08 May Ending The School Year And What’s Next

Dear Tiny Trees Community,

I hope you’re all safe at home as this crisis continues. I’m writing to you today with an update on our evolving response to COVID-19 and the effects on our broader community. While our families received this update last week, this may be news to many of you.

Just over a month ago we made the difficult decision to close classes, provide remote learning, and waive tuition. We made this decision for the safety and security of our students, families, and educators. We believe this 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.

With the goal of re-opening safely and sustainably in the future, we have come to the difficult decision to end the 2019-20 school year now. Beginning May 11th, we will scale back our staff dramatically to keep a small team working at half time to work on the goal of re-opening and continuing to offer remote learning to a broader community. 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.

Over the coming weeks, this tiny team will be focused on the following:

  • Applying an anti-racist framework to what and how we rebuild our organization and future programs. Our anti-racism work will continue throughout this pandemic, and will be the core of how we make decisions now and in the future.
  • Re-opening our beloved outdoor preschool classrooms for the summer and fall that meet new health guidelines that prevent the spread of COVID-19 and the evolving needs of our community.
  • Continuing quality, play-based, nature-based remote learning resources for previously enrolled families and the general public. We hope to leverage this challenge as an opportunity to offer support to a broad community in a radically new way.
  • Continuing to further the field of outdoor early learning and share knowledge and experience with other childcare and early learning programs to help them adapt their work to the outdoors in service of safe, healthy, quality learning opportunities in the time of COVID and beyond.

One thing is clear – Tiny Trees will look different than it has in the past. But we are confident that we can develop sustainable programs that combine the wonder of the outdoors and the new safety measures required of our new reality. This is an opportunity to lead with an anti-racism framework, reflecting on the best ways we can show up for children, families, and communities in these changing times.

I can’t adequately express the gratitude I have for all of you. Teachers, families, donors, partners, board members, volunteers. The support you’ve given to each other and to this movement over the years is unparalleled, and the past two months have been no exception. You’ve stepped up in a big way, and you remind me every day of why this movement matters. We have unfinished business, and we’re not going down without a fight. I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating. I’m here for a revolution in education, where children thrive in classrooms that promote both academic success and liberation. I hope you are too.

That’s all I have for you today. I know this is a lot of information to process, and these decisions leave many of us with a heavy heart. 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 movement. If you have questions or ideas to share, please reach out to me at kellie@tinytrees.org.

More to come,

Kellie Morrill, Executive Director

P.S. If you’re looking for ways to give to your community through Tiny Trees, here are 3 things to consider:

  • Become a Perennial Donor and make a monthly gift in any amount to build resiliency and keep our communities growing through hard times
  • ShareYourCheck and make a gift through Tiny Trees after ensuring your needs are met.
  • Make a one-time gift to transform the way kids and families interact with nature and early learning.

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