Meeting the Future: GPS’s Dynamic Learning Program
GPS is monitoring the rapidly evolving news and information on the spread of COVID-19 in the Chattanooga area. This webpage centralizes information and resources for the GPS community. Please check this page regularly for updates. 
 
The health and safety of your daughters and our community, remain our top priorities and drive our decision-making process.

COMMUNICATIONS REGARDING GPS'S RESPONSE TO COVID-19

List of 12 items.

  • GPS & COVID-19 Update | June 1, 2020

    Dear GPS Community,

    Facing the Future.

    Planning for the 2020-21 school year has been challenging, to say the least. As the coronavirus has spread and evolved, so too has both our understanding of it and our strategies for responding to it. While we work to design a dynamic engagement program for the fall, we know there are some important moments that still need our focus. Please continue to hold July 23 and 24 for our Class of 2020 May Day and Commencement. During the week of July 6, more definitive plans will be shared with our community. Additionally, please read your most recent Parent/Student Update for information about yearbook distribution planned for this Saturday, June 6.

    For months, a design team at GPS has been seeking the best medical guidance to develop a variety of options for reopening school this August. We understand that any plan we embrace today will need to be flexible enough to respond to changes that might develop over the summer months or once the school year begins.

    Nevertheless, we want to share our current plan with you. We anticipate our first day of classes will be August 19, with the majority of students on campus. We will continue to follow CDC guidelines. In order to do so, we anticipate that modifications will need to be made. 
    • Physical distance will need to be maintained throughout the buildings. 
    • Temperatures will need to be taken daily. 
    • Face coverings will need to be worn; more details to come regarding specifications. 
    • Spaces will be disinfected often. 
    • Emphasis will be placed on personal hygiene with hand sanitizers and touchless faucets and fountains provided.
    We also anticipate that modifications will need to be made to the daily schedule and some activities in order to accommodate the above requirements. 

    Regardless of how thorough our health and safety precautions are, we understand there may be students with existing medical conditions that will make returning to campus challenging. We also understand there may be families who are reluctant for their daughters to return to campus. It is our desire that all students feel physically and psychologically safe. If a parent chooses to have his/her daughter continue her studies off campus, the student will be provided with access and support to do so.

    While we hope that it will not be necessary to return to off-campus learning or some variation of that, please know that we are prepared to respond quickly as is necessary to follow any new recommendations of the CDC

    As we reflect on the past spring, we are encouraged by your responses to our survey about our distance learning efforts. As part of our current readiness planning, all faculty are involved in professional development activities to improve our online capabilities should the situation arise.

    Over the summer, we will be providing additional details about schedules and procedures. In the meantime, know that we are actively planning for a meaningful and joyful educational experience for your daughters.

    Here's to the Girls!

    Dr. Autumn A. Graves
    Head of School

    Dr. Kirk Walker
    Interim Head of School, 2020-21
  • COVID-19 Frequently Asked Questions | June 1, 2020

    Answers to FAQs provided by Dr. Chris Benz Smith ’72, Director of the School of Nursing UTC, Chief Health Affairs Officer for UTC, the lead on the COVID-19 pandemic for UTC, and former GPS Chair of the Board of Trustees; and Dr. Allen Coffman, pediatrician at Highland Pediatrics, GPS Board of Trustees member, and the 2016 Pediatrician of the Year by the Tennessee Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics. Both Drs. Smith and Coffman are deeply involved at the local and state levels with managing through the health crisis as well as in establishing safe reopening practices.

    The information provided here is meant to supplement but not substitute medical advice from your healthcare provider. 

    Is COVID-19 more contagious than other infectious diseases?
    Data suggest that the virus is actually spreading more efficiently than the flu, which makes it more concerning. However, it’s not nearly as efficient as measles, which is very, very contagious where one person can infect 18 (this is called the R0 or R naught value), or chicken pox (varicella) where one person can infect 12 others. When a virus is able to infect more than one other person from an infected host, that virus has the potential to cause an uncontrolled pandemic. The 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic that killed millions, had a rate of spread of 1.4 to 2.8 infected individuals from one host. The early studies of COVID-19 have calculated an R0 rate of 2.2 to 5 under normal social conditions.

    It is possible for COVID-19 to spread in other ways, we think. There have been questions about contracting the virus by touching surfaces or objects where the virus resides, which may be possible, but only a viable live virus can infect us. If someone has sneezed on the table, and we haven’t disinfected or touched it for two or three days, the virus is no longer viable. Touching a surface and then touching your face will not necessarily spread the virus in this instance  since dead viruses are not considered infectious.

    Isn’t COVID-19 a simple virus, like a common cold or the flu?
    First, COVID-19 is 2-5 times more contagious than influenza. Second the fatality rate is 5-10 times as high and may end up being much higher than that in those over 65 years of age and those with heart disease, obesity, hypertension, and chronic lung disease. Finally, this virus seems to induce a devastating immune storm in some people of all ages. This immune reaction causes catastrophic organ injury and high rate of clotting and pulmonary embolism/strokes.

    Why does physical distancing matter?
    Anytime we are close to someone who coughs, sneezes, or talks or breathes heavily, their respiratory droplets can actually land on our face, in our mouth, and in our noses. The reason we do face coverings and physical distancing is the virus has spread mainly from person to person, and at this time we think  it is difficult to spread farther than six feet, especially when an infected individual is asymptomatic.

    Why is there a difference between inside and outside with regards to exposure to COVID-19?
    The virus is thought to be spread by heavy respiratory droplets that fall to the ground quickly. This spread is limited and dispersed by higher air flow. Stagnant, poorly ventilated rooms enable more exposure to these virus-carrying droplets. Outside, these droplets are dispersed quickly. We anticipate changes in recommendations for public commercial ventilation that increase air flow and push droplets to the ground more quickly.

    Are certain school activities higher risk than others?
    Singing in close company like a choir or in a church service has shown to be highly effective in widespread infection. This is because of the generation of more respiratory droplets and the forceful expiration of those droplets over greater distances. Screaming, yelling, weight lifting, and aerobic activity have all been shown to create larger areas of potential contamination. There is some promising data that face shields that cover the eyes, face, and ears may protect athletes and performers in situations that would be difficult to wear a mask while doing.

    Does wearing a face covering help?
    Wearing a 3-ply cloth face covering is recommended whenever you’re out among others, but do not use a face covering that is considered necessary for those who are in health care, like surgical masks or  N95s. We need to reserve those for healthcare providers. When physical distancing is impossible, your face covering needs to fit snugly and comfortably and be secured with loops or ties. Multiple layers of fabric allow for breathing. It should be laundered and machine dried when it becomes dirty; the recommendation is daily.

    Children ages two and under are not recommended to wear facemasks. Children and adults who will continually touch, drop, or manipulate their facemask should not wear a face mask. Also neuroatypical children often will not tolerate wearing a face mask or having a trusted caregiver wear a mask.

    What else helps prevent contracting the virus?
    Again, make sure you stay away from others when possible, even if you or they have no symptoms. Physical distancing is especially important for those people who are at high risk for severe illness, such as those over 65, those who have chronic illnesses or a compromised immune system, and those who have to care for others. Also wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds, especially after you have been in a public place, after you've been coughing or sneezing, or you had to blow your nose. If soap and water are unavailable, then use hand sanitizer that is at least 60% alcohol. Cover all surfaces of your hands and rub them together until they feel dry. Washing hands still remains the most active strategy in order to avoid transmitting this to others.

    Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth and avoid close contact with people who are sick, even in your own home. Don't gather in groups, stay out of crowded places, avoid mass gatherings, and have your groceries delivered or use curbside pickup.

    Disinfect surfaces that are frequently touched such as cell phones, keyboards, light switches, tables, countertops, toilets, faucets, doorknobs—anything else you touch daily.

    What if I or someone I live with develops symptoms?
    We all know these symptoms: fever of 100.4 or higher, cough, fatigue, shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, chills, muscle pain, sore throat, new loss of taste or smell, and then GI symptoms—nausea, vomiting, diarrhea. If symptoms develop, take your temperature but not within 30 minutes of exercising or using ibuprofen or Tylenol. If you have symptoms and you want to get tested, first stay home and call your healthcare provider. Tell him or her your symptoms and if you’ve knowingly been exposed to someone with COVID-19. You will probably be advised to stay home, monitor your symptoms, and then report in frequently. If you are advised to seek testing, your provider will suggest where. The test for the virus is a nasopharyngeal swab that goes through your nose to the back of your throat where the virus tends to like to exist. Then it is placed in a medium and sent to a lab to check to see if the virus is present. Results should take one to two days. If you test positive, monitor your symptoms, don't go into public places, take care of yourself, rest, stay hydrated, and take over-the-counter medication such as Tylenol or ibuprofen to help you feel better. Stay in touch with your healthcare provider and avoid public transportation—don’t take an Uber to get tested.

    If you are sick, all members of your household, with whom you have contact, should remain home until COVID-19 testing results are known. If the test is positive, all contacts should remain home and notify their physicians.

    Is there a test for the antibody?
    For the most part, test results for COVID-19 are fairly accurate.  The nasal swab which only tests for the virus has become more accurate over time. Where we are running into problems is antibody testing which has been developed fairly quickly. Unfortunately, the accuracy is not 100% at this time but progress is being made. Due to this inconsistency, providers have to be very careful when looking at the results. It usually takes about two to three weeks before you have enough antibodies to be detected in the blood, so depending on the time of the illness and the recovery, these will impact whether the antibodies are present at a high enough level to be measured when you are tested. You won’t want to be tested for antibodies until you have fully recovered, so you may not know about your immune status for several  weeks. The persistence and the utility of the antibodies is currently not fully understood.  It does seem that those who have actually recovered from COVID-19 may be able to donate convalescent plasma to those who are COVID-19+.  It is an experimental treatment, but the antibodies from those who are well from COVID-19 appear to slow the disease in those who are very ill. It is not clear if antibodies persist, like the response to the measles, or fade over several months like the flu.

    Is getting a flu shot important?
    Federal health officials and the CDC agree that it’s important to control the spread of influenza now more than ever. For practical reasons, you need to get a flu shot to do everything you can to keep yourself healthy and out of the hospital. We strongly suggest that everyone on the GPS campus get a flu shot as soon as they’re available in August and September and to get your flu shot by the middle of September or October at the latest. This allows your body ample time to create those protective antibodies.

    Will there be a COVID-19 vaccine soon?
    The University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine recently announced they are working on a  vaccine that’s been tested in mice that seemed to be very effective in producing antibodies for SARS-CoV-2 in quantities high enough thought to neutralize the virus. They have developed a really interesting delivery system, where a fingertip-sized patch of about 400 tiny needles is used to directly deliver the vaccine into the skin using microneedles. These needles are made of sugar and protein spikes and once in the skin, they  disintegrate. It is only one of the vaccines in development. Researchers across the globe are working to find an effective vaccine, but it is uncertain whether we will have one ready by the end of the year. Some do think January 2021 is a realistic date. This date relies on the development and success of a novel type of vaccine, fast tracking of critical safety testing, new production methods, a reworking of production supply chains, and a highly efficient and well-managed public health vaccine campaign. The odds of all of those things happening are very low. The last viral vaccine developed was the varicella or chickenpox vaccine; it took 10 years to develop and test. Stay tuned!

    How will GPS handle the return of school with physical distancing?
    We are going to do the same thing that we all have done: we're going to limit the physical closeness of our students. Those who are performers and are athletes will avoid touching or sharing equipment, gear, or instruments or supplies. For example, if a student has a lesson on the piano, before the student comes in and between uses, we will disinfect it and wipe it down. If someone needs to use the same bat for softball, it will be wiped down so the next girl can use it. We will engage in physical distancing while not actively engaged in classes or athletic events or rehearsals. We will make sure that we have six feet between people. We will have reminders that we need to be paying attention to this, which might include signage at entrances, arrows on the floor, etc. We will have reminders for people to clean their laptops and cell phones. We will have to change the culture of our school to keep them aware of healthy habits.

    We're pretty lucky because our youngest students are around 11 or 12, so it’s easier—at least it should be easier—than teaching really young children the importance of keeping face coverings on and keeping hands clean. We do know that since girls are relational and tend to want to be close to each other, there will be challenges for them to keep physically distant. So we are looking at classroom sizes and keeping non-essential visitors and spectators off campus unless absolutely necessary.

    Director of Athletics Jay Watts is staying informed by the TSSAA and looking to the guidelines for athletic events beginning this fall that will follow best practices outlined by the governor as well as the CDC and local health officials.

    How will staff and teachers monitor and enforce face coverings, social distancing, good hygiene, and responsible staying at home when sick in 11- to 19-year-olds?
    Of these measures, staying at home when sick, identifying girls with new symptoms at school, and limiting exposure to others are the most important. Good hygiene comes next. Social distancing is third, and face coverings are last. Many students are getting very mixed messaging in regards to all of these measures.

    The students are all developmentally binary and rigid for the most part. The functional rules and practices of the school in regards to infection control should be clear and simple. They should be well thought out ahead of time. These need to be communicated clearly and regularly with the girls and their parents. The fluidity of the school’s understanding of the virus and the changes possible in the local community should be regularly communicated along with the expectation of changes to school policy.

    It is very important to build strong ideas for girls in how these measures benefit them. Repetition and peer pressure to build compliance with infection control measures will build success. A well-informed understanding of why these measures are important and how they will increase the chances that school will go on more normally (and each girl and her friends will also have a higher chance of not getting sick) will be a strong motivator. School pride in limiting spread at GPS, low numbers of schoolmates infected, and a more normal school year should be built as sources of pride for the girls, faculty, and staff.

    What are concrete measures the school can use to evaluate the local Chattanooga conditions for COVID-19?
    The local active case rate (5 day lag), the hospitalized rate (2 week lag), the ICU bed rate (3 week lag) and the death rate (4 week lag) are all pragmatic measures of the local caseload. This information can be found at Tennessee COVID-19 updateCOVID-19 in Hamilton County, TN, or Coronavirus (COVID-19). A two week decrease in any of those metrics would suggest a decrease in local cases. The real difficulty has been the economic and political challenges to be that patient, the lack of local testing capacity, and the impact of the virus in sections of the community that have poor access to health care. It is also difficult to assess because, in a community our size, the impact of the virus invading a workplace, neighborhood, or institution with more higher-risk individuals can rapidly increase these specific metrics.

    The website COVIDActNow is a project of George Washington University and Stanford that attempts to use local data to calculate the current R0 (R naught) under the local restrictive social measures. If the current R0 is 1 or lower, the community spread is decreasing and the local case rates would approach zero. If the R0 is above 1 (R0 was 1.4 for Hamilton County as of May 31, 2020), then the virus infection rate in the community is expanding.

    Is it safe to go to the pediatrician office to get school shots or school/sports physicals?
    There has been a steep decline in routine vaccines during the first few months of the COVID-19 pandemic. Some physicians are concerned we may also start to see new outbreaks of vaccine-preventable conditions such as measles, pertussis, mumps, and Neisseria meningitidis. All pediatric offices have implemented standard cleaning and exposure-limiting protocols to protect patients from exposure to ill patients. It is safe to visit local pediatric and family practice offices. Patients’ families should contact the physician to review the infection control procedures at that office.
  • GPS Athletics Update | June 1, 2020

    Dear Parents,

    Over the last several weeks, GPS has developed a Return to Play Plan that will allow some of our girls to gradually return to campus for athletic training and workouts. When developing our plan, we consulted with leading organizations at the national, state, and local levels to ensure the safety of our athletes, our coaches, and their families. Our ability to begin many of our summer workouts has been dependent on clearance from the TSSAA, the Tennessee governor’s office, and Hamilton County Health Department. Last week, we received permission to open up most of our athletic facilities as long as a number of rules are followed with regard to health screening, physical distancing, and the total number of athletes involved.

    Part of our protocols for this summer will involve your support and cooperation as we gradually allow our coaches and your daughters to return to campus. This will certainly not be a "typical” summer, from any perspective, and there are likely to be some changes and adaptations to our initial plans as we get closer to the start of the school year. We are still waiting for guidance from the TSSAA with regards to the start of fall sports and how COVID-19 will affect our plans for official tryouts, practices, and interscholastic competition.

    There is a current Executive Order from the Governor of Tennessee that bans all contact sports until June 30. We are unlikely to have a clear image of what fall sports will really look like until that date. The order could be extended and, if it is, decisions would need to be made at that point about the potential for football and other contact sports. While obviously football is not one of our offerings, the TSSAA’s decision on its viability in the fall will have a domino effect on other activities.

    Some sports will be allowed to do more this summer than others simply because of the nature of how and where they are played. Sports that are more conducive to following prescribed directives regarding physical distancing and limiting the sharing of equipment will be the easiest to restart. Please understand that our planning for each sport has considered the mechanics and unique behaviors of its participants. It is much easier to physically distance yourself and limit contact with others while playing golf and tennis, for example, than it is when playing basketball or volleyball. 

    Here are the important points to pass on to each of you at this time:
    • We have established general Return to Play protocols for all sports. Each time your daughter comes to campus for a workout or training session, be prepared to fill out a form that assesses her current health status and readiness to interact with others in our community. While this step may seem redundant if your daughter is coming on a regular basis, it is a crucial piece for our mitigation of any possible spread of infectious disease.
    • Please do not allow your daughter to come to campus at a time when no coach will be present. This would include things that may have occurred in the past such as unsupervised friendly tennis matches, jogging around the track, or casual soccer play on one of our fields. Anyone who is on campus for training will have to complete a series of screening questions with a GPS coach before starting her activity.
    • We also request that you do not allow your daughter to carpool to campus with her friends or with other athletes in her neighborhood. While we realize this will be an added inconvenience for many of you, carpooling defeats the goals of physical distancing.
    • Our weight room will open for limited student use starting this week. Students who are interested in working with our head strength coach, Matt Green, should email him directly to receive more information about signup and participation protocols. Priority will be given to Upper School athletes with Middle School athletes allowed in the weight room based on remaining space.
    • Our outdoor sports will be allowed to begin training on campus this week. Indoor sports will be permitted to hold workouts with a limited number of athletes on June 8. At this time, we are limiting all training sessions to groups of 10 people or fewer, and that number includes the coaches present for each session. We will consider revising this number as we progress into the summer and get a better sense of the overall health situation in our county and surrounding areas.
    It is important to note that our guidelines are for coaches and athletes who want to voluntarily return to campus to engage in athletic activity. No summer workout for GPS students will be required for participation during the school year.

    Your daughter’s coach(es) will communicate if and when they will be holding any summer workouts in the coming weeks. Coach Green will communicate with our athletes who are interested in using our weight room.  I appreciate your patience as we work to restart our program safely and responsibly over the next few weeks. Please email me if you have any general questions about our new policies and procedures to allow GPS to slowly reopen the campus to our athletes.

    Go Bruisers!
    Jay Watts, CMAA
    Director of Athletics
  • Summer Camp Announcement | April 27, 2020

    Dear GPS Summer Camp Families:

    I hope this email finds you and your family healthy and well. Due to the ongoing uncertainty surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, I want to provide you with an update regarding our plans for GPS Summer Camp 2020.
    • June camps are canceled. Families who have registered for camps taking place in June will be issued full refunds. Refunds will begin being processed the week of May 4-8.
    • July camps are under consideration and more information will be forthcoming. We plan to have a decision by June 1. If a decision is made sooner, we will be in touch. If July camps are canceled, full refunds will be issued.
    • Should any families wish to receive a refund for the entire summer (including July camps), they may request it now. Email Lexi King at aking@gps.edu.
    • All-Summer-Long Families: You will be refunded in full for June camps. If you wish to cancel your July registrations and receive the refund, please email Lexi King.
    • Courses for Credit: Our courses for credit (World Religion and History of Christianity) will take place virtually.
    Please know that the safety of our campers and staff is our priority. We at GPS are in close communication with city and county health officials and will continue to monitor the situation and respond accordingly.

    Here's to SUMMER!
    Lexi King
    Assistant Director of Admission and Auxiliary Programs
    423.634.7623
    CampsClinics@GPS.edu
  • April 26, 2020

    Dear GPS Community,

    Pivoting. I don’t remember using that word much until COVID-19. It’s what each GPS student, parent, teacher, and coach has had to do on almost a daily basis in order to make school happen for our girls. We certainly understand that the changes have been stressful and often disappointing. Under these circumstances, our girls have shown perseverance, strength, flexibility, and, most importantly, a deep compassion for their GPS sisters and teachers. We are committed to making the end of our school year as memorable and special as possible for our girls.
    Below are details about our end-of-year schedule and events. Please note that more details on each event will be forthcoming. As of now, we plan for all events through May to be hosted online.

    Middle School Calendar Updates and Culminating Events
    • Week of April 27: Virtual Seventh-Grade Mother-Daughter Picnic
    • May 12, 2:45 p.m.: Virtual MS Class Day Celebration
    • May 14, 7 p.m.: Virtual Eighth-Grade Celebration
    • May 15: Last Day of School
    • May 15, 2 p.m.: Virtual All-School Assembly and Class Gatherings for End-of-Year Celebrations
    Upper School Calendar Updates and Culminating Events
    • May 7, 7 p.m.: Virtual Cum Laude
    • May 8: Last Day of School for Seniors
    • May 12, 7 p.m.: Virtual US Class Day Celebration
    • May 15: Last Day of School for All Others
    • May 15, 2 p.m.: Virtual All-School Assembly and Class Gatherings for End-of-Year Celebrations
    AP and Final Exams
    • Although we have traditionally required all AP students to sit for their AP exams, we have made a decision to allow each girl to choose whether or not to take the AP exam in consultation with her family and teachers.
    • There will be no final exams or final exam week for students.
    Prom, May Day, and Commencement
    We are still hopeful that some version of Prom, May Day, and Commencement will be possible to celebrate the Class of 2020. We are asking the families of seniors to continue holding June 18-19 and July 23-24.

    We will notify you as soon as we have enough information about the pandemic duration and guidelines/mandates from governing entities as they pertain to gatherings to make a final decision. The probability that these events will need to abide by social distancing protocols is very high. More information will be shared as soon as it is available. As we have asked you in previous communications, please do not make any reservations or plans that are not refundable.

    Summer Programs
    • We hope to offer summer programs on campus as soon as it is safe to do so. State and local mandates will govern our schedule. Until that time, we have determined that the June session of our summer program is canceled. 
    • July on-campus programming is under consideration and more information will be forthcoming once we have guidance from governing entities. 
    • These changes and the refund process will be communicated this week to families who have registered for summer programs. 
    • We are in the process of designing new virtual summer enrichment, arts, and athletic opportunities for current and newly enrolled students. More information on those offerings will be shared soon.
    • Two for-credit summer academic enrichment programs are being offered online—History of Christianity and World Religions. Click here for more information and to register.
    We very much appreciate your understanding and patient support as we navigate this ever-evolving pandemic and operationalize all the mandates and regulations as they pertain to GPS. If you have any questions or concerns, please contact your Division Office.

    We are all also thinking about the start of school in the fall. While many questions remain about the pandemic’s duration, we are working on developing plans for various scenarios. We will share more information as soon as it is available.

    As always, our best wishes are with each GPS family for your physical and mental wellbeing. We share your hope for better days ahead for our girls and our community.

    Here’s to the Girls,


    Dr. Autumn A. Graves
    Head of School
  • April 15, 2020

    In a video message on April 15, Head of School Dr. Autumn A. Graves announced that the GPS campus will remain closed through the end of the 2019-20 school year. All on-campus activities and events are canceled, and classes will continue online through our distance learning program. More information on senior events, including May Day and Commencement, will be forthcoming.

    Watch the video from Dr. Graves here.
  • GPS Launches the Bridge Fund, an Emergency Assistance Fund

    Recently our world changed seemingly overnight due to the COVID-19 pandemic. We realize that GPS families are facing many challenges, including job loss or income reduction for some. In these uncertain times, we want to support our community and assist those who are struggling financially. We need your help to do so.

    In response, we have established the GPS Bridge Fund and are seeking donations from our community. The Bridge Fund offers the following financial assistance for families who have suffered income loss:
    • An emergency tuition assistance fund established to provide temporary aid for GPS students.
    • A faculty/staff benevolence fund for GPS employees who are experiencing financial hardship.
    As gifts to the GPS Bridge Fund allow, we will help ensure that ALL GPS girls are able to continue their education alongside their classmates next school year and that our dedicated faculty and staff weather the financial pressures from household job loss or income reduction.

    The GPS community spans generations and geographies. We are united in our belief in the power of educating girls to lead lives of integrity and purpose. We now share this common experience of uncertainty and concern. But greater than that are the values that connect us and a belief that we are strengthened by caring for one another and our hope for a better future, one that GPS girls will help create.

    Please consider making your gift today. If you have already made a gift to the annual Impact Fund, we appreciate your generosity and hope that you will consider supporting this additional effort in response to these extraordinary times.

    Here's to the Girls!

    Dr. Autumn A. Graves, Head of School, and Ali Gant, Chief Development Officer

    EMERGENCY TUITION ASSISTANCE FUND
    “For so many families, GPS is an integral part of their daily lives, and our campus becomes a second home for their girls. Knowing that some of our current families might soon be faced with having to leave GPS, due to events well beyond their control, is heartbreaking. Please join me in giving to the GPS Bridge Fund to help our girls stay in school and become their best selves.”
    Debbie Bohner Young ’79, former GPS Director of Admission and teacher, Faculty Emerita, current coach

    FACULTY/STAFF BENEVOLENCE FUND
    “I’ve heard students and alumnae say that going into any classroom at GPS felt like going into that teacher's home. During the pandemic, teachers’ homes ARE their classrooms with their families and students learning side by side. In faculty families, where resources have shrunk and needs ballooned, we who esteem them and honor their calling can help bridge this gap by giving to the Bridge Fund.”
    Jane Henegar, former GPS Bible teacher, Faculty Emerita

    Please join us in giving to the GPS Bridge Fund to allow us to assist COVID-19-impacted current GPS families with their tuition expenses for the 2020-21 school year or help our GPS employees meet critical needs due to household income loss. To make a gift, click HERE.

    For more information on giving to the GPS Bridge Fund, please contact Ali Gant at AGant@GPS.edu.

    Current GPS Parents: More information about the Bridge Fund will be forthcoming.
  • March 29, 2020

    Dear GPS Community,

    This is an unprecedented time in our 114-year history as a school. But the current pandemic is also very personal to each of us in its implication to what we hold most dear—our families and their safety.

    I ask that you please read this letter in its entirety as it includes very important information about a Town Hall for parents/guardians and plans for the upcoming weeks below.

    None of us is untouched by this situation, yet over the past few weeks, we have all worked hard to establish our new normal and meet the challenges at hand. At GPS, our first priority is the well-being of our girls, faculty, staff, and coaches. Now that everyone is home, we have fully embraced our commitment to continue to provide our girls the best education possible and step up to the challenge to reach each girl though distance learning.

    Without any shortcuts in our approach, every teacher is delivering their planned curriculum as best they can given the limitations of online classes. I am so proud of our teachers and the energy, thoughtfulness, creativity, and professionalism they are bringing to this new challenge. Their approach is motivated by love for their work and a deep commitment to each girl and her educational success. Our goal is that each girl receives the instruction and experience she needs to successfully complete her school year.

    Emotional Support for Our Girls
    But as much as adults have had to pivot quickly, our girls have experienced a major upheaval in their lives. Social distancing is most challenging for girls, who are highly relational and miss the close interactions with their friends and teachers. Anxiety and fear can loom large for us all, but especially for our girls. I invite you to read this helpful article by Dr. Lisa Damour, psychologist, bestselling author, recent GPS speaker, and child development expert. If your daughter is experiencing growing anxiety or exhibits other emotional concerns, please reach out to Heather Landreth, GPS Counseling Specialist & Support Services Department Chair, for assistance.

    As I hope you’ll see in the feature below, teachers, counselors, deans, and coaches are being thoughtful about staying connected while interjecting fun, movement, and interaction into their days—and our girls are responding positively and enthusiastically. In this new reality, we acknowledge the need to continue to build community and to help each girl feel as though what matters most in life—health, love, purpose, and integrity—are still the norm. Together we can help our girls process what is happening in the world and their lives and give them hope.

    Connecting with GPS Parents
    We urge you to join the GPS Parent group on our Facebook page, as we want to help the adults in our community feel connected as well. Here you can discover what others are doing to make their time at home less stressful and more memorable.

    Town Hall Meetings for Parents and Guardians
    This week I will host divisional town hall meetings to update parents/guardians about our plans upon our return from spring break (April 3-13). Parents/guardians will hear about Phase III of our distance learning model that begins Tuesday, April 14. Along with our division heads and deans of students, we will answer questions parents may have about our distance learning program and ways we are staying socially connected to our girls. 
    • Middle School Town Hall Meeting Tuesday, March 31, 7-8 p.m. Parents: refer to the email sent with the link to join.
    • Upper School Town Hall Meeting, Wednesday, April 1, 7-8 p.m. Parents: refer to the email sent with the link to join.
    Plans for End-of-Year School Events
    As you know, this is an ever-evolving situation, and we are in the process of drafting alternative plans for our end-of-year events and treasured traditions. We realize the importance of this information to the girls but, because the duration of the pandemic is unknown, we are waiting for guidance from local and federal government entities, in addition to The College Board (Advanced Placement exams) and TSSAA (Spring Fling), before setting new dates.

    Tomorrow (Monday, March 30), I am meeting with the Class of 2020 to talk about May Day, Commencement, and other senior events. Based upon my understanding of this global pandemic, we must determine alternative ways to experience and a different timetable for these traditions that honor our seniors. I want our girls to be a part of this planning. These alternative plans will be shared as soon as we are able to communicate with a level of confidence that those plans are not likely to significantly change.

    Schedule 
    • This week we will continue with the synchronous distance learning model with the current daily schedule, minus Chapel.
    • Middle and Upper School Student-Led Conferences will be held this week as scheduled with each daughter’s advisor.
    • Parent/Guardian Town Meetings: Middle School on Tuesday, March 31, at 7 p.m., and Upper School on Wednesday, April 1, at 7 p.m.
    • From April 3-13, students and teachers are on spring break.
    • Governor Lee has requested that all public schools remain closed through Friday, April 24. GPS will follow suit.
    • We are adjusting some aspects of our distance learning model. Phase III will begin on April 14. Attend your Town Hall meeting to learn more. 
    We continue to closely monitor this evolving situation and will keep you informed of substantial developments. We are with you in prayer for our world and our families.

    With hope for our country’s future,
    Dr. Autumn A. Graves


    DISTANCE LEARNING TAKES OFF
    The past two weeks provided learning opportunities all around as teachers and students worked together to determine the best platforms for synchronous learning and individual interactions.

    AS A SCHOOL
    All teachers completed progress reports and wrote comments on each student while preparing to schedule next week’s Student-Led Conferences. Teachers are also offering virtual help classes and study halls to work with girls one-on-one or in small groups outside of class sessions. To support each other, teachers stay connected through a GoogleMeet to share ideas and suggestions, problem-solve, and brainstorm best practices for distance learning. Additionally, faculty continue to research and test various tools and aids to assess student learning and progress.

    Our Support Services team continues to serve our girls well. Learning specialists work with girls who have learning profiles and administer tests that allow for extended time, and our counselors have set up Zoom calls with girls who may need or want individual support or counseling sessions.

    IN THE MIDDLE SCHOOL 
    Black, Blue, and White (BBW) Challenges continue with girls showing “What’s for lunch? (aka missing Chef Brad), Funky Hair Day, and Dress Up Your Pet this week. Next Tuesday a Blue-Out is planned. Girls who participate submit their photo to earn a point for their teams.

    During Middle School Advisory, which meets twice each week, some girls were sent on a scavenger hunt around their house to get them up and moving and away from their screens. Bring Your Pet to Class was another fun and welcome assignment for many of our girls. Others were prompted to share “roses and thorns”—the highs and lows of their days as a way to both acknowledge the stress and anxiety they might be experiencing and to let them know they’re not alone. Participation in wellness and mindfulness exercises have also been encouraged. Students also had a virtual show-and-tell day, where they shared their most prized possessions and told why it was special to them.

    In some classes, the girls are journaling as though they are historians who are documenting each day of their quarantine, based on prompts provided by The New York Times. Some students were posed with a Question of the Day to respond to.

    In lieu of their coordinate game night originally scheduled with McCallie, the sixth-grade girls participated in a GPS Middle School Virtual Game Night spearheaded by Mrs. Outlaw with some help from Upper School students. Ms. Trish King is starting a virtual book club for all interested sixth-graders; first selection: A Long Walk to Water.

    Mrs. Outlaw, as one of many faculty members, helped students in sixth-grade Skills class determine the authenticity of information they find on the internet, especially related to COVID-19, asking, Is this news factual? Is it an editorial? Is it satire? A hoax? Such a great life skill!

    In dance, sixth-graders read about the history of a haiku, learned the format, wrote their own haikus, and then put movement to it, performing it all at once online. Their teacher, Mrs. Zahrobsky, said It was really cool to see the results! Art teacher Mrs. Glasscock led eighth-graders in a self-portrait match project after providing them with the Google Arts and Culture app (thanks to Mrs. Resnick, our Technology Innovationist), producing hilarious comments from the girls.

    Also, Head of Middle School Ms. Macziewski reports that her family has loved sitting outside while at “school” and shares that other girls comment the same, along with going for family runs or bike rides in the middle of the day!

    IN THE UPPER SCHOOL
    Over the past two weeks, Department Chairs have helped to approve more than 173 students’ Honors and/or AP classes for the 2020-21 school year.

    In order to stay connected and build community, a grade-level GoogleChat was started with each of the four Upper School grades. Students are checked on daily via Chat, Student Council members post videos, and teachers meet with them in large groups. Members of Student Council are also brainstorming contests and activities for future weeks to help keep morale up and meet weekly via Zoom to hear from reps how the larger student body is doing.

    Class deans and CLC members meet regularly and brainstorm how they can support and encourage their grade level. Fifteen juniors have been moving through the Volunteer Girls State selection process with Head of Upper School Ms. Gordon, which included three group interviews (two in person before we left campus and one via ZOOM with everyone) and individual interviews, and members of the Junior Class have met to discuss plans for Ring Day. The GPS/McCallie Prom committee is continuing to discuss and plan together for an alternate prom date.

    Upper School Dean Ms. Vedas has connected with our students, reaching out to every senior, junior, and sophomore individually so far and moving on to the freshman class today. While not all of the girls have responded, this connection with girls individually and in small groups is attempted every day via video chat. Ms. Kerekes has kept close tabs on the freshmen as their class dean.

    Advisors check in with their advisees regularly and will continue to meet weekly during scheduled Advisory time. Some of our clubs have successfully held club meetings online. Amnesty International had a great meeting on Tuesday this week!

    According to Ms. Gordon, our girls repeatedly express feeling very supported by their teachers and the administration.

    A MESSAGE FROM COACH JAY WATTS, ATHLETIC DIRECTOR
    While our athletic program is shut down along with our campus, GPS coaches are staying in touch with their athletes through emails and video calls. Our strength and conditioning program has been keeping the Bruisers active under the direction of Matt Green through online classes and numerous updates on social media. Down on the lower campus, construction on our additions to the GPS Tennis Center and the new GPS/McCallie Rowing Center is still taking place through this break. The TSSAA is holding onto hope that some spring sports may play an abbreviated schedule in May, and Spring Fling in Murfreesboro is still on the calendar as of March 26.
  • March 12, 2020 - Afternoon

    Dear GPS Community,

    In an effort to inform all constituents at the same time, we are intentionally sending this communication to our wider GPS community.

    As of Monday, March 16, the GPS campus will be closed through spring break, Monday, April 13, and we will initiate our Educational and Operational Continuity Plan.

    I would like to assure you that this decision was made with an overabundance of care and concern and no cases of COVID-19 have been reported in our school community.

    While campus is closed, student key cards will not be active and students should refrain from returning to school. Therefore, tomorrow, Friday, March 13, students are asked to take home materials needed for continued distance learning. Students will not have classes or school obligations on Monday, March 16. Faculty and staff are expected to report to campus on Monday to prepare for implementation of our Educational Continuity Plan for the coming weeks.

    Beginning Tuesday, March 17, and continuing through Friday, March 20, students will participate in Phase I of our Educational Continuity Plan, which will include teachers posting activities and assignments online by 10 a.m., for students to complete, asynchronously, during that day. Teachers will be available via email and MyGPS for student questions. Friday, March 20, will be a half day for all students. NOTE: All Upper School AP and Honors courses will move to Phase II beginning on Thursday, March 19.

    Beginning on Monday, March 23, all classes in the Middle School and Upper School will move to Phase II and will meet virtually according to the MyGPS schedule. Phase II will involve teachers and students reporting online to a Google Hangout/Meet room assigned to each class according to the current GPS schedule. Lessons and activities will be synchronously delivered so that students will have the opportunity to interact with teachers and classmates throughout the lesson. Assignments and assessments will still be included in many classes but may be adjusted based on the needs of the class and the students. Classes will run in Phase II through noon on Wednesday, April 1, for the Middle School and through noon on April 2, for the Upper School. Conferences for both Middle and Upper School families will continue as planned but be carried out via a digital platform. More detailed information regarding our distance learning plans and Student-Led Conferences will be shared via Division Heads with students and families.

    The Upper School office will be in communication with seniors whose Chapel Talks are scheduled during this time when campus is closed to discuss alternate plans. All athletic events and practices, clubs, and rehearsals are suspended until further notice.

    NOTE: Bruiser Bee has been canceled. A separate communication will be sent to those who were planning to attend the event.

    Plans for Alumnae Weekend (April 17 and 18), and May Day (April 29), and other school events, including junior ring day and the spring musical, will be announced at a later date.

    With care and concern,
    Dr. Autumn A. Graves
  • March 12, 2020 - Morning

    Dear GPS Community,

    We are all being inundated with information about the global, national, and local health risks associated with the COVID-19 outbreak. It can be difficult to understand how institutional leaders are making decisions related to the physical safety of our communities because of the diverse and conflicting information available about this medical situation. In this letter, I hope to outline what measures we have taken at GPS to increase our hygiene practices and explain our response for education continuity.

    Before I get into the details of our plans, I want to express my sincere concern for those communities that are dealing with this illness. This virus has stirred up so much anxiety because of our lack of understanding of its limits. My heart goes out to those who are physically suffering. Additionally, I know how financially disruptive this has been for so many people experiencing income loss. My thoughts and prayers are with those who are suffering physically, emotionally, and financially from COVID-19-related challenges.

    At GPS we have continued good hygiene practices which include:
    • Encouraging hand washing and cleaning of high-trafficked surfaces (handrails, door handles)
    • Expecting all students and employees to remain home if sick and not to return to GPS until the individual is fever-free for 24 hours
    • Increasing the access to hand-sanitizer stations.
    Due to the nature of this virus, I have sought counsel from a leading Chattanooga pediatrician, an administrator with Erlanger Health Systems, and UTC’s Chief Health Affairs Officer. Additionally, I have been in direct communication with the Hamilton County Department of Health. These consults have led me to this set of decisions. However, this is an evolving situation and we must remain nimble in our response.

    As of today we have made these adjustments:
    • Students and coaches involved in spring sports have been asked to engage in social distancing practices. They will limit physical contact with officials and players, avoid communal water sources, and discontinue sharing towels.
    • We will work to encourage social distancing with the girls in an age and culturally appropriate manner.
    • Our food service provider, Sage, has implemented a “modified service” model that includes:
      • Eliminating all self-service stations where possible in order to reduce contact between community members in the dining hall. This may result in offering more prepackaged or pre-plated meals and/or having gloved team members serve meals.
      • Offering bakery sheets or wipes for students to use to dispense beverages and condiments.
      • Replacing salt and pepper shakers with packets.
    GPS’s leadership team has put into place a Response for Educational and Operational Continuity Plan (REOCP). If we determine the need to close the physical campus, students and teachers will use the Google Suite of applications to continue our teaching and learning for an extended period of time. (Please see the end of this letter for more detailed information about our REOCP). Additionally, the operations of GPS (Admission, Marketing and Communications, Development, Business Office, and General Administration) will continue. All large group gatherings involving parents, alumnae, and community members would not happen during this period. 

    After consulting the Centers for Disease Control’s advice pertaining to medically vulnerable populations for COVID-19, Upper School Grandparents Day, scheduled for Friday, March 20, has been canceled.

    As of the distribution of this letter, we plan to move forward with Saturday’s Bruiser Bee. We understand if some guests choose not to attend. If we decide to cancel the event, guests will receive an email from GPS with that information.

    As we approach Spring Break (April 2-13), Alumnae Weekend (April 17 and 18), and May Day (April 29), we will reassess our situation as it relates to the COVID-19 virus. I will be back in touch the week of March 23 or sooner with an update on our approach to keeping our community healthy.

    With continued hand-washing,
    Dr. Autumn A. Graves
  • Educational Continuity Plan

    GPS is developing a comprehensive distance learning plan should we need to use it for any reason in the future. Teachers are working closely with Department Chairs and Division Heads to create lessons that are robust in their learning outcomes, while remotely manageable for both students and faculty. After researching various options, we have decided to use Google as our distance learning platform, primary Google Chat and Google Hangout/Meet, with our students. In the coming days, students and faculty will have the opportunity to practice using this online learning platform to prepare, as best as possible, for the possibility of remote learning. More information will be shared directly with students and parents via Division Heads regarding the specifics of distance learning in each division.

    Should GPS be closed for an extended period of time, online learning will be implemented in phases to best meet the needs of students, faculty, and our educational program during this transition.
    • Phase One will include teachers posting activities and assignments online by 10 a.m. for students to complete, asynchronously, during that day. Teachers will be available via email and MyGPS for student questions.
    • Phase Two will involve teachers and students reporting online to a Google Hangout/Meet room assigned to each class according to the current GPS schedule. Lessons and activities will be synchronously delivered so that students will have the opportunity to interact with teachers and classmates throughout the lesson. Assignments and assessments will still be included in many classes but may be adjusted based on the needs of the class and the students.
    More information will be shared with students and parents, as necessary, regarding the implementation of each phase.
  • February 27, 2020

    Dear GPS Students and Families,

    As we make our way through the annual cold and flu season, I want to assure you that we have heightened our attention at GPS this year. We have been tracking the coronavirus and the implications it can have in day schools.

    GPS is a member of a number of associations that provide national and regional expertise on myriad factors including public health matters. Additionally, I have access to medical experts affiliated with UTC’s Student Health Center and the Hamilton County Department of Health as well as a leading Chattanooga pediatrician. Informed by these resources, I want to share the following:
    • It’s important for us to continue to utilize great hygiene, especially at this time: covering the mouth when coughing or sneezing, 20-second/high-quality hand washing, and using hand sanitizer with an alcohol level greater than 60%. (GPS provides one that is 70%.)
    • As is our practice, door handles, handrails, and bathroom countertops and fixtures are disinfected regularly throughout the day. If your child presents flu-like symptoms to any adult at school, you will be notified and she will be isolated in a sickbay, masked, and allowed to leave only with a parent/guardian. Families are encouraged to call their pediatrician to ascertain the best next step based upon their child’s situation.
    • If your child has a fever, DO NOT send her to school and keep her home until she is fever-free for at least 24 hours.
    • Remember that influenza is now causing significant health concerns in Hamilton County, TN. This remains the case through the month of March. 
    Please note that we have not seen higher levels of absence due to sickness compared to previous years, nor do we have evidence that any of our students have been exposed to the coronavirus. I am sending this email to remind all of us of good public health practices and to assure you that we are fully aware of the concerns regarding this year’s unusual flu season.

    Be safe and well,
    Autumn

Recent News

MAY 2020 ISM DISTANCE LEARNING PARENT SURVEY RESULTS

In a survey conducted by ISM, Independent School Management, GPS parents provided feedback on our spring distance learning program. The data from this survey will be used to inform future programming for the 2020-21 school year.

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