When the pandemic shuttered schools, many parents were left with a lot of questions and worries. This was not the case for parents at The Gardner School, as directors and teachers quickly sprang into action not only to keep their families well informed, but also to provide custom-designed activities to keep their young students thriving.
“Our school directors found that by communicating clearly, consistently and transparently, they were also letting our families know that we would provide the most up-to-date information that allowed parents to make the best choices for their family,” says Joy Haynes, marketing manager at The Gardner School. “We already have great relationships with our TGS parents, and our frequent communication added to that confidence.”
It is this type of all-out effort and commitment to families that makes The Gardner School, an academically focused school with 11 locations in Chicagoland for kids 6 weeks to 5 years, stand out in the crowd of options available to parents who want to give their kids the best start.
That’s the case for mom Karishma Gariepy, who has two children at The Gardner School of Chicago-Bucktown.
“They treat the children like their own, and as a parent, there is no better feeling. It’s so nice to go to work knowing our kiddos are in such wonderful hands,” Gariepy says. “It is clear that the protocols they have in place to ensure child and teacher safety were so thoroughly thought through, you can’t help but feel good about it. The way they communicated and continue to communicate with families resulted in us having zero hesitation sending our kids back once they reopened.”
TGS at Home
The Gardner School is committed to fueling young students’ love of learning from their first day at the school, which features lead teachers with four-year degrees and a network of educators dedicated to sharing best practices with each other.
So, when the pandemic hit, school directors across more than 20 locations nationwide worked together to create activities that helped continue those lessons. This collaborative effort resulted in a weekly series called TGS at Home.
The weekly blog-style posts were sent to The Gardner School families and added to the school website to help bring the school curriculum home. Thanks to that effort, children and parents were empowered with STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and math) based learning activities, reading, writing, physical development and even healthy, creative snacks.
Some of The Gardner School locations in Chicagoland offer private kindergarten and those families received weekly supplements for kindergarten-age students so they could finish the school year strong and stay on track. Additionally, to address the public school closures and remote learning, TGS expanded the number of schools offering private kindergarten and developed a supplemental on-site learning experience for younger elementary school students.
“We wanted to provide our TGS parents the tools to continue their child’s education from home,” Haynes says. “Families loved the weekly curriculum supplements and shared that it was very helpful.”
TGS going forward
Once school doors were allowed to reopen with extra safety and cleaning protocols in place to keep kids healthy, the ramped-up communication with families didn’t end there.
Just as the pandemic hit, The Gardner School was in the process of upgrading its parent communications app. That change quickly allowed the schools to begin secure contactless check-in with a QR code and provided daily health screening questions. The app continues to allow real-time updates with parents, as well as photos of their children learning and interacting with classmates. The school also added a tool to their website for new families to complete all enrollment forms online.
However, the real superstars are the dedicated and creative teachers at The Gardner School who quickly adjusted curriculum to meet the individual needs of their students. “Our teachers did an outstanding job and really adapted so students could thrive, learn, and reach milestones all while keeping as safe as possible,” Haynes says.
Although The Gardner School locations have always connected with their home communities, this year felt more meaningful. Haynes says students expressed gratitude through cards and videos for local community heroes at hospitals, police and fire departments, as well as continuing to host coat and food drives for community nonprofits.
Although no one knows for certain what the future holds with this pandemic since the children served by The Gardner School are still not eligible for COVID vaccines, two things Haynes does know: The Gardner School teachers will continue to nurture and encourage each child’s love for learning, and the school’s powerful connection with parents will continue to grow even stronger.
“The partnership we have with parents has been and will continue to be an important part of our young students’ education experience at The Gardner School,” Haynes says.
Learn more about the innovations and curriculum at The Gardner School at thegardnerschool.com.