SouthLake Christian Academy Update – September 2022

Dear SouthLake Christian Families,

As we head into Labor Day weekend, I am grateful to you for a remarkably smooth and peaceful start to the academic year. I know the first few weeks of school can be stressful as you learn new teachers, schedules, technologies, and logistics. Whenever you run into difficulty, our administrative team is here to help so don’t hesitate to reach out to us. If you aren’t sure who to contact, let me know and I’ll point you in the right direction.

Moms in Prayer
Beginning September 8, Moms in Prayer will meet on the second and fourth Thursday morning of each month to spend an hour praying for SouthLake students, faculty, and administration. Moms in Prayer is an international, Christ Centered, interdenominational prayer ministry made up of moms and grandmothers who desire to pray for children in schools. Moms in Prayer will meet at The Gathering Place, the house located adjacent to campus behind our large playground. You may park along the gravel drive leading to the house. If you have any questions, please email Jeanie Mason at jeaniemason7@gmail.com

Parents Bible Study
Beginning September 9, and each Friday morning this semester, we will host a Bible study for parents in the First Building Sanctuary at 8:00 AM. SouthLake Church Pastor Dan King and I will share leadership responsibilities. If you’ve ever wondered what your students are learning in Bible class and chapel, or if you have not found a church in the area, we invite you to join us. We know many of you work so we will keep our meeting time to 30 minutes.

Picture Day
Picture Day will be Thursday, September 8 for grades JK-4, and Friday September 9 for grades 5-11. These pictures will appear on ID cards and in our yearbook, and proofs will be available online for parents who may wish to purchase prints, holiday cards, banners, etc. Please be sure your children are in full dress uniform on the appropriate day. For more information about full dress uniforms, see our website under the Campus Life tab, under School Uniforms. In the event of inclement weather, we will reschedule picture day and notify you by text alert.

Carline
Rule number one for carline – don’t change lanes. We double stack our carline to minimize congestion on the main road, and we move each line forward in the order cars arrive. Changing lanes disrupts the process and usually means you wait longer. You should feel no pressure to arrive early for carline. Typically carline takes less than 10 minutes if you arrive at the designated time. If you arrive excessively early, the process takes you longer and you may get mixed in with traffic from an earlier dismissal. It may seem confusing when you see an adjacent line moving while you’re sitting still, but trust the process. There is a method to the madness.

That’s all for now.

Blessings,

Matthew S. Kerlin, Ph.D.
Head of School
SouthLake Christian Academy

Bible Prayer

SouthLake Christian Academy Update – August 2022

Dear SouthLake Christian Families,

Summer is winding down. Students return to campus in 10 days. People often ask if we are ready. My answer is always “No, but we will be.” As we prepare to begin a new academic year, you will likely be bombarded with information. I will try not to add to your burden, but do want to highlight a few details.

Open House/Orientation
We look forward to having you on campus next week for open house or orientation meetings. For those in grades JK-4, we will announce classroom teachers later this week and you will meet in your teacher’s classroom. For everyone else, we will direct you to the correct location when you arrive on campus, or notify you by text alert. We are finishing renovations in the First Building so some locations are still TBD. Here is the schedule:

  • JK-4 – Monday August 8, 1:00 – 2:00 p.m.
  • Grade 5 – Monday August 8, 9:00 a.m.
  • Grade 6 – Monday August 8, 10:30 a.m.
  • Grade 7 – Tuesday August 9, 9:00 a.m.
  • Grade 8 – Tuesday August 9, 10:30 a.m.
  • Grade 9 and all new High School students – Tuesday August 9, 1:00 p.m.

Normal Operations
For the first time since 2019, we begin the school year with mostly normal operations. Yes, COVID infections remain somewhat common, but decreased virulence from current strains of the virus mean we are mask optional and will not have to quarantine those exposed to COVID. If you have symptoms, however, it is important to stay home and test. Those with a positive COVID test will coordinate return to school with Nurse Elizabeth Metzger. Even though now most appear to experience mild symptoms from COVID, we still want to minimize spread and decrease student and teacher absences to the greatest degree possible.

Academic Development Center (ADC)
SouthLake provides robust services for students with specialized learning needs. Students needing academic accommodations of any kind, or specialized therapy from one of our certified NILD teachers, will have interaction with the ADC. This year Mrs. Iva Bas assumes the role of ADC Director, bringing a wealth of knowledge, experience, and compassion to the position. Those currently receiving services from the ADC will communicate with her to arrange schedules. Those needing academic accommodations based on professional testing will also communicate with her in the days to come. Support for students with learning differences is one of the things we do well here at SouthLake and we are thankful for Iva Bas, Gail Woods, Lynn Moore, and April Belcher for their work in this arena.

SouthLake App
Last month we introduced you to the SouthLake app. We know many have still not downloaded the app. In the days to come, we will rely heavily on this tool for communication, so please take a moment to download the SouthLake App which is available by name in the App Store (iOS users), or the Google Play Store (Android users). The app can connect you to school calendars, announcements, financial information, grades, homework, lunch orders, and everything you need to be an active member of the SouthLake community. We are still building content for some features of the app, and some features require login credentials for Renweb or Orgs Online.

Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians
This fall, in Middle and High School Chapel, we will be teaching through the New Testament book of Ephesians. In this letter, Paul reasons that because we are one in Christ, we should evidence a unity that transcends whatever might divide us. In the beginning of chapter 4, Paul urges us to walk in a manner worthy of our calling “with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” In the midst of contentious times, this is my prayer for SouthLake.

A Few Miscellaneous Details
A quick reminder that we will begin a new Bible study for parents when the First Building sanctuary is finished. Also, we are hiring a new School Counselor, and in cooperation with SouthLake Church, an Assistant Pastor/Spiritual Life Director. If you know of qualified candidates, direct them to our website. We will begin the school year with nearly 630 students. At 18 students per classroom, full capacity is 634. Ever so close.

I pray you have a great start to the school year.

Onward,

Matthew S. Kerlin, Ph.D.
Head of School
SouthLake Christian Academy

Academics Bible Education Leadership

SouthLake Christian Academy Update – July 2022

Dear SouthLake Christian Families,

I hope you are enjoying time away from school. Things on campus remain busy and productive, but we will be closed next week for the Independence Day holiday. When we return, we will be only a month away from the start of the fall semester. Allow me to pass along some important information as we prepare for classes to resume.

New School App
As of today, the new SouthLake Christian Academy app will replace the Renweb app. The app is available for download by name in the App Store (iOS users), or the Google Play Store (Android users). The app can connect you to school calendars, announcements, financial information, grades, homework, lunch orders, and everything you need to be an active member of the SouthLake community. We are still building content for some features of the app, and some features require login credentials for Renweb or Orgs Online. Thank you to Jennifer Thomas and Brooke Hondros for their diligent work getting this app launched.

Parent-Student Handbook
I have sent by email an updated copy of the Parent-Student Handbook for the coming academic year. We have made minor changes or additions to our Escalation, Disease Mitigation, Behavior at Athletic Events, and Email Communication policies. Additionally, we have added a policy prohibiting the use of ride share services to transport students to or from campus. The updated handbook will also be loaded to our website before school starts this fall. For those who may need to order uniform items, Land’s End is running a promotional sale through July 11.

Water Bottles
If you’ve spent any time on campus during a school day, you likely have noticed the prevalence of plastic disposable water bottles on campus. In addition to its environmental impact, plastic creates a mess around campus and causes a massive accumulation of trash we must pay to dispose. For the past two years, we have been adding water bottle filling stations across campus to decrease our dependence on disposable plastic. Beginning this fall, therefore, we will no longer provide disposable water bottles with school lunches. Students will be expected to have a reusable water bottle with them at school. We plan to stock some in the school store as well. This will allow us to better care for God’s creation, keep a cleaner campus, and contain rising costs for our hot lunch program.

Personnel Changes
This month we welcome our new CFO Dawn Johnson. Dawn joins us from Providence, Rhode Island and brings experience as an accountant, finance executive, auditor, and controller for various corporations and non-profits. We also say goodbye to Rebekah Leonard, who leaves SouthLake after 22 years of service at the Academy, most recently as Associate Head of School. She will be entering semi-retirement, excitedly following App State athletics, and operating a consulting business that provides services to private schools and home school families with special needs students. God speed Rebekah. We will miss you.

Fiscal Year Ends
Today marks the end of the 21-22 fiscal year and another successful annual fund campaign netting $257,547 in undesignated gifts to the Academy. We continue to see strong participation rates from our parents and employees. The annual fund allows us to complete projects above and beyond what tuition dollars alone can provide. Last year’s giving allowed us to begin major renovations to the First Building to create a first-rate meeting space for chapel, fine arts presentations, and school assemblies, a project scheduled for completion this August. We hope to have an announcement soon about our next facilities improvement project. Thank you for your continued generosity.

Enrollment
It appears our enrollment will be near capacity when we start school this fall. With our commitment to small class sizes, we have an enrollment capacity of 634 school wide. Our retention rate remains high at 94% and we have already added 100 new students for the coming year. We have space remaining only in grades 3, 4, and 11, and we have 38 students on wait lists for other grades. Word of mouth has always been the most common way people hear about SouthLake, so thank you for spreading the news about our school.

Parents Bible Study
Have you ever wondered what your students are learning in Bible class or in chapel? Beginning this fall, I will help lead a Bible study for parents one morning per week where we will study some of the same things as your students. We will keep the study brief for those needing to get to work. If there are particular topics or interests you have for us to consider, please let me know and we will do our best to incorporate those into the study. I will be back in touch with more details as the start date approaches.

That’s all for now. Schedules will likely be released later today. We will see you soon.

Onward,

Matthew S. Kerlin, Ph.D.
Head of School
SouthLake Christian Academy

Uncategorized

SouthLake Christian Academy Update – June 2022

Dear SouthLake Christian Families,

Welcome to summer! I hope you have already had time to rest and recover from the hectic school year.

Graduation Ceremonies
Last week we celebrated the 20th Graduation Ceremony in SouthLake’s history. The class of 2022 is particularly meaningful to me because these students were freshmen when I started at SouthLake, and my daughter is a member of the class. These seniors needed remarkable resilience, perseverance, and patience to make it to graduation. During their high school tenure, they experienced hurricanes, tornados, earthquakes, snow storms, economic uncertainty, social unrest and violence, and a pandemic. Like no class before them, they were online, in person, hybrid, masked, unmasked, re-masked, quarantined, exposed, infected, re-quarantined, reinfected, and finally recovered, and in perfect attendance for the graduation service. Among the largest classes in recent SouthLake history, this class of 68 members was also among the most accomplished. Here are a few facts about the class of 2022:

  • 27% of the class are lifers, having attended SouthLake continuously since junior kindergarten or kindergarten.
  • 100% of the class participated in student organizations, sports, or fine arts.
  • 50% of the class earned scholarships totaling more than $8 million for academic achievement, leadership, athletics, and service to the community.
  • 15% of the class will compete as student athletes at the collegiate level in baseball, basketball, football, tennis, soccer, and lacrosse.
  • Our graduates were accepted to 89 different colleges and universities across the country.
  • Our graduates will attend 33 different schools in 13 states and the District of Columbia.
  • 47% will matriculate in state while 53% will leave North Carolina to attend schools in the Southeast, Southwest, Northeast, Midwest, and Mountain West.

We are proud of these students and grateful to God for the time they spent here. They will forever be a part of our history and lifelong members of the SouthLake family. We look forward with anticipation to what God does with the gifts and abilities they have developed in this place as they take what they have learned to a needy world beyond this campus.

SouthLake App
We are excited to announce the upcoming launch of the SouthLake Family App which will be available for download on Android and Apple devices within the next few weeks. We recommend that families access Renweb via a web browser from their phone or computer until the new free SLCA-branded app is available. We will make another announcement at that time letting you know the download is live.

Annual Fund
June is the final month in our fiscal year to donate to the SouthLake Christian Academy Annual Fund. The Annual Fund provides us with resources for value-added projects like renovations, new equipment, security improvements, and technology upgrades. We are using last year’s contributions to make major renovations to the First Building Commons, a space we will use each week for chapel, Sunday worship, fine arts presentations, and school meetings. If you have not contributed to the Annual Fund this academic year, would you consider making even a $1 contribution? High participation totals show your appreciation for and confidence in our school. To contribute online, go to the following link: https://factsmgtadmin.com/give/appeal/y9LNeED3D. Thank you for your support for SouthLake Christian Academy.

School Safety
I know recent events have all of us thinking about school safety, so allow me to highlight the security measures in place at SouthLake. We have a security team on campus comprised of individuals with law enforcement and/or military training who are prepared to respond in the event of an emergency. We have new gates controlling access to campus and a new state-of-the art camera system covering every common space, playground, parking lot, sidewalk, hallway, and and stairwell. We practice hard and soft lockdown regularly, and we do so in a manner that minimizes stress for students. We do security training with our staff each August. We consult periodically with security experts and the Huntersville Police Department to shore up campus security, plan emergency response, and practice good prevention. We have other security protocols in place that we do not discuss. And most importantly, we keep our class sizes small so our teachers can know our students well and quickly identify potential problems. We take campus safety seriously, and will continue to work diligently to keep our campus safe for your students.

Head of School Evaluation Survey
In February, I asked the School Board to empower me to complete an official 360 degree evaluation of my leadership as Head of School. I worked with the Board to come up with a survey tool for Board members, employees, and school families to provide feedback to the Board about my leadership. The survey is completely anonymous; I will have no access to the data until the survey closes and the report is delivered to the School Board. The survey should take you about 5 minutes to complete. I appreciate your feedback and promise to honor your time by using your responses to improve as a leader. SouthLake families will receive the link via email.

Blessings for a wonderful, restful, and safe summer.

Onward,

Matthew S. Kerlin, Ph.D.
Head of School
SouthLake Christian Academy

Safety

SouthLake Christian Academy Update – May 2022

Dear SouthLake Christian Families,

Friends, we are on the home stretch. The month of May provides us many opportunities to celebrate with year-end programs, awards ceremonies, chapel services, and graduation. With fewer than 13 school days left, we are all tired, so let us pray for endurance to finish the academic year well.

I have an update about the relationship between SouthLake Presbyterian Church and SouthLake Christian Academy. As you will recall, the church and school comprise one legal entity with the church Session (the pastor and elected elders) serving as our final governing body. The Session grants the School Board authority to oversee many school matters. For more than two years, the Session has prayerfully considered alternative ways to structure the church-school relationship. A proposal last December for the two entities to separate fully would have required a transfer of property assets from the church to the school, but the transfer was rejected by congregational vote. The Session is now considering a proposal whereby the school would become a subsidiary of the church with a degree of governance autonomy and an expanded School Board. The Session is working with a school committee to finalize new bylaws for the Academy. Pending legal review and final Session approval, we will apply for our own tax ID and 501c3 status sometime this summer, the final steps in the subsidiary process. I hope to have more details to share with you at my next update.

In April, the Session appointed to the School Board the first SouthLake alumnus to serve, Mr. Jacob Slavik. He is a member of the class of 2007 and serves as a Senior Manager at Sawgrass Partners, a firm specializing in services for senior adult living providers. As a member of SouthLake Church with experience in accounting, auditing, and board governance, Mr. Slavik brings a wealth of both professional and personal experience to the Board. This summer, the Academy will submit two candidates to the Session for approval to replace members whose terms are set to expire. If you wish to nominate someone to serve on the School Board, please let me know and I will send nominees an application. Completed applications will be reviewed on a rolling basis and the most qualified candidates will interview with the Head of School and Session.

We have released the calendar for the 2022-2023 academic year. This summer we plan to work on the academic calendar for 23-24 to help those of you who plan your vacations far in advance. Speaking of summer, please note we have a host of on-campus enrichment camps for all ages in June and July, as well as online classes available for high school students wanting to get ahead. More information can be found on our website and various social media channels.

In closing, let me say a word of thanks to our teachers for what they have done to get us through another unusual school year. I keep praying for a normal year, to no avail. Now I am wondering if perhaps God’s answer to such prayers is to give us the resilience to face whatever circumstances come our way. Our seniors selected Philippians 4:13 as their class verse, which in context reads, “I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” I see the truth of Philippians 4:13 in the ministry of our teachers every day. Be sure to tell them thank you whenever you get the chance. A kind word goes a long way.

Blessings,

Matthew S. Kerlin, Ph.D.
Head of School
SouthLake Christian Academy

Education Leadership

SouthLake Christian Academy Update – April 2022

Dear SouthLake Christian Families,

I greet you on day one of Missions Week as we begin our celebration of 20 years of missions at SouthLake. For two decades, SouthLake has partnered with 32 missions organizations, provided financial contributions of $436,290.07, and given untold hours of labor in support of mission efforts around the world. This week we will host special chapels on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, students may wear their Missions Week tee shirts each day, and on Friday we will cap off the week with our Spring Festival. I want to thank Kristin Ledford for her stellar efforts to plan and execute our spiritual life activities this year. And thanks to the efforts of the Parent Teacher Fellowship (PTF), this year’s Spring Festival will be free for all who attend, with the notable exception of the food trucks on campus. Please plan to drop by after school Friday to enjoy the festivities.

The April 1 deadline to withdraw from SouthLake without incurring tuition costs has passed, and I am pleased to report a retention rate of nearly 95%. School wide we have fewer than 20 spots left for the coming academic year. All grades are full except JK, 1, 6, and 11 and we have more than 40 students now in a waiting pool. We continue to tour and test students daily with the busiest months of our admissions cycle still to come. There is a very real possibility we could operate at maximum capacity for the 2022-2023 academic year. The only way this happens is when satisfied parents tell their neighbors. We spend almost no money on marketing because word of mouth remains the most common way our new families learn about SouthLake. Thank you for your continued trust in us and for helping to spread the good news about our school in the community.

In December I told you about Autumn Solesbee, a SouthLake third grader who won the regional round of the national Drive, Chip, and Putt competition. This qualified her to compete in the finals at Augusta National this past weekend. Well, we are proud to report that Autumn won the competition, placing first in her age group. The competition was aired on the Golf Channel and in a post-competition interview she was congratulated by Bubba Watson. Congratulations Autumn! You are a champion at Augusta National.

This month we will say goodbye to Harrella Wedington, our Chief Financial Officer. At the end of April, she will become the Controller for a national non-profit organization serving at-risk youth. I cannot overstate the impact she has made on our school, providing stellar leadership of our financial operations for more than four years. During her tenure, SouthLake has gained remarkable financial strength, even while navigating economic fallout from the pandemic. As a CPA with an MBA and vast experience in educational settings, Harrella possesses a rare skill set that will be difficult to replace. I will miss her integrity, business acumen, and good humor, but she will remain on the job until she trains her replacement. We wish Harrella the best as she takes on a new challenge.

To conclude, I would like to highlight the outstanding instruction of our Choral Director Mary Ann Foltz. In addition to teaching music and choir to every age group at SouthLake,

Mary Ann directs our annual spring musical. This year’s performance was Once Upon a Mattress, a humorous adaptation of the fairy tale “The Princess and the Pea.” Mary Ann is a master at casting, placing each student in an ideal role for their abilities. She can tell a brilliant story with a minimalistic set that can easily be transported and assembled for the off-site performance. She helps build a genuine sense of camaraderie so students feel supported and comfortable around each other and in front of an audience. She works tirelessly to construct sets, sew costumes, and rehearse music after hours, all while teaching a full load of music classes during the day. She is a program builder who has seen voluntary participation in choir more than double during her tenure. SouthLake is a better school because of the dedication and hard work of teachers like Mary Ann.

As I proofread, I see a lot of superlatives in this email. Maybe that is because we have much to celebrate. Certainly my job is to fix problems, but my job is also to highlight what is good about this place. As we near the conclusion of a tough academic year, I am thankful for all of those who quietly roll up their sleeves and put in the hard work to help make this place great. Hang in there. Spring is here; summer is coming.

Onward,

Matthew S. Kerlin, Ph.D.
Head of School
SouthLake Christian Academy

Education Fine Arts Sports

SouthLake Christian Academy Update – March 2022

Dear SouthLake Christian Families,

My typical first-of-the-month correspondence comes to you a day late so I can report good news about our dual reaccreditation process which wrapped up this afternoon. 

Reaccreditation
We are accredited by the Association of Christian Schools International (ACSI) and by Cognia, the K-12 division of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS). Every five years we complete a lengthy self-study to document our compliance with required standards, and then accreditors conduct a site visit. A team visited our campus this week and conducted interviews with administrators, teachers, support staff, students, parents, and School Board members. They also observed 47 different classes across campus. The team met with me today to deliver the expected good news of their affirmative recommendation to the ACSI Commission on Accreditation. Although their final report will not be complete for another month, I can highlight a few of their commendations and recommendations. The team commended our commitment to excellent financial stewardship, our focus on the wholistic development of children, our research-based approach to instruction and supporting technology, our emphasis on critical-thinking skills and biblical integration, and our policies and procedures to ensure the health and safety of our people. The team also gave recommendations for improving our ACSI teacher/administrator certification process and enhancing our curriculum guide documents. We learned much through the process to help us become a better school. I am particularly grateful to Mrs. Suzy Deneen for her stellar leadership of our highly successful reaccreditation process.

Town Hall
I want to thank those who attended our Town Hall meeting last month. While I question whether such meetings move us forward in the most relevant ways, I do believe they have helped us disseminate facts and express disagreements, both healthy practices for our community. I remain encouraged that almost all interactions at our Town Hall meetings this year have demonstrated civility and Christian charity. Our next meetings will likely be division specific (Lower School, Middle School, or Upper School) and we will be back in touch with you about dates and the topics we plan to discuss.

Exemplary Instruction
This month I would like to highlight excellent instruction by an Upper School teacher who wears many hats. Nathan Simpson teaches AP Computer Science, Algebra I, and Bible. He also serves on our Security Team, Technology Team, and coaches our Wrestling Team. In five seasons, Coach Simpson has coached four state champions, all of whom have gone on to compete nationally, placing 16th or better each time. This year, Coach Simpson had the honor of coaching his son Kaden to a state championship and an appearance at Nationals where he placed 12th. And did I mention that Kaden is a freshman? High School wrestlers have three more years to contend with Kaden’s fierce competitive drive and work ethic, and Coach Simpson’s skill as a mentor and coach. Congratulations to father and son on a remarkable season!

Our spring sports have started and we have great teams for you to watch as the weather warms. Spring Break begins in only 16 days.

Onward,

Matthew S. Kerlin, Ph.D.
Head of School
SouthLake Christian Academy

Education Sports

SouthLake Christian Academy Update – February 2022

Dear SouthLake Christian Families,

The first month of the year is behind us, no small feat. Winter brought us a COVID surge, three weekends in a row of ice and snow (with a fourth in the forecast), a host of accompanying logistical challenges, and some highly competitive sporting events. Our varsity basketball team has been particularly fun to watch as they have a winning record in a talented conference playing a remarkably entertaining brand of basketball. With the playoffs on the schedule for February, I recommend you getting here to see a game when you are able.

Accreditation
February will bring us a site visit from one of our accrediting bodies, the Association of Christian Schools International (ACSI). This will conclude a years-long process whereby the Academy completed a comprehensive self-study, submitted supporting materials to ACSI for review, and is preparing for a team to visit at the end of the month. The Parent Teacher Fellowship will help us host and our teachers will be prepared to have visitors in their classrooms each of the days the ACSI team is on site. Pray for us as we complete our reaccreditation process.

Town Hall Meeting
The Parent Teacher Fellowship will host our next Town Hall meeting on Wednesday February 16, from 6:30 to 8:00 in the First Building Commons. The format will be much the same as our last meeting, beginning with an update on school matters from the Head of School followed by Q&A with our administrative team. If you would like to submit questions in advance, you may do so by sending your questions to slcaquestions@gmail.com.

Renovations
The First Building Commons will undergo a major renovation this summer in partnership with SouthLake Presbyterian Church. Your contributions to our annual fund will help make the Commons into a first-rate worship and meeting space with professional sound, lighting, and projection, along with a new stage, drop ceiling, and paint. In addition to use by the church on Sundays, the Commons will be used for weekly chapel services, school assemblies, parent gatherings, and fine arts events. This project would not be possible without strong enrollment and generous charitable giving by our families.

Tuition Rates
Last month I released tuition rates for the coming school year showing an increase of 4.8%. I failed to note that those rates are subject to Board approval, which I will seek at this month’s Board meeting. While inflation rates are near 7% for the past year, we remain committed to keeping SouthLake affordable for as many as possible while still taking care of the financial needs of our employees. Payroll expenses account for just under 70% of our operating revenue. You can find proposed tuition rates on our website and in last month’s email update.

COVID
January broke records in almost every pandemic category, and SouthLake was no exception. After a month that saw 106 students and 17 employees test positive, conditions are now improving. The positivity rate for Mecklenburg County is down to around 28% from its high of over 38% in early January. School cases are becoming less frequent as well. You can find all school statistics on our website under the COVID Dashboard. As before, when the positivity rate drops into the low/moderate range around 5% and school conditions improve, we will again implement mask-optional protocols. I am hopeful Omicron will subside as quickly as it surged.

Exemplary Teaching
This month I had the opportunity to observe Mrs. Kendra Boovy’s class as they studied a biography of Harriet Tubman (1820-1913). As an escaped slave, Union spy, and conductor on the so-called underground railroad, Tubman helped dozens of slaves escape captivity. She never lost a passenger and was never caught, even after slave owners posted a $40,000 reward for her capture. Mrs. Boovy introduced students to freedom quilts, a clandestine method of communication for abolitionists. Hung out to dry after the wash, quilts with particular designs helped fleeing slaves identify safe houses and navigate the best escape routes. Mrs. Boovy passed out sample designs and had students work in groups to make educated guesses as to the meaning of each. She used this exercise to teach students about Tubman, how the underground railroad worked, and the perilous journey to freedom. As we begin Black History Month, I am grateful for the dedication of our teachers to highlight African Americans who have shaped our nation’s history.

May God grant you grace and peace for the winter days ahead.

Blessings,

Matthew S. Kerlin
Head of School

Education Teaching

SouthLake Christian Academy Update – January 2022

Dear SouthLake Christian Families,

I hope you had a wonderful Christmas and a restful break. I wish you and your family blessings for the year to come. Inspired by Dr. John Nerness’s teaching during faculty devotions this past fall, I have adopted Colossians 3:12 as my verse for the year to come: “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.” As 2022 begins with many of the same challenges we’ve faced for two years, I can think of no better goal than by God’s grace to embody these virtues.

Year-End Giving
Let me begin by saying thank you to all who made year-end contributions to SouthLake. Your generosity speaks shows support for our teachers under continually difficult circumstances. As of December 31, we had received 125 donations totally $137,639 in cash and $21,000 in stock. Of course, there are many more important ways to measure our success as a school, but people vote with their enrollment and money, and on those metrics you have made us stronger during the pandemic. For that I can only credit God’s grace and the dedication of our people.

Safety Protocols to Start Semester
While we are set to return to campus on January 5, it will come as no surprise that many in the SouthLake community are sick with COVID right now. I have consulted with our Clinical Task Force regarding safety protocols to start the semester. Here is what we know:

  • The now dominant Omicron variant is significantly more contagious than previous variants, and cloth masks are less effective against Omicron.
  • The Mecklenburg County 7-day average positivity rate as of December 27 was 12.8%, up from 5.5% in November when SouthLake moved to mask optional.
  • Charlotte area health systems are tracking at an almost 30% positivity rate.
  • Hospitalizations are rising, albeit at a slower rate, suggesting Omicron is less virulent.
  • Vaccines often reduce severity of Omicron to cold-like symptoms making it difficult to distinguish from other illnesses.
  • Antigen tests (rapid tests) are very difficult to find now making diagnosis more complicated.
  • New CDC guidelines on quarantine for infected and exposed persons can shorten time away but require extensive use of masks. You can see updated CDC guidance here.
  • Breakthrough infections are more common with Omicron, but vaccination remains the safest way to protect yourself from serious illness.
  • Omicron is likely to peak in January and begin to subside thereafter.

For these reasons, effective immediately, we are requiring masks of all students and employees while indoors except when eating or engaged in strenuous aerobic activity. We also ask everyone to use surgical masks rather than cloth (unless you have a documented medical problem with surgical masks), and we will provide those to whomever needs them while our supplies last. We will re-evaluate after two weeks and adjust as conditions improve, just as we have done in the past. This is the unanimous decision of our Executive Administrative Team and a decision we make with the full knowledge of the School Board and with full support from the Ruling Elders of SouthLake Presbyterian Church. 

Tuition Rates for 2022-2023
While the Consumer Price Index, the nation’s primary inflation indicator, shows an increase of 6.8% over the past year, SouthLake tuition will increase by only 4.8%. Strong enrollment growth, generous charitable giving, and robust financial aid allow us to continue to offer a SouthLake education to as many people as possible. Here are the rates for the 2022-2023 academic year:

  • Junior Kindergarten – $9750
  • Kindergarten – $11,200
  • Grades 1-4 – $12,350
  • Grades 5-6 – $12850
  • Grades 7-8 – $13,350
  • Grades 9-12 – $14,650

As a reminder, SouthLake utilizes a continuous enrollment process. Students remain enrolled (as long as they meet conduct and academic requirements) unless parents tell us otherwise. If you plan to unenroll your child for the 2022-2023 academic year, please notify us by January 15 so we have time to halt your auto-draft of enrollment fees scheduled for February 15. Fees unpaid after February 15 may result in cancelled student enrollment. 

Exemplary Teaching
This month I would like to highlight my observation of Stephen Jacobs, our middle school Bible teacher. Mr. Jacobs is a veteran teacher and a decorated veteran of the US Marine Corp, an E-5 Sergeant who served active duty for 8 years completing tours of duty in both Iraq and Afghanistan. He is also a true intellectual who reads with enviable breadth. His life experience and depth of knowledge shine in his teaching; his classes include elements of philosophy, apologetics, and biblical scholarship, with contemporary application. The day I visited, he walked students through several classical arguments for the existence of God. He then taught students the details of the Exodus as described in the second book of the Bible. Finally, he played a game with students affectionally called trash ball, whereby they answered questions on the day’s lesson and were rewarded with a chance to throw a ball into a trash can for points. Sometimes the simple things matter. The balance of seriousness and fun means students are learning and growing while finding joy the process.

My prayer for each of us is that we find joy in the process. We will get through the next few weeks together regardless of how complicated they may prove to be.

Matthew S. Kerlin, Ph.D.
Head of School
SouthLake Christian Academy

Academics COVID Leadership

SouthLake Christian COVID-19 Decision Timeline

Updated January 15, 2022

The following represents dates of significant COVID-19 decisions made by SouthLake leaders and some of the data informing those decisions. This timeline was constructed from email records and meeting notes. I have not included decisions of lesser significance so this timeline is not comprehensive. In a small number of instances, I list the month of an event rather than the specific day because that is what my notes indicate. I offer these records as a transparent reflection of both the enormity of the leadership challenges our administration faced as well as a testament to how many decisions were made collaboratively and on the basis of specific data from public officials, health agencies, and SouthLake parents who are medical doctors.

December 2019 – Conversations with Mr. David Rowles regarding financial implications of potential coronavirus disruptions. Conversations with Dr. Hank Capps regarding preparations for campus closures with likelihood that coronavirus will spread to our region.

January 2020 – Discussion with Executive Leadership Team (Head of School, Associate Head of School, Division Heads) about preparations for online instruction in event of campus closure.

February 2020 – World Health Organization names the novel coronavirus COVID-19. SLCA faculty meeting asking teachers to begin preparations to teach online after Spring Break; School Board updated regarding possibility of campus closure.

March 1, 2020 – Email to SLCA families announcing our intention to attend carefully to CDC guidelines and to local, state, and federal guidance regarding COVID safety. SLCA Tech Team establishes Google Classroom and Zoom as school distance learning tools, begins training teachers and students accordingly.

March 6, 2020 – Consultation with legal counsel regarding SLCA safety protocols. Business review of relevant provisions of our commercial insurance policy.

March 8, 2020 – Email to SLCA families announcing implementation of distance learning tools and restriction of school-related travel to avoid areas severely affected by COVID-19.

March 10, 2020 – NC Governor declares State of Emergency in North Carolina in response to COVID-19 pandemic. North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS) and Centers for Disease Control (CDC) issue guidance recommending elimination of mass gatherings and closure of schools to in-person instruction.

March 11, 2020 – World Health Organization declares COVID-19 a global pandemic.

March 12, 2020 – SLCA suspends all non-local school-sponsored travel, cancelling field trips, the Intermediate School Disney Trip, and High School trips to Appalachian Service Project and Washington DC. North Carolina Independent School Athletic Association suspends all sports.

March 13, 2020 – City of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County both declare State of Emergency in relation to COVID-19 spread in our area. SLCA Executive Administrative Team decides the following:

  • SLCA will close a week early for Spring Break and suspend all school-sponsored travel.
  • SLCA will continue to pay full-time and part-time salaried employees and all essential hourly staff. Non-essential hourly staff will not work, including bus drivers, After School care employees, and teaching assistants. We will care for our non-essential hourly employees if closure lingers.
  • Custodial staff will deep clean the entire campus beginning Monday.
  • Instruction will resume on March 30 in an online format using distance learning tools put in place as part of disaster preparedness planning.
  • Monday March 16 we will host teacher training to finish preparations for distance learning. The training is voluntary for those with underlying health conditions that place them at heightened risk. The tech team will be available during the week by appointment for staff members who need technical assistance with distance learning plans.
  • Tuesday March 17 we will send out our Continuity of Instruction plan to school families.
  • Teachers will work at SouthLake through Friday March 20 in their classrooms or at home. Staff will dismiss for Spring Break on Friday March 20.
  • March 30 we will launch our Continuity of Instruction plan for all grades in all subjects, including PE and fine arts.

March 14, 2020 – NC Governor issues Executive Order closing schools and limiting public gatherings to fewer than 100 people across the state.

March 16, 2020 – SLCA Business Team meets to discuss financial triage plans in the event of signification fallout from campus closure; decides to pay all employees through the end of the week; School Board begins receiving regular updates about all SLCA administrative decisions related to COVID-19.

March 17, 2020 – SLCA Administrative Assistants call all school families to assess needs for online school; Tech Team makes provisions to loan laptops and/or iPads to families without devices or families with multiple children and limited devices; Business Team provides tuition credit for families needing to purchase desktop printers for home use.

March 23, 2020 – NC Governor orders public schools closed through May 15. NC Department of Non-Public Instruction issues same guidance for private schools.

March 25, 2020 – SLCA Business Team plans to continue to pay all employees, reassigning some staff to support cleaning and facilities improvements while campus is closed.

March 27, 2020 – NC Governor issues executive stay-at-home order. CARES Act signed into law by President Trump establishing the Paycheck Protection Program.

March 30, 2020 – Online instruction begins for all students, all grades, in all subjects. HS Principal begins calling every student weekly to assess academic progress and family needs.

April 2, 2020 – SLCA School Board approves school application for Paycheck Protection Program providing forgivable loans to small businesses and non-profits that retain employees.

April 4, 2020 – SLCA Administration decides to cancel senior trip to Peru and prom, to reschedule junior trip to DC, and to delay graduation. Begins plans to hand deliver yard signs and weekly gifts to graduating seniors.

April 13, 2020 – SLCA launches survey assessing the first two weeks of online instruction.

April 23, 2020 – SLCA hosts virtual Town Hall meeting discussing school’s COVID-19 response, online instruction survey results, and plans for finishing the school year. HS and MS personnel begin intervention with students struggling in the online learning environment.

April 24, 2020 – NC Governor announces schools to remain closed through the end of the school year.

April 30, 2020 – School Board Meeting to discuss federal COVID-19 relief possibilities and the establishment of an Emergency Financial Aid fund to support SLCA families with income affected by COVID-19 closures.

May 7, 2020 – SLCA hosts National Day of Prayer drive-up prayer meeting in school parking lot.

May 15, 2020 – Final day of school online. Kindergarten Graduation held outdoors. Graduation for the class of 2020 delayed until late June.

June 16, 2020 – SLCA Executive Administrative Team cancels travel for Fall 2020, including Global Next trip to Oxford, Windy Gap, and most field trips.

June 26, 2020 – SLCA Graduation Ceremonies for the Class of 2020 take place outdoors in Eagles Stadium.

June 2020 – SLCA Business Team review applications for emergency financial aid and distributes nearly $150k in assistance to SLCA families losing jobs or income as a result of COVID-19 closures. Executive Administrative Team reviews guidance from the NCDHHS and CDC regarding reopening campus to in-person instruction. HOS consults with school parents who are medical doctors to get feedback on reopening plans.

July 1, 2020 – SLCA Executive Administrative Team announces plans to reopen campus five days per week to all students and to follow all relevant local, state, and federal health agency recommendations, including classroom capacity limits, surface cleaning, hand washing, social distancing, and use of CDC approved face coverings.

July 30, 2020 – SLCA School Board formally establishes Clinical Task Force to advise the Head of School on COVID-19 related issues. Task Force is comprised of two medical doctors whose children attend SouthLake, SLCA school nurse, SLCA athletic trainer, and one member of the School Board.

August 1, 2020 – SLCA releases full school re-opening plan document to school families; promises to provide online instruction for those with medical necessity; Online Instruction Coordinator position created and new employee hired to fill the job; Covenant of Cooperation and Hold Harmless document created and released to school families for signature agreeing to follow and support school safety measures; SLCA orders CDC-approved reusable cloth masks for all students and employees.

August 4, 2020 – Faculty Workshop meets for professional development. A Christian Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselor (LCMHC) with Center for Family Transformation conducts training for faculty on crisis intervention and post-trauma pastoral care.

August 10, 2020 – Pastor of SouthLake Presbyterian Church and Head of School begin weekly meetings to keep each entity fully apprised of all COVID-related decisions.

August 12, 2020 – First Day of Fall Semester.

August 13, 2020 – First student COVID cases reported to Head of School by a high school parent. High School closes on August 14 for contact tracing and reopens August 15. Clinical Task Force and Mecklenburg County Department of Health consulted for quarantine procedures. 23 students enter quarantine/isolation. Four students subsequently test positive for COVID-19. Director of Admissions subsequently gets training from Mecklenburg County Health Department to assist with contact tracing.

August 17, 2020 – Head of School announces cancellation of fall football based on recent COVID cases, the inability to compete while following CDC guidelines, and safety concerns expressed by SLCA staff and parents. All other sports continue, some with truncated schedules, all following CDC guidelines including use of face coverings while indoors. Most sports experience temporary disruptions due to positive COVID tests.

October 22, 2020 – CDC changes its definition of “close contact” from someone within 6 feet of a positive individual for “15 consecutive minutes” to “15 cumulative minutes.” In consultation with the Clinical Task Force, SLCA Administration decides to retain prior definition of close contact (15 consecutive minutes) because the new definition would be nearly impossible to implement and the old definition was working well at SLCA. SLCA agrees to be more nuanced in contact tracing to include as close contacts those with high-risk exposures who may not meet the consecutive minutes guideline technically but were unmasked during exposure.

November 9-10, 2020 – Five students test positive for COVID following two off-campus social events. High School moves online for two days for contact tracing. 30 students enter quarantine/isolation. SLCA Administration announces plans for online instruction for two days following Thanksgiving break as a buffer following holiday travel.

December 2, 2020 – CDC adjusts quarantine protocols allowing close contacts to exit quarantine after 7 days if they have no symptoms and test negative for COVID beginning no earlier than day 5 after exposure. After review of SLCA data and consultation with Clinical Task Force, Executive Administrative team agrees to adopt the shorter quarantine measures.

January 12, 2021 – Mecklenburg Department of Health issues a Health Directive asking residents to stay home for all but essential activities. After consultation with legal counsel and the Clinical Task Force, SLCA Executive Administrative Team decides to continue with in-person instruction based on data showing the minimal risk of in-school COVID spread when using appropriate safety protocols.

February 18, 2021 – 15 students test positive for COVID following several off-campus social events related to the Super Bowl and Valentine’s Day. 40 students and two teachers enter quarantine/isolation. High School closes February 18, 19, and 22.

March 16, 2021 – SLCA Administration announces two days of online instruction following Spring Break for students in grades 3-12.

April 12-14, 2021 – SLCA resumes Windy Gap spiritual life retreat for juniors and seniors only, testing all students for COVID in advance of the trip. Limited capacity required by Windy Gap guidelines.

May 13, 2021 – CDC announces fully vaccinated individuals can resume normal activities without use of masks except where masks are otherwise required by local, state, or federal guidelines and regulations. NC Governor subsequently lifts mass gathering and capacity restrictions but keeps in place his executive order requiring masks in Mecklenburg County, shifting decision-making about masks in schools to the NCDHHS “Strong Schools NC Public Health Toolkit.” SLCA finishes the school year with all safety protocols still in place.

May 15-24, 2021 – Senior Trip to McAllen, Texas. Our typical missions partner Peru Mission is still not functioning, so Administration decides to partner with a similarly cross-cultural mission organization. Students are tested in advance of travel and potential quarantine lodging is established. Many student participants are vaccinated and several others recovered from COVID in the 90-day period prior to departure.

May 26, 2021 – Junior-Senior Prom. All attendees tested within 24 hours prior to event.

May 28, 2021 – Graduation for the Class of 2021 takes place outdoors in Eagles Stadium. No capacity limits and masks not required.

June 2021 – Summer Enrichment Camps begin with relaxed COVID safety measures due to small size of camps, Mecklenburg positivity rate below 5%, and few COVID cases in the SLCA community.

July 9, 2021 – CDC updates guidance for schools indicating that fully vaccinated individuals do not need to wear masks except in crowded indoor settings in regions with substantial to high disease transmission (a positivity rate above 5%). Unvaccinated individuals should remain masked. (Positivity rate of 3.7% recorded for this week in Mecklenburg County.)

July 27, 2021 – CDC updates guidance for schools based on surging DELTA variant and evidence suggesting increased transmissibility for both unvaccinated and vaccinated individuals. Universal masking recommended to begin school year. Clinical Task Force consulted and concurred. (Positivity rate of 10.9% recorded for this week in Mecklenburg County.)

July 28, 2021 – Head of School posts blog explaining how SLCA makes COVID-related decisions.

August 1, 2021 – COVID Safety Plan for the 2021-2022 school year released to SLCA families relaxing most safety protocols while keeping in place contact tracing, quarantine protocols, surface cleaning, hand washing, and use of face coverings while indoors. All sports and field trips will proceed according to pre-COVID practices as long as current conditions allow.

August 8, 2021 – SLCA hosts Town Hall with Clinical Task Force doctors for all families to hear more about SLCA safety measures and the science surrounding use of masks and vaccines for COVID prevention.

September 13-17, 2021 – SLCA resumes Windy Gap Spiritual Life Retreat for Jr. High and High School Students, masking indoors as per Windy Gap requirements, and testing all students for COVID prior to departure.

October 24, 2021 – Head of School announces that when positivity rate drops to 5% or lower, SLCA will move to mask optional for all students and employees. Head of School also announces no vaccine mandates for students or employees unless required by law.

November 5, 2021 – Positivity rate for Mecklenburg County drops to 5.5%. Head of School announces mask optional policy schoolwide beginning Monday, November 8.

November 10, 2021 – SLCA Executive Administrative Team hosts Town Hall to discuss Church-School relationship and other issues parents wish to discuss. Mask usage and proposed OSHA vaccine mandate issues were raised by parents and discussed with administrators present.

January 1, 2022 – SLCA Administration announces return to mask mandatory policy as Mecklenburg County positivity rate rises above 30% and 13 COVID cases are reported to SLCA from infections during the holiday break. SLCA also adopts new isolation and quarantine protocols announced by the CDC. At their own behest, the Elders of SouthLake Church unanimously approve the school’s COVID safety protocols and the School Board is notified of the decision prior to the January 1 announcement.

January 14, 2022 – Between January 1 and January 14, a total of 13 employees and 53 students test positive for COVID, most from holiday gatherings and family exposures. While there are no classroom clusters, basketball operations shut down due to positive cases on Varsity, JV, and Middle School teams.

February 1, 2022 – As conditions at SouthLake improve, administration prepares to relax mask requirements, moving to mask optional for after school events.

February 10, 2022 – Consultation with Clinical Task Force and School Board, SLCA Administration moves to mask optional beginning February 11, 2022. Contact Tracing, isolation/quarantine protocols, and enhanced cleaning remain in place, subject to adjustment as conditions warrant. Consideration for move to mask optional include the following:

  • The positivity rate in Mecklenburg County has dropped by more than 18% in the last month.
  • Formal testing for COVID continues to drop as well.
  • Research show Omicron infections tend to be milder, especially for younger people and those with immunity from prior infection or vaccination.
  • School now has fewer than 10 active cases of COVID school wide with most set to be released from isolation by Monday February 14.
  • The Mecklenburg County Public Health Director announced on 2/9/2022 that county mask requirements could be lifted as early as the following week.
  • School moved to mask optional policies for after school activities last week with no apparent ill effect.

COVID Leadership