Reopening The Windward School for Fall 2020

The Windward School is deeply committed to providing the best instruction and educational environment for its students. Windward’s renowned research-based, direct instruction model, taught by exceptional teachers, is key to students' success in the remediation of their language-based learning disabilities. In the face of this year's unprecedented circumstances, after working tirelessly throughout the spring and summer, the School was pleased to create a plan to adjust Windward's operations to accommodate socially distanced, in-person instruction for every one of its 943 students in Grades 1-9. This has been no small feat for the School.  

When schools were forced to close in March due to the pandemic, the technology team, faculty, and staff immediately transitioned to a robust remote learning program. The Windward community of students, families, and faculty not only adjusted to remote learning, but also thrived under the new instructional model. The successful launch of the remote learning program in the spring reinforced confidence that, as needs arise for this 2020-21 school year, Windward’s teachers and students can transition seamlessly between remote learning and in-person instruction. 

Knowing that resuming in-person instruction was critical, the leadership team spent countless hours examining solutions for 2020-21 that could both accommodate the student body and adhere to state health guidelines related to COVID-19. It was clear that the School needed more square footage if it was going to accommodate all students in Westchester and Manhattan. 

First, Windward determined that the new Westchester Lower School campus that was under construction at 1275 Mamaroneck Avenue in White Plains was critically needed. Although the new building was scheduled to open in Fall 2021, the property’s 110,000 square feet were a key piece of the School’s plan to offer a socially distanced in-person instruction environment. Construction plans were revamped, including pausing the building of the new gymnasium, so Windward could furnish spaces as quickly as possible for students for this school year. Expediting construction by nearly a full year, and so far ahead of the previous Fall 2021 opening date, was seemingly impossible, but Windward’s building partners rose incredibly to the challenge to get classroom spaces prepared in order to best serve the School’s Westchester students for in-person learning. Opening the new Westchester Lower School campus facilities early prevented the alternative plan of only being able to offer a limited hybrid in-person instructional model at the original Westchester Lower School campus at 13 Windward Avenue.  

The new campus at 1275 Mamaroneck Avenue is slated to open on October 19 for in-person instruction for Westchester Grades 1-5 students. Because offering in-person instruction as quickly as possible was a foremost priority to serve students’ unique learning needs, in-person instruction first began at the original Westchester Lower School campus at 13 Windward Avenue in September.  

Westchester Lower School Grade 1 began their school year on September 21, and Grade 2 began on September 29. WLS Grades 3-4 and WMS Grade 5 were assigned a temporary rotational schedule between remote and in-person instruction until October 19, in order to also provide these students much-needed face time with teachers. The adjustment to the schedule for the beginning of the year required a great deal of flexibility on the part of Windward’s faculty, staff, students, and families, but the community met the moment with both grace and resilience. 

To address the needs for Windward’s Manhattan students for full-time, in-person instruction, the School secured a lease at 202 W 97th Street for Manhattan Lower School students in Grades 2-4. The building required intensive facilities preparations and technology upgrades, but Windward truly believed that no challenges were too great to overcome in order to best serve its students. MLS students began remotely on September 14, before transitioning to full-time, in-person instruction at the W97th  Street location a week later on September 21. Manhattan Middle School and Westchester Middle School  students began in-person instruction at their respective campuses for the First Day of School on September 14.  

Opening the new Westchester Lower School campus one year early and acquiring a temporary rental location in Manhattan were two of The Windward School’s leading priorities to ensure every student had an opportunity to return to in-person instruction this school year. Despite the obstacles created by the pandemic, The Windward School has been driven by its mission and vision to provide a safe, viable option for Windward families who wanted their students to resume in-person instruction. Windward is so pleased to be welcoming back 943 students this fall and continuing to provide the highest quality academic program during this unprecedented time.