Abington Christian Academy, as a private academy, a Christian academy, and a classical academy, strives to educate the whole child, and in so doing, we need to address the realms that include not only the academic, but the spiritual, the physical, the emotional, and the social.
To this end, we believe that a virtual education alone is not enough for teachers to achieve all of this high calling.
We determined that it was in our best interest to do everything necessary to hold in person classes however possible. There are several values which we saw undergirding our decision to open for in person classes.
We recognize the value of children being in an environment specifically dedicated to learning.
We recognize the value of students of our ages and grades experiencing the rhythms and patterns of school life to help shape their minds for active learning.
We recognize the value of a homelike atmosphere within our building in which students experiencing the stress of the current world can enter with ease, eagerness, and joy.
We recognize the value of a well established sense of routine in which all humans have been created to find comfort and safety in a world full of uncertainty.
We recognize the value of caring teachers working in service to a community of working parents.
We recognize the value of those serious and educationally minded teachers being given the time and space to interact with ready learners as masters, motivators, and guides.
We recognize the value of an education that more resembles “the carrying a torch” instead of the “filling of a bucket.” Learning happens within the context of a relationship and it cannot happen fully if disembodied from human relationships.
We have committed resources to review how we can move forward even with many uncertainties while attempting to safeguard the health of our families and staff. We recognize God’s control in human affairs and want to earnestly seek His will for the safety of your children as we plan for the coming year.
While we plan, we want to recognize the differing needs of individual families and students. Parents’ work situations, the age of their student(s), loss of income, health needs of parents and students, are some important considerations. Other considerations are for our own staff’s health concerns, including members who are themselves at higher risk of contracting respiratory illnesses.
With all of these issues in mind, we developed a plan that we hope sounds like common sense.
Our plan has been developed according to CDC and PA Department of Health guidance for opening school. Please note that some of the guidance is extremely difficult to apply and raises questions for which we cannot obtain clear or consistent answers. While there is an interpretive element in applying some of the guidance, we have done our best to be consistent and to ensure health and safety at our academy. Please note also that this plan is subject to change, at which time, we will inform parents by providing regular communication through document updates.
One of the primary strategies we took in establishing our plan is through the use of “bubble groups” - essentially classrooms who are working entirely independently of other classrooms. This method limits the exposure levels of each student to only the other students in their classroom and the 3-4 staff members who will interact with them each day. Combined with our increased sanitization, use of PPE, and our already small classes within a small school, by lowering overall exposure, we feel confident that we can mitigate if not eliminate any potential health threats to our school community.
Here are some of the guidelines we followed in developing this plan:
We believe that parents should have the option to take extra precautions beyond what the school establishes in our regular procedures. Parents may choose to include additional preventative and safety measures which the school will follow for their child/children to the best of our ability.
We believe it is inadvisable to have early elementary school students maintain social distancing at all times. Students need to interact with one another as part of the educational process. We have set up our classrooms to allow 6 feet of space between tables and desks as much as is possible, but many other settings will not be conducive to following that guideline. When it is not possible to maintain 6-feet social distancing, we will ask students to wear face coverings.
We believe it is impractical for early elementary school students to wear facial coverings at all times. The wearing of face coverings is contraindicated for many instructional activities such as teaching phonics, small group instruction and instructional playtime. At the teacher’s discretion, teachers may ask students to either wear a face shield (which will be provided by the school) during some activities, or else, when spacing allows, to remove face coverings entirely for short periods of time. To require face coverings at all times may not be advisable for these young ages as it would require many reminders and redirection in order to keep face coverings in place. This gives teachers a near impossible and very stressful task. Therefore, wearing face coverings for students may not be required at all times throughout the day. Based on our previously established principle (see subsection 1), should a student’s parents wish for their child to wear a face covering at all times, they should inform the school and the classroom teacher of that request and our staff will promise to do their best to follow that directive. All parents of ACA students will be required to sign a statement acknowledging their understanding of our face covering requirements and indicating their preference for their child/children.
We believe that our educational goals and objectives are set at a high standard with good reason. We have no desire to undermine them due to the presence of Covid-19. It is our desire to ensure health and safety within the realms that we are capable while also recognizing that in some scenarios, the preventative measures of Covid-19 guidelines will conflict with our educational goals. In such a scenario, using the guidelines along with best practices, common sense, and all of the safety measures we can manage, we will prioritize our educational goals above the guidelines
We believe that the whole child needs attention during the school day: mind, body, spirit, and soul. We have scheduled many of our activities to mitigate the need to gather in close proximity, however students will continue to interact with each other in play, in games, both recreational and learning, and in socialization. It is our belief that increased sanitization measures and remaining in bubble groups will allow us to carry on with the ACA education that our faculty and families know, expect, and love, even in the midst of the challenges present under the Pennsylvania mandates for cover.
Illness procedures for attendance and dismissal of students from school
Students and staff who are feeling ill or have a fever should stay home and should not attend school. A person with a fever will be asked to stay home and not return until being fever free for 24 hours. This means that if a child arrives at school with a fever, is sent home during the day with the fever, or if they get a fever in the evening, they will be excluded from school for at least the following day. Anyone having a chronic cough, sneezing, loss of taste or smell, difficulty breathing, gastrointestinal tract symptoms, or other flu like symptoms should stay home and consult their physician before returning to school, especially if multiple symptoms appear suddenly and simultaneously. Parents should note the difference between a true illness and a normal cold. A physician’s note will be required for a student sent home with a fever before that student will be allowed to return to school. Physician’s notes can be acquired via tele-medical checkup, if necessary, and can be emailed to the school secretary, or a photo can be sent of the authorization to return to school if physical documentation is not available.
Preventative Measures at School
We will be utilizing the “bubble” method as a preventive measure by maintaining routines and remaining in our local area. If students come and go from school with the same group of students and faculty, there is much less likelihood of bringing a major illness into the school.
ACA will do its best to limit class movement during the day unless absolutely necessary. Where movement is necessary, disinfection will take place. Staff will make sure all desks, chairs, and high touch locations are disinfected before arrival, throughout the school day each hour, and before leaving for the day.
There will be a regular regimen each day with the custodial staff and faculty to make sure bathrooms, classrooms and other surfaces are systematically cleaned and disinfected throughout the day and in preparation for the next day.
Each family and individual student is responsible for the use of face coverings. ACA has based its policy on the guidance provided by the CDC, the state of Pennsylvania, and counsel from ACSI, the Association of Christian Schools International. Per that policy, we are asking that parents provide their students with face coverings to wear while entering and departing the building, whether that face covering be a cloth mask, disposable surgical mask or face shield. ACA will provide face coverings to be worn at school while inside. Per the Pennsylvania mandate, breaks may be taken every hour, and our classroom teachers have planned breaks into their everyday routines. We are also not requiring facial coverings to be worn while outside, and teachers have planned more outside time for their classrooms to increase the amount of fresh air.
Students who have a medical or mental health exemption may provide documentation from their family physician or complete a signed affidavit that their student should be exempt from wearing a face covering in certain situations, and ACA will honor those requests and exemptions.
Please note that there will be situations where students will be asked to wear a face covering by the teacher, and situations where face coverings will be encouraged. ACA and their employees are not taking on the responsibility of enforcing discipline for students who do not wear face coverings or becoming policing agents for the state of Pennsylvania. We will simply inform parents if an issue arises and we will expect the parents to know our policy and act responsibly by encouraging action that fits our plan.
Ultimately, we do not wish for face coverings to become the focal point of our year.
Rather, good hygiene will be taught and stressed in the school and in each class. Students will be encouraged to wash their hands with soap and water often. They also will be encouraged to use hand sanitizers which have been placed in each classroom, as well as other high traffic areas. Signage for proper hygiene will be placed throughout the building as well.
Drinking fountains will be decommissioned for now. All students will need to bring their own water bottle to school and the office will have spare water bottles available if students need more. Please do your best to ensure your student has enough water to last the entire day.
Ventilation of the classrooms and building will also be a key to maintaining a healthy environment. The academy will systematically have the classrooms ventilated twice daily. Classroom windows will be opened for approximately 10 minutes each time.
Recess and Physical Education
Recess for elementary students and physical education are important aspects for school at ACA. Our recess activities will be outdoors as much as possible. Children should bring warm coats and clothing for the fall and winter months when temperatures drop. Facial coverings should not be worn during physical activities due the amount of oxygen needed for these activities. Distancing will be promoted for students involved. Each bubble group has their own separate recess tote containing balls and games to be kept within their own class bubble. When students are seated or standing still for instruction or a break in activity, the 6-feet distancing rule will be in place. For other group activities, if outdoors, facial coverings will not be required, but for indoors, we will ask students to wear a face covering if they are interacting in very close proximity.
Physical Education classes are temporarily suspended.
If a family takes a trip/vacation out of the area, they should notify the school office before returning to the school and relay what type of contact and amount of contact they have had with large groups of people. We will also ask families who are traveling out of the state of Pennsylvania to abide by the guidelines of PA for reentering and returning to school after returning from travel. Any student leaving the country will need to quarantine within the U.S. for 14 days before returning to school.