On Friday, July 17, Ms. Grabis and I hosted a midsummer town hall meeting to provide an overview of our Healthy Gunston reopening framework. Attendance was robust, and thank you all so much for taking the time to join us and for asking thoughtful questions. We appreciate your ongoing support—it means the world.
For those who were unable to attend, we’ve put together a recap along with some Q&A’s that were discussed. As I mentioned in the presentation, we aim to have a final outline of our reopening plan available for review sometime the first week in August.
Between now and then, we will continue to flesh out and develop the hundreds of unique policies that will need to be covered—everything from health screening protocols and mask coverings, to cleaning schedules, communications, contingency plans, and everything in between.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) strongly advocates that all policy considerations for the coming school year should start with the goal of having students physically present in schools. Of course, there will be some jurisdictions where this will not be possible, and all COVID-19 policies are intended to mitigate, not eliminate, risk. Emerging research seems to be coalescing around the notion that no single action or set of actions will completely eliminate the risk of COVID-19 transmission, but implementation of several coordinated interventions can greatly reduce that risk. With that in mind, here are some key updates on what to expect this fall:
Our buildings and grounds team has been busy making modifications to classrooms, including (but not limited to):
- expanding classroom space
- installing plexiglass barriers, where advisable
- constructing a second campus bridge to reach the first floor of AB. This will facilitate one-way campus traffic, and also now makes access to the Field House ADA compliant.
- incorporating new classroom furniture
- reserving large outdoor tents
- purchasing classroom air purifiers
- installing no-contact infrastructure throughout buildings.
Other measures that Gunston will employ include:
- universal face coverings
- daily health screenings of students and employees
- keeping desks six feet apart
- using outdoor teaching spaces, weather permitting
- avoidance of close physical proximity in cases of increased exhalation (singing/exercise)
- requiring regular hand washing and robust cleaning
- Throughout the summer, our teachers have been continuing to formally “upskill” on a weekly basis, especially in the realm of instructional technology. If Gunston needs to move into a period of distance learning, we will be ready!
- All teachers are pursuing their Google Educator certifications.
- We are installing new technology (cameras and sound systems) to allow for concurrent teaching, whenever there is a hybrid of students (or teachers) online, and some in-person in the classroom.
- We are developing new strategies for supporting the social and emotional needs of our students.
Finally, Gunston’s Orientation Team is meeting weekly to design a program that will allow us to have all new students safely on campus. They will have the opportunity to get to know one another and interact with student leaders who are the guides for two days of the orientation. We are planning to have a lot of fun, and to use our 35- acre campus to the fullest.
On August 26, ALL students (both new and returning) will participate in an orientation to practice our new safety protocols before we launch school on September 1. You’ll be receiving more details about orientations soon.
As you’ve no doubt heard before, these are unprecedented and uncertain times, however you can rest assured that Gunston is up to the task and our number one priority remains delivering a highly personalized, nurturing and rigorous education while ensuring the safety and well-being of students, faculty, and staff.
How can families support Gunston?
We have employees that need accommodations and therefore will need volunteers who can be here for a full day to help us with coverage of classes. Also, please read every letter that goes out this summer. There will be a lot of dense information coming your way, but it is important to read.
What about Embarkation? Homecoming? Other events?
Our goal is to have a modified Embarkation. It won’t look exactly like Embarkation in years past, but we will do our best to make sure it is special. Grandparents day is cancelled, however our intention is to retain as many of the student events as we possibly (and safely) can. Many will be modified.
What will transportation look like this year?
Transportation remains to be finalized. Buses are available and we are currently working with our transportation provider and Health Advisory Team regarding routes, sanitizing procedures, and bus density. We are hopeful that bus transportation will be available for the fall and will align with our normal schedule.
How will lunch work? Will students eat in the cafeteria?
The Atrium and dining room are being converted into usable teaching spaces. Lunch will be a “grab and go” in a very orchestrated manner. Students will leave a classroom, pick up their lunch, and report to their next classroom, and eat lunch in that space. We are also working on creating outdoor spaces, where students are able to eat together (six feet apart). There will be no buffets or high touch areas. Our food provider Sodexo has all of their own safety protocols and their employees are deeply trained, so we are very confident in their ability to manage meals.
Can you expand on Athletics?
The Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association (MIAA) has delayed the start of athletic practices until September 1. While Gunston is not in MIAA, their delay means that our normally scheduled games for the first two weeks in September are wiped out. Interscholastic competition within the Eastern Shore Independent Athletic Conference (ESIAC — of which Gunston is a member) is still an open question.
Other considerations include the distance our athletes have to travel (e.g.: Worcester Prep is two hours away), so we need to examine exposure risks around transportation. We will have a better sense of athletics at the beginning of August. Coach Mel has mapped out multiple plans—one with interscholastic sports, and one with a fully intramural program. What is allowable and permissible within Tier one, two, and three sports is a moving target; however we have a plan for robust physical activity.
We don’t have the facility for volleyball in the fall.
Yes. Most of our sports are tier one or two and are currently scheduled to run.
There are no U.S. Rowing regattas this upcoming fall. There remains a possibility of doing an intrasquad event if it is deemed safe to compete. We do have a winter rowing fitness program that could be adapted with some water rowing time. We have a new rowing coach on board who is working with U.S. Rowing and our Health Advisory Team to figure out how to do this safely.
If families are uncomfortable with the sports program, will students be able to get a waiver?
We do not plan on waiving the sports requirement, however we do not want anyone to feel uncomfortable. We will work with you and Coach Mellinger on a distance learning option.
My student has concerns being in the classroom, what should they do?
Reach out to Ms. Grabis now and we will provide a remote option that works for you. Distance Learning is available, as well as “concurrent learning,” — using the external camera and speaker — so if a student is home, they can still be “in class” virtually with their peers.
What will the weekly schedule look like?
We are planning to be able to have students on campus 4-5 days a week. The health situation remains fluid and our final decision will be guided by our Health Advisory Team, the Queen Anne's County Board of Health, and guidance from the state and CDC. The daily academic schedule will be finalized by early August.
How does Maryland education policies impact Gunston?
Our main conversation is with Queen Anne’s Public Health Department. All schools are different, however if the state health department or the county decides we need to close, then we must comply. We have a Health Advisory Team that all looks at these questions.
How will grading work this year?
We will have grading periods defined by the academic schedule, once finalized. For each grading period, students will receive a quantitative assessment and an effort grade. In addition, teachers will provide narrative comments—once in the fall and once in the spring.
What will your quarantine requirements be?
A quarantine policy is one of the hundreds of policies we are working on greater detail in the coming month. This has the potential of being a very disrupted school year. Our goal is to make the process as smooth as humanly possible. If your child has to be home for two weeks, they can still come to school concurrently (ie: distance learning at home) and not miss anything.
What are your protocols for employees or students testing positive?
We are discussing options with our new school nurse and the Health Advisory Team to determine which one makes sense for us and is medically prudent. We will announce this policy later in August.
What will the medical screening process look like? What if someone is sick at school?
Everyone will be screened daily, students and faculty, employees, etc. Exact procedures and policies are still being ironed out.
What is the mask policy? What kind of mask? When is it required?
A mask will be required of everyone while indoors on campus. Students and faculty can wear their own masks, however the masks will need ear straps and must completely cover your nose and mouth. We will have opportunities for a “mask break” when possible throughout the day. In addition, we have extra medical grade masks for those who lose or damage theirs, and we also have a supply of face shields for when they are appropriate. Additional mask information will also be forthcoming.
How often will you have these meetings?
Our goal is to have Town Hall meetings when there is something new to report. We will have meetings, instructional videos, written information, etc. and it will be delivered to you via email as well as posted on our website. However, we are ALWAYS available to answer questions, address concerns, or just chat. Please don’t hesitate to reach out.
At the end of each class, will students be released all at once?
Transitioning across campus will be a carefully choreographed dance of one-way traffic that minimizes the exposure risk. We will be orienting all students to our new procedures through a few tutorial videos and an on-campus orientation on August 26.
Will students be able to stay after school until pickup?
Has Chesapeake Watershed Semester been cancelled?
The fall CWS will not run. However, in the spirit of what we are calling “pivotability,” we may be able to run a Spring semester.
Any updates or changes to the college process?
There are no substantial changes to report right now, but the college office will be providing updates. Application timelines are falling back in place. Please register your student for the SAT now. Test sites are filling up.
- distance learning
- Fall 2020 Plan
- Healthy Gunston