Hudson Montessori School Retrospective: Our Lessons Learned From COVID-19
For the start of this school year, Hudson Montessori School happily welcomed students back with new health and safety protocols, including making masks optional for students. As with any community illness that can occur in the classroom, we continue to monitor, notify, and take action as each situation requires.
Our school is thankful that our health and safety policies (and strictly following them) have kept our students, teachers, and families as safe as possible during the COVID-19 pandemic. We are encouraged by the news that the World Health Organization and President Biden have suggested that COVID-19 might be downgraded in the near future from its current pandemic status.
Every experience is a learning experience. We take this moment to reflect on our mutual resilience, never wavering from our focus on protecting our children and staff, and take a look at all the valuable lessons we’ve learned from the pandemic.
Some Context: When the Pandemic Was Declared in March 2020
The first reports coming from Wuhan set off alarm bells in the mind of our school’s director Ms. Gina Reeves. She remembered her pandemic training from the 2005 bird flu outbreak. While the bird flu did not bring the globe to a standstill, Gina remembered her notes and began preparing for a pandemic scenario.
Administration began formulating answers to the looming “what if” questions. What if this becomes a local issue? Will the school need to close for two weeks? What if students in our community get ill?
“Although we felt that this too shall pass, we also felt we had a commitment to excellence at every stage,” Gina said.
Although the state did not declare schools closed until Friday, March 13, the school’s administration had already prepared the teachers for moving to an online format on Zoom and onboarding children at all age levels into Google Classroom.
Teachers readied two weeks of learning materials for each student. Not a day of teaching was lost. Our teachers began delivering lessons via Zoom only three days later, with every class in session online on Monday, March 16.
As the first STEAM-accredited schools in New Jersey, Hudson Montessori School has always prioritized educational technology, so many of the systems were in place, and the school could quickly pivot to online learning. Each classroom was equipped with laptops and tablets, and the school lent out equipment as need to students.
The older grade levels were already familiar with Google Classroom, while our other teachers had to roll up their sleeves and learn fast how to make the online systems work for their students and families. Some students and staff were able to adapt quickly, while others took longer. Despite everything, our teachers kept their curriculum solid, and students kept learning. Even extracurricular classes like art and music moved to Zoom as well.
“There was a sort of fatigue that came in when it wasn’t just two weeks online…or a month…or two months,” Gina said.
The school remained hopeful that students could return for the last month of school, but on May 4, 2020, the elected and health officials declared that all schools could not meet in person for the remainder of the school year—so, Zoom it was.
Lessons Learned: Teachers
We found out very quickly that two year olds can’t sit in front of a monitor for long. Teachers at
every level saw how desperately their students craved socialization. What students missed most was each other. Each class carved out time for the children to chat and spend time together. They needed that sense of community more than ever.
Lessons Learned: Students
The students banded together to support the greater Jersey City community beyond the walls of quarantine. Our fourth, fifth, and sixth graders learned that the physician father of one of our school’s third graders was working 14-hour days at two Manhattan hospitals. As a gesture of kindness, students sent meals to the health care staff at one of those hospitals to show their appreciation for the front line workers.
Lessons Learned: School Administrators
As soon as the school year ended, the school administrators made it their mission to learn what needed to be done to open as quickly and safely as possible for the following school year. They attended pandemic coordinator training and began setting up health and safety protocols.
“We took the approach to be very strict and to do everything humanly possible to keep kids and adults healthy,” Gina said. “The health and safety protocols were unforgiving, but they were safe.”
School Shifts Approach During Height of Pandemic
When the school welcomed students back in September of 2020 the classrooms were prepped to the latest and firmest safety standards. All students from toddlers to 6th graders wore masks, respected one way hallways, and had giant plastic partitions that essentially created learning pods in each classroom to lower the risk of transmission between cohorts. Also shared spaces like bathrooms were fully sanitized between each student’s use.
By beginning with strict safety protocols, Hudson Montessori School remained ahead of the curve for resuming in-person learning and served as a beacon of hope that going back could be safe.
Lessons Learned: Families
Families prioritized their children’s education and chose not to travel—whether it was across the ocean or the street. And, if travel was required, families understood that a two week quarantine was mandated before returning to the classroom.
While COVID-19 may not be eradicated, vaccines, treatments, and the availability of testing help us move forward together. The Montessori philosophy has served as a wonderful guide, by fostering independence, personal responsibility, adaptability, and ultimately, coming together to serve the greater community by doing all we could to reduce the spread of illness.
“There is something to be garnered from every experience you have,” Gina said. “As long as we do it together, there is no problem we can’t solve.”
To learn more about Hudson Montessori School’s interdisciplinary, theme-based learning approach to education, the Montessori philosophy and methodology, or how the school fosters the love of learning for children aged 2 to eight grade, please contact us.