September 18, 2020
Dear St. Andrew’s Families,
Two weeks ago, we joyfully welcomed students to the new school year. Preschool students have been safely and happily learning on campus each morning, while Kindergarten-Grade 12 students enjoyed in-person orientation sessions before beginning their classes in distance learning. Next week we will begin socially distanced athletic practices on campus, and we plan to extend our preschool students’ in-person day later this month. We hope our incremental, structured approach to date has shown you our desire to bring students back to campus safely this fall.
As you know, in early August, based on health data and the guidance of health officials and advisors, we decided to implement distance learning for Kindergarten through Grade 12 through October 9. This decision has allowed us to monitor post-Labor Day changes in regional health statistics, learn from other schools, and further refine our rigorous safety protocols based on evolving health guidance and our own experience to date. We have remained in regular contact with health officials and other advisors since then as we have determined the best timing and sequence for transitioning to K-12 hybrid learning.
In particular, we have been closely monitoring two important COVID-19 statistics for Montgomery County and the greater Washington, D.C., region – test positivity rate and daily infection rate. These metrics have been identified by State and local health officials, as well as our medical staff and independent advisors, as critical to any plans to reopen. Based on current guidance and trends, we currently plan to begin a phased transition to hybrid learning for K-12 students on Oct. 13 as long as public health conditions in our region remain stable or improve. We will continue to monitor the public health status of the region and our own community, and we will not hesitate to delay or reverse our plans for the safety of our entire community.
Below are details of our planned transition to hybrid learning, including precautions we expect families to take, and safety protocols that must be followed before students begin attending in-person classes next month.
Transitioning to the Hybrid Learning Model
Once we are fully in hybrid learning, students in Kindergarten through Grade 6 will have the option to come to campus daily. Grades 7-12 will be split into two cohorts (Brumbaugh and Hope) that will alternate weekly between on-campus instruction and distance learning. These cohorts are being constructed to balance the numbers of students in classrooms and on bus routes, and will take sibling relationships into account. After our “add/drop” period ends and students’ academic courses have been finalized, we will inform each family with students in grades 7-12 whether their children are in the Brumbaugh Cohort or the Hope Cohort the week of September 28.
To promote safety and help students learn and follow our new safety protocols, we will transition to our hybrid model over multiple weeks. Here is our current plan for transitioning to hybrid learning:
- Week of Oct. 13 – All students in Kindergarten, fourth, fifth, and sixth grade return to campus. These students will continue to come every day to school, health permitting. Half of the students in ninth and tenth grade return to campus (Brumbaugh Cohort).
- Week of Oct. 19 – First, second, and third grade students return to campus, joining students in kindergarten, fourth, and fifth grade in coming to campus every day, health permitting. Half of students in grades 7-10 return to campus (Hope Cohort).
- Week of Oct. 26 – Half of students in grades 7-12 return to campus (Brumbaugh Cohort).
- Week of Nov. 2 – Half of students in grades 7-12 come to campus (Hope Cohort).
Our Kindergarten-Grade 12 hybrid learning schedules will include morning-only classes each Wednesday to provide additional time for campus cleaning and faculty professional development on Wednesday afternoons. These new updated hybrid learning schedules will be complete and shared with families by September 25. A reminder that there will be no extended day program while we are in hybrid learning. Students will need to leave campus by 1 p.m on Wednesdays, and by 4 p.m. on other weekdays. Shuttle bus service will follow this schedule.
We recognize that some families will choose to have their children continue with distance learning. Families who plan to opt-out of in-person learning and continue with distance learning should contact their division heads by September 25.
Required COVID Testing for K-12 Students and Employees
In order for students to begin in-person instruction or participate in other campus activities after October 9, they must first have a negative test for COVID-19. The school has partnered with FiveMedicine to conduct COVID-19 tests on campus on October 2 and October 3. These drive-up tests should cost approximately $20 per student and will be by appointment. The school will absorb the cost of testing for all employees and all students who receive tuition assistance. An email next week will contain information for signing up for a slot. Families may instead obtain their own PCR-test through their healthcare provider if more convenient, but must supply school nurses with the test results prior to returning to campus. After we implement the hybrid model, we anticipate providing and requiring testing every two weeks while school is in session. School employees have already begun testing and will continue to do so every two weeks as well.
In order to come to and remain on campus, every member of our community will also be required to:
- Complete a daily health questionnaire (completed via Magnus app) which will require temperature checks and screening questions. Families will be required to begin these daily health screenings one week prior to their return to campus.
- Wear face coverings indoors (except during socially distanced lunch times) and while outside when in close proximity to others.
- Adhere to physical distancing best practices in classrooms, hallways, and outdoor spaces.
As we prepare to transition to our hybrid model next month, we expect that every member of our community will act responsibly to make a safe return to campus possible. That includes:
- Practicing the same daily health protocols outside of school – including social distancing, frequent handwashing, and regular use of face coverings in public areas – that we require on campus.
- Avoiding large gatherings and unnecessary travel. Any family who has been abroad or in an area of the United States with elevated COVID-19 infection should return to this region by Sept. 28 to allow for a two-week quarantine period before we begin returning to campus. You can learn more about the CDC and Maryland travel advisories here. Please be mindful of this expectation as your family makes any social or travel plans.
- If anyone in your household experiences COVID-like symptoms, quarantining for 14 days or until the ill person receives a negative COVID test result.
When students return to campus, they will notice floor markings and other signage in each building to indicate proper physical distancing. Hand sanitizer dispensers are available throughout the campus, and tented areas are available for select outdoor learning and small-group gatherings.
Keeping You Informed
Since March, every member of our community has shown flexibility and understanding around the challenges that go into everyday life, including running a school. Thank you for that.
We are excited to reopen our classrooms to our K-12 students beginning in mid-October, as long as public health conditions in our region remain stable or improve. If public health conditions worsen and we need to adjust our course of action we will alert you with any change in our plans. Beginning next Friday, September 25, the school’s weekly newsletter will contain a status update on our hybrid plans and timing. These updates will also be available on the school website.
As always, thank you for your patience and cooperation as we navigate these turbulent waters, and for your shared commitment to keeping our community safe.
Robert Kosasky David Brown
Head of School Assistant Head of School