On June 3, Cary Academy held a Town Hall for current and incoming parents regarding plans for reopening in the fall. Recognizing that public health responses to COVID-19 are evolving, we nonetheless felt it important to share our thinking at the moment – even if we expect some things could change as more guidelines become available this summer.
Bringing our community back together during a pandemic will require significant adjustments to routines and behaviors to ensure the health and safety of all members of our community. Those expectations will be outlined in what we are calling our CA: United Compact. The compact will outline common agreements and be an extension of our core values of respect, integrity, and compassion.
At the core of our approach will be an emphasis on wellness – social, emotional, and physical. All aspects of wellness are stressed in a high-performing independent school, and the added pressures of living in working in the age of COVID-19 only make those challenges even more acute. We have learned a lot from student surveys this spring about strategies that are beneficial to stress reduction and overall health, including more sleep, clarity in communication about daily and weekly expectations, and a reduction in the number of “task switches” that a student needs to make in any given day. All of those are being taking into consideration as we reexamine the daily schedules and look to build out a “digital core” to serve as a better home base for learning.
Before arriving on campus next year, we expect to ask students to complete a daily health self-check, which will include a self-screening for systems consistent with COVID-19. They include:
- fever over 100.4,
- sore throat not related to another medical condition (ie allergies),
- new or worsening cough not related to another medical condition,
- shortness of breath not related to another medical condition,
- new onset of vomiting or diarrhea not related to another medical condition,
- recent loss of taste or smell,
- a rash on skin or discoloration of fingers or toes.
Individuals are expected to stay home if they are exhibiting any of the symptoms above or have been in contact with anybody who is ill with COVID-19 or under self-quarantine. Additional allowances will be made recognizing that more students may be learning from home as a result of these higher standards as well as for those who may need to be home due to other complicating health factors.
When on campus, we will comply with current CDC guidelines and require everybody to wear face coverings, wash hands or sanitize regularly, and practice social distancing. Gatherings will be limited and lunch will be offered in a “takeout” style and eaten around campus, where we can appropriately separate students.
Signage will be placed around campus indicating expectations and limits on use of common areas (such as library or lobbies). In addition, we will be providing additional outdoor seating to allow for safer, socially-distanced student interaction. Additional cleaning protocols and staff are also being put into place.
De-Densifying and Different Modes of Operation
As we seek to reopen the school next fall, we will be progressing through our operating modes (Red, Orange, Yellow, Green). Moving from Red (virtual) to Orange will mean that we will be taking additional “de-densifying” measures to reduce the overall number of individuals on campus at any given moment. This likely will mean that students would be split into two groups (Blue and Gold) and attend class two days a week on-campus with their smaller and two days a week virtually. The fifth day each week is being envisioned as a “flex” day where different cohorts based on grade-level, academic need, or activities/clubs could come on to campus – again keeping that overall number to about half the school population.
We would start in Orange mode for both general health requirements and to support students learning the new routines. When we are able, we would then switch into Yellow mode, bringing all students back to campus for regular classes but keeping restrictions around larger group gathering sizes and assemblies.
During the Town Hall, we were able to cover a number of these issues and answer questions. You can see the slides from the meeting on our webpage at http://healthalerts.cary.academy. For the Town Hall video, including Q&A, go here. Look for more communication coming over the course of the summer, which will be sent via email and posted on the website.
On behalf of our faculty and staff, we wish all our families and happy and healthy summer and so look forward to seeing you in the fall.