First Days of School
If circumstances allow, we will welcome all 930+ students back to school on Friday, August 14, 2020. The first day will focus on our themes of Connect, Community, and Safety. We plan to use our first days of school to connect and build community, assess any learning gaps for each of our Cyclones, as well as provide students Health and Safety Procedures Training.
177 Days of Instruction & Student Learning
We are committed to a data-driven, flex-and-respond calendar. We have revised our All School annual calendar that includes additional school days with a longer Thanksgiving Break, as well as flexibility to extend the school year into June if we must. Normally Casady averages between 167 and 172 school days. For the 2020-21 school year, we have committed to a total of 177 days of class time - in person or remote - to ensure that our students are able to master the essential skills and knowledge in a full cycle of continuous learning.
Community Health and Safety
As we look to the Fall, we will seek to protect the health of students, faculty, and staff - especially those most vulnerable to infection - with overlapping layers of protection. These will relax as the public health landscape allows (and tighten should that prove necessary).
- Our preparations have included an audit of all aspects of campus operations and facilities in consultation with both national and local health experts, along with Independent School Management (ISM) - a comprehensive management-support firm since 1975 for independent schools in the United States and abroad.
- Through consultations with numerous health professionals locally and nationally, our health protocols and practices have been appropriately updated to meet the unique challenge.
- New rituals of hygiene for employees and students, mechanisms for the regular self-reporting of symptoms, and enhanced cleaning and disinfection of high-touch areas will be instituted throughout campus.
- Additional health designated spaces for screening, testing, and supportive isolation will be available if needed.
We will continue to drill down into details on our comprehensive approach to health safety and ask parents to confirm that they have reviewed and acknowledged the covenantal agreement of risk. Each of the measures outlined below by itself is imperfect, but together, and working in covenant with each other, we expect them to be highly effective in reducing the risk of infection. They include:
Students will receive daily temperature checks upon arrival. We have deployed over 80 no touch thermometers (1 thermometer per 15 students) across campus to effectively and efficiently do temperature checks.
Casady will utilize spacing, barriers, and face coverings to mitigate the risk of infection. When 6 feet of space distancing is not achievable, inside learning areas will require a face covering or have barriers in place.
Cloth Face Coverings
Cloth Face Coverings on campus is one component of our comprehensive plan to mitigate the risk of COVID-19. All students will need to bring a face covering to school every day and carry it at all times (see the following CDC recommendations for Cloth Face Covering). More information is available in our FAQ sections.
Casady has invested in over 3,200 square feet of plexiglass to use in classrooms and campus spaces to safely foster connection, student engagement, and collaborative learning.
Each division will have a day porter assigned to assist when needed and institute our aggressive cleaning and disinfecting protocols.
Enhanced Cleaning Schedule
Electrostatic sprayers have been secured to apply hospital grade disinfectant on a daily basis to campus buildings and vehicles. Merv-13 air filters will be used for all campus HVAC systems to promote a clean, healthy environment by filtering out harmful bacteria and virus carriers. In addition medical-grade HEPA filtration devices have been purchased to go into every room. While nothing can prevent the virus from getting through 100%, these are among the highest-rated in filtering out particles to include viruses.
Reimagined Learning Areas
Classrooms and campus spaces have been redesigned with the goal of promoting social distancing while effectively delivering Casady’s mission-driven curriculum. Creative use of campus spaces like our Activity Center and Annex Building will be reimagined to provide students safe spaces for physical activity and enrichment programming. Outdoor areas that include numerous green spaces have been enhanced to create a warm, welcoming, “front lawn-like” environment where students can gather in friendship, enjoy each other’s company, and share spontaneous moments of meaningful connection, all while practicing social distancing. High-density spaces like St. Edward's Chapel and Calvert Hall will adhere to the no more than 50% occupancy rule as outlined by the CDC and state guidelines so our students can enjoy a similar experience in these community oriented spaces.
Protocols for Social Distancing and Cohorting
It is clear that decreasing the density of St. Edward’s Chapel and Calvert Hall, indoor spaces, and classrooms is a critically important step in reducing the risk of infection. Cohorting is separating students into groups (cohorts) and minimizing contact with other groups (cohorts) with the goal of reducing the spread of infection throughout a Division. To that end, we will “cohort” with our littlest Cyclones, specifically the Primary and Lower Division, creating student cohorts of 8-16 students who will learn in multi-disciplinary, blended, or self-contained classrooms and travel together to common spaces like Chapel, Lunch, and “Specials” (LD only). In addition, we have added sections in the Middle Division to reduce class size to 14 or fewer, and maximized our largest spaces in the Upper Division to teach our largest classes. Finally, we have adopted new daily schedules per division that factor in CDC guidelines and local recommendations while still maintaining a very rigorous, engaging, and holistic curriculum in mind, body, and spirit.
Access to Campus
Although we can never fully “bubble” our campus, we will take steps to minimize traffic on and off campus.
- We are requiring appointment only visits. Parents and guests who enter our buildings will be required to make an appointment, wear a face covering, and receive a temperature check.
- Parents or family members will not be allowed to attend Chapel. We are working to provide a Livestream option to experience daily Chapel.
- In most cases, our preference is for parents to remain in vehicles during arrival and dismissal times and use drop off lanes since we are discouraging walk ups. Please refer to Division FAQ for details.
Special school travel protocols, such as diminished passenger vehicle capacity and mandatory face covering of passengers during travel will be instituted. Travel will be restricted to required events, such as interscholastic competition, for the Fall Term. Out of the country travel and nearby state trips, customarily a part of a rich and experiential curriculum, will be suspended for the fall as we will continue to monitor and assess travel opportunities for our students. We will revisit our travel policy continuously throughout the school year.
Of all the modifications we are organizing for the coming school year, the restructuring of our academic schedule might be the most salient example to you. From our perspective, our daily schedules reflect our One School mindset, as well as our continued commitment to pursue our strategic priorities that include Student Wellness, Durable Learning, Student Engagement, Community Engagement, and Skills/Knowledge.
We chose our schedules after studying a range of models, seeking input from faculty, engaging with other peer independent schools, and consulting with Independent School Management (ISM) that has worked closely over the past three years with our Strategic Academic Plan.
- Moreover, we believe our daily schedules are structured to serve each student exceptionally well and meet the unique challenge this health crisis poses to day schools.
- The flow and cadence of the day is intentionally designed to offer opportunities for thick teacher-student relationships with amplified personalization and instructional feedback, along with “bins” for “brain breaks”, peer interaction, communal connection (Chapel and Lunch), SEL (Chapel and Advisory), and physical activity.
- Longer class periods and fewer classes per day (MD and UD) allow for more varied instruction that includes extended time for “slow thinking”, meaningful Harkness discussion, student-directed projects, collaboration, and in-depth inquiry.
- By reducing the number of classes students take over the course of the day (UD and MD) and cohorting them (LD and PD), we limit the number of “effective contacts” any student has on a daily basis, thereby allowing us to more easily trace and manage a positive diagnosis on campus should that prove necessary.
Over the course of the year, we will conduct parent, faculty, and student (grades 6-12) surveys to gather feedback to make data-informed iterations around our overall plan.
There are, of course, some things we simply do not know at this date. We do not, for example, know when we will be able to resume large group meetings and gatherings in person like Back-to-School programs and events (though we wish to do so as soon as that is possible, and will continue with our virtual versions of programs in the meantime). In addition, we still do not know if there will be interscholastic athletics competition in the Fall. These decisions are informed in part by local, state, and, in the Southwest Preparatory Conference’’s case, the state of Texas mandates, all of which of course we will abide by. Hopeful but prepared, we are developing a varied menu of on-campus clubs and co-curriculars for students that will provide them the “dessert” that Dr. Lisa Damour speaks of - the need for “high touch” through relational connection and meaningful activity.
Finally, at this time, there are a couple items we need your assistance with:
To support our efforts to “helicopter” successfully into a remote learning environment (if we must close campus), we ask that you have a home learning device for each student to use. Families can request a learning device loaner by emailing email@example.com.
If you are the parent of a 9th-12th grade student, we’d ask that you complete the following Technology Resource Audit Form. The information you provide will help us best steward and allocate our technology resources.
Virtual Town Hall Meetings
Co-Task Force Leaders, Jim Bonfiglio and Josh Bottomly, Division Directors, and select members of the Path Forward Task Force, and I have also scheduled Virtual Town Hall meetings for each division. Please click the links below to register for your Division:
Monday, July 27
- 6:00 pm - 7:00 p.m.
- 7:30 pm - 8:30 p.m.
Tuesday, July 28
- 6:00 pm-7:00 p.m.
- 7:30 pm-8:30 p.m.
My team and I are also available to answer your questions in as timely a manner as possible, and we are eager to “covenant” with you and your children for an outstanding year.
As you have read, watched, and consumed this material, I hope that you see the tremendous work we have already done to prepare for the year ahead, while understanding there are some plans that are still to be developed. I encourage you to have the courage to be patient, to be flexible, and to be proud of the work we are doing to provide our Cyclones with a mission-driven and focused education that will continue to build skills and knowledge for future success. This mission-driven Continuity of Learning education is one where we will feel confident that if another opportunity such as this arises, our students will have the skills to rise to the occasion and come through it successfully.
Together we can, together we will. We are, after all, Cyclone Strong!
Nathan L. Sheldon, Head of School