As we continue in this global COVID-19 pandemic, we know that our families hear lots of different information from news sources. This information sometimes provides great clarification; however, on occasion, there may be information which seems to conflict. Last Friday, many of you heard that the San Antonio Metro Health Medical Director issued a health directive requiring that schools, public or private, not re-open for on-campus, face-to-face instruction until after September 7, 2020. On the same day, Texas Attorney General
Ken Paxton said in a letter
to schools that private religious schools are free to decide for themselves whether to reopen, regardless of local government directives. What does this mean for Antonian?
The only administrative decision related to COVID-19 that is an easy one is that there is no way we will be able to have all 700+ enrolled Antonian students on campus at once this fall. For that reason, it has been our intent that we will start with hybrid learning, all the while allowing any family who wishes to have full remote learning for their child(ren) be able to take advantage of this opportunity. However, we must take seriously the directive of Metro Health and that has caused us to pause. We know that there are indications that younger people often do not suffer severe complications of the disease, but there are other variables to consider, including the health of all the adults in the school setting.
We recognize that, while we deliberate about the best course of action, you, as parents, are having to weigh choices as well. Because of that, we want to share more details about our plans as we have done throughout this summer.
First, we want our families to know that we are taking a fresh approach to remote learning this school year. We are in the process of implementing new classroom technology -- a project that will require a commitment of nearly $100,000 -- that allows for fully synchronous instruction for all academic courses. This technology includes cameras with the capability of displaying one, two, or four angles of the classroom, along with speakers through which remote students can participate in class, and microphones to project the teacher’s voice. The technology allows students who are remote to view a split screen: one window will project the information presented on the in-classroom SmartBoard and the other window will allow a view into the classroom to see the teacher and/or other in-classroom students at the discretion of the teacher. We hope to be able to provide parents with an Antonian-specific demo video very soon. Until then, we can share with you the following video that the company uses to promote the technology with the understanding that the exact implementation in our system may be slightly different:
Our teachers have participated in a variety of professional development seminars this summer to enhance their on-line instructional skills. The company supplying the audio-visual equipment will also provide training on the use of the technology. Much of the “technological” part of the audio-visual equipment is automated and will be controlled/monitored by our Director of Technology, such that teachers will only have to focus on the craft of teaching.
Connections to the classrooms will be made through our Google Suite of apps, specifically Google Classroom and Google Meet. The Google Meet link for the class session can be embedded by the teacher in the header of the Google Classroom page, so that a student no longer needs to keep track of the link in an email. Each day of instruction, whether a student is remote or in the classroom, will be much like a normal school day, following our regular bell schedule, with some allowance for remote students to have some necessary screen breaks throughout the day. Students will have four days of live instruction -- either in-person or synchronous remote learning -- each week. As we have mentioned in previous correspondences, Fridays will be used as activity days. In this way, there will be much more structure and daily teacher-to-student interaction.
For consistency purposes and to better apply secure testing tools, each student will be provided an Antonian-issued Chromebook. While this comes with an accelerated cost of approximately $60,000, we believe this to be in the best interest of our students' educational needs during this time. Students will be expected to utilize these rather than phones or other personal devices for class, whether the student is on campus or remote.
This plan for remote learning will be in place whether the student’s participation in school is fully remote (connecting to the classroom remotely Monday through Thursday) or hybrid (on campus two days, remote two days). Given this, students will be able to seamlessly transition from remote learning to hybrid learning and vice versa at any time during the school year.
This will hopefully make remote learning a viable option for many of you who are concerned about your child returning to campus. We are happy to answer any other questions that you may have in this regard. At the same time, we know that some families found that remote learning is not the best choice for their child(ren) and have a concerted determination to have the student return to campus. For those of you, we want to tell you a little more about what we have done on campus.
Classrooms have been measured in order to determine, by way of a computerized algorithm, how many students can be seated in safely distanced desks. Our facilities maintenance staff continues its work daily to prepare the classrooms with this information. While good practices in teaching involve continuous movement around the classroom and proximity to students, this will change for on-campus instruction at any time during this pandemic. Instead, teachers will have a defined area in their classrooms in which they may operate, maintaining safe distance from the students. This area will be noted with clearly visible markings.
We continue to develop plans for other activities such as the protocols for lunches. As we finalize those details, we will share that information with you.
We are in a transition with respect to custodial services, moving to a professional service company to provide not only our daily cleaning services, but also appropriate disinfecting services. This company is also assisting in the training of our staff to ensure every member of our school team knows what to do.
In addition to hand sanitizing stations that were already in place during the 2019-2020 school year, hand sanitizer dispensers have been installed outside each classroom for ease of access. We are also placing safe distance markers on hallway floors, just as you would see in the grocery store, as visible reminders. The hallway floor markers will likewise serve as “lane dividers” like a two lane road, with traffic flow staying to the right in each direction.
In addition to the materials and supplies that our Business Office staff has acquired throughout the summer, all schools in the state of Texas were able to opt-in to a free distribution of supplies through Educational Service Centers (ESC), in our case ESC 20. We have already received our allotment of supplies which includes:
- 6,416 disposable masks
- 1,604 reusable masks
- 2,448 gloves
- 5 no touch thermometers
- 75 gallons of hand sanitizer
- 72 adult face shields (for use by faculty and staff)
Along the way this summer, we have shared with you a general, broad-based framework, and as we have developed the details, we have provided you more specific information. In turn, we have asked you for some feedback, both general and specific. Some of you have responded to the specific requests about hybrid attendance grouping and desire for remote learning and even though we have not yet reached the deadlines for those requests (July 24th and July 31st) respectively, we now would like to ask families to respond to another survey. The survey asks parents to identify their child(ren) by name, select the grade of the student, and select one of two options for participation in school to start the 2020-2021 school year: hybrid learning or remote learning. If you have already sent an email to Mrs. Montemayor requesting remote learning
she has responded to you with a reply email, you do NOT need to complete this survey. We would like 100% participation from the remainder of our families. Please use the following link to complete the survey at your very earliest convenience:
School Participation Method 2020-2021
We appreciate all of our families and give thanks to God for blessing us with the opportunity to assist in the formation of your children. We keep all of you in our prayers and ask that you also keep all of the faculty and staff in your prayers.