Head of School Updates: Academic Year 2020-21
EMS open school on Tuesday, August 25. This decision came after consultation with medical advisors, faculty, parents, the EMS Board of Directors, and the Virginia Department of Health. The VDH believes our advantages of a smaller community, use of mostly private transportation, conscientious families for home health screening, and mitigation plans that meet or exceed state requirements for schools allows for operating in person.
Update: Sept. 11, 2020
Dear Parents and Students
I want you to know that we are working closely with VDH on the complex nature of doing school during days when our locality has experienced a significant uptick in COVID incidence. The bottom line is:
1. You are doing a great job with home screening and helping EMS continue plans for meeting in person. Since the start of school, we have had no confirmed COVID cases within our community. VDH is very affirming of our mitigation efforts within our school day.
2. We have had individuals identified as a Close Contact and these individuals are required to quarantine to prevent potential spread of the Coronavirus. EMS & VDH make sure Close Contact individuals have clear directions and follow our Return to School protocol.
3. Please keep doing your part in keeping our community as low risk as possible. The activities below are especially "risky" right now in our area, so please stay away from these activities or others of similar nature:
Large group gatherings where people are inside, not masked nor physically distanced, singing and/or vocal. For example: In-person church attendance, concert attendance, and public events; especially NOW, are not places to attend.
Athletic events as a fan or participant. For example: Travel athletics, competitions and indoor camps; especially NOW, are not places to attend.
Indoor restaurant eating, especially in crowded bar-like atmospheres or tightly served venues that cannot be socially distanced; especially NOW, are not places to attend.
Note: Please remember your commitment to practice a “low risk” lifestyle or choose distance learning.
Also - Consider using the VDH promoted COVIDWISE App on your smartphone to learn whether you become a Close Contact.
Early Release Wednesdays @ 12:05: EMS has decided to practice early release Wednesdays ALL YEAR. We have found these partial days as critical for:
Detail cleaning of facilities.
Extra communication required of teachers for dual platform instruction.
Opportunities for parents/students to connect with teachers regarding unusual circumstances.
Return to School (Return to School.pdf): Remember, 24-hours symptom-free are required after being home due to sickness. If in question, stay home!
For Example: A student goes home after lunch @ 1 p.m. on Monday due to nausea. By 6 p.m., they are feeling better. Tuesday morning they also feel fine. STAY HOME! 24-hours symptom-free is 6 p.m. Tuesday evening, so the soonest the student should return to school is Wednesday morning.
Please alert the school when a student is ready to return following an illness. We want to be aware of “bugs” going around. Be prepared to report the illness symptoms, whether your student visited a doctor, and whether they were tested for COVID.
Distance Learning options will continue for students; however, it is important for parents and students to know this requires extra effort and work for teachers, especially for unexpected students requesting distance learning.
Students who plan on distance learning should inform the school so all teachers are aware and prepared for this learning plan.
Students who miss school due to a short illness should make up their work in the traditional way by communicating with their teacher about missed work.
Students who need to quarantine or missing in person learning for an extended time should inform the school so their teachers can prepare and include them in distance learning.
As a School, we are focused on in-person learning. While we recognize the need and benefit for extracurricular activities, adding them extends our risk. Easing into these stages allows us to gradually increase our risk while evaluating the effectiveness of our mitigation strategies, community spread, and preventing the spread of COVID-19.
A major health risk for the school is the pressure placed on students to attend school even when not feeling well. With current COVID numbers in our general community, absolutely NO student should be at school when they are not feeling well. EMS will be phasing extra-curricular opportunities based on season, meeting frequency, and ability to meet outdoors following best practices of distancing and masking within 10 feet.
Allowances right now - - Stage One.
Stage One - Low risk in season varsity sports & drama
Varsity Cross Country and V Girls Tennis
Tennis location TBD since EMU courts are not an option
Drama - in person practices, outside and physically distanced
Clubs - need to follow all school distancing and mask protocol, outside if possible
Shift to Stage Two: After the local (Harrisonburg) COVID incident trend has decreased on a 14-day average OR an incident rate under 10/100K for 7 consecutive days.
Stage Two - Low risk in season middle school sports, in and out of season conditioning
Middle School Cross Country
Outdoor conditioning (no contact), applies to in season and out of season sports
This can be done once a week
Shift to Stage Three: After the local COVID incident trend has decreased on a 21-day average OR an incident rate is under 10/100K for 7 consecutive days.
Stage Three - Moderate - high risk sports
Varsity Boys Soccer
Middle School Boys Soccer
Indoor (Gym capacity limit to 12 athletes)
Middle School Volleyball
I am so grateful for the excellent learning taking place and proud of our faculty, students, and families for the hard work and vigilance keeping one another safe. You are the difference!
Head of School
Update: August 21, 2020
Head of School Update #7
Here we go on this new ride for school. We have put an extreme amount of intentional design and thought into opening, and I am extraordinarily confident in the preparedness of our faculty & staff for this new year. We are eager to begin. Even so, it will be a new experience for all of us and we are looking at these initial two weeks as time to practice, try out, and discover what strategies might work best. Come with an open-mind and patience as we learn together!
This year, EMS is welcoming 80 new plus 273 returning students for a total of 353 on Tuesday, August 25th for classes beginning at 8:30 a.m.
A safe & COVID-free environment is our top priority. With young people more commonly asymptomatic, PLEASE choose to use distance learning opportunities if your student has knowingly been around anyone who is COVID positive or symptomatic.
- First week of classes: Aug. 25-27, everyday is a full day from 8:30 - 3:00, including Weds.
- Unsure if you are feeling well? Stay Home and participate through Distance Learning until you are certain you are well! Daily Home Health Screening & other COVID-related information is easily found on our website (Quicklinks->Parent Portal or Homepage->Announcements). Direct Link to COVID webpage
- Student schedules will be available at the above entrance points as needed.
- Mask up! The EMS campus safety protocol requires a mask at all times indoors (unless alone in a room) and outdoors if within 6 feet of another.
- Arrivals & Departures: Be courteous and put/keep your mask on as you enter and exit buildings and at least while you are on school sidewalks and/or expect to encounter others.
- Synchronous meeting times in the event we need to go online. Grades 6-12 students will have a set time for synchronously meeting with each of their classes.
- Block One: 8:30 - 9:30
- Block Two: 10:00 - 11:00
- Block Three: 12:30 - 1:30
- Block Four: 2:00 - 3:00
CHANGE: Drop off Plan to assist with traffic flow on Parkwood Drive. Drop off students between 8:00 - 8:30
- EMES (Gym parking lot with drop-off at the EMS Bridge)
- EMMS (Auditorium Entrance)
- EMHS (Front Office Entrance
- Student drivers (HS only) should park in the Dining Hall parking lot and enter at the Front Entrance.
- Student drivers (w/ MS riders) should park in the Auditorium parking lot and enter through the Auditorium entrance.
- After 8:30, all drop-off locations are the front office entrances
- Pick up students between 3:00 - 3:15 at the same location as you dropped off!
- NOTE: ALL northbound traffic on Virginia Ave. (Rt. 42) should exit west (toward EMU) to access Rt. 42 by way of Mt. Clinton Pike, Birch Drive, or Harmony Drive.
Distance Learners and Opening Day
- Your teachers have been, or will be, in communication with you regarding specific directions and expectations for your learning plan. Please check your EMS email.
- Daily School Announcements & Information will be posted for you within your Unified Classroom page in PowerSchool under "School Bulletin.”
I am excited to be on this learning journey with you! Pray and lay aside any beginning of the year anxiety knowing we are in this together and will be dedicated to supporting one another. Our best next step is living into each day, and we can do this best by staying healthy, following our safety guidelines, and being open to new ways and methods of learning. I am so grateful you and your family have chosen to be part of the Flame family. Together, we are #FlamesStrong!
Update: August 14, 2020
Opening School with Confidence
Thank you for completing the 3 Tasks from Update #5. EMS families are an awesome community dedicated to look out for one another!
- 100% of EMS families commit to following the CDC recommended Daily Home Screening for Students BEFORE leaving for school every day!
- 100% commit to keep students home if they are knowingly sick or presenting symptoms of COVID-19 and to report this illness to the school!
- 100% of families attending in person agree to the Assumption of the Risk and Waiver of Liability
- Parents who reported their student had close contact with or a COVID-19 diagnosis within the last 30 days AND who have reported any COVID-19 symptom within the last 14 days will be contacted to ensure an adequate waiting period before these students return to school. The reported percentage of our school population was 1.4% and 1.7% respectively.
- 94% of EMS students plan to participate in person for the opening two weeks.
To assist faculty in refining instructional practices during the first two weeks, we kindly request you to follow the In Person or Distance Learning format you have selected. We are working to ensure that every student feels part of every class regardless of your choice. Working with attendance consistency will really help us learn the best ways to service all students. IF you find your choice unbearable, please communicate with your principal so we can plan around unexpected changes. CERTAINLY - if your student is sick - stay home and join in via Distance Learning options if they are feeling up to it.
- In Person - I am really anticipating seeing students again on Aug. 25 between 8 - 8:30.
- Distance Learning - Teachers will be initiating contact with you. Students and parents should pay close attention to school emails. Please be patient as teachers have extra preparations and trust them to reach out to you.
Together, we are clearly in this essential work of keeping one another safe to the best of our ability while continuing the essential work of quality education!
First Week Notes
- Lunch: K-5 pack; Grades 6-12 purchase entree or pack (no salads the 1st week).
- Transportation: Plan on personal transportation. We will work on bus routes ASAP to assist with your arrival & return convenience.
- Computers: High school students are highly encouraged to bring their own device to school for Day 1 if at all possible. Students using school issued Chromebooks will have these assigned ASAP. This will be a process requiring your patience. If your student will be needing a school-owned Chromebook and have not yet completed the Technology Needs Survey, please do so ASAP.
- Chapel: Pre-recorded and observed from classrooms with teachers.
Personnel Changes and Additions
Faculty & staff preparations begin in earnest this coming week, Aug. 17 - 21. We anticipate welcoming the following new faculty members to our team:
- Leah Huyard: A 2017 EMS graduate, will be working as a Teacher-in-Training with Mr. Larry Martin in 6th Grade. Ms. Huyard will be teaching the Language Arts & Social Studies 6 courses. She has taken a gap year prior to her senior college year and is enthused to put her history & English studies and skills into practice this year with 6th Grade.
- Merridy Gnagey: Teacher Assistant/Teacher in Grade 4 as Ms. Gibbs needs to be home due to a vulnerable health situation in her home. Ms. Gnagey brings a master’s degree and 7 years of direct classroom instruction. She is prepared to be the Grade 4 teacher as long as needed. She is an EMS parent.
- Mark Gornto: English 7 & 8 and Drama Coordinator. Mr. Gornto brings a master’s degree, 18 years of teaching experience coming most recently from Moorestown Friends School outside of Philadelphia. He brings additional skills in filmmaking. He is an EMS parent.
- Gwen Lantz: Library Assistant to Ms. Julianne Ross so we can have our library fully open all day. Ms. Lantz brings a Master’s in Library Science and has volunteered in the library in previous years. It is good having her available for regular hours and instructional support this year.
- Thomas Mitch: Science 7 & 8, Anatomy & Physiology, Environmental Science. Mr. Mitch was a pre-medicine undergraduate and is finishing up his Master’s degree specializing in teaching middle school science. He comes with many years of soccer player and coach instructional experience as well. Mr. Mitch is an EMS parent.
- Karen Suderman: English for International Students. Ms. Suderman will begin the year teaching online until our international students can travel to the U.S. She will be part-time at EMS and part-time as the Director of EMU’s Intensive English Program. Ms. Suderman has extensive international experience, a Bachelor’s in English and a Master’s in Library Science.
- Michelle Weaver: Teacher Assistant in the Spanish classroom for Ms. Valeria Eshleman-Robles who will be teaching virtually using video projection due to a vulnerable health situation in her home. Ms. Weaver will be live in the classroom. She knows our school well as a regular substitute teacher in past years and as an EMS parent.
- Band Teacher: Mr. Buchanan has recently bid farewell with gratitude for 17 years of teaching at EMS. We are working diligently to fill this position and welcome any leads you may have.
- Substitute Teachers: We imagine a need for substitute teachers this year. Please contact Christine Fairfield in our Front Office (540)236-6000 if you have personal interest or leads of others who might want to support EMS as a substitute teacher.
Update: August 5, 2020
Forms referenced in the August 5 parent email.
- Assumption of Risk, COVID
- Daily home screening for students checklist
- Checklist for parents "Get your child ready for school..."
- When you can be around others after you have had or likely had COVID-19
At this time, EMS will follow “Every Student, Every Day” for our reopening school plan beginning on Tuesday, August 25.
This decision comes after consultation with EMS medical advisors, faculty, parents, the EMS Board of Directors, and the Virginia Department of Health. Pray the COVID incident rates remain low and the burden in our area manageable so this plan holds firm.
Three Task Requirements for EMS Families: Due by Monday, August 10.
- Read the Assumption of Risk and Waiver of Liability (linked & attached) and electronically sign using the Google Form linked from this document.
- Answer the Health Safety Commitment questions using the Google Form linked from the Assumption of Risk document (#1).
- Report your child(ren’s) EMS Attendance Plan from Aug. 25 - Sept. 4 using the Google Form linked from the Assumption of Risk document (#1).
Your prompt response will help us be best prepared and confident in our room arrangements. We also encourage your family to practice wearing masks and following the required Daily Home Screening for Students with Return-to-School Policies (attached). Print and have this document posted at a convenient location for your daily referral.
While EMS plans to open in person, we understand this may not be the best option for every student and family! Faculty are planning to work with students who choose distance learning the best we know how. We are committed to helping each student reach their potential through quality value-based education whether you are in person or at home.
EMS will follow the guidance of the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) for school operational shifts between in-person, hybrid (~50% on campus at a time), and distance learning. The VDH is following local, regional, and state data points that measure/monitor COVID case frequency; percent positivity in testing; localized outbreaks; healthcare worker incidence; emergency department visits; ICU hospitalizations; hospital capacities; and PPE availability. This data is compiled to give each locality and region a Burden rating (Low - High) and a Trend rating (Decreasing - Steady - Increasing). This data along with EMS’s incidence situations will be used to determine the school’s real-time operational plan (“real-time”, like a snow day, could change within short notice but EMS will do all we can to accommodate our family needs).
We are not seeking to be cavalier in our decision for every student, every day. However, when public schools are going online only, it raises the question. The VDH believes our advantages of a smaller community, use of mostly private transportation, conscientious families for home health screening, and mitigation plans that meet or exceed state requirements for schools allows for operating in person. In theory, the school plan is safe; however, risk grows as more people mix. In full disclosure, while 6-foot physical distancing in classrooms is our metric, there will be many times during the day when we imagine students passing within six feet of one another. It is important to acknowledge the increased risk for in person schooling.
We are demanding EMS family vigilance in following CDC recommended best practices. We respect and will honor all families choosing distance learning as their best option as this also keeps our buildings less populated and safer for those who need to be present. Students choosing distance learning are eligible for all school services, including extracurricular activities offered.
When a COVID incident occurs that impacts the school community, parents will receive an emailed letter defining whether or not their child was known to have any exposure. This same email will inform parents and students of any changes to EMS’s real-time operational plan.
Allowable Phase III Program Offerings:
- K-12 Fall 2020: “Every Student, Every Day” is the operational plan for opening classes on Aug. 25, 2020. Classrooms will be set up for 6 physical distancing between student tables/desks. Face masks are required indoors at all times unless you are in a room by yourself. Face masks/coverings are required outdoors unless you are physically distanced by 6’ (or 10’ if singing or doing cardiovascular activity that requires extra breathing). Incidental contact (less than 6 feet and fewer than 10 minutes) is considered an acceptable allowance to physical distancing.
- Acceptable Face Coverings are: Well fitted masks that seal both the nose and mouth. All cloth face coverings must be a minimum of two layers.
- NOT Acceptable Face Coverings: Masks with an exhaust valve; bandanas, face shields without a mask, masks without a good seal leaving an open/unfiltered nose.
- Fall Interscholastic Sports: Only developmental practices are permitted for contact sports until Phase III guidelines allow competition. Cross Country & Tennis may be able schedule friendly-type experiences. EMS hopes to create intramural opportunities and/or individual-based competitions for student enjoyment. The reasons for no contact sports have to do with close proximity and exchange of heavy breathing during “head to head” play. Travel for teams in buses over significant distances was also behind league cancelation of interscholastic sports.
- School Transportation: Requires 6’ distancing except for between family members. All passengers and drivers will wear face coverings. KN95 masks are provided for drivers.
(Additional extensive content was shared with parents via an August 5 email)