Reopening school for the 2020-2021 school year faces challenges unlike any we’ve seen before. Hudson Way Immersion School, a preschool through grade 8 Mandarin and Spanish immersion school, is tackling those challenges head on so it can safely reopen for full-day in-person instruction. Here, Huang shares what the school has done in preparation for its reopening.
New Jersey Family: What makes Hudson Way Immersion School so unique?
Sharon Huang: HudsonWay Immersion School provides an environment where young children learn the same academic content taught in other top private schools and public schools, but in two languages–English and Mandarin or Spanish. Through a combination of academic rigor, small class sizes and full immersion, students consistently outperform monolingual peers while developing high levels of proficiency in a second language.
Students who complete the program through middle school are capable of achieving high levels on high school AP language tests. Approximately 90 percent of HudsonWay graduates are admitted to their top choice independent school. Studies show that bilingual children develop advanced cognitive skills, improved language understanding, increased social-emotional understanding, and greater confidence. HudsonWay is an educational value with tuition significantly below other to top-tier independent schools.
NJF: You recently announced you will open on-site 5 days a week for full days. How are you ensuring student and staff safety as they return full time? What health and safety protocols will be in place?
Huang: HudsonWay is following the regulatory guidance from the CDC, Department of Education, Department of Health, and Governor Phil Murphy. Assuming the situation remains safe to open, we will be on-site, this fall beginning September 9 operating five days per week. As a small school, we are able to adhere to safety protocols more easily as a community, we are in a space that has the capacity for twice the number of students enrolled, and thirdly, our average class size of 10 makes the ideal “pod” for minimizing student contact. Some students will be attending via remote learning. Here are a few of the many health & safety protocols which will be in place:
- Temperature check: Each student will have his/her temperature checked prior to entering the school with a wall mounted touchless temperature sensor.
- Shoe sanitation: Students will be required to sanitize shoes on a sanitation mat in the lobby of the school.
- Handwashing: Students are required to wash hands or use sanitizer prior to entering the classroom each morning and throughout the day.
- Face coverings
- Preschool: We will provide each preschool student with a face shield to wear at school.
- K-7: Students are required to wear a mask while indoors. A face shield will be provided for indoors when a mask cannot be used such as during lunchtime, etc.
- All staff will wear masks
- Plastic barriers and partitions
- Regular cleaning throughout the day
- Improved air filtration system for each classroom
- Touchless soap, and paper towel dispensers
- Building access for student and staff only
- Staggered schedules for drop-off and pick-up
More information on the reopening plan is available on our website at hwis.org/covid-19.
NJF: How will the school day schedule change? Will students be staggered by age or grade?
Huang: HudsonWay will be providing the regular choice of full- and half-day programs for preschool students and a full-day elementary program which includes specials of art, music and PE. Parents will drop off with a car caravan following designated arrival times by grade. Siblings can be dropped off together. Drop off times range from 8:20-9:00 am, and dismissal ranges from 2:45-3:25 pm. Before and aftercare are available but limited this year. There is an option for door to door pick up and drop off using a third-party safe van service for an additional cost.
NJF: Much has been written about the outdoors being safer. Are you planning for outdoor learning this fall?
Huang: Our NJ campus situated in Stirling has a field, playground, and several spaces for outdoor learning. Students will be able meet in small groups in areas all around the building. Each large classroom is lined with windows that open out onto the private property of the school in the event that learning takes place indoors. Additionally, each classroom will have its own air purifying unit with HEPA filters, which are the highest-grade filter available.
NJF: How are you reassuring students and staff about the safety of the school environment?
Huang: The HWIS administration formed a task force involving cross functional staff, parents, and outside experts to develop a plan for reopening that identified more than 30 steps that will be taken to making the environment as safe as possible This plan was communicated to the parent community in written format, as well as in a town hall format this summer. The most important aspect to ensuring safety is for parents to keep children home if they are exhibiting COVID symptoms. We have developed a Return to School agreement that outlines the expectations we have of each of us to support a safe community.
The goal is to provide a healthy school experience that can be run safely in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. It will take a combined effort from the school, administrators, teachers, parents, extended family members, and students to ensure the health and safety of everyone is protected. Our reopening roadmap can be accessed here.
NJF: For those who choose, you also have a remote-only option. How will this work?
Huang: Each student has the choice of joining our program remotely for the entire year or switching between on-site and remote on a trimester basis. We are committed to ensuring that students learning remotely are integrated into the on-site classroom experience. Here are some of the ways we are supporting these students:
- Use of video conferencing equipment with 120-360-degree cameras to enable students at home to focus on the individual speaking whether it is the teacher or a student
- Teachers following up with students on a 1:1 basis for social emotional and academic support
- Regular communication with students and families
- Teacher training on remote and hybrid learning
- Teachers building on their experience teaching this summer virtually
- 1:1 Chromebooks provided to students in elementary programs
- Recorded Zoom classroom for reinforcement as needed
Sharon received her undergraduate degree in chemical engineering from the University of California Berkeley and an MBA from the University of Pennsylvania Wharton School. She is an advisor to Asia Society’s CELIN (Chinese Early Language Immersion Network) organization and frequently presents at the annual National Chinese Language Conference. She is married and has twin 15-year-old sons who graduated from HWIS in 5th grade and continued with their Mandarin in weekend heritage and high school Chinese classes. Her sons recently completed a summer program at National Taiwan Normal University in 2019.