Important information for Columbia Academy families regarding our return to school for the 2020-21 school year:

  • A team has been meeting weekly to discuss the best way to open safely in August. We have consulted with local physicians as well as continuing to monitor federal and state guidance.
  • The health and safety of our students and staff is our first priority.
  • One of our guiding principles is that our mission is best fulfilled with students physically present for classes. Similarly, we believe that students learn and grow most when they are on campus with our teachers.
  • This plan is our current best effort, and it is subject to change over time based on the relevant factors.
  • Because of the benefit for students to be at school, we plan to begin on time as scheduled, and in person. We plan to be in person for the full year, but if we have to have a closure, it will be as limited as possible. Any closure would be temporary, and could be grade, building, or campus specific. For example, if we have a positive COVID-19 test in the Columbia Lower School, we would not close the preschool, the Spring Hill campus, or the Upper School, depending on the factors.
  • If we do have a temporary closure, students will be able to continue learning online immediately. Regarding online school, in the Upper School, students will be required to join the virtual classrooms and be visible on screen, each period of the day as assigned. In the Lower Schools, teachers will provide additional lessons and will offer live, online meetings each day. Our faculty did a wonderful job with online school in the Spring on short notice, and if it has to happen this year, our product will be even better.
  • Additional guiding principles gleaned from consultation with professionals:
    • School-age students tolerate the virus very well. Our concerns are especially for those they come into contact with – teachers, parents, grandparents, those with underlying conditions, etc.
    • Masking and social distancing are effective tools in lessening the spread.
    • Keeping the students in the smallest groups possible allows less quarantining and contact tracing when there are cases
  • Regarding the CDC guidance (link below), here are some things we have planned for the upcoming school year:
    • Daily temperature and symptom check of all faculty and students as they enter the building
      • The Preschool and Spring Hill campus will use touchless thermometers.
      • Four temperature checking kiosks are being installed on the Columbia campus (2 in Vest Hall, 1 in the Middle School, and 1 in Old Main/Upper School).
      • Students will have temperatures and symptoms checked before boarding buses each morning and afternoon.
      • Students with a 100.4 temperature or greater will be given a mask, isolated, and should be picked up immediately.
    • Addition of another bus to/from Spring Hill/Target
      • This will allow us to have a Lower School bus and an Upper School bus and allow the students to spread out on the buses.
    • Enhanced hygiene practices (especially regular hand washing)
      • We are installing hand sanitizing stations across campus, and teachers will continue to have hand sanitizer available for regular use.
      • Students will be asked to wash hands and use the stations regularly.
    • Intensified cleaning and daily disinfection
      • We are hiring additional custodial help to do cleaning throughout campus throughout the day including cleaning high touch points.
      • Student desks will be sanitized and wiped down daily.
    • Increased ventilation and use of outdoor spaces
      • Research demonstrates that spread is less likely in outdoor settings. Teachers will be encouraged to take students outside for classes on occasion, and some events/gatherings can occur outside.
      • Recess can occur as normal for the Lower School.
    • Large group gatherings indoors will be avoided
      • Large group chapels and Circle of Friends will not occur indoors. We will create other learning opportunities for chapel times and strive to provide spiritual nourishment and encouragement during those times.
      • Outdoor chapels or Circle of Friends are allowed, weather permitting.
    • Teachers rotating instead of students
      • In the Lower School, teachers will begin the year by rotating classrooms instead of moving the students to lessen the possibility of cross-contamination.
    • Social distancing
      • Desks will be spread out as much as possible.
      • Students and teachers will be encouraged to keep six feet of distance from others if possible.
    • Seating charts and one-way stairwells in the Upper School
      • In the Upper School, students will sit alphabetically in each class to lessen the need and amount of contact tracing.
      • Stairwells will be one-way to increase distancing (this will not apply in an emergency).
    • Adjustments around lunch
      • The desire is to spread out students during lunch to allow for more social distancing and lessen possible spread.
      • We are expanding the cafeteria by adding a 2400 square foot tent that will serve as additional eating space outdoors. Fans will be added for comfort and airflow.
      • We will add the first grade to those eating in the Vest Hall Multipurpose Room.
      • 7th and 8th grades will eat during 5th period, extending the time lunch is served. They will be able to have a snack break after 2nd period.
      • Spring Hill campus will also extend its lunch period.
      • Additional tables will be purchased.
      • Tables will be capped at 4 students per table.
      • There will be no self-serve food lines at lunch.
      • Pre-made salads will be available.
    • Masks
      • Masks are strongly encouraged and welcomed across campus at appropriate ages, especially when unable to socially distance.
      • Masks will not be mandatory in the Lower Schools.
      • Masks will be required in the Upper School in hallways and common areas.
      • There is strong and growing evidence that masks help prevent the spread of the virus and help protect others. https://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2020/p0714-americans-to-wear-masks.html
      • Upper School teachers will be allowed to require a mask in their classrooms.
      • Masks will be available for students and staff if they need one.
      • Masks/face covers can be personalized as long as they are deemed appropriate by the administration.
      • Face shields will be available for teachers if they desire to have one.
    • Water filling stations are being installed across campus
      • Water fountains will be deactivated, and students are encouraged to bring water bottles.
    • Visitors generally will not be allowed on campus
      • Lower school parents that want to celebrate a student’s birthday are encouraged to leave a treat for all students.
    • Additional training for faculty and staff on health and safety protocols
    • Clear and specific communication with you regarding any cases and exposures at school

Parents, we especially need your help this fall. Here are some specific ways you can help, and we will share more about this (common symptoms, etc.) as school approaches:

  • Most importantly, please keep your child at home if he/she is ill.
  • If your child has a fever (100.4 or greater), he/she should be examined by medical personnel before he/she returns to school. A doctor’s note/recommendation will be required to return to school if they have that fever while at school.
  • Generally, students should be fever free for 48 hours without medication before returning to school.
  • We will follow the CDC guidelines regarding isolation and quarantine expectations for those who have or may have COVID-19.
  • We will also be asking you to report if your child has symptoms of COVID-19 or was in close contact with someone who tested positive.
  • If a student has to miss a week or more of school due to sickness or quarantine, they will be able to join class online. We have decided against offering an online-only option for all students, as that would diminish our ability to provide the quality of education we strive to offer.

 

The CDC plans to update its guidance for schools in the near future, but here is the current page on considerations for schools: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/schools-childcare/schools.html

The American Academy of Pediatrics has given its guidance on schools and this document has proven beneficial. https://services.aap.org/en/pages/2019-novel-coronavirus-covid-19-infections/clinical-guidance/covid-1 9-planning-considerations-return-to-in-person-education-in-schools/

Here is the state of Tennessee’s recommendations: https://www.tn.gov/content/dam/tn/health/documents/cedep/novel-coronavirus/School_Recommendations .pdf