SouthLake Christian Academy Reopening Plans

Introduction

The Executive Administrative Team of SouthLake Christian Academy has established a plan to return to live instruction on campus this fall. While we acknowledge that there is no risk-free way for students and teachers to return to campus, our plans intend to mitigate risk and balance the spiritual and educational needs of our students with the health and safety needs of the entire community. Attempting to resume on-campus operations during a pandemic will require careful strategy and unprecedented cooperation. We are committed to the words of our vision statement “that Christ may be preeminent in all things” (Colossians 1.18) and we take seriously the promise of our mission statement to education and disciple students “in all aspects of God’s reality.” We also know that we have an obligation to the common good, to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. With these principles in mind, we will keep our plans flexible, our operations nimble, and our eyes attentive to changing circumstances.

Our decision to reopen campus for all students, five days per week, is based on the following considerations:

  • Monitoring the number of COVID-19 cases in the primary zip codes that feed our school
  • Monitoring the percentage of COVID-19 cases in our area affecting children ages 0-17
  • Available scientific evidence showing that children are at lower risk than adults for contracting the virus and developing severe symptoms
  • Available evidence that prevention practices such as physical distancing, hand washing, surface cleaning, and face covering (masks) significantly reduce the risk of infection
  • Mandatory COVID-19 testing for all SouthLake employees prior to the start of school
  • Enrollment caps to allow sufficient room in school classrooms to space students safely
  • Our ability to implement daily health screening and safety practices schoolwide
  • Willingness on the part of our teachers, parents, and students to return to live instruction, understanding both associated risks and prevention strategies
  • Our continued ability to provide quality online instruction during the year when it becomes necessary for students with health concerns or those in quarantine
  • Information from health officials allowing us to make precise decisions by class, grade, hallway, or building about any needed shut down of operations
  • Continuation of Phase 2 or 3 or North Carolina’s reopening plan and the absence of stay-at-home orders by government officials

Should there be an outbreak at school or increasing disease prevalence in the areas where our families live, or if local, regional, or state government officials issue stay-at-home orders or other restrictions that make campus operations impossible, SouthLake Christian Academy will shift to online instruction until conditions allow us to return to campus. The Executive Administrative Team, in consultation with local health officials, will continually assess current conditions and closely follow the latest research to adjust our safety protocols as the school year unfolds. The following document outlines details of our reopening plan that parents and students need to know. This is a long document, but we ask that you please read all of it carefully.

Executive Administrative Team

  • Matthew Kerlin, Head of School
  • Rebekah Leonard, Associate Head of School
  • Becky Makla, High School Principal
  • Mark Apgar, Lower School Principal
  • Jennifer Thomas, Middle and High School Assistant Principal

Communication

Successfully navigating the 2020-2021 school year will require clear channels of communication. Email is the official means of communication for SouthLake Christian Academy. Emails from the school to families should include SLCA in subject line and a brief description of the content. The school will send at least one weekly email communication to all families and the Head of School will send schoolwide updates on the first of each month. Teachers will send regular communication related to classroom activities. For urgent, emergency, or time sensitive communication, parents may receive a Renweb Parent Alert (text and/or voicemail). Certain times of the year may require more frequent communication than normal.

Both parents and employees are encouraged to attend carefully to all school information, particularly information related to safety protocols. As rumors tend to proliferate during stressful times, remember that the only official source of information for school operations is a direct communication from an official representative of the school. Everyone should be certain that all relevant contact information is correct in Renweb. To update your contact information, go to the “Family” tab in Renweb or the “School” tab in the Renweb app.

School Calendar and Attendance

School will begin as scheduled on August 12. Fall Break will be October 5-9 and Thanksgiving Break will be November 23-27. Other relevant dates will be updated and posted on our website at southlakechristian.org at About > School Calendar prior to the first day of classes. Calendar dates are subject to change this year as needed to protect instructional time or promote safety.

Attendance policies for the coming school year have been revised. For the 2020-2021 academic year, students will be allowed 10 absences for semester-long classes and 20 absences for year-long classes, twice the number of allowed absences from last year. This should prevent students from feeling pressure to attend school when they are showing symptoms of any illness. Furthermore, should a student contract COVID-19 or be required to quarantine because a member of his/her household is being tested or tests positive, we will seek to provide online instruction and suspend normal attendance policies provided we receive documentation of the positive COVID test. Documentation allows us to isolate potential spread of the virus and to assure that we make attendance allowances fairly and accurately.

If online instruction becomes necessary, students will be expected to participate fully unless illness prohibits it. In cases of illness, we will provide grace and reassurance, doing our best to help students make up any work missed. The school may make additional changes to policies for assignments, grading, and exams as needed to effectively facilitate any necessary online learning.

Health Screening, Hand Washing, Cleaning

Each student will have a temperature check every morning. Students with a temperature of 100.4 or higher will be isolated and sent home. Parents should be familiar with COVID-19 symptoms, including:

  • congestion, sore throat, runny nose
  • recent loss of taste or smell
  • worsening cough, shortness of breath
  • nausea, vomiting, diarrhea
  • fever, muscle aches, unusual fatigue

Students with any of these symptoms should stay home and seek medical attention from a physician to determine whether a COVID-19 test is needed. A signed commitment to this effect appears on the final page of this document.

We will make time in our daily schedule for students to wash their hands on a regular basis. Students who change classes (grades 5-12) will wash hands between every class using staggered dismissals and assigned sinks. Students in self-contained classrooms will wash hands at least every 90 minutes. Sinks have been added in all JK-2nd grade classrooms to minimize hallway traffic. All bathrooms will be equipped with both electric dryers and paper towel dispensers. Students are encouraged to use paper towels to open bathrooms doors upon exit.

All surfaces used in class will be cleaned between classes with a cleaning solution approved by the CDC to kill viruses and bacteria. Except in cases where we have a student with a chemical allergy, we will use a properly diluted and safe solution of water and chlorine bleach, paper towels, and gloves. In grades 5-12, students may use masks and gloves to assist with surface cleaning between classes.

Face Coverings/Masks

Students and employees will be required to wear an approved face covering (mask) when they arrive at school, when they transition between classes or lunch, when they are dismissed from school, and any other time when physical distancing is not possible. Administrators and teachers may require masks at any time during the day as they deem it appropriate to protect the safety of students or teachers who may have a heightened risk of infection or complication from the virus. We will begin the semester wearing masks anytime we are indoors, but our aspiration will be to relax use of masks when seated and spaced in classroom as health conditions in our area allow. Students with health problems that might prevent them from wearing a mask in certain settings should submit documentation from a primary care physician to that effect. In such cases, we will consider exceptions to our mask policy on a case-by-case basis. All parents and guests entering a school building will be required to wear a mask.

We will provide three washable cotton/poly masks for each student. Additional masks may be purchased from the school. We recommend that you use the masks we provide for a few days to test for comfort, breathability, and fit before purchasing more. Cotton/poly masks should be washed and hung to dry after each day of use. In addition, students may use a standard disposable light blue surgical mask. Disposable masks should be used for no more than one day. No other types of masks or face coverings will be allowed except by written recommendation from a primary care physician. We will consider such situations on a case-by-case basis.

School Arrival

School buildings will open at 7:15 AM each morning. No student will be allowed to enter a school building prior to 7:15. Students should not be left at school unattended before 7:15. Students should wear masks as they enter school buildings each morning.

  • JK – 8th grade students will arrive at Hampton Hall and proceed to the lower level until 7:30 when they will go their classes. Students in grades JK – 8th who arrive at 7:30 or later will go directly to their classrooms.
  • High School students will enter Wilcox Gym upon arrival and will leave for their A block classes at 7:30. High School students arriving at 7:30 or later will go straight to their A block classes.

Class Transitions

  • Students in grades JK-4 will transition to PE, specials, and recess by grade and separated from other students.
  • Students in grades 5-6 will change classes as normal.
  • Grades 7-12 will change classes in a staggered format, one-half of each class dismissing at a time, separated by five minutes to minimize hallway traffic. Students will be allowed to use backpacks should they wish to do so to avoid the need to go to a locker after each class period.

School Dismissal

Students in grades JK-6 will dismiss at 2:30 as follows:

  • 2:30 PM – car riders will dismiss for the pavilion
  • 2:40 PM – After School students will move to the Lower Level of Hampton Hall
  • Late Wait students will remain in their classrooms until 3:10 and then dismiss for the pavilion

Students in grades 7-12 will dismiss at 3:10 as follows:

  • 3:10 PM – bus riders and students picked up by a parent or guardian dismiss for the pavilion
  • 3:20 PM – student drivers and their siblings dismiss to cars

Classrooms

We have established a maximum capacity for each classroom on campus that allows us to separate students by approximately 6 feet from nose to nose in each classroom. Most Hampton Hall classrooms will seat 18 or fewer students. Most Wilcox classrooms will seat 16 or fewer students. First Building classrooms seat between 12 and 18 students. On the rare occasion that a class size exceeds designated limits, that class will be moved to a larger area on campus such as the First Building Commons, Mezzanine, Library, or lower level of Hampton Hall. School HVAC systems will be adjusted to provide maximum air circulation and classroom doors and windows may remain open as weather and security precautions allow.

Chapel

To start the semester, Wednesday chapel services will be pushed entirely into individual classrooms through livestreaming and video curriculum. Our aspiration is to transition to in-person chapel services when circumstances make it safer for large gatherings. In the first stage of that transition, chapel services on will operate on a rotation.

  • JK and K classes will alternate weeks with grades 1 and 2, attending chapel in person in the First Building Commons (8 AM) one week and holding chapel in individual classrooms the next.
  • Grades 3and 4 will hold chapel together each week in the First Building Commons (11:25 AM).
  • Grades 5 and 6 will alternate weeks with grades 7 and 8, attending chapel in person in the Wilcox Gym (8 AM) one week and livestreaming chapel in their A Block classes the next.
  • Grades 9 and 10 will alternate weeks with grades 11 and 12, attending chapel in person one week in Wilcox Gym (9 AM) and livestreaming chapel in their A Block classes the next.

Lunch and Breaks

Our Hot Lunch Program allows students to pre-order food from area vendors who prepare and package meals off campus and deliver to SouthLake. We keep the food warm and serve it to students during one of three designated mealtimes. Most meals and breaktime snacks will be eaten in classrooms during the first few days of school. To minimize crowds in our lunchroom, we will deliver lunches to classrooms whenever possible.

  • Teaching assistants and lunch volunteers will deliver lunches to students in grades JK to 4.
  • Students in 5th to 8th grades will wear masks and dismiss to get lunch on a staggered schedule by grade, and then return to classrooms to eat.
  • High School students will wear masks and depart for lunch staggered by cohorts to wash hands, get food, and then return to B block classes to eat.
  • Each stairwell will facilitate one-way traffic only. After the first few days of classes, students may eat outdoors in our pavilion and other designated areas on a rotational basis, as the weather allows.

Because some students have food allergies to nuts and nut-based products, each classroom will have 1-2 desks that are designated nut free and marked accordingly. Students with nut allergies should always sit at a nut free desk in each classroom they use. Teachers will strictly monitor to be sure that only nut free meals and snacks are consumed at nut free desks. Some classes with students having a severe nut allergy may be asked to bring only nut-free snacks at the discretion of the teacher and our school nurse.

School Supplies, Curriculum, and Library

We are purchasing additional supplies and textbooks to limit the need to share resources in the classroom. When technological devices must be shared by students they will be cleaned appropriately. We are purchasing additional art supplies and redesigning art projects to limit group work. The list of school supplies that families purchase for the coming year will be shortened to eliminate items that are now expensive or difficult to find and the school will order needed supplies in bulk. The library will be used primarily as a classroom this year and library time for lower school students will be pushed into individual classrooms on rotation. STEM instruction will be incorporated into individual classes as the STEM lab will be closed and repurposed for the academic year.

Technology for Online Instruction

Online instruction at SouthLake involves three primary platforms.

  1. Renweb is our school information management system where you access student information, schedules, class resources, and grades.
  2. Google Classroom is a free online class content manager that integrates with Renweb and facilitates assignment creation, grading, testing, and file sharing.
  3. Zoom is a free online video conferencing tool. Zoom meetings require a meeting ID and password. For security purposes, students and parents entering a Zoom meeting should use their real names as they appear in Renweb.

Other online platforms may be used as curriculum dictates and we will provide training for parents and students as needed. If parents or students have a technological need, they should contact the Technology Help Desk at slcahelpdesk@gmail.com. During school hours, a member of the Tech Team will typically respond to your request for assistance within a few minutes. After-hours responses may sometimes take longer.

Bus and School Travel

We will continue to provide bus service to and from school each day. Buses will be limited to half capacity with one student per seat. Siblings are encouraged to sit together in the same seat. When weather allows, buses will travel with windows open to allow maximum ventilation. Students will be expected to wear masks during bus travel unless directed otherwise by a school official.

Travel to any scheduled school athletic events will follow the same bus protocols mentioned above. Field trips to indoor public places and all overnight travel has been cancelled for the fall semester. In some cases, we are working to reschedule trips and retreats for later in the school year.

After School Care

After School Care will operate following the same safety protocols outlined above. Parents entering a building to pick up a child from After School will need to wear a mask.

Sports

The North Carolina Independent School Athletic Association (NCISAA) governs competitive sports at SouthLake Christian Academy and other member schools. Our ability to compete this fall, and our ability to host spectators, will depend on both the decisions of the NCISAA and our assessment of the risk of each particular sport for students and spectators. At this time, the NCISAA has delayed the start of all fall sports until at least mid-August. We suspect that high risk fall sports may be further delayed. Voluntary no-contact practices for some sports may begin at the discretion of coaches and the Athletic Director. In the event that a fall sport is cancelled for the season or moved to the spring semester, we will explore all safe options for inter-squad practice and non-contact competition.

Quarantine and Contact Tracing

In the event that a student or a family member living under the same roof shows symptoms of COVID-19 or is tested for COVID-19, we will follow guidelines provided by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS), and the Mecklenburg Department of Health (MCDH) for isolation, quarantine, and contact tracing. The following are some guidelines for responding to symptoms and/or the need for testing. This list is not comprehensive nor intended to replace CDC, NCDHHS, or MCDH guidelines.

  • In the event that a student develops symptoms of COVID-19, that student should stay home and contact a health professional to determine if a test is appropriate. A student should not return to school until he/she has been cleared by a health professional to return to school, typically after testing negative and/or being symptom free for at least three days.
  • If a health care professional recommends testing for a student or any household member under the same roof, you should notify the school and members of that household should quarantine until either (a) the COVID-19 test is negative, or (b) fourteen days have passed and all household members are symptom free.
  • If a student or any household member living under the same roof tests positive for COVID-19, please contact SouthLake Christian Academy immediately. We will consult with the MCDH and relevant medical authorities to determine a timetable for return to school and to provide online instruction during needed quarantine.
  • If a student or teacher tests positive for COVID-19, we will begin the process of confidential contact tracing in accordance with the MCDH and local health officials.
  • We will handle each case of potential COVID-19 transmission on a case-by-case basis in conversation with you, the MCDH, and school medical personnel, giving you enough information to make decisions while protecting the confidentiality of our employees, students, and families.

Determining When to Close

We will take all necessary steps to prevent the spread of COVID-19 should someone in our community test positive. This includes identifying students who have had high-risk contact with a person who tests positive and notifying parents or legal guardians of the need to isolate and seek medical advice and/or testing. We have made every effort to schedule classes and school activities to keep students in smaller groups and with people in their own grades to the greatest extent possible. This will limit exposure and facilitate more precise contact tracing should it become necessary. Should a student or employee test positive for COVID-19, it may become necessary to close a class, hallway, or building temporarily (2-5 days) to consult with health officials, to clean and disinfect, and to contact trace. In each case, we will attempt to be strategic and precise with our containment measures, closing as little as possible but as much as necessary. More extensive closures would likely coincide with local or state closure mandates.

Signed Covenant of Cooperation

We have read and understand the contents of SouthLake Christian Academy’s Reopening Plan. We understand that COVID-19 has been declared a global pandemic by the World Health Organization and that COVID-19 is a dangerous and potentially deadly disease. We understand that COVID-19 is contagious and believed to spread primarily by human-to-human contact.

We understand the symptoms of COVID-19 include congestion, sore throat, runny nose, recent loss of taste or smell, worsening cough, shortness of breath, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, fever, muscle aches, unusual fatigue, and other less common symptoms. We commit to keep our children home from school should they present any of these symptoms and to seek medical advice concerning the need for a COVID-19 test. Should my child test positive for COVID-19, we agree that we will notify the Head of School immediately so the school can help my child shift to online instruction and begin confidential contact tracing as needed to protect the health of other students and families.

We understand that health practices such as social distancing of six feet, coughing and sneezing into one’s arm, wearing masks or face coverings, washing one’s hands frequently, and cleaning surfaces thoroughly may help to prevent the spread of COVID-19. We agree to support these mitigation efforts by asking my child or children to participate cooperatively in these practices while at school as instructed by teachers and school administrators.

We understand that although SouthLake Christian Academy has put into place preventative measures to reduce the risks of disease transmission, no measures can completely eliminate the risk of exposure to COVID-19 while participating in school-related activities. Having enrolled in SouthLake Christian Academy voluntarily, we understand and acknowledge these risks and agree to assume these risks on behalf of our children for the 2020-2021 academic year. We agree that we will not hold SouthLake Christian Academy, its officers, directors, employees, agents, and representatives liable for damages of any kind caused by COVID-19.

[Document to be signed and returned to SLCA before the first day of classes on August 12.]

Education

Plans to Open School: SouthLake Christian Academy, Fall 2020

Below is an outline of our plans to start school in the fall. I am keenly aware that no matter what we decide, some will be pleased and others will not. That said, I believe the plan detailed below gives us the best chance of balancing the educational needs of our students with the safety of our employees and families. Our Executive Administrative Team has spent many hours looking at CDC and North Carolina recommendations for starting school, and while we know there is no risk-free scenario, we have identified protocols that will help us minimize risk. While we still have some details to iron out, here is a brief overview of our plans for the fall semester.

  • Our intent is to open school on August 12, live and in person, 5 days per week for all students.
  • We will observe Fall Break (October 5-9) and Thanksgiving Break (November 23-27) as normal.
  • We will limit the number of enrolled students in each grade and class as necessary to facilitate appropriate physical distancing in classrooms. With slightly smaller capacity limits, several grades are nearly full.
  • Bus routes will run as normal with staggered seating, one student per seat.
  • Our After School program will operate with students appropriately spaced, utilizing outdoor spaces to the greatest extent possible, as usual.
  • Students will be required to undergo health screening upon arrival, including temperature and symptom checks.
  • Morning drop off locations will be added to eliminate large assemblies of students in a single room.
  • Sinks are being added on the first floor of Hampton Hall (JK-2nd grade), hot water circulation has been improved, no-touch paper towel and soap dispensers will be added across campus, and all students will have designated places to wash their hands on a regular basis.
  • We will purchase additional school resources, art supplies, and curriculum to minimize the need for students to share materials.
  • We will stagger arrival and dismissal from classes and create one-way stairwells to minimize traffic congestion in our hallways.
  • Students will be divided into smaller groups for chapel and will alternate between attending live and watching a livestream from classrooms.
  • Students will be divided into smaller groups for lunches and breaks with some eating in classrooms or outdoor spaces as weather allows.
  • We plan to expand our use of outdoor spaces for PE, recess, lunch, breaks, and some classes as the weather allows.
  • We are increasing our internet bandwidth to improve our ability to livestream classes to the greatest extent possible for those who may need to quarantine.
  • We will adjust attendance policies for students and faculty who document a positive Covid test.
  • Classrooms will be reconfigured to allow students to spread out appropriately.
  • We will adjust our HVAC systems to maximize ventilation and teachers will be permitted to leave classroom doors and windows open where it is safe to do so.
  • Large spaces such as the library, the lower level of Hampton Hall, and the First Building commons will be used as teaching spaces for larger classes.
  • Cleaning protocols will be enhanced in cooperation with our new custodial provider.
  • Field trips to indoor public places and all overnight travel has been cancelled for the fall semester. In some cases, we are working to reschedule trips and retreats for later in the school year.
  • We will address sports on a case by case basis as we get additional guidance from our athletic association.

Now to the subject of masks. Scientific research has demonstrated consistently that the proper use of masks can reduce the risk of disease transmission. We know, therefore, that using masks to some degree gives us the best opportunity to return safely to live instruction. We also know that masks can be a nuisance, especially for younger children. Our strategy will be to use masks as little as possible but as much as necessary. Whenever we cannot be physically distant from each other indoors, we will wear masks. Where we can configure classrooms, activities, and traffic flow to practice safe physical distance in well ventilated areas, we do not plan to require masks. We plan to establish a capacity for each classroom below which masks would not be required, and we will work to keep capacity below that threshold. Masks will be encouraged for anyone who wants or needs to wear them at any time. Students with documented health issues that make wearing a mask unsafe will not be required to wear one. Beginning August 12, all visitors to campus, including parents, will be required to wear a mask while inside school buildings. We plan to purchase CDC approved reusable cloth masks for every SLCA student as part of their school uniform and to distribute them before school starts. These protocols are in keeping with CDC guidelines, current state and local mandates, and the advice we are receiving from medical professionals. Of course, some of these protocols are subject to modification as new scientific data informs our decisions.

Undoubtedly, you will have questions we haven’t answered or concerns we haven’t addressed. We have a few details to iron out, but feel free to ask questions and we will answer them as soon as possible. We know that the fall could be more complex than this past spring, particularly if people in our community begin to test positive for Covid. We all need to be prepared to move into an online environment should government officials enact stay-at-home orders. Whatever the fall brings, I know that God is faithful and you have done amazing work in the year 2020. For these reasons, I am more thankful than ever to be at SouthLake Christian Academy and confident that together we can navigate the coming school year in ways that honor Christ and best serve our students.

Education

Leadership During a Crisis

Last week I had the opportunity to participate in a Zoom meeting with the president of Samford University Dr. Westmoreland on the topic of leadership. He gave seven principles for managing through a crisis:

  1. Take a deep breath. Pause, reflect, relax, and think before you act. Even a few seconds of deep breaths can calm and center your thoughts leading to better decisions.
  2. Establish priorities. Crises require triage to be sure the important things get done and in the right order.
  3. Filter the clutter. Separate the speculative from the informative. Facts are your friends in an emergency.
  4. Take care of your people and yourself. Set limits on your work, a curfew for your emails, establish boundaries, and get needed rest.
  5. Guard your cash. This applies personally and professionally. In an economic crisis, limit spending to the absolutely necessary.
  6. Don’t quit. Even when your reserves are low, your mood depressed, you hope nearly shot, and your nerves frayed, keep going.
  7. Begin and end each day with Colossians 1:17. “He is before all things and in Him all things hold together.” Connect with your faith and operate with the knowledge that many things are beyond your control or ability to repair.

Were I to add an 8th principle, I would include Matthew 5:3, “Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.” To be poor in spirit is to have our hearts broken by the things that break God’s heart. To hold loosely the material things of this world in recognition that from dust we come and to dust we will return. To recognize our limitations, weaknesses, and failures. To acknowledge our need for help. To admit when we are wrong and ask for forgiveness. To be humble enough to recognize our complete dependence on God, and thereby strong enough to lead and act with wisdom, compassion, and justice.

Juggling the twin crises of coronavirus and racial violence, I suspect that the easiest parts of both are behind us. When camaraderie fades into frustration and solidarity slips into selfishness the complexities of leadership will multiply. May God give us the wisdom and strength to lead with poverty of spirit and perseverance.

Uncategorized

Racial Violence in America

Dear SouthLake Christian Family,

We have spent the past few months together coping with the impact of the coronavirus. As we begin to celebrate the end of the semester and enjoy the summer, we now face once again the tragic specter racial violence in America. Today I grieve with you, and in particular with people of color in the SouthLake community, over the sin of racism and its deadly consequences. Recent events, including the Amy Cooper video in Central Park and the horrific deaths of Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and George Floyd, serve as dreadful reminders that racial injustice is rooted deeply in our nation’s history and continues to plague our communities.

Let me say unequivocally that racism and racial inequality are contrary to the Gospel of Jesus Christ upon which SouthLake was founded. From cover to cover, the Bible speaks clearly on matters of human dignity and justice. All people are created in God’s image and we are called to love each other as we love ourselves. The priests and prophets of the Old Testament implored God’s people to do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with God. Jesus Christ modeled love of neighbor, showing compassion to the marginalized and speaking truth to those in power, even asking God to forgive those who unjustly took his life. In the closing pages of Scripture, we see a glimpse of the end of history, when people from every nation, tribe, people, and language will stand together in unified worship and reverence before God. As a Christian school, we must denounce unjust systems and behaviors not because it is the fashionable or politically correct thing to do, but because it is right thing to do.

I thank God for the community leaders, teachers, and first responders whose jobs have been unimaginably difficult in recent days. I pray that together we would lead in ways consistent with the mandates of Scripture and the best ideals of our nation. As SouthLake’s Head of School, I pray for God’s wisdom to lead in ways that honor the image of God in each of you while seeing the sin and brokenness in myself. I ask that all members of the SouthLake Christian family pray, reflect, and seek ways to create a more just and equitable school, community, and nation.

In Christ,

Matthew S. Kerlin, Head of School

Bible Race

Working from Home

Since the onset of stay-at-home orders, I’ve been working almost exclusively from home for over a month and going nowhere when I’m not working. The whole experience is disorienting. I have good days and not-so-good days. I sometimes lack motivation and sometimes feel manic. I alternate between eating too much and exercising like I’m in the military. I sleep well mostly, but sometimes have bizarre dreams or lay awake thinking about work, or about nothing much at all. I feel focused and then distracted and then focused again. It all still feels rather bizarre. Here are a few of things I’ve learned about working at home.

  1. I need a schedule. Left to my own whims, work will bleed into every waking hour and many sleeping hours as well. When I started setting a regular time to wake, work, and work out, I felt more settled, worked with more focus, and started sleeping better at night.
  2. I need to take breaks. Some days I can work for hours without distraction and the day passes in an instant. Other days and hour seems like an eternity. I’ve returned to a practice I used in college. I take a 10 minute break every hour. I go outside, walk around the block, lay down, stretch, do push-ups, whatever. This breaks up the day and keeps my mind sharper.
  3. I created a work space that I like. Maybe you’re sharing limited space with several other people. Maybe you have your own office. Either way, set up your work space so that it functions well for you. I use lists and sticky notes and I am usually surrounded by books, reports, budgets, and other printouts. I organize my workspace every couple of hours and keep it clean, especially now. I can’t control many things right now, but I do have influence over my work space and that helps.
  4. I try to dress reasonably well. It would be easy to work in my pajamas many days, at least from shoulders down where nobody on a Zoom call could see. I find this makes me feel lazy, so I get dress, shoes and all. At the end of the day I put on casual clothes or work out attire as I did when I went to the school every day for work. This creates some normalcy.
  5. I try to stay in touch. Needed interactions happened normally when I worked in close proximity to my colleagues. Now I have to reach out. I find that I am using email, text messaging, and good old-fashioned phone calls more than ever. I get tired of Zoom but it gets the job done. The social interaction does my soul good, even if it isn’t as completely satisfying as being with others in person.
  6. I spend very little time listening to the news. In the early weeks of this pandemic, I fed on every bit of information I could get. In those early days of this crisis, I needed lots of information to make operational decisions. Now there is less news but a plethora of political hot takes that mostly cause confusion and don’t impact daily decisions. I scan the BBC app each morning for 10 minutes to get new national and international news. I subscribe to a small number of email lists for information about other schools and local and state government actions. I avoid cable news like the plague.
  7. I make time for the arts. I got a free premium subscription to Spotify and I listen to far more music than normal, especially acoustic guitar and classical music. For reasons I cannot explain, these genres soothe my nerves right now. I now follow some new songwriters on Instagram who post nightly covers or give weekly concerts online. These performances are a gift.
  8. I go to church every Sunday. That is to say that I watch my church online, and then a few other churches as well. Sunday is the one day of the week that feels substantially different from the others. Thank God for those faithful ministers who are keeping the Body of Christ together right now, even as we are apart from each other.
community Leadership Work

Managing Increased Email Volume

Now that everyone is working and schooling from home, your email inbox has probably blown up. Friends, family members, co-workers, and all of your kids’ teachers are emailing you with unprecedented regularity. I have a strategy to offer for managing that ballooning inbox, one that I adapted over time from other people, the identities of whom I cannot now remember. I can remember these four words: delete, delegate, do, delay.

Delete. Many emails can be deleted the moment you read the subject or sender line. Marketing promotions, social media alerts, and various lists to which you subscribe intentionally or not, my recommendation is that when times are hectic, delete these emails the second they show up in your inbox. Some email management software automatically sends such emails into a separate folder. By whatever means, get these junk emails out of your inbox.

Delegate. Some emails you can immediately send to someone else – a coworker who needs the information, an employees whose job is to handle the task, a child who needs to manage his or her own school assignment, or information on which you’ve been copied. Get these out of your inbox immediately by forwarding them with as little explanation as possible or filing them in case you need the information later. When in doubt, file. Storage is plentiful and cheap.

Do. After you’ve deleted and delegated all the emails you can, now you look through the list of emails and, counterintuitively, look for the least important emails first. If the email requires you to perform a task that you cannot delegate, and the task would take less than two minutes to perform, perform that task as soon as you open the email. Someone is asking a simple question or needs your permission for something. Give them an answer in as few words as necessary, politely but succinctly, and move on. Now is not the time for verbose niceties. Take care of as many of these brief tasks as possible and then delete or file the email, depending on whether or not you need a record.

Delay. The last category of email is the one that requires a task of you that only you can perform, and the task will take longer than two minutes. Keep this email until you’ve deleted, delegated, or done all of the other email tasks in your inbox. These are the only emails that should camp out in your inbox. Keep the number of these emails below 20 if possible. This will help prevent you from feeling overwhelmed.

Here are additional quick recommendations:

  1. Work on email during specified times of the day. Don’t let email dictate your work life, otherwise you will sacrifice the important for the urgent.
  2. Don’t check your email within a couple of hours of bedtime. You don’t need that irritant to keep you awake.
  3. Never send an angry email. Electronic communication is permanent. Emails can be subpoenaed. Confrontational conversations should be held face-to-face or by phone where facial expressions or vocal inflections can provide context and prevent misunderstanding.
  4. If you must, write a draft of an angry email and then sit on it for 24 hours. Reread it the next day. Let a colleague review it for you. In the end, you’ll probably delete it so save time and just don’t write it in the first place.
  5. Use proper punctuation, spelling, and grammar regardless of who you are writing. Emails provide good opportunities to practice proper English, proper English shows respect to others, and respect is a good thing, especially in times of crisis.
community Ethics Technology

Continuity of Instruction Plan for SouthLake Christian Academy

How does e-learning work?

School may look differently in the days to come, but education will continue. Here you will find our plans to provide instruction to SouthLake Christian Academy students in an online environment, also called telelearning, distance learning, or e-learning. Our teaching plans aim to keep things simple, clear, and flexible.

Simple. Effective online instruction does not need to be fancy. Neither parents nor students need to be technology specialists to learn well in an e-learning environment. We will start with basic tools – phone, email, internet – and build from there. We will focus on essential curriculum and skills. Students WILL learn the most important content.

Clear. Effective online instruction requires clear two-way communication. Teachers should be organized, accessible, and responsive. We ask students and families to relay problems to us quickly. We want our students to have a clear understanding of class expectations and content and not to struggle with logistics.

Flexible. Effective online instruction utilizes both synchronous and asynchronous engagement. Most instruction will be asynchronous, meaning that students will be able to access materials on their own schedule rather than in coordination with the entire class. Synchronous instruction will be scheduled to accommodate student availability. Many of our families have multiple children and childcare challenges. We could potentially move back and forth between live and online classes in the weeks to come. This will require each of us to be patient, accommodating, and supportive of each other.

What can parents and students do to prepare?

  1. Give us the information we need to help you. If you have not done so already, please complete our tech survey so that if you have a problem, our tech team will know what technology you have at home. If you have not done so already, make sure we have the correct demographic information for you in Renweb.
  2. Get organized. You will soon receive more electronic communication from SouthLake than you are accustomed to receiving. Set up an email folder for each of your children or for each class or subject. Check email regularly, file or deleted unneeded mail, and respond quickly and briefly to any emails that require only a short response.
  3. Be patient. This is a learning curve for all of us. We are landing a plane while finishing the runway. We will all make mistakes and maybe get frustrated from time to time. We will try to solve problems as quickly as possible. This plan is a work in progress. We will update, revise, and improve as we go along. Give and receive grace.
  4. Stay connected. You can see what is happening around the school and stay informed by following our school’s various social medial channels. Here is a list:
  • Facebook – SouthLake Christian Academy
  • Instagram – southlakechristian
  • Twitter – @SLCAEagles
  • Head of School Blog – http://www.mattkerlin.com

What technology will we use?

We will use technology platforms that are free, accessible to everyone, and work well on both Mac and PC devices. Teachers will provide instructions for using these resources as needed. Not all teachers will use all of these programs, and our Tech Team will be available to assist as needed. Here is a list of most of the platforms our school will be using.

  • Email – we will use the contact emails you provided in Renweb.
  • Phone or FaceTime – we will use the cell phone numbers you provided in Renweb.
  • Renweb – our online school database and the primary means of posting class content.
  • Microsoft Office 365 apps including One Drive, One Note, Forms – online file sharing and storage (mostly for High School use).
  • Google Suite products including Classroom, Calendar, Docs, Forms – online program for managing classes, assignments, content, tests, quizzes, calendars, and file sharing.
  • Zoom – an online communication tool for video recording and video conferencing.
  • Smart Music – an app for recording individual music practice and receiving feedback.

What if I need technology support?

Email the help desk at slcahelpdesk@gmail.com. A member of the tech team will contact you.

What are our plans by grade or division?

Although each teacher is unique, our plan provides some standardization to minimize confusion to the greatest degree possible. All teachers will use a combination of the following: video (instruction and conferencing), regular email or phone communication, assessment (tests, quizzes, papers, projects, etc.), and virtual office hours.

Junior Kindergarten – 3rd Grade (Spano, Canipe, Calhoun, Moore, Davis, Patton)

  • Teachers will email families regularly to communicate expectations and information needed to complete assignments.
  • Teachers will post weekly plans, assignments, needed documents, web resources, and video content on Renweb.
  • Students may turn in assignments by email, text, or an online student-interactive website.
  • Teachers will phone, FaceTime, or Zoom to connect with students and parents each week to check in and answer questions.
  • Teachers will set up virtual office hours for individualized assistance.

4th – 6th Grade (Boovy, Gonzalez, Bussell, Clemmer, Jacobs, Rowles, Vance, Boone, Belvin, Thomas)

  • Teachers will email families prior to March 30 to explain in detail how to access all electronic resources needed, primarily Renweb, Google Classroom, and Zoom.
  • Beginning March 30, all teachers will communicate via regular emails with information relevant to all 4-6 grade students.
  • Each teacher will email daily with specific information and reminders to check Renweb and Google Classroom for assignments in specific subjects.
  • Needed materials not already sent home will be linked to both Renweb and Google Classroom.
  • Students may turn in assignments using a combination of text messaging, Google Docs, Google Forms, or other Google apps.
  • Teachers will schedule virtual office hours for students needing individualized help.

7th – 8th Grade (Belvin, Bumgarner, Boone, Jacobs, Reeves, Russell, Wilson)

  • Each teacher will email families prior to March 30 welcoming students to e-learning and explaining in detail how each class will work.
  • Beginning March 30, teachers will post lesson plans and links to primary resources in Renweb. They will give assignments and provide instructional content through Renweb, Google Classroom, and curriculum specific sites (science and history). Links to these items will be posted in Renweb.
  • Each teacher will produce video lessons weekly or more frequently, depending on the nature of the content.
  • Each teacher will communicate regularly with students via email, video, and/or phone to provide specific instructions and reminders to check Renweb for assignments.
  • Each teacher will schedule virtual office hours for students or families with questions or concerns.

High School

  • Each high school class is unique, so e-learning plans will be highly individualized, just as they are in a live classroom setting.
  • Teachers will use a blend of synchronous and asynchronous instruction.
  • Teachers will email students prior to March 30 with introductions to online learning and instructions for use of any new technology.
  • Each teacher will post lesson plans, notes, videos, and assignments on Renweb and other file sharing platforms.
  • Students will submit assignments through OneNote, OneDrive, and Google Classroom.
  • Teachers will use Zoom for scheduled online class gatherings.
  • Teachers will schedule virtual office hours for individualized assistance.

What about specials like library, PE, Fine Arts, and STEM?

  • Most music classes will move to individualized instruction using the Smart Music app.
  • Other classes will utilize online resources for singing and choreography.
  • Library instruction will include reading recommendations, videos, and book blogs.
  • Art teachers will send weekly project ideas and post completed projects on Instagram and our online art gallery called Artsonia.
  • PE instruction will consist of weekly video workouts that student can do in their own homes.
  • STEM instruction will involve periodic emails with ideas for projects that can be completed at home to support subject area learning.

What about students receiving services from our Academic Development Center (ADC)?

  • ADC teachers will continue to support their students by providing consultation and individualized assistance to students with issues that affect their learning.
  • ADC teachers are familiar with distance learning technology and will have access to their students’ Renweb resources and e-learning apps.
  • ADC teachers have received special certifications for teletherapy and will use Zoom for individualized therapy session.
  • ADC teachers will schedule virtual office hours for those needing additional assistance.
  • ADC teachers will continue to support students with an Educational Plan of Action (EPA), and provide documentation needed for accommodations on standardized testing.
  • ADC teachers will continue to consult with prospective students and their families.

What about high school students needing help for fall scheduling or from our College and Career Counseling Office?

  • Course request meetings will be handled using Zoom. Individualized assistance will be provided by phone or email from our scheduling team.
  • Students needing schedule counseling will use Sign-up Genius for Zoom meetings.
  • Junior planning meetings and sophomore PSAT and Pre-ACT test review meetings will take place using Zoom as students request.
  • Blog posts will contain grade level updates, encouragement, and links to resources.
  • Email communication will inform students of collegiate information and any testing changes.
  • Personal communication will continue to support post-grad research, virtual tours, and senior schedules.

Final Considerations

Thank you for your steadfast faith and trust in SouthLake Christian Academy as we continue to teach and minister to your students. We hope to return to live classes as soon as it is safe to do so. Truthfully, the months that follow may have a profound impact on the future of education. New capacities, efficiencies, competencies, and possibilities will likely emerge from this unprecedented time in our history. We cannot see exactly what the future holds, but we trust that Christ is preeminent in all things.

Compiled and edited by the Faculty and Staff of SouthLake Christian Academy

March 2020

Academics Education Technology

Youth Sports: Keeping It All in Perspective

My oldest child played nearly every sport a boy can. My middle child was a dancer who performed at innumerable school sporting events. My youngest child is a dancer and high school volleyball player. I am Head of School for an academy with 35 athletic teams. Needless to say, I have spent countless hours watching youth sporting events. Fortunately for me, I thoroughly enjoy watching students compete. I am less enamored, however, with how parents behave while watching their children compete. I am blessed to work at a school where parent behavior is almost always exemplary. Through the years, however, I have seen my fair share of parents screaming at the officials, belittling kids, and trash talking the other team. What possesses otherwise reasonable adults to lose their composure while watching their kids compete? Perhaps the rising cost of college tuition drives hopes for an athletic scholarship. Living vicariously through our kids is always a temptation. Whatever the case, here are some suggestions for keeping the right perspective on youth sports.

Let kids make their own choices. Pushing kids to play a sport is generally a bad idea. Pushing them to practice harder or more frequently than they want can become counterproductive over time. If you as a parent are working harder at a sport than your son or daughter, perhaps it’s time to reevaluate how you’re both spending your time and money. Throwing a lot of cash at camps, trainers, and private lessons can backfire, especially for younger children. If they ask for extra help, and you aren’t sacrificing college savings to give them some, then great. Otherwise, pressuring them to perform at unrealistically high levels can generate resentment if children don’t feel like they are living up to parents’ lofty expectations.

Make it about the process not the outcome. Ok, I have to say this. Your kid is not going pro. However good you think he is, he isn’t going pro. He’s big and athletic for his age? Guess what, he’s still not going pro. He’s better than all the other kids? Nope, he’s still not going pro. Why do I say this? Statistics my friend. Nationwide, less than .04% of high school athletes get a chance at a professional career in any sport. That’s one in 2500. You have a similar chance of getting struck by lightning. When you clear your mind of thoughts of a pro career, suddenly your approach to parenting a sports-playing child becomes much healthier. Take the pressure of your children and stop trying to live out your dreams of a pro career through them. Encourage children to work hard, play fair, and be good teammates in practice, in the game, or on the bench. If they get better each practice, each game, and each season, then that is success worthy of celebration.

Yelling at the officials accomplishes nothing. I spend many years coaching baseball when my son was young. One season I volunteered as an assistant coach for a 10-year-old team with a head coach who had worked as an SEC baseball official for several years. In a playoff game, an umpire made a terrible call that cost our team a couple of runs and eventually the game. I voiced my displeasure to the official from the dugout, at which point the head coach looked at me and said, “Matt, if he were any better, he’d be an umpire somewhere else.” That statement put things in perspective for me. Youth officials are amateurs who have families and full-time jobs that usually have nothing to do with sports. They receive only a modest amount of training, supervision, and compensation. They typically officiate for fun because they enjoy watching young people compete and helping teach them the game. So cut the refs some slack, set a good example, and keep your opinions of the officiating to yourself.

Belittling your kids makes them worse not better. I see a frightening number of parents trying to coach their kids from the stands, yelling advice and criticizing mistakes. I’ve never seen a kid who likes this or performs better as a result. We as parents feel frustration and maybe embarrassment when our kids don’t do well in a game. The truth is, this is our problem not our kid’s problem. Here is a little piece of advice that I have heard from many parents wiser than me: Don’t talk to your son or daughter about his performance in games. If you know a sport well and you are asked for help, give only what is asked. Otherwise, play the role of a supportive parent. Offers encouragement, perspective, and calm. When the game is over, talk about where you’re going to dinner. Don’t rehash their performances, especially the mistakes. Let the coaches handle correction.

Let the coaches do the coaching. Believe it or not, your child’s coaches probably know your child’s abilities better than you. Coaches are not perfect, obviously. They are subject to prejudices and politics, first impressions and hot tempers, just like the rest of us. But when it comes to your child, you are not remotely objective. Coaches are more likely than you to know what position is best, what playing time is best, what offense to run, when to call a time out, and what best to say to encourage, motivate, or correct your child. So, for the love of all that is decent in the world, don’t complain to your coach about positions or playing time. You don’t have to like all your coaches or everything they decide. If a coach is inappropriately hot-tempered, profane, or belittling, by all means confront that sort of childish behavior. But remember that for the rest of your children’s lives, they will have classmates, teachers, professors, bosses, colleagues, and neighbors that they don’t particularly like. They need to learn to live with and learn from people they may not like. We parents need to model this for our kids.

Play multiple sports. The popularity of club sports has made players more skilled at earlier ages by extending the playing season. School season, club season, private lessons, camps, and off-season training mean that many teenagers play their sport almost all year. Much of this is driven by economics. Parents are willing to pay big money to see their kids improve and many coaches are eager to turn a profit. Yet, the rise in overuse injuries suggests that such intense dedication to a single sport exacts a physical toll on young bodies. According to recent studies cited by USA Today (September 5, 2018), more than 3.5 million under age 14 receive medical treatment for sports related injuries each year. High School students account for nearly 2 million injuries, 500,000 doctor visits, and 30,000 hospitalizations. Of equal but overlooked importance is the mental fatigue associated with playing a single sport all year. Kids need down time, yet often their schedules are too busy for proper sleep, a healthy diet, or adequate time to decompress. Kids can use the mental break that comes from getting away from their primary sport, meeting new people, learning new skills, and developing a broader base of fitness. A 2017 study by the American Orthopedic Society for Sports Medicine found that early specialization in a sport did NOT increase an athlete’s chances of playing that sport at the high school, collegiate, or professional level (www.sportsmed.org; July 2017).

Let the kids play. As badly as I want to see my team win, in my calmer moments I realize that a youth athletic competition is a low stakes affair. The outcome isn’t going to have a particularly profound or lasting impact on either the winners or the losers. For that reason, sports should be fun. There are too many seriously important things in life to take something that should be fun and treat it too seriously. I think it is easy for parents and coaches to suck the life out of sports for our children and strip from them the pure and simple joy of competition for its own sake.

 

Parenting Sports

Social Drama: How to Handle It, Or Better Yet, Avoid It Altogether

[The following is a chapel address presented to Junior High and High School Students at SouthLake Christian Academy on January 8, 2020.]

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: ‘Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death – even death on a cross.’” – Philippians 2.3-8, New International Version

Social drama is common among teens and adults alike. People living and working in close proximity with one another will inevitably experience relational conflict. This is a normal, natural, and necessary part of any family or community. People have to learn to exist peaceably with one another. The problem comes when conflict isn’t resolved effectively and persists creating unnecessary stress for those involved. So, let’s define social drama as unresolved relational conflict that creates undue emotional distress. (For the purposes of this address, I am not talking about situations involving physical harm or the threat of injury. Social drama is both more common and more trivial.) Here is an example of social drama that I observe frequently. Susie says insulting things about Adam to her friend Beth. (These are not real people). Beth tells Adam what Susie said and Adam gets angry at Susie, who in turn gets mad at Beth for telling Adam. Then Beth gets mad at Susie for starting the whole thing and she gangs up with Adam against Susie. Susie gets her other friends involved to take her side, and Adam and Beth do the same. And on the drama goes!

The passage from Philippians 2 quoted above gives four instructions. (1) Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. (2) Consider others more important than yourselves. (3) Look after the interests of others. (4) Be like Jesus who was equal to God but gave his life for us. If everyone followed these instructions, social drama wouldn’t exist. Here are some of the causes of drama as I see them.

Personal insecurity is the most obvious and common cause of social drama. People who are uneasy about their position in a community, people who do not feel liked or trusted, people who are not comfortable in their own skin, people who feel unsure about their friendships, or people who are lonely will often try to bring others down in order to feel better about themselves.

Competition for social position isn’t unique to teens. We adults can be more overt and vicious in our quest for popularity. Teens follow the examples we set. Who is friends with whom, who travels where and with whom, who hosts parties and who is invited, who lives where and who drives what … these are the concerns of socialites. You’ll avoid a lot of drama simply by refusing to play this game. Have close friends but be a friend to all. When you travel or host social events, don’t post pictures about it that inevitably make others feel excluded. Be less concerned with who likes you and more concerned that you treat others with unfailing kindness and respect.

Gossip, rumors, and slander often pose as genuine concern for people but accomplish nothing good for anyone. Some seem to thrive on involving themselves in the private business of other people and use gossip to fill a personal void. Other use slander as a weapon of war against those with whom they hold a grudge. Spreading negativity about other people fuels one’s ego, but the fire can burn all involved. The old expression seems to apply here: “If you don’t have anything nice to say, then don’t say it.”

Attention seeking behaviors are those actions intended solely for the purpose of drawing attention to oneself. Social media exists because we are attention seekers by nature, but social media allows us to deceive by painting a picture of our lives that isn’t real. We show online what we want others to see not what we truly are. We exaggerate what is good about our lives to impress others or exaggerate what is difficult about our lives to get their sympathy. We express opinions to impress or to annoy, and the attention that results helps us feel smart or important or validated. Yet, a growing body of research indicates that the inevitable result of our online existence is jealousy, anxiety, and discontent. Limit your time online and remember that everything you see is contrived.

Entertainment is a cure for boredom and social drama can surely be entertaining. Perhaps it’s not a bad idea to have a good-humored approach to the drama that swirls around you, so long as you don’t seek to create it for your own amusement. Jokes and pranks and poking fun can help us cope with a world that is filled with tragedy, but these things can go too far and become belittling or damaging to others. If you are sensitive to those around you and consider their interests ahead of your own, you’ll develop the sensitivity to know when you are about to cross the line from humor to humiliation.

Now here are some things you can do to handle, or better yet, avoid social drama altogether.

  1. Never speak negatively about other people. Yes, sometimes you need to blow the whistle on bad behavior. Sometimes you need to give those in authority an honest evaluation of someone’s behavior. But aside from those rare circumstances, if you follow the simple practice of never speaking badly about others, you will be a happier person in the long run. The Rotary Club promotes an ethical standard called “The Four-Way Test,” recited by members at each meeting. “Is it the truth? Is it fair to all concerned? Will it bring goodwill and better friendships? Will it be beneficial to all concerned?” These are good questions to ask yourself regularly.
  2. If someone offends you, talk to that person. In Matthew 18:15, Jesus gives these instructions to his followers: “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone.” These conversations will seem difficult to those with little experience having them. But there are simple and gracious ways to talk to someone who has offended you. You do not need to get in their face or become confrontational or drag up years of offenses. A simple statement like, “Hey, you said something that bothers me, and I was hoping we could talk about it sometime.” You will get better having difficult conversations over time. Best to become comfortable with difficult conversations now while you are young, and the stakes are low. As you get older, difficult conversations will become more common and far more consequential.
  3. Apologize when you mess up, and when you don’t. Sometimes the solution to social drama is a simple apology. And sometimes, you need to apologize even when you don’t think you are at fault. If the objective is a mended relationship, then at some point it doesn’t matter who is right and who is wrong. Be a peacemaker not a drama creator. Of course, you need proper boundaries to know that there are times when you must insist that others take responsibility for their behavior. But most instances of petty social drama will never be resolved by pointing fingers. If you aren’t ready to say you’re sorry when it isn’t your fault, then you aren’t ready for any serious relationship, romantic or otherwise. Jesus gives us the best example I know. As He gave His life, dying a martyr’s death in torturous despair, he said of his executioners, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
  4. Forgive, forget, and move on. Middle school and high school are too difficult already. LIFE it too difficult and too short for you to hold grudges. Each grudge you carry is like a brick in a backpack that you cannot remove. The books and supplies you’re carrying are heavy enough already and each time you fail to forgive, you add more weight. You are only hurting yourself. Forgive. What if the other person doesn’t apologize? Forgive. What if the other person refuses to admit he or she did something wrong? Forgive. What if he or she keeps doing it over and over? Forgive. You may need to get some help from an adult, but you still need to forgive. Jesus was asked once how often we needed to forgive. “Seven times?” was the question. Jesus answered, “Seventy times seven.” He did not mean 490 times. Seven is the biblical number of completion. Forgive completely.

In conclusion, I considered asking that we make it our New Year’s resolution to avoid social drama. But the thought occurred to me that this approach will not work. If the root cause of drama is personal insecurity, then simply resolving to avoid drama can’t possibly be effective. We must each address the insecurity that we feel as broken and fallen people in a broken and fallen world. Or rather, I should say we must each allow God to address the insecurity in us. As the theologian St. Augustine writes in Confessions, “Our souls are restless until they find their rest in Thee.”

community

SouthLake Christian Academy – Strategic Plan 2020 (DRAFT for public comment)

INTRODUCTION

SouthLake Christian Academy opened in the fall of 1994 with 23 students and three teachers in combined classes that included kindergarten through 4th grade. The founders of the school were members of SouthLake Presbyterian Church who intended for the Academy to prepare students for college and to proclaim Christ while welcoming students of all faiths. Over the next nine years, grades five through twelve were added, and in May of 2003, SouthLake Christian Academy sent its first ten graduates off to college. Today, the Academy enrolls 560 students in pre-kindergarten through twelfth grade and maintains its commitment to rigorous college preparation in a Christ-centered environment.

As SouthLake Christian Academy approached its 25th year, the School Board recognized the need for a comprehensive plan to guide the school’s future. The Search Committee for the current Head of School identified strategic planning as a chief priority. Current school administrators see strategic planning as vital to the health of the organization. Our teachers, coaches, parents, creditors, and community partners each have a vested interest in the future of the school. For these reasons, SouthLake Christian Academy launched a strategic planning process in the fall of 2018. This document contains a summary of the results of that planning process. We believe that the substance of the plan detailed below honestly reflects collaborative input from all SLCA stakeholders and represents our best efforts to capture both God’s direction and the collective wisdom of our community. The most challenging step of any planning process is the execution! For this plan to come to life, we will need God’s grace and the participation of all our stakeholders. We pray this strategic plan invites each of you to participate actively in the future that God has for SouthLake Christian Academy.

STRATEGIC PLANNING TASK FORCE MEMBERS

  •  Jed Belvin, School Board and Church Session
  • Lisa Cernuto, Alumni parent
  • Derek Farley, 11th grade student
  • Richard Hester, Parent
  • Brian Hines, Parent
  • Brooke Hondros, Parent
  • Sam James, 2003 Graduate
  • Sholeh Kornegay, Parent
  • Lynn Moore, 2nd Grade Teacher
  • Stuart Ross, Parent
  • Kim Sailors, Parent
  • Kennedy Smith, 2019 Graduate

PLANNING TIMELINE

The following is a summary of the strategic planning process. Supporting documents for each step of the process can be found on the school website: https://www.southlakechristian.org/about-slca/strategic-p.

Established a task force comprised of key individuals who represent a cross-section of the school. Set meeting schedule and timeline. (December 2018)

Gathered data about the Academy, its students, families, alumni, donors, and other stakeholders. Used surveys, SWOT analyses, round-table discussions, townhall style gatherings, and individual meetings to collect data. (January – July 2019)

Analyzed the data to identify common themes and values. Engaged in prioritization exercises with school administration and task force members to identify the main areas the plan should cover. Sketched out a rough draft list of plan categories that best represented the data and perceived long-term needs of the school. Identified the goals for each category. (August – September 2019)

Composed rough draft of strategic plan, identifying five main categories of focus and the top 3-5 goals for each category. (October – November 2019)

Generate buy-in by testing the goals with key constituents to see what resonates and generates excitement. Tweak the rough draft based on feedback from key constituents. (December 2019)

Communicate the plan to all constituents. Print a newsletter to mail to all people associated with the school, outlining the process and outcomes of the strategic planning process and enlisting support from the community. (January – May 2020)

Implement the plan. This is the most important and most difficult step, and will likely include rebranding, refining our mission and vision statements, and launching a capitol campaign to raise funds to implement the strategic plan. (2020 and beyond)

Review the plan. Reconvene the task force after one year to review progress and make necessary tweaks to the plan based on experience and feedback. (Summer 2021)

STRATEGIC PLAN FOR SOUTHLAKE CHRISTIAN ACADEMY

1. Faculty and Student Success

Promote an academically rigorous environment to prepare students for college and life.

Goals:

  1. Recruit and retain teachers of the highest quality, providing them with competitive compensation and supporting their professional development through continuing education, peer mentoring, and regular evaluation and constructive feedback.
  2. Create innovative opportunities for students to learn life skills through technical training, work-study programs, leadership development, and personal finance education.
  3. Promote a classroom environment conducive to learning, keeping class sizes small, behavioral expectations age appropriate, and campus safety a high priority.
  4. Enhance academic rigor by adding classes for ACT/SAT preparation, engineering, robotics, debate, public speaking, Christian ethics, theatre, and American sign language, as enrollment and funding allows.

Action Plans:

  • Conduct a salary study to assess competitiveness of our salary and benefits relative to peer schools.
  • Recruit diverse teachers from strong education programs in North Carolina.
  • Set a budget for professional development and create a grant proposal process for teachers to request funds for conference attendance.
  • Implement our new teacher evaluation and mentoring program (STEP program).
  • Survey parents and students annually for feedback on teacher effectiveness.

2. Spiritual Vitality

Foster Christ-centered community at school and beyond.

Goals:

  1. Establish ways for students to serve the community and the world, sharing Christ through local service projects and international mission trips.
  2. Develop a school-wide Bible curriculum and discipleship initiatives to ensure that SLCA graduates possess both the biblical literacy and theological competency to engage culture through a Christian worldview.
  3. Teach students to worship and to lead in worship by building music programs and ministry leadership initiatives that serve the school and local churches.
  4. Create ways to minister to SLCA families through parent Bible studies, spiritual life conferences, and pastoral care to families in need.
  5. Provide additional support for students with specialized academic, spiritual, and mental health needs.

Action Plans:

  • Identify service-learning projects for each school grade and deepen our relationship with our community.
  • Evaluate and strengthen current Bible curriculum and spiritual life programs with a thorough understanding of demographic trends so that we can spiritually invest in our students more fully.
  • Develop a robust worship leadership program through Chapel Band class, performing arts ensembles, and other worship leadership programs.
  • Begin a weekly Bible study for parents, host periodic special events for families (lunch speaker series, conferences, etc.), and identify resources to minister to families in need.

3. Financial Strength

Build financial stability and create a culture of philanthropy to protect the Academy’s future.

Goals:

  1. Launch a Capital Campaign to fund the major initiatives of the SLCA Strategic Plan, including academic, athletic, fine arts, and facilities improvements.
  2. Create an Annual Fund that will allow SLCA to cover the gap between revenue and expenses, help fund financial aid, and keep SLCA affordable for as many as possible.
  3. Retire debt, allowing the school to contain tuition increases and devote more revenue to school improvements.
  4. Build an endowment to provide resources for potential school emergencies, disaster recovery, employee assistance, and other unexpected financial needs.

Action Plans:

  • Conduct a feasibility study to determine realistic fundraising goals.
  • Establish convenient methods of charitable giving, including complete matching funds information, payroll deduction, estate and stock gifts, and gifts in kind options.
  • Designate a percentage of income from Annual Fund and Capital Campaign contributions to go toward debt reduction and endowment growth.
  • Seek an Advancement and Marketing employee to lead the school’s fundraising efforts and build a culture of loyalty and philanthropy with our alumni, parents, grandparents, and community constituents.

4. Enrollment Growth and Marketing

Create ownership and appreciation for the SLCA mission, reputation, and brand.

Goals:

  1. Establish standards for efficient and effective communication between SLCA and employees, families, alumni, and other constituents.
  2. Manage the SLCA brand for consistent messaging and appearance of our logos, colors, website, social media accounts, signage, uniforms, mascot design, and school-related print materials.
  3. Develop a plan to mobilizes SLCA constituents to share stories of school success and achievement that reflect the school’s Christ-centered commitments.
  4. Recruit students and employees from the ranks of international and minority populations so that SLCA reflects the population of our city and the diversity of the Body of Christ.

Action Plans:

  • Manage information flow from the school to all constituents in order to reduce the number but increase the value of emails while maximizing social media as a means of communication.
  • Engage a professional marketing firm to conduct a brand audit and help us better tell the SLCA story by all means possible.
  • Right-size school enrollment to a level at or near our efficient operating capacity by grade and class.
  • Engage an enrollment consultant to assist with minority student recruitment and maximize financial aid for growing under-represented student populations.
  • Develop social media as a major platform to promote the innovation and excellence of our teachers.

5. Facility Enhancement

Improve campus facilities and infrastructure to support the Academy’s academic and spiritual mission.

Goals:

  1. Provide new full-service dining space and a commercial kitchen for on-site food preparation, providing healthy food options to meet the dietary needs of all students.
  2. Update the appearance and function of First Building to reflect current usage, beautify property with new campus-wide landscaping, improve playgrounds, and install a sound system in the stadium.
  3. Build a new gymnasium to provide added space for JK-12 physical education, athletic competition, indoor recreation, and supporting locker rooms and meeting spaces for teams, coaches, officials, and teachers.
  4. Reconfigure existing gymnasium for use as a space for worship, fine arts, and school assemblies.
  5. Upgrade technology infrastructure to increase WIFI bandwidth, provide teachers with new laptop computers, and update touch-screen technology in classrooms,

Assessment:

  • Draw up a master site plan map to provide visual support for the SLCA strategic plan.
  • Consult with a general contractor to assess the feasibility of converting the lower level of Hampton Hall to a full-service dining facility for use until a new building is built.
  • Engage a general contractor to assist with plans for remodeling the exterior of First Building.
  • Engage a landscape architect to assist with campus-wide landscaping improvements.
  • Engage a general contractor to draw up plans for converting existing gym to space for worship, fine arts, and school assemblies.
  • Engage architects to draw up preliminary plans for new dining, gym, and assembly spaces.

CONCLUSIONS

A good strategic plan should guide an organization for approximately five years. No plan will capture all that a school does. Some initiatives identified during the planning process are already underway or complete. As no plan is perfect, minor changes to the plan will be necessary. We need the flexibility for additions, subtractions, and adjustments to the plan to reflect continuously changing realities. Because our plan is ambitious, we may not complete every goal. Because our God is able, we may accomplish more than we imagine.

For some organizations, strategic planning takes years and involves significant struggle and disagreement. This has not been the case with SouthLake Christian Academy. It is possible that those familiar with the Academy will read this document and ask, “Why did this plan take more than a year to devise? These objectives were obvious to me before the process began!” If that is your response to our Strategic Plan, then the Task Force will have accomplished its purpose. Task Force members will testify to how harmoniously a consensus emerged concerning the main objectives of the plan. Our belief from the beginning was that many voices would yield a better result than only a few. Participation in the formation of this plan was extensive by all SLCA constituents, including parents, teachers, students, administrators, alumni, and community members. The results are better for it. SouthLake Christian Academy will be better for it. Our prayer is that the Kingdom of God will be better for it as well.

APPENDIX: STRATEGIC PLANNING DOCUMENTS OF IMPORTANCE

SWOT Analysis: Task Force and SLCA Administration – January 2019

Strengths

  • teacher & staff engagement with students – employees care deeply about students
  • happy school, filled with joy, strong sense of community
  • location between Denver and Huntersville
  • strong college prep curriculum and track record
  • Christian commitment, teaching Bible, ACSI affiliation, Student Missions Fellowship
  • student trips, especially grade-specific connections to service and ministry projects
  • safe school with small class sizes
  • strong writing instruction, particularly in the high school
  • Academic Development Center resources
  • affordable & less than most private schools in area, availability of financial aid
  • connection to alumni years after graduation, teachers form mentor relationships
  • sports programs – availability & variety of teams, contribution to maturation

Weaknesses

  • facilities, especially lower school
  • lack of continuity in leadership and vision (3 heads in past 5 years)
  • absence of clear definition of success with buy-in from community at large
  • we aren’t good at “tooting our own horn”; telling the story of our successes
  • poor student attendance at many sporting events
  • lack of communication to parents about how to support service projects
  • poor communication, brutally long weekly emails ineffective
  • tuition is difficult for some
  • lack of cultural/racial diversity
  • occasional teacher weaknesses, people teaching subjects outside their ability
  • Wi-Fi & technology problems
  • questionable longevity of the church & theological guidance in its absence

Opportunities

  • market research to determine why students come to SLCA
  • tell our story, marketing, especially word of mouth and social media development
  • student ownership of more programming, clubs
  • strengthening connections between HS and LS students, building relationships
  • take advantage of our status as a neighborhood school
  • promote ADC more to outside constituents
  • advertise where our seniors have been admitted to college
  • create incentives/programs to entice students to attend sporting events
  • improve diversity of student population

Threats

  • charter schools
  • debt structure/load of the school
  • hwy. 73 expansion

Executive Summary of School Survey – May 2019

Demographics of respondents:

  • 68% female
  • 25% millennials
  • 92% white
  • 90% Christian
  • 70% Protestant
  • 65% associated with SLCA > 6 years
  • 50% live within 10 miles of SLCA

Priorities:

  • Top words/phrases that describe SLCA: Christ-centered, academically rigorous, biblically integrated, loving
  • Top words/phrases that should describe SLCA: Christ-centered, academically rigorous, loving, college prep
  • Top reasons for affiliation – Christian values, teaching, caring, location
  • Top facilities improvements – dining, Wilcox, lower school, athletics
  • Top projects to which you’d donate – academics, technology, gym, athletics

Perceptions: (percentage of people who agree or strongly agree)

  • SLCA operates consistent with Christian mission – 85%
  • SLCA is a good value for quality – 79%
  • SLCA students are well prepared for college – 76%
  • SLCA students are well prepared for life – 63%
  • SLCA teaches problem solving/critical thinking – 70%
  • SLCA has competent qualified teachers – 76%
  • Quality athletic programs – 74%
  • Quality fine arts programs – 58%
  • Competent/qualified administrators – 80%
  • Appropriately sized classes – 90%
  • Rigorous math – 83%
  • Rigorous language arts – 78%
  • Rigorous STEM – 65%
  • Rigorous foreign language – 44%
  • Broad options for electives – 45%
  • Broad clubs/extracurricular activities – 49%
  • SLCA students are motivated to learn – 67%
  • SLCA teachers communicate with parents effectively – 70%
  • I contribute financially – 32%
  • I attend athletics events – 56%
  • I attend fine arts events – 48%
  • I am willing to contribute to a capital giving campaign – 44%
  • SLCA does a good job marketing – 28%

Open ended questions:

  • Favorites – Christian, teachers, academics (class size), community/family environment
  • Improvements – facilities (dining & gym), classroom/conduct management, diversity, technology
  • Marketing ideas – social media, signage, billboard, print media, internet/website
  • Strengthen Christian identity – too Christian / not Christian enough, chapel-Bible-missions
  • Net Promoter Score – 18.2

Executive Summary of Town Hall Meetings – Summer 2019

Observations SLCA families made about the school survey data:

  • Christian identity and strong college prep are cornerstones of SLCA
  • Small class sizes are highly valued
  • Athletics and fine arts, while good, could both be better in terms of promotion and organization
  • Preparation for life, not just college, could improve (shop, home econ, financial management)
  • Diversity, dining facilities, foreign language rigor, and marketing all need significant improvements

Jobs parents are hiring us to perform:

  • Get my child into a good college
  • Instill in my child a moral framework and/or Christian worldview
  • Provide a safe environment for my child to learn
  • Help my child realize his full potential, become a leader, impact the world, etc.
  • Fix a problem my child has experienced elsewhere
  • Keep my child happy (friends, sports, fine arts)

SLCA’s top competitors (perceptions that appeared on all lists):

  • Cannon
  • Davidson Day
  • Lake Norman Charter (charter schools in general – Westlake, Lincoln, Pine Lake, Langtree)
  • Hough High School

Things that distinguish SLCA from our competitors:

  • Price
  • Mission/identity
  • School culture (family environment, sense of community)
  • Excellent and dedicated teachers
  • Academic Development Center

Attributes to keep at all costs:

  • Christian & college prep
  • Reputation of teachers
  • Sense of community/family
  • Small class size
  • Price/value

Attributes (or perceptions) to eliminate at all costs:

  • Poor facilities
  • Scandal plagued or financially weak
  • Overwhelmingly white, conservative, and privileged

Attributes to develop:

  • Becoming better at telling our story (marketing)
  • Diversity of faculty, staff, and students
  • Professionalism (athletics, fine arts, uniforms, brand images

Things that give you hope for the future:

  • Open conversations and collaborative plans underway
  • School leadership (teachers, administration)
  • Renewed energy and excitement (SLCA is a happy place)
  • Growth in Lake Norman area

Executive Summary of Project Prioritization Exercises – Fall 2019

 Project, Score, and Category                       

  • Enhanced marketing initiatives – signage, website, communications, brand analysis, Score 87, Marketing
  • Updates and beautification to existing facilities, landscaping, playgrounds, Score 72, Facilities
  • New dining space, food prep capabilities, healthier food options, Score 67, Facilities
  • Life skills courses, personal finance, leadership development, life issues education, score 59, Academic/Spiritual
  •  Financial stewardship: creation of annual fund, retire debt, build endowment, Score 57, Financial
  • Teacher development, incentive pay, evaluation, peer mentoring, continuing education, Score 43, Academic
  • Stronger technology infrastructure, training for students, employees, and families, Score 40, Facilities
  • New gymnasium, performing arts center, and worship space, Score 37, Facilities
  • Greater diversity of faculty, staff, and students to reflect the greater Charlotte region, Score 35, Enrollment
  • Enrollment growth to reasonable capacity, new preschool, boat commuting options, Score 29, Enrollment
  • Grow alumni relations, volunteers, and donors through improved communications, Score 25, Financial
  • Spiritual life programs, serving at-risk students, worship, family ministry, Score 19, Spiritual
  • Additional counselor for guidance and mental health support, Score 17, Personnel
  • Safety initiatives, secure facilities, safety officer, Score 12, Personnel
  • Academic enhancements – debate, ACT/SAT prep classes, engineering, Score 9, Academic
  • Develop STEM facilities, robotics, science curriculum, Score 8, Academic
  • New athletic facilities for tennis, softball, reverse home & away sides of stadium, Score 4, Facilities

*Scores reflect the project priorities identified by the school survey, SLCA administrators, and Strategic Planning Task Force members. Higher scores reflect greater interest in a particular project. Scores were intended to inform but not determine the final goals of the strategic plan.

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