Introduction

It has been an extraordinary time for our students, families, teachers and staff as we continue to navigate the evolving challenges of COVID-19. We appreciate the tremendous resilience, patience and spirit that all of you have demonstrated since the onset of the pandemic, and we will all need to continue to work together to achieve a successful school year.

As we approach the start of the 2020-2021 school year, our top priority remains the well-being of everyone in the Girard College community, followed by our commitment to providing a meaningful educational experience for all of our students. To this end, we have developed “Responsibly Returning to School: Girard College’s 2020 Campus Re-Opening Plan,” which calls for a phased and limited re-opening of the campus starting on August 31, 2020.

The Plan focuses on reducing the risk of virus transmission so that we can remain open and deliver the best possible education to our students this Fall and beyond. The Plan also allows us the flexibility to respond to changing conditions and additional guidance from public health experts and other leaders as necessary.

Background

On March 13, 2020, Girard College made the decision to transition to a virtual learning model in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The following months brought many changes to the way our curriculum was delivered, but our teachers, families, and students stepped up to the challenge and quickly adapted to online instruction. Virtual GC was not without its hiccups, however, not to mention the personal, social, and emotional impacts of the pandemic and quarantine felt by all.

For the last several months, the Girard College Planning Committee has been carefully working with staff, families, public health officials and fellow independent and boarding schools to design “Responsibly Returning to School.” We have incorporated staff feedback, family survey data, and guidance from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Pennsylvania Departments of Health and Education in this effort.

By following the guidelines laid out in this plan, our goal is to ensure the health and safety of all who enter Girard’s campus. The Plan is intended to be flexible and will evolve based on public health data and local trends. We ask for all to follow these guidelines closely and take personal responsibility for your own health and safety as we continue to do everything in our power to keep our community safe.

 

Re-Opening Plan

The purpose of this Plan is to outline the guidance and requirements Girard College is implementing to achieve a successful 2020-21 school year. The Plan will continue to evolve in accordance with public health data, state and local leadership, and input from our community.

Health and Safety

To mitigate the spread of COVID-19 on the Girard College campus, where students live in dormitories and attend classes together, the Re-Opening Plan outlines four actions critical for our collective health and safety.

1) Physical Distancing: The Plan calls for reducing the number of students in classrooms and dormitories so that routine physical distancing (six feet between students) can be achieved. We refer to this step as “de-densifying” the campus.

  • Students will be “cohorted” into small “families” of 6-9 students per residential advisor and their sleeping rooms will reflect the same arrangement. Six feet of spacing will be preserved with other dormitory building occupants. Increased physical distancing also means that our footprint across the campus will increase, and we expect to bring two more dormitories (Manley and Allen Halls) into use.

2) Accelerated Testing: To prevent the virus from spreading, we must regularly test our community members for COVID-19 and isolate those who test positive.

  • Our Plan calls for testing all students and staff upon their first return to campus. We will retain a licensed testing vendor for this purpose, and we plan to continue testing throughout the school year. Additionally, we will screen students and faculty consistently with temperature screenings upon campus entry.

3) Sanitizing: We must regularly clean and disinfect classrooms and dormitories alike, and pay special attention to commonly used, high-touch surfaces throughout the campus.

  • Campus-wide, we will implement an intensified schedule of cleaning and disinfection of our facilities in compliance with CDC guidelines. Dorms will be disinfected twice a day, every day. Classrooms and learning spaces will be disinfected twice a day, five days a week. Additionally, we will deploy a special team to clean high-touch surfaces multiple times a day throughout the campus. Everyone will be expected to follow hand-washing rules at every transition from one room or building to another, using sanitizer, disinfecting wipes and other cleaning items provided in all buildings.

4) Compliance: We all must be scrupulous about hygiene and comply with federal, state, city and campus safety guidance. As a practical matter, this means all of us will be required to wear masks or other approved face coverings, practice physical distancing, wash our hands often and be observant about whether we are exhibiting symptoms of the virus.

  • Masks or other approved face coverings will be required for everyone everywhere on campus, except in students’ rooms. Students in grades 1-3 will be allowed to unmask in their classrooms, per our medical director’s guidance.

Phased Re-Entry of Students

To achieve the required physical distancing (six feet between students in classrooms and dorm sleeping rooms), the Re-Opening Plan will implement the following four-phase schedule for the return to campus of Girard’s 300+ students:

Phase 1, starting August 31, 2020:

  • Boarding for grades 1-3 (45 students)
    • Move-In Day is Sunday, August 30
  • Boarding for grades 9, 12, 10, 11 on weekly rotations (up to 40 students on-campus at a time)
    • The Plan calls for no more than 45 high school students to be on campus in any given week. Accordingly, we plan for one high school grade – and only one – to return to campus each week, where they will receive in-person classroom instruction in the High School building. At week’s end, they will return home and continue their classes virtually, and another grade will take their place on campus. This cycle will begin with 9th graders in Week One, followed by 12th graders in Week Two, 10th graders in Week Three, and 11th graders in Week Four.

Phase 2, effective as health/safety guidelines permit:

  • Boarding grades 1-3 (45 students)
  • Boarding grades 4-5 (45 students)
  • Boarding grades 9-12 on 2-week rotations (up to 40 students)
  • Special Circumstances (housing insecure students or students who require more intensive academic instruction)

Phase 3, effective as health/safety guidelines permit: 

  • Boarding grades 1-8 (166 students)
  • Boarding grades 9-12 on 2-week rotations (up to 80 students)

Phase 4, to be implemented as warranted by health conditions:

  • Boarding all grades and students (300+ students)

As you can see, there are no set timelines for implementation of Phases 2, 3 or 4. We recognize that communications between the school and families will need to be strong as new phases begin, and this will remain a top priority for us throughout the school year.

All phases will be implemented according to the federal, state and local health and safety guidance we receive. By phasing in the students’ return to campus, we can ensure creation of living and learning spaces that allow for physical distancing and appropriate cleaning and sanitizing of our buildings.

Academic Instruction

The Academic Calendar will remain the same, with instruction for all students beginning on August 31, 2020 either in person or virtually, according to the Phases described above.

The Academic team has been working diligently to prepare lessons that can be delivered both remotely and in person. Teachers have received additional training in virtual classroom management, and students and families will participate in academic onboarding programs prior to the beginning of the school year. Girard College will ensure that all students have the appropriate technology needed to access instruction.

For those students who are not on campus, the majority of remote sessions will be delivered in real time to enable immediate interaction and discussion. Some courses will consist of remote mini-labs and small, in-person “tutorials,” while students who are on campus will be assigned to small groups in the classroom if the entire class cannot be accommodated safely.

Girard College is committed to providing an engaging, rigorous curriculum, whether the instruction is in-person or virtual. Our teachers are prepared to meet the needs of students and deliver meaningful instruction for the entire school year. Full details on our curriculum, learning goals, and class schedule will be communicated to families from our academic leadership team.

Athletics, Clubs and Activities

We are currently evaluating the feasibility of offering varsity and club sports this fall. There are many challenges to reducing viral spread in an athletic setting, and more information about the Fall sports season will be forthcoming. Clubs and Activities will be offered to students throughout our phased return to campus.

Questions and Additional Information

We recognize that students, families, faculty and staff may have additional questions about the Campus 2020 Re-Opening Plan. Virtual Town Halls are scheduled for each academic division and staff in the coming weeks, where school leadership will work to answer questions and provide guidance as we prepare for a safe and successful school year.

We have also compiled a list of Frequently Asked Questions (link below) to address potential concerns.

We encourage you to monitor this web page for the latest news and updates.