COMMUNICATIONS REGARDING GPS'S RESPONSE TO COVID-19
MARCH 12, 2020
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
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,