School Reopening Plan

We are teaching online for the foreseeable future. If conditions significantly change and it is safe to shift to a hybrid model (in which cohorts of students come to campus in rotations by division) we will do so. We are off to a great start and look forward to the creative and innovative ways our students will learn in each trimester of this year.

On this page are the resources and planning protocols that guide us as we make decisions and plan for a safe reopening of the school.

Decision Making

To carefully monitor and navigate the complexities of this pandemic, The Northwest School has formed a committee of representatives from all parts of the school’s operations. The Operations Continuity Committee meets weekly to assess public health data and medical information related to the pandemic, and from there, make informed decisions to ensure the safety of the school community as well as the quality of the school’s educational program.

The committee is guided by the following principles:

  • Prioritizing safety.
  • Maintaining a robust academic experience.
  • Supporting the welfare of the community. 
  • Preserving mission-essential functions.

Here are the members of the committee:

  • Dennis Bisgard, Interim Head of School
  • Meg Goldner Rabinowitz, Assistant Head of School
  • Michal Allaire, Chief Financial Officer
  • Amy Berner-Hays, Upper School Director
  • Sue Maul, Middle School Director
  • Ruth Donahue, Human Resources Director
  • Bethany Fong, Director of Dining Services
  • Margie Combs, Director of Communications
  • Sierra Maxwell, Health Coordinator
  • Justin Peters, Dean of Residential Life
  • Britt Atack, Athletics Director
  • Greg Hampton, Information Technology Director
  • Tony Kaufmann, Director of Facilities and Transportation

Essentials for Readiness

To make the most informed and up-to-date decisions about whether the school remains online or allows in-person learning, the committee assesses information from several public health resources.

We access and interpret metrics and recommendations provided by epidemiologist and public health officials to develop an internal plan for responding to that data.

We reference guidance provided at the county, state, and federal levels. We are in alignment with the K-12 Schools Fall Guidance, provided by the Washington State Department of Health. This guidance can be referenced regardless of which county or phase we are in at Governor Jay Inslee's Healthy Washington: Roadmap to Recovery. The K-12 Fall Guidance informs us how to return to in-person learning.

In addition to this, we reference the Tools to Prepare for Provision of In-Person Learning among K-12 Students at Public & Private Schools during the COVID-19 Pandemic for making decisions about if/when to resume school in person. This tool provides us with clear metrics to guide our decisions based on the COVID-19 activity in King County. To monitor these levels of disease activity in King County, we use this dashboard provided by Public Health - Seattle King County.

At the federal level we can reference guidance provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, such as the Indicators for Dynamic School Decision-Making, Operating schools during COVID-19: CDC's Considerations, and Considerations for K-12 Schools: Readiness & Planning Tool.

  • Hiring a Health Coordinator

    The School has hired a specialist with a full-time presence focused on the prevention, monitoring, and management of health matters at Northwest. Formally trained as an EMT, this position has the full support of Joffe Emergency Services, the renowned experts in school safety. The presence of these skills will help prepare and respond to health emergencies, while serving as a valuable resource to the Northwest community. Primary duties include:

    • Develops strategies to prevent and reduce the spread of infectious disease
    • Implements a surveillance system to detect outbreak by monitoring/tracking
    • Provides decision support to the school via best practices & trends analysis
    • Serves as the first point of contact for symptomatic cases at the school
    • Serves as the School’s point person for the health department
    • Develops protocols for the school’s response to a COVID-19 diagnosis
    • Provides direct medical care to students
    • Contributes to emergency planning & response
  • Preparing the Building and Busses

    The Facilities and Transportation team has partnered with a network of service providers to expand the school’s capacity to safely operate on campus:

    • Six new air handlers were installed, replacing units that were at end of life cycle, and allowing for improved ventilation in select areas of the main school building
    • Medical-grade filtration has been installed in central air handlers and each unit has been calibrated to circulate air on a more frequent basis
    • Stand-alone medical grade filtration units have been placed in classrooms
    • Additional concepts to enhance Indoor Air Quality are in process
    • The school’s fleet of 12 busses allow for additional distance between riders
  • Preparing the Northwest School Community

    With the guidance of subject matter experts, policies and procedures have been custom-crafted for remote, hybrid, and in-person learning modes. The first round of faculty training was completed prior to the new school year, with more training being developed for future phases of reopening. Personal Protective Equipment has been procured and deployed among essential faculty with more inventory on the way.

  • Controlling Access

    A managed process to coordinate/schedule access, stagger arrival and departure times have been in place throughout the summer and fall. Formal procedures are in place for health screening with additional technology solutions on the horizon.

    Essential vendors, contractors, and visitors will be permitted only by following our visitor screening procedure.

  • Planning for Physical Distancing

    Occupant density can be reduced for the sake of safety through a coordinated process of scheduling, establishing directional traffic pattern strategies, and designating points of entry/egress. Barriers and partitions have been installed to reinforce physical distancing in high traffic areas.

  • Reducing Touch Points

    Low touch devices for hand washing, hand sanitizing, and restroom fixtures have been installed. Reducing low touch devices also expands the capacity of the custodial crew and allows them to focus on cleaning/disinfecting other areas.

  • Enhancing Cleaning and Disinfecting Program

    The Custodial team has been instrumental in preparing the campus. A reputable cleaning contractor has also been hired to support daily cleaning and disinfecting, allowing the school to expand services based on occupancy at a moments notice.

    • Sourced, coordinated and supervised the classroom and gym wood floor refinishing
    • Established relationships with cleaning suppliers to build and maintain inventory
    • Implemented 7 day per week cleaning/disinfecting support for the dorm
    • Utilizing a series of electrostatic applicators for disinfecting
    • Utilizing several new machines to improve cleaning quality and efficiency
    • Implemented a high-touch surface disinfecting routine throughout campus
    • Provided training to faculty on do-it-yourself disinfecting
    • Ongoing procurement of disinfecting supplies, stockpiling inventory, touch-free devices
    • Setting up the classrooms for physically distanced learning
  • Testing and Contact Tracing

    If a student or faculty member has a COVID-19 infection, our Health Coordinator will support the Seattle & King County Public Health Department in their efforts for contact tracing and enforcing recommended quarantine/isolation periods. Students who are quarantining, but are well, can attend school in Distance/Remote Learning mode.

  • Communicating for Confidence

    We are committed to providing regular updates and a platform for feedback; custom infographics/signage have been displayed as friendly reminders for face coverings, physical distancing, handwashing, and other best practices.