Shift To Dial Stop Three
a message from Dr. Bill Hudson, Head of School
November 13, 2020
Last spring, when learning shifted to virtual, I made a promise to this community: We will all come together, as Panthers, and be our best—our most innovative, our most engaging, our most creative, our most kind, and our most hopeful, all the while prioritizing the community’s health and safety.
That’s exactly what we’ve done. And we’ve seen great success because of it. We have had no on-campus transmission. Our health and safety protocols are working. Internally, things are strong and stable, in large part because we have come together, as Panthers. Unfortunately, the external COVID-19 metrics that we monitor closely have taken a dramatic turn for the worse. Projections indicate that there is no relief in sight.
In partnership with the administrative team and members of the Community Advisory Group, I have made the difficult decision to proactively transition our community to dial stop three: PreK on campus, K-4 on campus in cohorts, 5-12 in virtual school.
We will do our part by committing to this short-term adjustment so that we may navigate this high-risk period and return to campus as soon as possible. By making this change now, it is more likely that we will be able to return to dial stop two on January 20, the start of quarter three in Middle and Upper School. Our model is working, so there is no reason to believe that we cannot return to it when this spike subsides. I want to be very clear that this shift is not related to any on-campus transmissions.
I know you have questions. We’ve tried to address those below. If you have additional questions, please contact your division director or email firstname.lastname@example.org and your email will be routed to the most appropriate person. In addition, I encourage you to attend your division’s Town Hall meeting next week (see links below) where we will address frequently asked questions that arise between now and then.
Together, I have absolutely no doubt that this school community will emerge from these challenging times stronger than we were before.
If you have any symptoms, test positive, or have been exposed to COVID-19, please email email@example.com immediately.
At this time, MPA’s dial is on stop three with Lower School on campus each day in a cohort model and Middle and Upper Schools in synchronous virtual school. This decision is based on a number of criteria, including multiple data-driven metrics and has been made in consultation with our medical advisors, Community Advisory Group, and Board of Trustees.
The image above is MPA's dial, designed to reflect the learning environment the school is currently in, or will be in, when in session next. It contains four main scenarios and illustrates there are options between the main scenarios. As a private, independent school, we have more flexibility than public school systems, thus we have more possible scenarios.
Prioritizing the unique needs of Lower School children, a cohort model at MPA is one that keeps groups of young students together and limits their movement on campus. This would be used as a protective safety measure.
This is used to describe learning in which some, but not all, traditional face-to-face instruction is replaced by virtual learning activities. For example, during hybrid learning at MPA, Middle and Upper School students would be on campus for the learning activities that are most successfully done in person.
The hybrid learning option at MPA would reduce the number of students on campus. This allows for greater social distancing, a key protective safety protocol. The small class sizes that we enjoy allow us to start from a lower density position.
Similar to how it was implemented this spring, virtual school will vary by division. With a focus on maintaining routines and meeting families where they are, learning under this model would continue to be rigorous, reliable, and joyful.
PreK-12 On Campus With Safety Measures In Place
This will be possible when COVID-19 metrics improve.
PreK-4 On Campus In Cohorts, 5-12 In Hybrid Learning Model
The MPA dial will move to this scenario if COVID-19 metrics worsen at the state or local level and/or MPA community spread occurs. MPA has the flexibility due to campus and class size to keep PreK-4 on campus in cohorts due to the unique learning and childcare needs of Lower School families and welcome students in grades 5-12 on campus on a rotating basis.
PreK-4 On Campus In Cohorts, 5-12 In Virtual School
The MPA dial will move to this scenario if COVID-19 metrics worsen significantly and/or MPA community spread occurs. This is a more restrictive hybrid scenario designed to further reduce the density on campus and prioritize the unique learning and developmental needs of our Lower School families. It may be possible for MPA to use this scenario while public schools are only able to be virtual.
PreK On Campus, K-12 In Virtual School
The MPA dial will move to this scenario if COVID-19 metrics continue to worsen and the Governor orders all schools in virtual learning. This would be a shelter in place type situation. The State of Minnesota would likely allow childcare centers to remain open, which is why PreK may remain open, as a licensed childcare center.
Scientific evidence from public health experts and the MN Department of Health indicates that risks to students and staff can be kept low if schools adhere to strict control measures and dynamically respond to potential outbreaks. While there is never a “zero risk” scenario, we strive to achieve low risk through layered protocols that can adapt to the uncertainty of this pandemic.
MPA will continue its focus on layered protection, shared responsibility, a commitment to equity, being flexible, and erring on the side of caution. Planning and adaptation will continue throughout the school year as we react to the dynamic changes occurring in our school and local communities. Teachers educate students on the importance of these protocols, provide ample opportunities to practice these safety strategies, and shepherd students in a positive and non-threatening manner throughout the school day.
Families were asked to sign a pledge prior to the start of the school year, committing to health and safety measures at home. Click here for that pledge.
If you have any symptoms, test positive, or have been exposed to COVID-19, please email firstname.lastname@example.org immediately.
All of these preventative safety protocols are in place.
All of these preventative and protective safety protocols are in place.
All of these preventative and protective safety protocols are in place.
Coming to campus looks a little bit different. Just as soon as we are able, we will loosen restrictions. Alternative plans are in place for choir and ensemble classes and lunchtime, for example.
More specific information will be shared as it becomes available from the MSHSL, the IMAC, and the CAA (Catholic Athletic Association), which coordinates our Middle School athletics.
These should be done every morning before arriving at school and every evening.
Take your child’s temperature. If it is higher than 100.0 degrees, do not enter campus.
Answer the following checklist questions. If you answer yes to any of these questions, do not enter campus:
Begin your screening routine at least 14 days prior to August 26 and continue screening during breaks and temporary closures.
The school has contracted with a safe and confidential safety screening app company to make this process simple and easy for your family. The week of August 10, your family received a "Welcome to the AUXS Safety Screening App" email that will guide you through the installation process. The screening app will work on any smartphone and will send you reminders and notifications to help you remember to complete the screening. You will complete the screening for each of your students through the guided questions provided through the app. Your responses will be recorded and provided to MPA seamlessly, as well as your green light to bring your student to campus, or your red light to stop and contact the school for next steps. Click here for more information about the AUX Safety App.
To aid in establishing this routine, we ask families to begin screening students 14 days prior to the start of school to identify any possible exposures or symptoms.
If you have questions about this screening process, or if you need to report possible symptoms or exposure throughout the school year, please email email@example.com.
Teach healthy hygiene.
Teach and encourage MPA's health protocols.
Practice respiratory etiquette.
The extended MPA community is one of its treasured hallmarks. We have made the difficult decision to restrict access to the school for parents and outside visitors. Campus access may change and will vary depending on the MPA dial and other community spread factors. If and when parents and visitors return to campus, they will be expected to follow all school-established protocols while on campus, including physical distancing, screening, and mask-wearing.
Please note: If needed, parents of our new Lower School students for the 20-21 school year will be permitted to accompany their child through the screening process and inside the building for the first week of school to acclimate and orient them to their new environment.
As the state of Minnesota continues to reopen and expand access, we would like to encourage you to consider how your student and your family could participate in what we’re calling quasi-quarantine before the first day of school. Fourteen days is an important period for COVID-19 exposures, because this is the length of time someone who has been exposed to COVID-19 might have before they begin to experience symptoms of their own infection. Please consider limiting potential exposures to others who may be asymptomatic carriers of the virus during this crucial period.
This is also the right time to teach and reinforce new practices that will be important in the upcoming school year, including: purchasing and practicing mask-wearing, handwashing techniques, respiratory etiquette, and preparing them for the changes they’ll experience coming back to campus such as physical distancing, new signage helping them to stay safe, staggered arrival and screening, among others.
MPA will continue to monitor domestic and international travel advisories and considerations when determining who may enter campus in order to prevent community transmission. MPA may require students or staff to quarantine themselves if out-of-state travel occurs to states or areas with high or increasing rates of transmission, or for international travel to places identified as high-risk travel advisories. No restrictions are in place at this time, although MPA encourages all families to err on the side of caution when traveling a minimum of 14 days prior to the start of school, and to notify the school of any airplane or travel to states with increasing community transmission rates.
Adult-sized or standard sized masks may be too big for K-5th grade students, or smaller faces of older students. We recommend trying different types and sizes made for your child’s age and size. Many masks you might buy online for adults may not fit our younger students. Their mask should fit over their nose and to their cheekbones, and the bottom of the mask should cover below the chin, but not be hanging.
How To Safely Wear Your Mask
Guidance For Buying A Mask For Children
MPA Alumnus-Owned Love Your Melon Face Masks
Physical distancing: MPA is committed to six-foot physical distancing among students, faculty, and staff.
K-12 wear masks: It is recommended families find the appropriately sized mask for their children, to have several masks available, and to wash them frequently according to Minnesota Department of Health guidelines. For any student or staff member with an underlying health issue or sensory sensitivities, face shields may be utilized as an alternative protective layer.
Home health screening: These will be completed by all employees prior to entering campus.
Student health screening: These will be done upon arrival of school, including taking temperatures and asking screening questions.
Frequent hand washing and sanitizing: There will be scheduled and structured opportunities for students and staff.
Smiles, waves, and thumbs-ups: MPA teachers and staff will replace hugs, handshakes, and high-fives temporarily.
Training: Training will be provided for students, parents, and employees.
Limited campus access for visitors: This will be combined with enhanced screening procedures for essential one-time visitors.
Just as important as being mindful of your student’s and family’s possible exposures during this period before the start of school are the ways you can support reinforcing these changes and preparing your students mentally and emotionally. MPA is also pleased to share enhanced mental health and social supports for all students in the upcoming year, including:
One of the challenging aspects of the presenting symptoms of COVID-19 is that they often present with other types of illness, allergies, or other health problems as well. After consultation with the MPA Community Advisory Group, and other medical and epidemiology experts, MPA has developed the following symptom response, reporting, and testing strategy for the upcoming school year.
We recognize every community member at the school has a dual wish of continuing the high-quality educational opportunities families have come to know and expect, while also maintaining health, safety, and wellness for themselves and others. MPA seeks to implement screening and physical distancing expectations with a focus on health, safety, and compassion for all.
Key Definitions and Details
Screening: Questions asked of students or visitors related to the known symptoms and potential exposure to a confirmed or suspected case of COVID-19. Screening also often includes temperature checks. MPA will be conducting temperature check screening onsite for all students, employees, and campus visitors and asks families to complete twice daily screening and temperature monitoring at home as well.
Symptoms: Individuals with COVID-19 have a wide-range of symptoms from mild to severe. These symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure to the virus, which has driven the testing and quarantine protocol MPA has developed. The current symptoms list includes:
If a student or staff member exhibits any of the symptoms listed in the screening protocol, they must not return to campus until they have been symptom-free for 48 hours and have received a negative COVID-19 test. MPA has a robust plan in place to respond and isolate anyone who begins experiencing symptoms while on campus, with a focus on preventing additional spread, and an empathetic and caring response for the individual who is impacted.
Testing: Two kinds of tests are available for COVID-19: viral tests and antibody tests.
Antibody testing is more uncertain at this time, and in consultation with our planning team and medical professionals, MPA will not be requiring or asking families to undergo antibody testing. An MPA student or staff member is required to obtain a negative COVID-19 test result or doctor’s release to return to school if symptoms occur or if they have been exposed to a confirmed case.
Quarantine: An individual is asked to quarantine when they have been identified as a “close contact” of a confirmed case of COVID-19. A close contact is defined as any person who was within six feet for longer than 15 minutes (regardless of whether masks were worn) of someone with a positive or presumptive positive COVID-19 test or had direct contact with infectious secretions of a person diagnosed with COVID-19 (e.g., being coughed on, shared utensils, kissed, etc.). Based upon the public health guidance at the time, any close contacts of a positive test may be required to quarantine for 14 days and/or document a series of negative COVID-19 tests.
Isolation: If a community member has a positive COVID-19 test, documentation of the minimum of 14 days of home isolation is required prior to returning to campus. The revised COVID-19 Student Absenteeism Policy will be implemented based upon a student’s unique learning needs, level of symptoms and sickness, and if they are able to complete schoolwork during the isolation period. All MPA families and staff must report a confirmed or suspected case of COVID-19 in their immediate family within 24 hours and as quickly as possible.
Community Spread: According to the Minnesota Department of Health, community spread means people have been infected with the virus in an area, including some who are not sure how or where they became infected. Each health department determines community spread differently based on local conditions. Learn more about community spread in Minnesota here.
Community Mitigation: The Minnesota Department of Health defines Community Mitigation activities as actions that people and communities can take to slow the spread of infectious diseases, and prepare for it if it occurs, including COVID-19. Community mitigation is especially important before a vaccine or drug becomes widely available. MPA is committed to its robust health and safety protocols to keep our own community safe, and to promote community mitigation strategies.
Response to Confirmed Cases: If a case has been confirmed of an MPA community member who has been on campus, MPA will coordinate the appropriate response and contact tracing with state and local health officials from the Minnesota Department of Health.
Privacy and Confidentiality: All personal or identifying information related to MPA’s response to COVID-19, including screening, protocol, contact tracing, and community notifications will be kept confidential. MPA community members have a right to privacy, and certain data points outlined above must be collected for the health and safety of the entire community. Screening data will not be shared with outside third parties. Contact tracing procedures will take into consideration the necessary information to be shared with public health officials support MPA should an outbreak occur. MPA has identified specific steps during the screening, symptom identification, and contact tracing process to ensure the privacy and confidentiality of community members during this pandemic.
For more information about MPA's Symptom and Case Response procedures, please click here.
If you have any questions about the above, test positive, or have been exposed to COVID-19, please email firstname.lastname@example.org immediately.
Enhanced facility cleaning and sanitizing: Includes sanitation for shared supplies between use, three times daily cleaning of all spaces, including high-touch items such as doorknobs, light switches, and other common use items.
Proper ventilation: MPA has the recommended negative return room ventilation model and will be utilizing outdoor classroom spaces, open doors and windows as often as possible and weather permitting. The air in each space of the building is completely circulated two to three times per hour, which is far beyond the recommended frequency.
Revised traffic flow: The use of signage, carpet stickers, and employee oversight, students and staff will maintain altered and staggered traffic patterns in the hallways and other shared spaces. Each division’s students will have access to certain parts of the building and the use of common areas will be restricted.
Revised use of social spaces: Shared campus spaces may be converted to accommodate large classes’ physical distancing requirements, for storage, and to ensure proper cleaning protocol can be implemented every day.
Disinfection: This includes shared objects and spaces between uses. Students will also be provided separate supplies when possible.
Move class outdoors: This will be done whenever possible, weather permitting.
Avoid large groups and gatherings: This includes orchestra, band, and choir classes and concerts. Small group ensembles and individual instruction will replace large-group classes.
Limit student movement: This includes moving between different classrooms and keep class groups as distinct and separate as possible.
No matter what this school year holds, the program at MPA is designed to be a seamless extension of the care we always provide our students, families, and community. It’s not only rigorous and reliable, it’s also engaging and infused with joy from beginning to end.
Planning for the 2020-21 school year began on April 7 by the Board of Trustees and the Administrative Team. A Teacher Task Force was created to draw upon the expertise and experience of our exceptional faculty to formulate proposals that respond to the unique pedagogical and developmental needs of learners at each grade level and division. At the same time, the Administrative Team consulted with other independent schools in the United States and around the world, the National Association of Independent Schools, the Independent Schools Association of the Central States (our regional accrediting agency), and with state and local public health officials to create a plan to bring all students on campus as soon as we are safely able.
MPA has also formed a Community Advisory Group comprised of members of the larger MPA community with medical, public health, higher education, government, and legal experience. The purpose of the group is to review recommended steps and regularly provide insights, suggestions, and best practices considering their personal connection to the school and their professional areas of expertise.
Community Advisory Group
Dr. Emily Binstadt '91, Regions Hospital, Emergency Medicine Physician
Jeremy Drucker '97, State of Minnesota, Public Affairs Consultant
Kevin Goodno, Fredrikson & Byron, PA, Attorney & Shareholder
Dr. Courtney Herring, Children’s Minnesota, Pediatric Hospitalist
Dr. Kurt Keogh, Allina Health, Emergency Medicine Specialist
Maurice Kuypers, Retired 3M, Global Business Manager, MPA Board of Trustee
Caroline Portoghese, Handi Medical Supply, Inc., Director of Rehab Operations
Matt Larson, City of St. Paul, Chief Innovation Officer; University of St. Thomas, Adjunct Faculty; MPA Board of Trustees Chair
Martha Burton Santibanez, Minnesota Department of Health, Assistant Division Director, Health Regulation Division
Brett Schreiber, Hennepin County, Senior System Software Engineer
Suzanne Schwartz, Hennepin County Medical Center, Director of Operations
John Willis, Carleton College, Associate Professor of History, Director of Africana Studies
Prioritize the health, safety, and well-being of our community.
Alignment with government orders and the guidelines of the Minnesota Department of Health.
Advance the continuity of learning.
Promote the social and emotional health of our students and, faculty, and staff.
Bring all students on campus as soon as we are safely able.
Focus on flexibility and nimbleness as the external circumstances change.
Honor the whole child education approach in arts, athletics, academic areas.
Transparent and frequent communication.
Unique pedagogical responses based on appropriateness for each developmental stage, PreK-12.
Please direct your questions to email@example.com or your division director.
How is dial stop three different than dial stop two in Lower School?
Dial stop three will fully utilize and maximize the cohort model for Lower School—this model will allow all Lower School students to remain on campus longer than Middle and Upper School students due to the unique learning and developmental needs found in Lower School. Cohorts will be strictly defined by grade level and be maintained during specialist classes, lunch, recess, hallway movement, bathroom breaks, and arrival and dismissal. Additional details about the cohort model at dial stop three will be shared at the Lower School Town Hall Meeting on Tuesday, November 17 at 7 PM as well as in writing next week.
How safe will it be for my child to continue to be on campus?
By further reducing the density on campus by having Middle and Upper School shift to virtual learning, the exposure risk will be further reduced on campus. Additional layers of health and safety protocols will be instituted as described above. Health screenings, mask wearing, etc. will continue in earnest and more information will be coming about an additional pledge that we will ask families with children who are on campus to sign.
May I choose to have my child transition to virtual learning?
Yes. Please email Renee Wright, Lower School director, at firstname.lastname@example.org no later than Thursday, November 19. Mounds Park Academy believes it is in the best interest of Lower School students to be on-campus and receiving in-person instruction, but this is a family decision.
Will Panther Club continue?
Yes. Panther Club will continue to be open to students before and after school as grade level cohorts. Panther Club will provide a safe place for students by following strict safety protocols. Students may continue to arrive as early as 7:15 AM and can remain in the program until 6 PM.
What does 100% virtual school look like at MPA in Middle and Upper School?
Students will continue to follow their regular schedules and meet as a class, in real-time. The rigor, joy, and engagement will continue. In addition, great care will be taken to tend to students’ social and emotional health. This is of utmost importance to all of us at MPA.
When and how will my child receive the materials he or she needs to shift to virtual school?
Materials pick-up details will be communicated next week.
Will MPA continue to offer the option to attend virtual school on campus for Middle School students?
Yes. Please email Jenn Milam, Middle School director, at email@example.com to request this service no later than Thursday, November 19. If you are using this service now, it will need to be re-requested. Requests will be considered on an individual basis as the move to dial stop three means that we must be very mindful of density on campus. Health screenings, mask wearing, etc. will continue in earnest and more information will be coming about an additional pledge that we will ask families with children who are on campus to sign.
Will activities and athletics continue?
We are working to determine what activities and athletics may continue and this will be communicated next week, pending decisions by the IMAC and MSHSL. In the meantime, all activities and athletics will continue as planned.
Will I receive a refund for lunch and transportation?
Yes, you will receive a refund for the days that lunch and transportation were not used in the quarter.
Why do Middle and Upper School faculty need a day to prepare?
Making a shift from hybrid learning to fully-virtual learning requires a depth of rethinking and re-tooling lessons and activities that were previously planned for dial stop two. Friday, November 20 will allow teachers the space to recenter the curriculum to accommodate full classes of virtual learners, assignments that now must be done entirely virtually, and put into place practices and expectations for school in the coming weeks. The day will allow faculty to be fully-present and prepared for Virtual Learning on Monday, November 23.