Willow TogetherA Look at Our Fall Connected Learning Model
Your family. Your choice.
Willow Together allows your family to decide if in-person or online instruction is best for your child. We reopened our campus on September 14 for full-day, in-person instruction five days a week, simultaneously offering a robust distance learning program for families who prefer to learn remotely this year.
Outdoor learning helps our students learn in a healthy and engaging environment. Enhanced technology helps our students who choose to learn from home integrate into the classroom, and new safety protocols, as recommended by the CDC and NJDOE, have been implemented to make our in-person program as safe as possible for students, faculty, and staff.
Principles of Willow Together
In-person or virtual, every learning experience has an intellectual and ethical purpose at Willow.
Dummy to Close First Accordion
We are committed to infusing our classes with joy and wonder, whether students are on campus or online, because it is the best way to engage and motivate children. Willow teachers designed their lesson plans to meet the unique challenges of this fall with joy, curiosity, collaboration, and hands-on exploration at the heart of our students’ learning experiences.
Virtues at the Center
Virtues remain embedded into everything we do at Willow. This fall, daily Morning Gatherings continue in smaller classroom groups, supplemented with virtual all-school conversations twice a week. Our Virtues Program is meaningfully integrated into the curriculum, practiced by all of our community members, and used as a guide for our decision-making as a school.
Willow was founded on the importance of teaching children in and about the natural world. Our 34-acre campus was designed for outdoor learning, and our teachers are experts on leading lessons that integrate the outdoors. We know that learning outside is the safest way to teach our students this fall, and we are not only continuing to teach children in nature but expanding our outdoor learning with new outdoor classrooms. Our teachers are engaging those learning at home with outdoor instruction, too. See how Willow science teacher Ms. M inspired children to explore outside during distance learning with a series of nature challenges.
Systems Thinking + More
Academic innovations like systems thinking and project-based learning are not only continuing this fall, we are finding new ways to deepen our student’s critical thinking and enrich their creative problem-solving skills. For example, Willow teacher and systems thinking expert Carol Fontaine is working with our Lower School teachers to integrate systems thinking, project-based learning, imaginative inquiry, and art into their social studies lessons for the new school year. Read how Ms. Fontaine worked with our fifth graders to tackle complex problems using systems thinking this spring.
Whether students are learning on campus or from a distance, our teachers are committed to providing a level of individual attention and differentiated instruction that other schools can’t match. Our small class sizes help students and teachers develop strong relationships and give our teachers the ability to tailor their instruction to meet individual students’ needs.
Unrivaled School Community
Willow is a true community. While we have had to change some of our community traditions this fall, we are committed to finding creative ways to connect school-wide, honoring our students’ growth through virtual learning celebrations, developing strong student-teacher relationships, fostering friendships, encouraging our students to collaborate with each other, and bringing parents together to keep our supportive, close-knit community thriving.
Healthy Learning Environment
Willow was intentionally designed as a healthy learning environment that prioritizes wellness, emphasizes stretch versus stress, and cares for each member of our community’s social and emotional wellbeing. As we integrate new technology and add new safety protocols to our on-campus instruction, we are maintaining a healthy, balanced approach to technology, ample time for outdoor play, and a community of care that treats each individual with compassion and respect.
How Our Connected Learning Model Works
Willow Together’s Connected Learning Model meets the individual needs of students and families and prepares us as a school to meet the challenging and uncertain circumstances of the ongoing pandemic.
Your child can attend in person or opt to attend online. Willow faculty and staff are:
- Developing a curriculum that works in person and online, enabling us to pivot to distance learning seamlessly if New Jersey mandates a return to online instruction
- Focusing on experiential learning outside, now enhanced with our new outdoor classrooms, offering an even greater opportunity for safe and healthy instruction
- Committed to giving our distance learning students and their families ample time to meet with teachers one-on-one to ensure they are on track and engaged
Protocols to Ensure Safety and Health
Our main priority is the health, safety, and mental and social-emotional wellbeing of our students, families, and staff. Willow has implemented new safety procedures and protocols, as recommended by the CDC and NJDOE, to make our holistic in-person program as safe as possible.
Enhanced cleaning procedures, including classroom cleaning built into daily routines, frequent disinfecting of commonly touched surfaces, and daily school-wide cleaning, all with certified green cleaning supplies
Time for frequent hand washing built into student schedules using classroom sinks and designated single-use bathrooms
Following a clear protocol for students who become ill at school, including a safe place for nurses to screen all sick students and a dedicated space to quarantine sick students until parents arrive
Daily Health Screening
Parents to complete and submit a daily health questionnaire before coming to school and daily temperature screening at school
Grading & Attendance
Clear and consistent guidelines, as well as flexible grading and attendance policies, that encourage students and staff to stay home when appropriate
Limiting visitors on campus and requiring all visitors to wear masks inside of buildings
Maximize outdoor learning, including use of new outdoor classrooms and dedicated outdoor space for each grade
Classrooms set up to promote social distancing with desks spaced six feet apart and dedicated overflow space for every Lower School class
Ensuring that our abundant windows in classrooms, hallways, and other shared spaces are open as weather permits to increase airflow
Air Purification System
Installed a commercial-grade air purification system that scrubs the air as an enhancement to our existing, high-quality ventilation system
Pick-Up/Drop Off & Aftercare
Modified drop-off and pick-up procedures that limit exposure, including eliminating our early drop-off option for the fall
Maintaining our aftercare program for families who rely on this service but limiting drop-ins; eliminating after-school programs and sports for the fall to limit student and teacher exposure
Social distancing guidelines enforced with compassion, while still encouraging socialization and collaboration
Maintain the spirit of our all-school Morning Gatherings in smaller classroom groups and all-school virtual experiences
Students will stay in their classroom cohorts throughout the day, with specials teachers cycling into classrooms as needed
Limit use of shared supplies in the classroom by increasing inventory of common classroom items, creating an updated supply list for each child, and disinfecting anything that must be shared between each use
Lunch and Recess
Lunch served in the classroom, with foldable plastic guards provided to place between students while eating. Classes encouraged to eat lunch outdoors, weather permitting. Recess, twice a day, for all classes with new, faculty-supervised activities that promote social distancing while still encouraging students to have fun and engage with each other.
Willow’s Mask Policy
Following the latest guidance from Governor Murphy and the New Jersey Department of Education, students will be required to wear masks on campus except when*:
- Outdoors, as long as social distancing is maintained
- Students are seated at desks enclosed by plastic dividers spaced six feet apart during lunch and snack
Teachers and staff will wear masks at all times in school buildings and when social distancing cannot be maintained outdoors.
Lots of socially distanced outdoor instruction will give our students time to be mask-free throughout the day while keeping our community safe.
*Subject to new health information and government regulations
A Better Virtual Learning Experience
As a student-centered school that prioritizes a healthy learning environment, we’re mindful of the amount of time spent learning on devices. Conferencing software is used to integrate remote learners into the classroom for direct instruction and project work at key periods throughout the day, maintaining a normal in-person classroom schedule and allowing for healthy screen breaks at home.
Seesaw (Grades PreK-2)
Google Classroom (Grades 3-8)
Devices assigned to K-8 students to use as needed; new laptops, tablets, and bluetooth microphones for teachers
Classrooms equipped with video conferencing technology
Improved WiFi speed in classrooms and outdoor WiFi hotspots
Watch Our Parent Town Halls
Send us your feedback!
After you watch our Town Hall, we encourage you to reach out with your questions, concerns, and ideas. Current parents, please email Willow Head of School Franicsco Ayala or Assistant Head of School Meagan Coy. If you are new to Willow and interested in learning more, reach out to Willow Director of Enrollment Management, Lisa VanderVeen.
Our Responsible Reopening Task Force
Willow thoughtfully planned all summer for our responsible reopening
When it comes to reopening, no decision can be made lightly. Willow formed a Reopening Task Force at the end of the 2019-20 school year with three dedicated committees of administrators, teachers, and parents. Our Safety Committee focused on researching, assessing, and developing community-oriented solutions to effectively implement new health and safety procedures. Our Education Committee worked together to evolve our educational program to address the challenges of this fall while continuing to deliver a uniquely Willow learning experience. Finally, our Parent Feedback Committee gave us valuable insight into what will work best for our families this fall.