July 2, 2020
Though the academic calendar year has closed for now, Epiphany School administrators are on campus—virtually and in-person—getting ready for the 2020-21 school year. The administrative team has spent the last few weeks reviewing our strategic goals, accomplishments, and challenges of the 2019-20 school year, and now we are deep in mapping and preparing for next year.
Our mission, vision, values, diversity statement, and strategic plan continue to guide our work and provide lenses through which we consider possibilities and make decisions. In addition we are using recent family and faculty survey data, information from the WA State Governor's office, WA Office of Superintendent of Schools, WA State Department of Health, King County Department of Health, and local and national independent school association research as we craft the details of a safe, robust, and student-centered school reopening plan for the fall.
SCHOOL REOPENING PLAN—STATE GUIDELINES
I am happy to report that as of today, I know of no cases of COVID-19 within our Epiphany School community. And, though Seattle has not moved as quickly through the state's reopening phases as we may have hoped, our Leadership Team is developing a reopening plan that will allow all Epiphany School students who can return to in-person, on-campus learning to be back on campus for a full school day. Anyone who cannot be on campus (for health or personal reasons) will be able to access a robust school/home learning program. This assumes that there is no state mandate that schools remain closed in the fall, as of course, we must abide by state law. However, at this point our plan is to reopen following the state's guidelines for schools.
WA State and WA Office of the Superintendent of Schools published school reopening guidelines on June 11 which effectively aligned with the plans we had begun crafting for our reopening. The WA State guidelines can be found here. The basic requirements outlined by the state for reopening schools are as follows:
- Every student and adult wears a face covering throughout the school day
- Social/physical distancing protocols and practices are maintained in classrooms, offices, and throughout the school day, both inside and outside
- Every person follows required health and safety protocols on campus and at home to reduce the spread of this/any virus (e.g., hand hygiene, health screening, sick/quarantine policies)
- Increased cleaning and disinfection of school facilities and materials throughout the day.
As you can imagine, these requirements will impact virtually every aspect of our school day, making it look very different from the past. This and future communications will outline routines, protocols, and practices aligned to the state's guidelines and requirements, with the goal to ensure as safe a campus learning environment as possible. We will continue to communicate Fall 2020 reopening details over the coming weeks, in as timely and transparent a manner as possible. I ask you to read each of these communications closely to help your family understand and prepare for likely modifications in drop off and pick up procedures, daily classroom schedules, classroom set up, location of classes, configuration of cohorts, movement around school, lunch, recess, extended day, and health and safety practices.
SCHOOL REOPENING PLAN—SCHOOL START SCHEDULE
As mentioned previously, it is our goal to have all students who can return to in-person, on-campus learning to be back on campus for a full school day, and anyone who cannot return able to access a robust school/home learning program.
We have determined that we have the space needed to bring all students and staff back to campus, while following state guidelines for social distancing. Given the state and health safety requirements, we will start the school year differently than our "typical September." We need to ensure students, faculty, and families are trained in the health and safety practices that will be required on campus. We anticipate the first few weeks of school will be a "slow start" — meaning we may use a rotating schedule to bring smaller groups of students onto campus at a time, stagger drop off/pick up times, and postpone our before and after-school Extended Day program until later in the year.
Given the complexity in preparing campus for a fall return of students, we have determined that September 1 will continue to be our "first day" of school. This will allow us time to provide the significant staff training and professional development needed, as well as ample time to procure resources and ready campus for students' safe return. Depending on state requirements and guidelines, we may invite students onto campus in late August for either assessments or reconnection with their teachers from last year. I will share more details about this in my mid-July letter, and appreciate your understanding and patience as we finalize these plans.
SAFETY AND SECURITY PRECAUTIONS
The health and safety of our community remains Epiphany School's highest priority when developing plans to return to campus this fall. Below are some of the key health and safety measures we are planning to implement, based on WA state guidelines. Additional details about these and other safety measures will be shared in future communications as well as in the Family Handbook.
Grade Cohorts and Mixing of Grades
To reduce the risk of viral transmission, grades and classrooms will be organized to keep students in smaller, consistent groups throughout the day. These will typically be groups of 12-14 students, depending on the size of the classroom and social distance requirements. Teams of teachers will be assigned to grades, with significantly less movement and mixing of students and adults around the school. Assemblies, field trips, and other larger group events will be postponed until state guidelines allow.
Classrooms and offices will be set up to maintain the recommended 6-foot spacing as much as possible to minimize the risk of transmission. Movement through hallways and stairways will be controlled and designated as one-way. Drop off and pick up times of students will be staggered to minimize the possibility of virus transmission.
Face coverings must be worn by employees and students throughout the school day.
Students and employees will follow a regular schedule of hand washing or use of hand sanitizer throughout the day. Hand sanitizing stations will be set up at all entries to the school and in classrooms to ensure regular access.
Families will be asked to monitor members of their household for symptoms of illness or to keep children at home who are sick or showing symptoms of COVID-19 (such as fever, chills, cough, shortness of breath/difficulty breathing, fatigue, muscle or body aches, headache, new loss of taste or smell, sore throat, congestion or runny nose, nausea or vomiting, or diarrhea). Families will be asked to follow screening protocols for their children before arriving at school each day. Access to the school will be at designated entry points. Temperature and symptoms screening may also take place at school.
Updated Sick and Quarantine Policies
Protocols for the school's response to an employee, student, or family member with a COVID-19 diagnosis will be developed with the help of health professionals and will be in place by the opening of the school.
Increased Cleaning and Disinfection Schedule
Classrooms and high-traffic spaces will be sanitized multiple times during the day. Special attention will be given to cleaning high-touch surfaces throughout the day. Additional custodial staff will be on campus during school hours every day. All spaces will be cleaned and then disinfected with electrostatic sprayers every evening. Our faculty and staff will be trained in cleaning and disinfection procedures based on CDC guidelines.
Visitors on Campus
Visitors will not be allowed on campus. Essential facility-related vendors will be allowed on campus but will be screened at the designated entry point. This policy does not apply to parents picking up students who are sick or leaving for an appointment, but designated protocols for pick up and drop off must be followed.
FAMILY PREPARATIONS FOR RETURNING TO CAMPUS
In addition to reviewing each communication closely to understand what reopening of school will look like, we'd also like to ask each family to prepare yourselves and your child(ren) by practicing the key safety protocols we will have in place from the first day of school. These include:
- Face Coverings: Students will be expected to wear face coverings throughout the day at school. Please purchase and try out different face coverings for your child(ren) to ensure you have three to four that fit comfortably and securely (and to allow for washing). Help your child(ren) practice wearing their face covering, for shorter and longer periods of time, and taking it on and off. If a student arrives at school without a face covering, we will provide one for them. HealthyChildren.org and the CDC have useful information regarding face coverings for adults and children.
- Social Distancing: When in classrooms and moving about campus, teachers and students will generally maintain physical distance from one another. Please help your child(ren) understand the importance of physical distancing, and intentionally practice social distancing as a family or within your family/friend pod so your child(ren) can return to school with some understanding of this concept.
- Hygiene Practices: As we have always done, children and adults should cover coughs or sneezes with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash. Children and adults should wash their hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, including when they arrive at school, before meals or snacks, after outside time, after going to the bathroom, after nose blowing or sneezing, and before leaving to go home. Help young children to make sure they are doing it right. Teach children (and adults) not to touch their eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands. If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand gel with at least 60 percent alcohol and preferably fragrance-free. Supervise use of alcohol-based hand gel by young children.
RESOURCES FOR FAMILIES REGARDING SCHOOL REOPENING