EDS Covid Response

Dear prospective EDS parent,

Thank you for your interest and consideration. The following is a synopsis of EDS’ approach to the continuing coronavirus and COVID-19 pandemic for the opening of the 2020-21 school year. Our plan is comprehensive -the document below outlines our response to a number of questions, concerns, and discussions, including: safety, process, logistics, student/family options, and lastly, some financial concessions.

We will have school in person in August. Our first day of school will be Tuesday, August 11.

Since announcing our plan for returning to school in August, we have been affirmed by the position of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) advocating that, “all policy considerations for the coming school year should start with a goal of having students physically present in school [with] coordinated interventions intended ‘to mitigate, not eliminate, risk’ of SARS-CoV-2.”

Part of the value-added of an independent school is our ability to respond flexibly to the needs of our students independent of outside forces. Please know also that we will continue to make decisions independently, based on what is best for our school community. We are not obligated to follow closings and openings of public schools.

Our Intention

Our job is to help our students build foundations for learning and for life in as enriched and safe an environment as reasonably possible. We have not and will not waiver from that commitment. We will do that in person as long as we legally and reasonably can! All of our planning since May has been devoted to implementing that plan. Finally, please keep in mind that “safely” means keeping our faculty and larger community safe, as well as the students.

What Will School Look Like?

The biggest difference for an individual student will be that their contact with other students outside their class will be extremely limited. Hence, their contact will be “contained” to their classmates. However, please note that this does not mean they will be confined to a single classroom all day long. Quite the contrary. We expect students will spend more time outdoors and moving about than previously has been the case–at both our Walton Way Campus and Flowing Wells Campus. With over 70 acres of land at our disposal, we have the largest campus space in the area and have every intention of making great use of it all! We know from our experience last spring that it is vital to be as attentive to students’ physical, mental, and emotional well-being as their academic progress. In fact, the former enhances the latter.

In addition, within each classroom in 3’s through 4th grade, students will frequently work in smaller sub-groups to further limit close proximity and help contain potential spread. This also enhances our individualized approach to learning, which has always been a part of our teaching methodology. Now, however, those sub-groups will happen more frequently and will be re-organized regularly.Of course, for some students and families at-risk, being in school at this time presents a number of serious concerns. For that group, we will offer an option for students to distance learn from home if needed. With our school’s 1:1 technology program (every student in grades 1-8 has a school-issued device), participation in daily instruction from home, interaction with classmates and teachers, and completing classwork and homework can all be accommodated.

Logistics

As we all know, the devil is in the details. While some these details are still in development, the following should give you a picture of how we’ll implement this plan, at least in its initial stage:

  • Daily schedules are being coordinated to limit shared hallway movement
  • Unnecessary items are being removed from classrooms to create space for maximum distancing.
  • Accommodations are being made for students to keep daily necessities in the classroom. Lockers will not be part of daily life.
  • Large spaces (such as the lunchroom), available classrooms (such as co-curricular spaces), and all of our outdoor spaces will be utilized throughout the week to help spread students and provide mobility, provided we can properly clean and disinfect between uses.
  • We will not conduct large gatherings where we cannot maintain proper distancing.
  • Different stairwells will be designated for movement up and down.
  • Before and after school students will either remain in their same containment groups or may be mixed while properly distanced.
  • We are still working out the details, but if a student or teacher tests positive, expect that they (and any siblings) will be sent home for distance learning (if they are able) for 10-14 days of quarantine, along with any students who have had direct exposure (generally that classroom, or possibly fewer).
  • In short, it will be a vibrant, active campus. It’s just that instead of moving in a big organic cluster, that activity will occur in well-coordinated small groups.

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and Cleaning

As part of the AAP’s call for “coordinated interventions intended to mitigate” the risk of spreading the virus, we are implementing a variety of protocols in the opening phase of school, including these:

  • All adults on campus are expected to wear either a face mask or shield except when they are alone or properly distanced in a well-ventilated area.
  • All students will be provided both a shield and a mask by the school. While we know it’s not feasible for all students to wear PPE all day–especially our younger students–there will be times and circumstances, varying by age, in which students will be expected to wear one.
  • Classrooms will be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected at the end of each day, with an additional sanitizing clean mid-day, as well as between any shared use of space.
  • Restrooms will be cleaned and sanitized throughout the day. Good hand washing and hygiene practices will be regularly reinforced.
  • Parents and/or students will be asked to respond to daily health screening questions, and students’ temperatures will be taken at drop-off. Symptomatic students, including any student with temperature over 100 degrees will be sent home for further evaluation.

What This Will Look Like for Parents

We are confident about the educational environment and experiences that we will create for our students. When we open school, we will however initially take stringent precautions to limit the presence and movement of adults on campus. Some of these steps will be a change for existing parents, but for new families should not be too onerous:

  • Morning carpool will likely be a little slower as we will screen students and administer hand sanitizer before entering campus.
  • Afternoon carpool will be more efficient, but parents will be asked to stay with their cars.
  • Events for which parents have traditionally come to campus will initially be moved to a virtual event if we cannot maintain proper distancing.

We love you, and we need you to be engaged in your child’s school-life, but every additional visit to campus risks introducing the virus and undermines our efforts to contain it. We will be reasonable about this, and we will find ways to keep you connected and engaged, but we hope you understand our need to limit visitors, at least initially.

Contingency Plan

In the event that there is widespread closing of schools including independent schools, we intend to keep preschool through second grade on campus, as long as daycare and other early childhood programs are legally allowed to operate. Developmentally, distance learning is especially challenging until students are more independent readers and writers.

Given our experience from March, the current data trends, our status as an independent school, and the past Executive Orders of our Governor, we believe theseare the two most likely scenarios. And we hope this gives you some helpful reassurance.

Finances

EDS has set aside funding to help families that may face unforeseen changes to employment or other family circumstances due to COVID-19. As you will learn, EDS believes in enrolling families and not just students. In difficult times, we are here for you.

Additionally, the school’s Board of Trustees has authorized a tiered tuition adjustment plan for our preschool -2nd grade students in the unlikely event that a long term period of distance learning occurs again, as well as a plan for mitigation of further financial risk for students in all grades. If you are interested in greater details about these plans, please do not hesitate to contact Scott Tomlinson, Director of Institutional Advancement at stomlinson@edsaugusta.com.

I hope that all of this information helps to give you a better understanding of our plan and our planned responses to the challenges of returning to school for the 2020-21 school year. We are committed to continuing to carry out our mission and to serve the students and families of the CSRA. Thank you for your interest!

 

EDS will be providing the following for all students in the 2020-21 school year: