These preliminary FAQs are merely intended to provide insight into planning for the coming school year--they are subject to change and not meant to be all-inclusive.
Will Pinewood be open and in-person to start the school year?
Yes, the first day of classes is August 13. Upper School and Lower School Back-to-School Bashes are on August 10 and August 11 respectively. We can't wait to see you there!
I’ve read a number of news articles about SC schools weighing three different scenarios for reopening. Are those guidelines applicable to Pinewood?
The AccelerateSC guidelines and related proposals are for the public sector. The guidelines we establish should be in the best interest of our particular institution. While there is valuable insight and expertise we can incorporate from the SC education task force, Pinewood is not bound by its recommendations. Public schools have their own unique set of challenges.
I’ve seen some colleges and universities who’ve amended their calendar to anticipate a potential resurgence of the virus in the winter. Have you changed your calendar?
At this point, we’ve chosen to keep the current 2020-2021 calendar. Colleges and universities have taken such an action given their residential student population and their concerns to limit departures from campus and returns from break.
What about requiring facial coverings?
The RCC will make final recommendations on facial coverings as we get closer to the start of the school year. However, they will not be required for Lower School students.
Generally, health officials strongly recommend the use of face masks. Students and faculty may wear facial coverings as long as they do not have any inappropriate graphics or language for a school setting. Nobody will make another person feel uncomfortable for wearing a mask or taking additional precautions. COVID-bullying, in any way, shape, or form, WILL NOT BE TOLERATED.
Will you be taking the temperature of every student upon arrival on campus?
Given the sheer inefficiency and questionable reliability of non-contact thermometers, we do not anticipate arrival screenings. However, parents must be accountable for their child’s health and may not allow them to attend school when sick. We anticipate extremely strict guidelines that reinforce many of our updated handbook policies--students with a fever of 100 degrees or who exhibit virus-related symptoms are required to return home immediately, without exception. They must remain symptom-free for at least 24 hours, if not longer, depending on the recommendation from the RCC.
Do you foresee changes to drop-off and pick-up schedules? I read that schools are staggering start times and establishing different drop-off points on campus.
We already stagger LS and US start times and have designated drop-off points for children in each division. Parents of Lower School students should expect a change in drop-off and pickup procedures as determined by the RCC. Given the positive results we’ve experienced during summer camp, it is likely that we will utilize a car line system for LS. It is in our best interest to prohibit walk-ups in the morning and avoid parents congregating in anticipation of dismissal.
What are your plans for handwashing and hand sanitizer?
We will be intentional about hand washing, educating our students about hygiene, and making sanitizer readily available throughout campus. The RCC guidelines will provide additional specificity.
I’ve seen some schools that are installing plexiglass and desk guards in classrooms; will that be the case?
We want to maintain a personal environment. Some public schools will need such features, but we do not expect the installation of these devices within the classroom setting.
How will the desks be arranged within the classrooms?
We are fortunate to have small class sizes and teachers will appropriately utilize the space in their classrooms to maintain distance in whatever way is safe and does not compromise instruction. We also intend to be creative with the use of multiple venues around campus, including outdoor classrooms as weather permits.
What are your plans to ensure students practice social distancing in the hallways between classes?
The RCC will discuss a number of measures we can take into consideration. We have the ability to stagger the bell schedule to prevent overcrowding in between classes.
Will the Lower School students still be walking around campus to different classrooms?
There is consideration to minimize LS student exposure around campus. Specialty area teachers will be prepared to conduct their sessions in the students’ homerooms.
What about recess and PE class?
With vigilant oversight and faculty supervision, students should be allowed to participate in recess--such activity is healthy for social-emotional development. The RCC will outline sanitization efforts related to the playgrounds, with students being expected to wash their hands both before and after each recess session. The RCC will provide recommendations for PE classes at a later date.
What will be the format for dining services?
Final decisions on food services will be made prior to the start of school. However, Chef McNeill and his team have provided the RCC with several creative options that accommodate the needs of students and faculty in all divisions.
As far as technology, may my child bring his or her own laptop rather than use the shared devices at school?
Yes! We strongly encourage students (Grade 2 and older) to bring their own personal devices in an effort to limit the frequency of exchanging on-campus equipment. We understand that not every student currently has their own laptop. We do have a supply of Chromebooks available, but they will need to be disinfected for each use. Ideally, every student (Grades 2+) should have their own personal device--both for health reasons as well as efficient individual learning.
The Technology Committee has met multiple times this summer and will be providing additional guidance and recommendations to families in the next few weeks. The challenges associated with the virus have simultaneously provided an opportunity to reassess the important role that digital access will continue to play in our children’s educational lives. Regardless of a pandemic or inclement weather, students will need access to digital resources. Therefore, you can expect a recommendation from our technology committee that includes guidance on purchasing a school-preferred Chromebook. This option is modestly priced, durable, and contains all the functionality necessary for school assignments. Note: If you are planning to purchase a Chromebook for the coming year, please be advised of vendor delays and extended lead times.
What is the plan in the event that you must temporarily suspend in-person operations? Have you made changes to virtual learning?
We are proud of the virtual learning platform that evolved over the course of the spring term. Teachers will devote time to training students on Google Classroom (Grades 4-12) and Seesaw (PK3-Grade 3) within the first few days of school. Ensuring familiarity with the software and forming consistent practices in-person will prepare students in the event of virtual learning.
We have been, and will continue, re-evaluating our virtual learning program and the guidelines for each division. Based on feedback this spring, we have created a new role for a Director of Virtual Learning. An announcement on that front will be coming soon. This individual will be the point-person for all training and professional development across divisions. They will ensure oversight and consistency of pedagogy and logistics.
What will happen if a student is not comfortable attending class in-person?
If a student/family is not comfortable being in-person, we will work with them to determine how we can accommodate their learning as if it was an excused medical absence and send work home. They do not need to be fearful of getting penalized if they are not on campus. However, it is not feasible to expect our teachers to perform both in-person instruction in addition to creating content for virtual learning.
What happens if a member of the community tests positive for COVID-19?
We will follow CDC guidelines should a member of the community test positive for coronavirus. Contact tracing will take place and there must be a facility closure for 2-5 days.
Will there be a tuition refund, discount, or credit should the school be forced to resume virtual learning?
The quality of our virtual learning program has proven that students continue to make progress and cover material effectively. Teachers work tirelessly to provide high quality asynchronous and synchronous content, in addition to showcasing their responsiveness and personalized communication with parents and students alike. The enrollment contract does not allow for refunds; however, consideration will be given for possible credits or alternative arrangements should virtual learning exceed a significant period of time as determined by the administration and the Board of Trustees. Priority will be given to PK3 and PK4 families.
Will we have to sign a waiver at the beginning of the year?
Due to the nature of the virus, it is more than likely that anyone on campus will have to sign a waiver of liability in conjunction with an acknowledgment of the student and parent handbooks.
We understand that the new guidelines and questions raised by this present situation may seem daunting. Please rest assured that our RCC and administrative team are taking every measure to ensure Pinewood rises to this challenge. Together, we will move forward with resilience and adaptability.
Thank you for your continued partnership.