How 9 Local Private Schools Have Responded to the Pandemic

The importance of teachers, schools and educators has been further emphasized by the coronavirus pandemic. As families begin to prepare for an uncertain school year – and consider education options – we reached out to our Private School Guide partners to learn more about how they are responding to Covid-19.

For a listing of private schools in Marin, visit our directory.

Here are how the following schools are adapting to this unprecedented challenge:

San Domenico School

How has San Domenico School pivoted in response to Covid-19?

Since we transitioned to distance learning in March, 2020 our faculty, staff, and Covid-19 Response Teams having been engaged in deep scenario planning and professional development. Our teachers, specialists, and coaches have been responsive and creative, such that they were able to offer a full range of summer programming while also preparing for back to school 2020.

How will you conduct teaching in the fall? Are there any contingency plans for the spring?

SD’s Covid-19 Response Team Committee on Reopening School has developed a HyFlex program that can easily toggle between on-campus and distance learning so we are ready for a strong and inspiring year ahead regardless of how the pandemic evolves and independent of what local and state health directives are in place.

What will you be offering to make your curriculum and educational experience unique?

SD has invested heavily to ensure a student and parent experience that delivers on our mission to provide exceptional education and a sense of purpose even within context of these unprecedented times. Our school has survived 170 years being responsive to the needs of the times and we are here for our community now, stronger together. New technology such as 30 Swivl Camera packages will elevate the Hyflex learning environment for our students, with spotlights on the teachers, 360 range of motion follow cam capability, and microphones and speakers all so students and teachers can hear and see one another more clearly. New, top of the line, health and safety products and policies are being put in place to mitigate risk. New “SchoolPass” software will be used for Wellness reporting, Visitor Management, and Student Dismissal, all of which will support reduced risk of contagion with tracking and tracing as needed. Program adjustments have been made for additional social and emotional support for our students. Our faculty has been energized by professional development to reinforce tools to optimize student engagement in these unique times. Differentiated instruction, intentional use of learning time (including synchronous and asynchronous learning), student voice and choice, all of these will ensure that in such an uncertain global environment, our students will have an inspiring and responsive learning experience.

Anything else current or potential families should know?

Please visit www.sandomenico.org/BacktoSchool2020 to learn more about San Domenico’s HyFlex program for 21st Century Learning.

Brandeis Marin

How has Brandeis Marin pivoted in response to Covid-19?

Brandeis Marin quickly pivoted to our distance learning plan in March that closely followed our on-campus schedules. Our students continued to meet online with their teachers daily to cover all curricular benchmarks. Our plan included synchronous and asynchronous learning, individual meetings with teachers and specialists including our art, makers lab, and athletic directors. Additional parent-teacher conferences were held, as well as sharing multiple parent and student surveys so we could assess our distance learning program and make improvements where necessary.

This summer we are providing all teachers with professional training in hybrid learning so that learning will be robust, consistent, and accessible whether delivered in person on campus or online (when circumstances require). Classes will share a common platform for learning and offer a consistent interface for teachers, students, and families. At the instructional level, faculty will build their lessons using a simplified and consistent approach to create a predictable rhythm to learning across multiple modalities (on-campus, online, and blended).

How will you conduct teaching in the fall? Are there any contingency plans for the spring?

Our plan for the return to school involves three priorities. First, school will be a safe and healthy place for students. Second, all students will have access to high quality, exceptional learning in a warm, nurturing community. Third, our program will be flexible and prepared in the event that school must return home occasionally next year.

Our dedicated team has worked tirelessly this summer to create a comprehensive Reopening Plan to guide our operations for the 2020-2021 school year. The campus has been thoroughly prepared to welcome students, faculty and staff back to school in a way that supports all the elements of our health and safety plan, physical distancing between students and staff, use of the outdoor spaces for learning, maximal ventilation of classrooms, expanded hand-washing stations and so much more.

In addition, students will continue to engage with hands-on, project-based learning in all grades and classes. With these common, consistent principles and a common platform underlying instruction, student learning will continue seamlessly even if we must toggle between in-school learning and home due to public health concerns.

What will you be offering to make your curriculum and educational experience unique?

Above all, Brandeis Marin will continue to provide the high quality, caring educational experience that is the foundation of our mission while taking all of the necessary steps to safeguard our community. Over the summer we will be working to implement technology systems that will make it easier for our students (and parents!) to access course materials. This should enable us to improve on and reduce the challenges we faced this spring and more effectively and efficiently engage all of our students when they are learning online. A new online learning management system will be rolled out in all lower school classes to create a single, organized framework for retrieving and submitting schoolwork. We will be providing all of our teachers with robust summer professional development to be sure they are equipped with the training to deliver an exceptional hybrid learning experience for all students.

The coronavirus has tested our society in unprecedented ways. We have shown that Brandeis Marin is nimble and well-positioned to meet this moment.

Anything else current or potential families should know?

Brandeis Marin is committed to the well-being of our whole community, and we are prepared to support the learning journey of every student — in this moment and into the future.

Brandeis Marin is recognized as a forward-thinking center of educational innovation. We harness the timeless values of the Jewish tradition to infuse cutting edge learning in science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and the humanities with social purpose.

Our students are confident leaders and joyful learners, ready to face the challenges of today and tomorrow with an open mind and courageous heart.

If you are looking for an inspirational K-8 education for your child and a collaborative, nurturing partnership for your whole family, take a look at Brandeis Marin today.

Private School Guide

Mark Day School

How has Mark Day School pivoted in response to Covid-19?

Early this year, in part due to our connection to our global partner school in Beijing, we already had been preparing a detailed plan for learning continuity. On March 13, we closed our campus and transitioned to distance learning; our faculty and administration immediately distributed technology and materials to all students in anticipation of a prolonged closure.

Since day one of distance learning, students across grades K-8 have participated in live, synchronous classes and moments of connection to preserve vital touch-points for learning. Students received devices including iPads and laptops with which to participate in distance learning. Faculty used a combination of class and small group configurations during live lessons and offered “office hours” so students could ask questions and receive additional support via live interaction. Students received between 2-4 hours of live instruction per day, depending on grade level, in addition to other synchronous activities.

In addition to regular daily contact with families, during the spring we surveyed families formally two times to obtain feedback on how distance learning was working. We also understood that challenges varied from family to family, and we strived to provide individualized assistance where it was needed; for example, in tech resources, counseling, and learning support.

How will you conduct teaching in the fall? Are there any contingency plans for the spring?

The trajectory of the pandemic and health directives are ever-changing. We continue to make decisions in alignment with Marin County’s Public Health Officers, who are in turn guided by ongoing data and research regarding the pandemic and societal response across the globe.

Our plans for the coming school year include the ability to flexibly transition between a Hybrid Learning model that includes both in-person and distance learning elements and a Distance Learning model in which all students learn remotely. In alignment with Public Health, we will enter the fall in Distance Learning mode, while seeking to provide a learning hub program for school-aged children of essential workers.

Starting on our Opening Day, September 1, Distance Learning 2.0 will include increased live sessions, virtual small group work, 1:1 check-ins, refined schedules and assignments, a timely and robust assessment program, and a reliance on ongoing feedback from parents and guardians about individual student/family needs.

Learning continuity is a top priority. We are prepared to transition smoothly between models at any time throughout the year while maintaining strong academics, social-emotional learning, and community moments.

What will you be offering to make your curriculum and educational experience unique?

Every facet of our program and every single decision comes from careful consideration and extensive research — and this moment in time is no different. Our program is child-centered in its approach, and we acknowledge the challenges of this time for children across the developmental spectrum; emotional support is required for academic excellence, which has always been the backbone of a Mark Day education. Since the spring, we have been researching and designing frameworks that will allow us to offer the exceptional education that is a hallmark of Mark Day while adhering to local and national health directives. While the educational landscape may look different, our goals remain the same. We continue to regularly refine our cohesive curriculum and assessment system and focus on the objectives and aspirations of our graduates.

Additionally, maintaining a sense of community continues to be a top priority as we work and learn remotely. In the fall, as we did throughout the spring, we will continue to have whole-school assemblies twice per week and regular community building activities. Integrating this connection to community with hands-on, student-centered learning is in many ways what makes Mark Day’s distance learning program unique. It’s not about checking boxes or filling the day with various activities to keep students busy — it’s about maintaining the feel of a school community while continuing to learn.

Mark Day School has always valued the close partnership between parents and guardians and the school. As families transition to distance learning and working from home again in the fall, we know that what families will experience and need will be vastly different from household to household. Easing families into this new learning model and supporting them along the way is an important part of this ongoing partnership. We will continue to survey parents and guardians to identify strengths and areas for support and improvement.

Anything else current or potential families should know?

Mark Day School is a vibrant, inclusive learning community, and we will support one another and continue learning together, no matter the circumstances. We cannot wait to welcome children and families to the new school year and to get students and teachers working together again. There is so much to learn, and growth mindset, critical thinking, creative problem solving, global perspective, and social and emotional skills that Mark Day nurtures in our students have never been more important than in today’s work. We cannot wait to get up and running together.

Mount Tamalpais School

How has Mount Tamalpais School pivoted in response to Covid-19?

After successfully pivoting to distance learning last spring, we have been focused on our return to on-campus instruction. To do this we have invested heavily in additional staff, technology infrastructure and devices, facilities — including four outdoor tent-based classrooms — and safety equipment and services. At the same time we have engaged teachers in further professional development to ensure we offer best-in-class distance learning if we cannot be on campus.

How will you conduct teaching in the fall? Are there any contingency plans for the spring?

We are in the midst of applying for a waiver for K-6 instruction. We are confident we can safely host on-campus instruction with our large campus, abundant open space, and outdoor entrances to nearly every classroom. We are also looking into ways to have meaningful in-person connections among our 7th and 8th grade students as permissible in Marin County.

What will you be offering to make your curriculum and educational experience unique?

Though we have made significant changes to our program and spaces to be ready for in-person instruction, we will continue to offer departmentalized instruction at all grade levels. This will allow our students to learn from educators who are teaching their passion.

Marin Horizon School

How has Marin Horizon School pivoted in response to Covid-19?

Marin Horizon School has looked to our mission and pillars to navigate through the pandemic since the spring transition to distance-learning. For every decision we look through the lens of equity, and communicate frequently with our community members via emails, Zoom coffees with the head of school, and surveys. We are fortunate to have a strong community built on relationships, which has remained an incredible asset. Sustaining our community and the social-emotional well-being of our students is paramount to our culture. Practically speaking, the safety of our community is the number one priority, and we have developed extensive health and safety protocols and are following all guidelines from the state and county health departments. We look forward to safely reopening our campus to all students as soon as possible.

How will you conduct teaching in the fall? Are there any contingency plans for the spring?

The toddler through kindergarten programs will be able to resume on-campus learning in stable cohorts at the start of school on August 24. For first through eighth grades, there will be a two-week on-campus orientation before transitioning to distance-learning. Following that we are planning for on-campus, hybrid, and remote programs, depending on what we will be able to do at any given time. We want to prioritize on-campus learning when possible, however we will also have distance-learning options in place for the full year for kindergarten through eighth grade. In order to ensure that all students are able to participate effectively, we are moving to a 1:1 tech device program in which every kindergarten through eighth grade student will be issued a kit containing a technology device and all relevant accessories.

What will you be offering to make your curriculum and educational experience unique?

We believe that our pre-existing small-class teaching model, abundant outdoor learning spaces and tradition of outdoor education, combined with our innovative and passionate faculty will provide a robust educational experience for all students. Our technology team is extremely responsive to student, family, and faculty needs. We are also fortunate to have online learning management systems in place for all grade levels, as well as the tools and technology to strengthen both on-campus and distance learning. We will be offering a distance-learning option during on-campus learning periods and in most cases, those students will be able to access the live classroom through videoconferencing and webcam technology. Overall we are fortunate to have a small, cohesive team that will enable us to remain flexible despite changing circumstances throughout the school year.

Anything else current or potential families should know?

We have a limited number of openings in select grades for the upcoming school year. We encourage you to contact our admissions team at admissions@marinhorizon.org and visit our website to tour our campus virtually. To learn more about our reopening plan, please visit www.marinhorizon.org/reopeningplan for the most up-to-date information.

Marin Catholic

How has Marin Catholic pivoted in response to Covid-19?

In response to the pandemic and school closure, we have been following these guiding principles:

1. Health and safety are our priority.

This remains the highest priority as we work to reopen school. Following state and county guidelines, we have developed procedures and attained the technology for effective health screening of all students and faculty and staff, physical distancing protocols, and a defined training and orientation program to provide clarity of expectation and protocols for all community members so that they can lean into their work with confidence. We have no expectation currently that Marin will be off the watchlist any time soon, but we will be ready when we are given clearance to return to in-person instruction with whatever restrictions we face.

We have been assertive in using the experience of our summer athletic workouts on campus to inform our fall plans. Led by our Athletic Department team and our dedicated coaches, we have been able to onboard 50-90 student-athletes a day onto our fields and into our gym with great success. It has been tremendously gratifying to have our student-athletes back in team cohorts and in action. The outpouring of gratitude from our student-athletes and their parents has been affirming.

Early in July, we announced that we would be postponing the opening of our Academic Calendar year to September 8. This has given us more time to develop our plans and procedures, prepare the physical plant including securing our PPE, and train faculty and staff. Beginning the week of August 17 and running through September 4, we will start bringing smaller groups of students on campus for orientation and training with the intention to scale up the number of students on campus each week as allowed.

2. The Essential Question: What can we do well?

Given all restrictions, we need to define what we can do well and do it! This requires significant reflection on the part of teachers, counselors, and our leadership team to determine where our critical focus must be on a daily basis. For example, since we cannot test well in some of the traditional ways in distance learning or a hybrid mode, teachers are examining and preparing alternative methods of assessment and methods of measuring student learning.

Some of our extra-curricular programs like Clubs and Student Activities will necessarily be scaled back.

3. We are Operating “Mission as Usual”

This is as opposed to “business as usual” and is related to the essential question: what can we do well? By our Catholic Mission, we are committed and called to the intellectual and spiritual formation of our students in all we do — curricular, co-curricular and extra-curricular. We do this first with an emphasis on deep relationships, so this is a particular challenge without in-person contact. In our new schedule we are dedicating one day a week to what we call “Kairos Days” (Kairos is Greek for “God’s time”) in which we will spend time as a community, in small formation groups, to consider and discuss topics like “identity” and “racial justice.” Additionally, we will be gathering on “Kairos Days” for prayer, Mass, and Adoration.

How will you conduct teaching in the fall? Are there any contingency plans for the spring?

We had much success in the spring with Distance Learning and we are proud of what our students, faculty and staff were able to accomplish. However, we know that the fall will be a different experience because we will begin without the benefit of an established student/teacher relationship. We have adapted a schedule that ensures clear structure, a predictable cadence, and long blocks of class time to provide teachers latitude for instructional variety. Instructional days will occur four or five days a week with “Kairos Days” scheduled on 8 Wednesdays during the semester. On instructional days, 3-4 classes will meet per day for 75 minutes either in distance learning or hybrid mode with additional built in time at the beginning or end of the day for teacher office hours or tutorials.

We learned last spring that the best decisions are made with the maximum amount of experience and data so we do not have a contingency plan for spring yet. We will remain prepared to pivot to distance learning, a hybrid mode where half of the students are on campus, the other half at home, or God willing, back to normal!

What will you be offering to make your curriculum and educational experience unique?

Our “Kairos Days,” led by Assistant Principal for Student Life, Anne-Marie Funk, are designed to capture all the elements of our spiritual and communal formation programs. Given the political climate and given that this is an election year, we are committed to creating forums for productive discourse on “identity” and “racial justice.”

We are reading Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson as a full school community as a jumping off point for these forums. Just Mercy invites the reader to accompany Stevenson on his journey through American history and the criminal justice system. A Harvard-educated lawyer, Stevenson has dedicated his career and life to working for justice for “the poor, the wrongly condemned, and those trapped in the furthest reaches of our criminal justice system.” He concludes Just Mercy in the spirit of our Catholic call to justice: “‘Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.’…But today, our self-righteousness, our fear, and our anger have caused even the Christians to hurl stones at the people who fall down, even when we know we should forgive or show compassion. I told the congregation that we can’t simply watch that happen. I told them we have to be stonecatchers.” (p. 309)

Creating stonecatchers in support of one another and in service to the greater community is one among our key goals with these forums on our “Kairos Days.”

Headlands Preparatory School

How has Headlands Preparatory School pivoted in response to Covid-19?

Thanks to our 1:1 model, Headlands Prep (previously Tilden Prep Marin) is uniquely prepared for the transition to distance learning. We have long offered selected remote class sessions as part of our personalized academic program, allowing our Distance Learning Plan to be seamlessly integrated into our existing model. Whether in person or at a distance, a Headlands Prep education is designed to harness individualized learning and academic mastery to ensure personal growth, academic success, and true preparedness for high school and college.

How will you conduct teaching in the fall? Are there any contingency plans for the spring?

We seek to maintain high academic standards and a supportive learning environment, and provide community members with continuity of learning. Since we began our distance learning plan, the feedback from our families, students, and teachers, is that the learning is still very much happening. As always, Headlands Prep plans to keep the well-being of all members of the community — students, teachers, staff, and parents — at the forefront of its decision-making.

While we are eager for all of us to get back on campus, we are proceeding with caution and have decided to continue with distance learning and expect to do so through the end of December 2020. We believe making this decision now creates a sense of predictability and stability for all of us during these times of uncertainty.

We recognize that distance learning and the extended shelter-in-place restrictions have taken a toll on all of us, especially our students. We will continue to monitor the situation and in the event there are significant improvements or changes in the Covid-19 crisis we will re-evaluate this decision. We will continue to offer distance learning even when we open for in-person class instruction. We are prepared to continue into spring if that is the right choice for our community.

What will you be offering to make your curriculum and educational experience unique?

Headlands Prep is dedicated to individualized learning, academic mastery, personal growth, and civic engagement. The central element to our educational model, one-to-one courses allow for an individualized educational experience tailored to student needs and success.

Headlands Preparatory School uses a Mastery Learning educational philosophy and method that supports all students to become competent and confident learners. The Mastery Learning approach at HPS guides all aspects of the educational experience. From instruction to homework to assessment, all student learning is designed to be engaging, meaningful, intentional, and builds a strong foundation for long-term learning.

In order to ensure students have a strong foundation on which to build skills and later content, students must demonstrate mastery by earning a minimum of 80 percent on any assessment. If students have not demonstrated mastery, we review the material and reassess until mastery is achieved.

Anything else current or potential families should know?

We have rolling enrollment throughout the year, and in addition to our full-time program, we offer single courses for credit as well as tutoring and prep for standardized tests. Ours is NOT an independent study program. Our program includes synchronous learning where our students meet with their teachers for online class periods on a frequent and regular schedule, and asynchronous independent homework/project time. Using this approach, we give our students support, while integrating strategies for independent work. Our teachers close communication loops with families daily with our unique progress reporting system.

St. Patrick School

How has St. Patrick School pivoted in response to Covid-19?

Beginning with the school closure in March, we have developed and implemented a successful Distance Learning Program for our students that offers daily instruction over Zoom, assignments posted to Google Classroom and the use of rich digital resources curated by our Faculty. Our Administration and Faculty have spent the summer evaluating and building upon our Distance Learning Plan to support our students as we begin the 2020-2021 school year.

Each school site under The Archdiocese of San Francisco has completed a Site Specific Safety Plan that follows Public Health Guided Return to Site-Based Classroom Instruction, which will aid us in bringing our students, faculty and staff back to school as safely as possible when we are given permission to re-open.

How will you conduct teaching in the fall? Are there any contingency plans for the spring?

With the Governor’s recent announcement regarding school reopening guidelines, we will begin our school year in Distance Learning mode.

Depending upon the situation in the Spring, and recommendations from Marin Public Health, we will either continue with Distance Learning or reopen for site-based instruction, per our Site Specific Safety Plan.

What will you be offering to make your curriculum and educational experience unique?

Community has always been at the heart of our school. The challenges attendant upon distance learning have made us more aware of the importance, and the strength, of our community connections. We will continue to build the bonds with our students and families that help each member of our community thrive.

Anything else current or potential families should know?

We partner with parents as primary educators for their children. We understand that not every family is comfortable with school reopening with in-person instruction. Therefore, St. Patrick School will offer distance learning to those families who elect not to send their children to campus and/or students who are in quarantine.

The Marin School

How has The Marin School pivoted in response to Covid-19?

TMS began preparing for distance learning in late February 2020, including an adapted schedule to ensure continuity of instruction. Faculty, staff and students had any tech needs fulfilled in advance, and we created a web portal specifically for distance learning where students could watch live streamed events, including a weekly community meeting and commencement. Virtual spaces were created to showcase our Spring arts festival and celebrate. A special steering committee was created to begin planning for the Fall. Community-building events were re-imagined.

Our school counselor and learning resources team met with students individually and in small-group video meetings to support learning and social-emotional needs. Remote learning agreements. Final exams were modified to accommodate distance learning — projects, presentation, essays and oral exams. Our grading scales were not adjusted (i.e., students did not have a pass/fail option).

The Marin School Reopening Committee was established, and considered numerous paths forward. We also relied on research and experience from educators, health professionals, and other schools to create a plan that will allow us to pivot quickly in the face of evolving circumstances. We have been planning to have students on campus as much as possible. This, of course, may change as we have already seen. But TMS is small and nimble, and will be able to adapt to changing conditions.

How will you conduct teaching in the fall? Are there any contingency plans for the spring?

The biggest shift The Marin School made for the upcoming school year is to move to a 3×3 block schedule with three 80-minute block courses, and the creation of three small cohorts. To ensure continuity of instruction, The Marin School reopening committee created 5 response tiers, with each tier representing an adapted schedule for potential conditions.

What will you be offering to make your curriculum and educational experience unique?

  • A fully-supported study hall for every student.
  • Weekly community-building activities such as club meetings, weekly community meetings, virtual social events for students and families.
  • Partnership program pairing new students and families with returning students and families to facilitate matriculation.
  • Simplification of virtual platforms to track assignments, grades, and class schedules.
  • Faculty utilizing classroom and campus spaces to teach virtual classes.
  • A virtual orientation for the start of the school year and a second “return to campus” orientation to learn and practice new safety guidelines.
  • Cohorts designed to maximize in-person with a 4-day in-person school week learning when conditions permit.

Anything else current or potential families should know?

For complete information regarding The Marin School’s plans for Fall 2020, visit: www.themarinschool.org/fall2020plan.


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