State of the School 8/18/21: What you need to know for Back to School

August 18, 2021 | Abby Hall Choi

Head of School Abby Hall Choi welcomes the community to the 2021-22 school year. She highlights important dates and what to expect as we begin the year.


If you are new to Mustard Seed, welcome! I am Abby Hall Choi, Mustard Seed’s Head of School. I want you to know that this is a school community where we truly care for each other. We saw this so evidently last year as we – together- learned a new way to do school. Parents, students, and teachers, you rose to the challenge! You worked together to keep each other safe and made it possible for us to remain open for in-person learning during unprecedented times.  Thank you!

I also want to thank everyone who filled out our recent survey. Your feedback helped us as we considered the best way to safely serve you and your students. I’m going to tell you what that will look like this year.

This year, we will continue to prioritize safety, learning, and connecting. Some things will remain the same as last year, other things will change. I’m attaching the updated COVID Addendum to the Family Handbook. Please take the time to review it. It outlines our procedures and expectations in more detail.

Here are some highlights:

Starting on the first day of school, (Sept 9th for K-8; Sept 13 for PreK),  everyone will be on campus five days a week.  We are eager to welcome your children to school and be together.

  • We will sing again: masked! We have so missed the sounds of voices resounding through the halls.
  • Students will see each of their Art and Music teachers in person  instead of on Zoom.
  • Students in grades 2-8 will get to meet with Senora-Oro Hahn for Spanish class in person instead of on Zoom.
  • Students in grades k -8 will start to worship in the community room again in cohorts.  This means that some days  students will watch worship on video or streaming from their classroom and sometimes they will be in the community room with their cohort.
  • Because of our firm commitment to masking, we anticipate being able to enlarge cohorts so that students can start learning in targeted multi-grade groupings again.
  • And yes, as you just heard, we will continue to all wear masks all the time within the building. You can read more about masking and cohorting in the addendum.

This is all very exciting!  I want to take a moment to say a few words about health and safety procedures.

To care for our community, we urge you in consultation with your health care provider, to get vaccinated if appropriate. I am proud to announce that 95% of faculty and staff are vaccinated. As you know, vaccination is a powerful way to limit serious illness from COVID-19.

And we also know that we must continue with our multi-layer approach to mitigating against the spread of COVID-19 germs, especially to protect children and vulnerable populations during this time. In addition to wearing masks,

  • We will keep our twice a day temperature checks for students: one at entry and one at midday. In addition to checking for fever, this provides teachers with a moment to check in with each student about how they are feeling.
  • We will continue to limit visitors to the school, and that includes parents. We look forward to the day when we can invite you to worship and back into the classrooms. It just isn’t possible right now.
  • We will be ready to pivot to distance learning for individuals or cohorts who are staying home for COVID-related health & exposure quarantines. However, because we will be  in person five days a week, we will only be able to provide distance learning for COVID-related exposure and quarantine. Unlike last year when we were in a hybrid model,  we will not be able to support distance learning for reasons like family travel.
  • Quarantine guidance and procedures can be found in the attached addendum.

Based on your feedback from our survey, many of you indicated that you would like some in-person parent events in the fall.  We have a few events planned like the Parent Tea, New Parent Social, and Parent Social. We are exploring outdoor options and will keep you posted!

The first day of school is quickly approaching! I want to point out that there are a few opportunities for preschool and new students to visit classrooms and meet their teachers before the first day. For young children, especially, we find that these opportunities help students make a smooth transition to school. Please, make sure that your family travel plans allow time for your unvaccinated children to quarantine before these events.

  • Wednesday, September 8, is K-8 new student Meet and Greet.
  • Friday, September 10 is the preschool park playdate.
  • Saturday, September 11 is the preschool classroom visit day.

While preschoolers and new students will have the opportunity to visit campus before their first day of school, our other parent-teacher meetings (Listening Conferences, Welcome Back Night) school meetings will be virtual. We will send more information and reminders next week about our September events!

We come to this year, like we do each year: ready to care for each other. Ready to learn and explore. We know that learning together is full of joy and beauty. Thank you for trusting us with your children.

I look forward to seeing you IN PERSON in the fall! You will see me outside greeting you in the morning. If we haven’t met yet, please introduce yourself.

Remember to mark your calendars for the following dates!

  • Sept. 1, 2, & 7,8: Listening Conferences, sign-ups open in mid August (Zoom)
  • Tuesday, Sept. 7: Welcome Back Night, timings forthcoming  (Zoom)
  • Wednesday, Sept. 8: New Student Meet and Greet, 10:00am (possibly in-person)
  • Thursday, Sept. 9: First Day of School for K-8
  • Friday, Sept. 10: Preschool Park Play Date, 9am (in-person)
  • Saturday, Sept. 11: Preschool Classroom Visits, 9-10:30am  (in-person schedules forthcoming)
  • Monday, Sept. 13: Preschool First Day of School
  • Wednesday, Sept 15: Parent Tea, 8:30am (indoor/outdoor gym & play yard)
  • Wednesday, Sept. 22: New Parent Social, 8:30am (indoor/outdoor gym & play yard)
  • Thursday, Sept. 23: STARS Information Session, 8:30am (indoor/outdoor gym & play yard)
  • Thursday, Sept. 23: MAP Information Night Grade 4-8, 7pm-7:45pm (Zoom)
  • Tuesday, Sept. 28: Parent Morning Social, 8:30am (indoor/outdoor gym & play yard)
  • Thursday, Sept. 30: Parent Evening Social, 6:00pm (indoor/outdoor gym & play yard)

Abby Hall Choi

Head of School

Abby Hall Choi has a Masters in Social Organizational Psychology from Teachers College, Columbia University, and a BA in Psychology and Elementary Education from Covenant College. She is also completing a Certificate in School Management & Leadership from Harvard University. As she helped lead Mustard Seed School’s NJAIS accreditation efforts and our most recent strategic plan development, she has gotten to apply and grow her learning. 

Ms. Hall Choi has worked as a fifth-grade teacher and a multi-grade fourth-fifth grade teacher. She has held several administrative roles including Middle School Director, Director of School Initiatives and Improvement, and Assistant Middle School Director.

She likes thinking about how people work together. She enjoys leading work and conversations that enable our community to thrive because we work through complex problems together.

Ms. Hall Choi values caring for the whole person. She believes it’s most important that everyone knows they are a child of God and loved all the time, no matter what. 

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