must now face with renewed urgency.  

    Planning for Fall
    As we approach the fall, our planning is focused on providing for the safe return of your sons and daughters and our faculty and staff - in our dorms, classrooms, and gathering places across our beautiful campus.

    Over the past several weeks, we have convened groups of colleagues to support planning efforts in key areas, including academic options, health, facility operations, and finance.  On our faculty, we have some of the best in the Bay and these teachers are developing different options including being fully distant, hybrid, and other flexible approaches to sustaining our educational mission as the conditions of the pandemic change.  They have been meeting the past month, gathering information, learning from best practices, and developing sample schedules.  Their focus has been on how we build community, how our students learn, and how we can engage in co-curricular activities.  Our nurse has tapped into the wider medical community and is engaging with schools, universities, and other healthcare agencies that will enable us to safely return to our campus.  Finally, our facilities and business offices are developing frameworks to support and sustain a smooth reopening.

    It is important to understand that we are developing our plans within the framework provided by San Mateo County and orders and statements by Dr. Morrow, San Mateo County Health Officer.

    Practical Assumptions
    In developing our plans, we are guided by a set of assumptions that inform our work:

    Health and Safety:  Our first priority is to the health and safety of our community-students, faculty, and staff.  We will be guided by the data, evidence, and expertise of our public health communities.

    Benedictine Mission: Our mission calls us to live and learn in community and develop the relationships that will best serve our students.  In-person learning is the best way to live our mission!

    Screening and Tracing: We will be able to implement a plan that includes regular self-screening for symptoms; temperature checks; appropriate distancing; face coverings; readily available testing and contact tracing; deep cleaning of public spaces; and reducing large gatherings.  While we know we can't eliminate all risk, this layered approach is integral to our efforts to work to mitigate risk.

    Hybrid-Flexible Academic Models: We will be prepared to conduct hybrid and flexible models of learning from in-person and on-campus to fully-virtual distance learning.  We are preparing for multiple options depending upon the changing state of pandemic conditions all in the context of keeping our students, faculty, and staff healthy and safe.

    Differentiation of Academic Programs: We will be adaptive to the differences across our academic programs.  The needs of the middle school can differ from those of the high school or our dormers.

    Financial Capacity: We have a financial plan to support the 2020-2021 academic year.  Given the demands of putting in place the appropriate measures to support the health and safety of our community, and strengthening the virtual learning environment, we do not yet know the full extent of our additional costs for this coming year.

    Second Wave of Infection: We will have the capability of responding to the possibility of another surge of infection during the course of 2020-2021, and will be ready to respond to the directives and recommendations from San Mateo County and other appropriate government agencies.

    Emerging Scenarios for the Fall
    These assumptions have guided our planning work and are shaping a range of scenarios that will provide us with the best opportunity to be open for in-person and on-campus learning in August in some capacity.  We have learned a tremendous amount about how to operate effectively from the more than 30 people that have continued to live on our campus during the last four months and those experiences have also guided our work.

    We will provide more communication in July as we reach greater clarity about the pandemic, but I am deeply grateful to all our colleagues whose work is ensuring we can be prepared for August.  I am also grateful to you for your support during these challenging times.  We still have many needs to meet and I am hopeful we can work together to ensure a safe and healthy start to the 2020-2021 academic year.

    I wish each of you the very best as we navigate this moment together, supported by one another and the enduring values that bind us as a community.  

    With gratitude,
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    Patrick Ruff
  • May 22, 2020- Creation of Team Future

    Dear Parents,

    You know better than anyone that this pandemic has challenged the way we live our mission, and as I have seen the past few months, your support has been impressive! It has been a grace to see the strength of the community in this very uncertain time. As we look forward, this time has also provided us the opportunity to consider the best way to deliver our Benedictine values to our students and the wider community.

    For the past few weeks, we have been considering the future challenges related to the coronavirus, and we want to update you on our plans for the future. Analysis and review of data from this evolving challenge will continue in the coming weeks and months with a focus on the health, safety, and well-being of our students and our faculty and staff.

    Our intention is to be back on campus in August, but we need to be prepared for different scenarios depending on the recommendations and guidelines developed by local and state health and government officials. Therefore, we have a team of 10 teachers working with our administration, focused on developing plans so we are prepared to meet the needs of our students, faculty, and families in light of a shifting landscape. They are focusing on creatively addressing three key areas:
    1. Building community and connections in and out of our classrooms
    2. Teaching and learning in different ways
    3. Co-curriculars
       
    Please know your survey feedback has been instrumental in our response and planning; please continue to provide us thoughts and insights over the next few weeks. If you have ideas, connections, or insights, please share them with me; your support and partnership will be critical as we look to create a "better normal."

    Our Benedictine mission remains constant; we want our students to be meaningfully engaged, challenged, connected, and balanced. But, HOW we fulfill this mission in our society vulnerable to pandemics and environmental crises may look different than it has in the past. We are living in a new world with a new reality and these are unprecedented times, but we approach this opportunity with a spirit of innovation and growth.
     
    In its 1500 year history, the Benedictines have had to deal with a range of serious issues, and our community has already responded to the coronavirus with grace, generosity, and commitment. We remain confident that we will continue to do so in the months and years ahead, drawing from our faith and trust in one another, and the strength of our mission and Benedictine values.

    Please continue to be healthy and well!

    Thanks,
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    Patrick Ruff

COVID-19 Counseling Resources

Tools to help you regulate your feelings:
From the CDC:
For more information on supporting your child(ren), take a look at these offerings from Child Mind Institute and this presentation from Children's Health Council
  • If you need to connect with someone immediately, please explore these resources, available 24/7:
  • In case of a psychiatric emergency, dial 911 or go to your nearest emergency department
  • Crisis Text Line: Text "Hello" to 741-741
  • Star Vista's Crisis Hotline: (650) 579-0350
  • San Francisco Suicide Prevention: (415) 781-0500
  • Santa Clara County Crisis Hotline: (855) 278-4204
  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: (800) 273-8255 
For more information, including referrals to local therapists, please reach out to the counseling department.

Woodside Priory School