Our Future Is Strong, Edition #5

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.  

For this fifth edition, we will discuss the high-level directions for fall 2020, and share some information about our COE program. I am including two important and very brief surveys  which will help us as we continue to make plans for the school year. 

Fall 2020

In the third edition of “Our Future Is Strong,” we discussed the three scenarios that are possible for next school year, along with the possibility we will see all of those scenarios at different times. The main message remains that the public health situation is fluid and evolving, and our response must continue to be nimble and flexible. With that understanding, we are ready to share some of our high-level directions for August 2020. We are calling these directions rather than decisions to underscore our need to remain agile. 

School start date - Our first day of school will be August 26, 2020, as we had  previously reported. You will receive more information about the beginning of school activities as the date approaches. 

School start scenario - We shared three scenarios for the 2020-2021 school  year, including Open Campus, Blended Learning, and Extended Remote Learning. We also shared the graphic below from our friends at the Stanford d.school to help us think about which scenario might be in place depending on the levels of COVID-19 infection and the effectiveness of mitigation efforts.

Blended Learning appears to be the most likely scenario in which we would begin the school year,  so we have been focusing on what that might look and feel like at Good Shepherd. The fundamental ideas behind Blended Learning are reducing the number of people who are in close contact with students, reducing the size of student groups, and making sure there is ample room for social distancing, all in efforts to contain the virus in small pods. This scenario originally kept small cohort groups of students on campus while others were at home, and toggling schedules back and forth. However, based on our empathy interviews, the toggle between home and school was seen as disruptive and challenging to families and educators. There was also a strong sense that our community life is crucial to the Good Shepherd experience, and being on campus for as much of the year as possible is an important aspect of that community life. We worked on a variety of ways to balance the important aspects of virus containment with the importance of continuity and community life. 

Our direction for Good Shepherd’s Blended Learning is to provide a way for all students to come to campus each and every day. We will handle virus containment by reducing the class sizes so, in all classrooms, students can appropriately social distance from one another. In this scenario, students will remain in one classroom. Specials teachers in early childhood and lower school, and subject-area teachers in middle school, will travel to the students rather than having the students travel to them, further containing the possible spread of the virus. This would allow those classrooms to become homeroom classrooms, offering each student a place on campus every day. We will be fully utilizing the campus, just in a different way. This direction will require us to hire several more teachers for more homerooms. This is an example of an increased cost of responding to the pandemic we discussed in the fourth edition of “Our Future Is Strong.” 

Importantly, we will also be able to accommodate students who need to stay home because of the virus and can provide distance learning for those students concurrently with the on-campus experience for other students. Please note we still might be required to move to Extended Remote Learning if the county and/or state health departments and governments require it. We might also find ourselves in the best situation and able to maintain an Open Campus. As always, we will remain nimble and respond appropriately as the medical community and scientists deem responsible. 

Important survey - As we continue to make preparations for the school year, we know some of you are actively looking forward to the year, some are apprehensive about the year, and others would like more information prior to making decisions about returning to campus. We have included a brief, two-question survey about your current intentions to help us as we continue to plan for the year. Please click here for the survey. 

Classroom of the Earth

We are so excited our new Director of Classroom of the Earth, Dashielle Vawter, has begun her tenure at Good Shepherd, effective June 15th! She has been busy working with Morgan Judy, Catherine Scott, and a transition team of experienced COE leaders. Our goal is to have all students participate in a COE trip this year. There are many aspects of these trips that Ms. Vawter is evaluating to ensure the safety of our students during these experiences. Of course, much of their time is spent outdoors, which is the best possible location in terms of virus mitigation. We do have to coordinate our efforts with our partner locations, and many of our current trips require permits from national parks and other vendors which could prove problematic. Other trip details require special attention, such as transportation and overnight sleeping arrangements, as these elements require students to be in an enclosed space. The 8th grade trip is, of course, our first trip, and we are in regular contact with Camp Cheley and with Rocky Mountain National Park. Ms. Vawter is evaluating several alternatives so our students could still have an incredible COE experience, in case Cheley and/or Rocky Mountain National Park are not options. We will be communicating directly with our 8th grade families later in the summer as we know more. 

Important survey -  As we plan for student transportation and overnight sleeping arrangements, we want to hear from you. Please click here to complete this brief COE survey regarding some adjustments we might make in those particular areas. 

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

Together we are #gsesStrong, 

Julie McLeod, Ph.D.
Head of School