A Message from Todd R. Flanders

Safely Welcoming Students Back to Campus

A transcript of the above video is located below:

Happy August, Providence Academy.  God bless you all.  Today we welcomed seniors back for our annual “college boot camp.”  Happy high school chatter wafted through the hallways.  Music to the ears!

We’re now a month away from a day we’ve all been anticipating: being back here, together, where we belong, open five days a week.  More than three months ago, on May 1st, I shared the following with you: “Our ability to implement a bold creative plan for the fall is dependent on two assumptions.  First: that governmental authorities will permit at least private schools to make their own decisions about reopening.  And second: that safety guidelines issued by health authorities by that time enable responsible and creative implementation…. With these assumptions, Providence Academy intends to welcome students back to campus for the new school year, August 31st.  That is our scheduled first day of orientation, with classes commencing September 2nd.”

We have never wavered from the commitment to be open for all students, here, five days a week.  We have been working tirelessly on the bold, creative plan to achieve it.  We call our commitment “Plan A.”  Current guidance from government and health authorities are consonant with this plan.  We have also outlined alternate plans should there be temporary needs or mandates requiring us to switch approaches.  Today, we share our commitment with you in some detail, in a linked resource on our website.

Here are a few key elements that will facilitate the success of our current plan:

  • SimulClassroom.  In an effort to maintain a close approximation of in-school learning, PA has developed “SimulClassroom”.  We are installing high-definition video and audio webcasting in each classroom.  We will use Google Meet technology, mastered during distance learning in the Spring.  We will invite students who need to be at home into classrooms “live,” visible on a television screen, with opportunities for live participation through in-classroom teleconference interfacing.
  • Spaciousness.  Providence Academy features well over twice the square footage of space per student of many public institutions.  This allows flexibility in achieving distancing,  in facility usage, and enables an abundance of fresher, filtered air throughout.
  • Cleanliness and Health Protocols.  How many of us go places, under ordinary circumstances, that are as well cleaned and kept as PA?  We are building on this reputation with many additional sanitation and health protocols.  Key health protocols will be observance of distancing, and the use of face coverings in grades K through 12.
  • Optimization of our state of the art heating, ventilation, and air conditioning system.  We are enhancing use of outdoor air, upgrading our air filtration system to the CDC-recommended “MERV-13” rating, which will further mitigate the low risk of virus spread in ventilation air streams, and more.
    On everyone’s mind these days is the safety of returning to school.  In late June I shared with you some thoughts from the American Academy of Pediatrics, which have informed our preparations. Today I’ll share some thoughts from the CDC that they issued late July:

“The best available evidence indicates that COVID-19 poses relatively low risks to school-aged children.  Children appear to be at lower risk for contracting COVID-19 compared to adults.”  The CDC points out that in each of the past five regular flu seasons, the impact on children has been more serious than to date with COVID-19.

“Scientific studies suggest that COVID-19 transmission among children in schools may be low….  Based on current data, the rate of infection among younger school children, and from students to teachers, has been low, especially if proper precautions are followed….  [D]ata from both virus and antibody testing, suggest…that children are not the primary drivers of COVID-19 spread in schools or in the community.  No studies are conclusive, but the available evidence provides reason to believe that in-person schooling is in the best interest of students, particularly in the context of appropriate mitigation measures similar to those implemented at essential workplaces….”

The CDC document ends with a powerful statement:

“Reopening schools creates opportunity to invest in the education, well-being, and future of one of America’s greatest assets—our children—while taking every precaution to protect students, teachers, staff and all their families.”

(Source: CDC “The Importance of Reopening America’s Schools this Fall,” July 23, 2020)

I want to thank all current PA families who have made the July payment toward fall enrollment.  By next Monday, August 10, we will not be able to guarantee a spot for any currently enrolled family whose accounts are not current.  Please do feel free to contact our business office with any questions.

I shared with you recently the exciting news about PA receiving over a hundred new applications for admission in July.  Today, the number of new applicants nears two hundred.  We are implementing a priority consideration deadline of this Saturday, August 8, for new applications.

As I mentioned in the recent ebulletin, PA “will certainly not be over-enrolling, compromising our traditional class-section thresholds.”  Yet we will be delighted to welcome many new families who share our mission and vision.

It’s been a special pleasure for me to talk with many of the new families going through our process.  Many stories could be told about why, in addition to our plans to be open, people are coming to us. Here’s one:

Last week I spoke with a mother, a professional who immigrated to the United States some years ago.  I asked her the usual question: “what brings your family to Providence?”  She said, “Faith in God, and patriotism.”  I urged her to say more, and she did.  “I grew up without electricity and running water,” she said.  “Even as a young child, I saw this country as the place in the world where God-given human dignity is most respected; where individual liberty is real; where the content of character matters; where equality is a genuine ideal from the country’s very founding.”  And, she added, “all of this is true.  Look at how many people want to come to this country for similar reasons.  I’m so proud now to be an American.  And I want a place where my family can learn and celebrate all of this freely.”

That is a humbling testimony, and a very encouraging one.

We can hardly wait to welcome your family, along with new families, on the first day of school, September 2.  Look for Lenny and others there to welcome you, at a safe distance!, onto a red carpet.  You’ll know you’re home.

Again, God bless you all.  We’ll see you soon.