These preliminary FAQs are merely intended to provide insight into planning for the coming school year–they are subject to change and not meant to be all-inclusive.
Will Thomas Sumter Academy be open and in-person to start the school year?
Yes, the first day of classes is August 12. We currently have Lower School Orientation scheduled for August 10th (Main and Columbia Campuses) and Upper School Orientation on August 11. We can’t wait to see you!
I’ve read several news articles about SC schools weighing three different scenarios for reopening. Are those guidelines applicable to Thomas Sumter Academy?
The AccelerateSC guidelines and related proposals are for the public-school sector. The guidelines we establish should be in the best interest of our school. While there is valuable insight and expertise, we can incorporate from the SC education task force, as an independent school Thomas Sumter Academy is not bound by its recommendations. Public schools have their own unique set of challenges.
I’ve seen some colleges and universities who’ve amended their calendar to anticipate a potential resurgence of the virus in the winter. Have you changed your calendar?
At this point, we’ve chosen to keep the current 2020-2021 calendar. Colleges and universities have taken such an action given their residential student population and their concerns to limit departures from campus and returns from break.
What about requiring facial coverings?
Our Pandemic Return-to-School Team will make final recommendations on facial coverings as we get closer to the start of the school year.
Generally, health officials strongly recommend the use of face masks – masks will mitigate the spread but are not 100% assured. Students and faculty will be encouraged to wear facial coverings as long as they do not have any inappropriate graphics or language for a school setting. Nobody will make another person feel uncomfortable for wearing a mask or taking additional precautions. COVID-bullying, in any way, shape, or form, WILL NOT BE TOLERATED.
Will you be taking the temperature of every student upon arrival on campus?
Given the sheer inefficiency of such a task, we do not anticipate arrival screenings. However, parents must be accountable for their child’s health – we do recommend you take your child’s temperature daily. They will not be allowed to attend school when they are sick. We anticipate extremely strict guidelines that reinforce many of our updated handbook policies–students with a fever of 100 degrees or who exhibit virus-related symptoms are required to return home immediately, without exception. They must remain symptom-free for at least 24-48 hours, if not longer, depending on the recommendation from the Pandemic Return-to-School Team. Depending on costs and with parent approval, we may have COVID19 self-testing available as well.
Do you foresee changes to drop-off and pick-up schedules? I read that schools are staggering start times and establishing different drop-off points on campus.
We already stagger LS and US drop-off points and stagger pick-up times. Parents of Lower School students may expect a change in drop-off and pickup procedures as determined by the Pandemic Return-to-School Team. It is in our best interest to prohibit walk-ups in the morning and avoid parents congregating in anticipation of dismissal.
What are your plans for handwashing and hand sanitizer?
We will be intentional about hand washing, educating our students about hygiene, and making sanitizer readily available throughout the campus. The Pandemic Return-to-School Team guidelines will provide additional specificity.
I’ve seen some schools that are installing plexiglass and desk guards in classrooms; will that be the case?
We want to maintain a personal environment. Some public schools will need such features, but we do not expect the installation of these devices within the classroom setting.
How will the desks be arranged within the classrooms?
We are fortunate to have small class sizes and teachers will appropriately utilize the space in their classrooms to maintain social distancing protocols in whatever way is safe and does not compromise instruction. We also intend to be creative with the use of multiple venues around campus, including the possibility of outdoor classrooms as weather permits. The safety and health of our students is paramount.
What are your plans to ensure students practice social distancing in the hallways between classes?
The Pandemic Return-to-School Team will discuss several measures we can take into consideration. This may include the staggering of the bell schedule and teachers in the hallways to facilitate social distancing. Again, the safety and health of our students will be at the forefront of the team’s recommendation.
Will the Lower School students still be walking around campus to different classrooms?
There is consideration to minimize LS student exposure around campus. Specialty area teachers may conduct their sessions in the students’ homerooms/classrooms. This is another area the Pandemic Return-to-School team will be discussing in more detail.
What about recess and PE class?
With vigilant oversight and faculty supervision, students should be allowed to participate in recess–such activity is healthy for social-emotional development. The Pandemic Return-to-School Team will outline sanitization efforts related to the playgrounds, with students being expected to wash their hands both before and after each recess session. The Pandemic Return-to-School Team will provide recommendations for PE classes as well.
What will be the format for use of the cafeteria services?
Our cafeteria will be open however social distancing and recommended SCDHEC guidelines will be followed.
Use of technology:
Over the last couple of years, we have expanded the use of technology within the classroom and will continue to do so. Our Kindergarten began this past year requiring iPADS and our LS will continue their use of devices. We are asking that our middle school students purchase a laptop/iPAD to have available in the classroom. Our high school students have already been using their laptop/devices.
What is the plan if you must temporarily suspend in-person operations? Have you made changes to virtual learning?
We are proud of the virtual learning platforms that evolved over the course of the spring term. The Pandemic Return-to-School Team is currently reviewing the surveys filled out by our parents and teachers to determine the specific modality for specific grade levels. Teachers will then devote time to training students within the first few days of school. Ensuring familiarity with the software and forming consistent practices in-person will prepare students in the event of virtual learning.
We have been and will continue in re-evaluating our virtual learning program and the guidelines for each division. Our Division Heads will ensure oversight and consistency of pedagogy and logistics.
We will also plan on “practice e-learning days” throughout the school year.
What will happen if a student is not comfortable attending class in-person?
If a student/family is not comfortable being in-person, we will work with them to determine how we can accommodate their learning as if it was an excused medical absence and send work home. They do not need to be fearful of getting penalized if they are not on campus. However, it is not feasible to expect our teachers to perform both in-person instruction in addition to creating content for virtual learning.
What happens if a member of the community tests positive for COVID-19?
We will follow CDC/SCDHEC guidelines should a member of the community test positive for coronavirus. Notification of the family and members of the class that have been determined to be “in close contact” will be notified.
Will there be a tuition refund, discount, or credit should the school be forced to resume virtual learning?
The quality of our virtual learning program has proven that students continue to make progress and cover material effectively. Teachers work tirelessly to provide high quality asynchronous and synchronous content, in addition to showcasing their responsiveness and personalized communication with parents and students alike. The enrollment contract does not allow for refunds; however, consideration may be given for possible credits or alternative arrangements should virtual learning exceed a significant period of time as determined by the administration and the Board of Trustees. Priority will be given to PK3 and PK4 families.
We understand that the new guidelines and questions raised by this present situation may seem daunting. Please rest assured that our Pandemic Return-to-School Team and administrative team are taking every measure to ensure Thomas Sumter Academy rises to this challenge.
Together, we will move forward with resilience and adaptability. Tenacity. Supports. Achievement. Thank you for your continued partnership.