COVID-19: Bend’s Seven Peaks School to close for 3 weeks; classes to be taught online

Bend’s Seven Peaks School announced Thursday it will close to students for three weeks, turning to online courses led remotely by its teachers.

“While we have no reports to date of this new coronavirus in our school community, we have made this decision because we are committed to the health and well-being of our broader community, especially its most vulnerable members,” School Director Sam Adams said in a letter to families. “At this time, Seven Peaks is in the position to be able to act preemptively rather than reactively and because of this we believe that it is our responsibility to do so.”

Beginning Monday, Seven Peaks will transition to online learning and will re-evaluate the school closure the week of March 30th.

The school is recommending that parents should engage their children in a developmentally appropriate, fact-based conversation. Seven Peaks has made their school counselor available to provide mental health support and/or referral & resource information.

“We did not make this decision lightly,” Adams said in a press release later Thursday. “We have been in continuous dialogue with health professionals and school and community leaders and we believe this is the right decision for us at this time for our local community.”

Seven Peaks is a private, International Baccalaureate school with about 150 students in grades pre-school through 8.

Adams’ full letter to parents is below:

Dear Seven Peaks Community,

Given the rapidly developing situation around COVID-19 in our community and around the world, we have decided that Seven Peaks will close its building to students for the next three weeks. Instruction will continue for each class but will be facilitated remotely and led by our teachers.

While we have no reports to date of this new coronavirus in our school community, we have made this decision because we are committed to the health and well-being of our broader community, especially its most vulnerable members. At this time, Seven Peaks is in the position to be able to act preemptively rather than reactively and because of this we believe that it is our responsibility to do so.

Bend-La Pine schools, along with other public schools in Oregon, are being encouraged by the Oregon Health Authority to remain open because the school system is vital to the well-being of the most vulnerable children in our state. We fully support this effort and believe they are making the right decision for the right reasons. We also recognize that this decision could change at any moment.

We know this will be an inconvenience to almost all of our parent community. Please know that we did not make this decision lightly, but have been in continuous dialogue with health professionals and school and community leaders. We believe this is the right decision for us at this time for our local community.

As ever, we are working hard to make sure Seven Peaks provides the very best education possible and is a positive, responsible member of our local and global community.

Students will come to school tomorrow, Friday, March 13, as usual. Teachers will use tomorrow to prepare students for an extended time away from the classroom. Wintermeister will go ahead as usual but the MS social will be postponed. Monday, March 16, will be an in-service day for our teachers to make preparations for teaching from a distance. Monday during school hours, the building will be open for students to pick up materials as directed by teachers if needed, but there will be no school Monday.

Tuesday, March 17, classes will begin as directed by teachers from a distance. Specific directions for how this will work will be communicated to all families by Monday at noon if not sooner.

Spring break begins with the weekend of March 20 through March 29. School will resume through distance learning Monday, March 30. During this week we will reassess our closure and decide when to reopen the building to students.

There are several school trips or other events during this time that will be decided upon on a case by case basis. Those events that will be canceled will be communicated in a later email. All large group events are on an indefinite hold.

Yes, the building will be open and the office will be staffed. We will continue our cleaning process here and will take the opportunity to make some building improvements as we are able. You are free to call the office with any questions or concerns. However, the office will, of course, be closed during spring break. If you need to contact the school during break, feel free to email either Paul or Sam.

Please, consider that the reason for this temporary closure is so that we play our part in helping slow the spread of this new coronavirus and thereby limit the negative impacts it will have on our neighbors and our local health care system. We ask that you participate in this effort by avoiding unnecessary large gatherings, especially the organizing of larger events with Seven Peaks students.

Also, give appropriate guidance to your children as they attempt to complete their school work as directed by their teachers. This will be a new experience for all of us and working together as much as we can will take this challenge and turn it into an opportunity for valuable reflection and learning.

Kelly Flynn, our school counselor, suggests that parents should engage their children in a developmentally appropriate, fact-based conversation. The Center for Disease Control suggest that adults adhere to the following principles for talking with children:

Remain calm and reassuring.
• Remember that children will react to both what you say and how you say it. They will pick up cues from the conversations you have with them and with others.

Make yourself available to listen and to talk.
• Make time to talk. Be sure children know they can come to you when they have questions.

Avoid language that might blame others and lead to stigma.
• Remember that viruses can make anyone sick, regardless of a person’s race or ethnicity.
• Avoid making assumptions about who might have COVID-19.

Pay attention to what children see or hear on television, radio, or online.
• Consider reducing the amount of screen time focused on COVID-19. Too much information on one topic can lead to anxiety.

Provide information that is honest and accurate.
• Give children information that is truthful and appropriate for the age and developmental level of the child.
• Talk to children about how some stories on COVID-19 on the internet and social media may be based on rumors and inaccurate information.

Teach children everyday actions to reduce the spread of germs.
• Remind children to stay away from people who are coughing or sneezing or sick.
• Remind them to cough or sneeze into a tissue or their elbow, then throw the tissue into the trash.
• Discuss any new actions that may be taken at school to help protect children and school staff (e.g., increased handwashing, cancellation of events or activities)
• Get children into a handwashing habit.
• Teach them to wash their hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after blowing their nose, coughing, or sneezing; going to the bathroom; and before eating or preparing food.
• If soap and water are not available, teach them to use hand sanitizer. Hand sanitizer should contain at least 60% alcohol. Supervise young children when they use hand sanitizer to prevent swallowing alcohol.
• Keep things clean. Older children can help adults at home and school clean the things we touch the most, like desks, doorknobs, light switches, and remote controls. (Note for adults: you can find more information about cleaning and disinfecting on CDC’s website.)

Amid this time of uncertainty and concern, Kelly is more than happy to provide mental health support and/or referral & resource information. To schedule meetings or engage in correspondence, please contact Kelly at kflynn@sevenpeaksschool.org.

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