We made the decision to cancel classes on Tuesday in order to prepare for three days of on-line streaming of our classes or “E-Learning”, the new term that has evolved since the pandemic started.
There were several reasons for doing so. Returning from Christmas break, many of our families who had travelled out of state found that getting a test was not as easy as it had been before the break. There were multiple exposures reported across virtually all of our grade levels. We also had several staff members who were exposed or who tested positive for the virus, and our substitute pool is very limited right now. We decided that the E-learning option would give everyone a few more days to get their test results back, recover from illness if they’ve been sick, and time to determine if exposures experienced over the holidays developed into symptoms. The surge in new cases has made test lines very long, and it is taking much longer to get results back.
Please remember those in our school community who now have COVID-19, including students and their families, staff members and their families. There are quite a few cases among our school community at the present time, and we pray that everyone recovers well.
We don’t take these decisions lightly. As we said from the beginning, prayer undergirds every decision we make, and we realize all of the effects of closing school. We know working parents must find a place for students to go. We also know E-learning slows progress down, and long-term, has an affect on student progress. So our goal is to work toward being able to re-open our classrooms as quickly as can be done safely.
We are in the process of updating our COVID protocol in accordance with information provided to us resulting from this holiday surge of cases. You will receive a copy of this via email later this week. Download it, print a copy and keep it handy for future reference. We are planning to re-open for in-person learning on Monday, January 10. More information will be available on Friday.
When school does re-open, there will be a few changes in our current protocol:
- Please check for symptoms and run a temperature check before coming to school. Review the list of symptoms for COVID-19. If your child is experiencing any of the symptoms, a test is warranted before returning to school. We are planning to re-institute the on-line check system so you can click the link and send the information prior to coming to school.
- If someone in your immediate household is infected, and has symptoms, please do not send your child to school.
- COVID-19 Rapid Tests and PCR Tests will be available to students at school every Monday. Parents must sign a permission form in order for their child to be tested. There is no charge for these tests.
- Send your child to school with two (2) clean masks each day. If your child is provided with a mask at school, a charge will be made to your account. Masks should cover nose and mouth, and be of material thick enough to stop droplets from spreading out while breathing.
- We will check your child’s temperature upon their arrival at school. If it registers 100 or higher, they will need to return home and get a test before returning to school.
- We are altering the lunch schedule and limiting the capacity of the cafeteria, so some classes may be assigned to eat their lunch in their classroom.
Academic Policy Regarding COVID-19
We took the current pandemic status into consideration in our planning for this school year. In Illinois, schools are required to be in session for a total of 176 class days, or 880 instructional hours. Our class schedule has a total of 1080 instructional hours, which means we have multiple days we can use in the event of a school closure. E-learning days do not count against the total. We have used just one 7-hour day so far. There is no limit on the amount of time students have to turn in make-up work caused by being absent because of COVID. Students are not penalized because of absences due to the virus.
As our benchmark testing showed from last year, MCA students showed no adverse academic effects from the pandemic. Over 95% of our students met or exceeded the grade level benchmarks in mathematics, reading and English/Language Arts. That’s on a test that was a half-step above our previous assessments in 2019. You’re welcome to compare that to surrounding public and charter schools where students were on-line all year.
Navigating a Pandemic
Our primary objective through all of this is to keep our students safe. Our decisions are not made out of a “spirit of fear” and they are only made after prayerful consideration. God has blessed our school community with individuals who have successfully trained to help others in the medical field, and they graciously contribute their knowledge and experience to our situation. In the same way that our school must comply under the law with health permits, building inspections and fire permits, we are also required to adhere to the current executive order issued in March of 2020 through our local health authoritIes, the CDPH. You can access the Interim Guidance on Management of COVID-19 Cases in Pre-K to 12 Schools on their website, which is all the information and guidelines they provide to us. It is updated regularly.
Please pray with us and for us. The prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective. There is as wide a variety of opinions about this pandemic among our school community as there is in the public at large, but as a Christian community, we are guided by the scripture to imitate Christ’s humility. Discernment and wisdom are required to sift through all of the information and make decisions based on the facts. From top to bottom, I think I can honestly say that no one on our staff looks forward to E-learning.
Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus. Philippians 2:3-5 NRSV
What Returning to School Might Look Like
We will gather information from our families over the next couple of days to get a clearer picture of where we are in terms of active infections which would prevent individuals from coming to school. That would include quarantine periods after exposure, a family member in the same household being sick, or the student themselves having COVID. Since this has also affected our staff, we will need to assess which staff members may return and which ones still need to remain at home. E-learning is available to students when they need to quarantine or if they are sick.
Thank you for your patience.
NOTE ON JANUARY 7, 2022
School will re-open on Monday, January 10. E-Learning will be available to students who are still waiting for test results from travel, or who are sick or have a family member who is sick. It is possible that one or two classes may still be on E-learning, since we are short of substitute teachers and have had some teachers out with the virus.
This has been a difficult week for schools everywhere. Of course, you’ve seen what’s going on with CPS. But many of the charter and private schools have also gone to E-learning this week, including many of those in our urban Christian school consortium. We had several staff members who were affected, and at the moment, substitutes are hard to find. We had multiple students across every grade level who had COVID or had a family member or sibling who was sick, most with mild symptoms, some a little more concerning.
We have an opportunity to offer rapid antigen tests to our students beginning January 17th, and every Monday afterward. This is a screening, similar to what many businesses and other schools are doing, to help reduce the amount of time employees and students have to miss while waiting for test results. With a 3-5 day incubation period, getting tested every 7 days gives a fairly accurate result that allows students to continue to go to school, or identifies a potential infection early in the process. This will help parents avoid lines and delays in getting test results back and will hopefully result in students being able to stay in school, or in the event of an infection, miss fewer days.