“Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me.” – John 14:3

 


 

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FAQ's - Scroll down and click question (updated 1:47pm on September 29, 2020)

These FAQs describe our thinking behind our reopening, our current practices, and any changes that may be required for all stages/phases from the state. In addition to our ongoing communications, we will continue to update this FAQs section (scroll down and click a question for the answer). As we learn more, we will update answers as quickly as we can. As always, you may reach out to the school with questions. Our guiding principles shape decisions being made and conversations being had.

Please click a question below to see the answer:

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• MISSION & COMMUNITY QUESTIONS:

How does the pandemic affect our mission?

It doesn’t.

Our format might change (e.g., in-person, virtual), but our commitment to strong, Christ-centered education, partnership with families and churches, and a Christian worldview will always remain. Our mission and core values will not change.

Why was in-person schooling your top plan?

In short, we believe that in-person schooling is the best experience for a child’s overall health and education, and we are so glad to be in-person right now!

While mindful of health and safety, the American Academy of Pediatrics also adds:

  • …. the AAP strongly advocates that all policy considerations for the coming school year should start with a goal of having students physically present in school. The importance of in-person learning is well-documented, and there is already evidence of the negative impacts on children because of school closures in the spring of 2020; … School policies should be guided by supporting the overall health and well-being of all children, adolescents, their families, and their communities.

In addition, the CDC adds:

  • Schools are an important part of the infrastructure of our communities, as they provide safe, supportive learning environments for students, employ teachers and other staff, and enable parents, guardians, and caregivers to work.  Schools also provide critical services that help meet the needs of children and families… 
  • Reopening schools creates opportunity to invest in the education, well-being, and future of one of America’s greatest assets—our children…
  • The unique and critical role that schools play makes them a priority for opening and remaining open, enabling students to receive both academic instruction and support as well as critical services. 
  • As families and policymakers make decisions about their children returning to school, it is important to consider the full spectrum of benefits and risks of both in-person and virtual learning options.
  • Aside from a child’s home, no other setting has more influence on a child’s health and well-being than their school.  

What are some differences between private schools and public schools during the pandemic and did those differences affect how we reopened?

  • Due to their sheer size, wider demographics, broader equality concerns, transportation issues, and host of other issues to address that do not affect smaller private schools, many public schools had a much harder time continuing their curriculum during spring’s school closures. As a result, many public school systems are assuming 2-3 months of lost instruction (5-6 months when counting the summer) that may take at least two or three academic years to fully resolve. These same factors will make their reopening more complicated.
  • Due to our smaller size, private schools generally have been able to adapt much quicker than our public school neighbors and have been able to move forward with our curriculum. Naturally, even private schools will need to make up for lost curriculum, but our continued education during the pandemic has made the loss much less. In short, in many areas, private schools are in the position to be more nimble and to adapt faster.
  • As a result, as you read about reopening plans from local school districts, please know that they may not resemble AACS’ plans. The scale of public schools creates different constraints on their reopening options.
  • At the same time, AACS remains committed to being open safely, and we have the right precautions in place to aid in that effort.

Are you still able to do chapel? Chapel families?

Absolutely. Worship is core to our school’s identity. Due to guidelines that limit group sizes (indoors and outdoors), we are holding chapels differently, but we plan to find creative and safe solutions in order to make sure corporate worship remains present at AACS.

Chapel families are also a beloved aspect of our chapel experience, and we are seeking creative solutions to redesign this experience so it remains part of our community while meeting health guidelines.

Will there be parent volunteering (POP system) this year?

Having parents active in the life of the school has always been part of our DNA, and we will continue having some degree of parent volunteering at AACS, including things that can be done from home. There will likely be fewer POP slots (hence, reduced POP needed) in order to meet guidelines to limit non-staff adults in the building and to identify more critical volunteering needs, but we believe we can responsibly manage some volunteering to keep parents active in the life of AACS and to help meet important needs to operate the school (e.g., recess supervision, IT Committee). If on-site, volunteers are required to wear appropriate PPE. Parents, please see upcoming communications from the POP coordinators.

Will there be class buddies?

This is a very special part of AACS. We love seeing younger and older students interacting. We believe we can do this safely with some creativity, such as the 7th graders possibly playing outdoor games with their preschool buddies.

What can families do to help?

  • Pray, pray, pray. 
  • Maintain a hopeful attitude centered on the living hope that is from God.
  • Send your teacher or an office staff an encouraging email or card.
  • Talk to your children about how we will talk with and love classmates with different views about COVID-19.
  • Reinforce good hygiene at home, particularly handwashing (e.g., 20 seconds) and coughing/sneezing into elbows.
  • In a positive and fun manner, have your children practice wearing facial coverings.
  • Reach out to other AACS families who might be struggling.

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• STATE ROADMAP DETAILS QUESTIONS:

The state’s school reopening roadmap has requirements and recommendations. What is the difference?

Required items must be followed and are considered by the roadmap to be essential to implement in order to safeguard people’s health, while recommendations are optional. For recommendations (categorized as recommended or strongly recommended in the state’s roadmap), schools are asked to weigh them carefully within their specific context to see what makes the most sense. This gives schools some discretion and freedom to make decisions based on their particular situation (e.g., a school in the Upper Peninsula might not follow the same recommendations as a school in a large city). We have confirmed with the Michigan Association of Non-Public Schools (MANS) that private schools must legally follow requirements in the roadmap and that all recommendations are optional.

Ann Arbor Christian will meet all requirements, most strong recommendations, and some recommendations.

What is the difference between the state's six stages for reopening and risk statuses for each region?

The stages of Michigan have gotten confusing because, in addition to the bigger overarching six stages for reopening the state and schools, the governor has recently added “risk statuses” within these bigger stages that use the same numbering system. For instance, two regions might be stage four, but one has a risk status of three and one has a risk status of four. For the bigger overarching stages, all regions are still in stage four or five.

In addition, it is important to remember that the governor could move different parts of the state into different stages, depending on how regions and communities are progressing. Right now, northern parts of Michigan are in stage five already.

In a press conference in June, the governor also shared that, within a region, different decisions could be made on a county level. This would potentially mean that Washtenaw County could be allowed to make different decisions that the rest of the region we are located in.

What happens if Michigan moves to stage five? Stage three?

Most of Michigan is now in stage four in the state’s reopening plan. In stage five, schools will have much more freedom. There will be no requirements, but there will be recommendations. Again, schools will be asked to carefully weigh recommendations based on their context. What happens in stage five will depend on COVID-19 trends and data at that time. Generally, some guidelines might be loosened, but this will be determined at that time and based on the latest understanding of COVID, which is constantly evolving.

It is possible that the state will move back and forth between stage four and five in the coming months. Time will tell. 

A significant shift in more COVID-19 cases, substantial community spread, greatly reduced hospital capacity, and/or testing and tracing efforts unable to effectively control the spread could technically cause the state to shift back to stage three (which would require schools to return to a virtual format), but the state has been very aggressive with its handling of COVID-19. Governor Whitmer has stated that they are watching the state’s trends very carefully, but she is committed to seeing schools reopen. Now that we have reopened in-person, if AACS needed to resume virtual education, we will build on what we successfully accomplished in the spring (again, we thank our families for working with us and helping us to earn a 8.5 rating out of 9.0 in how we handled the spring), make needed adjustments and improvements, and distribute school Chromebooks. Currently, the state has given no strong indication that it is considering a shift back to stage 3.

In addition, it is important to remember that the governor could move different parts of the state into different stages, depending on how regions and communities are progressing. Right now, northern parts of Michigan are in stage five already.

What metrics will the Governor use to determine when to move stages?

Governor Whitmer has not provided specifics about what would prompt a phase/stage shift, but her office examines more than just raw number of new cases per day. They also look at percent of positive test results, cases per million in a region or county, hospital capacity, death rate, and patterns over time. Currently, the state has given no strong indication that it is considering a shift back to stage 3.

If the state required AACS to return to remote learning, what would it look like?

Currently, the state has given no strong indication that it is considering a shift back to stage 3.

Building on what we did in the spring (again, we thank our families for working with us and helping us to earn a 8.5 rating out of 9.0 in how we handled the spring), we fully plan to instruct remotely every day (except Wednesday, which will continue to a flex day for chapel, specials, middle school advisory time, one-on-one time with teachers, and other needs) using daily instruction time on Zoom (e.g., 2-3 developmentally-appropriate sessions per day for each elementary grade) and the use of two main learning platforms (Google Classroom and Seesaw) for both asynchronous and synchronous learning. School Chromebooks would be loaned to any families who need extra computers.

In addition, school work would be posted earlier (at least 5pm the night before, if not sooner), and weekly class newsletters on Mondays will provide an overview of the week. For educational reasons, we intentionally will not list a week’s worth of work at once in order to encourage healthier, paced learning and to have room to make adjustments as needed.

In addition, paper-based materials, such as textbooks and workbooks, would be distributed, as well as biweekly distribution of other paper-based materials (e.g., copied packets) and learning manipulatives (e.g., math blocks).

Why is Zoom time important?

  • Teacher interaction is critical to our mission.
  • Live instruction allows for interaction between students and teachers. It provides feedback for teachers to gauge understanding and to plan for student and class needs.
  • It builds community.
  • It allows for discussion and interaction.
  • It supports social-emotional learning.
  • It builds continuity with in-person school.
  • We will also have more small group time on Zoom for targeted learning, open office hours to connect with teachers, and record Zoom sessions.

How is AACS virtual different than homeschooling?

If AACS was required to return to virtual learning, our teachers will continue to:

  • Plan instruction
  • Provide materials
  • Follow specific methodology for various curriculum that will continue when we return to in-person instruction
  • Evaluate student work
  • Continuity with classroom experience/Scope and Sequence of learning 
  • Work with our curriculum director to follow and pace curricular standards and expectations
  • Interact with classmates and classroom experiences
  • Continued community experience and the AACS mission

Will the eight regions that Michigan is divided into move at different rates through the six-stage reopening plan?

Probably. It is important to remember that the governor could move different parts of the state into different stages, depending on how regions and communities are progressing. Right now, northern parts of Michigan are in stage five already, while the rest is in stage four. 

In a press conference in June, the governor also shared that, within a region, different decisions could be made on a county level. This would potentially mean that Washtenaw County could be allowed to make different decisions that the rest of the region we are located in.

Currently, the state has given no strong indication that it is considering a shift back to stage 3.

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• HEALTH POLICIES & PROCEDURES:

Are facial coverings be required at AACS?

  • All students are required to wear face masks, except for meals, most outdoor activities, and formal medical/learning reasons (e.g., speech or hearing needs). Besides snack, lunch, and recess, we are finding creative ways to provide additional mask breaks for the students during the day. Facial coverings are not required in the state’s reopening roadmap for grades 5 and below, but the school has chosen to require them for a number of reasons.
  • If possible, we are asking elementary students to obtain a comfortable, well-fitting clear mask in order to address speech development and social skills development. It may take some experimenting to find a good fit or some craft skills at home. Etsy and Amazon have many options. A cloth mask is still fine.
  • We understand that this poses some challenges to our students, so we will have more conversations on how to help students (e.g., creative ways to provide breaks from masks or to be outdoors more). As noted in our guiding principles, we also believe that our students can adapt to this situation with our support and over time.
  • All staff need to wear face covering when at school, except for meals. However, like our students, we are looking for ways for the staff to have breaks from their facial coverings. 
  • Teachers are allowed to use a clear face mask approved by the local health department and that is used by physicians and medical interpreters who care for patients with hearing loss at UofM.
  • A traditional face shield does offer protection, but it is not considered an acceptable substitute for a face mask due to the larger air gaps. The CDC, state, and Washtenaw County Health Department recently clarified this detail.
  • A non-medical face mask with a valve or port is not acceptable since it actually exhales more air than other masks with limited filtration. The two purposes of a face mask are to reduce respiratory droplets coming from the wearer (main purpose) and to reduce inhalation of droplets by the wearer. A N95 mask with a port or valve is acceptable because it is a medical-grade mask with the proper filter.
  • Students with clearly documented medical (from a doctor) or learning needs (e.g., formal IEP, 504 plan, and/or confirmed by AACS staff) are allowed to wear a face shield or exempted from any face coverings, depending on their unique circumstances.
  • Face masks are a temporary reality of the pandemic. We will regularly reassess our face mask policy, including if our region shifted to Phase 5, what data looks like in the fall with Michigan schools that opened in-person, and additional guidance from the state or Washtenaw County Health Department.

Is social distancing required?

Yes because it is an important mitigation strategy.

Social distancing is not required in the roadmap, but was recommended when feasible. In the state’s reopening roadmap for schools and the CDC’s guidelines for schools, maintaining 6-ft is often prefaced with terms such as “when possible”, “as much as possible, and “if feasible” because they understand this is not always practical or possible in a school setting.

We believe social distancing is appropriate (e.g., spacing out desks instead of grouping them) and an important strategy. Most of our classrooms can accommodate desks spaced up to 6-ft apart if needed. In a few classrooms in which distancing is harder, we have developed other appropriate alternative plans. We continue to discuss how to best implement this by each grade level. At times, modest use of plexiglass has been implemented to help facilitate important group work time (e.g., a small group working with a teacher around a table) or when needed.

The American Academy of Pediatrics also adds:
Physical distancing, sometimes referred to as social distancing, is simply the act of keeping people separated with the goal of limiting spread of contagion between individuals. It is fundamental to lowering the risk of spread of SARS-CoV-2, as the primary mode of transmission is through respiratory droplets by persons in close proximity. There is a conflict between optimal academic and social/emotional learning in schools and strict adherence to current physical distancing guidelines. For example, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that schools “space seating/desks at least 6 feet apart when feasible.” In many school settings, 6 feet between students is not feasible without limiting the number of students. Evidence suggests that spacing as close as 3 feet may approach the benefits of 6 feet of space, particularly if students are wearing face coverings and are asymptomatic. Schools should weigh the benefits of strict adherence to a 6-feet spacing rule between students with the potential downside if remote learning is the only alternative. Strict adherence to a specific size of student groups (eg, 10 per classroom, 15 per classroom, etc) should be discouraged in favor of other risk mitigation strategies.

How do face masks and distancing work together?

Both are important and work together to greatly mitigate transmission by reducing potential exposure to infected respiratory droplets. The Washtenaw County Health Department has told us that face masks should be done in conjunction with distancing for the best outcomes.

What screening procedures are in place as people enter the building?

We are asking all employees, students, and visitors a small set of simple questions to gauge their health and COVID-19 exposure and are taking temperatures. This involves a simple online form that parents and employees can quickly complete in the morning before arriving at school. 

The form has a small set of health department-approved screening questions that parents complete every morning before traveling to school, including a temperature check (100.4 degrees is considered a fever). When students arrive, we confirm that screening has been completed before entering. If any students were not screened at home, we screen on-site before they proceed (come to office – one family at a time), but we generally expect this to be done at home. Staff also screen themselves before arriving and complete the online form.

Any symptoms do require not coming to school or returning home. On our calls with the local health department, we have received guidelines about how a person can be cleared to return to school, which we have shared with our staff and families.

Are face shields acceptable?

A traditional face shield does offer protection, but it is not considered an acceptable substitute for a face mask due to the larger air gaps. The CDC, state, and Washtenaw County Health Department recently clarified this detail. However, an individual can wear a face shield in addition to a face mask if desired.

What safety items/gear do we need to get for our child?

  • Face masks: We ask every student to purchase a set of washable or disposable facial coverings (enough to have a clean one each day). Our school’s Lands End store also now has face masks with the school logo. While the school has disposable masks, it is helpful if each student has a spare mask at school or in their backpack.
  • Hand sanitizer: We would also like every student to bring a small bottle of hand sanitizer (with name on it) for their personal use and to keep it at school. Hand sanitizer (at least 60% alcohol) can be hard to find nowadays, so please be on the look out for that.

What if there is a positive confirmed case of COVID-19 at school?

We will immediately notify the Washtenaw County Health Department (WCHD), who will then guide us in our communication to school families and staff and what next steps we need to take. WCHD, not AACS, is in charge of gathering information, contact tracing, and contacting potentially affected individuals. AACS will work with WCHD to provide contact information and to know how/when we can update families with the best information. As a result, it is critical that parents answer their phones or check voicemail. Since many staff at WCHD will be calling from their cell, there will not be a central caller ID from the health department.

People who meet certain criteria for extended contact with the person (currently defined as more than 15 minutes and less than 6-ft apart) will likely be notified as part of the contact tracing by WCHD. As guided by the health department, AACS will also comply with privacy laws.

IMPORTANT: A confirmed positive case does not automatically mean the entire class needs to be quarantined or tested. The WCHD will determine who it believes needs to be quarantined or tested. Currently, the guideline for extended exposure is defined as more than 15 minutes (within the day) and less than 6-ft apart.

In addition, WCHD works closely with other counties and share a COVID-19 database with them, so they are prepared to deal with AACS members who live other counties. WCHD will also be increasing its staffing in order to be nimble during the school year and providing schools with a hotline and online form to report positive cases.

If called, it is also critical that you answer all of their questions thoroughly and accurately. In their experience so far with the broader general population, families can sometimes worry about being candid due to worries about being judged or “snitching” on other families. However, in order for WCHD to do their job to help AACS specifically, everyone at AACS needs to be thorough and accurate with their answers to best help the greater school community. They also maintain confidentiality in their contact tracing process.

One of the roadmap’s reasons to keep each grade within their group without significant contact with other students is to minimize spread if there was a positive case, to minimize who might need to stay home for a while, and to allow the health department to better track a potential spread.

What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

According to the CDC:

People with COVID-19 have had a wide range of reported symptoms – ranging from mild symptoms to severe illness. Symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure to SARS-CoV-2. Symptoms can include:

  • Fever or chills (100.4 F or higher)
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headache
  • New loss of taste or smell
  • Sore throat
  • Congestion or runny nose
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea

This list does not include all possible symptoms, and children and youth with SARS-CoV-2 infection may experience any, all, or none of these symptoms. The main means of transmission still seems to be inhalation of respiratory droplets.

If a child is sick, what are the protocols for returning to school? Where can we get tested?

We know that children can get sick for a million reasons, but extra precautions now need to be exercised, especially if a particular symptom or combination of symptoms of COVID-19 are present.

We are regularly with the Washtenaw County Health Department to write our protocols. The general guidelines are:

  • If a child became sick at school, he/she would be brought to a designated space for a parent to come to pick-up immediately.
  • Staff who are caring for a sick student will wear a mask and a face shield.
  • The child may return to AACS if they meet health department criteria for a safe return. Parents: Please see the scenario/decision table sent to you.
  • Washtenaw County Health Department states that anyone with symptoms of COVID-19 should get tested right away. They recommend St. Joe’s, IHA, and UofM (Michigan Medicine) as having the best turnaround time. A list of testing sites is here.

Are water fountains accessible?

Currently, no. This would create a high-traffic, touching surface. As a result, we encourage students to come with a larger water bottle or two water bottles. The school also has some disposable water bottles on-site. Personal water bottles should be labeled and not shared.

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• SCHEDULE & SPACE QUESTIONS:

Has the daily schedule changed in any way?

Currently, our basic schedule is generally the same, such as same arrival and dismissal times, but have had to adjust some internal schedules, such as recess times and transition times, to avoid larger crowds.

What does arrival and dismissal look like?

We have implemented the most effective way to manage these two times of the day that meet guidelines and not consume too much time.

Arrival: We are using three entries into the school to reduce cross traffic and congestion (parents, see video). Adults are at each entry. We are currently asking parents to screen their children by filling out a simple online form (e.g., taking temperature checks at home) before arriving to school. When students arrive, we confirm that they have completed the screening. If not, the family must come to the front doors to be screened. Students who do not pass the screening will need to stay home or return home.

Once in the building, students go to their homeroom (no morning gym time). Teachers determine what students will/can do during this time until school begins at 8:15am. For the first days of school or in special circumstances, we may allow for some parent entry during arrival or dismissal (e.g., first days for new preschool or kindergarten students) to address their emotional care. 

Dismissal: Classes are staggered before dismissal to their lockers to pack up their belongings. Students remain in their classrooms and are called to the dismissal doors via the intercom system. The dismissal procedure may take longer than usual, so we may have to end some classes a bit earlier to start the process. At this time, parents are not be able to wait in the Gathering Space to pick up their children.

What is the status of major school events this fall?

With current guidelines in place, we seek to make the best out of extraordinary circumstances. Large events play a significant role in building our community, but we will be limited in some of our abilities to host them this school year. We can continue some events, modify others, and reschedule others. If any of you saw the 8th grade graduation this past spring, you saw how some creativity can still make for a wonderful and unique event. The school intends to try its best and to be creative with our school events and activities.

  • Back to School Nights: We unfortunately can not host such a large gathering inside, but we are virtually hosting our Back to School Nights so parents can engage with their teachers. We have also spread grades across different times so that parents can more easily interact with more teachers – something that was hard to do in-person if you have multiple students. In addition, we will record these sessions.
  • School Photo Day: We are talking with our photographer to develop a plan.
  • Apple Pies: Yes, we will continue this annual tradition, which is a wonderful community building event and a significant fundraiser for the school. With precautions in place and some modifications, we believe this is very doable.
  • Grandparents’ Day: We unfortunately can not host such a large gathering. However, we hope to reschedule it for the spring and to find a creative way to engage with grandparents in other ways during the school year. It is possible that the event may be postponed until 2021-2022.
  • Pancake Breakfast: We unfortunately can not host such a large gathering. The breakfast will be postponed until 2021-2022.
  • Parent-Teacher Conferences: Having real-time conversations with parents is very important to us, so we currently plan to have conferences in-person, especially since our spring conferences were thrown off by the start of the pandemic. We will have cleaning protocols between conference slots. Naturally, we can work with individual parents who may wish for a virtual conference. Childcare in the form of open gym time will not be provided, but we are brainstorming alternative ways to assist with watching children during conferences (e.g., students sitting by family in a circled area and watching a movie on the gym floor).
  • Christmas Concert: We unfortunately can not host such a large gathering on-site, but we are exploring possible virtual options. We hope to gather ideas from many organizations who successfully and creatively managed concerts during the pandemic.
  • This fall, we will reassess for the events in the winter and spring based on COVID-19 trends and guidelines at that time.

What does recess look like?

  • For preschool-Grade 2, they have developed a schedule to use the south side playground.
  • For grades 1-4, the school divides up the recess area into four zones designated for each grade, with grades rotating through the different zones each day, so that each grade stays within their cohort.
  • For middle school, we use zones as well based on grade cohorts.
  • Masks are not needed outside with proper distancing.

Is fresh air circulation encouraged? Are classes held outside?

Yes, when weather conditions are appropriate and there are no medical concerns (e.g., allergies), we open windows as much as possible to bring in fresh air. Our HVAC systems are set to FAN ON so that air is constantly moving.

In addition, we have pitched six large 20’x20′ tents outside to encourage classes to be outside when possible. Elementary grades also have a set of portable lap desks that can be brought outside.

We are hearing about schools creating a staggered weekly schedule in which students are rotated in and out of the school building on some days and at home on other days. Does AACS do this?

Not currently. After reading the roadmap and examining our spaces, we are not considering this hybrid model at this time. Due to our enrollment numbers, we have put into place precautions that allow us to have all of our students on-site at once. Schools with large numbers of students or schools with smaller classrooms have needed to consider this hybrid model, but AACS is not looking at this model right now. We will be meeting every weekday. If conditions change, we might reconsider this model again.

We may need to make some adjustments to our recess schedule or how we manage crowds (e.g., drop-off, hallways, restrooms, or dismissal). 

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• SPECIALS CLASSES QUESTIONS:

Is there PE and sports?

We still have physical education, but some of the activities may look different to meet guidelines or be outside more.

At this point, fall sports has been cancelled to reduce close cross-grade and cross-school interactions. This helps to preserve our major goal of maintain in-person schooling at AACS as much as possible. Other schools in our league have also withdrawn. We are waiting for our league’s athletic directors to talk and to see what further guidelines come from the Michigan High School Athletic Association, an organization that helps to establish sports guidelines for schools in Michigan, to determine winter and spring sports.

What is the status of art and music?

Art
Art is still happening with Mrs. Zimmerman in the art room (which is wiped down between classes). By going to the art room, we believe it provides the best art experience for the students, and it is easy to disinfect between classes since we intentionally do not have back to back art classes.

Music
The state’s reopening roadmap for schools did not provide any details about music, but Washtenaw County Health Department did provide some initial guidance. It felt that singing and instruments are doable with little risk if students are spread out more than 6 feet. Instruments in which one is required to blow can be made safer with screens attached to the exit point of air or more distance than 6 feet.

However, guidelines from health officials and approaches by other private schools have been vague and inconsistent. As a result, we will temporarily avoid activities that involve singing and blowing in most music classes and focus on other engaging aspects of music due to potential concerns about aerosols. For our small band class, we have taken precautions to allow them to practice their instruments.

Can students opt out of certain school activities due to COVID-19 related concerns?

Generally, we wish to give some flexibility to families if they have a valid health concern. Since each case may be unique, please approach your child’s teacher or advisor to have a conversation.

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• EXTRACURRICULAR ACTIVITIES QUESTIONS:

Are there extracurricular activities? Sports?

We would love to somehow make some of these happen, but we are postponing these activities until the winter for reassessment. This helps to preserve our major goal of maintain in-person schooling at AACS as much as possible and to focus our energy and time on strengthening that experience.

For sports, most schools in our league have also postponed their programs. We are waiting for our league’s athletic directors to discuss the winter and spring.

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• CLEANING & DISINFECTING QUESTIONS:

What cleaning/disinfecting procedures are in place?

Hygiene:

  • Students are asked to sanitize their hands when entering and exiting the school.
  • Proper hand washing techniques are reinforced. Parents can reinforce this at home as well.
  • A hand washing routine has been established based on state and CDC guidelines so they occur about every 2-3 hours, including before and after eating and returning from recess.
  • Students with masks are instructed on proper technique for removing, storing, and wearing masks. Parents can reinforce this at home as well.
  • Each student has his/her own personal bottle of sanitizer for quick, easy access.
  • The school asks parents to reinforce a good hand-washing technique (e.g., 20 seconds), but we also reinforce those during the year and the proper use of sanitizer.
  • Proper techniques for managing sneezing and coughs (e.g., into elbows or tissue) are also reinforced with students and staff.
  • Classes are cohorted as much as possible, which is fairly easily done at a school of our size.

Cleaning supplies:

  • Every classroom and common space (e.g., gym, library, copier room, staff lunchroom) has hand sanitizer (at least 60% alcohol).
  • We have added new free-standing sanitizer dispensers inside the school at strategic, high-traffic/touch locations (e.g., main entry points, main office).
  • All classrooms and common spaces (e.g., library) in the building have paper towels and a spray bottle of EPA/CDC-approved disinfectant solution. 
  • All classrooms have paper towels and tissue.
  • All elementary classrooms (except 2nd grade) have a sink with soap.
  • All restrooms have soap and paper towels.

Procedures:

  • We have developed protocols for disinfecting high-traffic surfaces throughout the school day (e.g., door handles, restrooms, classroom sinks, desk surfaces, and microwaves) and after school based on CDC guidelines.

Other details:

  • Our B&G staff regularly check the refill status of soap and sanitizer.
  • We significantly limit the sharing of school supplies. For most items, students have their own supplies.
  • Student desks and workspaces are spaced 4-6 feet apart. In most classrooms, 6-ft is achievable. In some cases of less than 6-ft, plexiglass is used to create a barrier. Wearing masks, fortunately, mitigates a strict adherence to 6-ft.
  • Desks are faced in one direction.
  • Teachers maintain distance when possible.
  • Visitors, including parents, are not allowed unless for pre-determined and important reasons. They must also wear a face mask and other appropriate PPE. Visitors are screened at the front office when entering the building.
  • Signage or visual indicators encouraging social distance and hygiene have been implemented in strategic locations.
  • Windows are opened when weather permits and there are no medical concerns (e.g., severe allergies).
  • HVAC system is set to “fan on”.
  • With the help of adult supervision, our new arrival and dismissal procedures have been designed to reduce congestion and cross-grade contact.
  • Shared computers, art supplies, and other shared hands-on resources are disinfected between classes.
  • When applicable, desk surfaces are disinfected between classes.
  • Playgrounds are disinfected as instructed by our local health department.
  • Cleaning and disinfecting supplies are safely stored away from children and/or in an adequately ventilated space when needed. When needed, staff wears appropriate PPE when performing cleaning tasks, such as gloves.

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• STUDENT SUPPORT QUESTIONS:

Does the school offer any virtual options for families who wish to stay enrolled remotely, for students who are out for extended periods, or for students who need to be medically cleared (e.g., from an illness) before returning to school?

We do offer this option now, which includes streaming and using camera systems that track the movement of teachers in the classroom. We describe this as our “virtual parallel option”. On paper, streaming classes seems fairly straightforward, but it is actually a complicated set of issues to coordinate (e.g., impact on bandwidth, is the camera capturing what is happening in class, how to support questions that remote students may have) in order for the result to be effective, but are committed to have this virtual parallel option in which students can participate with their on-site peers and teachers. We are tweaking this as we experience any issues and appreciate everyone involved to make this happen.

In short, key portions of the school day (not the entire school day) are streamed, so the school day is a mixture of live participation and working from home. In addition, a weekly one-on-one time for personal support is arranged. Specials are not streamed at this point.

For this parallel virtual option, it is an option for families who want to stay enrolled but have a valid reason for needing to be home, such as genuine health concern about being on-site or having medically vulnerable person at home. However, it is a commitment to this option, which means a student cannot move back and forth casually between in-person and virtual at any given time. In addition, barring illness, it is a commitment to being online during the live portions of the class so that they are truly working in parallel with their teachers and classmates on-site. When a family is ready to transition back to in-person, the family would just need to contact the school to arrange the transition.

The parallel virtue option is also available for students waiting to be medically clearer to return to school.

Key aspects:

  • Streaming key lessons and learning opportunities
  • Unless ill, student are expected to attend during live instruction 
  • There will be online and offline aspects of virtual learning
  • Work submitted primarily digitally
  • Weekly check-in, one-on-one in person or via Zoom, for support academically or emotionally.

Families who are interested should contact the school to discuss their reason and review details.

Is the school doing anything around emotional health for the students?

Yes. This is very important to us in our care of our students. We should not underestimate the mental and emotional toll that the pandemic has put on all of us. As a result, AACS is looking into additional training for the staff so that we can better care for and love our students as we continue to live through our COVID-19 reality. We are also looking into partnership with professionals, which is actually an initiative that the school’s capital campaign will help make a reality. As part of her role as spiritual life coordinator, Becky Johnson is the new point person for mental health support as we develop these services.

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• OTHER:

How are social interactions handled in preschool and kindergarten?

Written by Jennifer Bryson (preschool teacher) and Keri Louwerse (kindergarten teacher):

This year promises to be a little different than previous years have been at Ann Arbor Christian. Never before have we anticipated a year in the midst of a global pandemic that leaves us with more uncertainty than we have been familiar with in the past. 

However, some things remain true no matter what this year holds, each child who joins us is known and loved by God and we look forward to getting to know them and love them as well. 

One of the things that students learn, starting in preschool, and throughout their time at Ann Arbor Christian School is that there are times when we are challenged to do things that are hard in order to grow into the men and women that God has called us to be. Mrs. Bryson regularly reminds the preschoolers of the fact that we do not use the words “I can’t” at preschool rather our words are “I’ll try” or “Please, help me”. This year looks like one in which we as teachers will also be saying, “I’ll try” and “Please, help me.” By doing hard things together as are called for in times like this, we help the children learn that they can do hard things (like doing homework or standing up for their faith in the face of opposition) as they get older.

Some of the ways that we anticipate working together is trying to do our favorite early childhood activities that build skills, friendship and a sense of being children of God together while also working to keep each other safe in the midst of Covid-19. Much of our exploration will look like it regularly does, we will take time to read, explore science and play but some things will look different and take more focus than in the past.

Another thing that we are thinking about in the classroom is how to maintain an appropriate physical distance. While not all of the details have been worked out, we have been thinking about ideas, such as having smaller work station tables around the room that will be your child’s to work at for the day or spreading across two spaces at times. Similarly, each child will have a bin with their own collection of school supplies, rather than corporate supplies as we have used in the past. Ideas such as these should allow us to help children be with each other, doing things that are fun and engaging for preschoolers and kindergarteners, while also setting up a distance that makes the sharing of germs less likely. We have also been giving consideration, at least for fall, about how much of our teaching may be done well while being outdoors since it is generally thought that being outdoors will also help mitigate some of the risks of Covid-19. In light of this thinking, as a school, the school will be placing large 20’x’20’ tents to help facilitate being outdoors more.

Continuing along the thoughts of outdoors, we do expect that the children will spend time playing together outside, we will look at timing between the 2 classes that share the playground so that we can maintain space. We will encourage the students to give each other space, since preschoolers and kindergartners are often willing to share space much more closely than older children are, while also allowing them room to run, interact and play outside. This will include reminders to have fun without as much of the usual tackling, hand-holding and hugging (and as the kids know -definitely- no kissing at school!) but that these things need to be saved for a later time, knowing that some of this will still happen with little ones.

Handwashing has always been an important part of early childhood education and that will be even more true this year with careful thought and action being given to it when we transition to new activities, before and after eating and after blowing one’s nose etc. We will also have hand sanitizer on hand for the children to use.

While we will be taking more/different precautions than we have in the past, both for the protection of the children and for us as teachers, we still anticipate this being a fun year, getting to know one another, building friendships and learning many new things.

You can help us by also encouraging your child to listen carefully to the guidelines, acknowledging that they may seem funny or different from how we have done things in the past. You can also help protect others at school by monitoring your child’s health and not sending them to school if they are sick or “don’t seem quite themselves”.

In summary, some things to do and talk with your child about as we prepare for fall include:

  • In a positive and fun manner, have your children practice wearing facial coverings.
  • Talk to your children about how we will talk with and love classmates with different views about COVID-19.
  • Talk with your child about ways that you can show others you care for them without hugging or holding hands
  • Reinforce good hygiene at home over the summer, particularly handwashing

We are looking forward to a great year.

Are visitors allowed?

AACS wishes to remain a welcoming place while following guidelines. Some visitors will be allowed, but the purpose of their visit will be a major factor in each decision. Permitted visitors are required to wear appropriate PPE and to be screened (e.g., temperature check).

Does middle school still have its advisory system?

Yes, we still have this core part of our middle school experience that builds community and many critical life skills. Since groups are small and the students wear masks and social distance, we believe this is safe to continue.

Is there still the Extended School Program (ESP)?

Yes. Since the program has been very small, this is easy to manage. All students in ESP are required to wear masks. We limit the number of students to keep the size small (10-12).

How will extended absences be handled this year?

 

  • For normal, short-term absences up to three days (e.g., for a cold), we will generally not use the virtual parallel track, but take a simpler approach that would use traditional forms of make-up work as we have done in the past or some digital assignments through Google Classroom for older students. In these cases, please email the teacher(s) that your child is out, and they will let you know what to do from home. This is very much the same as in past years.
  • Beyond three days (or if we know the student will be in isolation or quarantine), the office will notify the curriculum director of any absences going into a fourth day or more. The curriculum director will then speak with the teacher to see what the best plan will be to help the absent student. The school will then contact you with a plan. You do not need to contact the school.
  • For students on-site who need to be out of school for extended medical reasons, we may using the parallel track to help them to stay caught up when it will be a long-term absence. How long will be based on each student’s circumstances. For younger students, we may also decided that more traditional forms of make-up work is developmentally better than joining the parallel track.
  • Questions? Please contact Renee McKeone.