05 May Families: Tiny Trees School Year Wrap Up

Dear Families,

It’s hard to believe it was just over a month ago we had to make the difficult decision to close classes. We made this decision for the safety and security of our students, families, and educators. We believe that the resulting decision to cancel tuition payments starting in April was the best and most responsible course of action for our community and families. Unfortunately, without continued tuition payments, we are drawing down our reserve funds at a rate that is not sustainable.

While parks are beginning to open some recreations, it’s going to take us some time to get back to full operations at Tiny Trees with small group sizes and health screening in effect for at least the next few months. We know it will take time to build back up to full enrollments when families are struggling.

We have now reached a point where we must take a pause, look beyond the next few weeks to the future of Tiny Trees, as remaining at full-staff capacity is no longer a financially viable option. I wish we had a different path forward, but this strategy gives us the best chance to regroup and rebuild a stronger Tiny Trees to return to.

What does this mean for families?

Our 2019-2020 school year, as we’ve known it, is officially over. We will not be reconvening our school year class groups and remote learning from your teaching teams will end on May 7th. Your teachers are busy planning goodbyes and celebrations for children and will begin preparing students for this transition as soon as possible.

We’re still here for you. After a week break to regroup, we will begin sharing fresh activities and content with the entire Tiny Trees community on May 18th. We will have a much smaller team supporting this work, so it will look different than the Remote Learning your teaching teams have been providing. We will take our week hiatus to develop a plan that will allow us to stay connected with you, keep your classroom communities connected and support your children & families the best we can.

We will not charge tuition for May, and we will be in touch with you about options to join our upcoming summer programming.

We are hopeful that we will be able to open programs in 1 or 2 parks as early as mid-June, and expand as we are able. This will not be a return to the school year as we knew it, but a new iteration of small-group camp, in compliance with new guidelines, including groups of 10 individuals or less.

One thing is clear – Tiny Trees will look different than it has in the past, but we are confident that we will be able to develop a sustainable new model that combines the wonder of the outdoors and the increased safety measures required of our new reality. This is our opportunity to build our anti-racism framework, reflecting on the best ways we can show up for children, families, and communities in these changing times.

What does this mean for Tiny Trees staff?

We will begin furloughs for all direct service classroom positions, and those that supervise direct service classroom positions. Our reduced staffing model begins May 11. Our final day of teaching team-led remote learning will be May 7th and we will spend May 8th together, planning for the future of Tiny Trees.. By furloughing the majority of our staff, they will be eligible for Washington State’s unemployment benefits as well as the additional $600/week stipend from the CARES act while it is in effect.

Through the WA State Shared Work program, a small team will remain on staff at reduced capacity to continue providing at-home activities as described above. We will also be busy working to determine how, where and when we will be able to gather as a Tiny Trees community again.

We know this is a lot of information to process, and these decisions leave many of us with a heavy heart. We’re focused on making sure that there is a Tiny Trees for our community to come back to. And in the meantime, we’re doing everything we can to respond to the changing needs of our students, families, and staff. Thank you for being part of this community. If you have questions or ideas to share, please reach out to me at kellie@tinytrees.org.

Kellie Morrill, Executive Director

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