August 5, 2020
Dear Live Oak Parents and Guardians,
Twenty years ago, I had my first day at Live Oak School. I was a third grade teacher and the year wasn’t beginning as anyone had planned. That summer, the school had expected to move to its new home on Mariposa Street but the old coffee factory wasn’t quite ready. So, we pursued alternative plans. I arranged my classroom around the kitchen in the staff room and got to know my colleagues as they warmed their meals. The library was moved into the Grand Hall and became a community hub. Teachers wound carts of supplies through corridors crowded with moving boxes. The spirit of the back to school season and the gathering of the Live Oak school community delivered all the joy and creativity we needed to start the year, despite the change in plans.
This year’s back to school, whether you’re new to Live Oak or an old friend, will also have an unexpected twist. Public health officials in San Francisco and in California have determined that the community health conditions are such that if schools reopen for in-person instruction at this time, they may contribute to the spread of COVID-19 in the area. Live Oak values this guidance and believes that it is our responsibility to take actions that counteract the spread of the virus.
School from Home
We will begin the 20-21 school year with Live Oak’s School from Home Program from August 26 through September 21. A schedule for virtual Student and Parent Orientation events is forthcoming. If at any point between now and September 21, we are given the permission to bring students to campus or to gatherings off-site, we will do so, prioritizing the return of our youngest Live Oak students and those for whom School from Home creates the greatest challenges. On September 4, we will review community conditions and determine the structure of the program for the second three weeks of school.
We know that Live Oak students will need certain resources to support their participation in School from Home. Live Oak faculty will prepare a Belongings Box for each student to be used during School from Home and to be returned to campus when we reopen. Families will not need to purchase any back to school supplies for their Live Oak students. Belongings Boxes will be available for pick up on August 24 and 25. A schedule is forthcoming.
Students will receive class assignments the week of August 17. At that time, families are invited to begin building virtual connections amongst the students and parents in their class. Several parents have asked for the school’s guidance on the formation of ‘learning pods’ for small, in-person gatherings during School from Home. While we appreciate the resourcefulness and positive intentions behind this strategy, Live Oak cannot organize or support ‘pods’ for several reasons:
- In order to counteract the community prevalence of COVID-19 and contribute to public health conditions that would allow for schools to reopen for all of our children, local and state officials advise against indoor gatherings and they draw our attention to patterns of household spread in the transmission of COVID-19 to children.
- Families may not have the resources, feel comfortable, or have been invited to form a pod, and this may cause feelings of exclusion, especially for our students who may see or hear of their peers congregating and learning together while they remain isolated.
Health and Safety
In the face of this global pandemic we have a responsibility to take inconvenient, often uncomfortable actions that express our care and concern for others. However, this shouldn’t feel unfamiliar to those of us in the Live Oak community. These are the actions of Changemakers. In the COVID-19 context, the Changemaker wears a mask, washes their hands, keeps their distance, and follows the guidance of public health officials. In their back to school preparations, they limit social mixing, they stay home when sick, and they direct all of their “risk bank” toward the reopening of schools.
Live Oak’s website features regular updates and expanding information about our back to school plans. Recordings of community meetings are sent out via email and loaded to the Family Portal. In the coming weeks, the Back to School Hub will be the place to find information to help you navigate this school year. We will send out a communication when it is launched. Lastly, we will have one more community meeting before the start of the school year on Friday, August 14.
We often turn to the rituals and traditions of Live Oak as exemplars of the shared values of our community. At our best, these values also define our behaviors and actions during uncertain and unprecedented times. As we prepare together for the start of this school year, we will center joy, inclusivity, and equity to pursue our collective responsibility and realize our collective potential.
Head of School