Our Future Is Strong, Edition #3

Dear Good Shepherd Families,

"Our Future Is Strong" is a series of brief, informative emails/posts which began on April 30, 2020 to keep the community informed about our preparations for our return to campus. We plan to return in July with on-campus summer camps.  

In this third edition, we will focus on possible Fall 2020 return-to-school scenarios as COVID-19 continues, updates on operational task forces, and plans for the 2020 summer months.  

Scenarios:

In general, three scenarios are being discussed for the 2020-2021 school year, each one is dependent upon how well the virus is contained in our community. In the Open Campus model, students are able to return to campus with some modifications. There are additional cleaning and disinfection protocols and procedures for the school. Everyone will wash their hands significantly more often. Very large groups meeting in the cafeteria or at a sharing would have to be re-imagined. Faculty, staff, and students might wear masks when they are in close contact with each other. This scenario would be the closest to what you have traditionally experienced at Good Shepherd, but still modified for our new normal. 

In the Blended Learning model, schools must reduce the occupancy of their facilities. Students might be divided into cohorts, taking turns to learn on campus and learn from home. With classrooms holding only half of their occupancy, students can socially distance appropriately. Masks might still be required when students and teachers are in close proximity to each other. Instead of moving around the campus for specials classes, for example, students stay in their classrooms, and the teachers come to them. These procedures allow for virus mitigation within the smaller and consistent student groups. 

In the Extended Remote Learning model, students are all off campus, learning at home. While this model sounds like the learning experience we just completed, that experience happened in an emergency shift. Now that we have time to plan, we are already taking steps to ensure our extremely high-quality distance learning is even more responsive to our students’ and families’ needs. Indeed, for all the scenarios, our goal is to more closely align the 2020-2021 learning experience to the expected experience each of you have come to love about Good Shepherd. 

The most asked question is, “Which scenario will begin the school year?” Most of that answer depends on the infection rates and the mitigation efforts. Further, while our school year might begin with one of these scenarios, we could very likely switch to another model sometime during the school year, as the pandemic changes. Our friends at the Stanford d.school used the following graphic to help us think about the different scenarios and when each might be used. 

                                    

 

In this graphic, you can see infection rates are shown along the horizontal axis and mitigation efforts are shown along the vertical axis. Our public health situation might give rise to all of these scenarios as we navigate through the 2020-2021 school year, and as we continue to watch COVID-19. We are working on some adjustments to our instructional models that allow us to nimbly move between scenarios with little disruption for students, teachers, and families. You will learn more about these instructional models in a future edition of “Our Future Is Strong.” While we cannot control the virus, we can control how we respond to it and how we intentionally design the school experience, no matter the scenario. We are using our time this summer to do just that!

Operational Work Groups:

For any return to campus, we have considerations and recommendations from health experts about ways to keep people healthy. As you might venture out to the grocery store, or maybe even a restaurant, you notice changes in procedures around occupancy, cleanliness, and more. Similarly, schools will need to update procedures as well. Currently, we have operational work groups researching best practices, understanding implications, and writing new procedures for Good Shepherd. Our work groups include topics such as Community Health and Screening Protocols, Cleaning and Disinfecting Protocols, Food Service Changes, Carpool Changes, and more. Each group is digging deeply into CDC guidelines and learning from other businesses and industries who are planning to, or have already, reopened their spaces. We will be sharing more of these details in future editions of “Our Future Is Strong.” 

Summer 2020:

Following the CDC protocols, guidelines, and procedures for safety, we are excited about the opening of our summer programs on July 6th. While class options and sizes are reduced, we look forward to having children return to campus to enjoy some summer fun and reconnect with their friends. Whitney West and her team are working closely with our operational work groups to implement all recommendations for summer camps. The Texas Education Agency has already issued Operational Guidance on summer school gatherings, and we have structured our program to comply and surpass this guidance. Look for an email from Whitney West on Monday, June 1st with additional information about health and safety protocols being implemented for the July in-person camps. 

Register with confidence! Spaces will fill fast! Registration is available on our website. Virtual camps for the month of June, and additional on-campus offerings in July, will be released on Monday, June 1st at 8:00 AM. 

Please expect the next edition in this series in two weeks, or sooner, if there is information to report. We will also post the series on our Coronavirus (COVID-19) webpage for your reference.  

Together we are #gsesStrong, 

Julie McLeod, Ph.D.
Head of School