At The Friends School of Atlanta (FSA), the value placed on being a caring, inclusive, safe community is paramount. Together, we are determined to overcome the myriad challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic in order to meet the health and educational needs of our students, while considering the health and well being of all of our faculty, staff and families. Understanding that different students and their families have differing circumstances, FSA has offered two learning model options — Remote Learning (strictly virtual) and a hybrid On-Campus Learning (mornings on campus and afternoons virtual at home) — to begin the 20-21 year.
The following Q&A relates to FSA’s current plans for educational programming as well as health and safety concerns.
How will the On-Campus Learning and Remote Learning programs be implemented in elementary school?
Elementary School On-Campus Learning: The goal of our On- Campus Learning plan in the elementary school is to facilitate the continued growth and learning of our students, while also providing opportunities for connection and community and maximizing safety. We will continue to provide our strong academic program on campus in the morning with a shift to remote learning in the afternoons where we will focus on co-curriculars, community building and social and emotional learning.
PreK3-Kindergarten students will attend class on campus from 8:00AM until 12:00PM. In this way, students can return home for lunch, before the PreK4 and Kindergarten students settle in for the afternoon virtual synchronous instruction as well as asynchronous activities. Where appropriate, the classrooms will be set with individual desks, six feet apart and all facing the board, to facilitate social distancing. Teachers will be in masks, as will children. Movement will be restricted to the classroom, designated restrooms and a designated area outside.
Elementary School Remote Learning: The goal of our remote learning plan in the elementary school is to facilitate the continued growth and learning of our students, while also providing opportunities for building connection and community. We will continue to provide our strong academic program with a balance of synchronous and asynchronous learning activities. The balance of these activities has been determined after an extensive review of research related to effective distance instruction for elementary school aged students. Teachers will continue to receive training in effective remote teaching and tech tools throughout the school year.
Every effort will be made to provide instruction that aligns with the on-campus groups’ classes through recorded video lessons, synchronous Zoom class sessions and a comparable schedule of study during the day. A rich variety of tech tools will be employed to enhance virtual teaching and learning for our diverse student population.
How will Remote Learning programs be implemented in middle school?
Our goal in the middle school is to provide rich, challenging programming to advance our students’ learning and growth academically and socially, both on campus and virtually. We aim for a high level of mastery and achievement and healthy friendships, and we also want our students to love school. In Remote Learning, students will engage in interactive activities with peers and teachers as well as guided, independent study. Students will use technology tools and organization systems that will enable them to become strong independent learners. Managing time, collaborating, adapting and knowing when and how to ask questions are skills that support success in school, maybe now more than ever.
In the middle school, where teachers are organized by the subjects they teach and where the social-emotional program is as important as the academics, every effort will be made to provide a comparable experience with instruction and other activities for the Remote Learning program that would be experienced on campus.
How will you build community with both groups of students?
Building community is central to the culture and effectiveness of The Friends School of Atlanta. Just some of the ways we will build and maintain community during the pandemic include:
- Adapting the First Six Weeks of School program of Responsive Classroom practices for both Blended and Remote Learning programs;
- Holding whole class meetings (virtual with everyone);
- Including the Social, Emotional and Ethical Learning program in the elementary school and intentionally weaving various social and emotional learning opportunities throughout the middle school program;
- Including community building games and opportunities for smaller group social connections in whole class meetings in middle school; and
- Holding weekly Silent Meeting virtually for the whole FSA community, adults included.
How will physical distancing be accomplished?
Physical distancing, when combined with cloth mask wearing and frequent hand hygiene, is the most effective way currently known for lessening the chances of infection with Covid-19. Faculty and staff will make every effort to keep students at a six-foot distance from each other and from their teacher and other adults. Class sizes will be limited in number to permit physical distancing practices.
The administration has established the following protocols for physical distancing:
- Students and adults will be expected to remain physically distant throughout their day at school. Faculty will assist and guide students throughout the day by modelling behavior, providing direct instruction and opportunities for lots of practice.
- All students will be seated at a distance of six feet apart in desks facing one direction. Student desks will have some storage capacity.
- Faculty will have a teaching space that allows a six-foot distance from students and, when feasible, will remain physically distant from students.
- All bathrooms will be Everybody bathrooms, and grades will be assigned specific bathrooms to use on the second and third floors. Bathrooms will be used one at a time.
- There will be assigned times for students and their teacher to move through the building to the playground and back.
- Everyone is expected to keep six feet apart while waiting for wellness checks and on other occasions where there may be a line or gathering.
- Faculty and staff will also engage in social distancing, whenever possible.
What other health and wellness protocols will be in place?
Based on recommendations from the CDC and other public health authorities, the administration has established the following health and wellness protocols:
- All people entering the school will participate in a wellness check and have their temperatures taken with a no touch, forehead thermometer by the school nurse or other designated staff. All adults, including those dropping off students, will be asked a list of wellness related to Covid-19 as part of the wellness check.
- All students and adults will be expected to wear cloth masks throughout their day at school. Students will be required to wear masks indoors and may remove them as they get outdoors and remain socially distant.
- Hand washing with soap and water is the best way to sanitize. When that is not feasible, hand sanitizer should be used. At minimum, students, faculty and staff will be required to wash or sanitize hands when entering the building, before and after each meal/snack, before and after recess, after using the bathroom and when adults move between rooms. Hand washing will be guided by CDC recommendations.
- There will be classroom disinfectant supply kits that include spray bottle hand sanitizer, spray bottle disinfectant for cleaning surfaces, tissues, paper towels and no-touch trash cans.
- Doors to classrooms will remain propped open for no-touch entry and departure by all.
- Faculty will distribute any items necessary for classwork using low touch/no touch practices (e.g., pre-distribute printed material, science equipment, etc).
- Students will keep individual supply packs with the most commonly used school supplies and educational materials stored in their desks and binders.
- There will be ten recess zones, each with play equipment. Each grade will be assigned a zone, and each zone will have a first aid kit and disinfectant supplies..
- Climbing structures will be off limits due to the difficulty of sanitizing them after use.
- Students will bring all eating utensils and water bottles from home. All food and drink will be brought from home. There will be no microwaving of food.
- All communal spaces for food preparation will be closed. All water fountains will be disabled.
- FSA has installed a new Environmental Recirculating Ventilator in April that combines fresh air with recirculated interior air for cleaner and more efficient air circulation.
- Cleaning staff will disinfect high-touch areas, such as light switches of bathroom fixtures throughout the day.
- All spaces used by students and staff will be disinfected nightly.
- No outside or weekend groups will be permitted to meet at FSA. There will be no renters.
- Parent conferences will be held virtually or by phone.
- Larger gatherings, such as meetings, will be held virtually.
What Families Should Know
- Families will need access to the internet for students to attend class meetings and access online educational resources, should public health officials recommend a continuation of or return to remote teaching and learning.
- FSA will provide all students from PreK4 and older with touch screen tablets or chromebooks for use with emergency remote teaching and learning.
- If anyone has a special need regarding Covid-19 prevention, please contact Waman French ([email protected]), Head of School.
- Families should notify the school immediately if a family member is diagnosed with or exposed to Covid-19 and abide by CDC recommendations for quarantining and clearance to return to school.
- If anyone within the FSA community is diagnosed with Covid-19, the school will inform the community.
Even during the Covid-19 pandemic, The Friends School of Atlanta remains dedicated to providing an education that recognizes the unique light in every student and that is steeped in the values of simplicity, peace, integrity, community, equality and stewardship. Now more than ever, the world needs Friends School students to go out with the conscience, conviction and compassion to bridge divisions, advocate for peace and justice and make a true difference in the world.
An Unfolding Story
The Friends School of Atlanta’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic has been to anticipate all possibilities for delivering an uninterrupted, values-based education that prepares students to be agents of transformative change in a very challenging world. Our path from the day we closed campus on Friday, March 13, to now has been one of utmost concern for the health and well being of our community, ingenuity in the execution of emergency remote teaching and learning and an enduring commitment to those values, such as community, equality and stewardship, that continue to light the way as we plan for the beginning of the 2020-2021 school year.
Consideration for the health and well being of students, faculty and staff has been primary to every decision the administration has made since the pandemic began, coupled with a determination to use emergency remote teaching and learning modes to provide the core curriculum as well as enrichment activities. The school also remained ever mindful of the needs of the parents and caregivers, providing technical and emotional support all along the way.
Read more about the school’s pandemic journey in the following chronology of weekly communications from the Head of School and others. This spring’s issue of our Friendly Light Magazine also tells the story of how FSA has successfully navigated these difficult times.