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

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

A Short Guide to Starting School

School starts back at SouthLake Christian Academy this week. Today was open house and I saw a lot of excited families, and maybe a few nervous ones. Here are a few words of encouragement for those starting school for the first time, or returning to school for another year.

  1. Get organized. Calendars, planners, to-do lists, family meetings, and good communication with everyone involved will help you get off to a good start.
  2. Establish good habits. Pay attention in class. Use school hours to start homework and get extra help as needed. Do homework as early in the afternoon or evening as possible in a distraction free environment. Go to sleep each night at a time that allows you consistently sufficient sleep. Keep to a schedule.
  3. Build relationships. Students – get to know someone in each of your classes. Parents – get to know parents in your child’s class. Stay in communication with the teacher. Treat everyone around you with respect, even when you have a disagreement. You will forget most of what you experience at school, but you remember the relationships you make.
  4. Keep things in perspective. Students are not defined by their academic performance (or their athletic or musical performance). Your identity is not determined by whether or not you out-perform your peers. The question to ask is this: “Am I doing all that God created me to do, to the best of my ability?” If the answer to that question is yes, be at peace.
  5. Learn things other than what we teach in school. Read books you love that we haven’t assigned. Visit museums, art galleries, and other cultural attractions that stimulate your interests. One of the most important things you can learn during your school years is HOW TO LEARN, and how fun it is to learn!
  6. Unplug. Spend some time outside every evening. Put down your electronic devices, go for a walk, play in the yard, walk the dog. Nurture hobbies
  7. Don’t worry. Nothing that happens in the first several days of school is likely to make or break your school year. There may be a few emotional, academic, or logistical bumps in the road early on, but you are going to be OK. Be calm, problem solve, and ask for help if you need it. One keen piece of advice Jesus gave his own followers was this: “Do not worry about your life … But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.” (Matthew 6.25-34)

I hope your school year gets off to a great start.

Education

Why Christian Education

Why Christian Education

[The following is a written summary of an address to the faculty of Westminster Catawba Christian School on August 5, 2019.]

At SouthLake Christian, we began a strategic planning process earlier this year to identify our main priorities as a school for the next chapter in our history. We spent a few months gathering data from our various constituents – teachers, students, parents, alumni, and members of the community – to clarify who we are and what next steps we should take, to select among all the good options the very best ones. Early and often, people identified two traits that characterize our school and must be preserved at all costs: our commitment to academic rigor and our identity as a Christian school. These conjoined twins represent the two main reasons our school was established and continues to exist, the reason parents hire us and pay us to do a job, the reason volunteers and donors give their time and money, and the reason that independent, public, and charter schools haven’t crowded us out. And yet, there are reasons for Christian education superior to those pragmatic considerations, important as they are. I propose that Christian education casts out fear[1], nourishes freedom, and tells a better story.

Bob Woodward’s 2018 book entitled Fear describes the inner workings of the White House with this phrase: “Real power is fear.” Machiavelli’s The Prince articulates a similar refrain: “It is better to be feared than loved.” Many leaders rise to power and maintain that power because they manage effectively to understand and articulate the underlying fears of their constituents. Some leaders maintain power by stoking that fear while promising to ameliorate it. These strategies work because fear plagues us all. It drives us to work and overwork, robs our sleep, wrecks our bodies, taints our relationships, and blinds us to life’s beauty. Fear. Cable news fuels it, social media feeds it, marketing firms monetize it. And the thing we have most to fear is fear itself. Yet we have a solution. Christians have always taught that the antidote to fear is love. The apostle John, for whom 4 books of the New Testament are named, writes that “God is love” and “perfect love casts out fear” and “greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for a friend.” (1 John 4.8, 1 John 4.17, and John 15.13 – NIV). The love that led Jesus to lay down his life for us lives in us. As we love each other and our students and their families, we cast out fear. As we teach that love, and acknowledge explicitly its source and power, we smother the fires scorching our society. Christian education literally makes the world a better place, God’s kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven.

As we cast out fear, we nourish freedom. Years ago, I attended a conference of the American Academy of Religion, one session of which concerned academic freedom. The panel discussion was led by professors at various types of universities – state, private secular, and Christian. As they each described their context, something became blatantly obvious. Only Christian schools have any chance at true academic freedom! Public and secular private school teachers avoid religious conversations like the plague, by necessity. They can lose their jobs if they appear to advocate for any particular religious conviction. In the name of tolerance or open-mindedness or diversity, our society has pushed theological belief to the margins, treating nearly every other form of belief more amicably. A rather strange state of affairs now exists whereby religious belief, so important to so many, can barely be discussed by anyone in a secular classroom. And so, I ask, who is really free? The answer is YOU. You teach at a school that sees theological conviction not merely as a subject worthy of open discussion, but one foundational to all discussion because every belief of any kind begins with an unproven assumption. All learning requires faith. Your students attend a school where they can ask ANY question and get a straight answer. We can actually promote tolerance and open-mindedness and diversity not because these things are fashionable, but because they are beautiful, and good, and right, and true, and biblical. We have rich theological language by which to say that we should treat each other with respect and kindness because we are all created in God’s image, that we value people different from us because such is the Kingdom of God, that we seek community with people who do not look like us because heaven will be filled with people of “every tribe and tongue and nation” (Revelation 7.9 – ESV). We do not fear others because we love them. We love them because God first loved us. God’s love sets us free.

Christian education casts out fear, nourishes freedom, and tells a better story. This summer I spent part of a day with Scott Dillon, Head of School at Westminster Catawba, and we talked at length about the why of Christian education. What sets us apart from other academically rigorous schools? Why do parents pay us to educate their kids? What do we offer that is distinctive? To approach an answer to those questions, play a game with me. Imagine your school is not a Christian school. A student asks, why do I need to learn this math? You could answer, because you will need it for next year’s math class. Why do I need next year’s math class? Because you will need it to graduate. And why do I care about graduation? Because you need a high school degree to go to college or vocational school. Why do I need college or vocational school? Because you need more education to find a job in a competitive global economy? Why do I need to a job? So that you can live, pay your bills, raise a family, enjoy the world. Why do I need to do these things? Because they contribute to the greater good. And why should I care about the greater good? And on, and on, and on. Eventually, every answer becomes depressingly utilitarian. We do these things because they have pragmatic value. BORING! As Christian educators, we have a better story to tell. We teach and we learn because all truth is God’s truth. Because every equation displays God’s handiwork, and every element on the periodic table gives evidence of God’s ingenuity, and every musical note sounds God’s beauty, and every star in the solar system declares the God’s glory, and every language expresses God’s love, and every event in history ultimately tells His story. And we are story tellers. And what an amazing story we get to tell.

[1] The idea that Christian education casts out fear I owe to Dr. Dennis Sansom, Professor of Philosophy at Samford University. He presented this idea in a Convocation address to the university sometime during the 2006-2007 academic year.

Biblical Interpretation Education Leadership Theology