The last few months have been challenging and St. Peter’s is thankful for you, our families, and for the generosity and care you have shown to one another and to our faculty. This past spring was not what anyone had hoped for and not what anyone had expected. We appreciate that each family has made sacrifices in order to continue at SPS, and we are grateful for your ongoing support of the community.
The Administrative Team has been working since earlier in the spring to determine what school might look like in September. Unfortunately, we simply do not know right now exactly what to expect because of all the changes and therefore we must continue to make plans for the most likely scenario. One thing that has never changed is that we will only resume normal operations in our school building when it’s safe to do so. At the moment, we continue to plan for a variety of circumstances, including both in-person and remote possibilities for the year and keeping our priorities the same:
Keeping our students, faculty, and community members safe;
Returning to our school building;
Operating school each day with all students.
As of July 1, 2020, our goal is to open our building for in-person instruction on Wednesday, September 9, 2020. This decision was based on data collected from organizations including the CDC, the Pennsylvania Department of Education, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia’s Policy Lab, the Pennsylvania Association of Independent School (PAIS) and the American Academy of Pediatrics.
We understand that as long as there are cases of Covid-19 in the community, there are no strategies that can eliminate transmission risk in schools entirely. Our goal is to keep transmission as low as possible so as to safely continue school activities.
There is positive indications, although in no way conclusive, that children are less likely to contract as well as spread the virus. This is important to consider as we anticipate bringing our students and faculty back into the building. We are hopeful that our program can continue while maintaining precautions to minimize the risk for all involved. We will continue to follow the guidelines of the CDC and CHOP regarding safe hygiene and face coverings.
We encourage safety guidance beyond SPS and will provide clear instructions for students and families to mitigate transmission risk when children are at home. Each person has a personal responsibility to help keep our entire community safe both in the building and when they are at home or traveling to and from SPS.
When we do open the school building we will have many questions to answer. While we would love to have answers to every question, we simply do not. We will thoughtfully refine and develop our plans, adapt as necessary, and continue to provide information to you in a timely fashion. We do not want to promise something that we cannot deliver, and we are reluctant to commit to some difficult decisions if there is a possibility that the next eight weeks will lead to different situations and outcomes that will be necessary for our students, faculty, and families to be safe in our building. With this in mind, we plan to implement the following changes to school when we return in September (unless the cases of Covid-19 increase to a point where we are not able to do so.)
Families will be asked to take temperatures prior to arriving at school. Our School Nurse, Valerie Hill, along with other administrators, will be checking student’s temperatures each day upon arrival and will monitor any students who become sick throughout the day. A student with a temperature above 100.4 will be removed from their class, taken to the quarantine room and parents will be called. They must be picked up from the School within one hour of receiving the call.
Adults will wear face coverings while in the building and with students. Since the recommendations for children have changed steadily over the past few weeks, we have not yet made a decision about them wearing masks and we will continue to monitor through the summer the recommendations based on factors that include: physical distancing, number of students in each room, age of child, ventilation, etc.
There will be modifications to drop-off and dismissal times and procedures which will likely impact the timing of our school day. Students will be dropped off between 7:45am and 8:30am in order to manage the number of students entering the building. Dismissal will have similarly staggered times in the afternoon, beginning at 3:30pm for all grades. The oldest students will be dismissed last.
In order to maintain consistent cohorts of students throughout the day, we will not permit parents and other visitors to enter the building at any time during the day except in the case of an emergency.
We are reviewing our calendar and postponing or eliminating school events that cannot occur without maintaining student, faculty, and community members safety. We will not have large gatherings during the school day in the fall term. We have postponed the Grandparents’ and Special Friends’ day until the spring of 2021.
Protocols have been created and will be posted in the building for students and adults to practice consistent hand hygiene. These expectations are for all students and adults.
There are detailed plans for addressing any community cases of COVID-19 that will be shared with the community later in the summer. Any known case will require those in contact with the person to self-quarantine for fourteen days, as per the current CDC guidelines.
The School has hired additional cleaning providers and will staff an additional custodian throughout the day to clean areas consistently. Additionally, there will be nightly cleaning of the entire school and all areas of contact.
Cohorting: Based on the size of our building, the classroom spaces within, and the number of students in each grade level, we are unable to divide the students into the typical sections we have in the past. We are planning to divide the students into cohorts based on their grade level and each cohort will remain stationed in one of the classrooms with a home base teacher. Our special class teachers, (Art, Music, French, Library, etc) will visit the students in their classrooms to provide the program. We hope to limit the interaction between cohorts as much as possible and this allows us to do so, while providing the important academic and special classes our students love. We are still determining the way we will provide physical education class and recess. These decisions will be guided by the state and local government guidelines and requirements and may change based on allowable regulations.
We anticipate the student experience will be delivered in one of three ways this year. They are all unique and determined by the mandates or orders from our local health department. We should highlight that if we are allowed to be in our building, we will continue to run a program for all students, every day for a full day. These models include:
In-person and In the building.
Distance Learning (Mandated): If the school building must be closed due to Government mandate or a local COVID-19 outbreak, the School will transition to an online delivery method of distance learning. Different from this past spring, the School will institute a consistent schedule for each grade level that is similar to the schedule used in the building with adjustments for screen time and independent work for older students. The Preschool and Prekindergarten will have a reduced modified program with a tuition adjustment based on days out of the building.
Hybrid (Mandated): Depending upon the needs of individual families regarding staying at home, the School will provide some hybrid model of instruction. If the stay at home order is not mandated, but a student must stay at home for another reason, we will provide a program at home for them to continue their education. This is still being developed, but we wanted to let families know we are planning for this if the situation arises.
Moving forward the School will provide a set of expectations for both detailed protocols for being in the building and for the distance learning model. These will include access to online Landing Pages for each grade level PS-8th. This will be one place our teachers can share information about the class and the grade. We are currently working on these and expect them to be completed by August 1, 2020.
We are smaller than most of our peer schools and the local colleges and universities in the city, and our plans will not look like theirs. This does not mean we are any less likely to be impacted by this virus. Our precautions and procedures will have an impact on the health and safety of our students and faculty in the same way other schools will. Therefore, we want to provide an update on our plan to inform our families of what we are anticipating now, knowing we will continue to adapt based on new information and guidelines. While our plan is not “etched in stone”, we want to provide you with important information as quickly and as accurately as we can. We will be back in touch with an update on July 15th and are available to speak to you at any time if you have questions. We will begin our Friday Morning Coffees again this week, (July 3rd at 9:00 AM) and a Zoom invitation will be sent out each Thursday, (later this afternoon).
Tuition invoices are being sent out this month for the initial payment of the 2020-2021 tuition payments, and we acknowledge the financial situation many families are facing during this unusual and economically difficult time. If you need an extension, a different payment schedule, or a more detailed conversation about the tuition, please reach out to Debbie Fluehr, Sandy Trezza, or myself. We will find time to talk and work out a solution. We want every family who wants to attend St. Peter’s to have a way to do that.
Below are a number of resources with helpful information about the health and safety of reopening in September. We welcome any feedback you have, questions you are uncertain about, or comments. We know this is a challenging time, and we appreciate your patience, your continued support, and your care of one another at SPS. We truly are fortunate to be a part of such a wonderful community.
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