COVID-19 Updates

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

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