When COVID-19 led to school closures roughly one year ago, parents around the nation and world were worried about how their children’s academic progress and mental health would be impacted by not being physically at school. School administrators and educators invested in seeing students succeed had the same concerns as well.
During the summer of 2020, Calvary Christian Academy’s leadership team and administrators clocked in hundreds of hours preparing a plan that would resume in-person learning as soon as possible for students and mitigate the spread of COVID-19 on its Hollywood and Fort Lauderdale campuses.
After much prayer, reviewing research and recommendations from professional entities like the CDC
and American Academy of Pediatrics
, and deliberation, in-person classes resumed on August 19, 2020.
“Getting to this point wasn’t easy. It required flexibility and patience on everyone’s part, and it still does. But being able to create a safe educational environment for our community while continuing to make disciples of Jesus Christ makes it all worthwhile.”
“We’ll always look back on this date and remember how God was faithful to help us achieve what had once seemed impossible,” said Dr. Jason Rachels, Head of School. “Getting to this point wasn’t easy. It required flexibility and patience on everyone’s part, and it still does. But being able to create a safe educational environment for our community while continuing to make disciples of Jesus Christ makes it all worthwhile.”
Investing in Health and Safety
More than $100,000 in health and safety investments were made on CCA’s Hollywood campus where close to 430 students are enrolled, and additional investments continue to be made. Listed below are some additions that have played an instrumental role in keeping students/staff healthy and maintaining an uninterrupted classroom environment:
- New on-campus clinic where students can be treated and cared for in the event any require medical attention during school hours
- Hiring additional staff to sanitize high touchpoint areas more frequently as well as substitute teachers, and a full-time school nurse
- High-definition cameras installed in each classroom to serve students whose parents feel more comfortable with them learning from home for a season, and students who are quarantined or are not feeling well; these cameras allow them to tune into classes in real-time and not miss a beat academically
- Electrostatic spraying machines that use hospital-grade disinfectant
- Hand sanitizer stations in every classroom, all entrances, and most common areas
- Shields for desks in all Elementary, Middle, and High School classrooms, reception offices, and other areas on campus
Implementing New Protocols
To further protect the student body and staff, new protocols were introduced and are still being observed on campus:
- Face covering requirement — face mask or face shield — for students in Kindergarten through 12th grade and staff (and Pre-K students when walking in the hallways).
- Students playing at recess, exercising in PE class, or participating in team sports
- Students actively eating lunch
- Early Childhood teachers are only required to wear face coverings when preparing food, toileting, cleaning, and when they are within six feet of other adults, as per Broward County Child Care Licensing and Enforcement guidelines.
- Daily temperature checks for all students and staff; wristbands are given daily to confirm they have a temperature below 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit
- Enhanced cleaning and disinfecting protocols
- Self-isolation rooms in the CCAH Clinic where students who develop any symptoms during the school day can wait for their parent to arrive
- Socially distanced seating (when applicable) in classrooms, assemblies, and weekly Chapels
- Interactive and mobile-friendly Daily Symptom Screening for parents to complete each morning before sending their child to school; helps parents determine the proper steps they should take
“Our students, staff, and parents have done an excellent job adapting to these new processes and making them a part of their daily routine,” said Paula Lonsway, CCA’s Director of Operations. “There’s a general understanding that if we want to continue with in-person learning, we need to keep each other safe by following the rules.”
Addressing Positive Cases
In an effort to maintain ongoing transparency with families, an online COVID dashboard was created on the MyCCAH platform that CCA Hollywood families have access to. Here, they can see the amount of active COVID-19 cases on campus and what actions have been taken. Parents are able to check this dashboard as regularly as they’d like so they can make informed decisions for their family. Cases are removed from this dashboard once the affected individual completes his or her quarantine period.
In the event a student or staff member tests positive, administrators work to identify which other students and staff have been in close contact with that individual (within 6 feet for 15 minutes or more). Anyone who was determined to be in close contact is required to quarantine at home for 10 days after their last contact with the individual, or quarantine for 7 days if they provide a negative test result no less than 48 hours prior to the end of quarantine.
The individual who tests positive is required to quarantine for 10 days and must be symptom-free before returning back to school. Students and staff members who are quarantined and feel well enough to work are able to log into classes from home via Google Meet.
superspreader situations are unlikely to happen in schools
“Based on what we have observed, most positive cases have come from activities outside of school, which means in-school transmission has been minimal on this campus,” said Evelyn Najarro, Human Resources Director. “According to our contact tracing data, approximately 4% of CCA Hollywood’s student body has tested positive since the school year began last August.”
This data aligns with research shared by CDC experts in a recent opinion piece published in the Journal of the American Medical Association
— a peer-reviewed medical journal published by the American Medical Association. The article
states that “there has been little evidence that schools have contributed meaningfully to increased community transmission”
(Honein, Barrios, Brooks, 2021).
Researchers from Duke University arrived at the same conclusion as well. According to Sallie Permar, MD, PhD, a professor of pediatrics and immunology at Duke, superspreader situations are unlikely to happen in schools. “The fear that you’d have one infected kid come to school, and then you’d have many other kids and teachers and relatives [at home] get infected — that hasn’t happened
Creating Experiences and Memories
“Children absolutely need to return to in-school learning for their healthy development and well-being, and so safety in schools and in the community must be a priority.” –American Academic of Pediatrics President, Lee Savio Beers, M.D., FAAP
While physical health is a priority during this season, meeting students’ mental, emotional, and spiritual needs is equally important. Despite school and certain activities looking different this year, God has blessed CCA Hollywood with the opportunity to provide meaningful and healthy experiences for its students.
“We are a family that sticks together and supports each other during the mountaintops and valleys of life.”
“Our students have faced significant challenges this past year, but our Eagles are grateful they can continue to develop spiritually, academically, and socially while safely experiencing the joys of childhood with their friends,” said Tarsis Martinez, Lower School Principal at CCA Hollywood. “We are a family that sticks together and supports each other during the mountaintops and valleys of life.”
Planning for 2021-22
As vaccines continue to be administered in South Florida and the region gets closer to achieving herd immunity, CCA Hollywood’s ultimate goal is to ease protocols that are currently in place.
At this point, it’s too soon to tell whether that will be possible for the 2021–22 school year that begins in six months. However, the school’s leadership team and administrators will continue to ask the Lord for wisdom, analyze data, and seek input from families and staff as they work to determine the best path forward.
“Through it all, God has been so good to us,” said Joshua Neal, Secondary School Principal at CCA Hollywood. “We can look to the future with excitement and anticipation because His love never fails and His mercies are new each day.”
If you are a prospective parent interested in seeing the safeguards that were mentioned in this article for yourself, or if you have any questions about Calvary Christian Academy Hollywood’s in-person and mobile learning options, join us for our Open House on March 25 at 6:30 PM. Click here to register.
Face coverings and temperature checks will be required.