Higher Ground urges state health departments to prioritize teachers and school staff for COVID-19 vaccinations. The company will help subsidize any vaccination costs incurred by its 2,000+ staff members.
As the coronavirus pandemic continues to spread, Higher Ground Education is urging state health departments to prioritize teachers and school staff for COVID-19 vaccinations. But it’s also putting its money where its mouth is: In order to protect the health and safety of its employees, Higher Ground is giving all 2,000+ staff paid time off to receive their vaccination if they choose to do so and will help subsidize any vaccination costs not covered by their insurance or federal, state, or local communities. Additionally, all Guidepost Montessori schools will continue to work closely with their respective state health departments on ensuring that teachers and other frontline workers will gain access to the vaccine as soon as it becomes available.
"Everyone deserves to feel safe at work, which is why we want our teachers and frontline workers to gain access to the vaccine as soon as possible," said Jocelyn Scotty, Vice President of Schools at Higher Ground Education.
The impact of the pandemic has been acutely felt by families unable or unwilling to send their children to school.
"School is profoundly valuable for both children and their families,” said Ray Girn, CEO of Higher Ground Education. "It’s where children grow into themselves and when they leave home to attend, school enables parents and caregivers to work. We’re committed to safely getting children back in school as soon as we can and welcome the extra layer of protection the vaccination will offer our staff."
Everyone deserves to feel safe at work, which is why we want our teachers and frontline workers to gain access to the vaccine as soon as possible.—Jocelyn Scotty, Vice President of Schools at Higher Ground Education
School closures remain a concern to Girn, who worries about the long-term impact of keeping children at home without access to any form of education.
"We are very proud of the industry-leading safety protocols our schools have put in place so that they can stay open during the pandemic," he said. "We can't yet fathom the damage caused by widespread school shutdowns. For many children and families, being forced to stay home from school is somewhere between a tremendous, extended setback, and a devastating tragedy."
Nearly all 80+ Guidepost Montessori schools remain open to date, thanks to the diligent implementation of the following evidence-based safety procedures:
Preparing the environment—Whenever possible, we set up the classroom in order to encourage social distancing, for example, by reducing the number of chairs at each table, providing extra space between belongings, and placing distanced stickers on the floor for circle time.
Modifying the use of Montessori materials—We want to offer as authentic a Montessori experience as possible, while maximizing health and safety. We have therefore removed all tasting and group cleaning activities. In some cases, individual food preparation by the child may be permitted, but not shared.
Arrival—To limit exposure, drop-off occurs outside of the building and includes a temperature check and wellness check.
Entering the classroom—Upon entry, everyone is required to change into indoor shoes and wash their hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Teachers will then use an EPA-approved disinfectant to wipe down children's lunchboxes and other belongings.
Daily containment—Wherever possible, classes of children will remain separate from one another, leading to staggered arrival times and playground times. Communal areas, such as corridors and bathrooms, are frequently disinfected.
Lunch and snack—Children may not assist with classroom food preparation, and if teachers do serve food, it will be prepared in-house in a hygienic environment and served to each individual child.
Staff breaks—All staff socially distance wherever possible, and take further safety measures wherever possible, such as choosing an isolated location for breaks and wiping down all communal areas after visits.
Face coverings—Staff members wear face coverings at all times, and we strongly encourage children to wear one. Please note, children under the age of 2 must not wear a mask due to the risk of suffocation.
End-of-day—Teachers facilitate pick-up with parents at the classroom or designated door, and assist the child in gathering the items he needs to take home. They also wipe down materials with an EPA-approved disinfectant before leaving the classroom.
Events and tours—At this time, we are only holding virtual events. If a school tour is organized, it will happen outside of school hours and with all safety precautions in place (temperature check, symptoms screening,and so on).
Cleaning fabrics and materials—We wash all our linens frequently, and have taken additional measures, such as keeping every child's bedding separate and in sealed bags.
Safe spaces for anyone feeling unwell—Every school has a designated space on campus where a child can wait if he is feeling unwell. It includes a disinfected cot with a clean sheet, which is cleaned after every use.
"Even with those protocols in place, we understand that many of our families find themselves at particular risk to COVID-19,” said Girn, “and they can’t send their children to school even after our teachers and frontline workers receive vaccinations. Many of these families are opting to enroll their children in our virtual schools, and are using Guidepost at Home as a framework for homeschooling. We are honored to give them valuable learning options during this challenging time, and these alternatives will remain viable options after the pandemic is over."