GA Health and Safety Plan
GA has developed overarching principles to guide our work:
- We will fulfill our Mission and live by our Civility Pledge.
- We will provide an exceptional academic experience for our students.
- We will take every precaution to ensure the health and wellness of our entire community.
- We will create social opportunities for our students in every setting.
- We will persevere.
- We will take care of ourselves, each other, and our community. We will remember that individual decisions impact thousands. The adults in our community must model safe behavior for our children.
We have developed an array of solutions in order to be prepared under any circumstances to achieve these goals. The health and safety of our community members are our top priorities. We are following not just the guidelines of the state and county, but we have invested significant time researching best practices published by the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, the Centers for Disease Control, and numerous other professional organizations working in specific areas of school life (such as athletics and arts).
We are closely following the recommendations from the Montgomery County Office of Public Health, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and the CHOP PolicyLab. As we continue to monitor the situation, we are primarily tracking two key data points: the testing positivity rate in our county and other counties from which most GA community members come, and the incidence rate of COVID-19 per 100,000.
Of course we will also scrupulously track the virus and potential exposure in our own community. Montgomery County has published detailed guidelines that schools are required to follow in making decisions to remain open, close parts of campus, or go completely virtual for a specific period.
The primary factor in determining whether GA continues to offer an on-campus option versus moving to a virtual program in one or more divisions depends on whether there is linked transmission of COVID-19 cases in our buildings on our campus (linked transmission means that members of the community have contracted the virus through others members of the GA community within the buildings).
To keep our community safe, students (over the age of 2) and employees are required to wear a face mask on campus, whether inside or outside. Students and employees should get used to wearing masks for longer periods of time to ensure they have one that is comfortable for the long haul before school starts. Students will be instructed in their divisions how the ‘mask break’ protocols will work. You also want to ensure your mask remains over your nose and mouth while speaking over an extended period.
Students engaged in PE or other athletic activities will be instructed by their teachers when it is safe and appropriate to remove their masks. Students engaging in performing arts classes will receive similar guidance from their teachers as informed by the best practices nationally.
Here is a summary of the basic guidelines:
- Each student and employee will receive 2 GA masks (kindly donated by the Board of Trustees), but individuals may choose the mask that is most comfortable for them as long as it meets the required criteria.
- Face masks must be at least 2-ply and must be secured to the head in a manner that completely covers both the nose and mouth.
- Face masks must be washed or replaced (if a disposable variety) each day. We would suggest that students bring replacement face masks to school so as to have a fresh one on hand.
- If students choose to wear a face shield, a face mask must be worn in addition to the shield; a shield does not act as a substitute for a face mask.
- Masks may have elastic, tie on, or loop around the ears, and may be in solid colors, patterns, tie dye, etc.
- Vented face masks or improvised face coverings like bandanas or scarves are not permitted at GA.
Masks must be worn at all times except the following:
- Designated snack time (while adhering to physical distancing)
- When outside (while adhering to physical distancing)
- When drinking water with permission of a faculty member (while adhering to physical distancing)
- With permission from a faculty member for brief mask break (while adhering to physical distancing & not talking)
Masks that are not permitted
- Each division has communicated what designs are not permitted.
- Vented face masks.
Consequences for violating these guidelines
Each division has age-appropriate follow-up procedures for students who aren’t adhering to the mask requirement.
So as to ensure students can maintain safe physical distancing in hallways while traveling between classrooms during breaks between classes, the Middle and Upper schools have doubled the length of passing periods (10 minutes). Students will also be released from classes at staggered intervals, per the instruction of classroom faculty. Students are expected to comply with all instruction from adults, as well as all signage about the direction of hallways and stairways, as they navigate the buildings.
Classrooms are set up with desks 6-feet apart and all common areas in the school have capacity limit signage outside. Hallways in Middle School have tape on the floor to divide the traffic, and lockers in Middle and Upper School will seldom be used. Bathrooms have been updated to reflect that certain sinks should not be used and waiting areas outside have been marked.
Please remember that physical distancing rules are in effect outdoors as well. Picnic tables are set up in the Middle School Green with three "sit down" areas on each, there will be a designated waiting space for Lower (behind the Field House and on Connor Quad) and Middle School students (next to the Administration Building) outdoors during drop off in the afternoon, and physical education classes will be outside as much as possible.
Every student and employee will be required to complete a quick symptom and temperature check before each school day using the Daily Health Check in Veracross.
There will be daily temperature and quick symptom checks in late morning/early afternoon for every student conducted by teacher, advisor, or nurse.
Germantown Academy conducted a thorough review of all ventilation systems campus-wide. We have a new system in the Arts Center and upgraded systems with UV filters in Middle and Upper School buildings, the Administration Building, Arts Center, Goodman House, and the Child Care Center. The Lower School has the latest system (VRF with DOAS) from recent renovations.
Plexiglass has been installed in several areas around campus, specifically in offices where students and staff congregate.
We have added more cleaning staff during the day so each division has its own day porter assigned to it. Evening cleanings will take place as usual throughout each building.
Hand sanitizer stations have been added across campus.
GA has invested in numerous electrostatic sprayers and a larger peroxide fogger disinfection system in order to thoroughly disinfect all spaces regularly.
Every effort will be made to reduce the amount of shared materials/resources on campus and to implement mandatory disinfection of anything that must be shared.
GA's domestic water system has been in consistent use as our administration, housekeeping and maintenance teams have been on campus regularly during the last several months.
A tremendous amount of health and safety protocols have been put in place. That said, we cannot eliminate risk. To help to reduce the risk of COVID-19 exposure at school, we asks all families to limit their attendance at gatherings, events (sporting and other), and other activities to those that can maintain social distancing. Families and employees should avoid hosting or attending large gatherings where proper social distancing measures are not feasible. We also stress the practice and reinforcement of good hygiene practices at home.
Families are required to report if students have visited one of the COVID ‘hot spots’ and then to self-quarantine and engage in GA@Home for two weeks upon returning. This question is part of our daily symptom tracker checklist.
When someone on campus has tested positive for COVID-19, Germantown Academy will work with the Montgomery County Department of Health, and will contact anyone at risk using the following protocols:
- Follow the protocols designated by the Department of Health
- Disinfect and clean classroom and primary spaces where the infected individual spent significant time
- Identify all “close contacts” and execute GA’s contact tracing protocols as listed below
- Notify all “close contacts” without identifying by name individuals who have tested positive
- Anyone who classifies as Moderate or High Risk of exposure dependent on positive individual’s schedule and activities
- Inform those individuals to stay home and self-monitor for symptoms, and follow CDC guidelines if symptoms develop
- Inform community members who may have interacted with the infected individual, even if they do not qualify as a “close contact.”
- In the Lower School, all families in a class of a confirmed COVID-19 case will be informed. Communications will not identify by name individuals who have tested positive.
- In the Middle and Upper Schools, all families of students who have been in classes with an individual who tests positive for COVID-19 case will be informed. Communications will not identify by name individuals who have tested positive.
If students test positive for COVID-19, local county health departments will be in contact with the individuals and their close contacts regarding recommendations for quarantining and monitoring of symptoms to mitigate the spread of the virus. For students diagnosed with COVID-19, the Health Office staff will communicate with individuals who are considered close contacts while maintaining the confidentiality of the COVID-19 positive student.
GA is prepared to pivot to a significantly enhanced Virtual GA at any time. Daily schedules in all three divisions will be modeled after the (new) regular 7-day schedule in order to fulfill the GA curriculum with an emphasis on synchronous teaching and minor modifications to adjust to increased screen time for all. We will also offer virtual and in-person ‘coaches’ in the virtual environment.
GA will be prepared to seamlessly return to instruction on campus at any time.
- Arrival and Departure
- Academic Programs
- Flex Time and Free Time
- Common Areas
- Physical Education
- The Great Outdoors
- After School Program for Lower School
- Group Meetings/Visitors on Campus
We expect more community members to be driving to and from campus at the beginning of the year.
- We are asking all faculty to arrive on campus by 7:30am to help reduce traffic congestion (and if they have kids at GA, to keep them with them in their classrooms or offices until the student’s division opens).
- All families that don’t use buses should do everything in their power to arrive after 7:45am so we don't overcrowd the common spaces on campus before students go to class.
- LS has a new start time of 8:15am this year.
- The Lower School building will not open until 7:50am. Since the LS start time has moved back to 8:15am, we strongly recommend that LS families aim to arrive on campus between 8 and 8:10am.
Middle & Upper Schools
- The MS and US have a new start time of 8am this year.
- In the MS and US, students will be required to go to supervised areas before their advisory meeting begins if they arrive early.
We expect the 3pm dismissal time to be a very busy time at the start of the school year. Please channel the patient part of your soul and follow all instructions from your division heads and directions from our dedicated, tireless security team.
Decisions regarding safety protocols in buses are made solely by the school district. The announcements we have read to date indicate required face coverings and a maximum of 2 students per seat. Several school districts are considering the decision to not provide bus services for non-public school students. Please check your email or your school districts' website continually for updates. GA will apply our usual ‘assigned seat’ policy in buses for Lower School students and physically distance students as much as possible. Families who rely on public transportation to school should frequently check the SEPTA website for updates: septa.org.
CHILD CARE CENTER
- Child Care Center students will remain in consistent cohorts (age-specific groups) throughout the day when in the buildings. We will stagger outside recess so that there are fewer students together at any given time.
- Employees will wear masks and/or shields during the school day.
- Students aged 2 years old and up will need to wear masks. Ample mask breaks will be provided.
- We have created two models to ensure community safety, reduce class size, and create physical distancing:
- We have added sections to many grades with lead teachers.
- Homerooms have been divided into two separate classrooms with consistent student cohorts in which the lead and assistant teachers move back and forth regularly and utilize livestreaming. There will also be combined recesses and other opportunities for the entire class to interact in safe ways.
- The LSA, specialist classrooms, and parts of the A to Z Library and Learning Commons have been converted to regular classrooms for this year.
- The addition of non-teaching assistants will help to facilitate safe movement, assist with cleaning & disinfection, and provide extra supervision both inside and outside.
- Specialists will either come to the classroom or instruct via livestreaming.
- All students in PreK-5 will receive personal iPads and will use a consistent, student-friendly digital platform.
- Assemblies will occur virtually.
- Both divisions have revised their 7-day schedule to expand teaching periods to 55 minutes and to allow for 10 minutes of transition time between each class.
- Combined, the Middle and Upper Schools have added over 70 sections of classes in order to significantly reduce class sizes and to achieve at least 6’ of physical distance.
- A new Assistant Teacher position has been added to MS/US in order to help with supervision and to have an internal pool of qualified and trained substitute teachers as needed.
- Tablet PCs will be distributed to all students in grades 6-9 and students in grades 10-12 taking a class with 9th graders.
- Grade meetings, House meetings, and assemblies will generally occur virtually.
- The time between classes has been lengthened to allow for physical distancing while walking, navigating uni-directional staircases and hallways, taking snack breaks, etc.
- Students will have limited access to lockers.
- If students are not involved in an extracurricular activity, they will need to go home after school or report to a small handful of proctored locations in the buildings.
UPPER SCHOOL ONLY
- As reported by Head of School Rich Schellhas on August 20, GA’s Upper School is moving to a model wherein students will engage in a regular rotation of on-campus and off-campus learning, with our on-campus student population at 50% each day for the first five weeks. Each GA student will be assigned to a “Red Team” (for eleventh and twelfth graders) or “Blue Team” (for ninth and tenth graders). On “Red” days, the Red team will come to campus to learn within the classroom while the Blue team works from home, following our regular academic schedule and engaging in live-streamed lessons. On “Blue”days, the teams will swap, with the Blue Team coming to campus. Students will be allowed to come to campus to participate in after-school athletic programming even on days when their classes do not meet on campus. Further details on GA’s athletic programs are forthcoming. Students may also of course continue to participate in GA@Home throughout this year, learning from home consistently if that better suits the needs and preferences of their family.
- During free periods, students will be assigned to study halls or asked to go to larger designated areas inside or outside, depending on their grade. Lounge areas throughout the buildings will be closed for the time being.
- GA still plans to host the SATs this late/summer fall as long as College Board and the state allow it. Seniors will also have access to the usual slate of college admission rep visits via virtual sessions arranged by GA.
Middle School will end with a flex period each day that may be study hall, musical sectionals, academic study group, assemblies, class meetings, extra help, clubs, or advisory time. Study halls will not occur during class periods A-G.
In the Upper School, given the necessity of students having spaces to maintain physical distancing, students will be assigned to designated spaces during free periods. Unless they have special permission –permission to arrive to campus late for a first-period free, permission to depart campus early for a last-period free, or permission to meet with a teacher–students are expected to report to the locations indicated in their schedules on Veracross. Upper School flex periods are for assemblies, extra help, clubs, etc.
In order to promote physical distancing:
- Indoor assemblies in all three divisions will be livestreamed.
- Due to physical distancing requirements, students will have limited access to lockers during the green phase; we strongly recommend students in grades 6 through 12 utilize rolling backpacks during the day.
- Every common indoor space on campus will have a ‘maximum occupancy’ stated clearly during the green phase.
- Physical distancing of 6 feet will be required in all common areas. Smaller spaces which do not permit adequate physical distancing will be temporarily closed.
- Before and after school, MS and US students waiting for school to begin or to be picked up will be required to wait in supervised spaces, to maintain physical distancing, and to wear masks.
In order to decrease the number of people in our spaces at one time and to avoid long lines of students picking up snacks and meals in the dining room, GA has decided NOT to offer dining services until further notice. Students will be asked to bring ALL beverages, snacks, and lunches with them to school each day.
- Water will be available through our safe water-refilling stations for students who bring reusable water bottles.
- The GA School Store will stock a small supply of snacks for MS and US students who may not have brought enough food with them to school on a given day.
- Division Heads will advise students about safe places and times to eat snacks and lunch.
- As we are not allowing visitors on campus this year except for emergencies, students will NOT be permitted to order any food for delivery to campus.
We look forward to providing our stellar visual and performing arts curriculum this year. All arts classes will have a minimum of 6’ of physical distancing. Classes involving singing and wind instruments will include more time in sectionals and practice at home, in addition to greatly increased physical distancing. Private music lessons are being offered while locations, timing, and platform (virtual or in person) will vary based on the type of lesson and space restrictions.
Extracurricular arts offerings in Middle and Upper School (Art Club, plays, musicals, etc.) will continue to be robust even if they are modified to allow for space and safety considerations.
OCTOBER 16, 2020 - The Heads of Schools and Athletic Directors have been meeting quite often, and had promised to assess future possibilities for fall athletics to take place. Health experts studying youth sports since the onset of the pandemic have observed in recent weeks that there has been little evidence of the transmission of the virus occurring because of on-field contact. Rather, it occurs on the sidelines when safety protocols are not followed, in locker rooms, and at team social events. This new information has influenced the Inter-Ac schools' analysis of the risk-benefit of a fall competitive season.
Based on this information from health and medical professionals, the Inter-Ac has decided to move forward with planning some interscholastic competitions for fall sports in November. This plan will include modified non-championship fall sports schedules for football, boys and girls soccer, field hockey, boys and girls cross country, girls tennis, boys and girls water polo, volleyball, and golf. This announcement also means that our original fall plan of three 3-week sessions will come to an end, effective the end of today. This new fall season will replace the original second semester plan for fall sports. New plans for the winter and spring seasons in 2021 have not been decided yet.
Inter-Ac schools operate under different health protocols based on their location. Each school follows the guidelines of its County Department of Public Health and advice from the CHOP PolicyLab. As a result, individual schools may choose the sports in which they will participate, without consequence from the league.
Schedules and additional information about health and safety protocols will be forthcoming, including explicit limits on having spectators at competitions and weekly sample testing among student-athletes. It is still our top priority for Germantown Academy to remain open for in-person instruction.
Should current trends reverse and numbers of infections spike, this plan will be revisited. Please reach out if you have any questions. We look forward to our student-athletes competing in just a few weeks if all continues to go well!
We are encouraging teachers from across the school to utilize GA's 126 Acres of Amazing to spend time in our outdoor classrooms and nature spaces as much as possible. We have expanded our dining areas to include the Middle School Green, the playground spaces in Lower School will be open, and there is plenty of room for physical education classes to spread out across campus.
The Supplemental Program in the Afternoon for Recreation and Knowledge (SPARK) is an after-school program designed to meet the needs of Lower School families who want a safe, structured place for their children to spend time at the end of the school day.
Led by a capable team of GA faculty and staff, SPARK lets children participate in a variety of enriching, age-appropriate activities, including playground games, arts and crafts, sports, performing arts and other creative endeavors.
SPARK for 2020-21
Participation in SPARK requires advanced registration; there is no daily drop-in option. Registration for the whole year and the fall season has passed; registration deadlines for the winter and spring seasons can be found below.
WINTER SPARK-1/4-3/19/21. Registration deadline 12/4/20
SPRING SPARK-4/5-6/8/21. Registration deadline 3/5/21
Contact Stephanie Dempsey if you have questions.
We understand fully that this continues to be a time of stress and anxiety for our community. Our counseling team is here to help. Please feel free to reach out.
Protect yourself, protect each other, protect our community.