This summer,  faculty and staff are available virtually. Admissions questions: Imaani F. Sanders [email protected]. 201.355.6635.

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Fall 2020

We're planning for the start of school in the fall

Fall planning: we use the analogy of building three planes

During the COVID-19 pandemic, we’re planning for the 2020-21 school year. As we plan, we use the analogy of building three airplanes. One airplane is a fully in person school experience. Another is a full distance learning experience. The third is a hybrid: part in person, part distance learning. We know that we have to be ready to change airplanes at any moment.

The top priority in any plan for the fall must be the health and safety of our students, faculty, and staff. We’re learning from other countries, school leaders, the CDC, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and state and local leaders as we build our “airplanes.”

We’ll post more information here as plans solidify.

June Update: Returning to School in the Fall

On Friday, June 26, 2020, New Jersey Governor Murphy released an executive summary regarding school opening in the fall of 2020. Here’s a note from the Commissioner of Education:

Accordingly, absent a shift in the public health data, school buildings will open in some capacity for in-person instruction and operations in September. The reopening of our schools will include necessary limitations to protect the health and safety of our students and staff. Our plan is built upon that premise, but with the recognition that we must be ready to adjust our educational models should the spread of the virus and consistent health data require it.

Mustard Seed School continues to plan for the fall and build the “three airplanes”. In our planning, we have taken into consideration the survey results provided by our families. While there are some things we do not yet know about the fall, there are several plans that we can tell you about now. The health and safety of our students, faculty, and staff continues to be paramount. You will find more information below.

Fall 2020 Program, Health & Safety Modifications


We have modified the school program to limit the in-person interactions of students, faculty, and staff, while preserving the integrity of our program. 

  • Classes will be configured by grade level. (See FAQ below.)
  • Cohorts of students and teachers (a small group of students who do not mix with other classes and who interact with a limited number of teachers) will be established to reduce exposure.
  • Use of shared spaces like the art studios, music room, etc. will be limited. Classes will mostly stay in one classroom.
  • Specialists like music, art, and PE teachers will provide some instruction virtually, even when students are on campus.
  • Class size will be limited based on square-foot recommendations.
  • Worship will take place in individual classrooms, not in a larger group setting.


The current plan is to open the preschool to on-site learning every day, as possible. We recognize that the learning needs of our youngest students are best met in person. 

K-8 grades

More detailed plans for students in grades K-8 will be released in early August. We expect to implement our full plan in a multi-step approach, working toward our ultimate goal of having as many students on campus for as much time as possible. It’s possible that we may enact a hybrid model where students learn through a combination of on-site and distance learning. This would enable us to limit the number of students in the building on any given day. Schedules for families with multiple children will be coordinated as much as possible.

Distance Learning When School Is On-Site

If a family wishes to remain distance learning when school is on-site, they must seek permission from the school.

  • It must be necessary for medical or educational needs.
  • The student will receive a weekly session with an assigned teacher. The school or family may schedule other support meetings as needed and as staff are available.
  • The teaching will occur mostly asynchronously. Instruction will be provided for learning at home through Google Classroom or Seesaw.
  • Some synchronous time may be available with the class that is in session on-site.
  • The family will be required to regularly pick up any materials that are needed.
Outdoor Play

Children need time to play and move their bodies in a safe environment. We have made plans for outdoor play that do not involve use of common space at the park.

  • We have secured space from Our Lady of Grace Church that enables us to offer play next to the school. 
  • The gym will also be available more frequently for gross motor play indoors.  
  • Classes may also go for walks or utilize local parks when deemed safe.
Hygiene and Safety
  • Staff will receive a temperature check upon entering the building every day.
  • Students will receive a temperature check at drop-off, while a caregiver is present.
  • Everyone will receive a temperature check mid-day.
  • Late arrivals will be escorted inside for a temperature check.
  • Students and teachers will wear masks, as appropriate, until restrictions are lifted. Note: Families need to provide masks for their students.
  • Daily cleaning will continue as usual. Bathrooms will be sanitized throughout the day. The building will be sanitized at night. 
  • Students will use individual sets of materials, as much as possible. Any shared materials will be sanitized before students use them.  
  • Handwashing will occur regularly for each class and will be supervised as appropriate.
  • Students will bring individual snacks from home at all levels. Community shared snacks will be suspended.
  • A nurse will provide daily coverage and will have an isolated space.
Procedures in the Event of Exposure
  • Students, faculty, and staff will stay home if anyone in their household is sick. 
  • Students, faculty, and staff will quarantine, following advice of the local health department and medical care providers when exposed to COVID-19.
  • Distance learning may go into effect for any student or class or for the school at the recommendation of the local health department, if a positive COVID-19 case is identified in the school community.
Physical Modifications in the School Building
  • Classrooms will be reorganized to allow for greater physical distancing.
  • Hand sanitizing stations will be added to entrances and classrooms.
  • The nurse will be relocated to an isolated area.
  • Stairwell use will be limited by class.
  • The school will follow advice regarding air flow; keeping windows open and using fans to move air.
  • The school has upgraded the phone system throughout building to increase communication between classrooms and office/administration.
  • Students will receive a single sign-on for technology for ease of use of apps and software. 

The school will increase utilization of software to support distance learning: Mathspace, Raz-Kids, Seesaw, Savvas, IXL, Google Classroom, Zoom, and Google Meets.

Visitor Policy
  • No visitors, including parents, will be admitted without an appointment.
  • Scheduled visitors must wear a mask and will not be allowed to enter classrooms.
Tuition Modification If Distance Learning is in Place
  • Preschool families who opt out of distance learning will receive credit for tuition and fees for the time when distance learning is in place.
  • During times of distance learning, full-day preschool (Sky Class) families will pay tuition and fees at the 5-morning program rate, recognizing that there is a level of childcare that is not available in the distance learning model.
  • There are no other tuition modifications.
Who to Contact with Questions

If you have further questions, contact Tom Postema, Head of School, [email protected]

Program Changes for Fall 2020 Due to COVID-19: Single Grade Groupings

Because we must be prepared for three different learning scenarios, we’re redesigning our multi-grade approach in grades two through eight to be a single grade model for the fall of 2020.  Although a multi-grade approach has served students well for many years, it is best experienced when students and teachers can be physically together in the classroom. We believe that the single-grade model will better serve our students in an unpredictable environment. You can find more information in the FAQ below.

Fall 2020 Program Changes for Grades Two-Eight: Single Grade Groupings FAQ

What is your top priority as you plan for opening school in the fall of 2020?

The top priority in any plan for the fall must be the health and safety of our students, faculty, and staff. We’re learning from other countries, school leaders, the CDC, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and state and local leaders as we build our “airplanes.”

Why are you changing from multi-grade groupings to single-grade groupings?

Because of the current pandemic, we cannot know exactly what school will look like in the fall. To better serve your children in this environment, we’ve decided to redesign the multi-grade model as it stands today. 

Here are a few of the many good reasons for this change:

  • We believe this will help students feel a strong sense of belonging and being known, especially if some level of distance learning persists. 
  • It will enable teachers to continue to bring academic depth to the learning. 
  • It will allow teachers to divide the class into smaller groups if we need to limit the number of students in a classroom. And make it easier for some students to learn at school and some students to learn at home if this becomes necessary.
  • It will limit the number of interactions that students have with other students and teachers. This means less exposure to contagions.
  • It will give us the ability to pivot more seamlessly back to distance learning should stay at home orders be reinstated.
  • It will make for an easier transition for rising second grade students and rising fourth grade students. For rising fourth grade students, it will make for a smoother entry into middle school.
Will there be any opportunities for multi-grade groupings next year?

The multi-grade approach has served our students and teachers well for several years. We value the academic learning and social diversity that our multi-grade practice facilitates. However, it is best implemented when teachers and students can teach and learn together in person. We hold out hope that as we find our new normal there may be classes or times for multi-grade groupings to happen informally next year. We especially hope that there may be times when the sixth, seventh, and eighth grade students can work in academic teams. At some point, it may make sense to implement other multi-grade opportunities. We’ll just have to see how the year unfolds.

Do you plan to return to multi-grade groupings in the future?

We look forward to the day when it’s safe and appropriate to more fully implement multi-grade groupings again. We value the collaborative academic and social learning opportunities that our multigrade practice facilitates. At the same time, we hold our plans lightly, knowing that as we learn and grow together, we must be responsive to the academic and social-emotional needs of our students at any given moment.

Will my student in a current multi-grade class have the same teacher next year?

While some students will have the same teacher because of the way that classes have been divided, other students will not have the same teacher. We imagine that this news might be especially hard for students who looked forward to looping with the same teacher next year. We will intentionally design ways for students to get to know their teachers and feel at home in this new model.

Which teachers will be teaching which grades next year?

The homeroom teaching assignments for next year are as follows:

  • Second grade: Melia McHugh and Rebekah Lowe
  • Third grade: Cindy Kuperus
  • Fourth grade: Kat Jonker and Chloe Jang
  • Fifth grade: Elizabeth Rachuri
  • Sixth grade: Melissa McCallihan
  • Seventh grade: Brent Harris
  • Eighth grade: Sam Choi

Also assisting with second and third grade will be Sam Martino, who will also add math to his teaching portfolio and Chris Gasca, who will add Spanish to his teaching portfolio. Mr. Gasca will work alongside Sra. Oro-Hahn. Heather Welesko will continue to teach literacy and assist in the classroom.

And of course, we have our academic specialists in art, PE, music, and Spanish who will continue to work with the classes.

My student is in a grade where there are multiple homerooms. When will I find out my student’s teacher?

Families will receive homeroom assignments for their students some time during the summer. This is when we always announce assignments.

Could this plan change?

This is the current plan and we believe that it is the best plan given what we know right now. We don’t expect it to change. However, we recognize that events and information are changing every day. We must be responsive and modify our program as it makes sense in the environment as it unfolds.

I still have questions. Who can I contact?

Please do not hesitate to reach out to Mr. Postema, Head of School; or any of our academic directors if you have questions or concerns.

Tom Postema, Head of School: [email protected]

Emily Sytsma, Early Childhood Director (PK-K): [email protected]

Shanna Pargellis, Lower School Director (Grades 1-3): [email protected]

Abby Hall Choi, Middle School Director (Grades 4-8): [email protected]