COVID-19 Updates

Town Hall Wrap Up 
November Town Hall FAQs

What do we need to bring for lunch? 
Please bring a simple lunch, a yoga or beach mat/beach towel, and a clean mask in a ziplock bag. We will not be using lunch vendors this fall. The mat can be any size, teachers will help space them out so that students are 6 ft apart.

What happens if it too cold to eat outside? 
We will try to eat outside whenever possible. In extreme weather students will eat inside with both doors open and plexiglass dividers between students. No talking will be allowed if masks are off inside. If you would prefer your child to eat outside no matter what, please let your classroom teacher and your child know.

What is my child’s specific schedule? 
Please see our MySchool page for grade level details.

What will remote learners be doing when another cohort is on campus?  
Remote learners will continue to do a combination of synchronous and asynchronous activities. Your grade level teachers will let you know when you need to live stream into the classroom.

Will study hall of aftercare be offered during Phase 5? 
No, in an effort to limit the mixing of cohorts, there will be no aftercare or study hall during phase 5.

Will GSA remain open for in-person learning between Thanksgiving and Winter Break?  
Yes, our school calendar will remain as is. If your family plans to go to remote only during this time, please let your classroom teacher or advisor know as soon as possible.

Do we need to quarantine if we travel for the holidays? 
It depends on how you are mitigating risks (traveling by auto or plane, seeing others inside or outside, using masks, etc.) Please review the GSA Family Commitment and the CDC guidelines to determine how your travel plans elevate your risk and reach out if you have specific questions.

What will the protocols be if there is a positive case on campus? 
If there is a case of COVID-19 within an on-campus group, anyone who was in contact with that individual will have to go back to distance learning only for at least two weeks. Multiple cases could result in the whole school returning to distance learning only. We will let our families know if there is a positive case in our community, and confidentiality will be maintained. Please see our  COVID Response Policy for more details.

How will GSA ensure adequate air-flow in all learning spaces?  
All of our learning spaces meet or exceed the present recommended standards for airflow with or without the doors open and include MERV 13 filters (which accomplish over 6 air changes per hour) and air purifiers. One or both doors will remain open as the weather allows. Students should dress in layers.

Is the school in a stable financial position? 
Yes, the school is in a stable financial position but the success of this year, and any year, is reliant on full enrollment and meeting our fundraising goals.

Can the school livestream or share summaries of board meetings and medical council meetings?
The GSA Board of Trustees will be settling into a more customary meeting and community report schedule.   The Board will meet once a month and distribute a community report within the two weeks following a meeting.   The Board meetings are closed meetings, but consideration will be given for future forums like the one we held January a year ago.   This will be done in collaboration with our Head of School to ensure cohesiveness.   We will also begin to send a recap of the medical council meetings.

What are the times for drop off and pick up?
See times below. Students with siblings arrive with the oldest sibling and depart with the oldest.

Drop Off
8th, 7th, and 6th: 7:40 am -7:50 am

5th, 4th & 3rd: 7:50 am – 8:00 am
2nd, and 1st & K: 8:00 am – 8:10 am

Pick Up
Kinder:1:30 pm
1st:  2:55 pm
2nd, 3rd, & 4th: 3:05 pm – 3:15 pm
5th & 6th: 3:10 pm – 3:20 pm
7th & 8th: 3:15 pm – 3:20 pm
Phase 5 Information 
  • Students will remain in cohort assignments. We are following an A/B model (Cohort A on campus Monday and Wednesday, Cohort B on campus Tuesday and Thursday). Your teacher will reach out if your daughter’s cohort is changing.
  • Please reach out to your classroom teacher/advisor if you are switching from on-campus to remote or vice versa as soon as possible so they can plan accordingly.
  • Complete the Phase 5 Pre-Attendance Check-list each day your child is on campus. Please bookmark this new link. 
  • There will be a 20-minute lunch break outside (except when it is below 55*F and/or strong rains).
  • If cold and/or rainy, students will eat in classrooms with desk dividers and only remove masks to eat.
  • Students should bring lunch from home; please send a simple lunch.
  • Students should bring a beach mat or yoga mat every day to sit on during lunchtime; this will allow us to maintain physical distancing. Students will take their mats home daily for cleaning.
  • Students should bring an extra mask in a baggie to put on a clean mask after eating lunch.
  • The following rooms and outdoor areas will be utilized during Phase 5:
    • All Lower School Classrooms
    • 2 Middle School Classrooms Upstairs
    • Science Room
    • Art Room
    • MUB
    • One Converted Classroom in Lisa’s House
    • Music Room for individual piano lessons
    • Upstairs Deck
    • Outdoors Spaces as much as possible
  • All of our learning spaces meet or exceed the present recommended standards for airflow with or without the doors open and include MERV 13 filters and air purifiers. One or both doors will remain open as the weather allows. Students should dress in layers.

Moving to Phase 5 – November 9, 2020

We will be moving into our Phase 5 plan on November 9. In our phase 5 model each cohort in grades 1-8 will be on campus two full days a week. Kindergarten will be on campus four days a week. Our Phase 5 schedule is almost complete and we will share that with you next week.  Please let your classroom teacher or advisor know if you plan to switch from remote only to on-campus or vice versa for Phase 5.

We will be holding town hall meetings the week of November 2 to go over Phase 5, review safety protocols, and answer your questions. The lower school town hall will be on Wednesday ((11/4) evening 6 -7 pm and the Middle School town hall will be on Thursday (11/5) evening 6 -7 pm. You may submit questions ahead of time on our My School Page. Please submit questions by noon the day prior to the meeting. A zoom link will be sent via email next week.


Phase 4 Details

Phase 4 Begins on October 5, 2020

Phase 4 Pre-Attendance Checklist

Phase 4 On-Campus Schedule 

  • Kinder will meet four times a week from 8:30 – 11:30 am, Monday – Thursday.
  • Grade levels 1- 8 will be split into two cohorts (A&B) to allow us to utilize more learning spaces including classrooms.
  • Grades 1-5 will meet two times a week from 8:30 – 11:30 am either on Monday & Tuesday or Wednesday & Thursday.
  • Grades 6-8 will meet twice a week from 1 – 4 pm Monday – Wednesday. They will also meet on Thursdays 1-4 pm, one grade level at a time, once every three weeks (6th – 10/8, 7th – 10/15, 8th – 10/22, and so on).  See the schedule above for details.
  • All students K-8 will have distance learning only on Fridays.
  • Students will have both core and special areas on campus, specific subjects will vary by grade level.
  • On the days your daughter is not on campus she will be live streaming into the classroom with the teacher and cohort that are on campus for core instruction. This will be done through Zoom.  Students who are doing distance learning only will zoom into class on A & B days.
  • Each grade will continue to also have distance learning with synchronous and asynchronous activities when they are not on campus.
  • In addition to outdoor areas, lower school students will be using their classrooms and 5th grade will be using the science room. Grades 6th-8th will be using the 4th grade classroom, science room, and the MUB.
  • Both classroom doors will be open in every classroom throughout the day and the MUB wall will be open. The Medical/Scientific Advisory Council has compared our HVAC systems to a Harvard study, and it shows that our systems can accomplish over 6 air changes per hour (ACH), which is the highest (Ideal) category in the study. The GSA HVAC systems use MERV 13 filters and are doing an excellent job of moving air and keeping indoor air quality high (see table for details). Thank you to the council for putting this together. For the few classrooms that do not meet the target ACH we are doing the following: increasing outdoor air; using MERV13 filters; and adding portable air cleaners with HEPA filters to the classroom. We have added HEPA filters to all the classrooms and the MUB as an extra precaution.
  • Grade level schedules are available on the MySchool page.

 

Community Update September 17 – Reminders for Phase 3 Preparing for Phase 3 Please follow the steps below if your child will be attending the on-campus learning opportunities

This week 

  • Please make sure you have returned the GSA Family Commitment and if you have not already, your 20-21 health form.

  • Talk to your daughter about healthy habits on campus – remaining 6ft from others, washing/sanitizing hands often, and closing the toilet seat before flushing.

  • Have your child practice wearing her mask and taking it on and off independently.  Watch our ‘How to Wear a Mask’ video.
  • Be sure you have been following the GSA Family Commitment for 14 days prior to your child coming on campus. See our COVID page for requirements around learning pods and extracurriculars.  Contact Dr. Peña if you have questions.

The Morning of Your Child’s On-campus Class.  

  • Complete the daily health screening before arriving on campus. 

  • Students should pack a water bottle, a mask, a spare mask, and a ziplock for a used mask. No large backpacks please (learning materials will be provided unless you have heard otherwise from your child’s teacher).

When You Arrive 

  • Plan to arrive 10-15 minutes before the start of class time. 
  • Pull through driveway and let your child out at the health screening station (they must be wearing a mask).
  • Your child should remain in the car until the health screening station is available.

  • Please remain in your car during drop off.
  • Pull forward in the driveway or into a space until your child’s temperature check is complete.

What Your Child Can Expect on Campus 

  • Everyone on campus will wear masks at all times. Teachers may also be wearing face shields.
  • Hand sanitizing stations are present around the campus, including the entrance. Everyone should sanitize their hands before entering the campus.
  • Students will remain 6 ft apart from their peers and teachers while on campus.

  • Students will follow the one-way traffic flow to avoid passing others.

  • Students will be completing teacher-led activities in the MUB (with the sidewall open) and/or outdoor spaces (+ the art room with doors open for 8th grade)

  • The indoor areas will be cleaned between grade levels

  • HEPA filters have been installed in the indoor spaces we are utilizing in Phase 3.

What Your Child Can Expect Off-Campus 

  • The rest of your child’s distance learning schedule will remain the same, except for the time(s) they are scheduled to be on campus. (see Phase 3 schedule).

  • Please refer to your grade level teacher’s communications on how students who are continuing with distance learning only will be participating during this time.

  Community Update September 10 – Preparing for Phase 3  We will be moving into Phase 3 of our learning phases on September 21. We will remain in this learning phase until at least October 5. Phase 3 Schedule Preparing for Phase 3

  • Make sure your family is following the GSA Family Commitment. 
  • Fill, sign, and return the GSA Family Commitment to info@thegirlsschool.org or mail to GSA.  Please return by September 18. 
  • Have a selection of masks for your child that she is comfortable wearing (see our mask guidelines).
  • Watch our How to Wear a Mask Video with your daughter and have her practice taking her mask on and off independently.
  • Practice regular hand-washing. Make it fun – use songs, visuals, or challenges (ex. wash off a stamp).
  • Have your child get in the habit of shutting the toilet seat before flushing. Practice the “close, flush, wash” routine.
  • Make sure 20-21 health forms have been returned.

Phase 3 Q & A

What was the rationale for moving to phase 3 at this time?  Given the current local context of COVID cases, our medical and scientific council has recommended that GSA can safely move into Phases 2 – 4 for our next learning phase. Taking in to account the number of families that are willing to come on campus, our available spaces, and staff availability, Phase 3 was the best fit for September 21. We are already evaluating our next move which will start on October 5 – this could be a move into Phase 4, remaining in Phase 3 or even moving back into Phase 1 or 2 as local conditions dictate.

Why is each class only meeting for two and a half hours a week?  During this phase, only one grade will be on campus at a time in either the MUB or outdoors. This allows us to keep our total number of people on campus low and have one cohort per grade. One grade will meet in the morning and a second group will meet after lunch. The only exception to this is Monday afternoons which will have 5th and 8th grade on campus at the same time, this is possible because we have a smaller group for 8th grade who can utilize the science room.

Why isn’t GSA doing more on-campus learning at this time?   The size of our campus and classrooms prevent us from having more than 9 students per grade safely in the Lower Grade classrooms and no more than 4 students in the upstairs Middle School classrooms attend at a time unless we utilize the MUB for each class. As we look to move into the next phases of learning, we will need to split the groups into cohorts to accommodate everyone safely. Another factor to consider for our small school is our limited number of faculty and their own commitments, risk factors, and comfortability.

What if I changed my mind about our family’s participation in distance learning from the answers we gave in the survey?   Now that we have shared more details of the next phase your answer to whether you will participate in on-campus learning may have changed. If that is the case, please reach out to your classroom teacher/advisor and copy communications@thegirlsschool.org so that we can plan accordingly.

What happens if there is a COVID case on campus during Phase 3? If there is a case of COVID-19 within an on-campus group, anyone who was in contact with that individual will have to go back to distance learning only for at least two weeks. Multiple cases could result in the whole school returning to distance learning only. We will let our families know if there is a positive case in our community, and confidentiality will be maintained. Please see our  COVID Response Policy for more details.

Our daughter is participating in a learning pod, can she attend in-person classes at the GSA?   When planned and implemented carefully, learning pods can be a safe and effective way to share childcare and education responsibilities between several families. However, if safety precautions are not followed properly, learning pods can drastically increase the risk level of all those participating. Our Medical/Scientific Advisory Council recommends learning pods follow all safety precautions. Keep the groups small (ideally 6 or fewer people), wear masks, remain 6 feet apart, and spend as much time outdoors as possible.  Every student should have her own equipment and be on her own screen when online with their classes. If you have questions, please contact the GSA school administration.

Should we continue to consider distance learning if my daughter wants to take part in indoor sports or activities?  Indoor sports (ie. karate, basketball, dance, gymnastics, etc.) are considered very high risk because of the level of effort, the duration, and the indoor spaces in which these classes usually occur. Any time you exercise at a moderate to high level, breathing becomes deeper and more rapid making it more likely that you will spread the virus if you are infected. If your daughter wishes to participate in an indoor sport, please engage in distance learning only.

What are the uniform requirements during Phase 3? Because our students may be outside for longer than usual during this phase, they may wear any GSA uniform shirt (including spiritwear) with navy uniform bottoms and closed-toed shoes (mary janes, flats, or tennis shoes). We have lots of gently used uniforms available in our ‘uniform closet’. Contact Dr. Peña to make an appointment.


Community Update September 2 – Our Next Learning Phase For our next learning phase, we are recommending a modified version of Phase 3. This will allow all grades K-8 to meet on campus one day per week for approximately two hours. This learning phase will begin on September 21, one week later than what was previously announced. This brief delay will allow our faculty and staff sufficient time to operationally modify current distant learning schedules, learning objectives, and logistics. This extra week also gives families enough time to review and prepare using the family commitment guidelines. I realize for some, our move for on-campus learning is too slow; however, it is important to keep in mind that the GSA footprint and the limited number of teachers per grade level, do not allow for faster movement at this time. As stated before, all phases will be adjusted as needed based on local health conditions and guidance from various governing bodies.

Modified Phase 3 – What You Need to Know 
  • GSA will move into a modified Phase 3 on September 21, 2020.

  • Each grade (K-8) will come on campus one day a week for approximately two hours.
  • Class activities will be determined by the grade level team and may include academics, specials, and enrichment.
  • Families who wish to send their daughter to campus in phase 3 must start following the family commitment guidelines beginning on September 7.  If you have questions about an activity, please contact Dr. Peña.

  • A schedule by grade level will be sent out as soon as we have it available.

  • More specific plans of what students will be doing during that time will be sent out by grade level teachers/advisors.

  • We are assessing our live streaming capabilities and other creative solutions for those not participating on-campus.

  • We will use outdoor spaces and the MUB (multi-purpose building aka the gym) to accommodate one cohort per grade.

  • Our medical/scientific council has determined the use of the  MUB to be safe for 10 or more girls and a teacher. With the sidewall open, the MUB has very good ventilation and students can be spaced 6 ft apart.

  • Teachers may also reserve a time to meet with individuals or small groups for advancement or support.
  • If you have not already submitted your child’s annual health form (signed by a physician) please do so before they return to campus.

Community Update August 11 – Virtual Town Hall FAQs

When will families receive grade level schedules? 
Schedules will be sent by Friday, August 14.

Will GSA follow AISD and delay the start school by three weeks?  
No. School will begin on August 19. The first three days of school will focus on relationship building and will look a little different. Our regular schedule will start on Monday, August 24.

What will distance learning look like? 
Distance learning will include all core subjects and specials. Students will complete synchronous (live meetings with the teacher) and asynchronous (independent work) learning Monday – Friday. Instruction will begin at 9 am. The amount of time per day will vary by grade level. All grades will have built-in breaks and self-paced assignments. K-3 will be using Seesaw and grades 4 – 8 will use Canvas to organize assignments.  More details will be provided in the schedule and by your grade level teachers.

Are students required to wear uniforms during distance learning? 
No. Students are required to be dressed for the day (no PJs) and GSA shirts are recommended but not required.

Are health forms still required prior to August 19? 
No. We understand that some families are delaying well-checks due to COVID-19. Health forms (signed by a physician) will be required before your daughter can return to campus.

How will we receive learning materials/school supplies and how will ‘open house/orientation work this year? 
We will let you know our plan for materials and open house by Friday, August 14.

Will middle school receive grades? 
We will return to our regular grading scale/protocols that we used prior to the spring semester. See the handbook for details.

What will trigger a move between phases? 
We are committed to getting our students back on campus as soon as it is safe to do so. The medical/scientific council is working closely with the task force to regularly evaluate our next move. We are using an evidence-based approach; however, there is no single factor that will trigger a decision. We will be closely monitoring local community spread, hospitalizations, test positive rates, and guidance from local authorities.

What if GSA moves to on-campus instruction before a family is ready to do so?  
Distance learning options, such as live streaming, will be available for families who elect to stay home during the hybrid phases 2-5.

How will GSA respond to a positive case on campus? 
GSA will contact the health department and follow their recommendations. We will promptly inform families of any positive cases in our community.

How can we support teachers/GSA during this time? 
Although many of our teachers have been busy preparing over the summer our official start date was Monday, August 10. We appreciate your continued support and ask for your patience and understanding as we work to finalize schedules and iron out the details this week.

How will GSA build community during distance learning? 
Building a community will remain an important part of GSA while we are off-campus. Efforts will include, relationship building within grade levels, weekly community meetings, sister group activities, virtual hangouts, and adapting our GSA traditions.

Community Update July 21

School Will Start August 19 using a Distance Learning Plan.

After careful review of all current guidance and discussions with the task force and the newly created GSA medical/scientific advisory council, we will begin our school year through full distance learning for all grades (see phase 1 below) until at least September 7, 2020. However, we are committed to being creative and will attempt to find time for our girls to be on campus during these three weeks of full distance learning. This time on campus will be non-instructional time and will be meaningful time together for our girls and their teachers.

Academic Phase-In Plans
We have created six academic phase-in plans to determine when and how to bring our girls safely and smartly on campus. Each of the academic plans have details that our staff will be ready to implement when a shift is needed. These phases will accommodate any eventuality that may arise. This is a living document that we will continue to evolve as we learn more. Flexibility and ongoing communication will be key.

GSA 2020 -2021 Academic Phase-In Plans

Movement Between Phases: An Evidence-Based Approach
Our allegiance to both the education and health, both physical and emotional, of our girls, faculty, and their families will be our guiding principle.  The GSA community is unique in its size and composition enabling us to quickly react to changing local conditions and the impact to our community. We have created a medical/scientific advisory council that will convene weekly to present data on our current health environment to advise our Task Force. This council will consider all regulations and guidelines and the state and local cases and trends to drive our evidence-based approach.  Through collective discussion, the council will make recommendations as to which iteration of our academic plan is most appropriate for our Community at any given time. These recommendations will be presented to HOS and the Board Chair. HOS will then determine any shift between iterations and present this to the Board for approval.  Early composition of the Scientific/Medical Advisory Council includes Dr. Davies, Dr. Grad, Dr. Peña. We are in the process of adding additional medical expertise.

What’s Next
The task force continues to make progress in our planning efforts. The Guidelines and Policy committee members are working on finalizing the protocols that will be implemented for any on-campus learning, for screening students and employees, and for any suspected or confirmed COVID cases. You will receive more information on these protocols in the next few weeks. We will host 3-Virtual Town Hall Meetings: August 5 – Kindergarten Parents; August 6 -1st-4th Grade Parents and August 7- 5th – 8th Grade Parents. Zoom Meeting details will be sent prior to the meetings.

Community Update July 14

The coronavirus context in our county, state, and the country has been changing dramatically over the last few weeks, and we are keeping a close eye and ear on everything that is happening. Even with these changes, our task force continues to stay focused on all the possibilities for a great start to the new school year. I promised we would share more details on the options that are being considered so that you can begin to make the necessary plans to prepare yourself and your girls for learning at GSA. While this is a work in progress, in this letter I want to share three things: 1. Current Opening Plan; 2. Facility Upgrades and COVID Safety Protocols; and 3. COVID Communication Plan.  

CURRENT OPENING PLAN 
All options are based on delivering a GSA quality, whole-child education focused on the tenets of community and care. We know that we will need to be flexible and make adjustments to our plan to meet the needs of students and staff and to be responsive to the changing local contextOur goal is to return to as much campus-based learning as soon as we safely can. This is what we know regarding the plan:  

  • It will be a dynamic plan that will continue to change as the context changes, always prioritizing the safety of students and delivering a GSA experience.   
  • It will include ways to pivot back to more on-campus learning as the local landscape changes. 
  • Orienting ourselves to distance learning with a focus on GSA community building and care. 
  • Our primary goal at the beginning of the school year is to build relationships; our hope is to do this in person when possible 
  • To support the different needs of our community we must continue to offer distance learning options even as we are able to open the campus to some students.

Three Options We are Exploring:  

Distance Learning for Grades 1-8 + On Campus Advisory/SEL/Specials; Kindergarten 

  • Grades 1-8 receive instruction through distance learning 
  • Kinder on campus; live-streaming available; use MUB and outdoor spaces 
  • Grades 1-8 on campus 1/week for 2-3 hours for advisory, SEL, & possibly specials.  
  • Using outdoor spaces as much as possible   
  • Time for ongoing relationship building, lessons, and support 
  • COVID Safety Protocols  
  • Training and development for all staff 
  • Utilize new tools (new Learning Management System; Learning Apps and more that are student-centered and friendly) 

Distance Learning for All Grades + On Campus Advisory/SEL/Specials;  

  • K-8 receive instruction through distance learning 
  • K-8 on campus 1/week for 2-3 hours for advisory, SEL, and possibly specials; use MUB and outdoor spaces as much as possible 
  • Time for ongoing relationship building, lessons, and support 
  • COVID Safety Protocols 
  • Training and development for all staff
  • Utilize new tools (new Learning Management System; Learning Apps and more that are student-centered and friendly) 

Distance Learning for K-8 

  • K-8 receive instruction through distance learning 
  • Enhanced learning opportunities 
  • Training and development for all staff 
  • Utilize new tools (new Learning Management System; Learning Apps and more that are student-centered and friendly) 

GSA Realities: 
While we are still navigating the details, we know that any plan must balance the risk of being on campus with the potential harm of not being on campus. We also know that families will need to make decisions based on their unique circumstances, and that we must all determine our individual tolerance. As we develop our plans, we are keeping in mind these GSA realities:  

  • The size of our community gives us the ability to be nimble and evolve, and to be adaptable.  
  • We are fortunate to have modern facilities that have been updated to meet health standards (see below).  
  • We must work within the constraints of one teacher per grade level at LS and one teacher per content area at MS.  
  • Our campus footprint and available space limits the number of students and staff who can be on campus safely at any one time.  
  • Central Texas temperatures at the start of the school year  limit the amount of time spent outdoors. 

FACILITIES UPGRADES  
The task force facilities committee has been working daily on preparing our school building for any type of on-campus learning opportunities. The following preparations have been completed and/or are scheduled to be completed.   

Facility Preparation Updates:   

  • UVC lights in 16 HVAC units – 100% complete   
  • Sanitation stations (20 ea.) in place  
  • Bulk sanitizer ordered and arrived   
  • Digital thermometers ordered and arrived  
  • Toilet seats with lids added or replaced   
  • Power wash scheduled for late July  
  • Custodial summer projects scheduled to include sanitation and disinfecting  
  • Scheduled monthly aerosol disinfecting  
  • Developing plans for cleaning and sanitizing during the school year 

COVID SAFETY PROTOCOLS 
For us to have a successful opening our community has a shared responsibility to follow safety guidelines and protocols. We will be instituting these policies and anticipate that others may be added  

  • Masks/face  coverings worn by all students and staff  
  • Social distancing  
  • One -way movement on campus  
  • Staggered drop-off and pick-up times  
  • Temperature checks prior to drop off  
  • Daily health checklists  

COVID COMMUNICATION PLAN 
Our goal in communication with you is to be: timely, transparent, and two-way.  Here’s what you can expect:  

  • Weekly communication (every Tuesday)  
  • COVID Updates Webpage with update archive and Task Force  information 
  • Finalized plan by end of July 
  • Virtual Town Hall  

Regardless of the mode we may find ourselves in to start our new school year, we will continue to educate the whole child by holding true to our GSA mission and values. And most importantly, we will lean into the challenges of this new landscape together as a community of caring individuals, committed to raising the girls in our care.   

In closing, I want to thank you for your patience as we work through these challenging times. It seems that all of us are doing the impossible personally and professionally. Thank you for believing in us and for your continuous support!  

With gratitude,   

Dr. Peña   

Community Update July 3, 2020

2020-2021 Task Force 
A 2020 -2021 Task Force made up of GSA administrators, staff and faculty has been researching and studying different options for transitioning into the new school year and has identified several hybrid models that are being considered. Those models may include utilizing our outdoors spaces, flexible/alternating schedules, livestreaming lessons to support remote learning, and focusing on Social Emotional Learning (SEL) instruction to facilitate community and relationship building. Our goal is to start the school year on August 19th with learning environments that will be mission-driven and community values-aligned. We will provide robust learning opportunities and the best overall experience for the whole child while prioritizing the health and safety of all members of the learning community. Our plans will be flexible and adaptable in the face of the unpredictable nature of the public health crisis our community is facing, and I thank you in advance for your patience and support. The task force is also researching safety protocols that will be incorporated into our learning options such as, but not limited to, social distancing, increased hygiene practices, extra sanitization, face coverings/masks, temperature checks, and symptoms checklists. As the details of our learning plan become more certain, additional protocols will be considered. A communication packet will be coming soon that will assist you in preparing your family for these additional protocols. We are also reviewing our school policies to ensure that they are flexible and nimble to enable us to respond quickly to new information as it is received.

Your Voice

We have collected some initial feedback from a few of our parents via the digital comment box on our MySchool page, but more input is needed. Therefore, a short survey is now available on our MySchool page. I highly encourage you to complete the survey so that we understand your family’s needs during these unusual times. The task force will utilize this data to inform our options and make final recommendations by the end of July.

Community Update April 24

As we enter the final month of the 19-20 school year, and with the issuance of Executive Order GA-16, we now know our school will remain closed to in-person education and have the following updates for our GSA Community.

Change in GSA Middle School Grading Policy due to Distance Learning
The GSA Board of Trustees has approved, through resolution, a temporary change to GSA’s Middle School Grading policy for the 3rd Trimester of the 19-20 school year.
In distance learning, students’ varied learning environments compromise the validity and equitable nature of a letter grade/numerical assessment.  As such we will move to a grading scale of Credit with Distinction, Credit, or Incomplete for the 3rd trimester.  Robust and real-time feedback and assessment are integral parts of our students’ intellectual challenge and will continue.
Please look for further detailed guidance from your girls’ teachers regarding what will need to be accomplished to receive Credit with Distinction or Credit.
Additionally, to maintain the integrity of the CTP and ensure they continue to be useful to the health of our robust academic program, we will not be administering the CTP as scheduled next week.

Treasured End of Year Events
Although we will not be able to experience our May milestones in the format we had scheduled, GSA Faculty and Leadership are actively and creatively working on alternative plans.  We will commemorate this year.  Please stay tuned for more information and details.

GSA and Zoom Security

Issues with Zoom security have been in the news recently. The reported incidents have primarily dealt with people entering meetings (“bombing” or “raiding”) with malicious intent. The majority of the bombings were the result of teens sharing meeting links/IDs with their friends or online through social media platforms such as Discord and Reddit. 

In order to prevent this from happening to any GSA virtual class meeting, we are following best practices set out by Zoom and the FBI:

1) All meetings will require a password. If you do not have the password for a meeting your child is joining, reach out to the appropriate teacher.

2) After entering the password, the meeting participants will be admitted through a waiting room. If a teacher does not recognize the participant, they will not allow them to enter the classroom.

These two safeguards should ensure that no one who is not a member of the GSA community can “bomb” our virtual classrooms. However, to be on the safe side, we have asked our teachers to update the settings for their meetings to make them more secure and to be vigilant about monitoring the classroom and immediately ejecting anyone that doesn’t belong. 

You can help by never sharing a GSA Zoom link, Meeting ID, or password with anyone outside your child’s class.

By Jenny Leeds 

Community Update March 28

As communicated via email earlier this week, at this moment we plan to continue the GSA distance learning plan until further notice. GSA leadership and the Board will continue to monitor formal guidance and policy applicable to our school, with our community’s well-being and safety being paramount. We will provide more information about the duration of our distance learning program as it becomes available.

As we extend our distance learning plan into the foreseeable we want to share with you some of the elements we are considering:

  • First and foremost is the care of every member of our community. This includes students, of course, and also parents, faculty, and staff. We are all under significant stress at this moment, balancing unfamiliar roles and conflicting responsibilities. This is true for you, our parent community, and it is also true for our faculty and staff.
  • Every family’s circumstance is different, and every family’s needs and preferences are different. This is true for you, and it is also true for our faculty and staff. As our ongoing distance learning plan evolves we are working to balance these needs and preferences, and to be mindful of the stresses that we are all experiencing.
  • Our plan must meet our students’ basic needs to progress in their learning and to connect with their educational community.
  • Our plan must also be flexible enough to accommodate and support the diverse needs of families.
  • Of necessity, this plan will not be identical to on-campus learning.

Our first week of distance learning has been a growth process for everyone, with the expected glitches and some satisfying successes. We have focused on our core academic content, beginning to establish the routines and practices that will best serve us as we move forward. Being deliberate in how we roll out our program gives us time to gauge how things are working and make necessary changes. Throughout this week teachers have been meeting to discuss their classes and to share ideas and best practices. Using these conversations and your feedback, we will be modifying our schedule for next week. This new schedule will reflect a more realistic sense of appropriate length for online lessons, number of lessons per day, and amount of independent work at different age levels. Your student’s classroom teacher or advisor will be sharing a revised schedule with you before Monday.

Starting on March 30, we plan to introduce elements of our specials program, including PE, art, music, and lower school Spanish. We know that our specials are a beloved and important part of our program, and our commitment is to continue to offer them through distance learning. The lessons teachers will be offering will provide rich content and opportunities for exploration. Understanding that some of you may already be at capacity right now, however, we do not consider these required lessons at this point. Look for communication from classroom teachers, advisors, and specific specials teachers for more information about how and when these lessons will be delivered.

Community Update March 22

  • Time Frame –  At this moment we will continue the GSA Distance Learning Plan until further notice.  As the guidance from our state and local officials evolves, we will know more and be in contact with you.
  • Objective — The overall objective of the GSA Distance Learning Plan is to provide a robust and engaging education plan that will result in the progress of our girls’ learning and achievement.   With that being said there will be some review work during the first week of this plan.   We ask for your patience as we develop the best way to engage our girls for a longer time period as we all learn together.
  • Content and Delivery–  Our girls will learn through a combination of classroom discussions, projects, and lesson materials.  The mix of these for core subjects will be provided at the end of this week, followed by the inclusion of Specials the week after.  Please be assured consideration of the circumstances our overall community is enduring will be taken into account when deciding the number and scheduling of online classroom discussions.  While most of us are new to distance learning, our faculty has a wealth of experience, creativity, and care for their students and their curriculum. Please be patient with us as we find the “just right” mix at each grade level.
  • Community Events — We are reviewing all community events that were scheduled the month of April and will be communicating revised plans as we know them.   I am confident that we will find new and creative ways to stay connected as a community.

Middle School Distance Learning Plan

Dear GSA Middle School parents and students,

As you know, we will embark on our distance learning adventure on Monday, March 23. We hope that our students will enjoy their Spring Break and return to school on March 23 refreshed and ready to learn in their virtual classroom. While this is an unprecedented challenge for us, our teachers have (of course!) risen to that challenge, and we are even finding exciting new opportunities in the technology we will be using. This is a learning process for all of us, so this plan is a fluid one. As this is a learning process, we all need to hold patience and assumption of positive intent for all participants – teachers and learners! If you’re running into challenges or glitches with this system please let me know.

Here’s what your family can expect:

· Teachers will communicate with students using their GSA email account. Expect to receive at least two emails a week: once at the beginning of the week to set an agenda and schedule for the week, and once at the end of the week. Teachers may communicate via email more frequently.
· Teachers will host online classes at least twice a week using Microsoft Teams, which is part of the Office 365 suite of applications. Students who were on campus Thursday will have practiced with this app. I’ve attached notes for students about using this system (you may have received them from your advisor as well).
· Currently, our plan is for classes to happen during regular class times (for example, Math will continue to meet at 8 am). This should avoid any scheduling conflicts.
· Teachers will host “office hours” on Teams during any regular class times they are not hosting a live class. You can expect to get a quick response from your teacher during this time.
· Most classwork will happen through Teams, so our first few days of distance learning (March 23 and 24) expect to spend time learning the system. We expect lessons that further students’ learning to begin by Wednesday, March 25.

Some important notes:
· We have found that Teams works best with the Chrome browser.
· Students will need to be using a computer with an enabled camera. If you don’t have that at home let us know – we can make arrangements for you to borrow one from the school.
· Many students prefer to use a headset for ease of communication during online classes.
· Please set up an area in your home for school work. Ideally, this will be a quiet spot where you won’t easily be interrupted. If possible it should also be close to the router for best internet service.

Covid-19 Update March 11

Dear GSA Community,  

As the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) widens, we continue to closely monitor local, national, and international reports, following the recommendations of Austin Public Health (APH), Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS), and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). APH has updated the risk assessment for Austin on their website to elevated “due to the growing evidence of person-to-person spread in the United States” while noting there are have been NO positive test results received by Austin Public HealthOur primary concern continues to be on keeping the community safe and healthy.  

Remote Continued Learning Plan 
Being responsible members of the local and national communities, we have decided to enact our remote learning plan to begin Monday, March 23rd following Spring Break. This decision came after much deliberation, monitoring of the developing situation, and following the recommendation of both the WHO and the CDC. The number one step we can take to support the more vulnerable citizens in our broader community is to exercise social distancing. This will help to mitigate the spread of the virus which will provide relief for our healthcare system so those who need it most have the access they need. We are communicating early as we recognize that families will need time to prepare.  We feel confident in our remote teaching and learning plan. The faculty and staff actively developed this robust plan to ensure our girls remain engaged, connected, and growing during this time. The situation has proven a great opportunity for our teachers to dive into new tools to enhance the learning experience for our students – creating a wonderful bright spot in current events. This remote learning plan will take place the week of March 23-27. In the meantime, we will continue to monitor the situation and reevaluate whether to return to campus the following Monday (March 30) or extend our remote learning experience.  Please look for a more thorough communication before end-of-day tomorrow with specifics for what you can expect from your child’s teacher(s) during our remote learning time. We will outline how teachers will communicate with parents and students and the tools they will utilize.  

Spring Break Travels
We continue to urge families not to travel abroad in the upcoming weeks. If you do opt to travel out of the country, or if you have visitors from abroad (particularly from areas with a risk level 2 or higher), we ask that you keep us informed by contacting the office. 
Following guidance from the CDC, we ask that GSA community members avoid personal travel to CDC Warning Level 3 areas as they will be asked to self-quarantines for 14 days upon their return.   Though there are not any domestic travel warnings currently, we recommend families monitor the CDC Travelers’ Health page as recommendations and restrictions may change while you are traveling.   

Friday Plan 
We are extending excused absences to any family wishing to keep their kiddos home on Friday 3/13 If your daughter(s) will not be on campus, please stop by the main office tomorrow afternoon between 12:30-2:30 or 3:30-4:30 to pick up the necessary materials. This will provide time for teachers to gather the materials your daughter will need.  Of course, these materials should be set aside in a safe place until after the spring holiday!

We appreciate your understanding and your partnership, as always.  We will be in touch tomorrow with specific remote learning plans. Of course, please reach out with any questions or concerns. 

Best, 

Shanna, Frances, and Tricia

Phase 5 Pre-Attendance Checklist GSA COVID-19 Family Commitment  GSA’s Mask Guidelines How to Wear a Mask Video GSA Academic Phases & Community Risks Chart GSA’s 2020 – 2021 Task Force  OBJECTIVES

  • Develop and recommend implementation processes and procedures for transitioning to 20-21 school year.
  • Determine a baseline plan to start 20-21 and options for changes that may be needed.
  • Goal: final plan approved by the board by August 1.
  • Protect the health and safety of students and employees
  • Support all staff to adapt and respond to the instructional and operational needs of all stakeholders
  • Sustain open communication with the GSA community.

MEMBERS Rosa M. Peña GSA Head of School Academics and Instruction Frances Ramberg Rosa Peña Meredith Hayden Felicia Frazee Ilene Novy Anne Seekatz Jenny Leeds Ana Rie Jenny Sparks Lorna Torrado Facilities Bronson Dorsey Rosa Peña Regina Lim Nicola Davies Policy and Guidelines Tricia Yost John Melton Nicola Davies Rosa Peña Regina Lim Communications Linda Maher Lex Sanford Trish Morrison Rosa Peña Tricia Yost Summer Project Management Dick Hoover Medical/Scientific Advisory Council Rosa M. Peña Dr. Nicola Davies Dr. Michael Grad, MD Dr. Bri Tristan, MD Dr. Ami Patel, MD Dr. Nehal Rana, MD Resources