Coronavirus Updates

The information below is current as of August 18, 2020

Norwood's leadership team and school nurse continue to monitor developments related to the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19). The health and safety of our school community is our highest priority as we coordinate our planning and response. This page is dedicated to Norwood School communications and resources related to this ever-evolving situation.

Click here for additional information pertaining to Norwood's Distance Learning Program.

Current Status

Norwood will open for the 2020-2021 academic year on Tuesday, September 8. Students in pre-kindergarten and kindergarten will attend school on campus (with the option to learn from home); students in grades 1-8 will attend school remotely in September. Click here to see Norwood's Reopening Plan for Fall 2020.

Please check the School's calendar for the latest information on school events and programs.


List of 16 items.

  • August 12, 2020: Message from Matthew: Reopening Plan

    Wednesday, August 12, 2020
    Dear Norwood Community,
    Earlier this week, the Norwood School Leadership Team and Board of Trustees each met to confirm plans for the start of the 2020-2021 school year. As you know, we have worked thoughtfully and carefully throughout the summer to construct a reopening plan that would allow all students, faculty, and staff to return to campus as safely as possible, beginning on the first day of school. However, as we have evaluated the continued spread of COVID-19 in the DC Metro area over the summer, along with evolving (and sometimes conflicting) guidance from public health officials on both a local and national level, we will begin the school year with a phased reopening.
    The new school year will begin as scheduled on Tuesday, September 8. We will start small and gradually expand on-campus attendance in a considered and cautious way. Students in pre-kindergarten and kindergarten will attend school on campus for half days (with the option to learn from home), while students in grades 1-8 will attend school remotely in September. I am tremendously disappointed that we are unable to bring all grades to campus on the first day of school, but I truly believe that a cautious and carefully phased reopening is the approach for Norwood to take to the ever-evolving public health environment. Our goal is to bring students at all grade levels back to campus in a safe and expeditious manner, and I am hopeful that we can begin the process of bringing back additional grades, both in the Lower School and Middle School, in early October.
    As a child-centered school that prioritizes what is best for students in all decision-making, we have worked hard to strike a balance between protecting the health and safety of our community members (and that of the broader community) and getting our children back to school. While a phased reopening is not what we had hoped for, we are confident that, combined with a robust and creative distance learning program, it is the right and best decision for the Norwood community.
    The decision to begin with our youngest learners is based on a few considerations. First, our pre-K and kindergarten classes are completely isolated and “podded,” meaning that, except for restroom visits, there is no movement in or out of the classrooms by other teachers or students. In addition, these classrooms have dedicated entrances and exits, further mitigating the risk of transmission, and much of their curriculum incorporates outdoor “discovery and exploration.” Second, even in a normal year, specials classes are not part of the pre-K and K schedules during the first few weeks of school, thereby eliminating the challenges associated with bringing specials teachers into the classroom or running all specials remotely. And finally, as we experienced last spring, distance learning poses significant challenges for our youngest students for whom play-based learning and social interaction are critical to growth and development.
    We strongly believe it is important for students in all grades at Norwood to begin the school year with some face-to-face time. To that end, we are currently working on a plan and schedule that will bring homeroom and advisory groups to campus for carefully monitored, outdoor, socially distanced orientations to meet their teachers and begin the community-building process that is core to the Norwood School experience. Information about these small, on-campus gatherings and supplies/technology pick-up will be included with your back-to-school materials coming next week. For students at all grade levels who will be attending school remotely, we will also be exploring the possibility of additional periodic in-person outdoor activities, organized by homeroom and advisory groups.
    The news of a phased reopening will undoubtedly be met with a mix of emotions. Please know, however, that Norwood’s faculty and staff remain 110% committed to delivering a high-quality distance learning program in all grades and all subjects. In fact, this summer’s professional development program has focused entirely on creative and innovative strategies to enrich the remote teaching and learning experience. In addition, we are incorporating best practices and lessons learned from the highly successful academic Kickstarter program run by Summer at Norwood. Structure and flexibility will remain the overarching characteristics as our teachers incorporate significantly more synchronous learning, real-time feedback, streamlined technology, a greater variety of teaching methods to further differentiate instruction, as well as ample opportunities for community-building and connecting with peers, older and younger buddies, and teachers.
    During the weeks ahead, we will continue to closely monitor local, state, and federal guidelines; recommendations and guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), guidance from the American Academy of Pediatrics, positivity rates in our region, test availability and return rates; and the initial success with implementing our phased reopening plan, which includes:
    • Adherence to our forthcoming “The Norwood Commitment” document by all members of our community, committing all of us to observe and abide by important specified health practices
    • Required Daily Health Assessment
    • Required face masks for all students and employees
    • Small cohorts of 8-12 students with 1 teacher
    • Modified classroom layouts with seating/desks at least 6 feet apart
    • Modified schedule to minimize movement
    • New and upgraded technology
    • Individual school supplies for each student (no sharing of supplies)
    • Enhanced cleaning and sanitizing protocols
    • Physical barriers, such as sneeze guards and partitions, where needed
    • PPE supply, including medical-grade PPE for Health Office
    • Relocated Health Office with Isolation Room
    • Extensive use of outdoor spaces for learning, lunch, and recreation
    • Contactless games and activities for recess and P.E.
    • Response and communication plan for positive cases or close contact
    The complete plan will be posted to the Back-to-School Resource Board available in HawksNest next week. We ask that you read it carefully, along with “The Norwood Commitment” document, so your family is informed and prepared when your child returns to campus. A successful return to on-campus learning will require that everyone adhere to new policies and procedures designed to keep our community as safe as possible.
    In addition, it is critical that families abide by appropriate safeguards for COVID-19 protection when they are away from campus: follow social distancing measures as defined by the CDC and wear a mask in public settings; do not attend large gatherings or participate in team sports or recreational activities that do not abide by appropriate safeguards for COVID-19 protection; do not travel by any mode of transportation to areas with large COVID-19 outbreaks; and make all efforts to avoid air travel. If air travel is necessary, wear a face mask and follow all appropriate quarantine and social distancing recommendations from the relevant local, state, and federal government agencies. I am confident that if we all work together and follow these measures, and the positivity rates in our area continue their downward trend, we can begin the process of bringing all students back to campus in October.
    Later this week, you will receive a letter from your division head, Michele Claeys and/or Mike Risen, with additional information about the start of school. During the week of August 24, we will hold our final town halls before the start of school: Monday, August 24, for grades PK-K; Tuesday, August 25, for grades 1-4; and Wednesday, August 26, for grades 5-8. All sessions will take place 5:00-6:00 p.m. via Zoom. I will also send you a short (I promise!) note next week with Zoom links and to let you know when back-to-school materials, including homeroom and advisory lists, will be available in HawksNest.
    As always, please contact me, Michele, or Mike if you have any questions. An open and ongoing dialogue between school and parents is essential to ensuring a safe reopening for all grades and a successful learning experience for all students.
    We don’t know for certain what this year will bring, but I can assure you that we are ready to respond and adapt to create a learning environment that captures the special qualities of Norwood School, where each and every child is known, loved, and celebrated. We are excited about the new school year and can’t wait to get started!
    Yours sincerely,
    Matthew A. Gould, Ph.D.
    Head of School
  • August 3, 2020: Message from Matthew: County Directive & Order

    Monday, August 3, 2020
    Dear Norwood Community,
    On Friday afternoon, July 31, Montgomery County Department of Health and Human Services issued a directive and order that nonpublic schools in the County are prohibited from physically opening for in-person instruction through October 1, 2020. This decision comes as cases of COVID-19 in the state and region have been increasing in recent weeks. County Health Officer Dr. Travis Gayles will reevaluate the order before October 1 to determine if it should be extended, terminated, or amended in any way. The order went into effect at 6:00 a.m. today.
    This announcement comes, of course, with a host of mixed feelings. Throughout the planning process, the health and safety of our families, faculty, and staff have remained our top priority. As you know, our goal has been to prepare for the reopening of our campus so that we can deliver in-person instruction with all the necessary safeguards in place, while at the same time offer a high-quality distance learning program for those students who, for a variety of reasons, were unable to join us on campus.
    And so, it is with the health and safety of our school community in mind—and that of the broader community—that we receive the County’s order. The news is disappointing to all of us who were preparing for and anticipating a safe return to 8821 River Road for the start of the school year: the five task forces that have dedicated innumerable hours to building the infrastructure and procedures necessary for an on-time, COVID-19-ready reopening; our parents who have been counting on an in-person return to school, and, most important, our students and teachers who are excited and ready to be together on our campus.
    The good news is that our extensive work this summer preparing for two different learning scenarios—a blended model combining both in-person and remote instruction and a full distance learning program—puts us in an excellent position to open Norwood’s virtual doors on September 8 with a high-quality distance learning program with important enhancements, including: significantly more synchronous learning, real-time feedback, streamlined technology, a greater variety of teaching methods to further differentiate instruction, as well as opportunities for community-building and connecting with peers, buddies, and teachers. It is not the scenario we had hoped for, but it is one we are confident will result in an engaging and successful learning experience for our students.
    Even though we have a clear mandate from the County, we are working through the Association of Independent Schools of Greater Washington (AISGW) to explore possible options. Later today, members of the AISGW leadership team will be speaking with Barbara Andrews, administrator of early childhood services at the Montgomery County Department of Health and Human Services, on how the directive applies to schools that offer nursery and pre-kindergarten programs (since child care centers can remain open). In addition, AISGW has reached out to the offices of Councilmembers Gabe Albornoz, Craig Rice, and Andrew Friedson, seeking a meeting with them and Dr. Gayles to gain further clarity on how and when we can re-open, metrics and data on which the County is relying in making these decisions, as well as clarity regarding the potential for small in-person group gatherings on campus that would enable our students to interact with their teachers and classmates as the school year begins, while adhering to the order’s prohibition against in-person instruction and observing all applicable health and safety protocols. I will keep you informed of the results of these conversations.
    We remain optimistic that public health conditions will improve and that we will be able to transition to a blended version of instruction very soon. All of us at Norwood can’t wait to open our physical doors and welcome our students back to school. In the meantime, you can expect to hear from me during the week of August 10 with more information about the start of the new school year.
    Thank you for your continued patience, flexibility, encouragement, and understanding as we move through these challenging and ever-evolving times together.
    With gratitude,
    Matthew A. Gould, Ph.D.
    Head of School
  • July 24, 2020: Message from Matthew: Reopening Update

    Friday, July 24, 2020
    Dear Norwood Community,
    Thanks once again for attending the town halls, for listening to my rather lengthy update on our health and safety protocols, observing the HawkEye camera in action (many thanks to Michele, Mike, and the technology team for that special preview!), and for asking such thoughtful and helpful questions. 
    As I said in the town halls, we are preparing for the reopening of our campus in late August. Throughout the summer, we have been tracking and responding to evolving CDC and state guidelines, positivity metrics in our region, and emerging science on COVID-19. We have sought guidance on best practices from experts in the fields of education, public health, medicine, as well as cleaning and sanitation. This information has shaped and continues to shape our thinking as we get closer to confirming our reopening plan.
    We have also sought important feedback from our school community, and I am asking again for your assistance. Please take a few minutes to complete this short form (one form per student) no later than Monday, August 3, to indicate the likelihood that your child will learn from home, and for families whose children will likely attend school in-person, we would like to know the likelihood that you will use Extended Day and/or After Care, and bus transportation. I want to stress that you are not committing to anything right now; your responses will be used to further inform planning for the school year.
    The decision to return to school on campus or from home is deeply personal and unique to each family’s situation, but I want to assure you that we are working carefully to create the safest environment possible here on campus and, at the same time, to offer an upgraded distance learning program that provides significantly more synchronous learning, real-time feedback, streamlined technology, differentiation, and a variety of instructional methods. Whether your child is learning on campus or from home, or a combination of both, they will have access to as much of the full Norwood School experience as possible, including ample opportunities for community-building and connecting with peers, younger and older buddies, and teachers.
    If you are on the fence about whether your child will attend school on our campus or from home, I am offering the following questions that may help with decision-making:
    • Is your child excited about returning to Norwood’s campus and reuniting with friends and teachers, or is your child worried and anxious?
    • Is anyone in your house at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19?
    • Is your child comfortable wearing a mask during the school day, and are you comfortable asking your child to wear a mask at school?
    • Does your child understand the importance of social distancing?
    • Is your family comfortable with the increased rules and policies around school safety?
    • Does your family observe appropriate safety measures when outside the home: wearing a mask, observing social distancing, avoiding large gatherings, and refraining from travel?
    Certainly, there are other considerations based on your family’s situation, but I hope these questions offer some guidance as you make the best decision for your family. No matter what you decide, we are here to support you and your child. Norwood’s deepest educational values and commitment to truly knowing our students are firmly in place, regardless of whether your child is sitting in one of our classrooms or learning from home.
    I will be back in touch around August 10 with a confirmed decision about reopening and a copy of our plan, which will include details on health and safety protocols, the academic schedule, communication, and school policies pertaining to processes like carpool, lunch, recess, attendance, etc. Until then, please feel free to reach out to me, Michele, or Mike with any questions or concerns. Your feedback continues to be invaluable and greatly appreciated.
    With my best wishes,
    Matthew A. Gould, Ph.D.
    Head of School
  • July 10, 2020: Message from Matthew: Reopening Update

    Friday, July 10, 2020
    Dear Norwood Community,
    I hope you are enjoying this unusual summer and finding ways to relax, restore, and have fun. It was wonderful seeing so many of you during the virtual town hall sessions held earlier this week. Michele, Mike, and I welcomed the opportunity to share a planning update on the reopening of school, to hear from you, and to answer your questions the best we can at this stage. If you have additional questions, please feel free to contact us directly.
    Currently, the ever-changing nature of the pandemic and evolving local and state guidelines make it impossible to provide a conclusive and definitive plan for the start of school in September. However, our task forces have been hard at work putting plans and schedules into place that encompass the myriad of details that preserve the Norwood experience while supporting and protecting community health. Our number one goal is to open school with all students, faculty, and staff on campus five days a week. We are extremely fortunate that our spacious campus and longtime commitment to small class sizes allow us to be one of the few schools in the area to be able to offer, subject to state mandates, a five-day a week, on-campus schedule.
    Even so, teaching and learning will look and feel different this year, whether we are physically distanced on campus, in distance-learning mode at home, engaged in a blended version with some students on campus and others at home, or toggling between the two scenarios. A detailed plan will be provided during the week of August 10 when, after assessing feedback and the most recent mandates and recommendations from public health officials, we hope to be able to confirm our decision to reopen. For now, I am sharing the following modifications and procedures, most of which were shared during the town halls, to give you a sense of how school will most likely operate in the fall.
    • On-campus learning will take place in small cohorts (homerooms in Lower School; advisories in Middle School) of 10-12 students with one teacher. Each cohort will have its own dedicated classroom where each student will have a workspace at least six feet apart from other students. Specials teachers and some subject-area teachers will rotate into the classrooms.

    • Real-time virtual learning will be available for students who are unable to be on campus. Classrooms will be equipped with new “HawkEye” cameras that will allow students to join in-school classes from home via live 360° video conferencing following the usual schedule. Classes will not be recorded.

    • Students, faculty, and staff will be the only people permitted to enter school buildings, except in the case of emergency.

    • In keeping with recommendations from local and state public health officials, students will be required to wear family-provided masks, with time given for “mask breaks.” We recognize that this may prove challenging for our youngest students, and we will work carefully and creatively to make mask-wearing comfortable for all students. We recommend that you try different types of masks this summer to find one that works for your child. Faculty and staff, too, will be required to wear face masks, and some may wear faces shields when the use of a mask may impede the learning process.

    • At this time, we are not planning to conduct temperature checks at school. Instead, families and employees will be required to conduct an at-home Daily Health Assessment, which will include a temperature check and screening of symptoms. Anyone with a temperature above 100.4 and/or presenting with certain symptoms will be not permitted to come to school. A doctor’s note will be required in order to return to school if a child has symptoms of COVID-19.

    • The School will follow CDC guidelines should someone in the community test positive for the virus or has had close contact with a person who has tested positive for the virus. In accordance with state and local laws and regulations, the School will notify local health officials, employees, and families immediately of any case of COVID-19 in our school community while maintaining confidentiality in accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

    • The day will begin and end at the usual time: arrival between 7:45-8:00 a.m. for all students; dismissal at 2:35 p.m. for grades PK-2 and at 3:35 p.m. for grades 3-8. It is unlikely that we will be able to offer Early Birds, and we are working hard to be able to provide After Care as safely as possible. The Enrichment Program will not be available.

    • Numerous doors will be used for arrival and departure. For example, pre-kindergarten will have a dedicated door directly into and out of its classroom suite; kindergarten cohorts will reside in the Murray Arts Building and will be the only grade to use the Murray entrances. Plenty of adults will be on hand in the morning, both outdoors and indoors, to guide students to the correct entrance point and minimize traffic in common spaces.

    • Lower school students will bring lunch from home, like always, and eat with their cohort in their classroom or outside. We are working with our lunch service provider, Ridgewells, to determine whether we will be able to offer a boxed lunch for middle school students. It is possible that middle school students may have to bring lunch from home. Either way, the middle school cafeteria will not be used, and students in grades 5-8 will eat with their cohort in the classroom or outside.

    • When appropriate and available, designated outdoor spaces will be utilized for learning, lunch, and recreational purposes as often as possible. Classroom and office windows will be kept open as weather permits.

    • Water fountains will be closed, but students may bring their own water bottles from home and use the School’s contactless water-bottle filling stations.

    • Each student will have their own backpack or tote where they keep their supplies, including personal art supplies, provided by Norwood, that they can use in every class. Lockers will not be used in the Middle School.

    • For other equipment, like robotics kits and microscopes, for example, each student will have their own item for their exclusive, individual use for a period of time, like a whole unit or a full week; after sanitizing, the item can be used by another student for another chunk of time.

    • In addition to an orientation program for new students, we are working on a short orientation session for all students to acclimate them to the many new procedures and protocols. It is possible that we may bring pre-K and kindergarten students back a week early to give them the opportunity to experience the newness of school in a quiet setting.

    • Each learning scenario—On-Campus, Blended, Toggle, and Distance—will follow the same academic schedule, enabling a smooth pivot from one mode to another should health and safety concerns change. A major focus of each scenario is community and connection: building strong teacher-student relationships, cultivating peer friendships, and making sure every child feels known, loved, and respected.
    In addition to the modifications and enhancements listed above, increased cleaning and hygiene practices are in place. The School will conduct frequent, scheduled disinfection of high-touch surfaces throughout the day—including restrooms, classrooms, offices, the elevator, door handles, stair rails, light switches, desks, tables, and chairs—as well as nightly deep cleanings in compliance with CDC standards for cleaning and disinfection. Additionally, touchless sinks, automatic flush valves, and step-and-pull door openers have been installed in restrooms around the School. Frequent and thorough handwashing will continue to be a top priority.
    There are, of course, some things we simply do not know at this date. We do not know, for example, if we will be able to offer After Care or bus transportation. We do not know if we will be able to offer lunch service for our middle school students and employees. We do not know if and when we will be able to resume interscholastic athletics or in-person chapel. While these decisions are informed in large part by state mandates, we do count on your feedback for guidance. Please participate in the next parent survey (see below) to provide important feedback as planning continues to move forward.
    I want to emphasize that while there isn’t one “magic bullet” that will protect us from virus transmission, we can layer several risk-mitigation practices (masks, physical distancing, temperature screening, hand hygiene, and sanitizing) to reduce risk and build a strong defense. There may be times when we can reduce or remove some of our defensive layers; there will be other times when all layers must be in place, but whatever the situation, it is imperative that we work together to achieve a common goal: maintaining a safe and healthy community for all students, faculty, and staff.
    Distance Learning
    While we are very much focused on the reopening of our campus in the fall, we are not neglecting the lessons learned while engaged in distance learning during the spring. Should distance learning be needed at any point, it will follow a similar schedule to our planned on-campus schedule, providing a consistency of experience whether a student is in the physical classroom or learning from home. To prepare for the new school year, iPads have been purchased for every student in grades K-2; Microsoft Surface laptops will be provided for each student in grades 3-4. Each student in grade 5 will be assigned a Surface Go, and each student in grades 6-8 will receive a Surface Pro. Microsoft accounts will be established for every student in grades K-8 to enhance access, connection, and sharing. In addition, during the summer, faculty members are engaged in professional development work that focuses on best practices around tech resources (Zoom, OneNote, and other key resources) and a variety of virtual teaching methods. They are also working on best practices that support social-emotional development while in distance learning mode, which includes maximizing teacher and peer relationships, minimizing parent involvement, and providing more real-time feedback.
    Parent Survey #3
    Feedback from our parent community has been invaluable since we moved to distance learning in late March. We are tremendously grateful for the time you took to complete two surveys, one in April and another in June. Now, I am asking for your support again. Please take a few minutes to complete this survey to help inform important decisions about offerings like After Care, bus transportation, and lunch service. Thank you for submitting your feedback by Friday, July 17.
    Summer Professional Development
    The unexpected and quick move to distance learning in the spring was indeed challenging, but it also allowed our faculty to deepen their craft and to explore new modes of instruction. They are eager to reconnect, face-to-face, and are hard at work preparing for our four learning scenarios for the fall. Teachers are examining best practices for delivering instruction remotely, designing and creating positive and engaging learning communities using effective technologies. All the while, they are continuing to engage in ongoing professional development in anti-racism, attending to students’ social-emotional needs, and differentiation.
    Staffing Update
    In my June 5 letter, I reported that Mimi Mulligan, our longtime director of admission and enrollment management, is returning to the classroom as a sixth grade homeroom advisor and math teacher. Since that announcement, we have hired Alex Ragone to be our new director of admission and enrollment management. An experienced independent school administrator, Alex joins us from Williamsburg Northside School (age 2 – grade 8) in Brooklyn, NY, where he served as director of enrollment and marketing. Previously, he was the founding head of school of AltSchool (grades K-8) in New York City, the director of middle and upper school at City and Country School in New York, and director of technology and eighth grade dean at Collegiate School, also in New York. Alex started with us remotely on July 1.
    We are thrilled to add two new teachers to our talented faculty: Diana Hashem will join Cathy Caruso in pre-kindergarten, and Stephanie Orji will join Cathy McCoy, Lara Salyer, and Esther Stanton in second grade. Click here to get acquainted with Diana, Stephanie, Alex, and our other new employees, who were previously announced.
    In other staffing news, Jennifer Hemann, our assistant director of admission for the past nine years, has been appointed our new human resources manager. Jennifer’s exceptional interpersonal and organizational skills will be a real asset to our human resources function. In addition, as a former business owner, she has experience with employee relations, payroll, benefits, and training. Jennifer started in her new position on July 1.
    Upcoming Town Halls
    The next round of town halls will take place on July 21 (Lower School), July 22 (Middle School), and July 23 (faculty and staff). Michele, Mike, and I look forward to seeing you again on Zoom for another update on our reopening status. Please feel free to contact us in advance with any questions you may have that we can address in the sessions. Zoom links are provided at the end of this letter.
    While planning is ongoing throughout the summer, I can say with confidence that we will be fully prepared to deliver a program that allows for deep, engaging, and joyful learning; connection and community; flexibility and adaptability; and a campus environment that addresses the health and safety concerns of all students, faculty, and staff. Again, and I can’t say this enough, thank you for your support, patience, and goodwill as we face these unprecedented challenges and decisions. All of us at Norwood look forward to a healthy, happy, and successful school year!
    Yours sincerely,
    Matthew A. Gould, Ph.D.
    Head of School
  • June 5, 2020: Message from Matthew: Celebrating the Class of 2020

    Friday, June 5, 2020
    Dear Norwood Parents,
    The 2019-2020 school year, a milestone one for the history books, has come to a close. This week, the Class of 2020 graduated via a celebratory car parade on campus, returning students gathered on Zoom for their moving-up meetings and year-end celebrations, and our teachers are busy packing up their classrooms without the usual camaraderie and hugs that mark the end of a school year. Instead of opening our doors to hundreds of happy campers and Horizons students this month, summer at Norwood will be one of intense planning and preparation for the opening of school in September.
    Before I get into the nuts and bolts of the work ahead, I want to share an incredibly heartwarming moment that, on Tuesday evening, lifted the spirits of so many at Norwood. Beginning at 5:00 p.m., one by one, more than 60 cars entered the campus at the main River Road entrance, horns beeping, windows decorated with special messages, and streamers and balloons marking the occasion. As the parade of cars slowly made its way along campus roads, teachers and staff members—wearing masks and holding handmade signs of congratulations—enthusiastically called out the names of our graduating eighth graders. At the end of the line, students received their diplomas and words of congratulations from me and Michele Claeys. Our Parade of Graduates was truly a special moment, during a difficult week and a challenging time, and I encourage you to watch this Video Tribute to the Class of 2020. I am so proud of our graduates—of their positive and resilient spirit and for the many other wonderful characteristics and talents they will bring to the nearly 30 high schools they will attend in the fall.
    We now turn to the topic of planning for the upcoming school year. Thank you to the many parents who attended the town hall sessions last week. It was wonderful to see your faces, and I greatly appreciated the opportunity to talk about our planning process for the 2020-2021 school year and to hear from you. While we don’t have all the answers, I am confident that we have the people and planning groups in place to ensure a safe re-entry for our students, faculty, and staff in September. As I shared during last week’s meetings, five task forces are working independently and together to create the safest way possible to deliver the Norwood School program as we continue to follow mandates and recommendations issued by the CDC and public health officials. The task forces are carefully and thoughtfully developing plans and precautionary measures that are flexible, equitable, and adaptable to various scenarios—all guided by the health, safety, and welfare of each member of our school community. Please review our Re-Entry Planning for 2020-2021 document for more information about this important work.
    A significant portion of our planning work is determined by feedback from you. I ask that take a few minutes to complete this end-of-year survey. Your responses will help to direct and further develop our Distance Learning Program should we need to return to distance learning for any portion of the 2020-2021 school year. Your feedback on questions about various on-campus learning scenarios will help to assess your comfort level as we build processes and protocols for our re-opening in September. Thank you in advance for your time and valuable input. The survey will close at midnight on Thursday, June 11.
    Our goal is to announce re-opening plans by August 10. Between now and then, you can expect to hear from me with updates on our progress during the weeks of July 7 and July 21 (Zoom links are provided below for these summer "Office Hours with Matthew" sessions). A third set of sessions, one for each division, will be offered in early August (dates and links to be provided in July). Throughout the summer, please feel free to contact me at any time with questions and feedback. It is always great to hear from you.
    With my heartfelt appreciation for your partnership and my very best wishes for a healthy and happy summer,
    Yours sincerely,
    Matthew A. Gould, Ph.D.
    Head of School
  • May 19, 2020: Message from Matthew Gould re: Year-End Events & Announcements

    Tuesday, May 19, 2020
    Dear Norwood Parents,
    This week marks the last week of classes for our graduating eighth graders and the second to last week of school for grades PK-7. While it is impossible to replicate the wonderful spirit of this always exciting time on campus, we very much hope your children know how proud we are of them—of their growth and their many accomplishments throughout the school year, especially this year. We look forward to celebrating with virtual class parties on June 1, Virtual Class Week beginning on May 26, and the graduation parade for the Class of 2020 on June 2.
    As we wind down the 2019-2020 school year, we are in full gear preparing for the fall. To support families with this transition, we are "holding" rising meetings for parents on May 20 and moving-up meetings for students on June 1. During the week of May 25, I am also going to be holding for parents three "Office Hours with Matthew" via Zoom at which I will be joined by our division heads and Board representatives Jenn Lustbader (Chair) and Josh Spencer (Vice Chair). Below you will find additional information about rising meetings, faculty/staff departures, hiring for 2020-2021, and the upcoming Office Hours.
    Rising Meeting Videos
    Rising meetings are one of the ways we support families as they prepare for the upcoming school year. Since we are unable to be together for what are normally in-person meetings on campus, we have prepared a series of grade-level rising meeting videos, featuring an overview from homeroom teachers or advisors, along with highlights from a number of subject area specialists. On Wednesday, May 20, parents in grades PK-7 will receive a rising meeting letter, which will include an introduction to your child's teaching team for next year, as well as links to the rising meeting videos for that grade. If after watching the videos you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to me, Michele Claeys, or Mike Risen. 
    Blue/White Chapel & Departing Employees
    On Friday, May 22, we will hold our annual Blue/White Chapel, virtually of course, to recognize and thank faculty and staff members who will not be returning to Norwood in the fall. In addition to the "fabulous five" who are retiring in June—Jane Martens, Lulito Newsome, Lynda Saelens, Jorge Somarriba, and Sue Gail Spring—we will also say goodbye and thank the following teachers and staff members who are beginning new adventures in their lives.
    Karen Anillo, Human Resources Manager, is taking a break from her career to focus on family.
    Gerry Barrs, Summit Director, is moving to Michigan to start a new job as director of Pretty Lake Camp Adventure Centre.
    Adam Cooper, Pre-Kindergarten Teacher, is shifting his career focus to museum education.
    Dana Gaither, Second Grade Homeroom Teacher, is moving to Florida to be closer to family.
    Ken Giles, Suzuki Strings Teacher, is retiring.
    Emily Nichols, Middle School Drama Teacher, is moving to Atlanta for her husband's job and to be closer to family.
    Bianca Rolon, Third Grade Homeroom Teacher, is expecting her first child in September and is taking a break from teaching to focus on motherhood.
    Rachel Siegel, Pre-Kindergarten Teacher, has recently been named the new preschool director at B'nai Israel.
    Jeanne Simons, Second Grade Homeroom Teacher, is moving to Florida and will be teaching at Berkeley Preparatory School in Tampa.
    We are sad to see our friends and colleagues go, but we also share in their excitement for what's ahead in a new location, a new job, a new lifestyle, or a new family situation.
    New Positions & New Hires
    Norwood has always been a place where teachers and staff members are encouraged to take on new challenges and bring their areas of expertise to different positions within the School. The following eight teachers will be moving to new positions in the 2020-2021 school year and are excited to take on these new roles.
    Cathy Caruso will be moving from kindergarten to co-teach pre-kindergarten.
    Sara Gallagher will be our new director of academic support, while continuing her current role as lower school learning specialist.
    Chris Giles will be our new physical education coordinator.
    Cathy McCoy is moving from kindergarten to teach second grade.
    Mimi Mulligan is moving from the Admission Office back in to the classroom as a sixth grade advisory, social studies, and math teacher. Mimi started her career as a classroom teacher. Prior to leading the admission team, she served as a second grade homeroom teacher, a math specialist for grades 1-8, and dean of students in the Middle School, where she also taught pre-algebra and algebra. 
    Tara Reilly, our current reading and language arts teacher for grades 3, 4, and 6, will be a fifth grade advisory, social studies, and reading/language arts teacher. 
    Esther Stanton, current associate teacher in fourth grade, will teach second grade.
    Brittany Young, current fifth grade advisory, social studies, and reading/language arts teacher, will be our new middle school learning specialist.
    New Hires
    We are currently interviewing and evaluating candidates for open positions. As you can imagine, the coronavirus pandemic has created challenges for our typical hiring process, but we are making progress. At this time, I am delighted to welcome the following six new teachers to Norwood: Shauna Carado (P.E. Teacher), Kelly Dickinson (Media Resource Specialist), Alexia Gunn (Horizons at Norwood Site Director); Mia Fisher (Middle School Drama Teacher); Hannah Ingram (Reading/Language Arts Teacher); and Wendy Wilson (Kindergarten Teacher). Click here to learn more about these talented educators. 
    Office Hours with Matthew
    Over the past two months, I have very much appreciated the opportunity to speak on the phone and exchange emails with many of you, as we navigate together these especially challenging times. I also know that, as we think about the future, many of you want to hear more about our planning process, or you may have questions or feedback that you want to share. So next week, on May 26, 27, and 28, I will be holding three "Office Hours with Matthew" for parents via Zoom to talk about the School's planning process for the upcoming school year, hear your feedback, and answer your questions. These sessions will be organized by division: Mike Risen, Head of Lower School, will join me for the first two sessions; Michele Claeys will attend the third session; and trustees Jenn Lustbader and Josh Spencer will be available at all three sessions. I look forward to seeing you on Zoom for what I hope will be three helpful and informative sessions for Norwood's parent community.
    Additional information and Zoom links will be provided by the end of the week.

    Thank you again for all that you are doing to support your children and our school at this time. I remain deeply grateful for your partnership.
    Yours sincerely,
    Matthew A. Gould, Ph.D.
    Head of School
    May 20: Rising Meeting Videos (Current Grades PK-6); Virtual Rising Meeting (Current Grade 7) at 8:00 a.m.
    May 22: Blue/White Chapel (recognition of departing faculty and staff); Last Day of Classes for the Class of 2020
    May 25: Memorial Day (No School; Offices Closed)
    May 26-29: Virtual Class Week for the Class of 2020
    May 29: Closing Chapel; Last Day of Classes for Grades PK-7
    June 1: Moving-Up Day (Grades PK-7); Virtual Class Parties and Farewells (More information to follow!)
    June 2: Graduation Drive-Through Parade for the Class of 2020, 5:00 p.m. (Grade 8 Families Only)
    June 4: Tablet and Materials Drop-Off Day for Grades 5 & 6
    June 5: Tablet and Materials Drop-Off Day for Grades 7 & 8
  • May 6, 2020: Message from Matthew Gould re: Year-End Calendar

    Wednesday, May 6, 2020
    Dear Norwood Parents,
    As we begin the month of May and our sixth week of distance learning, I am writing to share information about the year-end calendar, celebratory events for the Class of 2020, summer activities, and our fall reopening plan. But first, I’d like to again express my immense gratitude for the tremendous support, patience, and flexibility our families have shown since the launch of the Distance Learning Program on March 31. Norwood was founded as a family school nearly seven decades ago, and the School continues to grow and flourish—and push through challenging times—in large part because of the dedication and generosity of our wonderful families.
    Year-End Calendar
    We were optimistic that some of our year-end events, particularly Class Day and Commencement, would take place on campus. At this point, however, it is clear we will have to remain in distance learning through the end of the school year, and it will not be possible to hold our traditional May and June events in person and on campus as originally planned. All of us at Norwood love this time of year when we have the opportunity to celebrate the accomplishments and growth of our students. We are 100% committed to creating ways to end the year with the same spirit of fun and celebration that normally marks the final weeks of school, especially for our graduating eighth graders. Please review the following dates and plan to join us virtually as we close out the 2019-2020 school year, a year none of us will ever forget.
    May 15: NO CLASSES! Founder’s Day Chapel (including recognition of faculty and staff five-year milestones), Norwood Fun Day, and Bingo! Note: Remember to upload your Founder’s Day flower photos here.
    May 20: Rising Meeting Videos (Current Grades PK-6); Virtual Rising Meeting (Current Grade 7) at 8:00 a.m.
    May 22: Blue/White Chapel (recognition of departing faculty and staff); Last Day of Classes for the Class of 2020
    May 25: Memorial Day (No School; Offices Closed)
    May 26-29: Virtual Class Week for the Class of 2020
    May 29: Closing Chapel; Last Day of Classes for Grades PK-7
    June 1: Moving-Up Day (Grades PK-7); Virtual Class Parties and Farewells (More information to follow!)
    June 2: Graduation Drive-Through Parade for the Class of 2020, 5:00 p.m. (Grade 8 Families Only)
    June 4: Tablet and Materials Drop-Off Day for Grades 5 & 6
    June 5: Tablet and Materials Drop-Off Day for Grades 7 & 8
    Celebrating the Class of 2020
    Certainly, the highlights of Norwood’s year-end calendar are the celebratory events for our graduating eighth graders. These rites of passage are an important part of the Norwood School experience, and we very much look forward to the time when it is safe to be together for the traditional commencement ceremony. Until then, we are planning to celebrate and honor the great achievements and contributions of the Class of 2020 in virtual and social-distancing formats. First, we are looking forward to Virtual Class Week, May 26-29, when eighth graders will “take over” daily chapels with special remarks, readings, performances, and more. A week later, our eighth-grade families have been invited to participate in a drive-through graduation parade on campus where they will be greeted (from a safe distance) with great fanfare by teachers and staff members and receive their diplomas. Plans are also underway for a one-day class trip in the future. For now, I am working on my tributes for each member of the class, as I always do at this time of year, and I can’t wait to deliver them in person at Commencement when it is safe to do so!
    Summer Programs
    Last week, a letter was sent to Summer at Norwood families, many of whom are current and incoming Norwood families, informing them of our difficult decision to cancel Session 1 (June 15-19) and Session 2 (June 22-26). We remain hopeful that we will be able to hold Sessions 3-7, scheduled from June 29 through August 14, in person and on campus. Either way, our dedicated Summer at Norwood team is working hard to plan and offer a full variety of virtual summer activities, including academic “brush-up” sessions, in which several families have already indicated interest. Our fantastic Summer at Norwood directors’ team will be back in touch once the plan and schedule are in place.
    A “normal” Norwood summer would also include welcoming Horizons Greater Washington to campus. Now in its tenth year, the Horizons at Norwood program provides a six-week academic, recreational, and cultural enrichment program to approximately 135 economically disadvantaged children, grades 1-8, living in Montgomery County. As always, we are in close contact with the staff at Horizons Greater Washington, and we will work together to make the best possible decision about the opening and timing of this summer’s program.
    Campus Reopening & the 2020-2021 School Year
    I know the big question on everyone’s mind is whether we will be able to reopen our campus and classrooms in September. This complicated question has certainly been front and center in my mind, and in the minds of my Norwood colleagues. While it is impossible to answer with 100% certainty at this time, I can say that we are moving forward with every intention to begin the 2020-2021 school year on campus. As we develop our COVID-19 Reopening Plan, we are carefully studying and evaluating practices and social-distancing strategies to ensure a safe reopening, all in accordance with guidelines and recommendations from the CDC and public health officials. Be assured that we are looking at all possible scenarios and are committed to reopening our campus as soon as possible—and in the best and safest way possible.
    As we look to the 2020-2021 school year, we do so with great appreciation that our school is a recipient of a Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. I’m sure many of you are aware of this loan program that helps businesses and nonprofits, including schools, keep their workforce employed during the COVID-19 crisis. The Board of Trustees carefully evaluated the terms of the loan and made the determination that it is in the best interest of the School to accept the loan in order to maintain payroll and health insurance for our faculty and staff. Already this spring, Norwood has experienced a decrease in revenue from Auxiliary Programs along with an increased need for tuition assistance. The PPP loan will play an important role in the School’s ability to protect and retain our most valuable asset—our faculty and staff—and ensure the continued delivery of an exceptional academic experience for all Norwood families.
    I look forward to sharing these last few weeks of school together—virtually—and to being in touch regularly as we continue to move through this uncertain time together. As always, your questions and feedback are most welcome. Feel free to email or call any time.
    Stay safe and be well.
    Yours sincerely,
    Matthew A. Gould, Ph.D.
    Head of School
  • April 27, 2020: Message from the Board of Trustees

    Monday, April 27, 2020
    Dear Norwood Parents,
    We hope this message finds you and your families safe and well as you navigate the complexities of this difficult time. On behalf of Norwood’s Board of Trustees, we would like to express our profound gratitude and appreciation for the extraordinary efforts of our entire community – faculty, staff, students, and parents – for their hard work, flexibility, and patience as our school has pivoted, in just a few short weeks, to a completely new way of delivering our mission. As Norwood parents ourselves, we are grateful that our children are at a school where teachers truly know them and offer lessons in ways that engage, challenge, and inspire them—even remotely.
    We are writing today to assure you that the Board is working closely with Matthew and his leadership team to make certain that as our campus remains closed, we continue to serve the needs of our school, our students, and our community. The following information pertains to family support, planning for the coming school year, and the impact of COVID-19 on the School’s finances. Please know that we always welcome and appreciate questions and comments on these topics as we continue to move forward through these next few months.
    Supporting Our Families
    While we recognize and celebrate the resilience of our school community, we understand that the global pandemic is impacting our families in a myriad of ways. In particular, we are deeply aware that some Norwood families are facing sudden and significant financial challenges. If your family is facing financial hardship that threatens your ability to keep your child enrolled at Norwood, we encourage you to contact Mimi Mulligan, Director of Admission and Enrollment Management, at As always, the School is committed to working with our families and maintains a confidential process for handling these requests. Norwood School is a community of people who support one another, and we will get through this together.
    Initial Tuition Notices for the 2020-2021 school year will be sent via the FACTS online billing system in early May. To give families additional financial flexibility, we are adjusting the payment schedule by shifting the initial payment due date back one month, with no penalty or late fee. In addition, the School is in the process of issuing pro-rated credits (for returning students) and refunds (for students graduating or not returning) for unused portions of 2019-2020 Extended Day, After Care, and transportation, as well as lunch fees for middle school students. If you have specific questions about your school account, or if you are interested in donating your credit/refund to the Norwood Fund as a tax-deductible gift, please contact Bill Teachum, Business Manager, at
    The Upcoming School Year
    All of us are looking for clarity on what the future holds and when we will finally turn the corner on the virus. While there continues to be uncertainty and the answers to some questions are beyond our control, we are working closely with Matthew and the administration to ensure that we deliver the best program possible for our students during the 2020-2021 academic year. To that end, we are evaluating how, if at all, we might need to modify our campus and learning environment under a range of public health scenarios. At the same time, to the extent any remote learning is required at some point, our approach will evolve from this year to next. Our leadership and technology teams are already engaged in a comprehensive review to ensure that the Distance Learning Program—now and in the future—is robust and best practice and that it captures all the characteristics of a Norwood School education for every grade: connection, collaboration, challenge, support, and joyful learning.
    The School’s Finances
    Norwood is, at its core, financially sound. Nevertheless, disruptions and unanticipated expenses attributable to COVID-19 are creating short-term financial challenges for the School. We have already experienced a reduction in valuable revenue from Auxiliary Programs this spring, and we anticipate there may be additional revenue loss from Summer at Norwood, a greater need for tuition assistance, and increased health costs going forward. Additionally, the value of the School’s endowment has fallen, although our conservative investment strategy has performed relatively well in the downturn, outperforming key market indices. And while the corpus of our endowment has increased significantly as a result of our Comprehensive Campaign, a stronger endowment does not significantly impact the operating funds that are available to the School in the near term. As members of the Board’s Finance and Investment Committees working alongside Matthew to mitigate these short-term challenges, our guiding principle is to minimize any impact on our students and faculty.
    Supporting Our School
    Typically, at this time of year, the Development Office and Class Captains would be reaching out to the Norwood community to ensure that The Norwood Fund finishes strong by either reaching or exceeding its goal. The Norwood Fund, which accounts for 6% of the School’s operating budget, contributes to critical expenses like teacher salaries, financial aid, and important learning resources for all Norwood students. Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, the fund was looking to reach the $750,000 goal by the end of June, but this progress has understandably slowed after recent disruptions and the resulting economic uncertainty. We give our sincerest thanks to all those who have already given to the Fund. While we understand that not every family will be in a position to give this year, if you have not contributed and your family circumstances allow, we ask that you please consider a gift in the weeks ahead. Your contribution is hugely appreciated—more than ever before.
    In Closing…
    One of the byproducts of this unprecedented and trying time is the positive lesson it is teaching us about what we hold dear in our lives. The pandemic reminds us how much we—and our children—treasure our families’ time at Norwood. We can’t wait until we can all be together again on campus. We have no doubt that the School will emerge from this crisis stronger than ever and that our community will come together in new and unexpected ways.
    Our very best wishes to you and your family. Matthew and the Board will continue to communicate with you regularly and, again, we always welcome your questions, concerns, and ideas.
    Jennifer LustbaderSerge Learsy
    Chair, Board of Trustees      Treasurer, Board of Trustees
  • April 13, 2020: Message from Matthew Gould

    Monday, April 13, 2020
    Dear Norwood Parents,
    As we enter our third week of distance learning, I wanted to write to express my most heartfelt gratitude for your patience, support, flexibility, and partnership during this unprecedented disruption in all our lives. Your thoughtful and constructive feedback, words of encouragement, and sheer fortitude have been major contributors to the success of our distance learning program. Throughout this unsettling situation, our school community keeps doing what it does best: rallying around our children to make certain they feel loved and safe, while creating the best learning experience possible.
    I am continually uplifted by the success stories I hear from many of you and our teachers. And we greatly appreciate your suggestions for how to improve Norwood's ever-evolving distance learning program. Teachers continue to make adjustments, expand their resources, and go above and beyond, courageously and creatively, to replicate as much of the Norwood School experience as possible. I am in awe of what they have accomplished in such a short period of time, and of what all of you are doing in your homes. I hope your children are feeling connected to Norwood and to their teachers and classmates; I hope they sense how much we love and care for them. I know there has been a tremendous amount of laughter and playful banter in our virtual classrooms—a wonderful panacea for all!
    Tomorrow, Tuesday, April 14, you will receive a link to a distance learning survey from our division heads, Michele Claeys and Mike Risen. Please take a few minutes to share your feedback so we can continue to improve your child's distance learning experience. Thank you.
    So, when will we be all together again? It’s looking more and more likely that we will remain in distance learning mode through the end of the school year. I wish I had better news to share, but with the peak in coronavirus cases in Montgomery County not expected to occur until late April—and early May for the state of Maryland—we need to prepare for the very real possibility that we will not be able to reopen our campus for the remainder of the 2019-2020 academic year.
    The uncertainty of the coming weeks and months is difficult to fathom, especially for our graduating eighth graders and their families. If we are unable to be together during the final weeks of school, please know that we are working on ways to recreate traditional end-of-year events like Field Days, Class Day, and Commencement. A task force, led by Michele Claeys and consisting of eighth grade advisors and Student Advisory Council representatives, has been formed and is considering every possible option to make sure the Class of 2020 finishes their time at Norwood with great fanfare and celebration—and the recognition they deserve.
    Another group of people deserving of fanfare and recognition are five longtime Norwood teachers who will be retiring at the end of the year: Jane Martens, Lulito Newsome, Lynda Saelens, Jorge Somarriba, and Sue Gail Spring. Yes, it is difficult to imagine Norwood School without these extraordinary educators, but I know you join me in celebrating this exciting milestone in their lives. We would like nothing more than to honor and thank them at a special event on campus—and we will do exactly that as soon as we are able. For now, I want to share a little information on the fabulous five:
    Jane Martens, physical education coordinator and teacher, is retiring after 23 years at Norwood. Our school undoubtedly enjoys its outstanding P.E. program, one that combines fitness, skills development and character education, in large part because of Jane's incredible dedication and expertise. Certainly, one of her legacies is the S.E.L.F. win, a concept now firmly ingrained in the Norwood culture.
    Lulito Newsome, second grade teacher, is retiring after teaching in Norwood's Lower School for nearly 20 years, both as a kindergarten teacher and a second grade teacher. There are so many things we are going to miss, but certainly a stand-out will be her Friday afternoon parade of students singing, "Are you ready for the weekend? Woohoo!" We are not ready for Lulito to go, that's for sure!
    Lynda Saelens, director of academic support and middle school learning specialist, is also retiring. Lynda joined Norwood in 2005, and since then her office has been a happy hub of learning for students who sought her excellent study, note-taking, and organizational strategies. As a member of the Principals Team, Lynda has provided wise counsel in all areas of pedagogy and curriculum.
    Jorge Somarriba, lower school art teacher and artist-in-residence, has been bringing beautiful color to our campus for the past 17 years. His murals and mosaics are everywhere and will remain an incredible legacy to his talent as a teacher and as an artist. Jorge has nurtured a love of art in hundreds of young Norwood students, while instilling a confidence in their ability to create and express. 
    Sue Gail Spring, media resource specialist and eighth grade advisor, is retiring after 18 years of running the middle school library with great dedication and skill. Sue Gail has also been the fearless leader of Model U.N., every year preparing a large group of students for the annual Greater Washington Conference on International Affairs at George Washington University.
    In closing, I want to reiterate that Norwood School is here for you and your family. We recognize that this is a time of great challenge as you carry new burdens and stresses—both emotional and financial. I believe that the Norwood community shines brightest when helping others, whether it be through a service-learning activity, supporting a student or family going through a difficult time, or a faculty or staff member facing a serious illness. We are here for each other, and together we will emerge from this crisis even stronger and more connected than before it began. Please be in touch if there is anything you need.
    Take care of each other, be safe, and stay healthy.
    Yours sincerely,
    Matthew A. Gould, Ph.D.
    Head of School
  • March 26, 2020: Message from Matthew Gould: Distance Learning Launch

    Thursday, March 26, 2020
    Dear Norwood Families,
    Spring break certainly looks a lot different than what we had all imagined, even just a few weeks ago. The COVID-19 pandemic continues to present unprecedented challenges and disruptions in our community, our nation, and our world; at this point, we do not know when we will be able to return to our physical classrooms. Amidst all the uncertainty, however, I have been buoyed by the abundance of kindness, compassion, and can-do spirit in our school community—and I hope you have, too.
    During the past two weeks, Norwood teachers have been working incredibly hard to prepare for the launch of distance learning on Tuesday, March 31. Their goal is the same as always: to deliver on our promise of an exceptional student-centered learning experience where children feel known, loved, challenged, and supported. I have no doubt that this will be the case as we journey through these unchartered waters.
    Later today, you will receive an email from Michele Claeys (Middle School) and/or Mike Risen (Lower School) with information pertaining to remote learning preparation and logistics. And then, on Monday, March 30, you will hear from your child’s teachers with class-specific information.
    While we have no clear idea on how long this crisis will keep us in our homes and out of our classrooms, I do know that Norwood School will always be here for you. Please reach out to me, Michele, Mike, your child’s teachers, or our counselors, Rachelle Bowman and Laura Prosen, if you need anything. We are here for you every step of the way.
    Yours sincerely,
    Matthew A. Gould, Ph.D.
    Head of School
  • March 19, 2020: Video Message from Matthew Gould

    Click here for a video message from Head of School Matthew Gould.
  • March 16, 2020: Campus Closure & Materials Pick-Up Day

    Monday, March 16, 2020
    Dear Norwood Families,
    When I think about what makes Norwood School so special, two things come to mind: community and human connection—the two things we must avoid during this public health crisis. All of us are being called upon to play a role in “flattening the curve,” and in doing so, we must find new ways to maintain a sense of community and keep our connections strong. I have no doubt that our Norwood community will succeed at both. It has been incredible to watch our teachers rally to get distance learning plans in place and to feel the support from families as we work together to ensure a safe school community.
    I am writing today to let you know that, as part of our social distancing responsibility, Norwood will close its campus on Thursday, March 19, at 5:00 p.m. and to lay out what that means for the foreseeable future. Once the campus is closed, no one will be allowed on campus without permission from me, Michele Claeys, Mike Risen, or Bill Teachum.
    Distance learning will begin on Tuesday, March 31
    You can expect to hear from your division head by Friday, March 27, and from teachers with specific information for each class by Monday, March 30. Currently, teachers are gathering resources and materials that will be needed for remote learning. Some will be sent home electronically; others must be picked up here at school. Information on our pick-up day follows.
    Materials pick-up day is on Thursday, March 19
    We have designated Thursday, March 19, 9:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m., as the day for families to pick up any materials and necessary belongings.
    Middle School Pick-Up: Most middle school students already took everything home they need, but if your child does not have their tablet computer at home, they need to pick it up on Thursday, along with anything they need from their locker. If their teachers have additional supplies for them to pick up on Thursday, you can expect an email from Michele Claeys on Wednesday evening. Her message will include the pick-up location for the additional supplies.
    Lower School Pick-Up: Every lower school family will have a distance learning bag to pick up for their child. Bags can be picked up from the Marriott All-Purpose Room on Thursday between 9:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m.
    If your family is unable to pick up items on Thursday, please reach out to Michele or Mike, and we will find a way to get them to you!
    Upcoming School Events
    For now, assume that all upcoming events and activities currently on the calendar during April are either cancelled or on hold. That means spring parent/teacher conferences, rising meetings, and class performances will not happen as they normally do. We are working on ways to hold video conferences and to deliver rising meetings via pre-recorded videos available in HawksNest. We will be in touch with additional information as soon as we have worked out the details.
    Please take good care of yourselves and each other. If anyone needs extra support during this time, do not hesitate to reach out to me or to Norwood Cares. We are all here for each other. Be safe, take all precautions recommended by public health officials, and have a restful spring break. I will be back in touch on or before Friday, March 27, with more information about the start of distance learning.
    Yours sincerely,
    Matthew A. Gould, Ph.D.
    Head of School
  • March 13, 2020: COVID-19 Update

    Friday, March 13, 2020
    Dear Norwood Community,
    We learned today that a parent in our community has tested positive for COVID-19. I want to assure you that this individual has not been on our campus since February 24 (18 days ago). According to the individual, there has been zero contact with any member of the Norwood community since that time, except for their child. The child, who is not symptomatic, has not had contact with the affected parent since they fell ill. Out of respect for the individual’s privacy and confidentiality, we are not releasing a name, and we ask all community members to avoid speculation and rumor as to the individual’s identity.
    As the impact of COVID-19 continues to move through our area and more of our families are affected, I want to urge everyone to take the precautions recommended by the CDC to prevent the spread of COVID-19. We all play an important role in protecting ourselves and others during this challenging time, and I deeply appreciate this family’s transparency and proactive concern for other members of the Norwood community. I am also grateful that this person is not seriously ill and experienced very mild symptoms.
    Thank you for your continued partnership and support. Please reach out if you have any questions, and please take good care of yourself and your family.
    Yours sincerely,
    Matthew A. Gould, Ph.D.
  • March 12, 2020: COVID-19 Update & Extended Spring Break

    Thursday, March 12, 2020
    Dear Norwood Families,
    I hope you all are doing well and managing to stay calm as we experience this time of uncertainty and challenge together.
    County health officials continue to share that they believe there is a low health risk for schools, and, at this time, there are no confirmed cases in our school community; however, as local, national and global public health recommendations shift to include mitigation of transmission, we are proactively taking additional steps that will help protect our community. We have determined that Norwood will close for spring break a week early, beginning at our noon dismissal on Friday. We will continue to offer complimentary Day Hawks for our families needing childcare that afternoon.
    Faculty will use Friday afternoon and next week to refine distance learning protocols. Attached to this email is a copy of the Norwood School Distance Learning Guide. Please familiarize yourself with the protocols and tools for both parents and students. Remote learning is not ideal, but we are confident that we will be able to continue to deliver our high-quality education and fulfill our mission if the exceptional circumstance of an extended school closure is warranted. The success of Norwood’s distance learning program requires a creative and committed faculty, engaged students, and supportive parents. Thank you, in advance, for your partnership.
    Also, please take a minute to read through the following information related to the coronavirus situation:
    Spring Break & Travel
    I want to remind everyone to continue to monitor country-specific Travel Health Notices issued by the CDC and to please contact our school nurse, Jessica Morataya, if your upcoming travel plans (including layovers) include a Level 2 or 3 country. We also ask that families avoid domestic travel plans to areas with significant coronavirus outbreaks. If you do travel to these areas, please let Jessica know, and understand that quarantine requirements are possible based on CDC recommendations. All contacts will be treated confidentially, and any student who is quarantined will receive appropriate instructional support from teachers.
    Health experts continue to emphasize the importance of proper handwashing as the best way to prevent the spread of illness from the coronavirus. Here at Norwood, we are hypervigilant about handwashing, or using hand sanitizer when soap and water are not available. Recently, we produced a handwashing video for our lower school students. The video features tips from Jessica on the proper handwashing technique, along with demonstrations from some of our most enthusiastic handwashers. In addition, Mike Risen spoke to lower school students during chapel earlier this week about the science behind viruses and handwashing. Faculty members in both divisions are serving as “handwashing/hand sanitizer monitors” throughout the day.
    Coronavirus Updates
    All of us are being bombarded with an ongoing stream of news and information about the coronavirus. While we want to keep our school community informed, we also don’t want to add to the deluge of information in your inbox—unless the situation changes and we have something new to communicate. You can stay up to date on coronavirus-related announcements by checking the Coronavirus Updates page on our website.
    What's Next?
    Our plan is to resume instruction on Tuesday, March 31. While we hope this will be in person, it is certainly possible that it will be virtual. I will be back in touch with a coronavirus update on or before Friday, March 27. If we move to distance learning, you will receive specific division-level information from Michele Claeys and Mike Risen, followed by classroom-level information from grade-level and specialist teachers.
    As always, thank you again for your support, patience, and flexibility as we work to maintain a safe and healthy school community during this fast-moving and ever-evolving situation.
    Yours sincerely,
    Matthew A. Gould, Ph.D.
    Head of School
  • March 6, 2020: Confirmed Cases in Montgomery County

    Friday, March 6, 2020
    Dear Norwood Families,
    Last night we learned that the first three cases of coronavirus (COVID-19) have been identified in Montgomery County. The patients are described as a married couple in their 70s and a woman in her 50s. All three contracted the virus while traveling abroad. Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan has declared a state of emergency to speed the delivery of funding and other resources. “While today’s news may seem overwhelming, this is not a reason to panic,” Hogan said. “Marylanders should go to school and work, just as they normally do.” So far, no cases of coronavirus have been diagnosed in Virginia or the District.
    What does this mean for our Norwood community?
    First, as we continue to prepare for the possibility of an extended school closure, we have made the decision to dismiss students at noon on Friday, March 13, and will use the afternoon for faculty and staff training. While our Distance Learning Program has been closely reviewed by the principals and technology teams, our teachers need time for training and planning. There will be no lunch service or afternoon bus transportation that day. We will offer complimentary Day Hawks in the afternoon for any families needing childcare. Please contact Quiana Piggee, director of after care, if you wish to reserve a spot in the Day Hawks program.
    We are grateful for your patience, flexibility, and understanding as we undertake important preparations for teaching students remotely.
    What does this mean for spring break travel?
    We ask that families exercise the following safeguards if they will be traveling before, during, or after spring break:
    • Monitor the country-specific Travel Health Notices posted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention before, during, and after your trip. The situation changes rapidly, both here in the U.S. and internationally, so it is important to frequently check the CDC travel advisories.
    • If your travel plans include one of the countries classified by the CDC as Level 2 (“practice enhanced precautions”) or Level 3 (“avoid all non-essential travel”) country, please contact our school nurse, Jessica Morataya. All contacts will be treated confidentially.
    • Any student who is quarantined will receive appropriate instructional support from teachers.
    What else is Norwood doing to maintain a healthy school environment?
    We continue to exercise precautions here on campus to avoid the spread of germs and avoid illness. These precautions include:
    • Providing alcohol-based hand sanitizer and bleach wipes throughout the School;
    • Remaining hypervigilant about handwashing;
    • Working with our cleaning service to boost its protocol to include more frequent wipe-downs of “touchpoints” (door and faucet handles, handrails, desks and tables) with disinfectant;
    • Conducting a deep-clean of indoor spaces during spring break;
    • Stressing the importance of keeping children at home if they have a fever, sore throat, achiness, and/or cold symptoms. Our faculty and staff, too, have been told to stay home if they have any of these symptoms.
    We will continue to provide updates during this rapidly evolving and highly unpredictable situation. In the meantime, we encourage all Norwood families to remain vigilant through this situation, and please do not hesitate to contact me, division heads Michele Claeys and Mike Risen, or school nurse Jessica Morataya with your questions and concerns.
    Thank you for your continued partnership as we work together to ensure a safe and healthy community here at Norwood School.
    Matthew A. Gould, Ph.D.
    Head of School
  • February 26, 2020: Health Update & COVID-19 Resources

    Wednesday, February 26, 2020
    Dear Norwood Parents,
    We know that many of you are closely watching media reports surrounding the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). We want to assure you that we are closely monitoring the evolving situation. To date, there are no reports of coronavirus in Maryland, Virginia, or Washington, DC, and health officials believe the risk to the general community is low at this time as confirmed cases in the U.S. have been isolated.
    As always, the health and safety of our students, faculty, and staff is our top priority. We continue to be vigilant when it comes to health and hygiene protocols, while upholding our core values of kindness, respect, and sensitivity towards all members of our school community. Experts recommend maintaining everyday preventive actions: frequent handwashing with soap and water for at least 20 seconds (or hand sanitizer when soap and water are not available); avoid touching eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands; avoiding close contact with people who are sick; and staying home when you are sick.
    As stated on page 20 of the Norwood School Handbook, a child should not be in school until he/she:
    • has had no fever (100.4 and over) for at least 24 hours without anti-fever medication;
    • has been on any prescribed medication for at least 24 hours;
    • has not experienced any vomiting or diarrhea for at least 24 hours;
    • has not experienced a productive cough for at least 24 hours.
    The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is an excellent resource for general information on COVID-19, updatessymptoms and diagnosistransmission, and prevention and treatment.
    For now, we will continue to monitor the situation and, as we have done before during cold and flu season, we will take the extra precaution of suspending morning handshakes until after spring break. Additionally, we are looking closely at our Distance Learning Program to ensure that we are fully prepared should the situation escalate.
    Thank you for your support as we work hard to maintain a safe and healthy environment for our students, faculty, and staff. Please feel free to contact me or school nurse Jessica Morataya directly should you have any questions or concerns.
    Yours sincerely,
    Matthew A. Gould, Ph.D.
    Head of School


Norwood implemented its distance learning plan on Tuesday, March 31, 2020. The Distance Learning Guide was sent to all families by Head of School Matthew Gould on March 12, 2020. Please contact Michele Claeys, Head of Middle School, or Mike Risen, Head of Lower School, if you have any questions about Norwood's distance learning program.

List of 25 items.

  • August 14, 2020: LOWER SCHOOL UPDATE FOR GRADES 1-4

    Friday, August 14, 2020
    Dear Lower School Parents (Grades 1-4),
    I hope that this email finds everyone well. While this past summer has been a different experience for all of us, my family and I have found new interests and hobbies that have made our time together meaningful. In some ways, these past few months have flown by and we are know about to start the next year! Regardless of the circumstances, I am always excited to start the school year here at Norwood; it is a tremendously close community that is supportive and nurturing. Through the process of getting the school year underway, those strengths have shone through. 
    I want to follow up on Matthew's letter with some specific information. I share in Matthew's desire to be live and on campus; until we are back together, we will run an outstanding distance learning program for our first- through fourth-grade students. While this email will not cover every detail, I hope it can begin to answer some of your questions about the beginning of the year and distance learning. Over the next few weeks, we will push out additional details, but for now, I wanted to share the following information.
    1. Focus on Be Known—While knowing our students is always the number one priority at Norwood, those relationships are at a premium this fall. Building a community, albeit virtually, is a priority for us and will take on even more importance this fall. Teachers will use strategies to build connections with each student individually and among all students in the homeroom, as well as with each student and the teacher themselves. We understand that students have been separate from their peers and crave those connections; we do, too. Building these connections virtually offers its challenges, but also opportunities. Please know that this will be a focus as we start the year. Before the first day of school, expect a communication from your child's homeroom teacher via phone or online to start to build that connection. Once the year starts, teachers will meet weekly with students 1-on-1 to continue developing that crucial teacher/student relationship. 

    2. Identity and Anti-Racism—We are deeply committed to facilitating discussions of anti-racism in developmentally appropriate ways and have been gathering resources and exploring best practices. We plan to address topics like identity and community, and we will build on this important work as the year progresses. Thanks to the leadership of fourth grade teacher Thenthia Taterway and a group of teachers from across the division, we are preparing chapel content and homeroom-based lessons focused on discussions around identity and race. Throughout the year, we will focus on discussions of identity and who we are as a community. These activities will be connected to school-wide curricular work led by Billy Vargas, Norwood's Director of Diversity, Equity, and Community. Additional communication about this essential teaching and learning is forthcoming.

    3. Orientation and Materials Pick-Up—We look forward to holding outdoor, socially distanced orientation sessions on campus in homeroom groups, and a schedule is forthcoming. During these sessions, we will focus on connecting and building a homeroom community. We will also distribute materials for use in classes (workbooks, supplies, laptops/tablets, etc.). Materials for classes will be provided by the School; in the orientation packet, teachers will indicate any additional small materials needed (pens, pencils, etc.). We anticipate these sessions taking place in the morning and running about 90 minutes.
      1. Monday, August 31 -- 1st grade
      2. Tuesday, September 1 --2nd grade
      3. Wednesday, September 2 -- 3rd grade
      4. Thursday, September 3 -- 4th grade

    4. Device Use and Training—Students in grades 1-4 will be issued devices at orientation (1st and 2nd will use iPads, 3rd and 4th will use Microsoft Surface devices). For some students, using their own device will be a new experience; for others, they might be ready to work for our technology department! Comprehensive instruction on how to use devices will be built into lessons; this process will look different at each grade level, but our goal across the board is for students to operate fairly independently from their parents in distance learning. Key software they will use includes:
      1. One Note for completing and submitting work
      2. Zoom or Teams for online class meetings
      3. Other additional programs for supporting learning in specific subjects such as IXL and RAZ 

    5. Schedule—Each grade level will have a specific, consistent schedule for distance learning with instructional blocks, off-screen breaks, and built-in work time. As we get closer to the start of school, you will receive a schedule for the school day. Broadly, a few points:
      1. The school day starts at 8:05 a.m.
      2. More core classes in the morning -- the school day, on the whole, has more core instruction before 1 p.m. 
      3. Consistent lunch -- all grades have lunch from 11:30-12:30 each day
      4. Classes will be live -- homeroom classes will cover reading, language arts, math, and social studies. Additionally, students will have two live specials per day.
      5. One-on-one check ins -- each student will have a set time to check in with their teacher each week. 
      6. End of the day -- while this depends on the grade level, generally grades 1-2 will end at 2:35 p.m., and grades 3-4 will end at 3:35 p.m. (and 2:35 p.m. on Friday). Look for specific schedules on HawksNest next Friday.
    6. What to expect from live instruction—Teachers have spent significant time developing their distance learning tool box this summer. Teaching will look different based on the developmental level of the students and, as classes develop routines, processes will move more quickly. You will see an increase in consistent practices, routines, and work load as well as use of technology over the time we are in distance learning. Teachers will use tools such as: whole-class live instruction, small-group live instruction, break-out rooms for individuals, break-out rooms for group work, group work time, independent work time, virtual white boards, and virtual polls. We are excited about these new teaching methods and look forward to expanding our tool box this fall. 

    7. Homerooms teachers—We have made a few staffing changes in the Lower School:
      1. To maintain small class sizes, we have an additional homeroom teacher in both third and fourth grades: Fielding Winters will be joining the third grade homeroom team, and Tyffany Mandov will be joining the fourth grade team.
      2. We have also added a long-term substitute teacher in second grade. Lara Salyer will be on family leave for the first semester, and we welcome Cheryl Crain to the second grade team as a long-term sub. Cheryl joins us from Concord Hill, where she was a homeroom teacher for over 15 years. We are excited to have her on the team.

    8. Division head communication—We will hold events like parent chats this fall, albeit in a virtual format. Those dates are being set now, so please be on the lookout for them. These events will be crucial as we keep open communication with parents throughout the year, whether we are in distance learning or are on campus. 
    Thank you, as always, for your partnership and don't hesitate to reach out if you have any questions.
    Mike Risen
    Head of Lower School
  • August 14, 2020: LOWER SCHOOL UPDATE FOR PK & K

    Friday, August 14, 2020
    Dear Pre-Kindergarten & Kindergarten Parents,
    I hope that this email finds everyone well. While this past summer has been a different experience for all of us, my family and I have found new interests and hobbies that have made our time together meaningful. In some ways, these past few months have flown by and we are now about to start the next year! Regardless of the circumstances, I am always excited to start the school year here at Norwood; it is a tremendously close community that is supportive and nurturing. Through the process of getting the school year underway, those strengths have shone through. 
    I want to follow up on Matthew's letter with some specific information. We are very much looking forward to welcoming our pre-kindergarten and kindergarten students to campus in just a few weeks. While this email will not cover every detail, I hope it can begin to answer some of your questions about the start of the school year. Over the next few weeks, we will push out additional details, but for now, I wanted to share the following information:

    1. Focus on Be Known—While knowing our students is always the number one priority, those relationships are at a premium this fall. Building community is at the core of the Norwood experience. We understand that students have been separate from their peers and that they need those connections; we do, too. This year offers its challenges, but also opportunities; the small homeroom numbers are a great time to develop rich student-teacher connections. Before the start of the school year, expect a communication from your child's homeroom teacher via phone or virtual platform to start to build that connection.

    2. Identity and Anti-Racism—We are deeply committed to facilitating discussions of anti-racism in developmentally appropriate ways and have been gathering resources and exploring best practices in this area. As we begin the year, we plan to address topics like identity and community, and we will continue to build on this important work as the year progresses. Thanks to the leadership of fourth grade teacher Thenthia Taterway and a group of teachers from across the division, we are preparing chapel content and homeroom-based lessons focused on discussions around identity and race. Throughout the year, we will focus on discussions of identity and who we are as a community. These activities will be connected to school-wide curricular work led by Billy Vargas, Norwood's Director of Diversity, Equity, and Community. More communication about this essential teaching and learning is forthcoming.

    3. Hours—We will be operating on a half-day schedule for the start of the school year. Drop-off will begin at 7:45 a.m. (no Early Birds will be available). The school day will begin at 8:05 a.m., and we will dismiss at 12:00 p.m. We are looking forward to a successful first few weeks of school and to when we feel ready to transition to a full-day schedule.

    4. Orientation—It is important that PK and K students begin the year feeling safe and confident in their classrooms and that parents are familiar with the classroom space. To provide these opportunities, we are holding individual orientation sessions for families on Wednesday, September 2, and Thursday, September 3. Parents are invited to come to the School with their student to meet their homeroom teacher and explore the space. In between sessions, we will clean and sanitize the rooms. Sign-ups for those sessions will be available next Friday. 

    5. Optional Parent-Teacher Conferences—In the afternoon during the first week of school, teachers will hold optional virtual conferences with parents. Sign-ups will be available next Friday.

    6. Specials—We are finalizing the details of specials classes for PK and K but can say that PE class will be live for students during the day. These classes will be outside and will be a great opportunity for students to be active.

    7. What a day looks like—At the beginning of the year, we anticipate the school day functioning in many ways like a normal school day. The school day will start with chapel, followed by a morning meeting. Students will then have core content lessons, work time, specials, time outside, and opportunities to share their projects. Being the only students on campus, they will have room to roam and explore. Students will often be outside, and the schedule for the day is broken up into periods of time inside and then outside. We look forward to the chance to really stretch out across our beautiful and spacious campus! 

    8. Daily temperature checks—As you know from other communications and town halls, we will have comprehensive mitigation strategies in place. Our PK program is licensed through Montgomery County's Office of Child Care, which has slightly different protocols for classes. Though these protocols are generally consistent with our school policies, one difference is the temperature-taking process. For an explanation of how we will handle that process, see below:
      1. PK: Parents will take their child's temperature daily and log it at home. We are finalizing the process for communicating that process to the School. Additionally, upon arrival, we will take each pre-kindergartner's  temperature and maintain a daily log.
      2. K: Parents are required to take their child's temperature at home. We are finalizing the process for communicating that to the school. 
    Thank you, as always, for your partnership. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to reach out. We can't wait to see you all on campus!
    Mike Risen
    Head of Lower School

    Friday, August 14, 2020
    Dear Middle School Families,
    I hope this finds you enjoying the end of summer as much as possible given the many and varied challenges we are facing collectively and individually. As always, I am grateful for the sense of connection, care, and shared commitment to our students that we have at Norwood, and I look forward to seeing the middle schoolers soon, even though we will be starting school online. Here are a few important details ahead of the information that will be posted to HawksNest next week.
    The Middle School will continue to be a place – for now, a virtual place – where students and families are known, respected, and valued as their authentic selves, and where communication and feedback are prioritized. To that end:
    1. Advisors will contact each advisee’s family for a short conference between August 24 and Back-to-School Night, September 17, and will connect directly with their advisees during Orientation (see below).
    2. Once classes have started, advisors and all teachers will regularly conference 1:1 with students and will encourage collaboration and connection within each advisory/class cohort and across the whole grade through a variety of assignments and activities.
    3. Grade-level chats for parents will continue in a virtual form, hosted by myself and other members of the Middle School Student Support Team; schedule coming soon.
    Related to being known and valued, and thanks to the leadership of Aafia Talib, Travis Wooden, and a whole middle school planning group, we are preparing to expand anti-racism work into advisory, service learning, and life skills this year.
    1. Students in all middle school grades will begin the first quarter focused on the theme “Understanding and Growing into My Identities.”
    2. Later in the year, focus will include the ways we can respond to and work against racism.
    3. Throughout the year, these activities will be connected to school-wide curricular work led by Billy Vargas. More communication about this essential teaching and learning is forthcoming.
    As noted in Matthew’s letter, students will be invited to participate in an outdoor, safely distanced Orientation on Norwood’s spacious campus before school starts.
    1. The goal is for students to connect in person with classmates and their advisor and/or a few teachers while picking up books, other materials, and tablet computers. (Click here for the list of additional family-provided school supplies each student must have.)
    2. Any student who cannot attend Orientation will have an opportunity to connect with their advisor virtually and will meet their classmates virtually on the first day of school; their supplies will be available for pick-up after their grade’s Orientation meeting time.
    3. The precise Orientation schedule will be shared on HawksNest next week, but here are the dates for each grade (morning sessions, approximately 90 minutes, ending by 12:30):
    5th Grade – Monday, August 31
    6th Grade – Tuesday, September 1
    7th Grade – Wednesday, September 2
    8th Grade – Thursday, September 3

    Every middle school student will receive a Norwood computer tablet during Orientation.
    1. All 5th graders will receive in-depth training for their computer tablets during the school day beginning on the first day of school. Before school starts, they will receive brief, virtual training so they know how to join their online classes on the first day.
    2. New-to-Norwood students in other grades will be invited to introductory virtual training sessions before school starts and will then continue in-depth training with the rest of their grade beginning on the first day of school.
    3. Training dates and details will be posted on HawksNest at the end of next week.
    4. Key software and platforms for middle schoolers include:
      1. HawksNest – for information about class syllabi, assignments, and assessments.
      2. OneNote – for creating and submitting individual and collaborative assignments, creating and sharing class notes and projects, and viewing teacher feedback and instruction.
      3. Outlook Email and Calendar – for communication and class meeting invitations.
      4. Zoom and Teams – for online class meetings.
      5. Additional tools and online resources related to specific subjects.
    As explained in this summer’s Town Hall meetings, the middle school Distance Learning schedule will mirror the schedule for on-campus learning.
    1. Students will begin each day at home at 8:05 a.m. and finish at 3:35 p.m. (2:35 p.m. on Friday).
    2. Every day will include a 50-minute lunch/recess break and other flex/study breaks, and teachers will be mindful to incorporate movement and brain breaks into their online class periods.
    3. Each middle school student will receive their own schedule on Monday, August 31.
    4. As teachers send invites to online class sessions, those will appear in students’ Outlook Calendars.
    In the spring and throughout the summer, teachers have researched and received training in best practices for online instruction. You and your middle school student can expect:
    1. Varied instructional techniques.
    2. Clearly communicated step-by-step instructions.
    3. Time for students to work on assignments during class.
    4. Multiple low-stakes assessments throughout each unit of study, and timely feedback.
    5. Limited homework outside of class time while we are following Distance Learning.
    6. Required attendance at advisory, PE/Athletics, visual arts, and performing arts classes.
    7. Support as needed during study and flex periods from the student’s advisor, teachers, learning specialist Brittany Young, and counselor Laura Prosen.
    I will end where I started, with our commitment to ensuring students at Norwood are KNOWN, which seems especially important in this period where so much is unknown. Thank you in advance for your partnership and involvement in the months ahead! Working together, we will uphold our founder Frances Marsh’s vision for a “happy place of learning” no matter where that place may be.
    Sincerely yours,
    Michele Claeys
    Associate Head of School & Head of Middle School




    Many Norwood students have already registered for our new Academic Kickstarter program taking place this July. We are excited to announce this separate program, filled with fun and enriching virtual camp classes! Visit our Home Adventures page, check out the incredible offerings that await your camper this summer, and register today!
    Virtual Tidbits:
    • Six sessions: July 6 - August 14
    • Week-long Zoom classes, Monday-Friday
    • Most classes run 45-60 minutes; middle school classes run up to 2 hours; Junior Day classes run 30 minutes
    • A la carte selections from 3 time periods during the day for flexibility
    • Special activities include Wacky Wednesdays, Zoom Bingo, and a weekly Boredom Busters e-newsletter

    Hello Middle School, and congratulations on a great turnout for Norwood FUN Day!
    I loved seeing your artwork and trick photography in the closing ceremonies, and I’m impressed by how far we walked and ran. Way to go! I hope it was a nice break from routine, and I hope you have a super weekend.
    We are heading into the last few weeks of the school year. I couldn’t be more proud of how well you’ve all done at home. I’m also incredibly grateful for your teachers and parents for their hard work and support. Let’s finish strong! And please keep your eyes peeled in the days ahead for details related to wrapping up and preparing for the fall.
    Thank you!
    Michele Claeys
    Michele Claeys
    Associate Head of School
    & Head of Middle School
    Norwood School
    8821 River Road
    Bethesda, Maryland 20817

    Dear Lower School Parents,
    I hope that everyone had a wonderful Fun Day! It was great to see everyone taking on challenges and activities through the day and fun to connect with so many people on the live session this afternoon. The activities today gave students a good chance to take a break from the usual process of distance learning, and I hope that it was a welcomed change of pace. 
    Through the past seven plus weeks, all of us have faced new and unique challenges each day. We all, children and adults, have adapted to new routines, expectations, and structures. We have developed new tools and strategies to manage our work and learning. As adults, we have the opportunity to help children learn how manage new tasks and expectations. How we frame those experiences can have a big impact on how children develop a positive disposition when taking on challenges. As we work with our children, consider:
    • Develop a plan: So often challenges seem big and complicated; they can feel overwhelming. Helping children break them down into manageable chunks and develop a step-by-step plan can help overwhelming tasks feel doable. Children can often surprise us with their independence when a task is broken down into just-right steps. 
    • Model growth mindset: Our language matters and we want children to feel safe taking healthy risks. Telling them directly that mistakes are normal and part of learning helps them to feel confident taking on novel tasks. Additionally, talk through those mistakes with them, asking them what they think the mistake was or how can they do it differently next time. When you work with your child, tell them stories of times you made mistakes, how you learned from them, and how, when you tried something different, you saw success. 
    • Celebrate success: It is great to recognize the end of a project or process. However, when children complete steps in a process, celebrate those, too! Highlight their behaviors that led to that success. For young people who are learning fundamental skills, validation around completing steps can build confidence and energy as they move through projects or tasks. If one of our goals is to create independent thinkers, building up their confidence around processes builds a strong sense of self. I like to use a metaphor of climbing a ladder; celebrate when a child moves to a new rung, and know that it is one step in a larger process so let's keep going!
    I hope everyone enjoys a wonderful weekend!
    Mike Risen
    Head of Lower School 
    Norwood School 
    8821 River Rd
    Bethesda, MD 20817


    On Friday, May 15, academic classes have been cancelled in order to hold Norwood Fun Day! The day will kick off with Founder’s Day Chapel at 9:00 a.m. (look for an email from Mr. Gould with a link to the chapel), which will include a special Founder’s Day video as well as recognition of the following faculty and staff members who are celebrating milestones in their Norwood careers:
    5 YEARS
    Cathy Caruso
    Barbara Greennagel
    Andy Morgan
    Mitch Weisbrot
    10 YEARS
    Cathy McCoy
    Billy Vargas
    Fielding Winters
    15 YEARS
    Maralyn Marsteller
    Cathy Russo
    Lynda Saelens
    Barbara Vaughan
    20 YEARS
    Susan Boyd
    Tyffany Mandov
    Annette Matzner
    25 YEARS
    Carole Freret
    Terri Woodard

    At the end of chapel, Mr. Gould will kick off Fun Day, and we encourage your family to get in on the action by participating in a variety of creative and physical challenges throughout the day. Open the attached PDF to see all the fun activities, clicking on each one for specific instructions. We suggest selecting two activities from each of the two categories, but you are welcome to try as many as you want.
    Be sure to show us (and each other) how much fun you are having by sharing photos and short videos to Norwood’s Facebook page (Norwood School) and Instagram account (@norwoodschoolbethesda), using the hashtag #norwoodfunday. If you are not on social media, you can upload photos and short videos to this SmugMug gallery. We can’t wait to see you in action!
    Fun Day will conclude at 2:00 p.m. with a live ZOOM gathering hosted by Mr. Gould. Wear blue and white, and be prepared to hold up a sign with the distance you walked (or ran or skipped) in the Distance Challenge and/or show us one of the items you made (an origami folded box or newspaper sculpture, for example).
    Join Zoom Meeting: Fun Day Wrap-up with Mr. Gould
    Meeting ID: 883 1560 0267
    Password: 167484
    THAT'S NOT ALL! There's MORE FUN to be had when the Norwood Parents Association hosts two virtual Bingo sessions on Zoom: 3:00-3:45 p.m. for grades PK-2 and 4:00-4:45 p.m. for grades 3-8. Beanie Burr will call the first session, and Chris Giles is gearing up to call session two. Click here to RSVP by 9:00 tonight.
    We are looking forward to a fun-filled Friday, and we hope you are too! As always, please let us know if you have any questions.
    Mike Risen                                  Michele Claeys
    Head of Lower School                Head of Middle School

    Dear Students and Families,
    Wishing you a restful weekend! I hope some of you will use the interview questions from the end of yesterday’s Middle School Chapel – plus some of your own – to have a conversation with an adult in your life… in your home, over the phone, or through a videoconference platform. Consider recording it to look back on in the future. (Jackson doesn’t want to be the only one who had to make an awkward video!)
    Warm regards,
    Michele Claeys
    Interested in a casual lunch hang-out? Want to chat with classmates and/or talk about arranging additional activities? Just email Mrs. Prosen for any of the times below you’d like to attend. Then Ms. Prosen or Ms. Claeys will send you an invite. Feel free to bring your lunch of course!
    • 5th Grade – Monday 11:30 (Ms. Claeys), Wednesday 11:30 (Ms. Prosen)
    • 6th Grade – Monday 11:30 (Ms. Prosen), Wednesday 11:30 (Ms. Claeys)
    • 7th Grade – Tuesday 11:30 (Ms. Prosen), Thursday 11:30 (Ms. Claeys)
    • 8th Grade – Tuesday 11:30 (Ms. Claeys), Thursday 11:30 (Ms. Prosen)
    Friday, May 15 will be a day off from classes so we can all join in the Founders Day Chapel, recognition of faculty who have reached 5-year milestones, and then a special Norwood Fun Day, featuring a whole menu of challenges and activities. Stay tuned for more information!
    Michele Claeys
    Associate Head of School
    & Head of Middle School
    Norwood School
    8821 River Road
    Bethesda, Maryland 20817

    Dear Lower School Parents,
    Thank you for another great week of distance learning. I hope that everyone had a successful conference last week. Especially in the distance learning environment, the parent-teacher relationship is crucial as we support our children's academic, social, and emotional growth.
    Moving into our seventh week of distance learning, we are all figuring out how to manage our isolation from one another. In conversations with a number of you as well as checking in with teachers, I know that our children continue to feel the impacts of social distancing. While continuing to support students' academic needs, we also need to attend to their emotional growth. 
    An important skill to teach our children right now is around self-care. Our impulse often is to take care of our children without regard for our own needs, but children learn what they see. Taking the time to attend to our adult selves is important so that we are in a good place to support our children.  Consider a few points about self-care:
      • Do things for yourself. If you feel better, it shows! Taking the time to take care of yourself will pay off when you need to be present for your child.
      • Talk with your child about the importance of self-care. While you might understand how taking a walk, gardening, or yoga help you manage your stress, your child may not understand that yet. Engage with your child in overt conversations about self-care. By taking the time to talk directly about what helps you, you are modeling healthy behaviors that children can learn from. Talk to your child about what you enjoy and help them to identify activities that can help them self-regulate.
      • Incorporate language from school into your family conversation. Throughout this past year, students have been taught the Zones of Regulation and have used tools to support being in the Green or "Ready to Learn" zone (documents are attached here). All lower school students are being reminded of these tools in homeroom and life skills classes. You can ask your child to explain the Zones of Regulation to you and create a toolbox for home together.
    As always, if you need any help in this process, please reach out to Rachelle Bowman, our lower school counselor at
    I hope everyone has a wonderful weekend-- do something you love!
    Mike Risen
    Head of Lower School 
    Norwood School 
    8821 River Rd
    Bethesda, MD 20817

    Dear 7th Grade Families,
    I hope this finds you safe and well. I’m writing with information for you as parents of rising 8th graders at Norwood.
    You are invited to attend a Zoom Meeting about the high school placement process, Wednesday, May 20th, at 8:00 a.m.
    • You’ll receive a Zoom invitation in a separate email.
    • During the meeting, I will review high school placement steps and the usual timeline. I anticipate that I won’t have any information about how next fall’s timeline might be different, but I will certainly share anything I know.
    • I’ll also answer questions; you can email them before the meeting or type them into the chat during the meeting.
    • I’ll record the meeting for anybody who would like to view it later.
    Before the meeting, I encourage you to review two resources that you’ll want to have on hand from now through March 2021.
    • High School Placement Guide Class of 2021 (attached) – The Guide is dense, but it has everything you need to know, including numerous helpful links to resources about schools and entrance exams. Pay special attention to the two timelines, the general timeline (last page) and the timeline that is specific to entrance exams.
    • High School Placement Group on HawksNest – You will become members of this group a little later this week. Most of the information on the Group page is the same as in the Guide, and a link to the Guide is there on the page. The important addition is the Parent Questionnaire, which is due in September. It’s on the right side of the page (also attached here).
    Later this week you and your rising 8th graders will receive individualized login and password information for the entrance exam prep software provided by Norwood through Test Innovators.
    • The email will come from Cathy Russo. Please save it so you and your child have the login and password when needed.
    • The software is web-based and can be used on any computer.
    • I will send an email to the students (and then forward it to you) with instructions and suggestions for how and when to use the software.
    After the general meeting on May 20th, Cathy Russo will send a sign-up link where you can choose an appointment for a family meeting with me about high school placement.
    • Most families elect to have their child attend at least part of the meeting, but it is not required.
    • Usually, of course, we meet in person. For now, I am planning on meeting via video-conference. I’ll be ready and eager to pivot to in-person meetings if circumstances allow!
    Beginning the high school process can feel a little overwhelming, because of the many details to consider, and just because it means your child is growing older and will soon be a high schooler! Please be assured that we are here with you every step of the way. In addition to the meetings and resources described above, I will be checking in with you and your child throughout the fall and sending regular updates about where we are in the process. Cathy, Travis, Lynda, Brittany and I are here to help! Don’t hesitate to call on us.
    Sincere regards,
    Michele Claeys
    Associate Head of School
    & Head of Middle School
    Norwood School
    8821 River Road
    Bethesda, Maryland 20817

    Good evening Middle School students and families!
    Thank you all for your participation in our online Parent-Student-Advisor Conferences today (and continuing through early next week). Reflection and goal-setting are essential to self-advocacy, growth, and achievement, and I appreciate your focus and involvement. Special thanks to your advisors for sharing updates from your teachers. Remember: you can contact a teacher directly with questions or issues any time. They are happy to set up a meeting with you.
    Thank you again for the feedback you shared in the recent student and parent surveys! The results varied widely, but we were able to glean some patterns and determine ways to refine the Distance Learning Program in the Middle School in the remaining weeks. Generally, we are aiming to clarify assignments, offer a variety of daily experiences, and increase synchronous contact time with teachers where it will be beneficial, while also maintaining flexibility for students with different learning preferences and interests. You can expect to see:
    1. Increased clarity in Daily Plans so that instructions, assignments, and links are clear and easy to use.
    2. Variety in instructional practices in Daily Plans and required Office Hours.
    3. Attention to workload – continued clarity on suggested time limits for each assignment, and some reductions in subjects where time needed to complete assignments has been more than intended. If workload is ever a problem, please reach out to your advisor and/or Michele Claeys, Lynda Saelens, Laura Prosen, or Travis Wooden.
    4. Optional challenge/stretch opportunities. Please reach out to any of your teachers or Michele Claeys if you would like suggestions for independent projects in any subject.
    5. Additional required Office Hours periods – each teacher has the option to require a third Office Hours period every week.
    Kind regards and best wishes for the weekend,
    Michele Claeys
    Michele Claeys
    Associate Head of School
    & Head of Middle School
    Norwood School
    8821 River Road
    Bethesda, Maryland 20817

    Dear Lower School Parents,
    Thank you for another great week of distance learning work as well as a great day of conferences. In my position speaking both to faculty and parents from across the division, I know we all feel disconnected from one another. I certainly do. What grounds and inspires me is the partnership through this process and the heavy lifting I see from everyone. Parents are taking on the challenge of supporting their children while working themselves and teachers are working to re-imagine their usual spring lessons to fit into a distance learning format. None of this is easy; all of it is time consuming and I know that everyone is working well beyond their normal capacity.
    Somewhere in all of this our children are adapting to this new normal. Students are missing connections and are, after over a month of social distancing, feeling the isolation. Often, the cause of stress for our children is not something we can immediately solve; those situations are always the hardest to deal with as a parent. Often what young children need in these situations is  just for us to be present and hear them. On the school side, our counselor, Rachelle Bowman, is participating in homeroom and specials live meetings to help student process these events. She is also available for any family for individual support. We are here for you in partnership and are eager to help.
    I want to follow up on feedback from the survey. Thank you, again, for your participation. Based on parent feedback, there are a few areas where we are focusing our efforts:
    1. Increasing live classes-- we are wrapping up a week of live specials classes that have offered students and teachers a wonderful opportunity to connect. These classes, as well as homeroom-based classes, will continue moving forward.
    2. Increase the quality of instruction-- while distance learning is a new framework for us, we are grounding our instruction in the practices we know work. Our live and recorded lessons will continue to improve as we continue to grow our own distance teaching toolboxes. Our small group and one-to-one approaches to learning allow us to drill down during lessons to check for student understanding. 
    3. Improving feedback-- we will simplify and clarify the processes through which you submit and we receive feedback. Thank you everyone for your patience as we tackle this; our goal is to make it easy for you. Additionally, we will continue to improve the quality and clarity of the feedback we give for student work.
    4. Attending to social-emotional needs of students-- as mentioned above, our students need our support to understand this new way of learning. We are committed to finding ways to create connections for students to help them build the skills to be successful in this environment.
    Again, thank you everyone. We know this is a heavy lift but we are confident that, together, we can succeed through it.
    Mike Risen
    Head of Lower School 
    Norwood School 
    8821 River Rd
    Bethesda, MD 20817

    Dear Lower School Parents,
    The weekly note is coming a day early this week to get information about next week to you sooner. Thank you everyone for your participation on the survey from last week; parent feedback through this process has been crucial as we continue to refine and improve distance learning. Among several takeaways from the survey was a clear desire for more live classes; students and teachers deeply value the connection these sessions provide. As you already know, we are adding live specials for every grade level starting next week; more information is below. These will be great opportunities for students to learn in real time and learn with peers and their teachers. 
    No video or Power Point this week. Please see below for notes:
    1. Connecting with learning support and school counseling-- Sara Gallagher, our learning specialist, and Rachelle Bowman, our lower school counselor, are both available throughout the week to support you and your child. Please email them to schedule time to connect if you need any additional support through this process. Moving forward, Ms. Bowman will be meeting with students during various live sessions to continue our life skills program. 
    2. Conferences-- with conferences coming up, I want to note how we are addressing assessment of student progress. During distance learning, teachers continue to look at multiple points for tracking growth. They are evaluating assignments and projects as well as, during live sessions, checking for student understanding of key, central concepts in the curriculum. Our small group and one-on-one check in structures make this meaningful interaction possible. While not all work must be returned, teachers are being explicit about which work is to be returned. To be clear, the work done during the first half of this semester also plays a role in our evaluation of students' academic growth and we understand that work completed during distance learning is not necessarily an accurate representation of a student's abilities. As we think ahead to how we start the fall, we are taking into account the nature of instruction during this time. Our curriculum in the fall will be responsive to distance learning; please know we have your students academic growth covered. 

      Sign ups will for conferences will be live tomorrow.
    3. Guidelines for live classes--as we move to more live classes, please be mindful of the guidelines for classes. These come from lessons learned during our piloting. We know that, as we do more live classes, students will learn the class routines. Thank you for your support at home:
      1. Students must use their real name for their ID-- we will not let someone into the class with a name we do not recognize. For instructions on how to do this in Zoom, click here
      2. Screen backgrounds should stay the same
      3. Join the meeting from a quiet, distraction-free room. You may want headphones for extra focus
      4. Use the bathroom before class
      5. Eat snacks and meals before the class
      6. Stay in one spot with your eyes on the device
      7. We love your pets—keep them out of the camera during sessions, please!
      8. Please do not change your background or use the chat feature – unless given teacher permission to do so. This is distracting to classmates
      9. Mute when someone else is talking
      10. Raise your hand to speak or ask a question (just like in school)
      11. Wait to be called on if you have something to say
      12. Use school-appropriate words and be polite to your friends.
    4. Schedules for specials classes-- each grade level has a consistent, daily time for specials classes. Each day will have a different special. See below for those times. Repeating calendar invites are in the process of going out. 
      PK-Thursday (sessions in small groups during the morning)
      K-Monday -Thursday, 12:00 PM start
      1-Monday-Thursday, 2:00 PM start
      2-Monday-Thursday, 2:40 PM start time
      3-Monday-Friday, 1:00 PM start time 
      4-Monday-Friday, 2:00 PM start time (NOTE: science classes on Monday and Thursday will happen earlier in the day--see calendar invite and daily to do for times)
    5. Specials classes and daily to do-- specials class Zoom links, IDs, and passwords will all be listed on the Daily To Do as well. 
    6. Specials classes are an important part of our curriculum. As families have developed schedules and routines for distance learning and have figured out the right work load for them, we understand that a full week's work is sometimes more than fits in the day. Please continue to use your judgement as to what the right work load is for you; there is no penalty to not attending live classes and asynchronous materials will still be part of the week. 
    Mike Risen
    Head of Lower School 
    Norwood School 
    8821 River Rd
    Bethesda, MD 20817

    Dear Middle School Students and Families,
    As we prepare for the upcoming parent-student-advisor conferences, I am writing to share the grading practices middle school teachers are implementing during Distance Learning. Our approach to assessment reflects our understanding that we are all teaching and learning in new ways while managing numerous stressors and variables, from general uncertainty and social isolation, to learning new technologies, WiFi connectivity, printer access, other members of our households, and innumerable additional factors.
    Our goal is to continue providing valuable feedback and the opportunity to demonstrate achievement by earning grades while understanding that there will be days when some things are out of a student’s control. We ask that you communicate with your advisor and teachers early and often, so they can make adjustments for you as necessary.
    Grading Practices
    1. Teachers are implementing more frequent, smaller assignments and assessments, so students have more opportunities to demonstrate their understanding and can improve along the way.
    2. Teachers are increasingly utilizing graded homework, practice assessments, open-book and open-note assessments, and untimed assessments.
    3. Teachers are working directly with individual students who need enrichment, support, and/or modifications to assignments and assessments.
    4. At the end of the 4th quarter, teachers will look at each student’s 3rd and 4th quarter grades to determine what weighting will be most favorable for the student’s 2nd semester grade. The quarter with the higher grade will be weighed more heavily.
    Any student who is fully engaging with the Distance Learning program can expect that their 4th quarter and 2nd semester grades will at least be similar to their fall and winter grades. In PE, students just have to remember to turn in their logs. In visual arts, music, and drama, which remain optional, students who participate will earn an “A” for the quarter; students who opt out will not be graded. If you have questions about our approach, please contact me any time. For questions about grading in a particular class, please reach out to your teacher. This is a new experience for both teachers and students; we want to work with you, and we are here to help you.
    Thank you and keep up the good work as we begin our fourth week of Distance Learning!
    Kind regards,
    Ms. Claeys

    Thank you Middle School Students and Families for another successful week of Distance Learning! Your effort, support, and involvement are hugely appreciated. We’ve accomplished a lot together in just a few weeks. Please remember to complete the online survey by Sunday night, so we can continue to refine our program based on your feedback.
    We will host virtual parent-student-advisor conferences May 1, which will be a “no school” day for students, other than attending their conference.
    • Each student and their parent/guardian will sign up for one appointment with the student’s advisor.
    • The advisor will share progress-report information from all of the student’s teachers.
    • Watch for an announcement in the Thursday Memo, April 23.
    • Watch for the sign-up link coming by email Friday, April 24.
    If you haven’t already, please be sure to visit the activities and office hours for your art, music, and drama classes. We would like to see every student try at least one assignment or project. Many students are fully engaged with their arts classes and enjoy the change in routine. While teachers prefer to keep these courses optional, they recognize that – for those who can manage to participate – the benefits are many!
    Best wishes to all of you for the weekend. Please take care and stay well!
    Michele Claeys
    Associate Head of School
    & Head of Middle School
    Norwood School
    8821 River Road
    Bethesda, Maryland 20817

    Dear Lower School Parents,
    Thank you everyone for your continued hard work during distance learning. We appreciate that parts of the program are working well, and continue to refine and revise the parts that need improvement. Specific notes on those improvements are detailed in a video here and are listed as a PDF here. Quick notes:
    1. Thank you for your continued feedback in conversations and on the survey. Understanding the parent perspective is crucial as we continue to grow.
    2. Spring conferences will be held on Friday, May 1. That day, parents and teachers will hold conferences and students will not have classes. Please check the upcoming Thursday Memo for sign ups and details.
    3. Sara Gallagher will again have office hours next week. Anyone can sign up-- the link is here.
    I hope that everyone has a great weekend!
    Mike Risen
    Head of Lower School 
    Norwood School 
    8821 River Rd
    Bethesda, MD 20817
  • April 14, 2020: LETTER FROM MS. CLAEYS TO THE CLASS OF 2020

    Dear 8th Grade Families,
    The spring of 8th grade is a very special time at Norwood, and despite the exceptional circumstances we all find ourselves in, we would like to do what we can to celebrate our graduates and their accomplishments to the fullest extent possible. To that end, as you saw in Matthew’s letter yesterday, we have formed a task force to look at our traditional spring celebrations and how we can adapt.
    The task force is working on two projects at the same time: 1) short-term virtual experiences, and 2) long-term in-person experiences. Needless to say, there is a lot of uncertainty around when and how we will be able to proceed with in-person events, so we are trying to represent as much as possible virtually while we wait to see what unfolds in the coming months. Where feasible, we could run a virtual event this spring and still host an in-person version of the same event later on. For example, even if we host a virtual graduation in early June, we could possibly have an in-person celebration of some sort when we are again safe to gather in large groups.
    I invited the whole 8th Grade to a video-conference meeting last week, and several students joined to share their feelings of disappointment – entirely valid! – and hopes for the weeks ahead. It was helpful to hear what is most important to them, though that certainly could change over time and will always vary from student to student. I understand, too, that what matters most to 8th graders may not match up with what matters most to their parents. Please don’t hesitate to email me with your own thoughts and hopes about our spring celebrations. I welcome your input and will keep you informed as we determine what we will be able to do.
    As always, thank you for your support and involvement. Now more than ever, I am grateful to be partnering with all of you!
    Michele Claeys
    Associate Head of School
    & Head of Middle School
    Norwood School
    8821 River Road
    Bethesda, Maryland 20817

    Dear Middle School Students and Families,
    I plan on sending a weekly memo every Friday for as long as we are following the Distance Learning Program, and I will try to keep other large group messages to a minimum, since I’m sure you’re all managing a lot of communications. That said, please don’t ever hesitate to reach out directly to any teacher or me with questions, problems, or feedback. As promised, there is a survey coming your way next week. Thank you for all your support and involvement the past few weeks, and best wishes for the weekend!
    Warm regards,
    I’m attaching an updated distance learning schedule. It’s the same information you already have, including the newly required office hours, but condensed into two pages. You’ll notice:
    1. Beginning Monday, 5th-8th grade, all academic classes will have required Office Hours periods twice per week, so every student will have two periods of required Office Hours per day, Monday through Friday. These periods will be useful for activities and discussions that are better in real-time. Students will still receive instruction in the Daily Plan on days when Office Hours are required, but class work will be reduced.
    2. The requirement to log physical activities is noted, and PE teachers will share those logs with students today or by Monday morning at the latest.
    Thanks to Lynda Saelens, Travis Wooden, and Kelly Carr, we have a distance learning planning and task management tool that might be helpful for you. It is attached here and also available in HawksNest (both on the student resources page and the new distance learning resources page for parents).
    1. Students may opt to print the planner and write on it or can use it as an online document. They can also save it in OneNote and share it with their advisor; this could be especially helpful for students who would like their advisor to help them stay organized.
    2. At a minimum, I recommend that students fill in the schedule on the planning tool. If a student needs help understanding their schedule, their advisor or I can help!
    Students – please be sure you check your email daily while we are following the Distance Learning Program. Ideally, you should check it at least once in the morning and once at the end of your school day. Please reply to teachers when they ask for a response. Thanks!
    Michele Claeys
    Associate Head of School
    & Head of Middle School
    Norwood School
    8821 River Road
    Bethesda, Maryland 20817

    Dear Parents,
    Thank you for another great week of collaboration. I have spoken to many of you, and appreciate the work you are doing supporting instruction at home. We continue to field feedback and do our best to improve our process. From that feedback, the Daily To Do was a big help for many families, and we are improving it this week.  
    See below for quick notes; for more details, view  this video or review this Power Point deck.
    Week 3 Notes
    1. The Daily To Do now has all of the documents you will need to print for each day in one file. This will minimize access issues and minimize clicking (and hunting) for documents. The file to print is at the bottom of the page for each day. 
    2. We are working to minimize email volume. Thank you for your patience as we navigate this.
    3. We are adding learning specialist office hours. Sara Gallagher will offer sessions throughout the week that are open to any family. Sara is a great resource to answer questions such as what are best practices for supporting your child's learning, how to set up and adapt daily routines, how to manage learning with multiple children, etc. To sign up, click here
    4.  We will continue piloting live classes. This week went well, and we are expanding our live classes this week.
    5. Please know, if your child's work load becomes heavy, stressful, or too difficult, you have our total support to stop that work. If a specific task is frustrating your child or if your child is working well into the afternoon to finish work, we encourage you to stop. If you have questions about work and how to prioritize certain assignments, please reach out to your child's teachers.
    Thank you everyone for your partnership. Have a great weekend.
    Mike Risen
    Head of Lower School 
    Norwood School 
    8821 River Rd
    Bethesda, MD 20817

    Dear Middle School Students and Families,
    THANK YOU for your teamwork, perseverance, and feedback throughout our first week of distance learning! The teachers and I were all thrilled to see students again, and I enjoyed following the variety of interesting lessons and discussions that took place via the Daily Plan documents posted each morning and the Office Hours videoconference periods in the afternoons. Two hallmarks of Norwood are connection and innovation, and both were very much on display. I am especially grateful to the teachers for their efforts and enthusiasm for this new undertaking.
    This week and looking forward, we will make small adjustments to build on our successes. I continue to welcome your questions and ideas along the way, especially you, 5th, 6th, 7th, and 8th graders! Everyone’s input has been incredibly helpful.
    Speaking of input, we are in the process of developing short surveys to collect feedback on the Distance Learning program and how it’s working in your home. You never have to wait for a survey to share what you’re thinking or wondering, but just wanted you to know they’ll be coming soon.
    We all know staying active is essential to our well-being while we are isolated in our homes. As we move to requiring physical activity of all our students, the PE teachers are developing an individual student log where each student will be able to track and report their own daily physical activity. Stay tuned for more information from the PE teachers.
    Starting in 7th and 8th grade this week and then expanding into other grades, middle school students will be hearing from their teachers about required attendance in some Office Hours periods. While lessons will continue in the Daily Plan documents, we will take advantage of videoconferencing in Office Hours for some activities and discussions that work best in real time. On the third page of the attached Middle School Distance Learning Schedule, the periods in red are those that teachers have the option, at their discretion, to require. The maximum is two academic subjects per student per day. Arts teachers may also require attendance in some Office Hours periods. Procedures for reporting absences are included there on the third page. We completely understand some students may not have complete control of their daily schedule during Distance Learning; teachers will coordinate with students who need to be absent for any reason.
    Questions, concerns, suggestions? Please send me an email anytime. Thank you and take care!
    Sincerely yours,
    Michele Claeys
    Associate Head of School
    & Head of Middle School
    Norwood School
    8821 River Road
    Bethesda, Maryland 20817

    Dear Lower School Parents,
    I hope that you are enjoying the beautiful spring weather today. Thank you, everyone, for your hard work in week 1. Launching distance learning was a heavy lift on everyone's part, and I appreciate the work from each of you to help make this happen.
    Our goal is to improve our practices and make this challenging task more manageable for everyone. Moving into week 2, we are adding two pieces that we think will help-- a Daily To Do list that you will receive from you child's homeroom teacher and some live class sessions with teachers (teachers will be emailing you to schedule these).
    Mike Risen
    Head of Lower School 
    Norwood School 
    8821 River Rd
    Bethesda, MD 20817

    Dear Middle School Students,
    I’ve spent the day in virtual meetings with your teachers, and they can’t wait to see you tomorrow! We are eager to begin this adventure together and also mindful that we will begin slowly. If at any point you feel confused or overwhelmed, know that you are not alone! Reach out to any teacher, Ms. Salens, Mrs. Prosen, or me by email anytime and we will help you. (For tech help, email We’re in this together.
    I’m attaching our Distance Learning Daily Schedule and Office Hours so you know which classes you have which days (four academic classes per day) and the times for office hours. It’s color coded by grade. Remember – you only have office hours in the classes that meet that day, plus any arts office hours you want to attend. We will adjust this in the weeks to come depending on how things go, and we will be getting your feedback along the way. There are a lot of moving parts! If you’re confused, just ask for help.
    I strongly encourage you to use your Norwood planner, a homemade planner, or an online planner – any planner! – while we are in Distance Learning mode. You can note which classes meet which days and when you have office hours in addition to recording assignments and due dates. In some ways, a planner will be even more useful to you now that it was when we were all in school together, since you’ll be more independent. Need help? Your advisor is ready to assist you!
    As you know, this week office hours (except advisory) are optional. To help office hours run smoothly for everybody, please follow these rules AND any additional rules your teachers provide.
    1. Please join office hours at the beginning of the meeting if at all possible. Leaving early is better than arriving late.
    2. You must be dressed for office hours – no pajamas!
    3. You may not come to office hours from bed; I recommend a table and chair if possible.
    4. Please do not eat during office hours; beverages are ok.
    5. Do not have a smart phone or other electronics nearby during office hours.
    I strongly encourage you to follow a regular schedule every school day. Here is the schedule I suggested last week:
    • 8:00-9:00 – Wake up, eat breakfast, enjoy 10-20 minutes of physical activity, outside if possible. New! chapel email to start the day.
    • 9:00-11:00 – Begin lessons for the day’s four classes; take a 5-10 minute break every 30-40 minutes – make it a no-screen break! Contact teachers by email any time, as needed.
    • 11:00-3:30 – Attend Office Hours, take a lunch break, continue with classwork and homework as needed.
    • 3:30-dinner – Make a daily plan for schoolwork and down time activities that suits your household, including arts and physical education activities and time outside if possible. You’ll probably need to adjust this time block day to day, depending on assignments and other commitments. This is also a good time to connect online with friends!
    • Dinner-bedtime – Continue with down time activities, including free reading every day. Ideally, schoolwork is already completed; resist the pitfall of dragging it out from morning through late at night. Maintain a regular bedtime, with all electronics charging outside the bedroom.
    I look forward to following your success and hearing about anything I can do to help you. See you somewhere online soon!
    Warm regards,
    Ms. Claeys
    Michele Claeys
    Associate Head of School
    & Head of Middle School
    Norwood School
    8821 River Road
    Bethesda, Maryland 20817

    Dear Lower School Parents,
    We are excited about launching distance learning tomorrow. Week 1 will be about figuring out the right systems and routines for families; teachers have fun and enriching activities and lessons planned. Our goal is to keep deadlines and requirements to a minimum and to start with work that should be straightforward for students and families; we will grow from here, but it is important that we all develop a solid foundation that works first. 
    Another piece of week 1 will be connecting with you. Teachers will reach out to schedule a phone call or video conference during the first week. These will run about 15 minutes, and the primary goals are to check in with your family, answer any early questions, and setup a time for a weekly appointment to start in week 2. 
    As the lower school faculty moves through this process, we are already starting to improve. Two pieces we will add as we move ahead:
    1. Adding a daily checklist of work for your child; currently, you have checklists but they are broken out by class. A quick-reference that puts all work on one page will help you keep track of the day's work. Look for those in week 2.
    2. Materials and lesson plans will be ready by 5 PM the day before. While we have said that materials are ready by 9 AM of that day, having them ready sooner will support families' planning the night before. Teachers will let you know if week 1 is ready for the full week so you can start planning. Moving forward, we want to get into the practice of having materials ready the evening before. 
    Please reach out to me with questions about process; every family will function a little differently and we want to develop a system that best meets needs.
    Thank you for your continued partnership.
    Mike Risen
    Head of Lower School 
    Norwood School 
    8821 River Rd
    Bethesda, MD 20817

    Tuesday, March 17, 2020

    Dear Middle School Families,
    Here are the details for supply pick-up at the Middle School on Thursday, March 19. Our goal is to get items to you as quickly as possible while maintaining physical distance.
    Do You Need to Come or Not?
    By late Wednesday afternoon, I will email the parents of any middle school students who have nothing to pick up. If you get that email, please do not come to Norwood unless your child has something they absolutely need from their locker. Pick up from lockers is strongly discouraged unless essential.
    Where and How to Pick Up
    Please drive into the middle school carpool loop and stop outside the entrance to the Cohen Common Room. We will be waiting inside. Let us know who you are picking up for, and we will fetch the items for those students, including tablet computers, if still at school. We will bring the items in a bag to the walkway outside and then return to the Cohen Common Room so you can load the bag into your car.
    If Collecting Something from a Locker
    Only students will be permitted to go to their lockers, and only one at a time (they will wait in their car in the carpool loop). Again, this is strongly discouraged unless essential.
    Additional Measures to Ensure Cleanliness
    • The School has been thoroughly cleaned and that process is ongoing.
    • Those handling items for pick-up will be wearing latex gloves as well as following good practices for frequent handwashing.
    Please don’t hesitate to reach out with any questions. Thank you for your continued support and partnership.
    Head of Middle School

    Tuesday, March 17, 2020

    Dear Lower School Parents,
    I want to follow up on Matthew's email from yesterday with details regarding Thursday's materials pick-up. Minimizing contact and maintaining good health practices are important, and the process is designed to support those ends. See below for the process we'll use to distribute.
    Thursday's Pick-Up Process
    Where to pick up
    We will use the Lower School carpool lane as a staging area for picking up materials. Tables will be setup that have materials from your child's teachers. There is some rain in the forecast, and we'll have tents over the tables to keep it dry.
    How to pick up
    It works like carpool. Along the lower school circle you will stop at the first station to give your name (or show your carpool sign) and then pull up to the top of the circle where your materials will be on a table for you to pick up. You will need to get out of your car to collect the materials.
    If you can't make it Thursday to pick up
    Email me and we can figure out a solution.
    Additional Measures to Ensure Cleanliness
    • The School has been thoroughly cleaned and that process is ongoing. While some middle school students may need to reach their lockers, we are resticting access to in the Lower School. If there are any necessary items you need to pick up, email Beanie ahead of your arrival.
    • Anyone handling materials will be wearing latex gloves, as well as following good practices for frequent handwashing.
    • Tables with materials on them (including those at the curb) will be wiped down and cleaned every 30 minutes. 
    Thank you, everyone, for your flexibility in this process. As questions come up, don't hesitate to let us know!
    Mike Risen
    Head of Lower School


Parents must take their child's temperature each morning and check for any of the symptoms/close contact listed on the two-part Daily Health Assessment Checklist. If a child exhibits any of the symptoms on the list and/or has been in close contact or potentially exposed to COVID-19, they are not permitted to come to school. Faculty and staff are required to follow the same daily health assessment.

Part 1: Symptoms
The following symptoms indicate possible illness that may decrease a student’s ability to learn and puts them at risk for spreading illness to others. Please check for these symptoms:
  • temperature of 100.4 or higher
  • sore throat
  • uncontrolled cough that causes difficulty breathing
  • diarrhea, vomiting, or abdominal pain
  • new onset of severe headache, especially with fever
Part 2: Close Contact/Potential Exposure
It is critical that families closely monitor potential exposure to COVID-19 and take the necessary precautions as recommended by a medical professional if a child has experienced any of the following situations:
  • close contact (within 6 feet of infected person for at least 15 minutes) with a person with confirmed COVID-19
  • close contact with person under quarantine for possible exposure to COVID-19
  • traveled to an area that is reporting a large number of COVID-19 cases
  • lives in an area of high community transmission while school remains open
Note for Pre-Kindergarten Families: In compliance with the Montgomery County Office of Child Care (OCC) policy, the School will conduct a temperature check as each pre-K student arrives in the morning. Pre-K families are also required to conduct the Daily Health Assessment at home before coming to school.


Health Issues & Travel
Jessica Morataya, RN

Lower School Academics
Mike Risen

Middle School Academics
Michele Claeys

Juan Ramirez & Help Desk

Located in Bethesda, MD, Norwood School develops students in grades PK-8 into confident lifelong learners who have the academic, character, and leadership skills to succeed in high school and beyond. Recognizing that children are multi-faceted, Norwood provides many opportunities for safe risk-taking, exploration, discovery, and growth in a nurturing, supportive, and inclusive school community.