Looking Ahead: COVID 19 and the 2020-2021 Year
Dear Oak Grove Families,
I want to begin with a thank you to everyone who provided feedback on the first “Looking Ahead” post. Oak Grove is designed to be a supportive community of homeschool families, so it’s always good when we hear from our members. Additionally, we’ve enjoyed a strong response to the board survey that was posted on June 11. The information gathered from you will help the board of directors and staff shape policy and plans for the coming year.
In the spirit of our cooperative community, I want to share our plans in progress. My goal is to be completely transparent. Please know that many more details will be coming over the next several weeks. Our board, staff, and other volunteers are working on this every day. Know also, that we are in a climate that may necessitate amending, changing, adding, and subtracting from these plans. I continue to invite your input on what we are doing and we’ll do our best to update everyone as we go along.
Before sharing our latest plans, I want to be clear about the underlying principles shaping them.
First, Oak Grove remains focused on its mission:
Desiring that our children reach their maximum, God-given potential, we are a supportive community of homeschool families seeking to give our children a rich and full education through the best of classroom and homeschool instruction.
If you’re normal, you probably just skimmed over the long sentence in italics above. Please read it again. It can be broken down like this:
We are aiming to serve our children (reaching their full potential).
We are aiming to help each other (as a supportive community).
We are aiming to give classroom and homeschool instruction. (Classroom instruction is a hallmark of our homeschool program.)
Our mission clarifies what we are trying to do in this season of pandemic. Obviously, our educational model is affected by COVID-19. However, our mission remains the same and we are striving to accomplish it in a dynamic way. This means, while there will be changes to our programming due to the pandemic, we will strive for stability and the fulfillment of our mission.
Second, even as our plans are shaped by circumstances, our attitudes must be shaped by God’s Word.
I am not trying to be personal or political here. Perhaps it helps to hear from the Lord himself:
“Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Phil 2:4).
“So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets” (Matt 7:12).
“You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matt 22:29).
We may not all agree on the best way to respond to COVID-19, but the Lord is commanding us to love one another AND even to look out for what the other person wants or needs (Phil 2:4 above). So as we strive to fulfill our mission, we are working to accommodate the needs of around 150 families. It is important for us to look beyond ourselves and remember our aim to be a supportive community.
Some of our families have members who are at high risk if they contract COVID-19. In addition to our own plans below, “looking out for the interests of others” means we ought to do all we can to limit the spread of COVID-19 even outside our interaction with one another at the co-op. There may be things you can accomplish outside our facility that we cannot do here, but that will help minimize everyone’s risk. Let’s go the extra mile in limiting the spread of this virus.
Plans for Dynamic-Stability
Dynamic-stability means we will include appropriate health-safety measures, openness to adjusting our academic calendar, potential extended periods of at-home-only education, and potential online instruction in planning for the 2020-2021 year. However, along with this dynamic approach, we will strive to be as “normal” as possible. Due to the rapidly changing nature of the pandemic, some decisions will be intentionally and purposefully postponed. However, other plans are coming together and I’m happy to share them with you. Note these plans are in light of the pandemic and will be adjusted when the pandemic ends or as additional information is made available by local, state, and federal health advisories.
Affected Operational Policies at Oak Grove
Staying Home When Appropriate
Students and staff will stay home from Oak Grove when they have had close contact with a person who has COVID-19, if they have tested positive for or are having symptoms of COVID-19, have a fever of over 100 degrees, or two or more of the following symptoms: fever or chills, cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, fatigue, muscle or body aches, headache, new loss of taste or smell, sore throat, congestion or runny nose, nausea or vomiting, diarrhea. (See “Returning to Oak Grove after Displaying COVID-19 Symptoms” below for more details based on CDC guidance.)
Screening Questions During the Pandemic
Anyone entering the building during the pandemic (staff, students, parents, visitors) must answer the following screening questions:
Have you been exposed to anyone with COVID-19 or tested positive for COVID-19?
Do you feel sick today in any way? If so, what are your symptoms?
Do you have a temperature above 100 degrees?
Isolation of Sick Students During the School Day
Oak Grove will have an isolation room for students who become sick during the school day. Entrance to this room will be limited to necessary staff. Parents of sick students may enter through a special staff monitored entrance and exit with their children to take them home. Students and staff will wear masks in the isolation room.
Drop-off in the Mornings
Beginning 20 minutes before their scheduled start-time, elementary, middle, and high school students will be dropped off in a carline. Students (and/or their parents) will be asked screening questions and must affirm they have checked their temperature that morning. (NOTE: Students with a fever of 100 degrees or greater may not enter.) Oak Grove will make temperature reading available for parents who are unable to do this at home. After answering the screening questions and affirming a healthy temperature, students will be escorted by staff to their classrooms or homeroom. Students will be asked to wash their hands immediately before or after entering the room.
Special Access Drop-off
Parents who must enter with their children (for example, parents of younger children, those who must meet with a teacher before class, attend necessary meetings, volunteer, etc.) may park and enter after answering screening questions and affirming a healthy temperature.
Pick-up in the Afternoon
Parents will use a carline to pick up students when classes end in the afternoon. Rather than gathering together in a large group, students will remain in their classrooms until called to go out to their cars. Special access pick-up will not be available in the afternoon, because the building and bathrooms must be closed by 2:50 PM.
Lunch at Oak Grove
Until the pandemic ends, students will eat lunch in their classrooms at Oak Grove. Classrooms will be disinfected before and after lunch.
Cleaning and Disinfecting at Oak Grove
Oak Grove is evaluating professional cleaning recommendations for staff implementation in our facility. The goal is to use materials that promote maximum health safety for students. Once we have our plan and materials in place, at a minimum, we will do the following:
Staff will disinfect/clean rooms before and after lunch.
The building and bathrooms will close at 2:50 PM for cleaning/disinfecting. Note that there will be no admittance to the building after that time.
Cokebury’s facilities team will also complete routine cleaning and disinfecting throughout the day.
For clarity, this is a follow up to our previous communication about a potential COVID-19 vaccine. Oak Grove will follow applicable Tennessee State Law on this issue. For those vaccines that are required, the law currently allows for medical and religious exemptions. State law does not currently require vaccination for COVID-19, but the State government can create a requirement for COVID-19 vaccination if a vaccine becomes available.
Policies for Students and Staff with COVID-19 and/or COVID-19 Symptoms
Returning to Oak Grove after Displaying COVID-19 Symptoms
If a student or staff member has been sent home or stayed home with COVID-19 or COVID-19 symptoms, they may return to Oak Grove after meeting the following guidelines:
If untested: Testing is not mandatory, but Oak Grove requires persons who have not received a test proving or disproving the presence of COVID-19, and who are experiencing symptoms, to remain out until all three of the following conditions are met:
He/she has not had a fever for at least 72 hours (that is no fever without the use of medicine that reduces fevers); AND
Other symptoms have improved (for example, when your cough or shortness of breath have improved); AND
At least 10 calendar days have passed since the first symptoms appeared and he/she has been released by a healthcare provider. .
If tested: Those who experience symptoms and have tested positive for COVID-19 may return if the following conditions are met:
He/she no longer has a fever (without using medicines that reduce fevers); AND
Other symptoms have improved (for example, when your cough or shortness of breath have improved); AND
At least 10 calendar days have passed since the first symptoms appeared and he/she has been released by a healthcare provider.
If tested with no symptoms: Persons who have not had symptoms but test positive for COVID-19 may return when they have gone 14 calendar days without symptoms and have been released by a healthcare provider.
Siblings and Other Household Members
If a student or staff member is excluded from the co-op due to COVID-19 symptoms or has had a positive COVID-19 test, his or her siblings (or other students living in the same household) will also be excluded from school and asked to remain out of our classroom program until that family member meets the above requirements to return to school.
If There is A Confirmed Case of COVID-19 in Oak Grove’s Facilities
When there is confirmation that a person infected with COVID-19 was in the co-op buildings, Oak Grove will contact the Knox County Health Department and take their guidance as advice on determining a course of action. Those that have likely been exposed to the infected person will be immediately isolated until they are able to be evaluated or picked up from school. Oak Grove will follow recommendations from the Health Department and CDC for when these students may return to school. Any areas where the infected person was will be restricted until they are thoroughly disinfected.
Oak Grove will notify parents of students who may have been exposed and isolate these students. The individual who tested positive will not be identified in communications to the school community at large.
Introducing Oak Grove’s Remote Programs
I am pleased to announce Oak Grove’s new Remote Programs! These programs are available in three levels that provide an increasing amount of support for homeschool families. Pricing and many more details are coming soon (in a separate post), but here is a snapshot of what’s in the works:
Level 1: ($500 per grade level.) Families who use this level receive the Oak Grove Syllabus and curriculum list.
Level 2: ($900 per grade level.) Families who use this level receive the Oak Grove Syllabus, curriculum list, available consultation with Oak Grove staff, and membership on the Oak Grove websites and forum.
Level 3: ($1,400 per grade level.) Families who use this level receive the Oak Grove Syllabus, curriculum list, available consultation with Oak Grove staff, membership on the Oak Grove forum, and limited co-op participation for parent and student such as:
Participation in Parent In-Service and Workshop days
Participation in Parent Support Meetings and Social Events
Participation in Student events - academic and social (Back-to-school Bash, country parties, Christmas program, science fair, history fair, spelling bee, student photos, yearbook, field day, fund-raising events, game nights, etc.)
COVID ClosureAdjustments for Remote and Core Program Families
If Oak Grove is forced to close due to COVID-19 or a similar event, our remote programs will continue. Level 1 will remain unchanged, but Levels 2 and 3 will move into special closure mode. Our core program will become Remote Level 4. Here’s a rough description of what levels 2 through 4 will look like in this circumstance:
Level 2: (Price remains the same.) Families who use this level will still receive the Oak Grove Syllabus, curriculum list, membership on the Oak Grove websites and forum. In closure mode, Level 2 families will be able to consult with Oak Grove Staff via Zoom, email, and phone.
Level 3: (Price remains the same.) Families who use this level will still have access to the Oak Grove Syllabus, curriculum list membership on the Oak Grove forum, available consultation with Oak Grove staff via Zoom, email, and phone. In closure mode Level 3, families will have weekly access to online social events for students (e.g. - games, chapel, open forum, clubs) and a consistently scheduled, one-hour parents Zoom meeting with the classroom teacher.
Level 4 - COVID-19 Closure Adjustments for Core Families (There will be a tuition reduction for Core families who must go into Level 4. This is yet to be determined, but the goal is to make this as affordable as possible.)
If Oak Grove is forced to close it’s classroom program for COVID-19 or a similar circumstances, then every core family will receive our Remote Level 3 services (above) plus the following:
Teachers will hold consistent, scheduled, live, interactive classes on your normal “at co-op” days. The length of these high-quality classes will be age and subject appropriate. Classes will be scheduled between 8:00 AM and 4:00 PM.
A consistently scheduled, one-hour parents Zoom meeting with your child’s classroom teacher.
Online social events for students each week (e.g. - games, chapel, open forum, clubs).
Individual meetings and support by appointment with your classroom teacher.
An adjusted syllabus to accommodate at-home-only homeschooling.
Administrative and academic support from the co-op principal and assistant principal via Zoom, email, and phone.
Biblical counseling for students and parents from the co-op principal via Zoom or phone.
NOTE: Oak Grove will start the year with a new website that has teacher pages. All remote and online content will be posted on or linked from one user-friendly, simple teacher page per class.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here is a list of FAQs you may find helpful.
Will hand washing be encouraged at Oak Grove?
Yes. Absolutely! We will teach, encourage, and practice hand washing often.
Will student use of the Oak Grove playground be monitored?
Yes, we will create a schedule and will not have more than two classes at a time on the playground.
Will students and staff be required to wear masks to attend?
Students and staff may wear a mask, but this will not be required (unless by government order). If you want to know if your teacher is planning to wear a mask, please contact the office.
Will students be required to maintain 6-feet social distancing?
We are not able to accomplish our program in the space we have and maintain 6-feet social distancing.
What are Oak Grove’s plans if a temporary or long-term closure is required?
See “COVID-19 Closure Adjustments for Remote and Core Program Families” above.
Will there be tuition adjustments if Oak Grove is forced to go completely online for an extended period of time?
Tuition adjustment must be attached to cost adjustments. As a non-profit, Oak Grove already keeps costs low. Discounting tuition can only be accomplished with reduced rent and payroll costs. Plans are being developed to do this, if need be, but it is a serious action that we prayerfully hope to avoid.
Are class sizes being adjusted?
No. Our classes are already small compared to many schools.
Will classes only be for half-days?
We will do this if needed for the safety of students and staff or if required by the state. However, our day is only six hours long. There is little apparent benefit to shortening the day by a couple of hours.
As mentioned above, our board, staff, and volunteers are working to flesh out the details of the points above, but I wanted to make sure you knew at least this much as you plan for the Fall. I also want you to consider this an invitation to remain part of the process by reaching out with your feedback and additional ideas. We’ve all noticed the prominence of the phrase “we’re all in this together.” Interestingly for us at the co-op, that’s always been the way we operate. We are doing this together and I appreciate every one of you for making Oak Grove such a wonderful place for the kids.
Stephen St. John