COVID Policies and Procedures

Arts and Athletics has cultivated a cautious but optimistic stance toward the coronavirus pandemic and we have developed routines that incorporate insights and best practices from the latest public health guidance. Naturally, it is a work in progress, but as we expand our programming and gradually resume activities in our cooperating schools, we will continue to adhere to the policies and procedure that keep our children and our staff members safe.

To read more about our COVID response, click here.

It’s a Positive Sign!

Over the past couple of weeks we’ve collaborated with our friends at the Level Group design firm to develop signage for our winter offerings. You’ll see the results posted at each of our schools, red/pink and blue/green banners that say: YES! Winter Enrollment is Now Open.

It’s such a simple message, but during these colder months we feel that it’s important to affirm that good things are happening amidst all the disruption and uncertainty.

Join us this winter if you can. We have regular outdoor and online afterschool (winter cycle goes through Friday, February 12th) and we have camps on the days that school is not in session. And keep us in mind for spring activities as well. We will begin registration for spring cycle by the end of January. We’re hoping that we’ll be able to offer some of our spring classes back in the school buildings.

But whether it’s with our crew or on your own or with friends…make sure that you’re getting outside and enjoying the fresh air. We want you to be happy and healthy too!!!

Travel During the Pandemic

The Arts and Athletics staff are minimizing travel during this holiday season, and those who are traveling are taking precautions of getting tested and quarantining before leaving and upon their return.

The New York Health Department continues to update its guidance on travel and staying safe during the winter months. See their winter plan here.

The team at Arts and Athletics has worked hard over the last ten months to learn all we could about operating safely during this unprecedented public health crisis. Like everyone, we wish we could have a quicker return to normalcy, but we’re also learning about patience and we remain committed to providing support for families and cool experiences for children…always prioritizing their safety and wellbeing.

Happy Holidays everyone. Please be safe!

Balto–Hero for Our Times

Last week, our winter adventurers took a walk down to 67th Street on the east side of Central Park to visit the sculpture of Balto the celebrated sled dog. In addition to this bronze rendering, there are also animated movies about him.

Balto’s back story (also told in a popular animated feature named for him) is that there was an outbreak of a disease called diphtheria in Nome, Alaska in 1925, and the people of that city were running out of medicine.

Teams of sled dogs came to the rescue, running across the tundra for nearly 700 miles in the harshest conditions to bring residents of Nome the supplies they needed. Way to go, Balto!

Read what the Central Park folks have to say about Balto here.

New York State Guidance for In-Person Instruction

On Monday, July 13th, the New York State Department of Health issued a report: “Interim Guidance for In-Person Instruction at Pre-K to Grade 12 Schools.” I would encourage all of our parents and instructors to read the document and share your reflections about it. Afterschool staff at Arts and Athletics are studying and discussing all available information as we prepare for re-opening of schools in the coming weeks.

In simpler times, we (parents and providers alike) might have thought of Arts and Athletics as simply the local musical theater program, homework help provider, or physical activity coordinator, depending on the child’s specific interests. What’s been true all along, however, is that the role of Arts and Athletics is to work with parents and educators to determine the needs of the community and work cooperatively to address those needs. In the coming days we will open registration for fall cycle, offering programs that are informed by documents like the New York State Interim Guidance and ongoing consultation with our school leaders.

The model we are exploring for afterschool for the fall cycle is for self-contained groups of 15 or fewer students with two teachers who would stay together as a unit throughout the afternoon. The objective is to minimize the potential for infection by keeping the same group of children together from school dismissal until pickup at 6 p.m. and throughout the week (Monday through Friday) where possible. In this configuration all children would have some art, some physical activity, and some academic support during their afterschool hours.

Our staff will continue to take part in trainings provided by the New York State Department of Health and we will put together action plans that begin to adapt the Arts and Athletics programs to the needs of our school community.

In the meantime, stay healthy and stay in touch!

Message from the Director

Educational Continuity–Neil Fitzgerald

The disruption of our daily routines caused by the current public health crisis has prompted me to reflect on the role of schools and afterschool and their purpose in our culture. To what degree does closing of the physical school building interrupt the educational process and how might that disruption help us focus on what is essential about that process? What can we do to promote educational continuity so that children learn that their growth and develop are not dependent on a physical place or standard curriculum? As we navigate this uncertain terrain, I’m confident that the afterschool program can help answer these questions.

In the daily conversations among the Arts and Athletics team, we are looking at our various offerings and examining which ones to offer online first. Which of our classes can translate best to an online environment? Which classes will help counteract that cabin-fever that so many of us are struggling with by now? We’ve already hosted a number of online classes and we’ve posted videos for musical theater and martial arts that we will help will help to address this need. Please let us know what you and your children would like to see more of and we will be sure to respond to those requests in the coming weeks.

Educational theorists and reformers from the early 1900s identified a connection between education and the processes used to create other products. They referred to a “factory model” of schools that were designed to fashion an informed citizenry and competent workforce as efficiently as possible. Of course children are not products like shoes or frying pans and so the factory analogy eventually gives way to a recognition that education should promote motivated, self-determining individuals.

Much of my philosophy of education and my vision for the Arts and Athletics program is informed by my own experience in 5th and 6th grades at a little alternative school in Berkeley, California where I grew up. The Walden Center & School emphasized experiential learning, forgoing classrooms, textbooks, or bell schedules in favor of individual explorations and problem-solving. To that end, the underlying structure comprised three cycles of about twelve weeks each, during which we planned camping trips to the far reaches of the state–the deserts in the south, mountains to the east, and beaches north and west.

In each of the three cycles, we researched and reported to our classmates on the flora and fauna of each region, budgeted for gas, food, and lodging, and then packed up the school vans and roughed it in tents and sleeping bags for a week or two. Our teachers–David and Christine, Tom and Aviva–presented lessons about science and nature, history and literature, music and art, all from the starting point that these things would help prepare us for the coming adventure.

My subsequent educational experiences were at institutions that employed a greater degree of external structure–including class schedules, rubrics, and exams–but I never lost the sense that my motivation to do and learn and prepare was at the heart of the undertaking.

There is a lot of uncertainty and concern resulting from the disruption of our children’s regular school routine. But I hope that they will come away with a sense of their own agency and independence as learners. They will experience using their time well because they have to. And they will experience using their time well because they really genuinely want to. That’s a very powerful thing.