ESSEX — While most schools are struggling to find solutions concerning the possibility of re-opening, Lakeside School located at Black Kettle Farm has held its summer program and plans to continue through the coming school year.

According to its website, Lakeside, which serves children from one year through third grade, bills itself as farm and forest based while following Waldorf School procedures, thus fostering children by relating what they learn to their own experiences in a natural setting.

OUT AND ABOUT

Typically, days begin outside with a combination of free play and structured activities, such as feeding chickens and horses. Seasonal changes allow for apple picking, sledding, planting the garden, as well as building forts and exploring the hiking trails.

After outside time, the children come inside for morning circles, consisting of seasonal songs, rhymes, finger plays, and movement. Inside time also includes self-directed free play, with open-ended natural materials.

Children also engage in, “purposeful work,” in which they are encouraged to assist the teachers with snack preparation, sweeping, setting tables, dish washing, and clean-up.

BACK IN MARCH

“In late June, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the CDC posted recommendations for outdoor classrooms and socially distanced learning, at which time we knew that we could and should return to in-person school this fall. Since the beginning, Lakeside has utilized our surrounding woods and farm for our every-day classrooms,” said Lakeside School Administrator Maeve Taylor

When New York State closed public schools in mid-March, Lakeside School also closed its doors for the remainder of the spring semester and transitioned quickly into distance learning and parenting support.

“During this time, through multiple communications and surveys with parents, we learned of the difficulties Lakeside families were facing without in-person child care and in-person programming. After a collective effort of faculty, staff, board members and participating families, Lakeside School reopened on June 29, with our New York State licensed day care program, 'Sprouts'. Our small summer program enabled us to pilot and refine our COVID-related health and safety protocol,” explained Taylor.

“As we wrap up our summer Sprouts program, we reflect on the fact that the summer has been filled with laughter and song from our play yard, fields and forest as the children and teachers have thrived during this otherwise challenging time,” Taylor added.

REOPENING PLAN

Lakeside is planning a staggered school-year reopening, starting with the mixed-age Elementary students (1st through 3rd grade) in late August followed by the Farm and Forest Kindergarten (4-6 year-old) and Sprouts (1-4 year-old) after Labor Day.

All adults have been, and will continue to be, wearing masks while on campus, as well as the older children. Lakeside will work to maintain physical distance, as appropriate, and has created a daily disinfection schedule to accompany revised drop-off and pick-up protocols.

“While all of our programs are outdoor based, we will extend it as much as possible as we hope that doing so will further minimize risk to our school community,” said Taylor.

“We received donations from generous individuals to build an outdoor classroom for our elementary students. This will provide cover for academic work when it’s raining, while still providing excellent ventilation. We have added high quality air filtration systems into each of our classrooms for times when students do need to work indoors,” Taylor said.

GRANT FUNDS

According to Taylor, “Parental responses to re-opening our physical doors have been positive. While we have been able to support each other on-line through the state-mandated pause there is no replacement for an in-person school experience. We have a wait list for our Farm and Forest Kindergarten program and are exploring the possibility of adding staff to accommodate the additional children.”

Though some families were financially impacted by the pandemic, Lakeside mobilized in the spring to bring in an additional $40,000 to support sudden losses of income. Grants from the Cloudsplitter Foundation, the Kelsey Trust, and the Adirondack Foundation, Lakeside School Scholarship Fund, Urgent Need Fund, the Adirondack Garden Club, Ellen Lea Paine Memorial Nature Fund, and individual donations, made it possible to offer tuition assistance to qualifying families.

Through this, Lakeside has been able to hire a new staff member whose primary role is to keep the school buildings clean.

“Our teachers are highly skilled and well prepared with supplies to teach the children outdoors. Campfires, hand-warmers, wind-blocks, extra dry mittens and socks, and lots of active children are the key to a happy and safe outing. Throughout the Black Kettle Farm forest, our teachers and students have created fort-like shelters to provide wind-blocks and rain cover. We often find that the students don’t mind the “bad” weather at all. It’s all a state of mind,” commented Taylor.

For additional information concerning Lakeside School contact: Maeve Taylor, Lakeside School Administrator at: (518) 963-7385, or admin@lakesideschoolinessex.org

Email Alvin Reiner at: rondackrambler@gmail.com

 

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