COVID-19 Updates

JMSG Current Status

JMSG is currently offering online school and began hybrid learning the week of November 16, 2020.

Our top priority is the well-being of all of our community members, including students, faculty, staff, and families. We take a thoughtful approach and continue to stay abreast of the latest information to plan for multiple contingencies. 

Please see here for Sandra's latest Covid update and for the Reopening Campus Plan: Policies and Protocols.

Covid-19 Safety Plan

Please visit this webpage for updates and information as we work together to respond to the evolving situation.


List of 38 frequently asked questions.

  • How can parents balance letting their child have autonomy regarding school, and having enough oversight to know she is following along in the classroom?

    Online learning can pose different challenges to different kinds of learners. Some students have welcomed being in online classes where for others, it is difficult to remain engaged. Once you accept the guardian invitation, you have access to Google Classroom and you will begin receiving the daily or weekly summaries of assignments, as well as seeing when your daughter has completed them. Marcia will reach out to you if your daughter is tardy to classes or missing classes. And your daughter’s teacher will let you know if they notice your daughter seems disengaged. Should you wonder about whether your daughter is “following along” in the classroom, please do not hesitate in directly contacting your daughter’s teachers.
  • What are the plans for building community?

    In our planning, we focused on how to create a culture of care if only online, as well as in the hybrid program. As we addressed this at the parent back-to-school orientations in August, the first 5-15 minutes of each class is about creating a culture of self-care and one of connecting with each other. In addition, Advising, All School Meeting, Families (cross-graded group), Class Meetings, clubs all allow for community to become stronger. With a hallmark of our program being the strength of our community, we continue to recognize individual students for who they are, respect student voices, build rapport with each student; and seek their feedback. We at JMSG will continue to prioritize community connections for girls as well as the developmental needs of early adolescents.
  • From the public health perspective, what is safe in-person socialization for middle school girls?

    Being socially distant by 6 ft. and wearing masks is still the safest way for the girls to interact. The School has asked parents to limit social get-togethers for their daughters to girls in the same cohort. When the girls gather to either study, attend class, or socialize together, they should be wearing masks and socially distancing even if in the same cohort. All of these protocols have been put in place to help reduce the risk of the spread of the virus.
  • Is it possible to maximize outdoor learning and social distancing so the girls do not have to wear masks all day?

    While the American Association of Pediatrics has suggested allowing students remove their masks for a short spurt at times, we will be following public health directives instead in mandating mask wearing except while eating and drinking.
  • Are students going to have any after school sport activities? If yes, what type of activities?

    Although PE is not held on campus, our Athletic Director and PE teacher, Flo (Alicia Florin), will continue with the excellent program she had last year. Stay tuned since there may be some other remote opportunities that will be announced soon.
  • Will public health require students to get the Covid vaccine as it does other vaccines?

    The chances are they will eventually; however, this is months, if not a year or more away.
  • Although California has placed Alameda County in the purple tier so that on-campus schools cannot open without a waiver, what other criteria will be used in deciding to reopen campus? Do you have to work in concert with Mills?

    Schools in counties with widespread risk (purple) are not permitted to reopen for in-person. Schools are eligible to reopen for in-person instruction following California School Sector Specific Guidelines once a county has been out of the purple risk tier for at least 14 days.

    Once Alameda County is in a tier (non-purple) that allows the reopening of on-campus school after 14 days according to the State, we will need to wait for the County’s go-ahead as well. It is not an automatic shift to reopening campus once the tier changes, but it is left up to individual counties to decide. Once ACPHD gives permission to open campus, JMSG would then need to assure Mills has given permission as well. To note, Mills’ decision to offer mainly online classes this semester, in itself, will not preclude JMSG from having on-campus classes. Since routinization and predictability are important for students, parents, and teachers, we will assess the situation as it arises before making the decision to reopen campus. For instance, if we are two weeks away from the end of a trimester, we may wait to convene on campus until the new trimester begins. With all being fluid, we will remain as flexible as possible in such an unpredictable situation, making the best decision we can at that time.
  • What kind of ventilation exists in the main building and the Georgia O'Keeffe Art Cottage?

    Although the JMSG buildings are not equipped with HVAC systems with AC capacity, doors and windows will be kept open as much as possible. Air purifiers will continuously run. If weather is permitting, classes will be held outside whenever possible per public health recommendations.
  • Understanding that seats will be assigned within cohorts, but will seats be moved around periodically to encourage exposure to more students?

    Per public health guidelines, seats will not be moved around, although cohort composition will shift each trimester.
  • What is JMSG doing to decrease the amount of time girls required to be online during school (e.g. is there any offline homework)? What are the potential impacts to girl's health (when you combine school zooming with another 2-3 hours doing "chill" activities)? Are the health impacts being discussed directly with the girls?

    Teachers completed courses this past summer in how to deliver online instruction more effectively with the intent of reducing Zoom fatigue, building in more opportunities for student voice and collaboration, and increasing the joy in learning that is a hallmark of our school. The one exception will be on Wednesday afternoons when faculty/staff are in meetings and students will be trained and directed to engage in individual and small group learning on their own.

    Otherwise, the goal is to assign as little as possible beyond school hours. Most independent work will be completed during the 75-minute class periods, with as much of that off-camera and off-screen as possible. That said, students work at different rates, so some students may need additional time beyond the school day to complete assignments. For projects, students may spend additional time in order to do their best work.

    Teachers and students are still adjusting to the online environment, and so there will be a period of calibration to design class time and independent work effectively. We will survey students and families once a month to assess the workload, but if you notice your child spending an excessive amount of time doing schoolwork in the evenings or weekends, please do let her advisor or someone on the student support team know.

    There is a recent report by Common Sense: 2020 Tweens, Teens, Tech, and Mental Health: Coming of Age in an Increasingly Digital, Uncertain, and Unequal World, where they point to research showing that it is not the amount of time we should be focused on for tweens and teens, but the quality of the content.

    Screen time is increasing as adolescents move online to meet virtually all their educational and social needs. Flipping the script on screen time to focus on how versus how much digital technology is being used has always made good sense, as counting hours does not distinguish between very different types of online experiences. This change is especially important now as time online needs to be tailored to meet basic and critical educational and social needs of adolescents. 

    Increased family conflict is a known contributor to mental health symptoms among adolescents, particularly among adolescent girls, whereas screen time is not. This is not to say that screen time should be unlimited, or that there are no adverse impacts of spending too much sedentary time online. But again, how adolescents use screens, versus the time they are spending on them, should be the focus for families. 

    While we don’t specifically cover health impacts of being online with the girls, Katie in tech classes speaks to the importance of taking a break from devices, giving their brains, eyes, and bodies a health break when they have a break from class. 

    Yoga offers the girls a chance to stretch, PE allows the girls to move their bodies, and RISE offers the girls dialogue and discussion around self-care issues.
  • Is a full staffing model in place?

    Yes, however, not all teachers will be on campus.
  • I saw some on campus classes say ‘online’. Does that mean the teacher is remote but the girls are in classrooms?

    Yes, it does mean that the teacher is remote. There will be another teacher/classroom assistant to assure the girls are being safe as well as attending to her studies.
  • Once JMSG is in hybrid form, will JMSG on-campus school close due to air quality?

    If the air quality is in the unhealthy, very unhealthy, or hazardous category, on-campus school will close. 

    Since JMSG will take advantage of being outside as much as possible and opening windows and doors when inside, if the air quality is in the unhealthy for sensitive groups category, it is recommended students who are in this category remain home on those days. 

    Please note as well that if Mills College decides to close its campus due to unhealthy air, JMSG is prohibited from being on campus. Mills College will base its decision on the air quality noted on Purple Air.
  •  Will JMSG sponsor field trips or social gatherings?

    In-person field trips are not sanctioned by public health at this time, even for cohorts. Social gatherings are not allowed per public health. JMSG does not have plans to host any social gatherings for cohorts. JMSG will continue to follow public health directives and to base its decisions with the health and safety of all of its community members at the forefront.
  • Although we will only require girls wear masks, is it recommended from the public health perspective for kids to wear masks as well as face shields?

    Masks are required at JMSG, and shields are optional. Though wearing both is not a public health recommendation, depending on balancing risks, if you or your daughter have underlying medical conditions that make either/both of you more vulnerable to serious conditions due to Covid, you may want to consider having her wear both. Since Covid is spread through droplets and aerosol, properly wearing both would add another layer of protection. Checking with her pediatrician might be your first step in helping you make this decision.
  • What’s the plan for individuals who slip up with mask wearing?

    Since mask-wearing is required at all times except when eating and drinking, we will have extra masks for those girls/adults who forget theirs at home. Proper mask wearing will be strictly enforced.
  • How can parents support their middle school child in a healthy manner when they have to be the 24 hour point of contact? It can be exhausting and suffocating for both parties. What is a healthy amount of "parenting" during these times, giving both sides some breaks/distance.

    Last spring, Lisa Damour spoke to us about this and we’re happy to say she’ll return in spring 2021 on April 29. Dr. Damour is a psychologist and the author of the New York Times best sellers “Untangled: Guiding Teenage Girls Through the Seven Transitions Into Adulthood” (Ballantine, 2016) and “Under Pressure: Confronting the Epidemic of Stress and Anxiety in Girls,” (Ballantine, 2019). It is a true balance: while you keep an eye on your daughter, assuring she is doing what she should, attending class, it is also good to step away at times and trust. Ask her at the end of the day, what was her favorite class? Why? Was there anything she learned that you might not know (she becomes the teacher)? Staying away from "yes" "no" questions is always a good idea. 

    Please, too, remember that you have access to Google Classroom where once you accept the guardian invitation, you will begin receiving the daily or weekly summaries of assignments, as well as seeing when your daughter has completed them.

    If you have questions about school, and how she is doing, you can always ask her teachers and/or advisor as well. While your daughter’s responsibility right now is to go to school, her world has been turned upside down as well. Balance, though not always easy to calibrate, is often the best path for you and for her. 

    Be sure to take time for yourself as well. Take a few breaths, take a walk, step away if only for a few minutes and take more if you can. You are being asked to hold a great deal these days, so taking care of yourself is more important than ever.
  • Will girls move class-to-class once JMSG is on-campus or will faculty move between cohorts?

    Currently, faculty who are teaching in person will remain with their cohorts. Once faculty are fully vaccinated, this may allow for faculty to move between cohorts. Cohorts of students will stay in the same classroom all day in order to lessen the chances of spreading the virus by reducing their footprint. JMSG will continue to follow public health directives and to base its decisions with the health and safety of all its community members at the forefront.
  • Are you going to create pods for the online learning plan as well?

    JMSG will not be creating pods. If students in the same cohorts want to study together, they will need to follow the public health directives of wearing masks, keeping 6 ft. distance from one another, and washing their hands, cleaning surfaces, and not sharing supplies or food. If they do share supplies, they will need to disinfect before passing it on to their cohort peer.
  • Will girls be supported to stand up & stretch during 75-minute instruction periods?

    Classes, although lasting 75 minutes, are thoughtfully designed so students are not solely listening to lectures/presentations the whole class, but also engaged in group activities, and taking planned breaks. Girls are able to move about and take care of their needs, including standing up, stretching, and moving their bodies.
  • Will you enforce cohort bubbles outside of school?

    The School has asked parents to limit social get-togethers for their daughters to girls in the same cohort. When the girls gather to either study, attend class, or socialize together, they should be wearing masks and socially distancing even if in the same cohort. All of these protocols have been put into place to help reduce the risk of the spread of the virus. While JMSG cannot control families’ choices outside of school, we will continue to remind parents and girls of the importance of socializing or studying with only their cohorts out of school. These reminders might take the form of letters from Sandra or Marcia to a cohort group, to a class, or emails/phone calls to individuals. Should there be a Covid case within the JMSG community, the more exposure any one student has had with others, the greater the impact on people’s lives and health. The greater exposure may impact the status of the hybrid program. 

    In the end, it is part of being a responsible community member to make choices to abide by the restrictions dictated by public health, and echoed/designed by JMSG. The health of any community is entirely dependent upon responsible personal behavior by ALL of its members. At JMSG, we have taken great measures to layer multiple mitigation strategies; these have been detailed in our Reopening Guide. For these strategies to be effective, our students, faculty/staff, and families must consistently adhere to personal behaviors outside of school that reflect best practices for limiting the spread of infection. These best practices include the consistent use of face masks, keeping physically distant (6 feet or more) from those outside your family or designated group, frequent and thorough handwashing, limiting your daughter’s socialization to other members in her cohort, and strict avoidance of large gatherings.
  • How should families with multiple children in different schools following different protocols evaluate the cumulative risk of sending some or all of their children back to school at this time?

    The best you can do is weigh the risks you are willing to take as a family. If one school is not mandating or not enforcing the wearing of masks, for instance, then you want to assure your child does it anyway. The same goes for washing of hands and for keeping 6 ft. distancing.
  • Will teachers be wearing cloth masks that cover their faces, or clear shields so students can see their faces?

    The girls will be able to see their teachers’ faces via Zoom, but unfortunately, not in person. We are taking every precaution we can to keep the community safe. The best protection for faculty is to be socially distant and to wear masks. Although JMSG will provide faculty with face shields as well, these will be optional for them. If they choose to wear a face shield, they will still be required to wear a mask. Clear masks have been shown not to offer the same level of protection as cloth or paper masks.
  • Could you explain contact tracing and how it might be used at JMSG?

    Contact tracing has long been used by public health agencies to stop the spread of infectious diseases. Contact tracing helps to identify people who have an infectious disease and the people with whom they came in contact, then working with them to stop the spread of the disease. This includes asking people with COVID-19 to isolate and their contacts to quarantine at home. Contact tracing for COVID-19 typically involves:

    • Interviewing people with COVID-19 to identify everyone they had close contact with during the time they may have been infectious;
    • Notifying contacts of their potential exposure;
    • Referring contacts for testing;
    • Monitoring contacts for signs and symptoms of Covid; 
    • Connecting contacts with services they might need so they can remain at home during the self-quarantine period.
    To prevent the further spread of disease, people who had contact with someone with COVID-19 should stay home and maintain social distance (at least 6 feet) from others until 14 days after their last exposure to a person with COVID-19. Contacts should monitor themselves by checking their temperature twice daily and watching for COVID-19 symptoms, such as cough or shortness of breath.

    How it might be used at JMSG: JMSG would investigate in much the same way as described. We would interview the person who has tested positive, ask them to retrace their steps at school so that we would know their physical footprint, as well as ask them with whom they were in contact in the period beginning two days prior to manifesting symptoms (if they are symptomatic) up until they began their isolation. We would then follow up with all whom they had contact, following the protocols as stated above and in our Covid-19 policies and protocols. By limiting students to interacting with only their cohorts, limiting their use of the facilities, following restrictive facility use by faculty/staff, and requiring strict disinfecting/cleaning measures, hand-washing, wearing masks and 6 ft. distancing, our hope is to limit the spread of the virus. Through the imposed limitations, the hope is that each person’s daily footprint at school is reduced, thus helping to reduce potential exposure and helping us to trace someone’s contacts.
  • Since most kids are asymptomatic, does it make sense to have the students tested for Covid prior to returning to school in person?

    Results from a test are only reflective of that moment in time the test was administered, so it is up to parents if they would like to take this step. If you know your daughter has had more recent exposure without precautions: with crowds, with friends, etc., or if someone in your household has, then you may want to consider taking this step.
  • Are there steps parents can take to help reduce the risk of being exposed to Covid-19 to their daughters and others once we return to on-campus school?

    Though there remains a good deal of unknowns about the virus, what we do know is that each of us, including the girls, can reduce the risk of transmission by wearing a mask, maintaining 6 ft. of social distancing, and practicing good hygiene through frequent washing of hands. Guidelines for each of these practices/protocols can be found in the Family Handbook Appendix as well as in the Reopening Plan.
  • What is the safest way to see friends in person?

    Staying connected with other adults is just as important for parents as it is for their daughters staying connected with their peers. ACPHD still recommends only socializing with members of your household since widening your circle only amplifies the risk. If you decide to take a risk, limit the number of friends you see to a small social bubble, wear masks, keep 6 ft. social distancing, and gather outside if at all possible. ACPHD recommends if you know you’re going to meet with people from outside your household, stay home as much as possible and limit public activities in the days before in order to reduce the chance of getting sick and infecting others at the gathering. If you have any of the symptoms of Covid-19, even if you are “certain” it is allergies, do not socialize.
  • How much information about Covid-19 and its transmission should I share with my daughter?

    Much of this depends on your daughter, her development, and her temperament. You know her best. A rule of thumb is to respond to her questions, and to her curiosity. Listening to her is key. Sometimes our children just need to be heard. As our worlds have been turned upside down, so have theirs. Carefully listen to: what specifically she is asking; is she curious as to the science or is she worried, looking for comfort; is she missing her friends, or has she gotten inaccurate news from social media. Oftentimes, asking her to “tell me more about that” or sharing how hard you know it is, is all she needs. Answer honestly, and answer with just enough information to satisfy her question. For some girls, this means telling them all you know, and for others, not very much at all.

    It is also important to remember while talking about difficult situations with our children that this one in particular, not only affects them, but through their actions, they can also have significant life and death impact on others. While it’s important to tell them how low the percentage is for children to become severely ill, easing whatever fears they may have for their own safety, it’s also important for them to understand the responsibility they hold as well since they could be asymptomatic carriers of the virus, infecting those around them.  Hone in on what they can do. If we ALL wore masks, maintained 6 ft. distancing, practiced hand washing, it would be a game changer in terms of getting back to a semblance of life as we used to know it. 

    Young adolescents love to be activists – this is an excellent way to truly benefit the good of all of those around them.
  • What about parents who are not living together and could have other families. How do we keep each other safe if separated parents have very different standards regarding protocols?

    The best case scenario is to be transparent with one another and work towards each household holding the same standards that reflect those stated by the ACPHD. This not only will help to keep family members safe, but it also will help the children in the family understand the important part they can play in not spreading the virus, caring for those they love; it also lessens the possible confusion and concern they may experience in trying to understand why one household is listening to the science and medical experts and why the other household has chosen not to do so and is more relaxed in their approach.
  • Can children transmit Covid-19 even if they are asymptomatic?

    The latest research indicates this is so; and that children as young as 5 years old are transmitters. The largest study to date comes from the Mucosal Immunology and Biology Research Center at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. That study found that children can carry exceedingly high amounts of the new coronavirus, even in the absence of symptoms. Researchers say this could make them ideal "silent spreaders" of COVID-19. Infected children were found to harbor very high levels of virus within their airways: viral loads exceeding those of very sick adult patients cared for in intensive care units. Because the ability of an infected person to transmit Covid-19 rises with the amount of virus in their system, this particular result is important. Researchers found that children are not protected against the virus, but instead pose a real danger to more vulnerable adults. In the vast majority of cases, children infected with the new coronavirus will not come down with severe illness.

    In another recent study, children aged 6 to 13 are less likely to have symptoms of COVID-19 than those who are younger or older, according to a study of nearly 400 infected people under the age of 21 (Duke University School of Medicine, 8/20). In this study, only 61% of infected children aged 6 to 13 showed symptoms, compared with 75% of infected study participants under age 6 and 76% of those over age 13. Children aged 6–13 who did feel ill tended to have milder symptoms than older and younger study participants. But nearly one-third of infected children with an infected sibling did not have close contact with an infected adult, implying that the virus had spread from child to child.
  • Are online classes recorded?

    Online classes are not recorded although individual students meetings with faculty and advisors are.
  • My daughter receives ADA accommodations. How will this be impacted in distance learning?

    Maryann Molinari, JMSG Learning Specialist, will be reaching out to each of the families whose daughters need accommodations.
  • Can I hire one of the JMSG faculty to tutor her?

    No. JMSG faculty are prohibited from tutoring JMSG students as a matter of equity.
  • Can I ask JMSG faculty/staff members to babysit?

    No. As a preventive measure and as a matter of equity, this will not be possible.
  • What is the status for Mills?

    Implementing the shelter-in-place order, as of 12:01 am on March 17, 2020, the Mills College campus will be closed except to residents, their essential guests, and campus-essential personnel.. Please see this link for more information:
  • Have any JMSG community members tested positive for COVID-19?

    The School was notified that a JMSG employee, who was last on campus on 8/27, tested positive for COVID-19 and is recovering. Please see here for Sandra's latest Covid update.
  • If someone in our household travels, is my daughter to stay home from school once that person returns?

    Yes. Your daughter will need to stay out of school for 14 days. Please contact her advisor who can help organize her at-home studies.
  • Once back on campus, are JMSG community members required to self-quarantine for 14 days upon their return from travelling?

    Yes, per the California Department of Public Health as well as the Alameda County Department of Public Health, we are requiring self-quarantine in this instance. And we are requesting testing if JMSG community members have symptoms of an acute respiratory illness. Quarantine may be appropriate in other instances too, such as the case of a JMSG community member who is not exhibiting symptoms, but is caring for a family member with the virus.