GMA Plans for Learning 2020-2021
- An Introduction from Principal Anne Knapke
- Pandemic Planning Team
- GMA Operational Approach for 2020-2021
- Schoology Learning Management System
- Concurrent Classroom Camera Demonstration
We have been able to view our planning for the upcoming year through a mission-based lens, seeking inspiration from the writings of Catherine McAuley, the founder of the Sisters of Mercy. “A good beginning is of great importance,” said Catherine and we are challenged to construct a good beginning for 2020-2021, despite the circumstances. Another uplifting message from Catherine was, “A community in which this universal charity reigns, is capable of surmounting all difficulties.” As a Mercy community, we must all look at the sacrifices we are making as those for the greater good, in service to others who may be vulnerable. By complying with guidelines and entering into this social contract within our school community, we are truly making Mercy real in our classrooms and in our homes.
Gwynedd-Mercy Academy’s plan* and strategies in preparing for, responding to, and recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic is a collective, community approach. The GMA administrative team has enacted policies to ensure safe learning and working environments for students and staff, while also preparing for the possibility that virtual learning could be a reality for certain periods during the school year. Our administrative team's focus has been on making the Gwynedd-Mercy Academy student experience one that can continue to thrive even under these unprecedented conditions while placing the health and safety of all students, faculty, and staff as our top priority.
At this time, we plan to resume in-person learning on September 9 with a number of changes and policies in place to create the safest possible campus learning environment.
All stakeholders should be mindful that as long as there are cases of COVID-19 in the community, there are no strategies that can completely eliminate transmission risk within a school population. The goal is to keep transmission as low as possible to safely continue school activities and allow students who are able to attend to retain the social and emotional benefits of in-classroom learning.
GMA is committed to the capability of offering concurrent classroom learning for students in need of virtual instruction due to the health concerns or constraints of students and their families. During those periods when we are conducting in-classroom learning, the faculty’s first priority will be maintaining a healthy and safe classroom environment for students in school. Virtual instruction will be via an interactive web camera in the classroom with students at home engaging in the same innovative and curriculum-driven projects and assignments as those in school. While concurrent classroom learning can not replace in-person learning, we are committed to offering a quality program for our homebound students. We do expect that our new learning management system, Schoology, will be an enhancement and further support to the digital learning academic framework. Zoom links for class periods will be hosted within each student's Schoology account.
GMA VirtualED, our virtual learning student experience, will be implemented if there were to be a mandated school closure. Students will have the benefit of our dedicated and experienced faculty continuing the GMA curriculum and pacing of their grade-level materials throughout the 7-day cycle, including special area subjects.
It would be misleading to say that as hard as we have worked to create these plans, that we have all the answers. In this unprecedented and unforeseen situation, we have strived to design a system to maintain our excellent and innovative educational process, while meeting the needs of our families and prioritizing health and safety for our students, faculty and staff.
In Christ’s Mercy,
Anne W. Knapke, M.Ed., Principal
*Gwynedd-Mercy Academy Elementary’s reopening plan is compiled based on the best information available at its distribution. GMA reserves the right to adjust as this uncertain situation develops throughout the school year.
Pandemic Planning Team
Mrs. Anne Knapke, Principal
Mr. Fred Santoro, Vice Principal
Mrs. Kathy Caramenico, School Nurse
Mr. Tom O’Driscoll, Director of Operations and Facilities
Mrs. Maura LaGreca, Director of Marketing and Communications
Mr. Tyler Mitchell, Director of IT and Database
Mrs. Lindsey Rauch, Director of Curriculum
Mr. Tom Lydon, Student Affairs Coordinator and Teacher
Mrs. Cindy Hutton, Business and HR Manager
Mrs. Sue Stephan, Main Office Manager
Mrs. Bridget Keeley, GMA Board Member
Dr. Bryn Carroll, GMA Alumna
Mrs. Lindsy Patten, Girls’ Athletic Director and PE Teacher
Mr. John Schwartz, Boys’ Athletic Director and PE and Health Teacher
GMA Operational Approach for 2020-2021
In-Person Classroom Instruction
GMA Campus with Social Distancing
|Concurrent Classroom Instruction||
GMA VirtualEd Distance Learning
At this time, GMA plans to return to in-classroom learning on August 31, 2020.
Alternative option available while In-Person Classroom Instruction is ongoing for students who are unable to attend school or whose parents select Concurrent Classroom on a trimester basis. This instruction will be facilitated by in-classroom web cameras.
Implemented for all students upon mandated school closure
What resources and guidance did you use to develop the plan for reopening the school campus?
Our plan used resources and guidance from the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, American Academy of Pediatrics, CHOP PolicyLab, Rutgers Graduate School of Education, the World Health Organization, Pennsylvania Department of Health (DOH), the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE), and the Montgomery County Office of Public Health.
Are we still having Book Day?
We will still be having a welcome event on August 27, but it will be different from our traditional Book Day. We have a committee of faculty and administrators working on what that day will look like based on the conditions at the time.
When is the first day of school?
The first day of school will be Monday, August 31. The Labor Day holidays will be September 4 and 7. Our plan for the return to school includes new routines to keep our school community safe and a focus on a social and emotionally healthy return to an in-school environment.
How will the start of school be different than in years prior?
We always have a number of student orientation activities, but this year, initially, many will be focused on implementing the state and county’s health and safety regulations, as well as the strategies outlined in our Plan for Reopening found on page 8. For those students in our Concurrent Classroom, we will have several Zoom orientation activities, taking place outside of class times, to help them orient to their new style of learning. There will be many challenges as the year begins, and the adjustment may be difficult, however, the well-being of our students and faculty will remain at the forefront of all planning.
Will the GMA Campus look different?
- Extraneous classroom furniture, including small group seating, has been removed from classrooms to facilitate social distancing of desks.
- Signs regarding everyday preventative measures and social distancing reminders will be posted throughout.
- Faculty will be encouraged to utilize our large outdoor campus for learning when possible.
- Reorganizing some spaces will maximize classroom options for social distancing including the Fine Arts Room, Library, Computer Lab and Cafeteria.
If I am choosing Concurrent Classroom for my child, can I change my mind, opting in and out as it suits our family?
Families select Concurrent Classroom on a trimester basis and may opt in or out at the end of each trimester. In order to sustain a quality educational experience in the Concurrent Classroom and In-Person Learning, it is necessary to maintain consistency in the students participating. If during the school year, a student should require a quarantine, but is asymptomatic, and able to engage in school work, that student may join the Concurrent Classroom temporarily.
Will my child have access to our public school district’s bus transportation service? How can I be sure it will be safe?
It is our current understanding that local public school districts will continue to provide bus transportation to private schools, but it may look different as it has in the past depending on the specific school district’s plans. If you depend on bus service, we recommend that you contact the Transportation Office of your school district for information on their schedule and plans for social distancing.
What if GMA is opening its campus and my local public schools does not? How will transportation/busing work?
We cannot speculate on what bus service will look like in school districts that are not providing it to students in their public schools. Parents can inquire at Transportation Offices concerning that eventuality, but should be prepared to provide car transportation.
Where will my child have lunch?
Students will be eating in their homerooms. Our food service vendor, Aramark, will provide daily, boxed lunch options which will be delivered to classrooms.
Will students still wear their traditional GMA uniforms?
Recognizing the need for heightened sanitation during the upcoming year, we are making some adjustments to our uniform policy. We realize that many students may own one or two skirts, jumpers or pants, and we wish to be able to give students the ability to wear clean uniform items each day without parents having to do laundry every night. Please review below so that you may make any adjustments to uniform items you have already purchased or are planning to purchase.
- No boys' ties or blazers, which are dry clean only, are to be worn except on special occasions which will be announced in advance, for example the Student Council Induction or Student Picture Day.
- All students should own, and be prepared to wear with advance notice, one full winter version of the school uniform.
- All students in grades K-8 should wear the gym uniform on their gym day.
- Students may choose which version of the school uniform they wish to wear on non-gym days. This includes the gym uniform, the summer uniform or the winter uniform.
- Gym uniforms must be the GMA-logo-ed shorts, t-shirts, sweat pants and sweat shirts available for purchase at Flynn O'Hara.
This revised uniform policy has been developed in response to COVID-19 conditions. As conditions change, the policy may be adjusted.
Will students be required to wear masks?
Everyone on campus will be required to wear face coverings according to a Pennsylvania state mandate.
“The Order requires individuals to wear a "face covering." "Face covering" means a covering of the nose and mouth that is secured to the head with ties, straps, or loops over the ears or is wrapped around the lower face. A "face covering" can be made of a variety of synthetic or natural fabrics, including cotton, silk, or linen, and, for the purposes of the order, can include a plastic face shield that covers the nose and mouth.”
We do not plan to mandate a specific type of mask/face covering for students. Certain styles, fit and materials will be better suited to some students than others, and our primary goal is that each child wears a mask/face covering which is comfortable, safe and fits properly. All masks/face coverings should be school-appropriate, much as we would expect of t-shirts on a dress down day, with no extreme graphics, political or controversial logos or statements. If school-appropriate masks/face coverings should become an issue, then we will have to move to solid colors only. All students will be expected to be wearing a clean mask/face covering upon entering school, as well as have a spare in a school bag in case it is necessary. Reusable masks/face coverings must be cleaned on a daily basis. Students are expected to wear their masks/face coverings throughout the day with the exception of “mask/face covering breaks,” when a 6-foot social distance can be maintained and when eating and drinking.
How has Gwynedd-Mercy Academy prepared the campus to be safe for students and faculty?
- Twice-daily cleaning, sanitizing, disinfecting, and ventilating learning spaces, surfaces, and any other areas used by students (i.e., restrooms, drinking fountains, hallway and other high-touch areas).
- The after-school cleaning regimen will now include disinfecting procedures and will be increased in frequency and detail, based on the best available scientific guidance. All classrooms, restrooms, common areas, gym, playground equipment, reception office area and administrative offices will be will be fogged with an child-safe, FDA, CDC and OSHA approved broad-spectrum disinfectant solution using an electrostatic sprayer at least once a day.
- Use of PPE required for maintenance staff (masks, gloves, face-shields).
- Increased social distancing and hygiene practices.
- All drinking fountains will be disabled, allowing for water bottles to be refilled only.
- Large school gatherings will be restricted.
- Movement among groups and teachers will be limited. When possible, faculty will travel to meet students instead of students changing classes.
- Students will now be provided individual learning tool kits for each student to decrease the sharing of supplies, classroom manipulatives or learning materials.
- Each student will have a 1:1 device to use throughout the school day.
- All classrooms will have a 6-foot social distance between desks. In any case where that is not possible, a Plexiglas partition will be utilized. POD units have been deposited in our parking lot for the temporary storage of excess furniture removed from classrooms to achieve optimal social distances.
- The nurse’s office will be relocated to a larger space with an adjacent isolation room for any student who appears to be exhibiting any symptoms of COVID-19 or other contagious illness.
- Student and employee and staff health will be monitored using Health eTools.
- Policies regarding a return to school after exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms or a positive COVID-19 test will follow the guidelines of the Montgomery County Health Department and Wissahickon School District Health Services.
- On-campus visitors and volunteers will be restricted.
- Hand-sanitizing stations will be strategically and visibly placed throughout campus.
- Clear campus foot-traffic guidelines to optimize the flow of students to prevent crowding and promote physical distancing for students, faculty and staff.
- There will be new protocols for restroom usage to facilitate limited student contact.
How will the daily at-home health status reporting process work?
Parents will complete an at-home health status report using each individual’s unique Health eTools web link each morning. Faculty and staff will do the same. Only authorized users have access to student health data on Health eTools for Schools. Summary health information can be viewed by administrators, but not individual student or faculty health records. InnerLink, Inc. and its hosting partner, Media-X Systems, Inc. are responsible for proving administrative, physical and technical safeguards that reasonably and appropriate protect the confidentiality, integrity and availability of the electronic health information, student data or other sensitive information. Health eTools is HIPAA and FERPA compliant.
What is the procedure if a student, faculty or staff member feels symptomatic during the school day?
Any member of the community who exhibits symptoms during the school day will leave school immediately (student will wait in the isolation room until pick up).
What is the procedure if a student, faculty or staff member tests positive for COVD-19?
- If a child or staff member has a confirmed diagnosis of COVID-19, the Health Office will contact the Montgomery County Department of Public Health for further instructions.
When would a student or staff member diagnosed with COVID-19 be permitted to return to school?
Members of the school community may return to the GMA campus in accordance with the guidelines of the Montgomery County Health Department.