Alumni Panel Video
We hope you will take an hour to sit down, relax, and learn more about the outcomes of the education you have invested in for your children! You can watch this in one sitting, in short segments at your convenience, or listen to it as a podcast while walking outdoors! We would love to hear your reflections or further questions after viewing; there is so much in here to appreciate!
The video link is https://vimeo.com/499477498
The password can be found in the all-school email from January 12.
January 7, 2021
Dear Forest Bluff School Community,
We hope you have had a wonderful vacation and are looking forward to 2021! In terms of the pandemic, there is great optimism about new vaccines becoming available and the fact that the number of cases in Lake County have gone down. However, there are also rising concerns about strains of Coronavirus spreading as we enter the deep winter months of flu season, and the possible repercussions of recent, increased travel all across the country. The Directors and I waited to evaluate the current situation before asking families for increased mitigation measures: We ask that families who traveled commercially in the days leading up to school, re-enter with an added layer of caution (see described below). Our goal is to ensure that all of our classrooms can safely resume in-person after the break. With this in mind, the Forest Bluff Directors ask that you please read this email carefully and follow these guidelines:
If you traveled over this break, please review your family’s exposure risks and do the following:
Commercial travel: If you traveled through a commercial airport, domestic or international, within the last week before the first day of school, please keep your children home for 3-5 days from your return travel day and talk to our school nurse about whether having your child COVID-tested before returning to school is warranted. If you do have your child tested, we ask that you please keep your children home until their test results are received. For your convenience, we recommend a testing center that gives results the same day, such as Lake Forest Urgent Care, in West Lake Forest: https://lfacutecare.com/covid-19-testing/ By arranging appointments now, you can make your children’s return to school most timely for your family schedules. This center is open on Saturdays and Sundays, as well as long hours on weekdays.
Car travel or private: If you traveled by car or on a private plane without exposure to others outside your immediate group, it is not necessary to delay your children’s return to school or get negative COVID tests before returning to school. But as with the return from our recent Thanksgiving travel, we appreciate any extra caution you can afford. If you decide to be extra cautious and keep your children home for a few days or get COVID tests, please let our office know.
For everyone: Please be aware, as always, to watch for symptoms at home. Children with any symptom of illness should either: stay home until cleared by a doctor and our school nurse, Maggie Kelly; kept home for 10 days; or get a negative COVID test and show the results, before returning to school. Feel free to call our office with any questions; we are here to help you navigate through such decisions to be as safe as possible, together.
As you fill out the COVID- screening every morning, please be thorough in checking your children’s temperatures, checking off any symptoms present, and fill out the travel section.
This is how we are able to stay in person, so we thank you for your participation in this community effort!
Forest Bluff Protocols in Classrooms
Everything we have been doing since the beginning of the school year to keep our community safe will be continued or increased for the winter months. Forest Bluff will continue with our COVID safety protocols which include wearing well-fitting masks, washing hands frequently with soap for 20+ seconds, maintaining a distance of 6+ feet between students (and masked) when together for longer than 10 minutes, and washing materials before they are passed between individuals. The buildings and classrooms are also being thoroughly cleaned every day by a professional cleaning service. We have excellent air filtration systems in every room throughout the school. If comfortable doing so, children are allowed to continue to work outside and to eat lunch outside when weather permits. During the winter months, we encourage you to send your children to school with extra under-layers and prepared to be outside in the cold with all body parts covered.
Lunch time: When the weather necessitates eating lunch inside more often, students will stay at their designated seat, and only remove their masks to eat and drink. Students will not be permitted to talk when their mask is removed during lunch, but encouraged to quietly look at a book, or in some cases, the Director might read aloud to their class and eat afterwards while the class is silently reading, with masks in place.
More information about COVID Symptoms and COVID Exposure
Requirements for return after showing COVID symptoms: If a student exhibits symptoms, they must do one of the following to return to school:
○ Be tested for COVID-19 and receive a negative test result. The new “rapid result” tests are acceptable.*
○ Isolate at home for 10 days and until symptoms are resolved.
○ Provide a note of approval from a physician to return to school, even if symptoms are not COVID-related. If a family with multiple children has only one symptomatic student, and the doctor’s note says that the one student can return, then the other children in the family are eligible to return.
*If a household member is awaiting a COVID-19 test result, please keep students and siblings home until the result is confirmed negative.
- Requirements for return after known direct exposure: If a student has known direct exposure to someone with a confirmed case of COVID-19, they must quarantine for 14 days. Students may not return to school, even with a negative test result, for 14 days. “Direct contact” is defined as being within 6 feet for a cumulative 15 minutes or more in a day. If a family member, but not the student, is positive for COVID-19, the student must be quarantined even after the family member was released from isolation. If someone in your household tests positive for COVID-19, please notify the school office or Paula Preschlack (via text at 847-345-4444) immediately. Our school nurse, Maggie Kelly, will help guide you on what day your child can return to school.
- Returning to school after contracting COVID-19: If a student contracts COVID-19, they may return to school 10 days after onset of symptoms (if the symptoms are resolved). The school will contact the family to discuss symptoms and clear the student to return.
- Potential exposure: If you are concerned about COVID-19 exposure, the best time to test is 3 to 5 days after the possible exposure.
- Confirmed case procedure: In the event of a confirmed COVID-19 case at Forest Bluff School, we notify the Lake County Department of Health and follow their guidance.
- Communication: We will notify the appropriate classroom community as soon as possible when a case is reported. We will not share names for the sake of privacy, unless given permission to do so.
- Reporting to school: In the event of a confirmed COVID-19 case in the family, report the case to the school office immediately or if after hours, in a text to Head of School, Paula Preschlack: 847-345-4444.
A Review on Masks
Based on current science, masks decrease the risk of the spread of COVID-19. Wearing masks consistently is one of the best ways we have of supporting each other through this pandemic.
- Masks are required on Forest Bluff property unless a Director gives permission to remove it outside, socially distanced, or for eating or drinking socially distanced.
- Paper or fabric masks are sufficient, but if you can see light through the fabric when held up, it is probably too thin to be effective; add an extra layer or an insert for better protection.
- A neck gaiter is acceptable to use as a mask outdoors if the fabric is doubled up to provide two layers, seals against the bridge of the nose, and stays in place.
- Masks must be worn properly to cover the nose and mouth and seal closely against the face.
- It is recommended that students wear a clean mask each day.
- Students should have two extra masks in a plastic baggie, kept in their drawer at school.
Thank you for reading this! We are excited that we can continue learning in person at Forest Bluff School. We are so proud of the spirit of teamwork that everyone is exhibiting. We are eager to see you and your children on Monday, January 11, 2021! We hope you enjoy this week of vacation.
Paula Lillard Preschlack and the Forest Bluff Directors
Dear Forest Bluff School Community,
As we continue through an anxious time in our culture, it is more important than ever to stay calm for our children and to exercise our trust and compassion with those around us. Strain can bring out the more difficult sides of our personalities, but I am so proud of our community for maintaining emotional equilibrium and staying positive! We are modeling for the children that in a place like Forest Bluff School, we can trust one another to do our best to mitigate COVID-19 amongst us. The teaching Directors, Office Manager, Maggie Kelly and I will continue to do our best to support you in every way we can through this pandemic. Meanwhile, your children are blessed to be in calm, caring learning environments with one another each day that we can be in-person. We’ll just keep taking it one day at a time!
Yesterday evening, I gave a Zoom presentation to Galilee Montessori School in Virginia about how Montessori’s elementary programs prepare children for the real world. (If you are interested, listen on https://soundcloud.com/paulapreschlack). Truly, children learn to become innovative, creative and collaborative thinkers with Montessori’s approach. In the midst of our daily lives, it is a joy to remind parents of the life and passion bubbling up in the classrooms.
Here are some Upcoming Events at Forest Bluff School to look forward to:
Grandparent Visit Slideshow!
This season, Forest Bluff will not be able to host our usual, in-person Grandparent Visits on December 17 and 18, 2020. Instead, the Directors are putting together a slideshow and presentation to share virtually. This will be emailed to you, to be forwarded to all your relatives, so that they can see a snapshot of each child in action, from this fall. (If you would not like your child to be included in the slideshow that will be shared with this community, please let the office know promptly.) We are excited to give this gift that can extend right into grandparents’ homes and shared with those who love your children so much!
Virtual Alumni Panel!
In place of an in-person alumni panel this January 12th, 2021, we will share a video of Forest Bluff alumni answering your questions and having a discussion about the results of their experiences in Montessori. PLEASE SUBMIT SOME QUESTIONS! You are invited to email any questions for our alumni to Paula Preschlack at email@example.com or mention them to her in person in the parking lot or over the phone. She will interview the alumni on Zoom, and you will receive a link to the video in January. This is always a very fun event; it’s uplifting to see adults out in the world who share the same Montessori background as your children. It also helps you to envision what your own children may be like when they mature to adulthood, and to have more confidence in Montessori education’s benefits.
Reminder: The last day of school is Friday, December 18; Dismissal for all classes is 11:30am. We return Monday, January 11, 2021.
TUITION FOR JANUARY, 2021 IS DUE MONDAY, DECEMBER 7TH.
Paula Lillard Preschlack for the Forest Bluff Directors
Dear Forest Bluff School Community,
As you are surely aware, COVID-19 cases are rapidly rising in our wider community in Illinois, our country, and the world. Because we are all connected, we at Forest Bluff will most likely be affected by this. On a positive note, research about children and schools continues to support our effort to stay open every day that we can for in-person experiences. We are ready to switch to Remote Learning by class at any time, which is likely to occur in the days, weeks or months to come, when individual cases occur.
Realistically, we may all be exposed to some degree to this virus. Wearing masks, watching that your distance is at least six feet from others, washing hands for at least 20 seconds with soap, and wiping down surfaces with disinfectant, are key to controlling your exposure. (We refer to these as “the four W’s”). This is why we are confident that our classrooms are some of the safest places for your children and our Directors to spend their days. If you have not already been doing so, we urge you to add mask-wearing to every one of your interactions with others, even with family members who live in a different household, and with close friends you see every day. This precaution may be the final step, for some of us, that could help to significantly mitigate the spread of the virus in the days ahead.
Before your child returns to school after Thanksgiving vacation, please consider whether exposure was likely in your family’s situation. If you have any suspicion that your children may have been exposed, we encourage you to keep them home for the first 3 to 5 days after the break: In this case, call the office on Monday, November 30th to tell us of this precaution you have chosen, and your children’s Directors will be happy to put together a tote bag of work for your children, so that they can work at home for a few days. Giving your family a 3-to-5 day “buffer” like this is a good option for those who might be taking the reasonable risks to see family members over this vacation, and who realize that being cautious to protect the community is something we all very much appreciate!
As we approach vacation times, you may be wondering how to travel safely, how to gather with family members, and what to do when we return to school. Here is some information from our nurse, Maggie Kelly, that we hope will be helpful to you. This information can also be found on the Illinois Department of Public Health's website under “school guidance” as well as under their Holiday Season Safety Tips.
What is the safest way to travel for Thanksgiving?
If you are traveling, the best option is to drive to your destination, since this significantly reduces the amount of people with whom you will be in contact. If you must travel via airplane, it is recommended that you try not to travel or be in an airport during peak hours. One practical tip for traveling is to bring a small sanitation pack with you that contains hand sanitizer, disinfecting wipes, and replacement masks. Wherever you go, whether it is an airport, public transportation, a taxi or a friend’s car, or through gas stations, etc., practice the four W’s and watch that your family members do the same. In other people’s homes, practice the four W’s and establish that your family members and friends do the same.
What is the safest way to gather with others for this holiday, or at any time?
The safest way is to keep gatherings to as few people as possible, to practice the four W’s, and to give others extra space. For a meal, we suggest sitting more than six feet apart when you remove your masks to eat, and to replace your masks to converse, as soon as you are finished eating.
How will we safely re-enter the classrooms after the break?
As always, if you are not completely confident that your chance of exposure to COVID is low, then do not send your children to school. Stay home for a few days, get a COVID test if possible, communicate with those you have been with to check on their health, and communicate to the school for guidance. We greatly appreciate your honesty and transparency in these situations, as it helps us protect the other children, as well as their teaching Directors. The sooner we know about a possible case or exposure, the sooner we can take action to prevent spread and make a plan to get your child safely back to school. Please understand that we want the children to be in school as much as possible, but being in person comes with an added responsibility for all of us. We strongly suggest that you spend the days leading up to your return to school at home and in your normal, low-exposure routine. Again, if this cannot be done because of travel, consider staying home the first few days of school and working at home. Our Directors are happy to support you in doing this by preparing a tote bag of work for you to pick up.
Remote-Learning Review (from email of 10-21-20)
As long as we continue to see that COVID-19 is not being contracted or spread in our classrooms or on our school property, we will continue in-person learning at Forest Bluff School. We will only switch to Remote Learning by class and when necessary. This would become necessary if:
1. It is mandated by the state or local jurisdiction.
2. A student or Director in that class is a highly probable or tested positive case of COVID-19.
3. The number of children absent due to any illnesses is higher than the number of students in the room.
4. It becomes necessary to stop and reevaluate our safety procedures.
The first three of these four scenarios are becoming more likely as cases rise in our area. This means that simply by following our own formula here, a decision to switch a class to Remote will be simple and straightforward.
There have been a few Forest Bluff parents or grandparents who have contracted COVID-19 in recent days. When a parent or grandparent tests positive, but the children have been kept home and there is little chance of them having exposed their classmates, they have continued to remain home for the required days, and if they themselves tested negative, we have not announced the situation. However, we will definitely let you know if a child in your children’s classroom tests positive for COVID or is a probable case of COVID and has been in school during their incubation period. (Remember that because of practicing our protocols within classrooms, exposure risk to a classmate who tests positive has already been mitigated).
Frequently Asked Questions Regarding COVID
What makes someone a “close contact” to a COVID case?
According to the IDPH, being within six feet of the infected person for an accumulative 15 minutes or more within a 24-hour period during the infectious period (with or without a mask) makes someone a “close contact.” The infectious period of close contact begins 2 days before the onset of symptoms or 2 days before the positive testing sample was taken. In other words, if you were with someone 2 days before they tested positive or 2 days before they showed symptoms then you are considered a close contact and must quarantine for 14 days. Wearing well-fitting masks helps to minimize spread.
What should I do if I am exposed to someone with COVID?
According to the CDC and IDPH, close contacts are required to quarantine at home for 14 days after their last exposure to the infected person. We also strongly recommend COVID testing in this situation. If you have been in close contact with someone who tests positive and then you yourself begin to show one or more symptoms of COVID (see symptom list below), then you are considered a “probable case,” and it is recommended to contact your health care provider for further evaluation.
What are considered symptoms of COVID?
According to the IDPH, symptoms of COVID are any one of the following: Fever (100.4°F or higher), new onset of moderate to severe headache, shortness of breath, new cough, sore throat, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain from an unknown cause, new congestion/runny nose, new loss of sense of taste or smell, nausea, fatigue from an unknown cause, muscle or body aches.
What should I do if I am in close contact with a positive COVID case and begin showing symptoms within 14 days of the contact?
As mentioned above, in this situation you would be considered a “probable case,” and we suggest visiting your healthcare provider and possibly getting a COVID test (if recommended by your physician). Probable cases are treated as positive cases, even without testing, and so in this situation you must isolate for a minimum of 10 days after the onset of symptoms.
If your child contracts COVID over the vacation, or has symptoms with a likely exposure to someone who tested positive for COVID, then please alert Paula Preschlack right away so that we can determine whether the classroom is affected and what date your child can plan to return to school. You are invited to text me over the break, and Maggie Kelly or I will get back to you as soon as possible.
I find that the best antidote to fear right now is––as always––love and appreciation. We can all be sincerely appreciative for this unique community we have here at Forest Bluff. I told a parent recently that I do not simply “trust” that every Forest Bluff parent is doing their best to keep COVID at bay, I KNOW that you are all doing your best! And we will continue to do the best we can.
If you would like reassurance or communication during the vacation, please reach out to me, Lynn Jessen or the school office, and we will get back to you. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!
Paula Lillard Preschlack for the Forest Bluff Directors
For uplifting news about your growing children, please remember to:
Read our Blog
Listen to Montessori lectures
Follow us on Instagram
Like us on Facebook
Check our website for Upcoming Events
It has been a great pleasure to work with your children in person this fall! When you enrolled last summer, we asked you to commit only to the fall semester. We discounted the tuition significantly because we knew that the unexpected spring shutdown made it hard to imagine how the fall would go. The last few months of successful in-person learning has given us all a boost, however! We are well-positioned to continue to give your children the highest quality education possible all the way through May. Our in-person school setting is unique. The children are thriving!
Our Remote Learning plan is also robust and ready for use when necessary. Children and parents who participated in some Remote Learning this fall for temporary class closures had positive experiences. We have confidence in our ability to serve your children’s educational and developmental needs no matter the circumstances.
Our Business Manager will send you a tuition invoice later this week, to complete your child’s school year. Please look for this as an email, and return your tuition by mail or in person at the school mailbox. Current spaces are very limited due to COVID guidelines that recommend six-foot distances between students. Please send in your tuition promptly, and no later than Friday, December 4th, to assure your child’s space in their classroom.
For the remainder of this school year 2020-2021, we plan to carry on with an organized vacation schedule and to maximize the time in the classrooms by having Primary Extended Day and Elementary children spend their outdoor play time and additional reading times at home after 2:30. This early dismissal time also allows us to do the required professional cleaning and extra preparation for each school day. If these become unnecessary, we will extend the school day accordingly with no tuition increase. As you are all aware, we have made many adjustments that make our current operations more costly. To the best of our abilities with these added expenses, we have given a small discount from the normal rate for January-May. We hope that this helps your family to continue with us through this challenging year.
For those able and willing to contribute to the future health of the school, we deeply appreciate any donations; you will receive a holiday giving letter in December, inviting you to do so.
One of my favorite things to do in the fall is to meet with each Director to get a full report on each student right before the parent-teacher conferences mid-October. I love hearing the Directors talk about their students! They admire and rave about your children, and they see so much strength, courage, creative thinking, intelligence and inspiring compassion in each and every one. Your children are amazing young people, and they are the future in which we invest. We look forward to continuing the year with them and with you!
Paula Lillard Preschlack for the Forest Bluff Directors
We are overjoyed to be able to continue to work with your children in person and so appreciate your unwavering support and trust in our staff!
Monday, November 2nd: NO SCHOOL
We apologize for the inconvenience: School will be closed for one day next week:
- We need a day to complete the final installations to bring our buildings’ air filtration systems to the highest level of performance as we increase our time indoors. The company we work with is available on that date. Several other projects around the building and property will be done on that same day.
- Our Directors have been working nonstop for a long consecutive stretch (which does not happen again for the entire school year with the vacation schedule Forest Bluff has). With the increased workload and their outstanding performance this fall, this gives them a day to rest up.
As for the students, this day conveniently follows the Halloween weekend (increased sugar for some) and the Daylight Savings shift. It happens to also be All Souls’ Day and the traditional Mexican celebration, Dia de los Muertos!
Please take advantage of this day to shop for winter clothes for your children, if you still need to, and ask your children to clean out their bedrooms or organize home environments for winter. Other ideas for your children:
- Help bring in outdoor furniture
- Rake leaves
- Pack away summer clothes
- Gather items to give away
- Help you plan for Thanksgiving
- Do anything else that is helpful to the family
Calendar Adjustment for January 4-8
One change to our Holiday Break schedule: We will take off the first week of January as a substitute for our early start in the fall. School will resume after the Holiday Break on Monday, January 11, 2021. Tuition invoices for this coming winter and spring, which will be mailed on November 13th, will show this as the start date for the second semester. (Please see the attached Events Calendar/anticipated vacation schedule).
At the moment, there are no travel bans for Lake County. However, as you plan for vacations, please keep updated with local, national, and international travel advisories. Please also regularly check your emails from Forest Bluff over the breaks in case we need to make adjustments before school resumes each time. We will be making school-wide decisions on safety measures as the pandemic evolves. We ask that you be especially attentive if you travel to high risk areas, wear masks, avoid public gatherings, wash hands, wipe down surfaces and belongings, and stay 6 feet away from others to avoid contagion. If you realize you have taken risks over a holiday, we recommend you quarantine upon your return home. As always, we deeply appreciate your vigilance, cautious practices and great communication with us. Thank you!
If you missed the Fall Book Fair, we encourage you to print out or save the PDF attached to our October 13th email, and use it to order from the Lake Forest Book Store at 847-234-4420 or from firstname.lastname@example.org. This is a great time to stock up on quality children’s books for winter.
Classrooms as a Peaceful Haven
Our classrooms provide beautiful spaces without the political and social intensity of the adult world. We aim to keep it this way for your children. As you know from our dress code, we ask students and employees to dress simply and to avoid adorning their clothing with sports team logos, signage, or messaging. Please note that this includes political pins, signs and stickers as well. This supports Forest Bluff’s emphasis on respecting personal differences, while actively finding common ground and giving everyone a peaceful place to learn, work and grow as individuals in an accepting community.
The Forest Bluff Directors
Above you will find our latest Forest Bluff School Illness Policy for Winter 2020-2021. This document expands on what to do when your child is sick and prepares us as a community for how to strategize for the winter months with the inevitable common colds and flus amidst COVID precautions. Thank you for helping us to stay in session and to follow the Illinois Department of Public Health’s requirements.
Dear Forest Bluff School Community,
On Wednesday, we welcomed the Secondary Level back from their successful fall trip! They arrived healthy and happy, full of stories of laughter and hard work, having formed new bonds as a group. We are immensely grateful that in the midst of such a challenging period, our young adults had the gift of spending two full weeks immersed in nature without screens, distractions, or the stresses of the adult world. This allowed them to concentrate on developing their love of nature, an appreciation for living in community with others, and a stronger sense of self. Adolescence is a precious period for such development. What a blessing that this was possible!
It’s exciting to have made it through our first six weeks of learning at Forest Bluff School in person. This has been a positive achievement, brought about by effort, support and thoughtfulness from parents, dedicated consultants, staff and Directors. The children have been amazing, taking full advantage of their opportunities to work at school by being respectful of the new guidelines and by embracing the customs that make such an endeavor possible.
As we head into cooler temperatures, it is wise to think ahead and prepare for winter in two ways. The first is to prepare to dress to be outside and stay healthy. The second is to have a strategy as a community for how we will manage illnesses in this time of COVID-19. To address this topic, next week we will send you a document that explains why children need to stay home when exhibiting symptoms of any kind during this winter of 2020-2021.
Even in cooler temperatures, we plan to eat lunches and spend time working outdoors as much as possible. To avoid taxing one’s body unnecessarily, dressing warmly is key. Children should arrive at school dressed to be outside, so that they stay comfortable and healthy. Wearing layers will allow them to be comfortable throughout the day, indoors and outdoors. Additionally, your children can bring a thermos with a warm drink, soup, or hot food, for lunch.
School Attendance During COVID-19
This year, more than ever, it is important that children do not come to school if they are exhibiting any illness symptoms at all. This precaution prevents the spread of COVID and other germs, which will enable our classrooms to stay in session. Ultimately, the best way to stop illnesses from circulating through a classroom is to keep children home until they are completely healthy and showing no symptoms of illness. This also helps limit excessive COVID testing for your children and their classmates.
We understand that keeping your child from school when he or she has symptoms of any illness is an inconvenience. However, keeping your child home when sick allows the rest of the class to continue in person. This way, there is an in-person class for your child to return to. In the case that a teaching Director becomes ill, we are limited in our subbing options under the current conditions.
If a classroom Director becomes ill, he or she will get tested for COVID and stay home until it is safe for them to return to work. If this occurs, you will be notified that morning by email. The class will be taught by another Forest Bluff School Director for one or two days. If a Director is out for more than a few days, that classroom may need to go to Remote Learning until their Director can return to school. We will try our best to stay healthy to avoid this scenario!
We are so very grateful to work with parents dedicated to in-person learning and willing to accept occasional inconveniences to their own schedules to make this work for the whole community of children. Whenever you have questions regarding your child’s health and participation in school, feel free to call our office.
For clarity on when to keep your child home, please read the Illinois Department of Public Health’sExclusion Guidance sheet: https://dph.illinois.gov/sites/default/files/COVID19/COVID-19%20EXCLUSION%20GUIDANCE20200824.pdf
We will follow this decision tree when children exhibit symptoms of illness, in addition to our Forest Bluff School illness policy for 2020-2021.
Please note, as we embark on the next six weeks, we will keep dismissal for the Primary Extended Day and Elementary Levels at 2:30pm. This continues to be necessary for the professional cleaning crew to accomplish the several hours of thorough cleaning each day, and for the Directors to clean the work materials. In addition, ending at this time gives your children an hour to be physically active outside at home as part of their healthy development. We thank you for structuring your family’s day accordingly.
Back to more happy news: We love talking with you about how things are going at home and exploring how Montessori informs us. Parents of young children had another enjoyable and fruitful Zoom discussion in our Montessori from the Start Series yesterday morning. You are all invited to join us for the next Montessori Approach at Home Zoom discussion on Tuesday, October 13th. The matching audio lectures can always be found at https://soundcloud.com/paulapreschlack. Please enjoy listening to them at any time.
Dear Forest Bluff Community,
We have had some common colds in both of our Young Children’s Communities, which led us to re-examine our COVID-safety practices. The young children in these classrooms who were tested for COVID-19 were negative. After a thorough review, our infection prevention consultant assures us that we are doing everything correctly to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in these and all of our classroom environments. Even so, there will be colds and common illnesses in our community. The specialist assured us that this is not surprising. We thank our parents for helping to shorten the duration of minor illnesses by keeping their children home when symptomatic.
This concludes another successful week at Forest Bluff. It was wonderful to see many parents at our outdoor, socially-distanced Continuing Education event Tuesday evening. Your children are working so beautifully at school. It is inspiring to see how much they love working outside on their patios and in the prairie.
This is a reminder of the powerfully positive influence our natural surroundings can play in our lives. In this area, we are blessed to live just steps away from nature preserves, parks, trees, lakes and fields. We encourage you to take some time with your families to explore the resources around us on the weekends. The Lake Forest Open Lands website https://www.lfola.org is an incredible resource for finding beautifully maintained walking trails nearby.
Nature gives us perspective if and when needed. Open Lands president John Sentell reminds us, “While we used to think that the land belonged to us and that we were saving the land, there’s a growing recognition that we belong to the land, and it is saving us.” Along these lines, noted author Margaret Renkl writes, “I can scroll and worry indoors, or I can step outside and remember how it feels to be a part of something larger, something timeless, a world that reaches beyond me and includes me, too.”
While your children are spending so much time outside around our school building, we can see how this connection with nature guides them to explore and to pursue knowledge actively and enthusiastically. The children are a reminder during these uncertain times that we can always turn to nature, to our wonderful community, and to their infectious joy!
Thank you for your encouragement, support, and grace as we navigate this year together.
Dear Forest Bluff School Community,
We see Forest Bluff families being cautious and mindful by keeping their children home when they have any signs of illness. We appreciate this community effort to help us protect the classroom environments. As I sit out in the prairie today to watch the children playing “improv games” and counting by multiples with jump ropes, I witness their complete joy at being together; you are making this possible!
If your child or anyone in your family tests positive for COVID, it is important to let us know ASAP. The best and fastest way to do this is by emailing Paula Preschlack at email@example.com and copy firstname.lastname@example.org. This way, we can alert families quickly and make plans as needed. For a review of our health practices for mitigating the spread of COVID and managing cases, look in the email from email@example.com dated August 14, 2020. You can expect any alterations in CDC guidelines to apply.
If at some point, we alert you that a member of your child’s class has a reported COVID case, the affected class will switch to Remote Learning. The first day, families will receive an email from their child’s Director to attend a group Zoom meeting and to set up home environments, collect supplies and review the Remote Learning Plans for their class level. The following day, the Remote Learning Plan schedule will formally begin with a morning meeting. Student work bags will be prepared for you to pick up. Remote Learning Plans can be reviewed in the email from firstname.lastname@example.org dated June 12th, 2020. Though we hope this is infrequent and unlikely, the better prepared you can be for such an event, the less disruptive it may feel if and when it happens.
Just as reminders, when a child has a known COVID exposure, they must stay home for at least ten days before returning to school as per CDC guidelines. This means that if a father, mother, sibling or anyone the COVID positive person has been in contact with must remain home for fourteen days since their last contact with the positive person even if they themselves test negative. On another note, if your child has any sign of illness and you think it may be just allergies or a common cold, you must keep your child home until they are completely well for at least 24 hours. Additionally, if you suspect that the symptoms are “just allergies,” it is best to see your pediatrician to determine that this is the case before sending them back to school. By simply following these consistent ways of handling cases of illness, we can keep calm and clear-headed to solve those others of life’s problems creatively.
Meanwhile, please say some prayers or good wishes for our Secondary Level class! They left for their fall camping service trip in Wisconsin on Wednesday and plan to return on September 30th. Having taken COVID tests and prepared in every way you can imagine, the group embraced the opportunity to carry on with this beloved tradition of venturing out to live in nature for two weeks. There is no more important time for adolescents to immerse themselves in natural surroundings and serve a larger community with their physical efforts and their camaraderie! Dr. Montessori said, “It is the ‘valorization’ of the personality, to become aware of one’s own value. The past opportunities of social experience are not sufficient for the older child. We must give wider scope to the social life. We must allow the possibility to make a great effort” (Montessori, p. 23-24, Citizen of the World). We see how much this means to the next generation; we are all rooting for them!
Continuing Education Evening “The Parent/School Partnership” for Primary and Elementary parents/in person/bring your own chair or picnic blanket/socially distanced with masks/discussion with your child’s Director. Tuesday, 9/22, 7:00pm.
Fall Parent/Director Conferences sign up on-line in response to an email invitation next week/indicate on the form whether you want in person outside at school or Zoom. All conferences will be on Saturday, October 17th.
Book Discussion on What Happy People Know by Dan Baker, with Paula Lillard. October 6th at 9:00am in-person socially distanced/or 7:00pm on Zoom. Spaces are limited; please RSVP to the evite coming soon!
For more, join:
Montessori From the Start audio lecture and zoom discussion October 1st
Montessori Approach at Home audio lecture and zoom discussion October 13th
And see our blog, “What’s So Great About the Great Lessons?”https://forestbluffschool.org/montessori-great-lessons/
Also find Paula Preschlack’s audio lectures any time at https://soundcloud.com/paulapreschlack
Dear Forest Bluff School Community,
We’ve had another wonderful week at Forest Bluff School! One celebration has been watching our Secondary Level students prepare for their Fall Trip by planning their transportation, collecting their camping gear, measuring their expenses and taking safety precautions for their two-week service trip. These students dove right in last week by adopting a Lake Forest Open Lands nature preserve that is in its infancy and needs their help to make it ready for the public and to restore the land to its native state. This is an exciting new endeavor that gives our adolescents a sense of their strength and of belonging; but it also allows them to bond as a group of workers and connect to nature, as well. Such goals are cornerstones of our Secondary Level Program that our Directors, Abbey White and Peter Dutko, are thrilled to implement this year.
Back in our classrooms and on the outdoor patios, students of all ages are working with great concentration. Although they are outside for their work and moving much more than in traditional classroom settings, we see that concluding the school day at 2:30 for the Primary Extended day and Elementary Levels is meeting their needs best for the time being. We also find that cleaning every item and cleaning the building thoroughly requires a great deal of our Directors’ time every day. We expect to dismiss at 11:30 and 2:30 for the remainder of September to allow for these CDC requirements and will let you know as soon as this changes.
We have one event a week coming up; please look for invitations in your emails from us:
Thursday, 9/17, 9:00am — Montessori Approach at Home Audio Lecture and Discussion
This two-part series aims to support parents to create an intellectual environment at home for their children’s continued learning. Throughout history and even in “normal” times, cultivating interest in the world around us is a lifelong habit. All parents are invited! You are encouraged to RSVP if you wish to attend the Zoom discussion. This is a great way to see many fellow parents!
Tuesday, 9/22, 7:00pm — Continuing Education Evening“The Parent/School Partnership"
We will have this event in person/socially distanced outside at the school if the weather allows, so that parents can meet one another. Each Primary and Elementary Director will lead their class in a discussion about the parent-school partnership and how we meet children’s needs in Montessori environments at Forest Bluff.
Thursday, 10/1, 9:00am — Montessori From the Start Audio Lecture and Discussion
This series is for parents with children under age 3 and infants. We had the first Zoom discussion this Thursday at 9:00am, and it was wonderful! Parents asked terrific questions and reported getting a lot out of it.
Tuesday, 10/6, 9:00am and 7:00pm — Book Discussion on “What Happy People Know” (by Dan Baker) with Paula Lillard
All parents are invited, RSVP is necessary; this event may be in person at an outdoor location or on Zoom, depending on the weather. Explore how we can learn to be happy and learn how to model for our children what it means to live a happy life, no matter the circumstances.
Thank you for your positive remarks and camaraderie! We couldn’t be more proud of our community or more grateful!
Dear Forest Bluff School Community,
We have had a joyful start to the year! If you plan to travel or commune with others over Labor Day Weekend, we ask that you continue to be vigilant about the “Four W’s” (wash hands for 20 seconds, wear a mask, watch your social distance (6 feet apart or farther), and wipe down the environment/sanitize).* By practicing high standards of caution, we will be able to continue school in person with all of your children!
Times: Arrivals are going very smoothly with our staggered times for two groups. (Group I is last names A-M dropping off between 8:25-8:35 and Group II last names N-Z dropping off between 8:35-8:45). For dismissals, we recommend trying to pick your child up at 1:25 if you are in Group I and 1:35 if in Group II. Next week, starting on Tuesday, September 8th, Primary extended day/5 and 6 year olds, and Elementary Levels will dismiss at 2:30 (2:25 and 2:35). Secondary Level will continue to dismiss at 3:30.
Weather: We will continue to be outside as much as possible during the school days! Your children are encouraged to bring clothing to be comfortable outside, such as rain gear, umbrellas, rain pants or extra layers. As it becomes cooler, coats and hats and warmer layers will help them to continue to work outdoors and eat their lunches socially distanced in the fresh air.
Please continue to send each child with a labeled water bottle every day so that they can stay hydrated and have access to an individualized vessel.
It is amazing to see how happy the children are and how diligently they are working. Their adaptability and eagerness to learn is extraordinary!
*See the Center for Disease Control (CDC) website for more information. The better informed we all are, the more successful our community will be through the pandemic.
Dear Forest Bluff School Community,
After almost six months away, the children came to school bravely, looking at ease and very happy to be back. You had clearly prepared them well with positive attitudes! The Directors commented that it was a tremendous relief to be with the students again. We are immensely grateful. When a mother asked her four year old what changes he noticed about his first day of school, he thought a moment and then said, “Nothing was different really, except they moved a book shelf.” (!!) This shows how focused he and so many of his classmates are on getting to work with the Montessori materials in their prepared environments! In that spirit of carrying on, the Directors are offering an in-person Continuing Education Evening next week on Tuesday night for all parents; please look below for a description and directions.
The first days have been a great success. Here are just a couple reminders and information:
Please review your regular Forest Bluff School FAMILY HANDBOOK to remind your family of our normal guidelines on biking, dress code and lunches. We are following these as much as possible to make things much easier on the children when we transition to more normal times in the future:
BIKING is all the same as the handbook reads. There are no current exceptions.
DRESS CODE and shoes: thank you for maintaining the work like atmosphere for the children.
LUNCHES are the same guidelines except children may use plastic and paper during the pandemic.
PARKING LOT SAFETY: Please take extra caution when backing out cars and drive EXTRA SLOWLY through the lot. Besides looking out for our own children, we must be mindful of neighborhood children darting through the traffic unexpectedly. Walk bikes. Thank you!
The Directors are focusing on your children’s learning and their need to move about during the day. We observe that it feels draining for many children to sit in one place longer than usual, as is unfortunately necessary for proper social distancing. We want the children to enjoy being at school and working, and the Directors want to get around to every child to help them connect with the materials and refresh their memories of the materials and progress forward. To prioritize learning and movement, the TIMES (always staggered with Group I on the 25 to 35 minute and Group II on 35 to 45 minute) for next week are:
YCC and Primary 3 and 4 year olds: M-F 8:30-11:30 (staggered arrival/dismissal Group I and II)
Primary Extended Day and Elementary Levels: 8:30-1:30 M-F (staggered arrival/dismissal Groups I and II)
Secondary Level: 8:30- 1:30 Monday and 8:30-3:30 T-F. (staggered arrival/dismissal Groups I and II on Monday, and then the whole class between 3:20 and 3:30 Tuesday through Friday.)
For tomorrow, Friday, August 28th, dismissal times are as last week’s email stated: 10:30 YCC, 11:30 Primary, and 1:00 (which means 12:50-1:00 Group I and 1:00-1:10 Group II) for Elementary and Secondary Levels. Elementary and Secondary Level students will bring their lunches and eat outside at school before going home.
Dear Forest Bluff School Community,
As we come together on Monday as a community, it will be from our different households, from differing levels of concern about COVID, different home customs, and coming from different perspectives. We join together because we want our children to have a communal experience; we understand that it is important, that it is fundamental for their growth and ultimately, for our survival as people, that we work with others. Each family takes some leaps of faith and accepts some risks by doing so. We encourage all parents, as we do with the children, to put anxiety and prejudice aside, to practice compassion, and to reserve judgement of others. Truly, the Directors and I can say, having spoken with each Forest Bluff family this past week, that we have a conscientious group of parents. Thank you for joining us. We will all do our best to help one another through this fall! Our goal is to stay well and to be together.
Attached below are questions parents asked this week and our answers and here is a link to a short movie made yesterday by our Support Director, John Dickson, to give you and your children a glimpse of what school will look like on the first morning! https://vimeo.com/450385763 Use the password, “FBS” to view.
Welcome back to Forest Bluff School!
Paula Lillard Preschlack
For the Forest Bluff Directors
Dear Forest Bluff School Community,
Our building and grounds look beautiful with the changes we have been making to accommodate for this new era of viral contagion concerns. Like so many things in life, we find that adapting means sacrificing some of our freedoms but also embracing opportunities that can be blessings. As an example, we will work outside with the children more than ever! Our fellow Montessori schools around the Chicago area have been open, (some for several months), and they report that things are going very well. We are feeling optimistic about our ability to mitigate COVID at Forest Bluff.
Attached is information to describe the school community’s general re-opening plans. Forest Bluff’s certified nurse and Young Children’s Director, Maggie Kelly, is training our entire staff on updated COVID protocols. We will begin our year with more cautious procedures and adjust with minor changes in stages, in response to watching the children’s behaviors. You will be informed when changes occur. An imperative component to our goals is helping children and families to feel calm. Anxiety and fear reduce our abilities to be creative to solve problems and for children to learn new information. An enjoyment of life, while making the new customs we must adapt to “second nature,” is therefore at the forefront of our minds.
We encourage you to read our latest blog, “Returning to School with Resilience, Creativity and Courage” and to see the two 5 minute videos posted on our website to help children understand the reasons for wearing masks and about choosing masks. We hope these videos will help by offering ideas for ways to speak with your children about the subject. (Young children may take the videos seriously as they are designed respectfully for them, but I do not mind if you adults see humor in Mrs. Preschlack’s presentations. Comic relief!)
Please let us know if you have questions next week. Our Directors will call every one of you between Aug. 17th and 21st, to check in as they do every year before the first day of school. We are looking forward to seeing everyone!
As mentioned previously, whether you are traveling this month or just moving about in your own neighborhoods, if you do not feel confident that you can practice the four W’s consistently, (Wearing a face mask in public, Washing hands 20 seconds with soap, Watching your distance/at least 6 feet, and Wiping down your environment) we ask that you quarantine at home and have your children tested for COVID-19 before coming to school. The recommended number of days changes, so please contact us or your doctor at the time for the latest guidelines. We appreciate this collective effort to starting the school year so that we can ensure our success with in-person learning.
Next week’s email will give you further information about how to communicate with us electronically, the daily survey text about symptom and temperature checks, and guidelines and timing for dismissals and pick-ups by family. As soon as we’ve had our first day, we will give you the class hours for the following few days; hopefully we can get up to normal hours as quickly as possible, but we do not wish to rush the children. Your children are the priority at Forest Bluff! Thank you in advance for your patience and care. We are fortunate to have such a special school. One father recently shared, “Very few communities of parents are as conscientious and caring.” We agree wholeheartedly!
Dear Forest Bluff School Community,
This is the first of weekly emails to help you prepare for the first weeks of school. The plan is to begin the school year in person with reasonable caution to ensure everyone’s safety and comfort. In this email, we have 6 points to share in response to questions we have been asked most recently; we will elaborate on these and other points with more details in the weeks ahead. The next email will have an attachment of our Re-Opening Plan. Please bear with us as we help you and your children become familiar with some new customs! You can trust us to make this go as smoothly as possible.
1. Communication: We will establish a consistent system for parent-teacher/school communication for this year so that you do not have to switch between two systems if we change to Remote Learning. In place of our old system of bringing notes to the office to reach your children’s teachers, you will be given directions on how to send your notes to the office electronically.
2. Reducing Exposure Between Families: Families will be grouped in two ways to reduce exposure between them. First, siblings in the same age level (i.e. Primary Level or Lower Elementary Level) will be moved to the same classroom for the beginning of the year. Secondly, we will stagger drop off and pick up times so that families plan to arrive and depart school at different time slots close to our usual times.
3. Building Usage/Safety: We will reduce exposure between our classrooms and between adults by utilizing outdoor spaces, keeping interior doors closed, accessing classrooms only by their exterior doors, and not moving between rooms. Parents and caregivers are not permitted in any part of the buildings, including the vestibule or hallway, in order to mitigate exposure levels for all children and adults. There will be signs on the walkways and patios to direct walking traffic and new, simple procedures to reduce interactions.
4. Initial Schedule: To help everyone adjust to many new customs in the first week, the children will come to school for just a couple hours and work up to normal hours as we observe their readiness. This way, they do not have to worry about long hours of wearing masks, how to handle lunches, etc. in the first few days. There will be plenty of time to smooth out the details of where to sit, how to move through their classrooms and what to do. During this time, the extended day Primary children and Elementary children may continue their school day by completing some work that they brought home. They will also have the option to meet with their classes Remotely with Zoom to conclude the school day as a group and familiarize themselves with our on-line platform which we will use in the case of school closures. This will allow Directors to streamline or adjust procedures as needed.
5. Dress Code and Masks: We understand that shopping for shoes and getting haircuts may not be as easy this month. The goal of our dress code is to reduce distractions, so we ask you to simply do your best to adhere to our guidelines so that your children come to school ready to work and be active. We know this is an unusual time; we know everyone will do what they can. More importantly, every child will be required to wear a face mask at school. You can experiment at home to find a type that fits best. We will post a short video to show you and your children some mask guidelines and to help them to adjust. For your initial experimenting, please consider:
*The masks that seem to be easiest to wear for extended periods are those that fit snugly around the edges but do not rest against one’s lips. Multiple pleats help.
*Masks that have a light wire on the top often keep them from riding up into one’s eyes and to stay in place better, which makes children less likely to be bothered by them or to touch them to keep adjusting them.
*Some children find that child-sized paper masks are most comfortable and breathable, others prefer fabric. Both can be found on line and in stores. We are not concerned about the adornments or colors; the fit is the most important feature of a face mask.
6. Exposure Outside of School: We ask that all families practice the W’s—Wash your hands, Wear masks, and Watch your distance. Doing these three things and cleaning one’s environment regularly by Wiping down surfaces is what epidemiologist Dr. Michael Vernon states are keys to successfully mitigating the spread of COVID-19. Whether you are traveling this month or just moving about in your own neighborhoods, if you do not feel confident that you can practice these four actions consistently, we ask that you quarantine at home and have your children tested for COVID-19 before coming to school. If any child or employee in the Forest Bluff community is exposed to anyone who has COVID-19, they must stay home in quarantine and be tested for COVID-19 before returning to school. We will address these cases when they occur with the most updated guidelines for the number of quarantine days and the best practices that apply. We ask that families inform us immediately when such cases occur, and we will inform you confidentially to address the necessary requirements.
We are so excited to see you! The Forest Bluff Directors will do everything we can to provide the best possible school environment for your children this fall. To create and maintain an excellent learning space, we must support one another to collaborate, cooperate and extend compassion to one another. By focusing on the children’s development and aiding them through our observations, the children will safely and securely grow in courage and determination to meet the challenges of a rapidly changing world. The Directors and I thank you for supporting our efforts and we are eager to greet the children! You can expect a call from each of your children’s teachers the week of August 17th. In the meantime, you will receive another email with further information next week, and again, it will have the Re-Opening Plans attached.
Thank you to those families that have turned in the 2020 – 2021 school forms. This is a friendly reminder that all school forms are due Monday, August 10th. It is imperative we have the updated medical forms before your child attends school.
On an upbeat note, August 31st marks 150 years since Maria Montessori’s birth! We hope you will pause to enjoy an uplifting 4 minute movie to experience a moment of gratitude and inspiration to send you on your day: https://youtu.be/OQy4k1wcAJ0
Please take care and enjoy another week of summer!
Dear Forest Bluff Community,
As other schools in the area release their plans for 2020-2021, we want to assure you that the Forest Bluff Directors, staff and administration have been hard at work! We currently have a plan for the fall which complies with CDC guidelines and government regulations that allows for us to be open for all students in-person for approximately normal hours, five days a week. We have been consulting with experts, including renowned epidemiologist, Dr. Michael Vernon, who advises hospitals, medical centers, universities, the Illinois State Department of Education and the Illinois Department of Public Health. Within minutes of his visit to Forest Bluff School, he told us, “It is as if you designed this building with a pandemic in mind. I am very impressed!” He has helped us establish the best plans for school this fall and he will keep us updated on changes as they occur. In addition, our school nurse, Maggie Kelly, and our Assistant Head of School, Haley Tate, have completed the training with Johns Hopkins University on COVID-19 Contact Tracing. The safety measures that Forest Bluff can put into place include, but may not be limited to:
● All students and adults wearing face masks/keeping six feet apart
● Greeting without shaking hands/distanced
● Staggered drop off and pickup times to reduce exposure between families
● Exterior doors for each classroom for entry and exit
● Restricted movement through the building so that each classroom is isolated/its own group
● Using all outdoor work spaces/patios
● Daily temperature checks
● Individualized materials and work spaces
● Cleaning communal materials between users
● A professional cleaning service (CDC approved) cleaning the entire building daily
Because requirements and recommendations do change over time and research is incoming, we will finalize our more detailed, extended plan in August. You can expect a longer email explaining Forest Bluff School’s plans by August 15th. In the meantime, we advise that parents help their children of all ages become accustomed to practicing these three protocols:
1. Maintain a six-foot distance in open air spaces when not wearing facemasks*
2. Wear well-fitted facemasks when closer than six feet in public spaces
3. Wash hands properly and regularly with soap/20 seconds
We also ask you to consider that when we come together as classroom communities on August 24th, we will have a collective responsibility to one another to ensure that each classroom can stay in-person by reducing the chances of contracting COVID-19 in our own personal lives. This means consciously limiting your family’s outside-of-school public activities somewhat and practicing CDC recommended hygiene by respecting the above three protocols.
In the case that we must switch to remote learning during the school year, we have Remote Learning Plans, which you can revisit on our website at www.forestbluffschool.com under the heading “FBS families.” We will switch to this method of instruction when and if necessary, by class. In the meantime, our Montessori-trained Directors agree with the American Academy of Pediatrics and many psychologists that children’s developmental needs are best served by being together and with their teachers, moving through the beneficial learning experiences in schools, on every day possible.
We look forward to welcoming your children on August 24th to our beautiful building, with the prairie flowers blooming and their Directors’ joy for teaching. Please look for weekly emails in August to update you on the decided-upon protocols and plans for our school opening. Thank you for being patient and flexible to support your children with optimism!
* For children and adults who find facemasks difficult to wear, disposable paper masks are recommended; most people find that they can breathe through them more easily; they are comfortable with a soft wire to outline the bridge of the nose, they are worn regularly by hospital staff for prolonged hours, and they can be ordered in children’s sizes.