As the summer winds down, parents, teachers, and administrators can all agree on one thing for sure: getting back to school is going to be complicated.
But as the old adage says, where there’s a will, there’s a way.
We spoke with a group of Christian school faculty and administrators who are hard at work on their back-to-school plans. And they all have one unified goal: to keep students and teachers safe and healthy while providing students with the best education possible.
Fortunately, most parents in the private Christian school network are in support of anything the schools can do to get the kids back in the classroom. Since parents are paying for their kids to be in a classroom environment, their expectations are naturally high. With that said, administrators have a lot to tackle in order to make that happen right now, especially when it comes to safety measures.
In both public and private schools, budget is a factor. Many schools simply don’t have the funding or resources to meet many of the requirements ahead of them. Public schools are typically larger, and that may be a contributing factor to why they are opting to shut down—the expense to meet requirements may be too burdensome at scale.
Regardless, the principal and administrators we spoke with said they plan to do everything within their power to maintain a safe environment for their staff and students. That all starts with open communication.
Gearing Up Communication
According to the focus group we conducted with faculty and administrators, parents greatly appreciate when schools include them in the decision-making process. Many schools have begun having town halls to discuss and inform parents of new policies to keep them in the loop and provide a platform to ask questions. While the landscape of education in the fall changes daily, it’s important that parents stay informed, both for their peace of mind and for the purposes of swift execution of new guidelines.
Schools plan to utilize email and text messaging to stay in communication with parents as frequently as possible rather than using Facebook, a more indirect approach to communication.
In some private schools, administrators are weighing whether or not to ask parents to sign waivers related to the new restrictions and parameters in place, and most parents are agreeable to that idea. The waivers will not only clearly inform the parents of the expectations but will create accountability on both sides.
As news about the status of schools continues to evolve seemingly minute by minute, private school faculty are seeing an unprecedented influx in calls from potential new families. The majority of the calls are from parents of children in public schools who are concerned that their school will only return to virtual classes, or to only having class in classrooms every other day. Many families simply cannot make arrangements to allow for that change due to their work schedules.
But beyond even the inconvenience of public schools shutting down for in-school classes, some parents are concerned about the well-being of their kids. They’re calling because they’re worried that another year of virtual school will be hard on their children’s mental health.
Common Sense Precautions
Keeping up with hygiene regulations and recommendations from government agencies may prove to be very difficult for many schools. Administrators have responded by saying, “We are going to do common sense things.” They’ll start with simple things, like decluttering classrooms, making sure students are washing their hands or using hand sanitizer frequently, etc. Beyond those basics, other, more intensive practices include:
Even by taking all of these precautions, schools feel that there is only so much they can do to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Their biggest fear is: what will we do once someone does have it?
Planning for a Positive COVID-19 Test
According to the CDC, if anyone has tested positive for COVID-19, they can be with others after:
- At least 10 days since symptoms first appeared and
- At least 24 hours with no fever without fever-reducing medication and
- Symptoms have improved
Faculty and administrators are struggling with the idea that, if one child in a classroom tests positive, every child and the teacher would be required to quarantine for 10+ days. HIPAA law requires anonymity when someone has tested positive; however, employers (and educators) are asked to investigate the exposure of anyone who may have been in contact with the infected person without disclosing any personal or identifying information, according to the National Law Review.
The faculty we spoke with have not defined a clear path yet, but they are working tirelessly to find one that will work to benefit the ability of their students to receive the education they’re there to receive while keeping everyone safe. It’s not an easy path to forge. We’d love for you to share how your school is handling these uncharted waters in the comments section at the end of the blog.
Tackling the Issue of Technology Then and Now
Schools that have the technology ready will be offering livestreaming in the classroom so students can have all of their classes available online, no matter their circumstance. Even if a child is sick or if the school has to shut down or close a classroom building, students can still attend class from a different location and not fall behind.
Most of the faculty we spoke with relied heavily on Google Classroom and Zoom calls in conjunction with ProTeach to continue virtual classes at the end of the 2020 school year. This summer, we updated our ProTeach solutions to provide an even better virtual experience for schools. Here’s what we improved:
- Teacher access to create student accounts list
- Organization by students, classes, or grades stopwatch
- Tracking for lessons and hours watched
If you’re looking for additional tips on how to continue classes remotely, you can read more here.
Insider tip: Teachers and parents alike quickly learned that Google Chrome is the best browser to use when streaming ProTeach video lessons.
One thing administrators continue to hear from parents is that they still want —and need— that 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. school structure. So schools are making sure their teachers are responsible for engaging and planning accordingly so that parents can focus on their workday.
However, when the pandemic hit out of nowhere this past spring, schools had to adjust quickly, and many did not have the infrastructure or training required to keep up with the necessary technology. Many small schools reported not having a WiFi connection strong enough to support streaming from their facilities. And the same applied to many of their students — these families did not have access to a strong internet connection that would allow their children to stream classes or log in to a Zoom or Google Classroom call for virtual class during regular school hours.
The other issue that arose was access to technology itself. Not every family has a computer or tablet available for multiple children to use for virtual classes each day.
The issue of internet connection and available technology will arise again for these families if the local government mandates school closures. Schools and parents alike are praying that doesn’t happen.
If your school is in the process of planning for the start of this unpredictable school year, we’d love to hear from you. What are you doing to comply with safety regulations? How are your faculty and parents handling communication? Do you have ideas we haven’t discussed? Let us know in the comments section below this blog or let us know on our Facebook Page or Facebook groups for administrators and teachers.
No matter your concerns, Abeka reps are there to support you. Please reach out to them with any needs that arise.