Driven by the motivation to have in-person learning once again, The Avery Coonley School re-opened its doors on Aug. 27. With positivity rates climbing and some schools still trying to re-open, the COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact the 2020-21 school year. Despite the challenges, The Avery Coonley School remains open by taking every necessary precaution to create a safe environment for its students and staff. Planning began in June as Head of School Paul Druzinsky and his administrative leadership team created two task forces, according to a school news release.
The SAFE ACS Task Force addressed health and safety procedures, while the Academic Continuity and Scheduling Task Force addressed academic and scheduling changes. The task force members included current ACS parents, students, faculty, staff and medical professionals. These task forces spent hours researching and meeting to determine feasibility and provide guidance about returning to campus.
Based on the committee’s work and recommendations, the school announced it would fully reopen for in-person learning five days per week for the 2020-21 school year. They launched theACS Return to Learn Plan on Aug. 3, detailing protocols, safety procedures and guidelines.
Since then, the school has successfully continued in-person learning for 15 weeks and moved to distance learning for four weeks [one week in October, two weeks in November and one week in January]. The move to distance learning was a safety precaution, not due to outbreaks. Additionally, the school also strengthened its preventative measures by providing weekly COVID screenings for all faculty, staff and students starting on Nov. 13.. There have been no transmissions or outbreaks at the school since its re-opening.
As a part of the extensive Return to Learn Plan, the school received numerous renovations to classrooms and outdoor spaces. The school added socially distanced desks with plexiglass barriers, UV lights, HVAC equipment to improve airflow, indoor and outdoor hand washing stations, hand sanitizing stations, speakers and audio support to accommodate mask wearing.
The school distributed technology to students and teachers for outdoor or virtual learning, placed hands-free faucets in bathrooms, enhanced the nurse’s station, staggered drop-off and pick-up times, implemented temperature taking and created a rotating schedule for outdoor education.
The school also provides virtual attendance as an educational accommodation for students who cannot attend in person due to illness, exposure or other medical circumstances. The Avery Coonley School has an enrollment of 316 students with 82 faculty and staff members. Currently, 205 students are learning in-person, 111 are virtually attending, two faculty members are teaching remotely and 80 faculty and staff are on site.