Health and safety at Guidepost
Guidepost is committed to safely serving our families. Learn more about the extra measures we’ve undertaken at each of our operating campuses to give your family peace of mind in uncertain times.
Guidepost’s Approach to COVID-19
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, we have adjusted and modified our health and safety procedures to keep our environments as safe as possible for the entire community, and to limit the risk of in-school transmission of the coronavirus.
The three basic means of limiting transmission are:
- Limiting the social graph of those in school while we work toward herd immunity. The fewer in-person connections a child or staff member has, the less capable they are of transmitting the virus even if they have it.
- Limiting social contact within the classroom, via social distancing and masks. The practices, policies, and expectations vary according to the age of the children.
- Preventative health checks. Symptom checks paired with protocols that deliver specific recommended or mandated actions as a result.
The COVID-19 pandemic continues to be a health risk, even as we have learned more about how to mitigate the risks. Guidepost takes COVID-19 seriously, as you will see throughout this document. We are also guided by the belief that the risks of COVID-19 are manageable, particularly the transmissions risks in a school context. They cannot be eliminated, but they can be greatly reduced. Moreover, we also believe that school is profoundly, irreplaceably valuable for children and their families. School is a value that is worth the reduced, actively managed risk that will result from following these protocols.
The current revision of this document occurred in April 2021. There are substantial changes, all of which have been driven by an increased knowledge of and experience with COVID-19. Adjusting our health and safety guidelines involves a tricky balancing act of deep care and concern for our communities, and the evidence-based reality of scientific research, two things that sometimes seem to push in opposite directions. In consideration of the full set of facts, after significant internal discussion and debate, we’ve concluded that it’s time to transition back to our fully implemented Montessori programs and the vast majority of our standard health and safety procedures. We will, of course, continue to follow any local and state mandated requirements, but our north star will be a responsible and guided return to a healthy and safe normalcy and our fully realized, high-quality programming across our network.
Preparing the Environment
Just as we prepare our environment for learning, we can also prepare our environment for a safe and healthy community. The following guidelines will help accomplish this:
- When possible, we set up the classroom to encourage social distancing
- We open windows to allow fresh air to flow in when possible.
- We follow standard crib placement regulations in every U.S. state
Montessori Materials Guidance
We want to offer the most authentic Montessori experience possible, while optimizing for health and safety. Because we understand that the likelihood of transmission from surfaces is very low, all Montessori programming and materials should be fully utilized to offer a comprehensive and high-quality Montessori program, unless otherwise noted below:
- Remove all tasting bottles, tasting activities, group or shared food prep activities, and any group baking activities.
- Individual food prep is allowed, but the guide should only get out one piece of fruit, vegetable or food item at a time and the guide must disinfect the activity/materials after the child completes it and before use by another child. No class or shared food prep is allowed.
To limit exposure, fully vaccinated parents are welcome to enter the school building and conduct drop off at the classroom door, while unvaccinated parents should continue to do drop off outside of the school.
Entering and Exiting the Classroom
As guides and children arrive to the classroom, and anytime anyone enters the classroom throughout the day, make sure to: wash hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Please check state-specific requirements.
Daily Containment Routines
There are a variety of health and safety procedures throughout the day that may look different than pre-covid times.
- Unless fully vaccinated: Admin/floaters should be scheduled to break the same 2-3 classrooms daily to minimize cross exposure. Schools with many classrooms should create steady program pods with a consistent floater to provide breaks to no more than 2- 3 classrooms daily. The floater for the program pod should only provide breaks to the classrooms in their assigned pod during the week. If a staffing change must be made, then it should be made over a weekend.
- Children will remain in their own classroom throughout the day and avoid any mixing of groups.
- Guides will limit touching children by using creative communication (air fives, waving, air kisses) to encourage social distancing. However, we fully understand that it is not possible to keep children socially distanced in a classroom and we are not discouraging natural situations that may arise.
- If more than one classroom group must use the same restroom or bathroom due to limited space, it must be cleaned after each group. Classrooms should only share restrooms if necessary.
Lunch and Snack
We have returned to offering lunch and snack for children at our schools. The following procedures will reduce the risk of contamination:
- Guides will use gloves whenever serving or helping children with food.
- Children cannot assist with any classroom food prep or serving.
- School should use real dishes, silverware and placements, which should be cleaned and disinfected before reuse.
- Do not serve family style meals or snacks. Guides will serve the food rather than placing it on a table or shelf.
- At this time, only prepackaged outside food should be brought into the classroom to be shared (i.e., parents bringing food for a child’s birthday).
The best way to minimize exposure among our small groups and preserve our containment efforts is through consistent, responsible use of face coverings.
Staff face covering guidelines:
- All staff members should wear a face covering indoor at all times, unless they are alone in an office or room with a closed door or if they are fully vaccinated in the staff break room.
- All staff will be required to wear face masks while outdoors with children unless fully vaccinated and able to socially distance.
- Face coverings should be washed daily, or a new one should be worn each day.
- Store face coverings in individual, labeled Ziplock or paper bags when not in use. Leave the Ziplock bag open to create a separate but breathable environment.
Children face covering guidelines:
- We continue to encourage indoor face coverings for children over the age of two. We will never force a child to wear a mask but will encourage proper and consistent wearing through age-appropriate guidance just as we would with any other self-care lesson.
- Children will not wear face coverings when eating, napping or outside on the playground.
- Face coverings should NOT be put on babies or children under age two due to the danger of suffocation.
- Children should never wear face coverings while napping.
- Face coverings should be sent home and washed daily, or a new one should be worn each day.
- Store face coverings in individual, labeled Ziplock bags or paper bags when not in use. Leave the Ziplock bag open to create a separate but breathable environment.
Playground and Gross Motor Spaces
To further our containment efforts and minimize exposure across classrooms, we are intentionally scheduling outdoor and gross motor time to eliminate overlap and mixing of classes.
- Classrooms will follow an outdoor schedule that allows for one classroom on the playground or in the gross motor room at a time.
- Only one classroom is allowed in the gross motor room at a time. The door must remain closed, and the room and materials must be disinfected after use before another class can enter.
Staff Breaks and Lunches
By social distancing and taking elevated sanitation precautions when in common spaces like break rooms and restrooms, we can actively minimize exposure at school.
- Stagger breaks and lunches to encourage social distancing.
- Fully vaccinated staff members are welcome to take breaks and lunches together but should continue to socially distance as much as possible in that setting.
- Unvaccinated or partially vaccinated staff should choose an isolated location for breaks and lunches. This may be an empty classroom or breakroom or may be outdoors. If this is not possible, then staff should remain at least 6 feet apart.
- Close the door to the break room when inside.
- Wipe down touched surfaces including but not limited to the table, chair, and door to the break room or classroom when done.
- Wash hands before and after eating, using the bathroom, and touching items outside of the classroom.
- Unvaccinated or partially vaccinated staff are discouraged from congregating in common spaces or outside the building. Staff should always practice social distancing.
Cleaning Fabrics and Materials
- Cot covers and blankets should be stored and laundered in accordance with state-specific rules and regulations.
- Aprons and work mats should be washed in accordance with state-specific rules and regulations.
- Materials can be shared within a classroom but be aware of classroom materials that go into a child's mouth. Remove any material that was in a child’s mouth from the classroom environment once the child has finished. It must be disinfected before being put back out on the shelf.
Additional Administrator Responsibilities
- Ensure that all staff members have a copy of this Health & Safety Procedures document and have it publicly posted for reference. This document is updated regularly, so please change out accordingly.
- Make sure all staff have walkie talkies or a communication device. Wipe down walkie talkies with an EPA-approved disinfectant before and after use.
- Make sure you have a designated sick space on campus, where a child will wait until a parent arrives. This should include a disinfected cot with a clean sheet; this cot should be cleaned after each use. If the child is coughing, apply a face covering.
- Emergency drills should be practiced one class at a time to prevent the mixing of groups.
- You may also consider adding a secondary space for an actual evacuation. Use the Janitorial Room Signs to let your janitorial team know which classrooms to clean each night.
- All adults and children must wear a face covering.
- Vehicle must be cleaned and disinfected after each use.
- Anyone boarding the vehicle must follow symptom-screening protocol. Hand sanitizer must be available.
- Assign each child a seat in the vehicle, ensuring there is as much space as possible between children.
- Practice social distancing during loading and unloading
At the end of each day, guides will follow these guidelines to facilitate a safe departure for the children and get their environment ready for the following day.
- Facilitate pick up with parents at the classroom or designated door. Fully vaccinated parents are welcome to come in the building and pick up their child at their classroom door.
- For unvaccinated and partially vaccinated parents, assist the child in gathering items and bring the child to the door for departure.
- Refer to your state’s standard rules and regulations for routine cleaning of classroom materials.
Additional Policies and Resources
- We take the health and safety of our community seriously; we ask our staff and families to limit social contact outside of school: to practice social distancing and wear face coverings.
- Until fully vaccinated, we ask our staff and families to follow to CDC and local recommendations and requirements related to travel health and safety protocols and quarantine.
- We are not requiring (unless mandated by law) for families of fully vaccinated parents (and not yet vaccinated children) to quarantine after travel.
- We do not require staff or families to notify us of any personal travel or activities or verify their vaccination status currently.
- Any school-level staff member who needs to self-quarantine and is currently working full-time may use accrued PTO.
- All communities must also adhere to additional state or local guidelines related to travel and who may enter the physical facility.
Events and Tours
- At this time, we are only holding virtual large group events.
- Tours may continue to be virtual, but vaccinated families are welcome to come for an in-person tour either during school hours or before or after school. All adults are asked to wear masks indoors. We ask visiting parents not to enter classrooms if children are present and, of course, must always wear masks.
- Small outdoor current family events, such as classroom gardening day or an outdoor classroom Mother’s Day celebration are allowable with care to plan for social distancing. We ask that all adults wear face coverings indoors and outdoors.
- We continue to restrict small indoor events at this time.
Giving children the keys to life
Guidepost Montessori enables children to understand the world and choose their place within it.
With over 80 campuses across the US and Asia, and at-home and virtual learning programs serving more than 7,000 families worldwide, Guidepost is the world’s largest Montessori network.
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Do you want to learn more about Montessori? Visit The Prepared Montessorian for flexible online courses, from beginner to expert level.