Last updated 6/5/20
ON-CAMPUS VS. REMOTE LEARNING
While it is difficult to predict exactly what next year will look like, projections indicate that the country will experience infection flare-ups throughout the 2020-2021 academic year. That said, recommendations indicate that institutional responses can be tailored to each region, state, county, city, and institution.
If infection rate data indicates Heathwood’s need to consider campus closure or reduce on-campus student density, we will likely begin emptying the campus in a tiered approach. What does that mean? We will attempt to keep our youngest students on campus as long as safely possible, as we have learned that remote learning becomes more challenging as the students get younger and have not fully developed into independent learners. If presented with worrisome data about the need for a shelter in place or stay-at-home, we will consider sending our Upper School students home first and work in descending order through the divisions: MS, LS, and EC.
We are redesigning our classroom layouts in order to create six feet of space between students during static instructional time. In most cases, this social distancing guideline reduces the number of students in classrooms in all divisions, and in some cases, this increases the number of sections per grade level and may alter aspects of the daily schedule.
Because Heathwood already had a low student-teacher ratio in most classes and sections, many classes may resemble our pre-COVID-19 classes. That said, classes with larger enrollments may require a different approach, while larger gatherings like school meetings and chapel may require significant changes. Additionally, this six-foot social distancing parameter will likely alter the specifics of our daily schedules to accommodate various changes to class transitions and require alternate solutions to large gatherings and movement on campus.
We are also looking at how we move within buildings differently, and we are excited to utilize our beautiful outdoor spaces in an effort to provide fresh air, alternative locations for classes to meet, and places for students to eat lunch on pleasant days.
Health and Well-being
Heathwood has a long history of recognizing the importance of student mental health and well-being. Each division is staffed by a licensed school counselor who works collaboratively with teachers, administrators, and families. Our counselors are preparing to support our students, families, and faculty as we navigate our return to campus.
Additionally, Heathwood Hall will have two health professionals for the 2020-2021 school year. School Nurse Kristin Cartin will be managing our Student Health Services operations. She will be assisted by Associate School Nurse Deb McDonald. In addition to being a Heathwood parent (‘21) and a former Associate Teacher, Deb is a Registered Nurse with 31 years of experience in pediatrics, critical care, and community health. I am excited about the leadership and oversight that these two health professionals will provide as we manage the health and safety of our students and adults on our campus. To make our Health Office more accessible, it will be relocated to a space in the pods, adjacent to the EC/LS Office. This move allows for the office to be centrally located and provides extra space for managing a variety of health-related issues.
As of today, mask usage is recommended for indoors when social distancing cannot be maintained. It is best to assume masks will be necessary indoors, for your own child’s safety as well as that of the rest of the Heathwood community. Specific requirements regarding mask use for faculty and students will be determined as we get closer to the opening of school. In the meantime, it would be extremely helpful if you have your child start getting accustomed to wearing a mask for extended periods of time. We are also discussing the feasibility of our youngest students (EC 2s, 3s, and 4s) wearing masks.
While the school has purchased infrared thermometers to have on hand for the next school year, we have not yet made a decision about the feasibility and efficacy of taking the temperature of all 700+ students and 150 adults daily during such a condensed time period (7:30 - 8:10 a.m.). We are waiting to see how recommendations and best practices will change over the coming months. In this case, if we introduced a hybrid approach, we would take the temperatures of our youngest students and work our way up. These younger students may not self-report as well and they may have more difficulty wearing masks and observing social distancing recommendations.
Our families can play an enormous role in preventing the spread of COVID-19 by triaging your children before they come to school. Taking temperatures, asking simple questions about characteristic symptoms, and following your parental instincts will go a long way to protecting the Heathwood and Midlands community.
Students will wash hands in the morning upon entry, before and after eating, and at scheduled intervals during the day. Those visits to hand-washing areas will be coordinated to ensure that we have a staggered presence in the restrooms. We are also investigating the placement of additional handwashing stations throughout the campus.
Cleaning of Buildings and Classroom Facilities
Keeping our classrooms clean and sanitized is important for student and faculty health. Therefore, Heathwood Hall is taking the following steps to ensure a healthy environment:
- The number of custodians and the amount of time they spend cleaning will be increased, and there will be more coverage during the school day.
- During the day, the custodial staff will rotate through the buildings to address high-touch areas – sink, door, and water fountain handles, light switches, etc.
- Each evening a thorough cleaning and sanitizing of every classroom, restroom, and gathering space on campus will occur, using best practices and products for disinfection.
- Surfaces and often-touched areas will be disinfected with anti-bacterial and virus-killing products.
- There will be disinfecting wipes in each classroom for teacher and student use during the school day.
- The Dining Commons, gyms, locker rooms, weight room, and all restrooms will receive heightened attention during the day and evening cleanings.
We will provide larger buses on each route to provide room for social distancing, and each student will have an assigned seat on the bus. We don’t expect there to be seat sharing, but if there is, it will be only with siblings. Our drivers will wear face masks and we are asking students to wear them, too. That said, we recognize that this may be difficult for some of our youngest riders from the Early Childhood Division. The buses will be thoroughly cleaned and sanitized each morning and afternoon, to include all interior surfaces, handles, windows, handrails, seats, and seat belts.
The 2020-2021 school year is set to begin on Wednesday, August 19. Our plan as a school is to have students on campus five days a week. We are working carefully across divisions to follow a traditional school day, considering a slightly earlier starting time (8:10 a.m.) to maximize on-campus instruction that might be lost through adjustments to the schedule, passing time, and lunch related to COVID safety protocols.
Current recommendations call for us to avoid large numbers of people utilizing shared spaces. For that reason, lunch service and our utilization of the Dining Commons will look different. Lunch will still be provided by Chef Jim and Flik; however, we are making plans to have individual lunches delivered for Lower School, and for “grab-and-go” service for the Middle School and the Upper School. We are still working with FLIK to determine the best approach for the EC students (2s, 3s, and 4s) and are currently evaluating the benefits of the EC3s & EC4s eating in the Dining Commons with the EC2s having their meals delivered to a classroom in the Averyt Center. There will be choices available, and all food will be prepared under the strict health and safety guidelines provided by Flik. We are exploring a number of scenarios such as having students place orders from a list of options on Thursday for the following week’s service, in order to help us plan and order appropriate amounts of food and supplies. The School is planning to increase the amount of outdoor seating available for students to use during lunchtime and students may also take meals back to their classroom.
Recess and Free Time
We understand that outside and unstructured free time is essential to a child’s growth and development. These important moments in the day may look different next year. They may be more controlled, limited, and regulated.
Chapel Services and Weekly Division Gatherings
Since current recommendations advise us to refrain from large group gatherings, we are working on ways to incorporate these important aspects of our program in new and different ways. It is unlikely that an entire division will celebrate a religious service in the Chapel of the Epiphany; however, we understand how essential these moments are to the Heathwood experience, and we will find ways to preserve them, even from a distance.
Classroom Upgrades and Teacher iPads
We are updating classroom spaces to improve visibility of whiteboards and digital displays, and we are providing each Upper School faculty member an iPad in addition to his or her laptop so that the teacher may be more mobile in the classroom when we are on campus and also have an additional resource to support remote learning. The goal is a better student experience, whatever the setting.
Remote Learning Adjustments
We plan to make several adjustments to our approach to remote learning given our experiences and the feedback from our families. Some changes include having classes meet more regularly, adjusting the expectations for the number of synchronous classes, class length, and following a modified schedule that more closely mirrors a regular day’s schedule, taking attendance, assigning grades, hosting Chapel, Clubs, and Advisory differently, providing some additional class choices outside a student’s regular schedule, and strengthening offerings related to non-core classes.
In the lower grades (EC2-4th) we received constructive feedback about increasing face-time and live instruction with teachers, and in the higher grades (5th-12th), we are examining the student learning experience and adjusting the daily schedule, homework expectations, the frequency of synchronous learning classes, and assessments and grading. Though we are proud of our efforts this year, we are committed to dedicating time, energy, and resources to improving the remote learning experience this coming year.
Early Care for EC/LS
Early Care (7:30 - 8:00 a.m.) is a valuable service provided for families who must drop-off children in order to make it to work by 8:00 a.m. In the shadow of COVID-19 concerns, Early Care will look very different. Here is what we are currently planning:
- This service is only available to those who commit to and sign up for the academic year. Spots will be reserved ahead of time by parents who have work commitments.
- Students who use Early Care must arrive between 7:30 and 7:45 a.m. The next available drop-off time is 8:00 a.m. when drop-off officially starts. Students arriving on campus after 7:45 a.m. can be dropped off at carpool or their classroom at 8:00 a.m.
- EC students will be separated from LS students
- LS students in Early Care will be seated six feet apart.
- LS students will be required to bring quiet reading or work with them to keep busy during the Early Care time
Afternoon Express for EC/LS
In order to ensure we have adequate space and staffing, we need to know exactly how many students will be attending AE on a regular basis. Therefore, there will be NO DROP-IN Afternoon Express this year. Only families who are registered for Year-Round Care or Academic Year Care will be allowed to use the service. We are currently investigating the feasibility of continuing to offer our Enrichment Activities, while considering health and safety recommendations such as keeping students in their cohorts (grade-levels), maintaining small group sizes, etc.
The Thought Studio for MS
The Thought Studio will be staffed each afternoon with three adults. There will be outside time as well as homework time in the Dining Commons after school until 6:00 p.m. Students will practice social distancing by sitting at separate tables in the Dining Commons.
Extracurricular Activities for MS and US
While our primary focus is academics, we also understand the power and importance of extracurricular activities, from athletics to clubs to the arts. When possible, we are committed to maintaining extracurricular activities on our physical campus. For example, Athletic Director Jeff Whalen sent out a communication about safety protocols and a return to practice effective June 8. We are also working with club sponsors and the arts teachers to develop ideas for maintaining at least some extracurricular activities even if we are forced to go remote at some point during the 2020-2021 school year.
Though we are preparing to welcome some of our athletes back to campus for modified workouts on Monday, June 8, the organization overseeing our athletic competition, SCISA (South Carolina Independent School Association), has yet to commit to their management of a fall athletic season.