Friday, October 16:
Dear Academy Families,
For your total camaraderie, commitment, love, and patience this year we are grateful. You will never know of our abiding inspiration drawn from the love that you have for your children and their wellbeing throughout this time of uncertainty.
In keeping with our promised communication, we wanted to give you our October ‘state of the union’ regarding COVID, our community, and our ongoing precautions. This update comes upon the heels of our monthly meeting with our Academy Physicians Advisory Group this Tuesday previous. As ever, our physician panel was prayerful, candid, unified, and supportive in every way. We thank God for them even as we thank God for you.
Regarding the past month, we have continued to monitor different Academy families with varying degrees of COVID-exposure, all of whom have been honoring of other students (and our whole community) in their careful self-reporting, moving through various terms of quarantine, and returning to in-class instruction. To our knowledge, we have not had a single student-to-student exposure in our first nine weeks of instruction. All thanks be to God. The other brushes that we have had with the virus have not been in any scenario that the CDC would define as ‘close contact’, and have therefore been managed in our typical quarantine fashion; and again, to our great relief, have not been the occasion of any kind of spread.
That being said, we are as observant of external reporting as we are of our own internal reporting. Because the available COVID-specific hospital beds in Oklahoma City are more or less full–resulting in many of the more severe cases now being taken to Dallas and Tulsa–we want to be considerate of our city context as well, and in no way contribute to public health concerns due to an otherwise manageable oversight on our part. We want to love our own students both now and in any future scenario. Our local health system is being tested, and we want to do our part in contributing as little as possible to their existing burden.
To that end, we feel compelled to stay the course with our current safety guidelines and protocols, and encourage our students to maintain the highest level of hygienic responsibility as possible. Our physicians were unanimous in their recommendation to ‘stay the course’ with our students. If anything, we need to be more vigilant in maintaining the standards we’ve already outlined.
But as a perfect complement (and certainly held in tension with our larger concern for being COVID-safe), our physicians panel was unanimous in one other recommendation – STAY IN SCHOOL! Reports are increasingly appreciative of how critical it is that students stay in school for their academic, social, emotional, mental, and spiritual wellbeing. Which puts us in that sacred but complicated place of 1) keeping these students together in class, while 2) maintaining the kinds of health measures that give us the highest possibility of success over and against the spread of the virus. Kids not in school are now often facing sobering realities that are every bit as concerning as the kinds of issues that we are managing with kids IN school.
But for the grace of God, friends. As noted in earlier reports, we are committed to remaining responsive, agile, flexible, and creative in navigating this virus (and the other accompanying illnesses of the winter season: flu, strep, &c.). With the full installation of the supporting technology of TAO (The Academy Online), the activation of our school nurse, the availability (finally!) of on-site COVID testing, and the careful monitoring of our parents; we will continue to push forward as a school in constant prayer.
Finally, I want to thank our teachers in particular. They are on the front lines of personal exposure, mask-management, homework tracking of quarantined students, TAO rotations, student fatigue, and a thousand other pressures (as if teaching a class of our beautiful students was not inherently difficult enough). There is no Academy apart from them, and they have shown us THE better way. I am personally undone at the end of a meal with six children, friends, in simply attempting a family meal with any kind of civility. Our teachers, on the other hand, have maintained with hearts and heads held high blueprints, fears, tears, and cultural upheaval in the most unsettling educational season in recent history. Our hats are off to them–we love them, appreciate them, pray for them, and support them.
May the God of peace, teachers and families, who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great Shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do His will, working in you that which is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.
Friday, September 18:
Dear Academy Parents,
Prayerful in all things.
It is with great wonder and gratitude that I write to you today. God’s grace, ever abundant, is evident. We are four weeks into the 2020 school year—one filled with cautious optimism, masked marauders, truncated routines for the sake of student safety, and a certain simplicity regarding our goals: one foot in front of the other. We are taking one day at a time, pausing to offer gratitude at the conclusion, and ramping up for another one.
Surprisingly, we’ve had only brushes with the virus at this point. Certainly a few families have had to quarantine along the way, some due to close contact and some due to contracting COVID (with the necessary notifications for any primary exposures), but by the grace of God, we have yet to have the entirety of any one class reach a full direct exposure. Our 707 students and 109 employees have, thus far, been given a tremendous amount of grace in navigating the uncertainties.
With that happy news, but with a sober-mindedness toward the eight months of education that remain; we consulted once again with our Academy Physicians Advisory Group last week. Having reviewed national stats, local stats, pediatric stats, and much more; we have decided to stay-the-course with our student protocols for the time being. Though the Academy has continued infection-free, the rate of infection statewide continues to be something that we watch carefully. Wanting to provide as much preventative care as possible for our teachers and families, and wanting our school cases to remain either low or non-existent; we have a clear case for continuing our current protocols for students as stated earlier this summer.
For some, this news is a relief. For others, it could not be more annoying. In both cases, we recognize a certain patience toward us—one that we do not take for granted. We are making every effort at prayerfully sustaining the greatest possible advantage for our in-person school year. Right now—we are ahead of the curve, and by the grace of God we will stay there.
We pray for you. We pray for your students. We know that students grow weary of being ‘muzzled’. We acknowledge the wild inconvenience. But we ask your continued partnering with us. Your students are pure joy, and we could not be happier to be teaching them in person!
With our love,
Friday, July 31:
Dear Academy Family,
Your patient prayers and mine.
As difficult as it is to distill a thousand data points a day and create a coherent conclusion, it is with the prayerful and wise counsel of our Academy Physicians Advisory Group (APAG) and our Board of Governors that we seek to do that very thing today. You last heard from us on July 3rd; an outline and sketch of our COVID-response plan that had comprehended as much data from the months of March through June that we were, by God’s grace, able to ascertain. July, to no surprise of those watching the news and the reports of the science community, has almost doubled the available data, provoking new responses from the White House, our OKC Mayor, local school boards, and hospital-intake plans all around us. With patient care, we have carefully attended to each input—even the anecdotal emails that you have lovingly sent us—and prayerfully tried to make sense of it all.
Above all else, we seek the good of our students and families. Education (paideia in the Scriptures), in the fullest sense of the word (dating back millenia), holds the full flourishing of the child—body and soul—as its chief and final aim. It is not merely an intellectual or cognitive endeavor, lest we bifurcate the child in a way that does damage both to the integrity of a human being and the teaching of Scripture itself. We do not have bodies to simply walk our brains around town; rather, our bodies fully participate in the function of the ‘mind’ and of the ‘soul’ in inextricable ways that we must take seriously.
Due to the rapid growth in possible and likely COVID-exposure in our cities and state, the launch of the school year must be done with tremendous care. And let me add this—we do not enter this discussion of how best to care for your child’s physical wellbeing with frustration or annoyance at the challenge. As every parent knows, the care for a child, even in the deepest hour of frustration, is pure joy in the end (and from the eternal perspective). It is armed with that prayerfully-sought joy that we move through these very trying times and reach for the good that is God alone.
The first thing that we want to add and offer this community is a color-code system that is published weekly in the sidebar of the Nuntius (see above) and is available on the website. This type of system, used often in air-quality ratings or fire-danger ratings, is something that we can adopt and keep updated with the help of our physicians-advisory group. This chart also references the ever-controversial use of face coverings. Stemming directly from the current district color code, the Face Covering Policy seeks to discern with wisdom the very best balance of the many competing priorities that are impacted by face coverings.
There are numerous other initiatives that have been mentioned in passing, or briefly alluded to in the past, related both to providing for Virtual Education at The Academy and plans for Reopening Campuses. To understand the nuances and details of these initiatives and how they play out in different grade levels and campuses, please find below the campus-specific reopening plans.
Finally, yet another key accession we are committed to providing is in the form of a district-wide nurse. In addition to his/her on-site medical expertise, this individual will be able to manage our ‘case-load’ and track everything from student infections, exposures, self-quarantine periods, and re-entry dates (and much more) on behalf of our principals and teachers. Knowing that we have a dedicated and trained point person for monitoring instances of COVID in our community will help ensure principals and teachers are attending well to education in the classroom!
We promise to review the entirety of our protocols and safety standards every 30-days. Everything that is published in this document is, at the most, a statement of our position for the first 30-days of school; after which we will either continue, edit, or strengthen our position based upon our intel from APAG, the CDC guidelines, and any Federal Sheltering guidelines. The last 30-days alone have shown us how much can change, and so we hesitate to force our own hand beyond that without a full review and audit.
We know you will have many questions. To that end, we are working hard to develop a FAQ document that we will release in next week’s Nuntius. After reviewing these documents and reading your campus-specific plan, please send your questions to email@example.com. We will not reply directly to the emails, but we will endeavor to answer them in the FAQ document.
In the end, Love alone is that which is finally and fully unconquerable. It is to that standard that our relationships, our educational aspirations, and our finite plans must pay tribute. Any groundwork laid that does not comprehend the heights of love will erode as quickly as the next unsettling newsfeed. We beg your prayers to cover every detail of this letter, and to harness our community to the very Love which created it in the first place. It is only an affront to Love that would be our final undoing—something which we do not fear, for Christ himself has preserved Love forevermore. Love is the meaning of the world.
Ever moved to prayer,
July 3, 2020
As ever, you are in our prayers during these summer months. We can’t wait to see you in August, and know the reunion will be a sweet one. At the same time, we know there are many questions about The Academy’s 2020-21 planning, and we’re excited to share with you how these plans are coming together.
At its root, all of our planning comes from two foundational principals: a bedrock commitment to our mission (assisting parents in shaping students’ affections for Truth, Goodness, and Beauty, for the benefit of man and the glory of Jesus Christ), and love of neighbor (including students, teachers, parents, and other members of the community).
In order to carry out these commitments, we are faced with a multitude of competing priorities. Much is still unknown, and yet each week we fill in a bit more of the picture. In this newsletter you’ll find something of the outline: an overview of our plans for students’ on-campus safety this fall, and also the rollout of a new model, The Academy Online, to join our Blended and Traditional on-campus models. If after reviewing these materials you’d like to learn more about transferring to The Academy Online, contact Darla Benoit, our Admissions Director.
Still to come are a number of other important announcements:
These plans have been shaped by the hours of research and careful deliberation carried out by The Academy Physician Advisory Group, as well as the guidance from the American Academy of Pediatrics, the CDC, and Oklahoma health and education departments.
We are so grateful for the love of this community, for your support through a challenging season, and above all, for the confidence we hold in The Lord’s providence and grace.