Resuming In-Person Learning: CCA’s Journey

Last summer, CCA’s leadership team and administrators worked around the clock to develop a plan for swiftly resuming in-person learning and mitigating the spread of COVID-19 on its campuses. Read about the changes that have made it possible for Calvary Christian Academy students to receive the spiritual, academic, and social support they need to soar.

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 Fort Lauderdale and Hollywood 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

Close to half a million dollars in health and safety investments were made on CCA’s Fort Lauderdale campus where close to 2,000 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 multi-person handwashing stations on playgrounds and physical education spaces

  • Hiring additional staff to sanitize high touchpoint areas more frequently as well as substitute teachers, and a full-time contact tracer

  • 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 Elementary classrooms, Middle School cafeteria, academic suites, 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.
    Optional for:
    • Lower School students playing at recess or exercising in PE
    • Students participating in team sports after school
    • Students actively eating lunch
    • Early Childhood students, which includes Preschool (ages 0-2), Pre-K3 and Pre-K4
    • Early Childhood teachers are only required to wear face coverings when preparing food, diapering, 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 room in the CCA 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

“CCA’s 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 MyCCA platform that CCA 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.
Thankfully, there has been a minimal amount of in-school transmission on this campus
In the event a student or staff member tests positive, the school’s contact tracer works 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.

 
“We are seeing a majority of student cases develop outside of school. Thankfully, there has been a minimal amount of in-school transmission,” said Adrienne Huisman, CCA’s full-time contact tracer. “Our contact tracing efforts have revealed that approximately 6% of our student body has tested positive since the 2020-21 school year began, and only four cases are believed to be a result of in-class transmission. There’s also been no student-to-teacher transmission that we know of.”

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).
superspreader situations are unlikely to happen in schools
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 (Boyle, 2020).”

 

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 with the opportunity to provide meaningful and healthy experiences for its students who have endured so much this past year due to COVID.

“At school, kids can be kids,” said Charisma Dougherty, CCA’s Middle School Counselor. “As a staff member and parent, there’s nothing like hearing laughter and chatter in the halls between classes, the bustle of lively discussions taking place in the classroom, and shrieks of joy from our youngest Eagles running around on the playground. These are the sounds of childhood and innocence.”

 
 

Planning for 2021-22

As vaccines continue to be administered in South Florida and the region gets closer to achieving herd immunity, CCA’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.

“If this school year has taught us anything, it’s that God can do immeasurably more than we ask or imagine,” said Steve Mayo, CCA’s Director of Discipleship. “So whatever 2021-22 brings, we can be confident that God will direct our steps, be with us, and move in the lives of our students.”

 
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’s in-person and mobile learning options, register for a small group campus tour for prospective families at CCAEagles.org/Tours. Face coverings and temperature checks will be required.
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