School in Action

Sept 21 – Sept 25: September Parent Meetings

This is an evening meeting for all new and returning parents to learn about the upcoming year’s curriculum, program, expectations of students, and ways to be involved in your child’s education. This year, as with all of our community events, these meetings will be held over Zoom. With each program meeting taking place on a different day, we are hoping that families with multiple children will be able to attend each of their children’s meetings. We strongly encourage all families to attend. This is an important opportunity to learn about your child’s classroom, “see” and meet other parents in the program, and hear about what this year will be like for them.

HMS Re-Entry Plan Updates

Dear Hilltop Families,
The classrooms, indoors and outdoors, are coming into being in their new distanced forms. Teachers have been very busy! And, as we gear up to start our daily health checks during next week’s orientation, we wanted to remind you of a few things. Firstly, we are being very cautious and careful as we get together in-person. We need to do everything we can to protect individuals within our community and our community as a whole. Please share our cautiousness with us by: 

  • keeping your child home if there is any chance of exposure or risk of sharing illness
  • answering all of the health questions truthfully and with the safety of the community in mind

We have also updated our HMS Re-Entry Plan (Updated 8/27/20) to align with new and changing Vermont State guidelines. We strongly encourage you to read through the plan thoroughly before coming to school for Orientation or for the first day of instruction on Tuesday, September 8th. You will note that all new information is in green. Taken from the plan, here are six key details to be sure to note as we being the year:

  1. We have plans for every stage of re-entry and are in a great position to meet in person, on campus, every day of the week, even if the State mandates we decrease group size down to as few as 15 people in a group.
  2. With every phase of this plan, Wednesday will be a half day for all students, a planning/meeting afternoon for teachers, and a deep cleaning day for facilities’ staff.
  3. Drop-off and pick-up procedure will require staggered timing and places, so check your children’s drop-off and pick-up times and procedures carefully.
  4. In accordance with the State guidelines, parents, guardians, and caretakers may not enter school buildings during any stage. 
  5. BeforeCare and AfterCare are available if the mixing of groups can allow for pods of 75 or more people, but not for the smaller groupings.
  6. All students must be in compliance with the State of Vermont Travel Restrictions in order to attend school.

Lastly, though certainly not least important, also ask that you please sign the HMS Shared Responsibility Agreement and hand them in to teachers during your student health check whenever your child first comes to school, during Orientation Week (full schedule here) or on Tuesday, September 8th. Students will not be let out of vehicles without a signed copy of the Agreement. 
If you have any questions regarding the HMS Re-Entry Plan or our Covid procedures, please feel free to reach out to Zoe Proctor, HMS’ Covid Coordinator.

Re-Entry Plans: Fall 2020

Dear Families,


I hope this letter finds you able to enjoy the summer, despite the uncertainty and ominous news from other parts of the country. We, as a school, have been working hard to develop our plan for Re-Entry in September. Here is Hilltop Montessori School’s Re-Entry Plan for the Fall of 2020. I have great appreciation for the staff, teachers, Board members, and parents who offered and helped to develop this plan. It is nimble and able to adjust to changing situations. 


Many families have contacted meLauren, and Barb in the Business Office, in the recent weeks to discuss their particular circumstances and considerations. We welcome this communication!


In a typical year, re-enrollment deposits are made in February, and the first May tuition payment from each family is the final commitment for the enrollment and tuition for the full year ahead. This year we offered families the option to delay the first payment until July. We also offered COVID Hardship Requests, and about a dozen families have applied for and received those. 


At this point, almost all families have made their first tuition payments in TADS, and we are assuming you are on board for the year. We are making staffing and facilities decisions based on this level of enrollment. We are committed to being here in person if at all possible. Our teachers and staff are under contract and lined up to serve your children. We hope that this grace period, as well as the plan enclosed, have given you the time and information you need to feel confident in your decision to enroll your children in Hilltop programming during this uncertain time.


The year ahead will require a strong partnership between families and the school. Please read through the attached document carefully and thoughtfully to begin that shared commitment, and set both ourselves and our children up for a safe and successful year ahead. If you have any questions about the plan generally, or about your particular family circumstances, PLEASE reach out to us. 


So, have a good read, and know that we have planned for what we can predict might happen, and will be poised to respond to the unexpected too.
Stay well,

Tamara

April 30th, 7-8pm: Open Board Meeting

Please join us for the Open Board Meeting on Thursday, April 30th at 7pm.We had hoped to serve pies with pie charts, but instead we will chat by ZOOM. [The ZOOM invitation link will come in a later email and is available in the Google Classroom Calendars.]
Do you wonder:

  • What has the Hilltop Board done in the last two months to adapt to the rapidly changing COVID-19 world?  
  • How will Hilltop support families who have experienced financial hardship related to the COVID-19 crisis?
  • How would the school continue to provide support for learning at home, if it were to become necessary again?
  • What does Tamara staying on as Head of School mean?
  • What does the Board do vs. Hilltop’s Administration?
  • Who is on the Board and how might I fit in?
  • How can I contribute to the social and financial sustainability of Hilltop?

Come and learn more on Thursday, April 30th at 7pm!
We understand that there is a new context, and the Board of Trustees has been guiding the school through this. We value your perspective. We invite you to be part of the conversation to ensure the collective voices of our families are heard as we move forward and shape this “new normal”.

HMS: Learning from Home Handbook

We have been able to document what we are doing as a school and what each program is doing as we continue school remotely in our HMS: Learning from Home Handbook. This will also be provided in hard copy to every HMS family next week. We are working to translate both the sense of community that Hilltop provides, along with the academic and “whole child” offerings that are regularly given by our school.

Hilltop Montessori School COVID-19 Information

Hilltop Montessori School current status and plans for continuing student engagement at home. All in-person school activities have been cancelled for this school year, as directed by the state.
Hilltop Montessori School has been transitioning to provide support/education virtually, as our campus has been “shutdown” to help flatten the curve of the COVID-19 infections. We are also working to support families of “essential persons” with their childcare needs.

Notes from Tamara Mount, Head of School
It is so strange for all of us to be working from home and not visit in person with you, each other on staff, and of course spend the days with your children. This has been a transition for us all, some more than others. . . I’ve been astounded by the work of the teachers and by what I’ve seen and heard from your homes. Moving online as a Montessori school is, by definition, especially challenging. We have no textbooks or workbooks our students are methodically working through. Each child works in our prepared classrooms at their own unique place in each subject area – their own spot in an individualized curriculum. Clearly, it is not possible to fully replicate this model at home, although I’ve been amazed at how the teachers have worked to do so and how quickly many of you have been able to implement their suggestions. 
Go easy on yourselves and your children. We can’t all turn into home schoolers overnight, no matter how much support is given. Within each program, and for each child, there is a different level of responsible independence with work at home, just as there is for work at school. If you are trying to work at home yourself, know that there will be bumps in the road for us all. As we adjust to the “new normal,” please continue to communicate with teachers and administrators as we work together to support productive, engaging, and enjoyable remote learning from home. Here is a fun example from Lower Elementary! 

The Middle School-The Society Project

The Society Project

in the Time of Climate Change

Wendell Berry wrote: “If you don’t know where you are, you don’t know who you are.” A place is as much a community of shared values as it is a physical environment and the Middle School set out to discover how their community is responding to the threat and reality of climate change. The Society Project is the centerpiece of this exploration. For the project, students selected, interviewed and photographed a member of the wider Brattleboro community and created a digital montage. The interview and resulting montage focused on how the individual in both their work and life addresses climate change.

The resulting series of short films reveals a committed, aware, and involved community who care deeply about the future of Brattleboro and the world.

Middle School-Alabama Odyssey – Day 7

Meet Sheryl Threadgill and other participants of the Voting Rights Movement
in Wilcox County at the historic Antioch Baptist Church.
Shoe Store Museum
Miss Kitty’s Restaurant in Camden for lunch,
Black Belt Treasures, Shoe Store Museum
Conversation with the BAMA Kids
Take the ferry from Camden to Gees Bend
Evening of poetry, song with Ms Afriye We-kandodis
at By the River Center for Humanity

It was great to hear the stories of the foot soldiers and it reminded me so much that the unseen people make the most difference. Not all the famous people control the entire thing. Someone later said “you don’t need a reality tv show, but you can still make change.” Where will I go? Will I be a foot soldier?
-Django

The Shoe Store Museum told a story that I have not yet encountered on this trip. The many quilts, toys, books, dresses, etc. were so present and cared for that I fell in love with the place. It reminded me in many ways of The Bush, Ralph Waldo Emerson’s house in Concord which we visited earlier this year. It is cared for by the ancestor of people recognized, like Betty and her sister’s grandmother who was the president of the Quilting Bee in Gee’s Bend just a few generations ago.
-Hazel

Throughout this trip I have made a change. I feel like I connected to so many people through my questions and comments. I have started to really want to make change.
-Ian

I really enjoyed talking to the BAMA kids because I really haven’t learned first hand how a public school looks like, especially not one that has a majority of black students. They almost seemed unaware of it. I may not really know but my guess is that the schools are basically completely segregated. It really struck me how little history the kids seemed to be learning. I feel that it’s important to know history so that we don’t make the same mistakes again.
-Marian

I was surprised and felt bad that I was learning about their (the BAMA kids) history when we both should be learning about it. Just because I am white means that I get so many opportunities. Is that fair? Do I deserve it more than others? What did I do differently? Why are we treated so different? Who said it was fair that my family went to college and the girl we spoke to has uncle’s who went to jail? These kinds of things change us into who we are so, in the end, I think that’s what divides us.
-Magda

They led us in their 21st Century Leader pledge. This was the time I felt most connected and also very empowered. I also felt I could begin to grasp what impact the BAMA Kids have.
-Solomon

This evening we visited Ms. Afriye We-kandodis and shared our songs, poetry, and speeches. She did a few of her own. Though we didn’t exchange many words with Ms. Afriye, she welcomed us with open arms into her workshop. As she has us recite a vow of self-love, I felt a powerful sense of belonging. That for me was a minute of true happiness. I needed nothing else but to be loved like that everywhere I went. I knew that I needed to love everyone else the same.
-Siri

I don’t want to leave. The sun is warm here. My voice is strong and my eyes have just started opening. How can I leave this behind? I am afraid if it is not stuffed in my face, I will forget these little pieces of understanding. I will forget the things that make me want to be better.
-Annelise

Spending time with the BAMA Kids
Singing at By the River Center for Humanity
Marian sings her song at By the River Center for Humanity
We sing and move with Afriye We-kandodis

Middle School – Alabama Odyssey – Day 6

Day in Montgomery
Legacy Museum
National Memorial for Peace and Justice
Lunch – Filet and Vine
SPLC Memorial
Alabama Statehouse
Equal Justice Initiative
Dinner at Martha’s Place
Retire to 1412 Water Avenue

The Memorial to the Confederacy at the State House was a beautiful place, but thinking of what happened there angered me. So many people with hatred in their hearts stood in the same places as me, but also justice fighters. So I was conflicted.
-Julian

Embarrassed is not probably what most people would feel, but that is how I felt at the National Memorial for Peace and Justice. I felt that because I couldn’t help myself from thinking that one of my ancestors might have been there and didn’t put a stop to it. Then I started to wonder, if I was there, would I be too afraid to try to stop it, or how would I even stop it. Talking to Eliot really helped me make the connection that what they want is for these 4000+ people to be remembered. And that is what I can do.
-Ally

There were so many names, too many names, and so many monuments. Walking through the monuments at first was easier physically to look at, but as I kept walking, I had to look up. It became more overwhelming by the second. All of these people died hanging, and I was looking at their memory.
-Magda

There were a lot of times today that I felt very sad. I saw the monuments and the names and I feel that now I’ve seen it, it is realer than ever before. How could our country do such devastating actions?
-Roxanne

When we entered [The Legacy Museum] there were a set of videos of people behind bars. What struck me was that at one end there was a women calling for her children, a boy and a girl. At the end of the hall were a girl and a boy, looking for their mama. I wanted so desperately to connect these people.
-Marian

How Dare I

A burgundy casket hung
A life taker forgotten
How dare I stand upon this ground of so many bodies
And breath the breaths of so many sisters

How dare I forget the faceless names
And meaningless faces
Every Martin Johnson
And Lewis Martin

As the metallic tears stream down
Her face
How dare I?

After a day full of essential but difficult experiences we just needed a romp

Middle School – Alabama Odyssey – Day 5

Church service at Ye Shall Know the Truth Baptist Church
– Reverend Clinton Pettway
Picnic with Mary Lee Bendolph and the folks of Gee’s Bend.
Visit with Charlie Lucas
Retire to 1412 Water Avenue

Breaking down the walls of separation, two communities came together and sang one song. We sang, clapped, cheered, and prayed like we had done it for 100 years.
-Ellie

The service at Ye Shall Know The Truth Baptist Church was beautiful. I really felt the small-town love and history there. I even could feel the Hilltop Middle School’s history there which, though I know that so many other classes have visited Brown Chapel, Kelly Ingram Park, etc., we belonged there.
-Hazel

The picnic was so nice. Being able to go from not knowing anything about each other and no way alike in living to friends in one afternoon is great. It was a nice day to play, chill, and talk and be ourselves. But what you also have to realize, they don’t have it good like us. Although I didn’t play basketball, it seemed like a great way to connect all together. It made me feel a little of what it is like to live in Alabama.
-Owen

At the picnic, all the kids our age and younger were kind, too. It really makes me think of how different our cultures are. I started having a really nice conversation with one of them and they are all just normal kids like us but they all seemed a bit nicer.
-Oliver

I have been to church services before but nothing like this. I was just so amazed how they were so free form and interested in what we wrote and wanted to take the time to listen to us. How all of them hugged us, even though they didn’t know us. I felt really welcomed and comforted. I have never had someone just come up and hug me and say “God Bless.” I felt love that I have never felt before. It was magical.
-Rosalie

I remember a kindness that radiated off of the people. It made me smile. Not an ordinary smile but a smile that was so big, my face couldn’t hold it.
-Annelise

When Kayla, one of the girls closer to our age, was pulling us around and talking about boys, and I was playing “McDonalds” with Lauren, a four year old, I felt race melt away a little bit. She asked me if I wanted to be friends and she was a loud, cute little lady. I hope all those kids grow up to be what they aspire to be.
-Aleksa

Going to Charlie’s was THE BEST THING THAT I’VE DONE IN SO LONG. It’s like my dreams in a shop and a man, to have 10 cars, all fast and exotic, is the best thing I could do. I would LOVE to come down here for the summer and fix up one of those cars. I can’t imagine anything that could top that experience.
-David