Our Future Is Strong, Edition #7

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 late July and early August with on-campus summer camps.  

In this seventh edition, we will address some of the questions received from the back-to-school parent survey.  

The following information contains high level answers to the most-asked questions from the parent back-to-school survey. Protocols will change during the school year as we respond to the dynamic situation of the virus and mitigation efforts in our area. The protocols below assume the prevalence of COVID-19 at the beginning of the school year will be similar to our current situation in Dallas County: 

  • Face covering - Face coverings (masks) will be required of all prekindergarten through eighth grade students, and all faculty and staff, at all times while on campus. This is especially important when there is a possibility of outside, travel exposure when we return from school breaks. By ensuring all masks are worn at all times minimizes that potential exposure. We foresee, and hope for, a time when we will be able to allow students to remove their face coverings when they are seated in their classrooms and socially distanced from others. 

  • Social distancing - Classroom seating will place students at a distance of 6 feet from other students. Plexiglass will be used for separation in classrooms and with some staff desks for additional protection. In the hallways, there will be floor markings indicating the appropriate 6-feet distance. In order to limit the movement and interaction in our hallways, teachers will change classrooms rather than students. 

  • Exposure - Representatives from the Dallas-area independent school nurses consortium are working directly with the Dallas County Health Department on an exposure plan. Currently, we have minimum guidelines requiring us to inform the entire school community if there is a positive case of COVID-19 among our students, faculty, or staff. Any individuals who test positive will not be identified for privacy reasons. Potentially impacted individuals are informed by Dallas County if it deems necessary. 

  • Rhythm of the school day - We are aware too much time in one place is not ideal for students. Students will be able to go outside for recess on a staggered schedule by class, we will have PE classes that allow for social distancing, and teachers will be encouraged to take classes outside for school work. Our faculty members are experienced in helping children who need to wiggle do so constructively. Brain breaks, mindfulness opportunities, and movement breaks will be regularly woven into the school day. For lunch, students will eat in their classrooms or outside with their class. Lunches may be brought from home or individually-packaged sack lunches will be available to order from our lunch provider, Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner. Wholesome Food orders will not be available at this time. 

  • Distance learning - You will be able to opt-in to distance learning at the beginning of the school year, with the opportunity for re-entering on-campus learning at the beginning of each trimester. You will also be able to opt-in to distance learning for a 14-day quarantine at any time. In the next edition of “Our Future Is Strong,” we will discuss the adjustments we are making to our distance learning program, as well as share more details about the opt-in choices. 

  • Screening - Daily health screening will take place for students, faculty, and staff which currently includes a temperature check upon arrival at school, and new guidelines have been created for returning to campus after an illness. For example, for a COVID-19 illness, an individual must meet all three of the following conditions: 1) have at least three days without a fever; 2) have an improvement in symptoms; and, 3) have at least ten days since symptoms first appeared. For any illness with a fever that is not COVID-19 related, you must be fever free for 72 hours prior to returning to campus and have a doctor’s note confirming the fever was not related to COVID-19. These new health screening protocols will be outlined in our Student-Parent Handbook. 

  • Cleaning - Cleaning cloths will be in all classrooms, and teachers and students will wipe down their areas throughout the school day. Cleaning personnel will be frequently wiping down high-touch areas throughout the school. We will employ extra cleaning personnel each day who will rotate through each of the bathrooms to clean them frequently. Every evening, our cleaning crews will perform a deep, electrostatic clean of every classroom. We are also looking at alternatives to manage air quality through the HVAC system.

In early August, we will share details on these protocols and more in our updated Student-Parent Handbook and Reopening Procedures. At that time, we will also ask you to tell us whether your child(ren) will be coming back to campus or will begin the year with distance learning. As always, we are continuing to actively monitor the dynamic situation of the virus infection rates and mitigation efforts. At this point, we continue to plan for an on-campus start to the school year. 

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