Coronavirus (COVID-19)

On Thursday, March 12, the Old Trail administrative team and the Board of Directors jointly made the decision to close Old Trail School, effective March 13, in an effort to limit the spread of novel coronavirus (COVID-19) in our community.   

This is a quickly evolving situation; please check this page regularly for updates. Past school communications can be found below. 

List of 17 items.

  • March 30: Head of School Update

    Dear Old Trail Community,
    I hope this letter finds you and your loved ones well during this extraordinary time in human history. I think of you and struggle with the physical distance we have from one another. With that said, I am proud of how our community is adhering to the call from experts to do our part in stopping the spread of COVID-19. 

    As you may have heard today, Gov. Mike DeWine announced that the statewide closure of school facilities will be extended until May 1. This keeps in line with President Trump’s timeline regarding social distancing. We anticipated this order and have been preparing for this extension. We are also currently preparing for the high possibility that we will not return to campus this academic year. 

    Supporting Our Students
    There is no script for how to handle this unfolding change of our daily routines. There is so much that is unknown, which can feel unsettling and like wave after wave of competing emotions. But, as a community, we can combat these feelings by working together to create connections and solidarity.
    As a school, we are holding our students at the center of planning for the upcoming weeks and months. To help parents and students gain a better understanding of what to expect, I encourage you to download and review our Distance Learning Plan.
    I have also asked Associate Head of School Joe Vogel to shift his focus to serving as an academic dean, working closely with the division directors to ensure the quality of overall experience and academic integrity. Our division directors will be working with teachers to fine-tune their delivery of instruction online with Joe as an added layer of support.

    In This Together
    The upcoming months will be filled with ups and downs, with moments of joy, and times of sadness. The one constant will be the human connections we have as an Old Trail School community. The physical distance cannot erode the care we have for one another and the most important deliverable will be connection and sense of community.

    As we come back together tomorrow, although virtual, we will be together as a community. Please take this evening to help your child get organized and set up for their distance learning experience. Find a place to set up a desk, go back to the links sent by division directors and refresh your understanding of the schedule, talk about the materials they will need this week, and remind them we are here for them.
    These weeks ahead will be full of learning both as educators and as students and families, as we learn to navigate a version of school none of us could have anticipated a few weeks ago. We will make changes as necessary and be willing to adapt as we go. 

    I thank you again for your patience and support as we try our best to remain connected to your children and provide them meaningful learning experiences. As an independent school, we can be agile and creative in ways public schools cannot and will strive to fulfill our mission to your children in this anomalous time.

    Sarah Johnston
    Head of School
  • March 18: A Letter to the OTS Community

    Dear Old Trail Community,
    As we embark on our spring break, it is hard to imagine the world has changed so much in such a short period of time. We are all feeling the uncertainty and fear that comes along with a global pandemic. But, we are also feeling the strength of our community, the newfound joy of simply connecting with others over Zoom, and the incredible resilience of our students and faculty. 

    I have never felt more grateful to be connected to such a strong school community, and know this strength is what will get us through this complicated time.

    Thank you to our students for rising to the call to be flexible and positive. Although there are disappointments, I know I will look back on this time and see their leadership, strength and resolve in how they handled this unprecedented situation. I love the emails I have received from students with messages of support or the gift of a song, reminding me we are all here for each other despite the physical distance. 

    Thank you to our dedicated and supportive families. We are grateful for your notes of encouragement and support, offers to help, and photos of smiling faces. We are all in this together and it only works when we work as a team. Your patience and trust have been critical as we manage this new landscape together. 

    Thank you also to our faculty and staff for their incredible perseverance, creativity and grace. Our faculty are the backbone of our school and they have shown us the true power of ingenuity and care. Many schools have chosen to simply send content home for parents to teach, but we believe that connection to our community is of equal importance to content delivery. The relationships we have with your children matter and may be more important now than ever before. 

    I wish you the very best and good health in these upcoming days. We look forward to reconnecting online as an OTS community on March 31. 


    Sarah Johnston
    Head of School
  • March 18: Middle School Update

    Dear Middle School families,
    On Thursday afternoon of last week, I stood in the Dining Room and spoke to the divisional student body of the unexpected changes to their school life for the foreseeable future. In an instant, thoughts of talent shows, upcoming assessments, inspiration projects, and advisory snacks shifted to considerations of home life and study.
    Some took that shift quite well and delighted in the thought of an extended Spring Break, later morning alarms, and free dress every day. Others had concerns about homework, tests and how to tell a teacher they need to go to the bathroom!
    A few recognized the larger forces at play and worried about world events and how their lives would be impacted by them. Advisors and I sought to comfort the students and had already been at work to develop a system that would bring them as much of Old Trail as possible. 

    If you happened to be peering over your child’s shoulder yesterday or today, you had the chance to catch a glimpse of our first day of Virtual Old Trail School. On behalf of the entire faculty after a weekend of uncertainty, it was so heartening to see all of your children’s smiling faces online. They were engaged, playing around with their new technology, learning about how these distant learning systems will work, and asking pertinent and astute questions. It was a remarkable moment for our division, and I could not be prouder of how each of them rallied around this new plan.

    Our goal is to provide an experience that blends synchronous learning (in real-time and live) and asynchronous learning (in off-time, allowing for independent and/or small group coordination/assessment).
    Students have schedules that have them in classes at various points between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. Each teacher will use the Zoom platform as a way to gather in real-time and discuss the agenda for that class. Each course is allotted 55 minutes, and teachers and students will have the ability to work in small groups, deliver content, and share resources – just like in a regular classroom. There is also the possibility of classes moving into asynchronous opportunities once the agenda is shared, and not requiring the entire class period.

    I want to share my deepest thanks for the faculty, who have readjusted their curricula and pedagogies to fit our new online model, and for you – our families – for being so patient and understanding.
    Our teachers have been absolutely incredible, flexible and professional throughout this entire transition. Your children and I are beyond lucky to have these gifted teachers guiding our classrooms. Just as always, they’ll be available during normal school hours, so feel free to send emails if you have any questions.
    On that note, if you have any questions throughout this virtual period, please free to contact me. I can be reached in my personal Zoom Room for video-conferencing or you can call my cell at 724.612.1558. I won’t be checking my office voicemail as much, but I will be dutifully responsive to emails, phone calls and texts. 

    We will be out of school tomorrow, Thursday, March 19, but will be back and ready to go, virtually, on Tuesday, March 31. Assuming that many of you will be in your homes (and only your homes!) during this break, spending a lot of family time together, I wish you good health, limited stress, and happy memories.
    All my best,

    David Chottiner
    Middle School Director
  • March 18: Intermediate School Update

    Dear Intermediate School Families,
    The past week has been one of the most challenging weeks for me as an educator. For countless years, teaching, mentoring, shaping and impacting the lives of students at Old Trail has defined me. When I first realized the severity of what we were facing, I knew that it was inevitable that the campus would close, and we would have to dive quickly into unknown territory. 

    The essence of Old Trail is knowing and caring for your children. This is and has always been a profound privilege. Knowing and caring for students will remain at the core of our relationship with your children as we move through and face these challenging times.

    I speak for the entire Intermediate School faculty when I tell you the sense of relief I felt yesterday as I “visited” the virtual classrooms. Although the last two days have been important opportunities for us and your children to become familiar with what school will look like after Spring Break, what struck me most is how evident the relationship the faculty have with your children. They might physically be many miles apart, but the sense of community was evident. The joy your children demonstrated in seeing their teachers and friends softened the challenges of the last week.

    After Spring Break, students will quickly acclimate to a new routine as they learn from their teachers, see each other, and complete homework. While additional technical issues may arise, a sense of a new normal should begin to settle in.
    Students will be in classes from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. each day. During this time, students will engage in synchronous learning (live and in real-time) and asynchronous learning (i.e. small groups, discussion, completing homework). They, of course, will continue to receive instruction from their Specials teachers and will have opportunities for additional enrichment. 

    For those of you who have children in other divisions, you will notice that although the essence of a school day is the same, the structure varies between each division, based upon the age of the child and what research says works best. I am incredibly and forever grateful to the Intermediate School faculty who have worked tirelessly over the last week to modify their curriculum, learn new skills, and support each other to ensure that this new model is meaningful. I am also grateful to all of your children who have demonstrated resilience, courage and character.

    As you know, my virtual door is always open, and I encourage you to reach out for any reason. Please feel free to contact me via Zoom (ID# 487-745-1658) or email. As Joe Vogel discussed with your children last week, campus may be closed at Old Trail, but school will indeed be open. I will see you and your children in school when we return from break. 

    Thanks for your ongoing support.

    John Pintola
    Intermediate School Director
  • March 18: Primary School Update

    Dear Primary School Families,

    I want to begin by simply saying Thank You
    Thank you to our amazing faculty, who have worked tirelessly to transition their classrooms and curriculums into online platforms, ensuring they will stay connected to their students. Thank you to our wonderful families who have supported us from home, getting our youngest children connected and helping them better understand how to operate SeeSaw and Zoom. 

    Thank you for this incredible partnership between school and home. Through this collaboration of families and faculty, we have been able to implement a distance learning model that will continue to nurture and enrich our students in the coming weeks. 

    When online classes resume on Tuesday, March 31, we will officially begin delivering instruction through these online platforms. Please review your child’s schedule below and encourage them to follow along throughout the day. We understand parents of young children are facing many unique challenges during this time, so if your child is unable to attend live sessions or follow along in real-time, all videos will be saved in SeeSaw to be viewed at your convenience.

    It is critical that we emphasize the importance of attendance and participation in this online model. Please review the Guidelines and Etiquette for Online Learning with your child prior to the first day of class, so they understand the expectations moving forward. 

    We truly appreciate your patience and flexibility as we make this transition. It is an honor to educate your children. Thank you for sharing them with us! I am looking forward to seeing everyone after Spring Break on Tuesday, March 31!
    With warm regards,
    Amanda Irwin
    Primary School Director
  • March 16: School Closure Extended

    Dear Old Trail Community,
    I hope this finds you and your family doing well in the midst of significant life changes we are all trying to absorb and understand. Over the past few weeks, our leadership team has been forced to make some difficult decisions to mitigate the risk of a coronavirus outbreak. More are likely to come.
    But we will weather this together and we will continue to do what we feel is right in order to protect our students, our faculty and families, as well as our surrounding communities.

    As you are likely aware, shortly after we made the decision to close Old Trail last Thursday, Gov. Mike DeWine signed an order – in conjunction with the Ohio Department of Health – to close all K-12 schools in the state until April 3. This means we will not return students to campus until at least Monday, April 6. Given what we know about those who are most affected by the coronavirus, we have also decided to proactively postpone Grandparents Day, which was originally scheduled for April 24, indefinitely.  

    The extended week of school closure also means that we will fully launch our distance learning program on Monday, March 31. Today, faculty are working from home to ramp up their preparations for remote instruction. Starting tomorrow, each division is prepared to start online engagement with your children. We feel confident in our ability to provide meaningful learning experiences for your children for as long as this school closure lasts. 

    In order to ground you in what the next week will require and feel like, we have provided details below for each division. As a reminder, Spring Break will begin on Thursday, March 19. Distance learning will begin on Tuesday, March 31. 

    Early Childhood and Primary School
    The students in Primary School are eager to begin distance learning through the use of their iPads. Over the weekend, we already saw them starting to post and connect with their teachers and peers. Tomorrow, March 17, students and parents will be testing their devices, connecting through apps, and ensuring they understand how to maneuver their online platforms, SeeSaw and Zoom. 

    On Wednesday, we will run through the daily schedule, giving students the opportunity to understand how a typical day of distance learning will feel.

    Intermediate School
    To make the distance learning process as seamless as possible, the Intermediate School faculty will meet with the students online tomorrow, March 17, and Wednesday, March 18, starting each day at 9 a.m. 

    This orientation will familiarize your children with how distance learning will look while we are off-campus. Third and fourth grade students will remain online until approximately 9:30 a.m. Fifth grade students will remain online until approximately 10 a.m. as they move through an abbreviated schedule. Interactions will be short this week as faculty cover the basics of what will be happening after remote classes begin on March 31. Additional information will be shared before that time.

    Middle School
    Students will check in with their advisor for 15-20 minutes tomorrow, March 17, at 10 a.m. During this time, we’ll confirm that all students are able to access Zoom and that their technology is working properly. Advisors will also use this time to answer any questions about how distance learning will work. At 1 p.m., David Chottiner will host a full school meeting, where he will go over the philosophy, schedule, rules and routines for online school. As soon as that meeting concludes, students will finish the day - once again with advisors for questions and discussion. 
    On Wednesday, March 18, students will begin their day at 9 a.m. and will proceed through all of their classes in 15-20 minute intervals. Each teacher will share how their particular course will operate using a distant learning model. The day will end back in advisory groups so that any last-minute questions can be answered. 
    All students will receive an email from Mr. Chottiner with schedules and room links later today. These will be critical documents for students to bookmark and regularly have access to – both for this week and beyond. 

    An Educational Partnership
    Each news cycle seems to bring new and sometimes alarming information, and with it, challenges that force us to adapt. You may have heard that Gov. DeWine said yesterday that he wouldn’t be surprised if schools were to be closed for much longer than the original three-week period. As a leadership team, we are currently working through multiple scenarios in order to be nimble and responsive to updates announced by the state.

    All of us – including faculty, staff, students and families – need to be flexible and adaptable as we work through this. Patience and teamwork are essential for us to deliver what we all want – the very best and most meaningful learning experiences for our students. As an independent school, we benefit greatly in our ability to be creative, agile and free from state curriculum constraints. 

    Please continue to take advantage of the various resources listed on the webpage we have developed specific to COVID-19. We will continue to keep you informed as this situation evolves and are grateful for your understanding and support during these uncertain times.
    All my best, 

    Sarah Johnston
    Head of School
  • March 13: Helping Children Manage Stress

    Dear Old Trail Community,
    It can be challenging to provide children with reassurance as the coronavirus (COVID-19) has reached pandemic status. As parents, we feel obligated to stay informed of the developing situation, even as each update brings more uncertainty and/or reminds us of unpleasant and frightening possibilities.
    To help parents manage their children's stress during anxious times, please note the following tips:

    * One of the most effective antidotes to overwhelming fear is valid information
    . Anxieties are highest when we have inadequate or misleading information, therefore we encourage parents to seek out accurate factual information that results in maximizing personal safety behaviors and good decision-making. This webpage from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is a great place to start. We have also created our own webpage that contains all past communications from the school as well as links to helpful resources for parents. 

    * However, even when receiving credible information, there can be a saturation point
     – a time when one needs a respite from the bombardment of the disconcerting news. Therefore, we ask that you consider exposing your children to media coverage in a judicious way. For each family, there will be a “sweet spot” that represents a balance of staying apprised of critical information and of becoming “bad news weary.”

    * It is also true that reinforcing a sense of empowerment – a feeling that one is doing something useful or meaningful – can help to mitigate intense anxiety
    . Anxiety is greatest when one feels the least amount of control, so providing your child with a sense of efficacy – of what he or she can do to maximize his or her health – is important. As we have said before, children can be invited to take care of their bodies and their health responsibly by handwashing, avoiding touching the face, eating and sleeping well, and exercising. Particularly in a situation of possible quarantine, children can be encouraged to feel a sense of competence by helping others (e.g. by writing to relatives, for example). If you are housebound, it can be energizing for your child to be invited into the cleaning and/or maintenance of a healthy living environment by asking him or her to perform light cleaning or food preparation chores.

    * In a quarantine situation, there can be comfort in establishing routines
    , albeit they may need to be new routines. Having predictable events such as reading time, dinner time, etc., can help to define the days spent in relative disengagement from usual schedules and experiences.

    * If your child becomes disappointed about lost opportunities, such as a canceled trip or social event, it can be helpful to encourage him or her to spend a moment reflecting on the things for which he or she is grateful. Gratitude has been demonstrated to have significant mental health benefits.  Perhaps these reflections can be shared during a family meal or perhaps your child can maintain a “gratitude journal” for a daily recording.

    Other strategies that research suggests may help to reduce your child’s acute stress include:

    * Watching a comedy
    . Laughter is, indeed, good medicine. After periods of laughter, people can be more tolerant of discomfort.

    * Getting outside in nature
    . Nature-regard (walking in green places, seeing bodies of water, etc. ), as well as exposure to daylight, can have mood-boosting effects. 

    * Listening to music
    . Cortisol levels (a marker of stress) are lowered for some people when they listen to music. Interestingly, it seems that the most effective music is music the person likes, rather than a specific genre of music having universal impacts.

    * Having a novel experience
    . Sometimes the cognitive distraction of a new learning opportunity (a new board game, a new hobby, etc.) can provide a reset from negative to positive energy.

    * Receiving healing touch. A scalp massage, a back rub or foot rub (or a soak in a hot bath) can bring relief from tension and lower cortisol. 

    *Practicing breathing techniques. By engaging in relaxation breathing techniques, cortisol levels can drop. This can include controlled deep breathing techniques or what is called “alternate nostril” breathing techniques.

    * Creating mental Imagery
    . When paired with deep breathing techniques, this can be powerfully relaxing. Ask your child to close his or her eyes and to imagine a very calming scene. The more vividly he or she can “paint” the mental image, the more relaxing it will be.

    * Doing progressive relaxation. This is a guided process in which the child tenses and relaxes various muscle groups with the goal of reducing physical and psychological tension. There are many audio guides available to facilitate this for your child.

    The degree of stress that an individual experiences will vary as a function of his or her temperament and past experiences. For some children, the experience of distance learning and extra family time may even be viewed as an adventure.  
    None of the above suggestions will be comfortable or effective for everyone. Most are designed to alleviate stress levels when they are most acute. If you or your child is experiencing chronic stress – stress that feels continuous or is interfering in your daily functioning and is escalating, please contact Lauren Keller or me and we will respond to your concern.
    With warm regards,

    Katherine B. Howard, M.A., NCSP, LPC
    School Psychologist
    Director of Support Services
  • March 12: School Closure Announcement

    Dear Old Trail Community,
    Over the past two weeks, we have been closely monitoring and quickly responding to the evolving news and information about the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. We’ve consulted with medical and public health experts and organizations, both locally and nationally, and have been in constant contact with administrators of independent and public schools in our region and around the country.
    While there are no confirmed cases of COVID-19 at Old Trail at this time, we realize that we are an interconnected and interdependent community, and the choices we make and the risks we assume can have unintended, yet potentially serious, implications for others.  
    This is why, after many days of detailed and thoughtful discussion, as well as effective planning and preparation, the Old Trail School leadership team and Board of Directors have decided to proactively close Old Trail starting this Friday, March 13, in an effort to limit the spread of COVID-19 in our community. 
    This decision was not made lightly. Furthermore, we fully recognize and understand that this creates a stressful and unique set of challenges for our families. Please know that the decision was informed not only by our priority to protect the health and safety of our students, families and employees, but also by our communal responsibility to slow the spread of COVID-19. We believe this is a critical moment in the outbreak when such measures can potentially impact the spread of the disease.

    Details About the Closure
    * The closure will begin this Friday, March 13
    . All OTS after-school activities and athletic events have been canceled until further notice. Students will be informed of this decision this afternoon and personal items will be sent home with them at the end of the school day. Parents may come to school to retrieve any additional personal items tomorrow, if necessary.

    Chromebooks and iPads will also be sent home with students today. Please use this checklist to ensure you are able to connect your child's device to your home network and test that the webcam and audio are working properly. Please contact the Technology staff with any questions to troubleshoot issues.    

    OTS faculty will have in-service work days tomorrow and on Monday, March 16, to prepare to implement our full distance learning model if necessary when classes resume following Spring Break. We feel confident in our ability to deliver meaningful educational experiences through technology. Division Directors will reach out to their respective families later today with more details. 

    We understand that some households may not have access to web-enabled devices or the Internet at home. If this is the case for your family, please let the appropriate division director know so that the school can provide support. 

    Students will have a Distance Learning Orientation from home on Tuesday, March 17
    . During that time, schedules, guidelines and expectations for distance learning will be communicated and technology will be tested. Families can think of this as something similar to what a “First Day of School” would be like be. Students will get their first sense of what an actual remote day of school will feel like on Wednesday, March 18. More details will be shared tomorrow. 

    Spring Break will begin on Thursday, March 19
    , and continue until Monday, March 30.  

    ASSIST sessions scheduled for next week have been canceled. 
    Should we need to implement the full distance learning model when classes resume from Spring Break, students who participate in ASSIST with either Mrs. Solis or Mr. Kramer will have their sessions at their regularly scheduled times via Zoom. Students who participate in ASSIST with Mrs. Kristoff will have their sessions (via Zoom) at a time scheduled by Mrs. Kristoff in consultation with each family.

    During the closure, Old Trail administrators, faculty and staff will be accessible through email during the week from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Email addresses can be found via the Faculty & Staff Directory our school website.   

    Starting Monday, March 16, and continuing until further notice, our building will be closed to students and parents/guardians. A deep clean of the building will take place before students return to school.

    If you would like to speak with one of our School Psychologists during the closure, please contact Kathi Howard to set up a phone call or Zoom appointment for you and/or your child. 

    Throughout this closure, you will receive frequent communications from the school. To help families keep track of all COVID-19 communications, we have created a webpage that you may find helpful. There, you will find all past and future school-wide communications, as well as helpful links and resources. 

    How You Can Help
    We want to emphasize that during this closure, all of us – including students and parents/guardians – have a responsibility. As public health officials have emphasized, school closures will not be effective unless they are accompanied by social distancing strategies. We ask that you restrict your social interactions during this period. If our student body is out and about, spending time with various friend groups, the virus is more likely to continue to spread. 
    With the campus closed, we recognize that families will be responsible for their students’ daily activities. Please know that we are here to help and feel free to reach out to division directors and/or support services during the closure.

    * Work with your student to make sure your family is practicing appropriate social distancing measures, as outlined by the World Health Organization.

    * Review common-sense preventive actions including appropriately covering coughs and sneezes and washing hands often (and for 20 seconds).

    * Discuss how to slow the spread of the disease. Review the CDC’s recommendations on how you and your family can help

    * Talk with your student about how they will handle schoolwork. Make sure they have set up a place to work. 

    * Help your student come up with healthy strategies to connect with friends they normally see at school, as well as ways to get exercise, which is proven to improve children’s mental and physical health.

     Likewise, help students limit distractions. Middle School students do not have access to cell phones during the school day; you may want to consider this during the “school day” at home as well.

    * Talk with your student about what they are thinking and feeling. Kathi Howard offered some helpful tips here. There is also a New York Times article about how to talk to teens and tweens about coronavirus. You can find more resources from our student and family support program on our coronavirus webpage. 

    In Old Trail’s nearly 100 years, our school community has weathered many storms. This is not the first major challenge our community has faced, nor will it be the last. We trust that every member of our community – students, faculty, staff, parents/guardians, and alumni – will work together, supporting each member of the Old Trail community and our larger regional community. Take care of yourself – take care of each other – and especially take care of those who are the most vulnerable in our midst. 
    Thank you for your resilience and empathy as we navigate through this challenge together.
  • March 11: Grades 7-8 Evening Activities Postponed

    Evening activities planned for Grade 7 and Grade 8 students on Thursday, March 12, have been postponed indefinitely. The decision was made in response to the state of Ohio's heightened measures to limit the spread of novel coronavirus (COVID-19), as announced by Governor Mike DeWine this afternoon. As a reminder, there will be no school this Friday, March 13, for Grade 7 and Grade 8 students.
    Additionally, please be aware that next week's Grade 7 trips to St. Thomas Hospital on March 17 and March 19 have been canceled due to COVID-19 concerns. Thank you in advance for your understanding as we track and adjust to this rapidly evolving situation.

    Please contact Middle School Director David Chottiner with any questions.
  • March 11: Changes to Intermediate School Events

    Dear Intermediate School Families,
    In an effort to limit the spread of Coronavirus (COVID-19) and with the health and well-being of our students, staff and families in mind, I'm writing to let you know that we are taking the precautionary action to alter some upcoming Intermediate School events.

    * Craft Fair & Bake Sale Postponed: Next Wednesday's (March 18) Intermediate School Craft Fair and Bake Sale has been postponed. This decision was made due to the nature of the event as well as recommendations from local public health officials to limit the number of extra public gatherings at our school. We apologize for what will likely be disappointing news for many of our students. Please let your children know the plan is to reschedule the Craft Fair for a future date this spring.  

    * Grade 3 Trip to Federal Reserve Canceled
    : Monday's (March 16) Grade 3 trip to the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland has been canceled. Officials from the bank did not feel comfortable having our students visit at this time. 

    * Grade 3 Trip to Hale Farm to Proceed
    : As of this afternoon, the plan is to move forward with Friday's (March 13) Grade 3 trip to Hale Farm due to the school's close proximity to the grounds and the nature of the day's activities.    

    Thank you in advance for your understanding as we navigate through unchartered waters. To keep you updated on all COVID-19 communications from the school, we have created a webpage that you may find helpful. Please refer to it often as it will be updated frequently.
    Please also know that we take your family's health and the health of everyone in our communities seriously. If you have any questions or concerns, please let me know.

    John Pintola
    Intermediate School Director
  • March 10: Head of School Update

    Dear Old Trail Community,

    I’m writing to update you on a few new developments regarding the spread of Coronavirus (COVID-19) in our region as well as to inform you of our thinking and continued preparations at the school. 

    * First and foremost, at this time, Old Trail continues to have zero reported or confirmed cases of students, faculty, staff or administration with COVID-19. Nor are there any known individuals who have had direct exposure to someone who has been diagnosed with COVID-19.

    With that said, as many of you likely already know, Governor Mike Dewine announced yesterday three confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Cuyahoga County and has designated Ohio as a state of emergency. Additionally, students from Hawken School, Laurel School, Lawrence School, Solon and University School were in contact with one of the three confirmed cases in Ohio after recently traveling to Washington D.C, on a school-sponsored trip. Those students have been self-quarantined and their respective schools remain open.

    Yesterday, Western Reserve Academy made the proactive decision to close its campus and implement distance learning for two weeks when classes resume following their spring break. 

    As these situations indicate, we are in an extremely fluid and ambiguous time. 

    Last night, I met with the Old Trail Board of Directors to update them on our plans and ways in which the school is monitoring the situation. I reminded them that we are following industry standards and making thoughtful decisions, guided by experts in the field. The Board has been and will continue to be active in our decision making.

    While the hope is that we will not have to shut down our campus, please know that this possibility is being discussed and plans are being put into place should this become necessary in the future. This difficult decision could be mandated by a governmental agency or by the school if it is deemed necessary with regard to risk management and the safety of our students and the surrounding community.

    In the event of a campus shutdown, we have taken a number of steps to ensure that we would still be able to provide meaningful educational programming for our students remotely. This distance learning model would provide structure, creative learning opportunities, access to teachers and support services, and chances for students to be “together” through technology. We understand that some households may not have access to web-enabled devices or the Internet at home. If this is the case for your family, please let the appropriate division director know so that the school can provide support.

    Thank you for your cooperation in keeping our school community healthy and safe. We will share more information in the coming days.
    All my best, 

    Sarah Johnston
    Head of School
  • March 9: Trip Reimbursement

    Dear Old Trail Families,
    Thank you for your patience as we work to reimburse your trip fees as quickly as possible. To expedite the process, please complete this reimbursement form to indicate whether you would like a full refund or to apply the fees to an outstanding 2019-20 balance.

    Please also know that all costs associated with the cancelation of school trips as well as activities offered to our students this week are being absorbed by the school. 
    If you have any questions, please contact Meeta Nosrati at 330.666.1118 ext. 334. 
    All my best,
    Sarah Johnston
    Head of School
  • March 7: A Letter to Grade 7 and Grade 8 Students

    Dear Grade 7 and Grade 8 Students (and Parents),

    There is relatively little that I can write that will ease your disappointment surrounding the cancellation of this year’s trips. The faculty who have spent day after day in the classrooms working with you, laughing with you and supporting you are also disappointed by the unfortunate turn of events facing our country and our entire global community. We love spending time with you, and we regret the fact that we too will miss these specific experiences to do just that. 

    But, we also are a creative and flexible group of faculty members, committed to both your learning and the camaraderie that can be developed through shared memories. As soon as we determined that these trips could not travel, we began to consider options to provide meaningful alternatives and ways to mitigate what you might be feeling. 

    So I want to give you a sense of three key events/programs that will occur this week. A huge thanks to the many faculty, students (and parents!) who had a hand in designing these activities quickly and eagerly.  

    When you return to school on Monday, we are well aware that you aren’t going to be in the best mood, nor are you going to be eager to attend class on a normal schedule. We recognize this and want to honor it. We will begin the day in open-forum hall meetings and will follow that with some low-key advisor or grade-level fun. 

    With beautiful weather in the forecast for Monday, we will head out of the building at around 10 a.m. and walk on the Towpath to Peninsula. Once there, seventh graders will enjoy lunch at Fisher’s Cafe and Pub, and eighth graders will head to the Winking Lizard. Lunch will be on us.
    If time allows, we’ll also try to stop for some ice cream at Trail Mix or popcorn at the new popcorn store. A bus will ride us back to school for fun and games until the end of the day. Our hope is that this gives you enough of a boost to soldier on for the rest of the week.

    You should remember to bring a water bottle for the extended walk, and perhaps a snack too, if you think you’ll get hungry on the trail. Please bring shoes and clothing appropriate for hiking; it will be sunny, but also likely chilly in the morning. It will most definitely be a Free Dress Day!

    Although it isn’t completely set yet, please note that we will be providing an evening activity of some kind on Thursday. You can assume that it will begin during the 5 o'clock hour and last until roughly 10 p.m. Both grades will do something that is consistent with the theme of their respective trips (i.e. seventh grade is likely to be "outdoorsy" and eighth grade might be a bit more formal to try on the nice clothes you were going to wear). Dinner and entertainment of some sort will be provided.
    Once again, more details will arrive shortly, as we are still putting the final arrangements in place.

    If you stay up late on Thursday, it would not be fair to force you to wake up early for school the next day! Because of that, Friday will be a “No School Day.” Enjoy the day to recuperate from what I hope is a really fun Thursday night!

    We are also looking into providing some additional memorable activities for you on other days, including possibly something off-site and optional for Friday. Again, we will continue to figure this out in the days ahead.

    As you can likely imagine, yesterday was a busy day of planning for completely unexpected future activities, all while letting go of our collective desires to make your Tremont and D.C. experiences a reality. Personally, I hope that you’ll join us, in allowing these smaller, yet formative moments to remind you of your healthy connections with your peers, your appreciation for our school community, and your willingness to make the best of this new situation. 

    Wishing you well,

    David Chottiner
    Middle School Director
  • March 6: School Trips Canceled

    Dear Old Trail Community,
    After careful consideration, we have decided to cancel all domestic and international off-campus programs this academic year. This includes the Grade 8 trip to Washington, D.C., and the Grade 7 trip to Tennessee this weekend; as well as the Grade 6 trip to Toronto in May and the Middle School Italy Program in June.  

    This was not an easy decision to make. I know it will be a significant disappointment for our students, who were looking forward to such meaningful experiences, and for our faculty, who have invested enormous amounts of time, talent and care in planning for these trips. 

    The safety and well-being of our students, faculty and staff will always be a top priority at Old Trail. Ultimately, it became clear that the unpredictability of the spread of Coronavirus (COVID-19), coupled with the logistical complications that are emerging in the wake of the global and national response to this outbreak, pose too great a risk for us to proceed. 

    Delivering Difficult News
    The immediate impact will be felt in grades 7 and 8, and we are currently evaluating the best on-campus options for student programming next week. These trips have been emblematic, in some ways, of our seventh and eighth grade experiences and we understand how disappointing this news will likely be to the students affected. 

    However, it may help to mitigate your child's disappointment if you frame the trip as just one of many special experiences that he or she has had, and will continue to have as part of his or her student experience at OTS and beyond. You can share that Mr. Chottiner and the Middle School faculty are working hard to adjust their plans in order to provide some fun activities in lieu of the trip. More details will be sent from Mr. Chottiner this weekend. 

    It may also be effective to remind them that we are part of a global community and that our actions, or inactions, can have a profound impact on others. By not going on these trips, we are doing our part to keep ourselves and others safer.
    Lastly, your children may find some solace in knowing that schools all across the country are having to make these same difficult decisions and that they are not alone in their disappointment. In that sense, they are part of a much bigger group of people, sharing a kinship with students all over our increasingly small globe. 

    Given this decision, we will be actively seeking ways to recoup or repurpose funds from each trip. After we learn about our options, our focus will be squarely on what is fair and reasonable for our families, given the complicated circumstances. We will address these complexities and communicate back with all impacted OTS families as quickly as we are able.

    Next Steps
    We take the responsibility for the care of your children very seriously. As I shared earlier this week, we will continue to closely monitor this dynamic situation, deepening our planning and preparation to ensure we can swiftly address any unexpected risks to campus safety or our school that emerge as this epidemic evolves.   

    In the meantime, we will continue to be diligent about cleaning our building and remind all members of our community to adhere to the hygiene standards recommended by the CDC to limit the spread of communicable diseases.
    On Wednesday, you should have received an email from School Psychologist Kathi Howard with guidelines for talking to children about the spread of COVID-19. If you haven’t already, I encourage you to read it as it includes age-appropriate tips for helping your children understand and process news of this outbreak. 

    Thank you for your trust and patience as we partner to support the safety and well-being of our students. 

    All my best,

    Sarah Johnston
    Head of School
  • March 4: Head of School Update

    Dear Old Trail Community,
    As is apparent in news reports, the worldwide Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak is rapidly evolving. I am writing to provide an update on how the latest information could affect our school community and to request your help regarding any planned travel outside of the U.S.

    The recommendations and decisions below are based on information and guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)Ohio Department of Public Health (ODH)World Health Organization (WHO) and International SOS.  

    School Trips Abroad and Domestic
    Based on the CDC's recommended Guidance for Student Foreign Travel and much consideration and thought, we have decided not to cancel the Middle School Italy program, which is scheduled for June 2020, at this time. With the understanding that this is a rapidly evolving situation, we will continue to monitor the circumstances closely by using the resources listed above as well as real-time updates from hundreds of schools across the country in order to make the best decision with regard to student safety. 

    At this point, we have also decided to proceed with Middle School trips to Washington, D.C. and Tremont, Tenn. (both trips occurring this month), and Toronto (May 2020). If circumstances change, we will contact the students and families involved as soon as possible. To better inform our decisions, we will maintain communication with other independent schools and local health departments at those destinations in advance of the trips. 

    Travel Outside of the United State
    In the interest of helping us provide support for those who may be delayed in returning to school, we ask all Old Trail community members who will be heading to destinations outside the U.S., including students, families, faculty and staff, to share their travel plans with us. All information collected will be used for administrative purposes only. 

    Please be aware that the U.S. Government may, in the interest of public health, increase travel restrictions in the coming weeks, and these decisions could affect a traveler's ability to return to campus after the break. 

    Taking Care of the OTS Community
    We encourage students, families, faculty and staff to refer to the advice, guidelines and COVID-19 travel alerts provided by the CDC, in particular their Guidelines for Prevention and Treatment and Coronavirus Disease 2019.  

    If you will be traveling, we urge you to stay alert to changes and developments that may affect your plans. As of this afternoon, the CDC lists the following country-specific travel advisories

    * CDC recommends that travelers avoid all nonessential travel to China (Level 3 Health Notice), Iran (Level 3 Health Notice), South Korea (Level 3 Health Notice) and Italy (Level 3 Health Notice). 

    * CDC recommends that older adults or those who have chronic medical conditions consider postponing travel to Japan (Level 2 Health Notice). 

    We request that Old Trail community members follow the advice of the CDC and not travel to mainland China, South Korea, Iran or Italy over Spring Break, as they all have Level 3 travel warnings. We advise community members to reconsider travel to Japan, the one current CDC travel alert Level 2 country. 

    If the CDC increases the warning to a Level 3 for any location, there is the risk of a mandatory period of quarantine or refusal of entry on return to the United States. It is also possible that the CDC could recommend that individuals returning from a Level 2 country should self-quarantine. Keep this in mind as you make your travel decisions. Old Trail will respond accordingly to CDC guidelines. 

    Illness and Return to Campus
    The CDC recommends that travelers returning from Level 3 countries spend 14 days in home quarantine, the length of time for COVID-19 symptoms to develop. This CDC recommendation has been made in order to mitigate the possible community spread of COVID-19 in the U.S. 

    * For the well-being of our school community, should your family make the decision to travel to a Level 3 country, we urge you to heed the recommendation to keep your children at home from school for 14 days following your return. Old Trail will work with your family during that time to keep your children up-to-date with their studies.

     More importantly, if anyone in your family has traveled to a COVID-19 Level 2 or Level 3 country and develops flu-like symptoms or has had close contact with a COVID-19 infected patient or person-under-investigation, please keep your child at home and let the school know immediately. 

    As we all work together to sustain a healthy and safe school community, please remember that it is important for students to stay home if they are sick and to practice good personal hygiene at and away from school. Please contact me with any concerns or for further clarification and thank you for your continued partnership.
    All my best, 

    Sarah Johnston
    Head of School
  • March 4: Talking to Children About Coronavirus

    Dear Old Trail Community,
    Recent media coverage about the spread of Coronavirus (COVID-19) has been alarming. I am writing to suggest some ways of managing your children's questions and concerns so that they are as minimally affected by the situation as is possible.
    First and foremost, your children will take their cues from you. The more palpable your anxiety, the less confident your children will be about their relative safety.
    While we all want our children to be vigilant about hygiene practices that can impact the transmission of the virus, we also do not want them to be burdened unnecessarily with worry and angst. Therefore, it is wise to monitor your children's access to media coverage and, if necessary, to limit their exposure by whatever means you can (turning off the TV or radio, asking for their cell phones after a certain time each day, etc.). It is also worth gauging your own level of worry and trying to avoid expressions of intense concern when communicating with your children.
    Some children will not be fazed much at all by the information about COVID-19 while others may be quite concerned. A child's response will vary as a function of his or her temperament. A child's developmental level will also dictate the way in which he or she processes the information.
    As such, here are some general guidelines for helping your children, based on their developmental levels:

    Early Childhood (Pre-K)
    Children who are pre-school age can usually be calmed by being reminded that it is your job to keep them safe. As such, you can reassure your children that you will be reminding them to wash their hands and that you will wash yours, too.
    In this way, you are demonstrating for your child that they can do something to help themselves to stay safe. You can say that people who get sick need to rest at home so their bodies can get better. And, you can reinforce that by eating healthful foods and by getting good sleep, they can keep their bodies as healthy as possible.
    You can also let your children know that some very smart doctors are working very hard to find a medicine that can help.

    Kindergarten to Grade 5
    Children who are in the Primary and Intermediate Schools can also be encouraged to practice handwashing and other preventive health behaviors such as eating well and getting adequate sleep. Again, the idea is to encourage your children to maximize their opportunities to remain healthy.
    You can remind children in this age group that when young children get this virus, they are usually not getting very sick from it. You can remind them that there are many viruses similar to COVID-19 that they have had before and from which they have recovered.
    You can explain that people are being asked to avoid travel to certain countries in the same way that children are asked to stay home from school when they have the flu – that by keeping people apart for a while, it helps the virus to stop spreading as much. And, you can reinforce the concept that scientists are working in various parts of the world to learn more about this virus so it can be prevented and managed.

    Grades 6-8
    With middle schoolers, in addition to the hygiene reminders to thwart the spread of the virus and the encouragement of general preventive health measures including good nutrition and adequate sleep, you can invite them to channel some of their curiosity into research.
    If they have an interest in the topic, ask them to explore what viruses are, how they mutate, what research scientists are doing to develop a vaccine, how governments may be sharing information in the quest to stem the contagion, etc. In other words, they can become engaged cognitively with some of this information as a partial antidote to their anxiety.
    Older children may also enjoy discussing the media coverage itself with you. For example, why might broadcast news lead with Coronavirus stories? Where does the newspaper place the articles on this topic? What type of coverage informs, what type excites, etc.? Older children might be interested in talking about how fear of contagion might change social norms (such as forgoing handshaking as a greeting) and/or when quarantine has been invoked historically and the consequences of it.

    Need More Help?
    Should your child become unduly concerned and/or manifest any signs of extreme discomfort such as school avoidance or persistent nightmares, please contact the school's Support Services staff. School Psychologist Lauren Keller and I are happy to offer guidance and support to you and your child.
    With warm regards,
    Katherine B. Howard, M.A., NCSP, LPC
    School Psychologist
    Director of Support Services
  • Feb. 28: Coronavirus (COVID-19) Preparedness and Planning

    Dear Old Trail Families, 

    I am sure recent news about the Coronavirus (COVID-19) has been on your mind as it has been for me. Please know that Old Trail School is actively monitoring information and updates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) about COVID-19. 

    As a next step, I want to share with you our preparedness measures and planning to date. While the CDC advises that the risk is currently low and there is no concern of a specific exposure risk at Old Trail School, we are taking this health threat very seriously. 

    The situation requires us to be proactive in our thinking and planning while using the most current information from experts in the field to create models that could be used, should we face an increased transmission of COVID-19. We have had extensive conversations about what these models might look like and more will follow. This is obviously going to be a fluid situation and we will keep you updated along the way.

    The health and safety of our students, faculty and staff will always be a top priority at Old Trail. Here are some pertinent updates that you should be aware of:

    As a school, we are being proactive and engaging experts to guide our planning and decision making. This week, Joe Vogel and I have been at the annual conference for the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) in Philadelphia where we have had extensive conversations with other heads of school, the Global Education Benchmark GroupInternational SOS, as well as the CDC. 

    A joint statement from all CCIS heads of school to families can be found here. Please take a moment to read it at your convenience.

    As of today, all class trips, off-campus activities and the Italy program will proceed as planned. However, we will continue to monitor the situation and will not hesitate to modify, postpone or cancel any activities if necessary.

    You will see in the CCIS statement that part of the planning process will include distance learning models in the event that schools need to be closed for an extended period of time. We will engage the faculty in this planning process.

    In the meantime, the most effective way to stay healthy and minimize the spread of infectious disease is to follow basic health best practices like:

    Enforcing great hygiene, like washing hands thoroughly and covering up coughs and sneezes.

    Asking all faculty, staff, and students who are feeling ill to stay home until they recover.

    As a school, we will continue to be diligent in our cleaning of the building and ask all community members to adhere to the hygiene standards recommended by the CDC to limit the spread of communicable diseases. The Ohio Department of Health will direct much of how we will respond, therefore I monitor their recommendations regularly.

    As you know, there is a lot of information coming out very quickly, which can feel overwhelming. I want to assure you that we, as a school, will continue monitoring the situation and will take a thoughtful approach to address this as it continues to evolve.
    If you have concerns or questions please feel free to reach me or Joe at any time.
    In good health, 

    Sarah Johnston
    Head of School

Event Updates

April 24: Grandparents Day – Postponed

May: Grade 6 trip to Toronto, Canada – Canceled

June: Middle School Program to Italy – Canceled

All athletics (practices and games), arts (rehearsals and performances), and after-school activities are canceled through Thursday, April 30. 

Preventing Illness

Public health officials recommend the following steps people should take to reduce their risk of getting and spreading any viral respiratory infections. These include: 
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol if soap and water are not available.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze, then throw the tissue in the trash and wash your hands.
  • Clean and disinfect objects and surfaces.
  • Stay at home and away from others if you are feeling ill.
Old Trail School is an independent day school (toddler through grade eight) located in the heart of Cuyahoga Valley National Park.