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A Note from our Headmaster

 

Greetings Cornerstone Family,    

This is a very important school-wide message.  (Please don’t skim this one, and after you read this email, please read the two attachments)  

We are finalizing our plans to re-open.  Yes, we are fully preparing to re-open in August.  We will kick of the new school year with our Back to School night on Friday, August 7th.  This is a school-wide parent meeting where we will introduce on faculty, talk about the exciting things that will be happening during the 2020-2021 school year, and much more.   And August 10th will be our first day back with Meet the teacher for Grammar and Student Orientation for our Logic and Rhetoric students.  

To be really transparent though, making a “carved in stone” plan feels like trying to hit a moving target.  Sometimes, I think the target is moving the speed of a bullet!!

There are many factors to consider, and we will be paying attention to all council and wisdom as is possible.  On one hand, there is a rise in cases locally of Covid and we have to keep our eyes on this to see if it increases or decreases over the next few weeks.  We are also learning from the Center for Disease Control, CDC, and FL Dept of Health ,FLDOH, and American Academy of Pediatrics, AAP that children are recovering from Covid much faster and present a smaller contagion factor than originally reported.  Also, we are learning that in spite of increased cases, the death rate by percentages is dropping considerably.  They are attributing this to better treatment procedures and testing and social health safety compliance.  While we must follow the news in our locality and honor mandates by our government, we feel we can go forward with re-opening our school if everyone commits to following our own updated Health Procedures. We also have to change our thinking and culture as we have enjoyed from previous years.  Not only must the school adopt new health procedures and encourage students to modify practices while at school, (our responsibility of the school) but families have to bear the weight of responsibility as well during the school year, by modifying thinking and practices as well (responsibility of the families).  Now we must add to the normal morning routines, such as breakfast and brushing teeth and running out to the family car, things such as daily temperature checks and asking how the student(s) feel before even leaving the house.  Also, we should commit for the school’s sake to start limiting the numbers of outside (non Cornerstone) contacts and gatherings and physical proximity to others where possible.  Your help in this way will strengthen the bubble of protection around Cornerstone while we are in session.  Here, I don’t expect 100 percent cutting off of extended family and society.  But every step and reduction in exposures helps the whole school.  Not to mention helping the sensitive or elderly and at risk persons in your own family and friend circles.  Do all you can.  Every bit helps.  Let’s band together in our new way of thinking. 

We have broken our plan up into several parts (which I outline below, and also have attached a Re-Open Plan and a Containment Plan to this email and will be combining all 3 of these into our official plan in August).  Most of it is developed, but some of it still remains in the works as we wait to receive more details for Alachua County and other government agencies.

It is encouraging to hear from you all in our personal survey that indicate families want to return to our day school. I think that represents both a desire and a need for your children to be on campus.  I believe families are not only concerned about our plan to re-open, but also very concerned with our plan to stay open.  I think we could handle a class, or the school, closing for a short time, but repeated closings would wear thin.  So I will be following our policies with safety as a priority, but also, keeping the amount of time away from our full day school as limited as possible while maintaining safety for everyone.   

Based on the survey response, I am now of the mind that the single most important thing we need to be able to communicate to all of our school's families is what happens when a positive case of COVID-19 happens in our school.  Please know, it is not a matter of “If”, but “When."

This is where we really need to change current school culture and family mentality and “the way we’ve done things in the past.”  I’m asking for families to be really supportive with each other by being considerate to the whole school body and even especially our precious teachers in each room.   Gone are the days where you could send a student to school who had a little sniffle but wasn’t too bad.  Or they had a tummy ache the night before but felt well the next morning, so they went to school anyways.  This isn’t fair to the teachers or really the whole school given the circumstances.  Please use extra discretion and be more vigilant to keep a student home for that extra day (possibly siblings as well).  Or if you are called with a sick student at school, we need you to pick them up within the hour.  Please don’t make us hold an ill student longer than we have to.  These actions could keep our whole school from missing unnecessary days.  Be supportive.  Be considerate.  Be loving. Be wise.  The Parent Responsibility, as outlined below, could actually prevent a majority of instances before it even affects the school.  We need you to rally together for all of our sake this year.  Banding together on this is how we will have a successful year.

So, here are the key elements of our plan.  As we update our plan I will share it with you all.  We will be following the news of the situation here in Alachua County and meeting every week until school opens to update our plan to address a future positive case in our school.  If you, like me, have been reading everything possible to learn as much as possible, none of this will be new.  I offer it simply to help frame a plan and discussion.  

  • Educational Philosophy - We are first and foremost a day school. We have arrived at the position that we cannot be an online or hybrid school.  We will only use the online option if circumstances dictate the need to close a class or the whole school (and this for as short of time as possible with a desire for a quick but safe return).
  • Parental Responsibility - A parent must never, knowingly, send a sick child to school.  If their child exhibits flu-like symptoms, or the Covid symptoms, (Fever, cough, shortness of breath etc., they should get a COVID-19 test.  Their child should only return to school once they have clearly passed their illness (see School-wide Health Procedures and Plan for Containment)  For non Covid symptoms, we are defining this as 24 hours completely symptom free without medication.
  • The School's Responsibility - We are calling this Our Plan for Prevention. It is the responsibility of the school to diligently work to maintain a healthy and clean environment.  We are adding hand sanitizing stations, and adding outdoor hand washing stations, and developing a plan for consistent and regular sterilization and cleaning.  This will be written out and sent to our school families once we finalize the details.
  • The Gate - This is the name we have given to our plans to keep sick children from entering the building and classrooms.  We are purchasing touchless thermometers for the drop off area at the front door and for our classrooms.  Teachers/Staff/Admin will check every child’s temperature every morning, and also have the ability to quickly assess a situation if a child looks ill.  A student with a temperature will immediately return to their parent’s car and not be allowed to enter the school.  Parents, please don’t drive off until given the ok.  During the day, students found with a temperature will not be admitted to enter class. We are hoping this “gate” can serve a significant preventative measure.  We included these guidelines in our new School-wide Health Procedures included in our attached Re-opening Plan.

In the Event of an Outbreak -  We are calling this Our Plan for Containment,  We start with the idea, if our only plan is to cancel and close, then that’s not really a plan. Since we have philosophically arrived at the conclusion that we must be a day school, we must take containment very seriously.  Using both CDC guidelines and AAP guidelines (https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/schools-childcare/schools.html, and https://www.aap.org), we will make every effort to operate our grades and classes in bubbles.  That is, keep the same group of students together all day where possible, and work to keep them from intermingling with other grades and classes.  That way, if an incident of COVID-19 happens we can work within the bubble and not the whole school.  If we have to cancel a class for a week, that is not like cancelling the school.  We intend to define an incident as a level. One positive case in one class would be a Level 1 incident. Level 2 might be a positive test of the teacher.  Level 3 might be two or more positive tests in a single class.  Level 4 might be positive tests involving different grades.  In each case we will offer a plan of action. Operating our relatively small school in bubbles can be easy (because we are small), or can be hard. (because of bothers and sisters in multiple grades. This is where we really need families to be really thoughtful of faculty and the whole school community.  One brother sick, means a sister has to stay home as well etc. See Parent’s Responsibility above.)  As we get our plans together, I will continue to share it with you all.

Please feel free to share all your ideas. This is new territory for everyone.  Scripture says “with the abundance of counselors, the people prosper.” We are each others counselors.

If you have any questions or don’t think your family will be able to participate in our Re-opening plans, please email me right away David.Leino@ca.school.  This will help us make better plans.  Plus we still may be able to provide alternatives and helps that we are currently researching.  But do contact me right away.  

I will host a School-wide Town Hall meeting next Thursday evening 7:00pm July 16th over Zoom where our team will address aspects of this plan. An email Zoom invitation will go out early next week.  

Have a blessed remainder of the summer.

Soli Deo Gloria,
David Leino
Headmaster
Cornerstone Academy
(352)226-9678
 

Special Credit and resources:   CDC, AAP, FDOE, FDOH, and Alachua Co Schools.

Also, as models, Alex Gispert and Dana James have done an amazing job developing plans for their respective schools Kendall and Seven Rivers. (These are our fellow schools in the Christian Schools of Florida, CSF organization.  They, along with many other CSF Schools and Heads of Schools have been wonderful collaborators in this new season of education and circumstances.)  Even though our school is smaller and have different concerns based on locations etc., I have sought to absorb as much of their plans into our own where possible. 

July 16th Town Hall Meeting