UPDATE ON STATE OF KANSAS REQUIREMENTS: 7/22/20
Today we learned that the Governor’s executive order to delay the start of school was not affirmed by the Kansas Board of Education, and so the decision to open on time remains with local districts and independent schools. We are planning and prepared to open as scheduled on August 19. As of now, the HCA community will be wearing masks during the school day per the Kansas Governor’s Executive Order No. 20—59. The following Road Map highlights how we will adapt as conditions improve.
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Dear HCA Parents and Community,
For the entire HCA community, this is a comprehensive update as we look to start school on August 19. Again, the specifics presented here are contingent upon the conditions at the time, and will inevitably change, but we wanted to share approach with you now.
Road Map to Return to School
We are committed to implementing a careful plan to return back to school that creates the highest likelihood of remaining safely on campus for the entire school year, with students engaged in purposeful curricular and co-curricular experiences. Our deep hope is that we will be learning together face-to-face all year.
HCA has always believed that there is no substitute for the relationship between the teacher and student and between students, peer-to-peer.
For that hope to become reality, it is critical that we support our typical school activities with appropriately balanced health precautions that promote the physical, intellectual, spiritual, and social-emotional well-being of our students, families, and employees. Please pray with us and for us for all these things.
We love all of our families, and the partnership between parents and the school remains critical to our success in the situation today and throughout the coming school year. It will necessarily be a collaborative effort in which we both have key responsibilities. This speaks to the parent’s role in monitoring the health of their children closely, communicating clearly with administration and staff, and praying for HCA. The school likewise has a key role in also monitoring the health of our students, implementing reasonable best practices and recommendations (e.g. social distancing, masks, hand washing, etc.) to minimize the risk of a COVID outbreak, clearly communicating plans and expectations, and being highly adaptable and flexible to respond to our fluid situation.
Goals, Preparedness and Plans
All our goals and plans are designed to meet three criteria:
- Preparedness for inevitable change and the flexibility to accomplish our mission with those changes.
- The ability to continue teaching and learning under alternative scenarios across the entire school year, and
- The ability to implement health and wellness safety precautions as necessary.
Our plan to return to teaching in-class is predicated on the following factors:
- That we are allowed to return by higher governing authorities. This week’s announcement by the governor and subsequent decisions by the Kansas State Department of Education is an example of how things may change quickly in this area.
- That we have in place a comprehensive set of practices, policies, tools, technologies, and procedures to create the safest and best learning environment possible.
We plan to be at school in classes in August. However, we have made good investments in staff, faculty, tools, procedures, techniques and technologies over the summer to, if necessary:
- Teach some students at school and some students at home at the same time.
- Teach all students at home for a short period of time until the conditions change. While this replicates what was done in the Spring, our ability to provide higher quality learning has improved.
No matter the scenario, here is what we pledge to deliver:
- All our teaching will be done by faculty who have, since last Spring, been in or informed by formal professional development and have enhanced their ability to teach during a short period of online only engagement.
- All our teaching, in class or remote, is built on our integrated Christian lesson plans and standards for learning performance.
- All our teaching will include live periods of instruction with a mix of activities, project-based learning as appropriate (virtual labs, etc.), application, and assessments.
Health & Wellness
The physical, intellectual, spiritual, and social-emotional well-being of our students, families, and employees is of utmost importance. To remain face-to-face on campus all year, our community must prioritize and implement health precautions designed to limit the spread of COVID-19.
The most important contributor to our community health is for students and employees to stay home when sick.
HCA has been coordinating with local public health agencies as we monitor the global outbreak of COVID-19, closely tracking updates from the Johnson County Health Department and the Kansas Department of Public Health and Environment as this situation continues to evolve. The safety and well-being of our school community is our highest priority.
Access Control and Classroom Safety
We have consulted and continue to consult with current best practice and receive daily updates from reliable immunologist sources to develop a comprehensive set of protocols and practices that minimize access to campus by anyone who is symptomatic and, in some cases, asymptomatic (including all faculty/staff, students, visitors, vendors, contractors, etc.). We recognize and respect that there are diverse perspectives on the value and appropriateness of some or all of these health precautions.In consultation with guidance from the CDC as well as local and state health and government agencies, we are asking the HCA community to support and participate in the following health precautions. These health precautions are designed to promote the health and wellness of the HCA community by limiting exposure to COVID-19 and to keep students on campus with their teachers.
- Conducting at-home daily health screenings and staying home when instructed to do so (We are investigating the use of a mobile app for this that maintains HIPAA privacy.)
- Securing a release from a qualified medical professional to return to school.
- Maintaining six feet of physical distance wherever possible.
- Wearing a mask when six feet of physical distance is not possible (or if desired by the individual at any time).
Masks are a point of major concern across the community and the views vary widely. As of this announcement, the Governor has ordered the use of masks across K–12 without exemption. That order is subject to change or be rescinded in the future. As such, HCA plans to use protocols and practices that create a “safe learning classroom” and at the same time, in the future not generally require the use of masks when students are in their classrooms. However, that decision will be based on:
- Good practices that allow us to be confident that everyone who enters a classroom has arrived there healthy.
- Additional spacing between students while in class.
- Classroom practices that limit student close interaction.
- And continuous monitoring of good air quality and filtering systems.
Key Notes: (1) Any student in any class may choose to wear a mask OR protective face shield. (2) if classroom conditions as listed above are not present, then students may be required to wear masks for that class period.
The specific circumstances where masks will be required will be defined in the Elementary and Upper School Teaching and Learning Sections, but general instances where masks will be required are as follows:
- Drop-off, check-in, and pickup
- Upper School passing periods
- Large, necessary, indoor gatherings
- Restroom use
Air Quality and Immunology
We have consulted and will continue to consult with air quality experts to develop a live system for monitoring our air quality and air circulation across every campus. In addition, we have increased the rate at which we change out filters and do system checks for efficiency and effectiveness. Air quality across both campuses will be monitored all through the next year.
There are three primary processes we will follow should we have an incident of symptoms, exposure or a confirmed case. Figure (1) refers to these processes. Further details will be published as we get closer to the first day of school.
The protocols for employees and students to return to school after being determined ineligible are as follows:
- SYMPTOMS: Ineligible due to symptoms consistent with COVID-19: requires a release from a licensed, qualified, medical professional. Once a medical release is received, the student is eligible to return to campus. NOTE: students who may have some symptoms from prescreened medical conditions not associated with COVID-19 will be exempt and eligible to be in class.
- EXPOSURE: Ineligible due to exposure to a confirmed case of COVID-19: the person exposed must remain off campus for a specified (TBD) number of days following the exposure and be symptom-free.
- POSITIVE TEST: Ineligible due to a positive COVID-19 test: remain off campus until symptom-free and a medical release has been obtained. In the event of a positive test, HCA will work with your family to best determine how to move forward. HCA will follow requirements to protect your privacy, while also following protocols from local and state health agencies to protect public health and prevent spread.
Students with preexisting health conditions like asthma or seasonal allergies may provide documentation to HCA in order to avoid being ineligible to be on campus while experiencing symptoms that are related to the preexisting condition.
The CDC as well as local and state health and government agencies have advocated for the practice of social distancing as an effective strategy to limit the spread of COVID-19. HCA does not want to limit the social interactions of our students, families, and employees, but data shows that limiting situations where students are less than six feet of physical distance between people to less than ten consecutive minutes greatly reduces transmission.
HCA has developed strategies to prioritize physical distancing in classrooms, larger indoor gatherings of students, and lunch. The details of those strategies will be outlined specifically in the Elementary School and Upper School Teaching and Learning sections, and are, of course, subject to change as conditions change.
Our unity, even where individuals may be skeptical about the efficacy of a particular health precaution, should be centered on the health and wellness of our whole community, and particularly the most vulnerable among us.
Upper School Teaching & Learning
There are several changes that will be made to the Upper School structure for the 2020—2021 school year to provide for flexibility, continuity of learning, and the implementation of health precautions. These changes will remain in place as long as community spread of COVID-19 is evident in Johnson County and guidance from the CDC as well as local and state health and government agencies allows the full enrollment of students to remain on campus each day. Those changes include:
- If necessary, the bell schedule may be altered so that middle school and high school students have separate passing periods to lessen the number of students in the hallway and bathrooms at one time.
- Lockers that were previously located in the west hallway, causing a great deal of congestion, have been relocated so that all middle school lockers are now in the south hallway and all high school lockers are in the north hallway.
- Chapel will be divided into two sections, one for middle school and one for high school, to allow for greater social distancing in the Worship Center. The Tuesday bell schedule will be divided into nine equal periods with Chapel occurring for high school students first period and middle school students second period.
- Many classrooms already allow for full classes with six feet of physical distance between students. Where classrooms or classroom furniture do not allow for six feet of physical distancing, students will wear masks.
- Students will still participate in elective classes, and we will be working closely with our physical education and fine arts teachers to establish procedures for the safe offering of these courses.
- If necessary, lunch will be held in smaller groups utilizing spaces to include the Black Box, gymnasium, classrooms, and possibly even outdoors (weather permitting) to provide for six feet of social distancing.
- Masks will be required during all passing periods and in situations where six feet of physical distancing is not possible. Masks will also be required for drop-off, check-in, and pickup.
- Remote learning will be available for students who need to stay at home at any point. We will be employing our lessons learned from the Spring and improved processes to accomplish this.
Elementary School Teaching & Learning
We have all the materials, equipment, and staff needed to adapt to fluid guidance and have a great school year! Teaching students in a nurturing environment that provides them self-confidence regardless of the outside conditions is part of what we plan to do to serve our families this next year.
Our Teaching Commitment
We commit to make the necessary adjustments in order to keep our students on campus, learning and engaging in classroom activities for five days a week. Through rotating schedules, utilizing our qualified teaching staff, and maximizing our classroom and outdoor spaces, we have created a plan that will do just that!
Elementary School Protocols
As mentioned earlier, we do not plan to require masks in our Elementary School (which is in line with both CDC and Kansas guidelines at this time). However, not requiring masks is directly due to a daily screening at home by parents and protocols in and around the school outside of the classroom that ensures a safe learning environment in the classroom. Students may of course wear masks should parents choose. A change in the daily routine will keep us on campus while maintaining the appropriate physical distances with short time durations to reduce the risk of viral exposure to students and staff. Some changes include:
- We will observe physical distancing throughout the school building by managing both distance and time duration factors.
- Students will be seated in classrooms with additional spacing between seats.
- 4th and 5th grade — separately as grades — will have choir practice in the sanctuary.
- P.E. will be in the gym or outside every week.
- Lunch will be in the lunchroom. We’ve added extra tables to allow for social distancing seats open between children and staggering tables.
- We will most likely be holding Chapel outside or in the sanctuary with associated protocols in place.
- For students who are at home due to COVID-19 precautions, we will be providing live instruction on a daily basis. Specific procedures and processes will be determined by grade level and teaching requirements.
Please note: Our plans are built to accommodate possible significant absenteeism this year, and we will provide a way for students and teachers to connect daily — without the stress of getting behind.
Co-Curricular Programs & Facilities
HCA believes that co-curricular programs and activities are essential for our students to develop gifts, talents, and passions outside the classroom. As such, HCA is preparing to offer its wide range of co-curricular education through creative means despite the challenges. In each and every case, health and wellness will be observed with the exact same serious dedication we have for our core academic programs. If, through all the creative means possible, we simply cannot conduct the activity, it will be canceled or postponed. In such a case, any fees collected will be fully refunded.
HCA recognizes that many students are already engaged in modified activities including the visual and performing arts, STEM, and sports through summer sessions and camps. Faculty sponsors in the areas of Theater, Robotics, Student Leadership, and Student Life are building adaptable contingency plans to maximize every available option to reconnect and engage students.
HCA is actively engaged with the National Federation for High School Sports (NFHS) and the Kansas State High School Activities Association (KSHSAA) to evaluate all potential safe returns to competitive athletics. At this time, while there are tentative plans in place that create pathways to return to play, it is too early to predict what athletic seasons will look like in 2020—2021. We will continue to work directly with NFHS and KSHSAA to collaborate on all possible avenues that allow our student-athletes to compete safely on the teams they love.
More Information is forthcoming, but in the meantime, we look forward with great anticipation to seeing your children engaged and enjoying a variety of co-curricular activities this school year.
To reinforce our guiding principles and goals, HCA is committed to implementing a careful plan to return back to school that creates the highest likelihood of remaining safely on campus for the entire school year, with students engaged in purposeful curricular and co-curricular experiences. HCA has always believed that there is no substitute for the relationship between the teacher and student and between students, peer-to-peer.
We know that we will face many changing conditions and our plans and protocols will change with them. It is critical that we support our normal school activities with appropriately balanced health precautions that promote the physical, intellectual, spiritual, and social-emotional well-being of our students, families, and employees. Please pray with us and for us for all these things.
Tuition and Fees
As a final word, some have asked about tuition for next year. To be properly prepared to return to school in August we have had to spend well in excess of our planned budget. We have significant investments to both in class health & wellness provisions as well as for technology and professional development to improve any remote learning that may be required. Nevertheless, we will not be raising tuition or assessing any associated fees. The Board, Administrative Staff and key members of the HCA community have helped us find resources to cover these costs.
The staff and faculty at HCA, like many of you, have been humbled by the events of the past 4—5 months and by the outpouring of support and prayer from so many across the HCA community.
As a Task Force, we commend to you the truths found in Romans 8:31–39:
What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died — more than that, who was raised — who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written,
“For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
On behalf of the entire HCA Team,