LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — While schools across the country debate whether it is safe to return to school during the coronavirus pandemic, Lexington Christian Academy has opted to start the school year on Aug. 19 with in-person classes.
The school will also offer an online option but said only five to 10 percent of students chose to stay home.
For LCA, offering a "normal" school year was a priority. LCA Director of Operations Seth Robinson explained that all-in-all, the decision was about education.
"Coming out of this is the students and where do we need to meet them because if you're a fifth-grader this year, I may not be able to start right with that fifth-grade curriculum. I may need to drop back a little bit; just a little bit of review, a little bit of catch up," Robinson explained. "And so making sure that we're going to be very quick to assess the students find out where their needs are academically, meet them at those points of needs, and then get them to where they need to be by the end of the school year. I think it's going to be challenged for all schools this year."
The decision to return in-person meant making difficult decisions:
- Students, teachers and staff are required to wear masks when they are walking throughout the building and whenever they cannot maintain a 6-foot distance.
- Everyone will have their temperature taken at the door and teachers will be required to answer the generic COVID questions every day.
- The building will operate on a one-way traffic rule such that everyone walks in the same direction.
- Desks and lunch tables will be spread out.
The school will not, however, require students or teachers to have a negative COVID-19 test before coming back to school.
"That test is just a point in time. So that test is saying you don't have COVID today. But that doesn't mean you don't have COVID tomorrow or you didn't have COVID three weeks ago. There's really no way of telling us. All it does is isolate that person at that point in time," Robinson said. "So, [we] really didn't see a lot of benefits of that first, because we're doing those temperature checks at the doors so if you've got signs or symptoms, we should be able to pick those up fairly quickly from self-reporting, as well as from those temperature checks."
If a student or teacher does contract the coronavirus, the school hopes their efforts to keep students in small groups will aid in preventing the need to send entire classes or the whole school home for online classes.
Robinson reported that nearly every teacher has agreed to come back to teach in-person, but they have a tall task ahead of them.
"They've got a little bit more to adapt to and changing their teaching model," he said. "You know, 'I'm used to standing here and delivering this way,' or 'I'm used to walking amongst the kids and working on different projects,' especially those lower levels where it's a high-touch area where you're really working with the kids on those manipulatives in those different things that they need to do on their desks or on their tables. So, for teachers to be able to know that, 'hey, when I'm in close proximity I can still do that as long as I'm safe I've got my mask on.'"
The school also invested in new cleaning processes and equipment.
"What has been very invisible before, as far as a lot of our cleaning and sanitizing processes, will now become very visible because you'll see that that housekeeping staff — that custodian — working throughout the day to make sure that those faucets and knobs and light switches and locker handles, and all those things are cleaned, as we go throughout the day, multiple times," Robinson explained. "But we've also made some really great strides in innovating some of our building systems, so we've added a UV and pinpoint ionization filtration systems to our air so that as that air is getting captured and going into our HPAC system, it's getting cleaned and scrubbed before it comes back out into our learning spaces to make sure we're not recirculating a problem that could be in the building. Certainly that's going to be a great thing for COVID-19, but it'll also help us with the stomach bugs and the flu bugs and those things that we deal with in a K-12 environment every year."
Enrollment at LCA also increased since the start of the pandemic as new and returning parents called saying they were ready to make room in their budgets because they needed to work five days a week and could not stay home to teach their children for the fall semester.
"We've been blessed to get a number of contacts from families that aren't haven't been in our family base before," Robinson said. "We've also been getting contacts from families who have been at our school before, and are looking to return because they know we'll be back on campus, they're familiar with what we do. They're looking to come back and join us again."
Robinson explained LCA's staff is not taking the reopening lightly and hopes the community knows that.
"I would just tell our families that certainly this school year is gonna be different. This entire calendar year has been different, and we're not sure the length of the breath of that but we are working very diligently to make this a familiar and a safe place for their students," he said. "We certainly want them to return to a level of where so many things are in chaos right now the school is not. That it looks, feels and smells like what they're used to. Though certainly on the, on the backside of that we're doing a lot of different things. I would like this school year to be kind of like a duck right really calm on the top, but we're working really, really hard underneath the water."