Planning for Fall, 2020

COVID-19 has disrupted many aspects of our daily lives, including our children’s education. All schools turned to online learning for the last three months of the 2019-20 school year, with parents bearing a heavy load at home to make sure that their children were focused and knew what to do. Unlike many other schools, ECS did not lower its learning goals. Our students covered all the content originally planned for those last few months and finished the year prepared for the next grade level. We thank our ECS parent community for all they did to make this possible!

Now, as we set our sights on the 2020-21 school year, our newly created COVID Council is working diligently to prepare us for a great start in September. Based on a number of crucial “learnings” from the past several months, we have set the following goals. [Read details about each goal by clicking on the “+” to the left of each goal.]

Our state’s Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) is currently recommending that schools maintain a six-foot physical distance between students.  For many schools with large class sizes, the limitations of classroom space and staffing prevent them from having all their students in school at the same time. Because our classes are smaller, ECS is able to accommodate all our students and still maintain the recommended physical distance between classmates.

Your child will be able to come to school every day for the full day. Why is this important? Despite our best efforts to provide a great online learning experience at the end of this past academic year, two things were clear: our students learn better in a classroom environment and our parents need to be freed up to return to their own work or home schedules.

A common (mis)perception in educational circles is that we must lower our expectations of how much curriculum we can cover and how much students can learn in the midst of this global pandemic. For a variety of reasons, including unequal access to computers and concerns about student stress, many schools chose not to maintain a rigorous educational program from March to June 2020. At ECS, we chose to fully utilize our time to continue your child’s educational, social, and emotional development, albeit in a different format.

Change can be difficult for many children, but we believe that our small class sizes and our Christ-centered focus enable us to know, support, and work with our students in such a way that they can master the curriculum at a high level.

These are crucial days in the lives of your children, and we take seriously our charge to help them grow into the young men and women that God intends them to be. Students have a lot to learn, and it remains part of our mission to teach our students at a high level. We intend to do just that, regardless of COVID-19 or any other interruption that might come along.

There is a great deal we are still learning about COVID-19, and we expect that our understanding of the virus will continue to evolve over the summer. However, the ECS COVID Council has been carefully monitoring various government, health, and school agency publications and announcements for regulations, best practices, and programming recommendations that will help us create a safe educational environment. We will follow state and OSPI safety protocols, including

  • practicing physical distancing in the classrooms, hallways, and common areas
  • wearing face coverings as directed (not including preschool)
  • limiting the movement of students around campus
  • minimizing the mixing of different grades
  • cleaning, cleaning, and cleaning some more

Students will be asked to stay home if they exhibit any coughing, sneezing, or fever, and temperatures will be taken at the beginning of every school day. Rather than having students move from one area to another (for specialists, for example), we will bring teachers, programming, and lunches to them. Students will also have their own desks and learning materials that will not be used by anyone else.

How do we keep kids physically distanced during recess? This will be a challenge, but our efforts will include staggering recess times and marking off areas of the playground for different groups to use on a rotating basis. This will limit student exposure to only those in their grade.

Can we guarantee that our school community will be perfectly safe from COVID-19? No. Do we believe that we’re taking every reasonable precaution to greatly lower the chance of transmission? Yes. Do we feel that the environment is safe enough to allow for a return to school? Absolutely yes.

We understand that not all families will be ready to return their children to campus in the Fall, and others may experience times of quarantine even after returning to school. For any students needing to learn from home, we will be offering an excellent virtual program that will deliver teacher instruction, engage students in learning, and keep students connected to the ECS community. To do this well, the program will offer a more streamlined curriculum, focusing primarily on core subjects. While we will do our best to provide a program that students can access independently, there will undoubtedly be some need for parent support/involvement, especially for the younger children. If the state once again decides that it is necessary to close all schools, our online program will already be running, and the transition to virtual school should be seamless.

During the last few months of online instruction, we found that students learned best when teachers used a variety of presentation styles, including live class meetings, taped instruction, small-group and individual meetings with the teacher, and independent student work time.

Although we received requests for more “live” instruction, we found that in practice, “live” class meetings often proved counterproductive, with constant distractions limiting the ability of the teacher to instruct or interact with the group effectively. “Live” online time, we found, was useful for small-group or one-to-one instruction or for fun times of building community as a class, but multiple small meetings also led to less “live” time per student.

Rather than focusing on more “live” instruction, therefore, we have chosen to focus on fully engaging students in a variety of learning activities and presenting material in such a way that it allows for student independence and minimal parental involvement.

There are four components to our being better prepared for any mandatory at-home schooling next year:  experienceplanning, training, and communication.

When we shut down in March, all four of these components were lacking for our online program. The pre-planning done in February turned out to be totally insufficient when what we thought would be a two-week interruption turned into three months of distance learning. Despite those obstacles, we did our best to implement a program quickly and with minimal loss of learning.

Our experience from those three months of online schooling taught us what works and what doesn’t, and we are currently crystallizing our plans for a program that will effectively and efficiently serve our community online. Our planning will include both short-term and long-term solutions, as we don’t yet know what we may face in 2020-21.

The staff has also identified one primary delivery platform (Microsoft Teams) and other programs (the Microsoft Suite of OneNote, Forms, and Stream) that all teachers will use to support instruction and communicate with parents. Come late August and early September, we will provide significant training to all our students so they can navigate and use these programs as independently as possible.

We will also be communicating frequently with the parent community to help you better understand our processes and programs. In response to parent feedback, we hope to streamline our communication so you will ideally receive only one email a day from your child’s teacher and have one place to go to check on your child’s work/assignments/classes.

One of the most unfortunate casualties of distance learning was the loss of our ability to gather as a Christ-centered community. We’re determined not to have that happen again.

  • Finding new ways to increase our sense of community while at school is quite straight forward. For as long as we’re on campus, we will emphasize the building of community by setting aside time during the day specifically for teachers to build relationships with their students and for classroom activities to foster deeper connections between classmates. During the COVID shutdown, the entire ECS staff felt the loss of this fundamental component of who we are as a school. Given the opportunity to gather in person in the Fall, we’re going to pursue community and relationships with relish.
  • If the entire school finds itself “at-home” again, there are considerable obstacles to maintaining or growing a sense of community during virtual schooling. Honestly, we have yet to find a truly satisfying answer. How do we maintain a sense of community while we are isolated in our homes? Virtual class gatherings centered on fun and fellowship may be part of the answer, as well as online opportunities for the students to meet one-on-one with the teacher. Online prayer groups that include teachers, students, and parents can help keep us spiritually connected. We will continue to think creatively about this challenge as we are committed to being a Christ-centered community.

In this time of fear and uncertainty, anger and disunity, we pray that ECS can provide a safe, loving, and Christ-centered environment where your children can learn and grow in their faith. May they become a generation of thinkers, problem solvers, and leaders who will be beacons of light for God’s Kingdom here on earth.

We look forward to seeing you on campus in September!

Christ be with you,

The ECS COVID Council

Principal Video Series

We are working on plans to reopen in September.  We will continue to update the ECS community about our plans for Fall as more details are available, both here and in letters from our principal, Mark Migliore.

Returning to School in September
Safety Considerations
Academic Programming
ECS Community
Distance Learning at ECS
New Student Inquiry
Contact us with questions, concerns, or comments

From our wonderful Moms-in-Prayer group, who invite you to prayerfully read and find solace in the Word of God:

6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.  Philippians 4:6-7

“We want to again compliment your staff for all they’ve done this year to pivot and quickly build a virtual school.  Hats off to the entire staff for working so diligently to maintain community and high levels of learning.  As parents working from home, we see the communication we need and have a teacher of the highest quality, as evidenced in her relationships with students (lots of love notes and gentle pushing to excellence) and in academics.”

~ ECS Parent, April, 2020

“I have been so happy and appreciative of the online school instruction my son has received from ECS. The conversion to online classes was seamless, the work load is manageable, the students are kept busy, and their assignments are corrected quickly. The teachers have also been AMAZING! They are readily available to answer questions, teach classes and encourage the kids. Their communication to the students and their teaching have been first class.”

~ ECS Parent, April, 2020