Sandia Prep's Reopening Plan
Update from Head of School Bill Sinfield - November 6, 2020
In a year full of difficult decisions, I am compelled to make the most difficult decision I have made in my career as a Head of School. As of Monday, November 9, all Sandia Prep classes will be held virtually, with no in-person learning on campus. This decision weighs heavily on me, as I know how badly the students want to be back at school, but I feel strongly that it is the right decision.
Over the past months, we have made decisions that have been directed by the science. This has allowed Sandia Prep to stay open to students using the hybrid learning model. However, conditions across New Mexico have worsened considerably since we returned this fall. In August, cases in New Mexico ranged from 73 to 197 per day. This week, cases are roughly 10 times that. We are also hearing from many of our parents about their potential exposure and exposure of their children in the wider community. Medical experts on our COVID task force advise that the chances of a case on our campus are significantly increasing. All these factors are adding to the stress and fatigue teachers feel as they worry about the safety of their students and their colleagues. I am sure many parents are feeling that same stress. Despite all our efforts and the efforts of our faculty to navigate this storm, there comes a time when we need to take shelter behind the lee side, and let the worst of the storm pass over.
Our plan is to remain virtual until Tuesday, January 19, 2021. This will provide for a two-week quarantine time after the holidays. Data is showing that family gatherings and travel are directly related to the increased COVID spread. With anticipated travel, the return of students from college, and holiday gatherings over Thanksgiving and winter breaks, medical experts are predicting worsening trends to come.
Should the trends turn around (i.e., a decrease of positivity rates and hospitalizations), we are prepared to pivot back to our hybrid model immediately.
While the timing of this decision may seem odd, it is strategic. Teachers feel strongly that they can create a higher-quality experience for students by planning in advance for remote learning rather than reacting to mandated closures. Remote learning also gives teachers additional time and opportunity for one-on-one contact with students, an aspect of their work that they feel has been neglected.
For now, we will continue to offer our after-school programs, and we are planning on creating special events that will bring our students back to campus in a safe manner.
I recognize that this shift to virtual at-home learning will cause inconveniences for families. Please know, though, that we are committed to educating the whole child and fostering their social and emotional health, and we are still steadfast in our goal to bring our students back to a safe campus for in-person learning.
Head of School
It's Your Choice: Virtual Learning & On-Campus Learning
Learn how Sandia Prep is preparing for a safe and gentle return to campus while still offering a robust virtual learning option.
Important Safety Procedures & Guidelines
Pick-Up and Drop-Off Campus Maps
Please click on the links or images below to view the campus traffic flow maps.
Drop-Off, Pick-Up, and Dismissal Times for Siblings
Families with multi-grade level children: Defer to the youngest student for drop-off location, unless the older student drives, in which case they enter via the 10th -12th grade location.
- If a parent/guardian is driving: Students get picked up at the youngest sibling's pick-up location.
- If an upper school sibling is driving: All the siblings (upper and middle school) will report to the West Gym parking lot (to the student's car).
On-Campus / In-Person Learning
- The campus will be open to students from 7:15 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. (with the exception of students who are playing on teams). If a child needs to be on campus before 8:00 a.m. or after 3:00 p.m., they must be in a supervised area. Parents should make every effort to make arrangements to get their children off campus soon after dismissal.
- Before entering campus, students will be screened using a questionnaire and temperature check. (We are looking at launching an app with which parents can have students self-report prior to arriving at the campus.) The screening will take place at three different entry locations to the school.
- If all students return to campus, there will be five to 16 students in a classroom, depending on the course. Each classroom is restructured to ensure social distancing. (Teachers have taken on extra sections of some classes to limit the number of students per section.)
- Each classroom is equipped with touchless hand sanitizers, and students will be required to sanitize hands as they enter, and as they leave the classroom.
- Desks, chairs, equipment, and frequently touched surfaces will be cleaned between each class.
- In the middle school, students will be grouped in cohorts organized according to their foreign language selection and their electives.
- Advisories will consist of 10 students that will be organized, using input from parents and students, so that a positive social mix is accomplished.
- During any free/study period, students will be required to go to a supervised indoor or outdoor location.
- Students, faculty, and staff will wear masks and maintain appropriate social distancing at all times.
- While our cafeteria will offer a limited menu, we strongly suggest that students bring their own lunches to school. Please note that microwaves and refrigerators will not be available.
- Until such time as the Governor announces the opening of indoor dining, all lunches will be eaten outside in assigned areas.
- There will be a limited number of clubs, activities, and community service opportunities offered during this first semester. We will do our very best to offer safe activities during lunch and after school (such as tennis, pickleball, badminton, bocce, archery, eSports, online board games, Mock Trial, Model UN, service clubs, etc.)
- The release of students after each class and at dismissal will be slightly staggered to help avoid any congestion, and foot traffic throughout the campus will be directed by signs and stanchions.
- The school has purchased electrostatic sprayers and will high traffic areas will be disinfected each night.
- All faculty and staff were tested for COVID-19 prior to the start of school and will be tested throughout the year.
- Water fountains have been disabled. Touchless water bottle filling stations are available. All students must bring their own water bottle to school each day. It is important for students to stay hydrated, especially during the warmer months while wearing a mask.
- Lockers will not be assigned.
- Families will notify the school nurse when traveling out of the state (and all public health orders for New Mexico regarding travel will be adhered to).
- Substitute teachers will come from within the school (newly hired Sandia Prep only substitutes, non-teaching faculty, staff).
Virtual At-Home Learning
- While offering instruction within their classroom, teachers will be streaming and/or recording their classes for students who are at home.
- Students will be able to engage, real-time, with teachers and fellow students.
- Kits for various subjects (such as science labs, art projects, engineering, etc.) will be made available for students to pick up from the school.
- Computer equipment, musical instruments, and other essential equipment will be loaned to students who elect to take the Virtual At-Home option.
- All assignments will be posted on Veracross/PrepNet Portal in advance.
- Students will have the opportunity to participate in some of the activities/clubs offered.
- Our faculty have been working throughout the summer to develop their distance learning programs in order to provide the best virtual at-home learning experience as possible.
Daily School Schedule
Prep Café Updates
Families will be able to pre-order and prepay bag lunches using Sandia Prep’s food service account provider, MyKidsSpending. There, you can fund your child's lunch account online for use at the Prep Café, view account activity, request PDF statements, and even set up automatic funding. You also will be able to view the menu and pre-order for the week.
For the foreseeable future, the Prep Café is creating bagged lunches only, not hot lunches. Each lunch will include a deli-quality sandwich made with Boars Head meats and cheeses, a chocolate chip cookie, and different sides, such as Lays chips, potato salad, pasta salad, or quinoa salad. At this time, students will not have a choice of side.
- If your student does not have an account, please click here to access MyKidsSpending. You will click the button that says "Create Account or Add Student.” You will be asked to provide a Student ID number which is has been emailed to families.
- If your student already has an account, please log in to mykidsspending.com to review your account balances and payment options.
Note: The MyKidsSpending system may tell you that the information cannot be verified at this time. MyKidsSpending, in some cases, requires 24 hours to connect you with your student's account. If you haven't received confirmation of your new account after 24 hours, or if you have any questions or concerns, please contact us at email@example.com.
Parent & Student Handbook with Crisis Addendum
Students Traveling Outside Of New Mexico - as of 9.14.20
With travel restrictions to certain states lifting and many activities resuming, we recognize that more students will be potentially traveling out of the state for a variety of reasons. It is not possible to track all students' travel plans to determine the potential level of exposure or participation in high-risk activities. Therefore, we need all students to follow the same guideline of participating virtually for the 14-day period.
We are confident this creates the lowest possible risk for our on-campus students and faculty/staff while still providing strong academics to our students utilizing the virtual environment.
Thank you for your understanding and support of this policy.
Mental Health & Wellness
Sandia Prep is working to respond rapidly to state and federal health guidelines and implement safety procedures. We are creating opportunities for students to connect with each other and teachers in ways that will meet safety guidelines, including prescreening, masks, social distancing, and outdoor classrooms. While we are starting with a virtual platform, we will continue working to connect with you and finding innovative ways to continue existing Sandia Prep culture and traditions that hold true to our essential mission and ourselves.
All Back to School Information - Fall 2020
Update from the Head of School - September 4, 2020
Over the past two weeks, we have had the advisories from each grade come to school so that we could orient the students to the new protocols, acclimate them to being on campus, and give them the opportunity to have some fun. Having the students back has taught us a few things. Most evident, we have great kids at Sandia Prep, and they tried hard to do the right thing.
However, it has become apparent that we are just not ready to bring 500 students onto our campus by next Friday. There are two issues with which we are concerned. The Governor's Office has not yet changed the mandate that independent schools must maintain a 25 percent capacity limit per classroom. While it was originally our plan to use our outdoor space for classrooms and advisories, we recognized this week that, even though they are willing to try, the students struggle to maintain social distancing. This is not an issue in the classrooms, where they are seated safely at a social distance. Rather, it is the transitioning that is proving problematic. The students need a bit more time to adjust, as do faculty and staff.
To provide that extra time, while still allowing for as much in-person learning as possible, we are amending next week's schedule. We need more students on campus in order for us to determine how to best manage those outdoor classrooms and transitions. We will continue to evaluate and revise our procedures as necessary. While I truly understand the frustration that this may cause some families, I believe this is the best approach for achieving full occupancy of our campus. The following schedule will help us do that.
Tuesday, September 8 (B Day)
ALL Lions come to campus
ALL Unicorns learn virtually
Wednesday, September 9 (A Day)
ALL Unicorns come to campus
ALL Lions learn virtually
Thursday, September 10 (B Day)
ALL Unicorns come to campus
ALL Lions learn virtually
Friday, September 11 (A Day)
ALL Lions come to campus
ALL Unicorns learn virtually
A number of parents have asked if their children may select the blended (hybrid) model in which their children would attend school on select days of the week and continue virtual learning on the other days. We will open up this option, but not until late September or early October, as we want to ensure that we are keeping sound attendance records and seating charts. We will need to be able to do accurate contract tracing should a student or teacher test positive for COVID-19.
Other changes were made as a result of our observations.
Drop-off and Pick-up Locations were tweaked. They are now as follows:
Grades 6 and 7 (2:50 p.m.)
Drop off - through Outdoor Leadership Program (OLP) gates, in front of 200 building
Pick up - in front of the McCall Performing Arts Center; exit through the main Osuna gate
Grades 8 and 9 (Grade 8 at 2:50 p.m. / Grade 9 at 3:10 p.m.)
Drop off - Field House parking lot
Pick up - Field House parking lot
Grades 10 through 12 (3:10 p.m.)
Drop off - at West Gym entrance
Pick up - in front of the PAC and exit through the main Osuna gate.
Families with multi-grade children defer to the youngest student for pick-up and drop-off, unless the older student drives, in which case they enter with the 10-12 grade.
We noted during the week that bringing masks was not a problem. However, many students forgot to bring water bottles. We want to make sure that students are hydrated throughout the day, especially given that they will spend more time outdoors.
Message from the Head of School - July 23, 2020
I want to start by thanking you for your patience, which I understand may be stretched to the limits. In the many questions that you have forwarded me, I can read your concerns, fears, and frustrations. The uncertainty of these times is the hardest thing to deal with. It is so difficult to make definitive plans when this situation continues to change in real-time. Even as I write this, the situation is changing, as the White House is reconsidering its position, and our Governor may update Public Health Orders.
Over the past couple of weeks, we have witnessed the spiking of COVID cases all around us, and that news is certainly alarming and disheartening. I realize that many of you are growing more concerned about the prospect of sending your children back to school in these conditions. Our faculty and administration share your fears, as we, too, have children and families that we are worried about. Also, with so many school districts announcing that they will maintain online learning, we have felt the pressure to provide for your children safe alternative models. So, over the last week, we have had to regroup and reassess our plan.
I must, first, concede that there is no perfect plan. Not everybody will be satisfied, and we cannot completely assuage your fears. The physical and mental health of your children weighs heavily on my mind, as does the physical and mental health of our teachers. The basis of our plan is to provide choice, within the restrictions of Best Practices. Because we all have differing views about how the school should reopen, you will need to make decisions as to what will work for your children and what provides all of us the most confidence that we will be safe and will continue to provide and receive a quality education. We believe that, in this time of crisis, it will be the schools that provide innovative solutions that will survive and, indeed, thrive.
We also are considering a third “blended” option that will allow parents and students to determine the days of the week that they will be in class and those days when they will learn through the virtual platform. This option will require parents and students to sign up for those classes in advance. There are many details that need to be worked out with this option, so information is to come.
I realize that in my original School Reopening Plan, we had students coming onto campus as early as August 10. That plan has changed. Instead, we are electing to take a much slower, gentler approach to reintegrating our students onto the campus. So, until at least at Labor Day (September 7), all students will do Virtual At-Home Learning. Teachers will be in their classrooms producing and streaming their lessons, so you will have a chance to see how they work. The first two weeks will be completely virtual; the following two week period (beginning August 21), we will schedule very small groups of students (by grade and advisory) to come to the campus for orientation. We want the students to get a feel for the campus enhancements, learn more about the protocols we have put in place for their safety, and have a chance to say hello to their friends (from a social distance). Also, it allows the school to iron out any details to improve our protocols and safety measures.
Bill Sinfield, Head of School