2020-21 School Year Updates

Published August 7, 2020

Southwest Christian High School faculty and staff are excited to begin the 2020-21 school year and to welcome our students back on campus! To keep all students on campus five days a week, we have updated our back-to-school plans and are eager to share the details with you below and on our updated swchs.org/COVID page.

As you all know, we published our Return to Campus Road Map on July 2. Since that time, Governor Walz issued a new executive order about face coverings and the MN Department of Education laid out guidelines for the public school districts. Although we are not mandated to follow all of these guidelines, we felt it was very important to strongly consider the direction coming from public health authorities.

Our top priorities in our planning work have been on-campus instruction and the safety and wellness of our students and employees. To ensure we can maximize both of these priorities, SWCHS has enacted the following measures to do everything we can to keep our students safely on campus throughout the year.

New 8-Period Schedule to Reduce Class Sizes

In a typical year, each student registers for seven classes per semester. Some upperclassmen have an open hour, or some students register for an additional “0” hour class (band, choir, etc.) This schedule often results in class sizes of 20–24 students. In order to facilitate better physical distancing, we have added another class period called “0” hour and created a new 8-period block schedule to reduce the number of students in each class.
Here are key details:

  • Faculty will teach an additional section of one of their classes. We are grateful that our teaching staff was willing to take on extra work to keep our students on campus.
  • Students will not be taking an extra class but will receive an open hour with this new schedule.
  • We are currently finalizing student schedules with the new 8-period format. The updated schedules will be available as soon as possible. (A huge “Thank You” to Mr. Vis, our schedule maker, for this extra work!)
  • Sections with class sizes that were not able to be reduced enough will meet in one of our larger common areas.

New Block Schedule and Semester Calendar

With the move to an 8-period schedule, we needed to adjust our weekly, modified block schedule. In the past, Mondays have been “traditional” days where students attended each of their 7 classes. We believe that adding yet another class period to the traditional day format would not be productive for teachers and students. Therefore, we have created a new Block Schedule that will allow for a better learning environment.

Here is a snapshot of the new Block Schedule for the 2020-2021 school year:

  • All of our school days will now begin at 8 a.m. (unless there is a special start time noted on the new fall school calendar) and end at 2:45 p.m.
  • “ODD” school days
    • Class periods 1, 3, 5, and 7.
    • Tuesdays and Thursdays
    • Occasional Mondays
  • “EVEN” school days
    • Class periods 0, 2, 4, and 6.
    • Wednesdays and Fridays
    • Occasional Mondays
  • Encounter and D-groups will still happen on Even days (more about Encounter and d-groups below)
  • Students and parents will need to pay close attention to the new school calendar, along with email communication in the “Weekly Connect” (Sent on Thursdays).

General Health & Safety Updates

  • For the safety and wellness of students, employees, and guests, and to adhere to Executive Order 20-81, we will be implementing the following measures:
    • Per Governor Walz’ order, face coverings will be required for all students, employees, and guests on campus except for situations prescribed in the order including:

    • students or employees who cannot wear a face covering for medical reasons (families and employees need to contact a school nurse to request this exemption)
    • teachers will not be required to wear face coverings while teaching as long as proper physical distancing is in place.
  • Students and staff will be encouraged to spend time outside during lunch, breaks, d-groups, and open hours in order to remove their face coverings.
  • Hand sanitizer stations have been placed throughout the school building.
  • Students and staff will be regularly encouraged and reminded to follow personal hygiene protocols and physical distancing guidelines.
  • Space has been identified to be used as a COVID-19 quarantine area.

Return to School Parent Commitment Letter & Release

  • Families will be required to sign and turn in the Return to School Parent Commitment Letter & Release prior to their student beginning classes.
  • We are currently updating this document to ensure that is fully aligned with some of the new changes in our back to school plans. All families will receive the revised document via email next week. We apologize to families who have already signed and returned the first version posted on our website.

New Technology & Classroom Renovations

  •  Classrooms have been outfitted with cameras and microphones so that students with extended absences can virtually attend class. These students will need to be extra diligent in connecting with their teacher via Google Classroom and email.
  • Our classrooms have been set up to provide space for more physical distancing.
  • Two classrooms, that were left unfinished in our recent expansion project, have been finished and are ready for classes.
  • Four large spaces have been set aside for larger class sizes including (1) the media center, (2) the auditorium (for choir, band, etc.), (3) the band room and (4) the lunch room commons. These spaces may also be used for students during their open hours as available.
  • Two unfinished classrooms (near the existing band room) will be retrofitted in the coming weeks to allow for additional teaching space
  • The Health Services area has been expanded to include an additional room for student health care.

Virtual Learning

Virtual learning will be offered all year. The school recognizes that due to pre-existing health conditions or COVID-19 infections and exposure, some students and faculty may face extended absences from our campus during the 2020-21 school year. Virtual Campus Applications will be available at swchs.org/COVID starting on August 12.

Lunch and Food Program Updates

Please know that after much discussion, we are making some shifts to our regular lunch offerings this year. We will start the fall with a scaled-back offering since we are not able to serve a complete hot lunch due to current health and safety reasons.

Due to COVID, our main lunch will be a custom boxed lunch. It will consist of a sandwich/wrap, side salad, fruit or vegetable, and either milk or juice. Our team will be doing their best to change it up every day with some variation and provide your student with an advanced bi-weekly menu, but know that this will be the only lunch option until we’re able to reassess things. We will not have the usual a la carte and salad bar available although we’ll do our best to continue offering some snacks and beverages during break times.

For students with dietary restrictions, we will work with them to provide an alternative option. Lastly, due to spacing requirements, students will not be meeting in our commons cafeteria and will instead be eating outside or in their classrooms. If you have further questions, please email lunch@swchs.org. We hope this change is temporary and appreciate your understanding!

Partnering with Local and State Authorities

SWCHS will work with the MN Department of Health and the Carver County public health officials to quickly respond to any positive COVID tests or exposures.

Update on Student Life Events

Senior Summit will be held on Friday, August 14. All seniors should be at school at 8:30 a.m. for our morning time. We ask seniors to please make every effort to be there to kick start the year! Lunch will be served. After lunch, both the guys and girls will participate in outdoor events at different locations. Mr. Goldie (for the guys) and Mrs. Maloney (for the girls) are the event planners and will be sending updates very soon.

We regret to say that we will not be able to have our All-School Retreat this fall. Camp Shamineau, our host, is under restrictions for large groups and for example, can only have groups of 70 people at a time in their large meeting room. Additionally, eating and overnight arrangements are problematic as well as the limitations on the number of students that can be on a school bus. Taking this all into account, we will not be able to have the retreat in the fall. (IF things open up later in the year, we will consider other options at that time.)

In lieu of the All-School Retreat, we will be planning for two “Community Building Days” on Friday, August 28 and Friday, September 4. While the details of these days have not been finalized, there will be fun and games, d-group times, and other connecting points. We will send out a more detailed plan in the days to come.

At this point, Fresh Start, the freshman day away, is still on the calendar. We will work with our host site to ensure safe, outdoor activities that will build community. We expect to not be able provide bus transportation for freshmen so we will most likely have parents drop their freshman student at the site. Specific details including the camp site, activities and schedules will be emailed out after class begin.

 

Thank you for carefully reading through these important details. I highly encourage all of our families to regularly visit swchs.org/COVID to review our detailed return-to-campus plans.