Before and After Care

Winter Break Extended

New Winter Break Dates

12/21/20 – 1/8/21

Last day of school Friday, December 18

Students return on Monday, January 11

The main considerations for these changes are needing to:

  • Allow for safe quarantine time after possible increased travel/visitors/socializing over winter break
  • Close the campus for the final HVAC updates (testing and balancing)

However, we still need everyone to continue to make safe choices that are protective of our staff and families well-being and support continuing in-person instruction.

By extending our December/January Break by one week, families and staff will be able to quarantine after possible holiday travel or visitors in late December without missing school. We do not believe it is realistic or productive for us to police our community around travel and visitors. Please note that November break does not allow for this quarantining time, and risky behavior would require missing school to quarantine.  

We need to have the campus closed to accommodate ARC Mechanical doing final HVAC work safely without mixing with students/staff. They have been able to accommodate us by scheduling the work during this closure time.

We want to make sure staff are able to enjoy a full break as well as getting proper planning time before the Spring Semester. The week of January 4th – 8th will include inservice days for all staff.

There is no scenario in which we are able to meet the needs of every individual in our community. We have attempted to meet the needs of the greatest number of people as possible, while also being able to accommodate for adequate teacher planning and contractor time, as well as keeping our top priority the health and safety of all.

For a visual summary of the new schedule, please refer to the School Website Calendar.

If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to Tamara or Zoe.

Oct 21-23, October Parent Conferences

It is already time for parent teacher conferences! October conferences are for all families, new and returning, from the Toddler Program through Middle School.

Conferences will, like most things these days, happen over Zoom. Families will have received sign ups this week, and Zoom invitations will follow next week from your student’s teachers.

  • There will be a half day on Thursday, October 22, and no school on Friday, October 23, to accommodate for conferences. 
  • No childcare will be available this year, so please plan accordingly.
  • Lower Elementary families please note that LE will hold their conferences on Wednesday, October 21 and Thursday, October 22. 
  • If siblings are in the same classroom, you should have received this email yesterday for the opportunity to sign up for a double slot. 

If you have and questions, or any difficulty with your sign up, please contact Zoe at the Front Desk. 

Sept 21 – Sept 25: September Parent Meetings

This is an evening meeting for all new and returning parents to learn about the upcoming year’s curriculum, program, expectations of students, and ways to be involved in your child’s education. This year, as with all of our community events, these meetings will be held over Zoom. With each program meeting taking place on a different day, we are hoping that families with multiple children will be able to attend each of their children’s meetings. We strongly encourage all families to attend. This is an important opportunity to learn about your child’s classroom, “see” and meet other parents in the program, and hear about what this year will be like for them.

HMS Re-Entry Plan Updates

Dear Hilltop Families,
The classrooms, indoors and outdoors, are coming into being in their new distanced forms. Teachers have been very busy! And, as we gear up to start our daily health checks during next week’s orientation, we wanted to remind you of a few things. Firstly, we are being very cautious and careful as we get together in-person. We need to do everything we can to protect individuals within our community and our community as a whole. Please share our cautiousness with us by: 

  • keeping your child home if there is any chance of exposure or risk of sharing illness
  • answering all of the health questions truthfully and with the safety of the community in mind

We have also updated our HMS Re-Entry Plan (Updated 8/27/20) to align with new and changing Vermont State guidelines. We strongly encourage you to read through the plan thoroughly before coming to school for Orientation or for the first day of instruction on Tuesday, September 8th. You will note that all new information is in green. Taken from the plan, here are six key details to be sure to note as we being the year:

  1. We have plans for every stage of re-entry and are in a great position to meet in person, on campus, every day of the week, even if the State mandates we decrease group size down to as few as 15 people in a group.
  2. With every phase of this plan, Wednesday will be a half day for all students, a planning/meeting afternoon for teachers, and a deep cleaning day for facilities’ staff.
  3. Drop-off and pick-up procedure will require staggered timing and places, so check your children’s drop-off and pick-up times and procedures carefully.
  4. In accordance with the State guidelines, parents, guardians, and caretakers may not enter school buildings during any stage. 
  5. BeforeCare and AfterCare are available if the mixing of groups can allow for pods of 75 or more people, but not for the smaller groupings.
  6. All students must be in compliance with the State of Vermont Travel Restrictions in order to attend school.

Lastly, though certainly not least important, also ask that you please sign the HMS Shared Responsibility Agreement and hand them in to teachers during your student health check whenever your child first comes to school, during Orientation Week (full schedule here) or on Tuesday, September 8th. Students will not be let out of vehicles without a signed copy of the Agreement. 
If you have any questions regarding the HMS Re-Entry Plan or our Covid procedures, please feel free to reach out to Zoe Proctor, HMS’ Covid Coordinator.

Re-Entry Plans: Fall 2020

Dear Families,


I hope this letter finds you able to enjoy the summer, despite the uncertainty and ominous news from other parts of the country. We, as a school, have been working hard to develop our plan for Re-Entry in September. Here is Hilltop Montessori School’s Re-Entry Plan for the Fall of 2020. I have great appreciation for the staff, teachers, Board members, and parents who offered and helped to develop this plan. It is nimble and able to adjust to changing situations. 


Many families have contacted meLauren, and Barb in the Business Office, in the recent weeks to discuss their particular circumstances and considerations. We welcome this communication!


In a typical year, re-enrollment deposits are made in February, and the first May tuition payment from each family is the final commitment for the enrollment and tuition for the full year ahead. This year we offered families the option to delay the first payment until July. We also offered COVID Hardship Requests, and about a dozen families have applied for and received those. 


At this point, almost all families have made their first tuition payments in TADS, and we are assuming you are on board for the year. We are making staffing and facilities decisions based on this level of enrollment. We are committed to being here in person if at all possible. Our teachers and staff are under contract and lined up to serve your children. We hope that this grace period, as well as the plan enclosed, have given you the time and information you need to feel confident in your decision to enroll your children in Hilltop programming during this uncertain time.


The year ahead will require a strong partnership between families and the school. Please read through the attached document carefully and thoughtfully to begin that shared commitment, and set both ourselves and our children up for a safe and successful year ahead. If you have any questions about the plan generally, or about your particular family circumstances, PLEASE reach out to us. 


So, have a good read, and know that we have planned for what we can predict might happen, and will be poised to respond to the unexpected too.
Stay well,

Tamara

Free Play by Amelia Fontein, Lower Elementary Assistant

Let the children be free; encourage them; let them run outside when it is raining; let them remove their shoes when they find a puddle of water; and, when the grass of the meadows is damp with dew, let them run on it and trample it with their bare feet; let them rest peacefully when a tree invites them to sleep beneath it’s shade; let them shout and laugh when the sun wakes them in the morning as it wakes every living creature that divides its day between waking and sleeping” ~ Maria Montessori

If you travel to Hilltop Montessori School around noon on a weekday, you might be surprised to hear chatter and laughter coming from the forest adjacent to the parking lot. Walk the short dirt path into the woods, and you’ll encounter children darting among the trees, building forts from bark and fallen branches, collecting fistfuls of acorns and pinecones, and creating a magical world of their own making. This environment offers lessons that are just as valuable as those taught inside our classrooms. Just as our morning classroom work cycle gives students the freedom to choose the “work” that they are developmentally ready for, our Elementary recess and after school time lets children choose any activities from fantasy play in the woods to developing their skateboarding skills.

In the increasingly structured and technological world in which we live, it is of utmost importance to provide children with unstructured play time in the natural world. At Hilltop, Elementary Recess and After Care are both designed to offer this time for children to engage in imaginative, free play within a safe, supervised environment – often in “Haytown”. The name “Haytown” has been around for years! Originally children collected cut grass from the freshly mowed fields and used that as their currency.

For our elementary students, social-emotional learning is a component of free play that we support during Recess and After Care. Children are constantly driven to resolve conflict with peers, collaborate on long-term projects, negotiate around shared resources, and make decisions to reach their own goals. We repeatedly see children devising compromises to divvy up bricks, logs, acorns, etc., working in a group for weeks at a time on elaborate forest dwellings, and learning to navigate the socially tricky ins and outs of running a Haytown business. Outside of Haytown, we often observe groups of students working together to develop rules and guidelines for games like Four Square, Capture the Flag, and Monkey Bar Tag.

Another enormous benefit of unstructured play is physical fitness and dexterity. Practicing pull ups on the monkey bars, lugging logs through Haytown to build a fort, learning how to ride a unicycle, balancing on a fallen log in the woods; these activities allow children to build their strength and coordination through play.

Finally, playing in the natural world allows children to expand their sense of wonder, creativity, and imagination. The economy within Haytown is living testament. Children open restaurants, antique shops, insurance agencies, newspaper publishers, general stores, arcades, and drive throughs. Customers looking to buy goods or services can use quartz stones, known as “crystals”, to make their purchases. Children are continuously dreaming up original business schemes, finding new uses for old materials, and using their imaginations to create a true culture and community within Haytown. This is a genuine joy to observe.

So, next time you pick up your child take a moment to observe some of the amazing structures that have been built and the learning that’s occurring during that unstructured time. As Maria Montessori reminds us: “Play is the work of the child.”