TNCS Emergency Personnel Child Care: Heroes Helping Heroes!

Six weeks have passed since The New Century School closed its physical campus to students and ceased normal operations, along with the rest of Maryland and most of the country. As extraordinary as that then seemed, TNCS faculty and administration met the upheaval head on, rolling out TNCS Virtual School within just a few days. TNCS students have been able to actively continue their education, despite these formidable circumstances. In terms of innovation and swift implementation, what TNCS has accomplished is unparalleled—TNCS was among the first if not the first to get online school up and running in Maryland.

But that’s not the only remarkable feat TNCS pulled off. “In mid March, we quickly moved to get approval from the Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE) to be an official Essential Personnel Child Care (EPCC) site in less than 48 hours,” explained TNCS Co-Founder/Co-Executive Director Roberta Faux. “We have an amazing staff who are practicing extensive preventive measures to care for children so their parents can continue to work the frontlines of this crisis.” Some TNCS families have come to Baltimore to work temporarily at Johns Hopkins hospital, for example, to complete a residency, but have no family or support system to rely on to take care of their kids in a medical crisis like this.

All of these “heroes helping heroes” deserve special recognition and gratitude.

EPCC at TNCS

imagejpeg_4Jatiya Richardson, a very familiar face at TNCS, having been an assistant teacher for the last 2 years, became the EPCC Director by stepping up to offer her services. “I felt it was needed, and I love taking care of kids. It was a no-brainer—when Head of Lower School Alicia Danyali mentioned that this might be happening, I knew that I wanted to be there to help. It’s in me.”

EPCC at TNCS currently comprises 12 children ages 2 to 5, whose parents are all health care workers, and 5 teachers. In addition to Ms. Richardson, Yurisan Gonzalez, Sara Espinoza, Yanely Poso, and Yanet Pina Gonzalez make up the group of care providers. The TNCS campus is closed to all with the exception of EPCC staff and students.

“In terms of compliance, we are doing everything we can to make sure that health is the top priority for everybody in this building,” said Ms. Richardson. Each person who enters the building goes through a rigorous process designed to adhere to the ever-changing guidelines issued by the MSDE that includes strict hygiene measures and donning the appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE). Additional measures include daily temperature checks and frequent handwashing and sanitizing.

They have also created a special cleaning station for the facilities staff to clean their tools and any supplies they have to bring in from outside.

So that’s the operational part, but what about the children? How does TNCS EPCC keep them happily occupied under such stringent new regulations? The staff has adapted to provide physical activity, arts and crafts, and good old story time, despite their environmental limitations. “We’re not able to go into the other building, so we transformed the multipurpose room into the gym,” said Ms. Richardson. “We brought over the Imagination Playground and some of the mats and completely sanitized them. We do imaginary play and play hide and seek. We also do a lot of painting.” Ms. Richardson even taught herself Google classroom so that the children could participate in the Montessori activities ongoing in TNCS Virtual School.

As for how the children are handling their new circumstances, Ms. Richardson says, “It can be rough, because we can’t mix them. It can be draining, but we just have to stick with it for everyone’s health.”

The kids for the most part understand a very little bit—they know about social distancing, for example, from talking about it at home and from books I read to them here. And they know that they don’t want to catch the coronavirus! They never ask questions, like, ‘Oh, teacher, why are you wearing a mask?’. I’m surprised by that—I’ve been waiting for them to ask about it, but no one has. They seem to have adjusted very easily. They don’t really get why the other kids aren’t here, though. They do ask about when their other friends are going to come to school, and it’s hard for them to grasp that this is an emergency campus, not school. But, otherwise they’ve been great—having fun, enjoying themselves. I think that has a lot to do with their age; they are very quick to adapt.

“The EPCC staff have been truly amazing and are providing lovely care amid daily temperature checks and while wearing a mask,” said Ms. Faux.

When life returns to quasi normalcy, Ms. Richardson and her EPCC staff will reenter TNCS preprimary and primary classrooms as assistant teachers as well as before and after care teachers in some cases. Ms. Richardson is Song Laoshi’s dedicated assistant teacher and is eager to resume learning Mandarin Chinese right alongside her students. Currently, she can converse briefly in Mandarin as well as count pretty high. We’ve certainly been counting on her and the other heroes at TNCS EPCC.


On a message from April 23rd on their website, MSDE expressed their gratitude for EPCC sites like TNCS: “MSDE wishes to extend its sincere thanks to our state’s child care providers, who have responded to the COVID-19 crisis by delivering exceptional care to the children of health care providers, police, fire and rescue personnel, and so many other first responders and essential personnel.”

Read more about Enhanced Guidelines for Child Care Facilities to Prevent The Spread of COVID-19 and the critical steps involved here.

A Fresh Take: TNCS Observes Earth Day 2020 . . . from a Safe Distance!

download.pngEarth Day has always been an important occasion at The New Century School—you can read about past observances at the end of this post. This year, Earth Day deserves our attention more than ever. For one, it’s the 50th anniversary of our planet’s largest civic event and the birth of the modern environmental movement. April 22, 1970 saw the U.S. population come together to protect our land, air, and water, and the movement has exploded worldwide since then.

download.jpgBut with the ongoing rollback of some of the most important environmental protection laws passed in the ensuing half century in the United States, the theme of Earth Day 2020 is, fittingly, Climate Action: Fight Today for a Better Tomorrow—because we need to halt this backslide.

Environmental sustainability is a cherished value at TNCS, and students regularly engage in supporting initiatives to keep our surroundings clean, healthy, and safe. With COVID-19 keeping all of us at home or at least socially distant, how can we show Planet Earth the love and respect it deserves?

Well, the TNCS Parent Council has you covered with their fresh take on Earth Day! Parent Council Director Sakina Ligon and Member Tilly Gurman felt that TNCS students needed to continue the tradition of recognizing Earth Day for the important occasion it is and put their heads together on how. Says Ms. Gurman:

Earth Day is celebrated all over the world on April 22nd to highlight the importance of protecting the environment. This year, the coronavirus forces us to be physically distant. As a result, the TNCS Parent Council is not able to host an in-person Earth Day event, as we have done in years past. At the same time, we can still come together as a virtual TNCS community and share the spirit of respecting and caring for the Earth.

Since we have been spending much of our days inside, the TNCS Parent Council would like to encourage families to think about ways to celebrate the Earth outside the home. Let’s celebrate our TNCS community and engage with the Earth, all while respecting physical distancing and staying healthy.

Top 10 Ways to Observe Earth Day 2020!

This list was specially curated by Ms. Gurman to get us outside safely and includes age-appropriate activities, ranging from appreciating nature to community service, for everyone. Choose an activity as-is from the list or modify one to fit your family’s needs. Either way, enjoy your Earth!

  1. Engage in a shape walk or collect the rainbow: Go for a walk outside, either near your home or in a more remote area. Take note of what shapes/colors you find.
    For the shape walk, look to see how many different shapes you are able to identify in nature. Visit Scholastic.com and GreatSchools.org for great tips.
    For collecting the rainbow, see if you can find something in nature for each color of the rainbow. Use this handy checklist.
  2. Do a nature scavenger hunt: Have fun exploring the environment around you, similar to the shape walk or collecting the rainbow. The difference with this activity is that you start with a specific list of things to:
    See (e.g., spider web, wildflowers, birds, squirrels)
    Collect (e.g., pinecones, feathers, rocks)
    Do (e.g., climb a tree, create a leaf rubbing, record a bird singing)
    Photograph (e.g., sunrise/sunset, animal tracks, bird nest).
    See how many of the items on your list you are able to identify. Use this example checklist; additional guidance can be found at HomeScienceTools.com and ProjectLearningTree.org.
  3. Have a picnic: Enjoy spring by having a picnic outside with your family. It can be outside your house or somewhere else nearby.
  4. Clean up your community: Don some gloves and walk around your neighborhood with a trash bag and pick up trash you see lying around. Separate recyclables from non-recyclables.
  5. Plant natives: Plant a plant that is native to the area, which is good for both the local environment and the insects and birds who make it their habitat.
    For a container garden, see Wikilawn.com and Native Plants for Container Gardening in the Mid-Atlantic.
    For a ground garden, see the BaltimoreSun.com, and the UMD Home and Garden Information Center.
  6. Perform outside: For those who like to sing or play an instrument that is portable, you can find a place outside to perform a song or two for family, neighbors, and friends (from a safe distance, of course).
  7. Write a poem: Write a poem for Earth Day and display on your window for anyone who is passing to enjoy.
  8. Create art using found materials: Go for a walk outside, either near your home or in a more remote area. Using materials found during your walk (either natural or manmade materials), create some form of art. It could be a sculpture combining the various pieces or you could use what you found as a brush or sponge to apply paint to canvas/paper. Be creative or visit KinderArt.com, BuggyandBuddy.com, or HappyHooligans for inspiration.
  9. Paint or draw en plein air: Not feeling like going for a hike? Take some coloring or drawing supplies and spend some time in your backyard or a nearby park to draw in fresh air. Let the outdoors inspire what you draw. You can then choose to display your artwork at home on a window for people passing by to enjoy.
  10. Create chalk art: Use chalk to draw or write a message on the sidewalk outside your house to share a message for Earth Day 2020. Be creative! The message can focus on specific messages (e.g., reduce, reuse, and recycle) or can be more general.

As you can see, there are plenty of ways we can overcome circumstances and celebrate Earth Day 2020 with plenty of fresh air and vigor. But that’s not all—we really need the “come together” part of this to boost our community. Ms. Gurman says, “Let’s also share our voices and experiences with one another. We’d love to have families share what they do by posting via social media with the hashtags #TNCSEarthDay2020, #TNCS, and #TNCSVirtualSchool.

So, from Sunday, April 19th through Sunday, April 26th, we ask you to post your Earth Day activity on the TNCS Facebook page using the hashtags above and also tagging @thenewcenturyschool (don’t forget the “the”!). Another option is to post in comments under the Earth Day event post on Facebook. Or, if you prefer, you can also send us your photos to files@thenewcenturyschool.com with Earth Day in the subject line, and we’ll post them for you.

. . . by the way, if getting outside is not going to happen for you for whatever the reason (not judging!), tune into Earth Day Live 2020 and enjoy virtually!


A Spring Break Message to Thank You, TNCS!

A very different Spring Break starts next week amid the shutdown, but students at The New Century School already have 3 full weeks of TNCS Virtual School under their belts and can sit back and enjoy their well-earned time off from academics.

Before they do so, though, students across several divisions—yes, even the preschoolers—took a moment to express their gratitude for all the hard work, forward thinking, and can-do attitudes that went into keeping them productively occupied and maintaining their educational momentum throughout this period of massive adjustment to our new way of life.

These thank-you messages (progressing roughly by division) go out to you, TNCS teachers, staff, faculty, administration, and founders.

And don’t forget these beautiful handmade thank-you paintings and drawings!


Not only has TNCS made all of this possible, but they continue to innovate ways to engage students. Even during Spring Break, TNCS is hosting virtual activities. Staff and assistants are running daily interactive sessions in each grade (pre-primary through 8th) that you can log on to Google classrooms each morning to explore.

There is also a K–8 reading challenge for students to log minutes spent reading (either reading or being read to). The homeroom class with the most time logged gets a prize (TBA), and the top three individual students no matter what homeroom will receive ice cream for their immediate families.

Finally, parents can use some of their volunteer hours, to lead “hangout activities” for their child’s class. Examples include making paper aircraft or painting on cardboard.

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Having technical problems with Google classrooms? View this helpful video for troubleshooting.