Returning to Campus
Welcome to Episcopal Collegiate's planning pages for a healthy fall.
In the menus below, you will find information about our planning process and our plans for the 2020-21 school year. As plans evolve, we will alert you to updates to this page.
If you have questions or comments, you can submit them here.
- Driven by Mission and Values
- Scenario Planning: Determining the Way Forward
- Core Commitments
- Task Forces
The pursuit of academic and personal excellence does not waver even in the midst of a pandemic. At Episcopal, we are most effective in that pursuit when students are:
- Provided the right measures of challenge, grace, support, and accountability
- Surrounded by caring and dedicated teachers and coaches who know them well
- Integrated into the kind of strong community that comes from healthy relationships with peers and adults
- Afforded opportunities to become better versions of themselves by turning interests into passions, service into leadership, and fears into triumphs
While the ways we might provide this kind of learning environment might change, these values and commitments don’t.
In spite of the uncertainty that exists in what the start of school might hold, we have made considerable progress by planning around four possible scenarios.
Planning Scenario 1: In-person school with moderate mitigation strategies that do not significantly impact our normal operations
Planning Scenario 2: In-person school with enhanced mitigation strategies forcing more significant changes to the school day
Planning Scenario 3: Periods of in-person and remote learning throughout the fall semester with enhanced mitigation strategies likely for time on campus
Planning Scenario 4: Whether we begin the year in-person or not, a large portion of the fall semester in E-session
While we will make every effort to safely conduct school in-person throughout the fall semester, we do not know the conditions under which we will operate to start the new year. Nevertheless, these planning scenarios allow us to focus our thinking and be prepared for a variety of possibilities.
As we reflect on our successes and challenges this spring during E-Learning and work to maximize the likelihood and the time we can safely remain on campus during the fall semester, a number of key dimensions of our planning have emerged. We are committed to:
- Operating with student and teacher safety at the forefront
- Pursuing the highest possible quality educational experience whether we are in E-session or regular session
- Providing support and challenge to help each student move towards that best version of himself or herself
- Building safe, healthy, and supportive communities in classrooms, advisories, divisions, chapel, and across the school
- Training faculty to operate most effectively under these circumstances
- Designing seamless transitions between E-Learning and in-person learning
- Affording families flexibility in instructional delivery during regular session that allows for teachers and students to remain connected, engaged, and progressing whether at home or school
Administratively, we have divided the comprehensive and complex work of returning to Episcopal among three overlapping Task Forces.
Re-opening Campus—This task force is focusing on designing the proper mitigation strategies for a safe return to campus under the various scenarios. They are drawing on public health directives and expertise from within the medical community and guidelines produced by various government entities such as the CDC and the Arkansas Department of Health.
Academic Continuity—This task force is focusing on providing the most compelling and seamless academic experience possible given the varied demands placed on schools during this pandemic. Their work includes drawing on the expertise of industry leaders and our experience this spring; designing technological and pedagogical solutions to the challenges various scenarios present; and equipping teachers with the tools and understandings they need to serve our students best.
Financial Sustainability—This task force is focusing on managing the myriad financial pressures facing the school during this public health and economic crisis in ways that meet the needs of current students and ensure the health of the school for future generations of students.
The guidance released by the CDC and the Arkansas Department of Health will serve as our guide as we seek to provide a safe environment for our students. As we get closer to the start of school, this guidance will undoubtedly be refined, and we will make adjustments to our plans accordingly.
In the meantime, we are using the CDC’s phased framework for schools to shape our planning. Those plans are centered around four central efforts:
- Identifying protocols and procedures to conduct in-person classes and school activities safely. (screening, distancing, disinfecting, limits to movement and sharing, cohort isolation, etc.)
- Develop a plan for accommodating students, faculty, and staff who need to isolate or quarantine for a period of time- (i.e. hybrid learning)
- Developing protocols for a response to a test-positive case within the school community
- Coordinating across the school: facilities, cleaning services, dining services, athletics, arts, academics, and other programming
While specific plans continue to evolve based on the ongoing work of this task force, the most recent guidance by public health organizations, and the policies as set forth by the State of Arkansas, we are currently anticipating several key elements of our plans:
- Ongoing emphasis on personal hygiene
- Temperature Screening in carpool or parking lot
- Cohort isolation as recommended and possible (LS by class; MS by grade)
- Strategies to reduce incidental contacts
- Regular wipe-downs of high contact surfaces and misting of rooms between groups as possible
- Physical distancing and masks by teachers and students depending on recommendations
- Special plans for Chapel, PE, Athletics, Performing Arts, Recess, Science labs, and other co-curricular experiences
- Planning Objectives
- Hybrid Learning Overview
- Lower School E-Learning Overview
- Middle School E-Learning Overview
- Upper School E-Learning Overview
- Teacher Training
- Vertical Continuity
- Identify areas of improvement in E-Learning in all three divisions
- Develop a solution for the challenge of hybrid learning
- Ensure we can quickly move from in-person to E-Learning and back
- Develop summer professional development to enhance skills of teachers in the design and delivery of E-Learning
- Develop a standardized testing and vertical teaming plan that can help teachers tailor instruction to the demonstrated needs of students
Hybrid learning involves teaching and learning with some students or the teachers at home and other students or the teacher in the classroom. It is essential that we provide a path for high-risk or quarantined/isolated students to keep up with their classes while they are at home.
- All classes will have an online option with most classes livestreamed using a device (an OWL—see it in action here) that gives the online participants a full view of the room and allows them to easily participate in class discussions.
- At-home students will follow the regular, in-person class schedule, but classes will be recorded to make it easier for them to keep up.
- Each teacher will have a plan for supporting at-home students. Learning support staff and associate teachers will serve as the connecting resource during a student's time at home.
- We will have a backup plan for each teacher that allows for classes to move forward without the teacher in the room.
Taking into consideration feedback from parents and teachers, best practices from the National Association of Independent Schools, and information collected from other comparable independent schools across the country, we have enhanced the structure of our E-Learning program for the Fall. Our changes are driven by the importance of consistent interaction with classroom teachers, both whole group and individual instruction. The program for the Fall will be built around a consistent daily schedule that more closely mirrors on-campus instruction. This includes more live instruction for both core classroom content and co-curriculars, as well as time for small group and individual check-ins. Recognizing that there may be times where synchronous instruction is challenging, all live instructional lessons will be recorded and available to families.
As with on-campus instruction, our goal is to provide a learning experience that meets the needs of all students. In order to achieve this through E-Learning, our program is focused on elements that allow for appropriate differentiation including enrichment opportunities for students who need additional challenge and engagement and added support for students who encounter difficulties. Every grade level will have dedicated resources that allow for extension of classroom lessons, as well as support for independent exploration. Specialists and classroom teachers will provide resources for students who might need extra practice with particular concepts. Through small group instruction, individual check-ins, and feedback from parents, teachers will be able to better tailor the E-Learning experience to student needs and ensure continued engagement.
Daily assignments and regular assessments will allow teachers to have a solid understanding of how students are progressing through the E-Learning curriculum. Students will continue to be assigned daily work that supports the live lessons. Small group instruction and individual check-ins will offer an opportunity for teachers to informally assess student understanding in much the same way that pulling students to the “back table” with the teacher is used daily in the classroom. Summative assessments will continue to occur as appropriate. Feedback will be provided to both parents and students on submitted work as well as through live interaction during class and individual meetings.
E-Learning Lower School Schedule
All grade levels will begin each day with live homeroom meetings with their teacher and classmates to foster community and set expectations for the day and the week. This will be followed by a morning of live core instruction with age-appropriate breaks. Midday students will transition to live co-curricular classes. Afternoons will allow for classwork completion time and a menu to offer opportunities for choice and differentiation. Small group instruction, meetings with specialists, and check-ins with homeroom teachers will all occur during these afternoon blocks.
In the Middle School’s E-Learning program, we will start school 30 minutes later and allow fifteen minute breaks between classes. Students will still continue to have seven classes, including both core and co-curricular classes, and they will continue to attend five classes per day, as they would during in-person school.
Modes of Instruction
Teaching and learning will occur during class time predominantly synchronously, meaning students in a class will be working on the same things during class time, either individually or in groups, though not necessarily on a live meeting, and asynchronously, where students will be researching, problem solving, and working on their own and at their own pace. We want to be conscious of our young people having too much screen time, and we also know that most students tend to dis-engage from teacher lectures after approximately 15 minutes in person or online. It is important to note, however, that even when working asynchronously, students will never be alone during class time; the teacher will still be on-line or easily accessible via the classroom chat or Google meet. This would be akin to what our teaching and learning looks like during in-person school. Teachers do some direct instruction, but more importantly, they create experiences for students and guide students through these, while also being available to answer questions and offer feedback.
Learning Management System
Whether at school or in E-Learning, students will know what their expectations are for each class because they will be published on Haiku, Episcopal’s Learning Management System (LMS). Faculty will post course expectations, assignments (including due dates), and resources on their class Haiku pages. Students will submit assignments through Haiku as well. Parents, too, have the ability to access this information. Training for rising sixth grade parents less familiar with Haiku, and parents of students in grades 6-8 new to the school, will be offered prior to the beginning of the 2020-2021 school year. Parents of returning students will also be afforded the opportunity to receive this training. Parents will also be able to log in to the School’s Veracross system to see their child’s grades.
Grade-level teaching teams, together with the Academic Dean, Head of Middle School, and Director of Learning Support Services meet once per week during E-Learning to discuss different aspects of pedagogy and curriculum, as well as to talk about how students are doing. When students begin to fall behind, or appear to need assistance, the team will create a plan to help the child and that information will be shared with the child’s parents. Where necessary, virtual meetings with one or more teachers and the director of learning support services can be scheduled.
The Head of Middle School and grade-level teams will share responsibility for disseminating electronic information to families every other week on what is happening in our classrooms and during morning meetings during a given week.
Additionally, advisors will connect with parents periodically during E-learning to share information on students’ socio-emotional health and well-being, as well as talk to parents about recent advisory curriculum programming.
This past spring’s E-Learning experience clearly showed that students complete work at different rates and some require additional support. Some students seem to thrive in E-Learning and others tend to plug along. Students/families who are overwhelmed by having five classes per day may choose to Opt Out of co-curricular classes, e.g., Spanish 6, Religion 6, Percussion, Chorus, Art, Theater, PE, Health, and Exploratory Design (To do so, the student must email the classroom teacher to let them know that they would like to “Opt out,” and there will be no penalty assessed.).
Conversely, parents and students who find that they are not being challenged enough in and through our E-Learning program (or during in-person school), should reach out to their child’s advisor, who will then create a plan with the student and their teachers to increase the level of challenge in that student’s academic program.
We know that each student works at his or her own pace, whether we are on campus together or working remotely. Our work with E-Learning last spring highlighted--and perhaps amplified--the range of student experience in classes, with some students reporting that the work for their classes was overwhelming while others felt that they would have benefited from greater challenge. When we are working in person, teachers often have the opportunity to identify and address these needs in the course of day-to-day interactions with students, but these interactions are limited when we are working remotely, and we therefore recognize the need for a proactive, deliberate approach to identifying students in need of support or enrichment.
As part of our E-Learning program this fall, we will use a range of strategies to identify students who might need additional support with work for their courses as well as those who would benefit from enrichments to supplement their coursework. We will continue regular reviews of current student performance in classes and conversations with teachers and advisors, and we will also use student performance on diagnostic and standardized testing. Additionally, parents and students who feel that they need additional support or a higher level of engagement should contact their advisor, who will create a plan with the student and his or her teachers.
Our experience with E-Learning this spring highlights the fact that students have nearly instant access to a vast array of facts. We know that the ability to evaluate sources, synthesize information, and apply knowledge--rather than content knowledge alone--will best serve students as they prepare for life beyond high school. We want students to have a mastery of content that allows them to create a context for their understanding and a framework within which they can evaluate new sources of information, but we also want to design assessments that increasingly allow students to demonstrate their ability to evaluate and apply information and skills.
Learning Management System
As we began E-Learning during the spring, our primary Learning Management System (LMS) was unable to provide consistent access to students and teachers because of the increased server load on Haiku from schools across the country. When we surveyed students and teachers, several remarked on the inconsistencies that resulted as we tried to provide short-term solutions to substitute for Haiku.
As we prepare for the fall, we are working to ensure that students and teachers have reliable access to course information through our LMS, and we will work toward greater consistency across classes in the presentation of course expectations, assignments (including due dates), class resources, and the assignment submission process.
Students and parents will continue to use Veracross to access current grades. We recognize the importance of providing prompt feedback for students, and we typically expect to record grades in Veracross for major assessments within one week of submission.
We know that students sometimes need additional support, and we want to make sure that they feel that it’s easy for them to get help when they need it. We will continue to provide help with mathematics through our Math Lab every day that school is in session, whether in person or online. Our student-run Writing Center will continue to offer one-on-one sessions where students can get individualized help and feedback on their written assignments across the curriculum. When we are in E-Learning, the Simpson Library will offer drop-in sessions for students who need help with research for classes, book recommendations, or anything else library related. Our librarian is also available for individual sessions with students who need help at other times during the day.
Students can also get help from their teachers, either by attending their teacher’s established office hours or by making an appointment with their teacher. When we are working remotely, students simply need to email their teacher to schedule a time. In addition, our school counselor and the Academic Achievement Center will continue to work individually and in small groups with students, whether we are on campus or working remotely. Students and parents can contact the AAC directly for additional help, or their advisor can help to connect them with the AAC.
This summer, all faculty (PK-12) will complete a summer minicourse specifically designed for our environment and based on the best practice for both in-person and E-Learning.
The course will review best practices in the following areas:
- Assessment and grading
- Presentations, discussions, and other forms of student engagement
- Community-building in the classroom
- Technology integration
At Episcopal, we always invest considerable effort to ensure our curriculum maintains continuity from grade to grade. Our curriculum map is updated each year to reflect the content covered and teams of teachers at a grade level or in a department meet regularly to ensure vertical continuity of expectations, content, and progress. We typically use a variety of means to assess our success, including standardized tests, and make adjustments accordingly.
Heading into this fall, the process is even more important. We were not able to conduct our typical ERB and ACT Series tests this spring and even under the best of circumstances, E-Learning can be disruptive. While we were diligent in identifying the curricular goals we needed to meet while in E-Learning, we want to ensure teachers have all of the information they need to design instruction and set curricular goals accordingly. We have developed plans to do just that and those plans include:
- Students in 7th through 12th grades have been assigned or recommended summer math work based on a diagnostic test. Students in Algebra II and below took an online diagnostic this spring while we used the PSAT performance of the rising 11th and 12th graders to define their areas of focus.
- All students up through 8th grade will take some form of assessment this fall to help us understand where they are in math and reading comprehension. For 3rd - 8th graders, testing will happen two to three times during the year using a new ERB Milestones tests focused on Math and Reading Comprehension. The 9th grade will take an ACT-series test in October when the 10th and 11th graders are taking the PSAT. Other plans are still in the works.
- Based on their curricular goals this spring, teachers are identifying areas in need of additional attention as students transition to the next grade.
- Working with curricular leaders, their departments, and grade level teams, teachers will review both testing and these areas of need to inform content and instruction in the coming year.