Nothing says more about a school’s trustworthiness and stability than how it functions during a crisis—especially when the crisis is a global pandemic. In March 2020, when Florida schools were ordered to close, there was no “playbook” on how to respond.
However, we had already written and begun executing our own. The results:
- We experienced only a handful of confirmed student cases and no “community spread” during the entire 2020-2021 school year;
- We achieved our primary goals:
- To safely open at the start of the school year and remain open for in-person classes the entire year to provide students the best learning experience; and
- To give families a choice between learning in the classroom or via live distance learning;
- We remain at the leading-edge of pandemic response in schools, and we readily share what we’ve learned with peer schools, so they can better support their own communities.
We're proud that our preparation and hard work allowed us to remain open for in-person classes all year—safely providing families a stable, robust school experience when they needed it most. We believe this continuity contributed to the stellar high school acceptance rates our 2021 graduating 8th grade class achieved: Of those planning to attend a private high school in 2021, 92% were accepted to their “first choice.”
Current 2021-2022 Plans
For 2021-2022, we will continue many of our highly successful COVID-19 safety measures. However, we intend to remove the sneeze guards over the summer and end the indoor and outdoor face covering mandate before the children return in August. (Any student wishing to continue to wear a face covering at school is more than welcome to do so.)
We believe the current data, experience, overall situation, and best interests of the children all merit these actions. However, we will continue to monitor the situation and will adapt, as needed. Additionally, we strongly encourage all members of the school community to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.
WE PLANNED CAREFULLY AND MOVED SWIFTLY. Because we have a culture of continuous improvement, we were preparing before it became apparent that schools would need to close. We quickly formed a COVID-19 Task Force that included physicians, faculty, administration, and parents. We designed a detailed Safe Entry Plan to ensure we could provide in-person learning when the next school year began.
WE EXERCISED AUTONOMY AND INDEPENDENCE. Our school size, culture, and the support of our engaged parent community allowed us to make decisions in the children’s best interests—without political considerations or bureaucracy. We believe children’s academic, social, and emotional wellbeing are best served when they are in school. We opened the 2020-2021 school year with a comprehensive approach that offered families:
- A choice to learn on campus or participate in class live from home
- Counseling to help each family make the best choice for their child
Most families chose to return to in-person teaching, trusting that we had their children’s best interest in mind. And by the end of the school year, all but a few had returned to class.
WE COMMUNICATED TRANSPARENTLY. Ongoing, timely, and detailed communication assured our school families and neighbors that we were responsible and responsive members of the Tampa community. Throughout the pandemic, we have regularly communicated our approach, its results, and the safety measures we are taking.
WE INVESTED IN EDUCATIONAL CONTINUITY AND COMMUNITY HEALTH. We went above and beyond to safeguard students and employees, and to protect the integrity of the educational experience—which is why we were able to open—and remain open the entire year. We partnered with Tampa General Hospital on COVID-19 testing and worked closely with health agencies on contact tracing and quarantine procedures. We monitored CDC guidelines for schools and adapted, as necessary. We added a nurse practitioner with extensive experience in infectious diseases and invested heavily in resources to promote learning—in the classroom and the living room—such as:
- Virus-mitigating resources, like HVAC system air filtration, air purifiers for every classroom, and sneeze guards on every desk.
- Educational resources, like software and training to help teachers engage remote students, the PikMyKid app to improve the efficiency and safety of carline, iPads for every student and teacher, and ClearTouch® interactive displays.
WE SAW A CRISIS AS AN OPPORTUNITY. We embrace any opportunity to adapt, innovate, and evolve in ways that see our school emerge even stronger. We adapted our teaching methods almost overnight, and—with our parents' support— invested in innovative technology that allowed us to further “throttle up” each child’s educational experience.
Everyone in the St. John’s community—parents, supporters, faculty, staff, administration—stood shoulder to shoulder to ensure that St. John’s could continue to shape the lives and futures of the children entrusted to our care.
It was a challenge unlike any we’ve faced in our lifetimes—and we faced it together, successfully.