Last Updated: Monday, April 20 at 10:36 AM

Dear City Garden Community,

Over the past several weeks, you have been on my mind and my heart.

The reality of a global pandemic has brought never-before-imagined strain, heartache, challenge, frustration, and fear… for each of us individually, and also as a community, a city, a country, a world. It has also brought tremendous tenderness, gratitude, generosity, clarity, courage, joy, connection and love.

I have been reminded daily how very fortunate we are to have such a loving, generous, courageous community. Thank you for being part of this community, and thank you for the many ways you are holding us up, walking with us, and being in partnership as we navigate new and, at times, scary waters.

In many ways, COVID-19 has brought into sharp focus the reason for City Garden’s existence, and the essential-ness of our mission: we must nurture and support a generation of young people who will be prepared to tackle our world’s biggest problems—like a pandemic, and the stark inequities that are being exposed during this time. We don’t just need brilliant scientists, policy makers, activists, teachers, health care providers, coders, civic leaders and social workers—though our graduates will be all of these things and more… But we need human beings who are grounded in care and empathy, who are both smart and extremely thoughtful, who have practiced creative problem solving their whole lives, who are rooted in justice and truth, and who have deep confidence in themselves.

Our students are growing up believing that it is their task to fulfill their full human potential and that they are active agents of change. If we have done our jobs, they won’t accept anything less, and they will work to change and improve the world in ways we can’t currently imagine. This gives me hope for our future. This makes me recommit, each day, to the mission of City Garden.

Below I am sharing some updates on how City Garden has been responding during this time. Thank you for continuing to walk with us, and thank you for believing in our young people. I hope that each of you is healthy, well and safe during this uncertain time.

 

City Garden during the time of COVID-19

We wanted to share how City Garden has responded during COVID-19 and how our students are doing during this time.

• Connecting as a staff and “putting on our own facemasks first”
For the first two weeks, we met virtually each day as a staff. We are a “high touch” community, so not being together physically is hard and very different. I have been asking staff to prioritize their physical and mental health, and to think A LOT about what it means and looks like to “put on our own facemasks first.” This is an extraordinary time in which we are living, there is a lot to process and manage, and we will likely be operating outside of our normal state for quite some time. We have been checking in, working to support one another, and working to find realistic and strategic ways to accomplish the work needed to transition our program and our organization to a completely different way of operating. I am proud of and inspired by the many ways that our team is working together and creatively tackling the daunting tasks before us.

• Our ongoing response to COVID-19
Since we first began navigating life through COVID-19, we have shared several updates with our parent community regarding distance learning, food support, medical and mental health services, and economic relief.

• Meeting immediate needs first and focusing on social-emotional needs – Our first area of focus has been ensuring families have access to food, responding to urgent mental health needs of students, and setting up staff and students with at-home internet access and electronic devices. We have a Family Assistance Fund, through which we are providing direct assistance for food, rent, utilities and other needs, and we have distributed 93 Chromebooks and 20 internet “hot spots” for staff and students. We have also spent a good deal of time working to just connect with our students and families, prioritizing social and emotional needs, and providing as many supports and connection points as possible.

• Centering equity – We have made a clear commitment as a staff to center equity throughout this challenging time and as we implement our distance learning program. COVID-19 is exposing deep inequities in our health and education systems. We know that we must work actively and intentionally to interrupt these patterns and to support our most vulnerable students and families. We are implementing systematic ways to ensure that our students and families who need the most support are receiving the most support, and we are working to center this commitment in all of our planning and ongoing evaluation of our programming.

• Distance Learning the Montessori Way – The task of transitioning our learning community to a “distance learning” model has admittedly felt daunting. Our educational model is centered around following each child, meticulously preparing the physical classroom environment, and building community together. We have essentially asking our guides (teachers) to put together an entirely different way of educating their students than they were trained to do. We have been working hard to make plans that will keep us all connected and supports our students’ individual and collective needs. Our distance learning plan includes regular virtual class gatherings, video lessons and read-alouds with our guides, use of several online learning tools, such as iXL, Newsela and Readworks, and assigned work that students can complete on their own. Our guides and students are becoming masters at Zoom, Google Classroom, YouTube and many other online platforms!

Enacting Pandemic Support Teams – Upon the closure of school, we created five Pandemic Support Teams to support our students, families, staff and community as we navigate these uncharted waters:

    • The Student and Family Wrap-Around Support Team is connecting regularly with families and is helping to ensure that our families have access to food and housing, mental health supports, and is connecting families to financial, health, and other resources to ensure students’ immediate needs are met.
    • The Technical and IT Support Team has coordinated the herculean task of moving our programming online and making sure all of our students and staff have devices and internet access.Thus far, we have distributed 93 Chromebooks and 20 internet hot spots.
    • The Physical Supplies and Needs Team physically gathered and prepared the supplies and materials our students needed to make the transition to distance learning and coordinated the delivery and distribution. They will continue to make sure students, families and staff have what they need physically during this time of social distancing.
    • The Communications Team is coordinating communication among staff and between City Garden and parents/guardians, and is facilitating external communications to our broader community. During a time when things have been changing daily and sometimes hourly, coordinated communication has been essential!
    • The Enrichment Team is coordinating enrichment opportunities for students, including online opportunities for music, art, dance, and physical activities.


Moments of Joy

As we continue to navigate these uncertain times, our City Garden Montessori School community is sharing #JoyfulMoments across social media as a way of digitally connecting with our community and spreading some happiness. So far, we have featured a handful of guides and their work from home buddies. You can follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn to check out these Joyful Moments!


Charidy Campaign

Many folks in our community have reached out to offer their support during this time. We are thankful for your generosity. We want you to know that while our mission and vision have not and will not change, the ways in which we advance our mission and realize our vision will be conscious and respectful of the COVID-19 health pandemic. On Tuesday, April 28 we are kicking off our 24-hour, Whole Child Charidy Campaign, hosted by Charidy Crowdfunding, to raise funds for our critical programs and services most desperately needed during this time. If you are looking for ways to share joy and help others, stay tuned for more information about City Garden Montessori School’s Whole Child Charidy Campaign. We are finding that our students and families need our support now more than ever, and our Charidy campaign will help us to meet our families’ needs.

When We Empower Children, They Are Powerful

March 7th marked our 9th annual Bloom Gala, where we celebrated our children and their power to transform our world. Please click here to read my remarks entitled When We Empower Children, They Are Powerful.

Also, please click here to view the extraordinary photos from the event, courtesy of Jay Beauvais at JBeauvais Photography.


Virtual Talent Show!

 

While our students are engaged in distance learning and our staff work from home, we are excited to host City Garden’s first ever Virtual Talent Show! Students families, staff and City Garden supporters are invited to send in a video of up to 3 minutes “showing your stuff” that will be shared with our community! If you would like to send in a video for the Virtual Talent Show, please email Sharmouel Mosley (sharmouel@citygardenschool.org) by Friday, April 24th. To learn more about our Virtual Talent show and ways to watch, please stay tuned for more updates in the coming weeks.
 

Please click below for previous updates and other resources from City Garden regarding COVID-19.

School Closure Announcement– as of March 19, 2020
Services & Resources Announcement – as March of 19, 2020
Family & Community Resources – as of March 24, 2020
SLU Public Health Professor talks COVID-19 with Junior High Students – as of March 25, 2020
Physical & Creative Activities from Ms. Danielle Combs – as of April 2, 2020
Community Resources and Social-Emotional Learning
1. Family and Community Resources
2. Supporting Children and Discussing COVID-19
Distance Learning Program
Joy Parade – as of April 14, 2020 
Family Assistance Fund – as of April 21, 2020
Community Update – as of April 20, 2020
Family Update – April 20, 2020