COVID-19 POLICY & UPDATES
St. Andrew’s Episcopal School has strict COVID-19 policies and procedures in place. If you have questions about these policies/procedures, please contact the school.
View our calendar for other upcoming events such as Zoom meetings.
Dear SAES Families –
It is with heavy hearts that we write to inform you that we have made the difficult to decision to postpone the reopening of SAES until January 2021. This decision did not come lightly, but after much deliberation. As you know, our goal since our unexpected closure in March has always been to reopen our school, and to do so safely. SAES has had the good fortune to be in a healthy place financially for the past several years, and we have been fortunate to have financial reserves to allow us to stay afloat until now. However, due to the uncertainty surrounding the possibility of reopening safely, our financial future is also uncertain, and we no longer have the monetary reserves we once did. We have determined that it is in the best interest of the school to postpone our reopening until January 2021. In the interest of full disclosure, we have outlined below the steps that we have taken to date and the behind-the-scenes information that led us to this decision.
History of SAES Reopening Plan
Since March, Nancy has worked with a variety of individuals and organizations in an effort to devise a safe reopening plan. In addition to the rich resources provided by the Southwestern Association of Episcopal Schools, Nancy has also worked with Independent School Management (ISM) two days a week, every week. ISM has created a dedicated team of professional independent school educators who are collaborating to help create successful reopening plans for schools across the country. Through ISM, Nancy has also met with a team of three pediatricians every Thursday for one hour to learn about current information and research regarding COVID-19, as well as best practices for managing children in classroom settings during this time. The pediatricians are leaders in their field: Dr. Tanya Altmann is a professor at UCLA, has a private practice, and is the spokesperson for the American Academy of Pediatrics; Dr. David Rubin is the Director of PolicyLab Resource Center at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and is also on faculty at the hospital; and Dr. Adrianna Bravo is board certified in pediatrics and currently works as the Medical Director for Episcopal High School in Alexandria, Virginia. As mentioned in previous communications, our school reopening team, which includes Nancy and three teachers, has used the framework and information provided by ISM to create a detailed plan, specific to SAES, to allow us to reopen safely and stay open for the long-term.
After the original shut-down in March, and as we have navigated the COVID-19 experience since then, we planned to reopen SAES on August 3. The idea behind choosing that date was that reopening at the beginning of August would allow us to capture tuition for the month and provide some semblance of normalcy for our families and our teachers. We also hoped that, by August, Houston’s case numbers would have decreased from where they were earlier in the summer. However, when COVID-19 cases were still increasing as we moved into July, we changed the August 3 reopening date to our original fall start date for the school year, August 19. Last week, as case numbers in Houston continued to rise, we once again changed our reopening date to September 8, for two reasons: 1) HISD announced they will start on September 8 virtually (moving to in-person instruction 6 weeks later, possibly); and 2) the COVID-19 case load in Houston is still off the charts. The worry in Houston among families with school-age children, and among educators across the state, has been palpable.
In an effort to gauge the comfort and interest level of our families as we look to reopen SAES, we included two survey questions in Nancy’s most recent letter to parents. The questions and responses are below:
1. Will you send your child to SAES this fall, regardless of our reopening date?
55% Not sure
2. If we are unable to safely reopen SAES after Labor Day, are you interested in having your child participate in a remote learning program until we can safely return to school?
59% No (Comments were consistent about the inherent challenges with young children and virtual learning)
10% No response
Under normal circumstances, SAES receives tuition income twelve months out of the year. After we closed in March because of COVID-19, we continued to receive about 80% of our regular tuition income for April and May. We did our best to provide a remote learning program for our very young learners in the spring, and we invoiced parents the regular tuition amount for April and May – with the caveat that if they were in a difficult position and couldn’t pay their full tuition, it would be forgiven. We also immediately applied for and received a Paycheck Protection Program loan, which covered our staff’s salaries for June and July. Based on parent survey feedback about the difficulty of virtual learning for young children, we did not attempt any remote learning over the summer and we did not charge tuition. We are fortunate that we have been able to keep our teachers and staff on the payroll and available to families since March. However, we no longer have the financial reserves we once did, and if we continue on our current path, we will continue to lose money and put the entire future of SAES in jeopardy.
New Reopening Plan
Over the past six years, SAES has been in a very strong place financially – the classrooms have been full and our wait list has consistently remained at three times our capacity. The SAES Board of Trustees has been paying close attention to our fiscal health, and, fortunately, we have had reserves to help us through this experience so far. However, the long-lasting COVID-19 wave is starting to take a toll on our finances. To use a simple analogy, our ship is getting more and more holes in it, and water is leaking in at a faster rate. If we continue to pay our staff with no income, the risk of running out of cash and sinking the ship is very possible.
It is clear that parents are unsure about the safety of reopening in September, and frankly, so are we. There is no guarantee that we will be able to safely reopen in September, and it is impossible to know when reopening will feel right this fall, if at all. Further, as COVID-19 continues to spread, if we reopen our school prematurely, we run the risk of children, family members, and staff members contracting the virus, and the very real possibility of having to close down our school for several periods of time throughout the fall semester. We know that young children thrive on routine, and starting and stopping school multiple times over the next several months due to illness will not provide the stability they need.
Although a virtual learning program is theoretically possible, it is not ideal for the children we serve (ages 1-5), and it does not support the Montessori method of teaching. Furthermore, parents have made it clear that they are – understandably – not interested in paying for the virtual program we might be able to provide. Unfortunately, with 55% of our survey respondents unsure of whether they will return to SAES at any point this fall, there is no guarantee of any fixed income for the foreseeable future.
We have been agile throughout this experience – pivoting when we have needed to, slowing down when we had to, and moving cautiously forward as a unified team. Our goal is the same now as it has always been: to reopen safely and have a full school as soon as possible with healthy financials. Late last week, the Board of Trustees met to discuss a plan that will ensure that SAES survives the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Board decided unanimously that it is in the best interest of the school to postpone reopening until January 2021. By postponing our reopening until January, we will be able to keep some of our cash reserves as a cushion, which will allow for us to get through the spring as we repopulate the school. It is also our hope that, by January, the case rate of COVID-19 will be under control, both in Houston and beyond, and that we will all feel comfortable bringing children and staff back to SAES.
The broad financial details of our plan are as follows:
• Teachers and staff will be furloughed through December and therefore able to collect unemployment benefits.
• SAES will pay 100% of staff health benefits during this time (we normally pay 70% of these benefits).
• Nancy will remain on at 50% salary so that she can continue to plan for a safe reopening, and so that she can be available to parents and staff as needed.
We understand that this decision may be disappointing; please know that it was not made lightly. We also understand that you may have questions – please feel free to call or email us, and, if you are available, please plan to attend one of the following Zoom meetings:
Topic: SAES Parent Information Meeting
Time: Aug 4, 2020 07:00 PM Central Time (US and Canada)
Meeting ID: 837 9814 5769
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Meeting ID: 837 9814 5769
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Topic: SAES Parent Information Meeting
Time: Aug 7, 2020 12:00 PM Central Time (US and Canada)
Meeting ID: 816 6880 2373
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Meeting ID: 816 6880 2373
Find your local number: https://us02web.zoom.us/u/kccpxloIeE
Please rest assured that we will hold your child’s place at SAES until we reopen in January. Assuming that the status of the COVID-19 outbreak allows us to reopen in January as planned, we will reach out to you again in December to confirm your commitment to returning to SAES in January. In the meantime, we ask that you let us know as soon as possible if you make other plans for your child and s/he will not return to SAES in January.
We appreciate your support during this challenging time, and we look forward to welcoming you back to campus in 2021.
Nancy Simpson (Head of School) & Megan Cook (President, SAES Board of Trustees)
Dear SAES Families –
Just last week I wrote to you about our reopening plan and our intent to start school on August 19. As I stated in that letter, the health and safety of our families and teachers is our number one priority as we work to reopen St. Andrew’s. With that in mind, due to the consistently rising number of positive COVID-19 cases in Houston, it seems prudent to once again adjust our target start date. Following suit with HISD, our new target dates for reopening are Tuesday, September 8 for returning families and Monday, September 14 for new families.
We will still hold two informational Zoom meetings to discuss our reopening and risk mitigation plans and to answer your questions. However, these meetings have been rescheduled so that they fall closer to our anticipated reopening date: the first meeting will be on August 26 at 11:30am and the second meeting will be on September 3 at 1:00pm. I will send links to the meetings as these dates approach.
Though we are optimistic about having students return to St. Andrew’s this fall, we are unsure when it will be safe to do so. As you can imagine, having school completely closed for the past several months has greatly impacted our operating budget. We have worked to adjust the budget as our circumstances have changed, and we are fortunate that these adjustments have not yet impacted our staff. However, the longer we are closed, the more our budget is impacted. As we work to both forecast our budget for the remainder of this year and to determine what our curriculum will look like, it would be very helpful if each family would let us know your fall plans through this very brief survey:
I want to assure you that we are confident in the risk mitigation plan we have in place for our eventual reopening. We will continue to be vigilant in monitoring current scientific data and trends in Houston, and we will adjust our plans as necessary in order to ensure the safety of our families and our children. I will continue to update you regarding our reopening details as needed, but in the meantime, please do not hesitate to reach out with any questions or concerns. I hope you and your families are well.
Dear St. Andrew’s Families –
I hope this email finds you well! I am writing to update you on our plans for reopening SAES. As you know, we had hoped to open on Monday, August 3. However, given the recent rise in COVID-19 cases in our area, we have determined that our best course of action at this time is to return to school on our original start dates: for returning families, Wednesday, August 19, and for our new families, Monday, August 24.
As I mentioned in my last email, I have been working each week with a strong team of professional educators and physicians from Independent School Management. Through this work, our reopening team at SAES has created a blueprint for returning to school. We have all learned over the past several months that life during this time is unpredictable. Current scientific reports make it clear that living with COVID-19 must be a fluid process, rather than a one-time stop and restart. In that spirit, we are using the analogy of a dimmer switch as we prepare to reopen our school, with the safety of our students and staff as our first priority. Rather than thinking about our school closing and reopening in terms of a regular light switch, with our mandatory school closing in March as “off” and reopening this fall as “on,” in our dimmer switch model, we have four color coded levels of “on.” We will reopen with many restrictions in place, and when scientific data reflects a lower risk of spreading infection, we will relax our restrictions accordingly. This process is well thought out and will allow us to shift as needed in a variety of ways as we respond to the changing pandemic.
THE FOUR LEVELS OF REOPENING
The four levels of “on” in the dimmer switch model are: the red zone (strict risk mitigation practices); the orange zone (cautious risk mitigation practices); the yellow zone (moderate risk mitigation practices); and the green zone (relaxed risk mitigation practices). Regardless of the date on which we reopen, we will start in the red zone and move to the next levels only when scientific data supports a shift. In each of the four areas, we have addressed procedures for every part of the day: arrival and dismissal, snack, lunch, nap, work, work rugs, peer interactions, teacher interactions, bathroom time, and circle time. As you can imagine, this plan is very detailed, and too voluminous to share in its entirety in this email. Howevr, I do want to share with you a partial list of the policies and procedures that will be in effect as we operate in the red zone:
- Early morning care will not be possible during this phase of reopening.
- A staff member will meet you or your child’s caregiver in the parking lot when you arrive at school to escort your child in to school. Similarly, a staff member will escort your child out of school at the end of the day. In order to minimize risk and maintain a healthy environment, parents and caregivers will not be allowed on campus at this time.
- Children will wash their hands when they arrive in the building. Hand washing/sanitizing will take place frequently throughout the day.
- Teachers will periodically take children’s temperatures throughout the day.
- We will think of classrooms as cohorts and keep them separate from each other. In the red zone, each class will have separate outdoor time, and we will sanitize high touch areas such as playground equipment between each group’s use.
- Work rugs will be made of plastic to make frequent sanitization possible.
- The work in each classroom will be regularly sanitized.
- Music and chapel will not occur during this phase of reopening, but will resume when we reach the yellow zone.
- Each child must bring their own snack, lunch, and water bottle each day. Parents will be required to sanitize their child’s lunch kit and water bottle each day. Families may choose to send their child’s snack and lunch in disposable containers.
- We will send nap mats home each day to be washed.
- We will have a zero tolerance sick policy – if your child has any sort of illness (even a cold), you must keep him/her at home.
- We will continue our current stringent sanitization procedures, but we will sanitize more often throughout each day.
WHAT HAPPENS IF A STUDENT OR STAFF MEMBER IS EXPOSED TO OR DIAGNOSED WITH COVID-19?
In the event that a student or staff member is exposed to or diagnosed with COVID-19, we will inform all families in the classroom, and the classroom will be closed for 14 days. Before a child who has been diagnosed with COVID-19 may return to school, s/he must be symptom-free for 72 hours and must provide a doctor’s note stating that s/he is virus-free and eligible to return to school. Before an adult who has been diagnosed with COVID-19 may return to school, s/he must be symptom-free for 72 hours and have negative results from two COVID-19 tests. Any communication to families regarding health alerts will be compliant with HIPAA requirements.
As we have learned over the past few months, masks are a necessity as we navigate life during the pandemic. There has been much discussion on a national level among early childhood professionals about children and teachers wearing masks in the classroom. While there is scientific evidence that children are unlikely to get very sick from COVID-19, they are known to be carriers of the virus. However, the idea of children wearing masks at school is inherently problematic in an early childhood setting because young children have difficulty keeping masks on, or even wearing them properly. At this time, we will not require children to wear masks at school. However, if you would like for your child to wear a mask at school, s/he may do so. In an effort to keep teachers as safe as possible, they will wear masks and/or shields at school.
WHAT WE PROMISE
- We promise that the health and safety of students and staff will remain our first priority.
- We promise to continue to educate ourselves on COVID-19 and to assess new information as it becomes available.
- We promise to comply with applicable government orders and guidelines from the CDC, the Department of Health and Human Services, and local health authorities.
- We promise to provide a daily experience for your child that is as familiar as possible while implementing appropriate health and safety measures.
- We promise open and clear communication with our community members at all times.
- We promise to do our best at all times.
WHAT WE ASK OF YOU
A safe reopening of SAES will only be possible if we are in this together. We are taking every precaution to create a safe school environment, but we need you to partner with us in order to be successful. During our red phase, when we will implement our strictest mitigation practices, we will ask for your help in several areas. For example, as noted above, we will ask that you wash your child’s nap mat each day, and that you either send snack and lunch in disposable containers or that you sanitize your child’s lunch kit each day.
Additionally, before your child returns to school you will be asked to sign an agreement that states:
- You will commit to screen your child’s health daily, including a temperature check;
- You will commit keep your child at home if s/he has symptoms of any illness;
- You will immediately report to us if you, your child, or anyone in your family has come in contact with someone who has COVID-19, or who is presumed to have COVID-19; and
- You will not send your child to school if you or anyone in your household has any symptoms of COVID-19, which may include the following; fever or chills, cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, fatigue, muscle or body aches, headaches, new loss of taste or smell, sore throat, congestion or runny nose, nausea or vomiting, diarrhea.
Additionally, we ask that you work with your child at home to practice good health and hygiene protocols, such as frequent hand washing/sanitizing, coughing/sneezing into elbows, etc.
I realize that this is a lot of information to digest and that, due to the fluid nature of COVID-19, many questions remain. I invite you to call or email me with any questions. Please be aware that I will be out of the office from July 13-22.
The teachers and I will host two Zoom meetings to answer your questions: one on Wednesday, July 29, at 11:30am, and one on Thursday, August 6, at 1:00pm. I will send links to these meetings as we approach these dates. Your child’s teachers will also reach out to you during the week of August 10 to answer any questions you may have.
As always, I appreciate your patience and support during this time, and I thank you for your willingness to partner with us as we work to make our school as safe as possible when we reopen. We look forward to seeing you at school in August!
Dear SAES Families,
As of last weekend, we have officially entered summer! I hope the warmer weather and ample sunshine are giving you and your family many opportunities to be outside (and maybe even splash around in a pool somewhere!).
I am writing to let you know about our plans and the process involved to safely reopen our school on August 3. In order to develop the best possible plan to reopen and stay open, I am working virtually with a team of other private school educators and professionals who are part of the group Independent School Management (ISM). Beginning this month and continuing through September, we meet every Tuesday for two hours to work on a long list of details involved with reopening our schools. We also meet with three pediatricians every Thursday for one hour to learn about current information and research regarding COVID-19, as well as best practices for managing children in classroom settings during this time. The pediatricians are leaders in their field: Dr. Tanya Altmann is a professor at UCLA, has a private practice, and is the spokesperson for the American Academy of Pediatrics; Dr. David Rubin is the Director of PolicyLab Resource Center at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and is also on faculty at the hospital; and Dr. Adrianna Bravo is board certified in pediatrics and currently works as the Medical Director for Episcopal High School in Alexandria, Virginia.
In addition to working on the big picture components of our reopening, I am starting to map out the many detailed procedural changes that will be necessary to ensure the overall health and safety of our children and staff. This involves reexamining our daily logistics, including updating our arrival and dismissal procedures, coordinating schedules among the different classrooms, and determining what our chapel and music programs might look like. It also involves securing and maintaining proper PPE and cleaning supplies and implementing a plan for sanitizing our classrooms, restrooms, and playgrounds. In addition, we must consider the steps involved in the many different “what-if scenarios” that may occur over the next few months. Please know that although we are updating our procedures as best we can with the information we have at this time, we will need to be ready to pivot and continue to change as we respond to new information. Although we have much work to do, I feel confident that we will be able to safely reopen and maintain our environment as needed.
Over the next six weeks leading up to our scheduled reopening date, I will send you periodic updates via email. In mid-July I will set up two different opportunities for you to attend a Zoom meeting where I will outline our new procedures in more detail and you will have the opportunity to ask questions in an open forum.
We look forward to welcoming you back to school this August! Please do not hesitate to reach out at any time with questions or concerns.
Dear SAES Families,
The 2019-2020 school year will undoubtedly be one we will never forget. While the close of this school year looks much different than we could ever have imagined, as we near our last official days of the school year I continue to be grateful for our community. Although we are in separate homes, we have lived through this challenging time together – we have all navigated the fear of potential health risks, we all came to understand what “stay at home” really looks like, and now we all ponder the question that has no answer – how long will this last? For most of our community, this experience has included extra stress resulting from juggling work at home, the fear of being furloughed – or worse, losing a job – and lots and lots of family time (which is both stressful and joyful). Masks, social distancing, and sanitizing have all become part of the vernacular, and uncertainty continues to be a part of our reality.
When I first wrote to you about how SAES would respond to COVID-19, the idea that we would have to cancel our summer program or reschedule our start dates for the next school year was unimaginable. However, we have had to adapt to many changes during this unprecedented time, and we will once again have to be flexible as we look ahead at our summer program and the beginning of the fall semester.
As you know, both national and local authorities have mapped out steps for reopening businesses. However, the steps involved with reopening schools are still unclear. I can share with you that after listening to and participating in many discussions with educational groups at the state and national level, it is obvious that in order to reopen we will need to have several procedures in place in order to ensure a safe environment for both our students and our teachers. Checking temperatures, extra handwashing, and thorough sanitizing are the cornerstones for what will be a much longer list of daily practices required to safely reopen our school.
In my last letter, I indicated that we might delay the start of our summer program to mid-July. However, until the guidelines for reopening schools are clear, I do not feel comfortable bringing children back to school. Therefore, St. Andrew’s will remain closed through the summer. If you paid a deposit for summer enrollment, we will be in touch with you by the end of next week to determine whether you would like us to return your deposit to you or credit that amount to your account.
Our planned start date for the 2020-21 school year was Wednesday, August 19. Although many unknowns remain, it is my hope that we will be able to welcome students back to school this fall. While there is some ambiguity with any start date, we have set Monday, August 3 as a target date for the beginning of the 2020-21 school year. Of course, this plan is subject to change if area conditions drastically worsen or if national or local guidelines indicate a different path.
Our current plan is to welcome our returning families on Monday, August 3 and for new families to begin their school phase-ins the following Monday, August 10. Starting the school year a couple of weeks early will allow us much-needed extra time to reestablish relationships with our friends as they return to school after this extended break. It will also allow us a little extra time in the classroom after this unexpected interruption, and a head start on the school year in the event that there is another COVID-related disruption that requires a school closure. I have no doubt that the upcoming school year will look like no other we have ever experienced or imagined, but we are committed to reopening in the safest manner possible and making it the best year we can.
Over the next several weeks we will continue to research and plan for the safe reopening of our school. We will share additional information with you as we clarify the steps we will take to ensure that SAES is a safe place for your children and our teachers/staff. In the meantime, the teachers, staff, and I will be working on some larger projects around the school and we will all be checking our email regularly.
On a lighter note, we are hoping to have a few virtual family music classes with Ms. Heidi this summer! Please be on the lookout for more information and an inquiry about the best times for your family to participate in these classes.
I look forward to seeing you (from a safe distance) next Wednesday, May 20 from 10am-12pm when you visit St. Andrew’s to pick up your child’s items. We will send more details about this process in next Monday’s email.
It is impossible to convey to you how much we miss seeing you and our dear Toddler and Early Childhood friends. I can’t wait to be fully reunited with our SAES family! Until then, I wish you a safe, healthy, and peaceful summer. As always, please do not hesitate to reach out with any questions or concerns.
Dear SAES Families,
Thank you for your continued support and patience throughout this unprecedented and confusing time. Over the past several weeks, we have had to make some tough decisions regarding our program. Although it has been difficult at times to know whether we are making the right call, I feel confident that our first decision to extend spring break, as well as our second decision to remain closed for the remainder of the school year, were right and timely. Further, consistent feedback from our school community parents has assured me that by making these decisions sooner, rather than later, we helped to reduce your anxiety.
As you know, new and varying information emerges daily about how to navigate the COVID-19 experience. As we determine our next steps, we are taking every precaution to keep safe every child, family, and teacher – with that in mind, please carefully read the following information:
We do not know when, exactly, the current stay-at-home order will be lifted, and when it is, what our next steps will look like. The list of unknowns is much greater than what we do know. For instance, what kinds of procedures will we need to have in place to reopen the school? Will we need to ask the children to practice social distancing? Limit the numbers of people permitted at drop-off and pickup? Check temperatures? Stagger attendance times and days for children as well as staff? What kinds of PPE will we need to have? These, among many other questions, will have to be answered before we can safely reopen our doors.
Given these unknowns, I am not confident that we will have the answers or necessary systems in place that will allow for our projected June 1 summer program start date. Although we have not yet made a final decision about a new start date, I wanted to let you know that we will not open for our summer program on June 1. We will make an informed decision within the next week regarding a new targeted start date. It is possible that we will have an abbreviated summer program beginning in mid-July, or that we will not have a summer program at all. In the event that we cancel our summer program entirely, your summer deposit will either be credited to your account or refunded to you.
End of School Procedures
Our virtual school year will conclude on Wednesday, May 20. We are saddened by the fact that we will not have the opportunity this year to have our traditional goodbye circles for our friends who are moving on from St. Andrew’s. We are working on a plan for hosting virtual goodbye circles, and we will share our plans with you as soon as we have finalized the details. Whether or not your child will return to SAES next year, you will have an opportunity to pick up your child’s belongings from school on Thursday, May 21 or Friday, May 22.
- Our teachers are working hard to provide your children with a connection to the school through daily video posts on their individual classroom Instagram pages. The teachers are also available via email from 9am-3pm, Monday through Friday, to answer your questions and offer support.
- Please pay what you can toward your May tuition invoice. I have heard from some of you who are not able to pay the full tuition amount; with a written explanation, all unpaid balances will be forgiven. Others have communicated that you will be able to pay the full tuition amount; we are thankful for that and we appreciate your continued support.
- We have applied for a Payroll Protection Plan loan. If the loan is approved, it will be used to cover the gap in revenue resulting from the change to/cancellation of our summer program and will allow us to continue to pay our very committed teachers. It would be tragic if we were not able to keep our teachers – they are the heart and soul of our daily school culture.
- Parent-teacher conferences will look a little different this year. Each family is invited to a Zoom meeting with your child’s teacher during the week of May 4. Due to the scheduling of these meetings, the teachers will not post daily Instagram videos that week. Please reach out to your teacher if you do not have a conference time scheduled.
No doubt this is the most challenging time our community has experienced. Amidst the confusion and uncertainty, I am so very grateful for our school family and I look forward to reuniting with each of you. As always, please do not hesitate to reach out with any questions or concerns.
Dear SAES Families,
Over the past weeks, we have all had to adjust to many unforeseen changes. The uncertainty of it all colors every decision we make, and it is impossible to know when things will return to what will undoubtedly be yet another “new normal.” As you know, in response to the COVID-19 virus, state and local authorities have requested that we continue to follow the “stay at home” order until April 30, making unrealistic our plan of returning to school by April 14. Some schools have penciled in May 4 as a restart day, and HISD has published that its schools will remain closed “until further notice” – no doubt in an effort to avoid an unrealistic optimism that things will return to normal by early May. Based on as much information and council as I can gather, I do not believe it is realistic that we will be able to safely return to SAES by May 4. Accordingly, and in an effort to provide some peace and stability to you in this uncertain time, I have determined that our new target date to return to school is June 1, the first day of our summer session. With that new target date in mind, I would like to respond to some questions that have come up as we settle in to our current routine:
What Can I Expect from Teachers?
- Each classroom will continue to post on its Instagram page daily videos of circle time, a story, or a general “checking in.” You can expect to see these videos between 10 and 11am, Monday-Friday, with the exception of school holidays. This Friday, April 10 (Good Friday) and next Monday, April 13 (Easter Monday) are school holidays, so you will not see videos from your teachers on those days. Check back throughout the day, as the teachers often post bonus videos and other fun things in addition to their morning videos.
- Teachers will sift through the many available online resources related to the weekly work each class is doing, and the school will email a list of suggested resources to all parents each Monday. In addition, teachers will send a note to their classroom families each Friday regarding the following week’s overall theme.
- Teachers will be available as a resource during regular school hours, 9:00am-3:00pm, Monday-Friday, via their classroom email addresses. Please remember that the teachers, too, are at home with their families and are juggling many dynamics – but know that they have committed to checking their email regularly.
- As we attempt to navigate this new way of schooling, I am meeting with the teachers as a group at least twice a week, and I am staying in touch with them individually through emails, phone calls, and texts. This is a work in progress, but I can assure you that each teacher is working very hard to connect with families and to provide the children with some sense of their normal classroom routine. Please continue to be patient with us as we navigate this new process.
Is Zoom Safe?
The Early Childhood classrooms are periodically setting up Zoom visits so that EC friends can see each other and share what is going on in their worlds. Recently, there have been news stories about Zoom meeting rooms being invaded by unwanted guests. I have checked in with colleagues from various schools around the country and, thankfully, none who are using Zoom with younger children have experienced any inappropriate activity. However, in an effort to ensure that our Zoom calls are as safe as possible, our teachers are asking participants to use a password to join the call, and they are controlling who is allowed to participate in each meeting. I trust that on your end of the conversation there is an adult supervising the experience as well.
What About Parent-Teacher Conferences?
Parent-teacher conferences were originally scheduled as in-person meetings on April 30 and May 1; however, due to our current circumstances, our parent-teacher conferences will be held via Zoom meetings the week of May 4. Your child’s teacher will be in touch with you soon to schedule your meeting.
What About May Invoices?
Thank you to those who have sent in their April tuition! As with any business, the school has standing financial obligations – our biggest responsibility right now is our payroll, which includes medical insurance for the teachers, as well as other general benefits. I have committed to the teachers that they will continue to be paid through May. Although I hope you are able to honor your tuition contract, I know these are hard times. The instructions regarding invoices are the same for May as they were for April: please pay what you can. If you are having a particular financial challenge, I ask that you send a personal note to my email explaining the circumstances keeping you from paying your tuition. As I have previously mentioned, I understand that some of you are uncertain about the future of your job and some are already experiencing financial difficulty, and this is compounded by the fact that none of us can put a timeline on this story. I know each family has many financial obligations to consider, and I am humbled to know that you have chosen St. Andrew’s as your partner in your child’s early childhood education.
What About Summer and Fall Enrollment?
Summer and Fall enrollment forms are due this Friday, April 10. There are two ways you may submit your enrollment forms and pay the associated deposits:
- Option 1: Mail your enrollment forms and deposits to the school at the following address: St. Andrew’s Episcopal School, Attn: Debbie Masters, 1819 Heights Blvd., Houston, TX 77008. Please note: you may write one check for both deposits (summer and fall).
- Option 2: Scan and send the enrollment forms to Debbie’s email, email@example.com, and pay the associated deposits through the school’s online portal. Please note: there is a fee associated with online payments.
Debbie will send you a sales receipt via QuickBooks when she receives your enrollment forms and deposits. Please do not hesitate to contact Debbie or me with any questions about enrollment.
On a personal note, I truly hope that amidst the chaos, uncertainty, and fear of this experience, you are able to see the positives and enjoy some time with your family, out of your regular busy routine and without the frequent distractions with which most of us typically live. Your children are only little once, and I hope you are able to share many happy moments with them during this time. Also, please remember to take good care of yourselves. Sometimes the basics are most important during stressful times – eating, drinking water, resting, and laughing. I will keep you in my daily prayers and I will reach out to you with updates as things evolve over the next few weeks. In the meantime, I am happy to answer any questions and respond to any concerns you may have; please do not hesitate to reach out to me via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Peace be with you,
Dear SAES Families,
I hope this finds you well. Yesterday, the teachers and I had an extensive virtual meeting to discuss what we can offer our friends and families during this time away from school. As I mentioned in my previous letter, distance learning for children of a young age presents a unique challenge, particularly when considering the specialization found in a Montessori environment.
If your inbox is anything like mine, it is inundated with daily emails giving advice about how to handle life during this challenging time. I have no doubt you know what to do on that front, so let me get to the nuts and bolts of what you can expect from your teacher and our school over the next few weeks.
What You Can Expect From Teachers
- Each family should receive a phone call this week from your child’s teacher. The purpose of this call is to check in and also to confirm the details of what you can expect from your classroom in the next few weeks.
- Starting at 11:00am this Wednesday, March 25, each classroom will post on its Instagram account a short video of circle time, a story, or just a general “checking in.” Expect to see these posts daily, Monday through Friday.
- Teachers will be available to you as a resource Monday through Friday during regular school hours (9:00am – 3:00pm). Please contact them using their classroom email, which they will check regularly. We also ask that you please remember that they, too, are at home with their families and juggling many dynamics.
- In addition to the videos you will receive from your teachers, there are many other resources available with ideas for Montessori work you can do at home. The teachers will sift through these many available resources, and each Monday we will send an email to all families with suggestions for activities you can do with your children at home.
- Please be patient with us. This is a work in progress, and I can assure you that we are striving to provide more ways to stay connected to our friends. We miss each of you!
- We are still penciled in to return to school on Tuesday, April 14. However, as you are undoubtedly aware, this may change. We will continue to follow the lead of local authorities in making decisions regarding our school’s closure.
Regarding Tuition and April Invoices
I know and understand that living through the COVID-19 outbreak and response is unlike anything we have ever experienced. In addition to working from home, learning how to be home with your whole family every day, guiding older children through schoolwork, and practicing social distancing, there is much more going on in everyone’s world. I realize that some of you are uncertain about the future of your jobs, and some are already experiencing financial difficulty. Compounding all of these challenges is the fact that none of us can put a timeline on the story.
Like everyone, the school has standing financial obligations. Our largest monthly obligation is our payroll, which includes medical insurance and other general benefits for the teachers. I have committed to our teachers that the school will be able to pay them through May, even if the worst case scenario happens and we are out of school for that long. To that end, we are going to send out our regular invoices for April so that we can continue to support our operating budget. Our expectation is that you will pay what you can; if you are having a particular challenge, we understand. I just ask that you send me a personal note to my email explaining what you can (or can’t) do in response to your April invoice. For those of you have paid already, thank you! I know each family has many financial obligations to consider, and I am humbled to know that you have chosen St. Andrew’s as your partner in your child’s early education.
I am happy to answer any questions and respond to any concerns. Please reach out any time to: email@example.com.
Dear SAES Parents,
Earlier this evening, HISD announced that its schools will remain closed through April 10th. It is our priority to ensure the safety of our children and families, and in light of national and local efforts to mitigate the spread of the COVID-19 virus, we will follow HISD’s lead and extend our school closure. SAES will remain closed through Easter Monday, which was already scheduled as a school holiday, and at this time we plan to reopen on Tuesday, April 14th.
Many of my colleagues in much larger schools are preparing for distance learning – something that is easy to do with older students and a laptop. Our situation is different; learning during the earlier stages of child development has different requirements. Please allow us this next week (following our spring break week) to discern how we can best support you and your child during this difficult and unprecedented situation. Already, you should have received information about our Prelude Music program, which is generously sharing music, yoga, and a reading of a new book on mindfulness for children with you this week via Facebook.
I appreciate your patience and support during this time. I have always been proud of the strong sense of community at St. Andrew’s, and I know we will weather this storm together. I will be in touch with you as we plan and navigate our next steps. In the meantime, please feel free to reach out to me with questions or concerns.
Dear SAES families,
I am writing to communicate our next steps regarding the COVID-19 outbreak. As you probably know, we typically follow HISD’s lead concerning school closures. Although HISD has not declared a closure at this time, given the high alert in our community and the State of Emergency declared by Mayor Turner yesterday, we have decided to close school for the week following spring break, March 23-27. Our primary motivation is to protect the health and safety of all members of our community. While I trust that we have your support, I recognize that this may present childcare challenges for some families. Please know that this decision was made with the best interest of your children at heart. By closing school and following the CDC’s recommendations for preventing the spread of COVID-19, we hope to do our part in mitigating the spread of COVID-19 within the larger community of Houston.
As we approach spring break, we realize that some people may go ahead with previously made travel plans. Out of an abundance of caution, we ask that you let us know if you travel during the break. Regardless of your travel plans, if your children or other family members have any symptoms of COVID-19, please remain at home and seek medical advice before returning to school.
Because we will be closed on the 27th, which is the deadline for re-enrollment and summer 2020 registration forms, at this time we will extend the deadline until April 3.
Please know that we will continue to monitor this incredibly fluid situation, and we will keep in touch with medical experts, our peer schools, and local public health officials as we make decisions moving forward.
I will be in touch with any additional news. Stay safe, and I hope you are able to find the silver lining in this situation and enjoy this extra time with your children.
Dear St. Andrew’s Episcopal School Families,
I write to reassure you that SAES is monitoring the highly fluid situation with regards to the coronavirus/COVID-19 outbreak. Currently, respected regional and world health organizations are reporting that that coronavirus/COVID-19 continues to pose a low health risk for most citizens. However, with media outlets also reporting concerns from the CDC and WHO above the potential for “severe disruptions” caused by the spread of the virus, I want to assure you that we are monitoring the situation and working to formulate our plans for preventing, mitigating, and responding to a potential local viral outbreak.
Outlined below are elements of our current efforts with respect to managing potential disruptions caused by the spread of a highly contagious virus. In addition to these plans and protocols at school, please note that every SAES family also plays a vital role in helping to minimize the potential impact of a local viral outbreak.
SAES Plan for Prevention, Mitigation, and Response
Prevention, mitigation, and response protocols for a potential viral outbreak at SAES are taken from the CDC publication entitled “Get Your School Ready for Pandemic Flu.” https://www.cdc.gov/nonpharmaceutical-interventions/pdf/gr-pan-flu-ed-set.pdf. Although we are a small early childhood community, many of these processes are relevant to SAES. Please take the time to review this publication, as it contains valuable information for the entire community. This publication outlines important actions and measures for families to take at home as well.
If necessary, decisions about timelines and circumstances for closing and re-opening the school will be made by school leadership in consultation with local public health officials, as well as leaders of other independent schools in the area. Information regarding any emergency situation will be communicated through established school communication channels (the Remind messaging system, school email, and social media).
How to Protect your Family and Contribute to Keeping the Community Safe
We strongly encourage everyone to continue healthy hygiene practices, as we remain in the midst of cold and flu season. Most importantly, keep your children home if they are ill, and do not allow them to return to school until they are symptom-free for 24 hours.
Other steps you can take are:
- All family members are urged to get seasonal flu vaccinations and take steps to avoid spreading any upper respiratory illness.
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- Clean and disinfect regularly.
- Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds (about as long as it takes to sing your ABC’s).
- If soap and water are not available, use a an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
- If you show symptoms of a cold or flu, the most important thing you can do is to stay home. Call your physician if you have any health concerns.
- Please immediately notify SAES and do not come to school if, in the past 14 days, any of the following apply:
- You have traveled to or through areas with documented community disease transmission (Mainland China, South Korea, Italy, Iran, or Japan).
- You have had close contact with persons who have traveled to or through areas with documented community disease transmission (Mainland China, South Korea, Italy, Iran, or Japan).
- You have had close contact with persons who may have been exposed to or diagnosed with coronavirus (COVID-19).
Additional Information and Resources
For more tips and ideas about how to protect your family, check out these resources:
The safety and well-being of our families continues to be our priority, and we will make all decisions with that in mind. As always, please feel free to reach out with any questions or concerns.
Head of School