It has been three weeks since I last updated the community and, during that time, we have continued to monitor the spread of the coronavirus and the corresponding reactions of our state and local governments. We have also continued our conversations with other independent schools and school associations to determine best practices. As such, I feel confident stating North Cross School will open its campus to students on September 8th, unless barred by the state government. We plan to do this with a disciplined and accurate COVID-19 diagnostic testing regimen in place that will allow us to reopen as safely and as normally as possible.
On Tuesday, Governor Northam outlined the steps all schools must take to be able to open their campuses this fall. There is a three-phase process for re-opening in the fall. All schools and public school systems are currently at Phase One which allows for very limited contact between schools and students. Phase Two allows students from ECP-Grade 3 to return to campus while older students must still attend school via distance learning. Phase Three allows all grades to return to campus with appropriate steps taken to mitigate potential spread of the virus. Each step requires an application to be made to the Virginia Council for Private Education (VCPE), the organization that was designated by the Commonwealth to monitor all private schools; independent, Catholic, or Christian.
We expected, and appreciate, a conservative approach to reopening schools that ensures the safety of our faculty and students and, in response, we have developed detailed plans for social distancing and an increased ability to disinfect classrooms using electrostatic foggers. Of greatest importance, we have formed a partnership with Helix, one of the world's largest clinical exome sequencing laboratories that has added COVID-19 testing during this crisis and has a core competency of testing accurately at scale. North Cross has developed a comprehensive testing regimen for our school population that will allow us to test our school population before school starts and then help identify and isolate cases of the virus in our community and protect us against the possibility of being forced to close campus in the event we have positive test results. There will be many more details to share in the future, but the test can be self-administered with a nasal swab (under nurse supervision) with accurate results 24 hours after test is received by Helix. I believe this testing regimen, combined with additional recommended measures for preventing the spread of disease places us in a unique position for reopening our campus on schedule.
Not to be confused with the phases required to reopen school in the fall, our Governor has also indicated that we are now in Phase Two in our general reopening process. This has allowed us to reopen our campus offices and the Carter Athletic Center on a limited basis and to plan for ECP summer camps and daycare.
Administrative offices - We have reopened the main administrative offices on campus and are operating with summer hours (9:00am-3:00pm). When on campus and not involved in athletics, we ask that you wear a face mask.
Athletic facilities - We have opened our pool for the use of the Marlins and the Carter Athletic Center for use by renters. We regret we are not able to open the Carter Athletic Center to general membership but construction precludes easy entrance and exit. North Cross coaches are not allowed to coach North Cross students until we receive permission from VISSA, our athletic governing body. To do so places student eligibility at risk.
Summer programs - We will begin with Discovery Camp on Monday, July 6th. Discovery Camp and Awesome August which follows, are both designed for students between ages 3 and 10. Where appropriate, we are also offering a number of athletic camps this summer. Information for all of these camps is available on the summer activities tab of the school website. Availability may be limited because of social distancing restrictions.
ECP summer program - From July 27 through August 21 from 8 a.m. until 11 a.m., we will offer at no extra cost to current North Cross ECP students, an ECP Summer Session designed to focus on early literacy and numeracy skills. Newly enrolled 4 and 5 year-old students may attend for a fee.
Construction - Construction continues on campus and when school opens on September 8th, students will be greeted with an inviting and transformed campus. A newly renovated Upper School has been upgraded with new floors, new walls, new furnishings, new heating and air systems, new windows and new laboratory and computer equipment. Down the hallway, they will enter our new Hancock Library and enjoy meeting and studying in our spacious and comfortable Student Center. All of us will appreciate having traffic out of our campus center, improved drop off and pick up patterns, and easier “in and out” parking spaces.
Throughout the summer we will continue to update the community on any changes we make in the daily routine to remain consistent with best practices. We will do our best to keep things as familiar as possible but I imagine that some changes in drop off/pick up, school assemblies, and lunch format will be inevitable.
Because we plan to open as scheduled on September 8th, the enrollment contract will become binding effective July 1, 2020. If you have any questions about our continuous contract, please refer to the FAQs previously published. Also, to provide additional reassurance to our school families, specifically for those students enrolled as of July 1st, we would expect the school to offer a tuition credit in the event that we are forced by the pandemic to move to a distance learning posture for a large part of a semester. Although we are proud of how our faculty, staff, and students have risen to the occasion, we recognize it is just not the same student experience. This credit would be intended to reflect the extent to which we can match our academic program via distance learning for the duration of our campus closure. Most importantly, however, we believe we are taking key steps to avoid that event.
Again, we will begin the Fall Semester as planned on September 8th, on campus, and look forward to seeing everyone.
Christian J. Proctor, PhD
Dr. Proctor is the ninth Head of School at North Cross and has served as such since 2011. He has more than 30 years of experience in education. He has served as headmaster at Porter-Gaud School in Charleston, South Carolina, St. Martin’s Episcopal School in Metairie, Louisiana, Grace Episcopal School in Monroe, Louisiana, and as Interim Headmaster at Wesley Academy in Houston, Texas. In each location, Dr. Proctor’s tenure was marked by creativity, innovation, and school growth.