Distance Learning Updates

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

COVID-19 Update – March 6

Dear GSA Community,  

We are continuing to closely monitor the COVID-19 situation to ensure the health and safety of our community. At this time the risk to our community remains low

Continued Learning in the Event of School Closure
Our task force for continued learning has met and communicated with all faculty to start developing a plan. We are currently gathering information, and we will solidify our plan for continued learning in the event of a school closure in the coming days.

You can expect that our teachers will provide continued learning in the event of a school closure using technology tools, online resources, journal assignments and their regular communication tools. Your daughter will have daily assignments; however, they will not occupy the students for the full number of hours that they would be in school 

If your daughter does not have access to the internet or a device at home, please let us know. 

We will follow recommendations from local authorities and as with other school closures we will follow suit if AISD were to announce a district closure.  

Travel 
GSA recommends that families do not travel abroad in the upcoming weeks, including spring break. 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) over spring break we ask that you keep us informed by contacting the office. 

Following recommendations from the CDC, any studentfaculty or staff member who travels to (or has visitors from) a country designated by the CDC as a warning level 3 area, and/or anyone who has been advised to self-quarantine, will be subject to a 14-day period of self-isolation away from school upon their return.  

Precautions
The best precaution that we can take right now is to follow the same guidelines recommended for cold and flu season: 

  • Wash hands often with soap and water. 
  • Cover coughs and sneezes with an elbow or a tissue, and then immediately dispose of the tissue.  
  • Avoiding close contact with people who are sick. 
  • Stay home when sick. 
  • Avoid touching your face.  

We are continuing to add extra sanitizing to our daily cleaning routines and requiring regular and effective hand washing with our students.  

We’re all hoping that our community stays healthy and Coronavirus free, and we are prepared should we have to close temporarily. 

Thank you for your support and partnership, 

Shanna Prewitt-Hines and Frances Ramberg  

Coronavirus Precautions at GSA

Dear GSA Community,

We want to assure you that we are monitoring the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak to ensure the safety of our students, faculty, and staff. To date, there have been no cases in our local community and the current risk is very low.

The best precaution that we can take right now is to follow the same guidelines recommended for cold and flu season:

  • Wash hands often with soap and water.
  • Cover coughs and sneezes with an elbow or a tissue, and then immediately dispose of the tissue. 
  • Avoiding close contact with people who are sick.
  • Stay home when sick. 

We reviewed these precautions with our students, faculty, and staff this morning.  We have requested that teachers and our janitorial service implement extra sanitizing to their daily cleaning routines. To note, currently our janitorial service follows CDC guidelines for cleaning and sanitizing and all classroom surfaces are cleaned and sanitized daily. Additionally, they will be spraying all rooms monthly with a proprietary sanitizing product developed for medical facilities.  Lastly, we have requested that teachers review CDC recommended handwashing practices with the girls. GSA will continue to closely follow the situation and adhere to CDC guidelines and recommendations from local health authorities. We are developing a plan to ensure the girls’ continued learning in the event that we need to close the school. 

If your family plans to travel over spring break,  please refer to the CDC travel warnings and do not travel if you are unwell.

Our community’s health and safety is our top priority. We will keep you informed of any updates. 

Sincerely,

Shanna Prewitt-Hines and Frances Ramberg
GSA Co-Leaders 

Resources 

 

Risk Levels 

GSA’s Current Risk Level is LOW.

Risk Level 1 (Low Risk – Prevention and Preparation)
Proactive Steps during possible spread but no COVID-19 cases within the community
  • No GSA cases of Coronavirus
  • No to very few reported cases of COVID-19 in Central Texas area
  • Some countries declare public health emergency (not the U.S.)
  • Airports implement screening mechanisms; some travel advisories recommended
Risk Level 2 (Heightened Alert)
Increasing number of cases in Texas/Greater Austin area
  • Limited cases of COVID-19 in the Central Texas area
  • Travel advisories recommended by WHO, CDC, government
  • No GSA students, families, or employees identified with COVID-1
  • No advisories against non-essential travel to state or Central Texas area

Risk Level 3 (Direct Impact)
Possible Exposure(or case) in student or Faculty/Staff

  • Few COVID-19 cases within school community
  • Increased community spread of COVID-19 in local Area
  • Increasing evidence of potential restrictions on airline travel/other forms of international public transportation
  • COVID-19 disease behavior or contagiousness changes to higher risk level
Risk Level 4 (Direct Impact)
Multiple Cases
  • Spread of COVID-19 cases within the school community
  • COVID-19 cases quickly increasing in the local area rapidly increasing
  • Government directs that schools be closed
  • Evidence that hospitals are unable to manage or meet health care needs related to COVID-19
  • Evidence of restricted airline travel or major travel restrictions