COVID-19 » Blended@Beacon

Blended@Beacon

INTRODUCTION

Beacon Academy offers an innovative and challenging education based on Montessori principles that places a priority on experiential learning, entrepreneurial thinking, and in-depth interdisciplinary studies. Beacon Academy students will master the skills, knowledge, and habits of mind necessary to meaningfully contribute to a complex and diverse world with compassion and confidence.
 
The attached plan, based on best practices from top medical institutions and independent school organizations, is designed to do what Beacon Academy does best: deliver an outstanding secondary education experience while supporting our students’ social-emotional development. This plan also incorporates vital health and safety considerations and accommodates the changing and dynamic pandemic situation. Our ultimate goal is to optimize a meaningful educational experience while keeping our community as safe as possible.
 
Community Commitment & Interdependence@Beacon Family Commitment
Beacon Academy's value of interdependence promotes a culture of mutual care and safety. We recognize that our strength as a community depends on the wellbeing of each individual member. Therefore, we ask you and your families to do all you can to follow the health and safety guidelines that will keep our students, faculty, staff, and loved ones safe and healthy during the COVID-19 pandemic. Students who choose to return to campus must abide by our health and safety expectations to help us mitigate the risk of COVID-19 in our school. This should be understood not as curtailing freedom, but rather as committing to be responsible to ourselves, each other, and to our community as a whole. Thank you for your ongoing patience and support as we work through this historic time together.
 
We will ask all families to recognize our mutual obligations by signing our Community Pledge. This outlines procedures and expectations for following safety rules and indicate understanding of the seriousness of our health and safety policies. Students and families who do not feel comfortable adhering to or signing this document will be asked to use our fully remote learning option.
 
We will proactively engage with students who are having trouble following the rules to ensure they are aware of our safety protocols, understand the concept of community interdependence, and ensure they have appropriate PPE. Repeat violations will not be tolerated and students will be asked to leave the building or consider fully remote learning.
 
Travel & Quarantine Recommendation
Beacon Academy’s determination of “hot spots” will follow the same criteria used by the City of Chicago, suburban public health departments, and the Illinois Department of Public Health ( IDPH). Metrics for determining hot spots are based on cases per 100,000 people per day.
 
BLENDED@BEACONACADEMY OVERVIEW

Whether Beacon Academy students choose the 100% remote learning option or the Blended@Beacon approach with in-person and remote learning, all will have access to our full curriculum of academic and elective courses, IB requirements, arts classes, science labs, advisory, community meetings, learning support, college counseling, and social-emotional counseling.
 
While participating in hybrid in-person learning, students who need to transition to fully remote learning can do so at any time because we have provided all classrooms with webcams to conduct synchronous learning with students who are off-site. We've also worked to ensure the technology offers the best possible teaching experience and have incorporated what we learned from spring semester online teaching, in order to enhance our approach to distance learning. 
 
Grading Policy
Beacon Academy will continue to use the mastery grading scale, and in the 20-21 academic year, will complete the move to a 7-point grading scale. This change is being made to better reflect our mission and values, to promote clarity and equity in grading and assessment, and to align our Montessori pedagogy with our IB and experiential, competency-based curricula. We feel that this is the best way to motivate our students, recognize their work in a real-world manner, and communicate our students' accomplishments and growth to colleges. Going forward, the classes of 2022, 2023, and 2024 will receive grades and a final transcript on a scale of 1-7, where 7 is High Mastery, 6 is Mastery, 5 is High Proficiency, 4 is Proficiency, 3 is Developing, 2 is Rudimentary, and 1 is No Credit. The descriptors for each of these categories will be revised to align with the philosophy of mastery assessment. To avoid disruption to their transcripts, the class of 2021 will receive grades and a final transcript calculated on the 100-point scale, where 90-100 is Mastery, 80-89 is Proficiency, 70-79 is Developing, 60-69 is Rudimentary, and less than 60 is No Credit. Blended@Beacon will continue to use both formative and summative assessment; as part of their remote learning professional development, faculty in each department have been working on the provision of discipline-appropriate assessment tools. Each course will continue to provide a clear and equitable account of how grades are calculated as part of course materials.
 
BLENDED@BEACONACADEMY ACADEMIC SCHEDULE

Students will follow the same master schedule of class times for both fully remote learning and for the Blended@Beacon program of partial in-person and partial remote learning. This allows the school to maintain community across both hybrid and fully remote students, keeping their learning synchronized regardless of how they are accessing and experiencing their courses and maintaining our commitment to flexible learning that meets learners where they are.
 
Blended@Beacon Schedule
The Blended@Beacon schedule balances the safety of the community with Beacon's ongoing commitment to rigorous material, individual growth and self-efficacy, and adolescents' need to learn in a social environment. This schedule will maximize time for in-person learning with safety for all and provide time for cleaning and disinfecting the building. Academic classes will allow for appropriate physical distancing by only having half the community in the building at any given time. 

Wednesday with either schedule allows for familiar all-school and group activities like Focus, Community Meeting, additional IB HL and IB Core hours, small group gatherings, learning support and the BeWell@Beacon program.
 
TECHNOLOGY

Our space has been optimized with new equipment in each classroom to allow for both the best possible in-class engagement and live streaming. We know that some portion of our student body will be engaged in 100% remote learning at all times. With this, our remote learning program is now set up to combine both live streamed classes and fully remote classes. We will continue to use the Zoom platform, along with Google Classroom and Live Streaming.
 
SOCIAL-EMOTIONAL SUPPORT FOR STUDENTS AND FACULTY

Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) is the process through which students and adults understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive habits, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions. It is foundational to teaching and learning at Beacon Academy, and - in our Montessori environment - one that prioritizes interdependence and equity and inclusion. We recognize the complex ways our community members are experiencing the pandemic and the ways it has exposed and exacerbated existing inequities in our community and society at large. In response, we are strengthening our SEL competencies and support structures to broaden our definition of what learning is and where it takes place. Our goal is to create a more inclusive and equitable learning environment and community.
 
Our curriculum will also continue to emphasize social-emotional learning. With a Montessori foundation, students understand our interrelatedness and interdependence by engaging in shared routines and responsibilities, prioritizing connection and compassionate listening, demonstrating grace and courtesy, and creating space for stillness and reflection. They will continue to understand interdependence through intentional conversations about how to navigate blended learning. Beacon Academy's thoughtful structures -- Advisory Program, Community Meeting with mindfulness moments, FOCUS, and extracurriculars -- promote supportive adult-student and student-to-student relationships. They ensure that every student has multiple connections within our community.
 
While we do not know what the future holds, we commit to creating a brave space at Beacon Academy where we challenge ourselves to expand our understanding of society and the world. Current events have put systemic inequities at the forefront. How do we examine and engage these important topics while upholding the commitment to maintain a safe environment for all students? An important component of SEL is building social awareness and perspective-taking skills like empathy building, appreciating diversity, and respect and dignity of others. As such, Beacon Academy’s Equity and Inclusion work remains always-in-process, student-directed, intergenerational, and rooted in equitable practices that aspire toward justice. This year we will continue to provide curricular and extracurricular space for our community to examine ourselves and the history we’ve inherited, to listen to each other, ask questions when we don’t understand, and change our behaviors, policies, and procedures for a more just and equitable school environment. Faculty and administrative staff will continue professional development so that we can support all of our students and their families as we all grapple with the vital questions of our day.
 
As always, Beacon Academy will continue our student and family wellness efforts. Our current objective is to assess the social and emotional needs of our students, families and educators, in order to understand the impact that social isolation has had on the way we re-engage and reconnect as a community. Our student support staff will provide mental health, trauma, and learning support resources. Families are encouraged to reach out to our student support staff with any concerns related to students’ mental health or learning support needs.
 
 
IN-PERSON LEARNING AND MANDATORY HEALTH PRECAUTIONS
 
Transportation
Beacon Academy has always left transportation decisions up to families and will continue to do so, with the option to make day-to-day or semester-long decisions about whether to engage in remote learning.
 
We recognize that many Beacon Academy students regularly use public transportation. We've designed our on-site schedule for travel during off-peak hours, whenever possible. 
 
Like Beacon Academy, Metra and CTA have put safety policies in place to reduce transmission of the virus. The Metra has added more cars to encourage social distancing, and porters are walking the cars between stops to remind people to stay distant. For more information, visit their websites at metrarail.com/coronavirus and transitchicago.com/coronavirus.
 
Arrival Procedures
Whenever students come to campus, they will be asked to do the following before being allowed to enter the building:
 
  • Self-screen. Before leaving home, self-screen by filling out the short survey on the Evive app.
  • Face mask. Wear a face mask upon arrival to campus.
  • Temperature check. Pass through the touchless thermal scanner to ensure absence of fever.
  • Mask check. The supervising adult will check each student’s mask to ensure it is fitted correctly and sealed over the nose and mouth.
  • Apply sanitizer. Students will apply sanitizer at the entry touchless sanitizing station upon entering the building.

Pre-Screening
App
The Blended@BeaconAcademy app from Evive is designed to identify which students are ill, streamline the building entry process, and assist in contact tracing if needed.
 
All students are required to fill out a short app survey before leaving for school to determine their health status. If students are cleared to attend school, the app will show a green arrow. The app is free of charge, and a short “how to use the app” training video has been sent to community members before school starts.
 
Masks and Other Face Coverings
As required by IDPH, all individuals in the school building are required to wear a face covering that covers the face and nose at all times, except while eating, and even when social distance is maintained.
 
  • Students must bring their own cloth 2-ply masks, although 3-ply masks are now encouraged. No masks with exhalation valves are allowed.
  • Disposable masks will be available for those who forget their masks or for mask malfunctions during the day.
  • Masks should not contain messages that distract from the educational environment.
  • Please wash masks daily, always beginning the school day with a clean mask.
  • Beacon Academy’s face covering rule is mandatory. A physician, physician assistant, or Advanced Practice Nurse may provide a note indicating any medical reason for which a student is unable to wear a mask. The only acceptable alternative PPE for Beacon Academy is a plastic face shield with a drape that can be tucked into a shirt to create an impermeable barrier. If a note is provided and no alternative PPE may be used, a student will then be required to use the fully remote learning option. This is very important for the safety of everyone.
  • An online desensitization program can help those who are sensitive to face coverings. Students are always welcome to opt for fully remote learning in these circumstances.
 
Physical Distancing
  • Classrooms, hallway passing procedures, arrivals, and departures are designed to maintain a minimum 6-foot distance between students at all times.
  • Classroom desk layouts as well as gathering areas will offer pre-arranged seating facing the same direction and signage to ensure distance requirements are met.
 
Food & Beverages
  • Students are encouraged to bring their own reusable beverage containers.
  • Water fountains will be for bottle filling only.
  • We are unable to offer on-site or off-campus lunch options at this time.
  • If masks are removed for eating, students must refrain from talking. Ideally, masks are not removed for longer than 15 minutes for eating.
  • Students must bring their own snacks and avoid sharing. The kitchen and refrigerator are off-limits.
  • For snacks, designated areas with distanced seating will be available throughout the day for a limited number of students at a time.
  • Students will be asked to wash or sanitize their hands before and after eating, and before and after taking off and putting on their masks.
 
Lockers
Student lockers will not be available this year for safety and distancing reasons. Students should bring only what they need for classes each day, and take home all their belongings at the end of each day. They will be able to safely store their belongings next to them during in-school time.
 
HEALTH & SAFETY PROCEDURES

Safety First
In-person schooling and peer-to-peer connection for our students are important, but safety is the thread that will bind our community together. Therefore, whether students are in the building or in small groups outside, we ask all in our community to closely follow our safety guidelines.
 
In the spirit of safety, Beacon Academy’s health and safety systems will go far beyond minimum official requirements and employ a wide array of protective measures. Our COVID-19 Medical Advisory Team has offered expertise and consulted with a wide range of local and national medical and educational experts. The result is a comprehensive safety program that strives for the cleanest and safest possible environment and practices.
 
Many changes have been implemented in addition to social distancing, mask requirements, and frequent cleaning. New entry and exit procedures, updated socially-distanced classroom design, traffic flow coordination, and increased disinfecting routines are just some of the changes we implemented.
 
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC), American Association of Pediatrics (AAP), and local health departments are urging everyone to get the flu vaccine. We strongly recommend that your families get the flu vaccine and any other necessary vaccines. Let’s keep our community as healthy as possible, and limit any potential community quarantines that would disrupt in-person learning.
 
Overview: A Conservative Approach
Beacon Academy is committed to following proper precautions and training, and creating environmental conditions to greatly reduce the risk of disease transmission within the school. A combination of a thorough screening process and an assumption that “anyone can have COVID-19 at any time” is the basis of our goal of “enhanced safety.” While on-site learning will always carry some risks, we are putting as many safety measures in place as possible. As of today, the minimum requirements for reopening schools, per ISBE (Illinois State Board of Education) and IDPH (Illinois Department of Public Health), are:
  • Use of appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE), including face coverings.
  • Symptom screenings or self-certification and verification for all staff, students, and visitors before entering the building every time.
  • Physical distancing of six (6) feet wherever possible.
  • Extensive cleaning and disinfection throughout the day and overnight.
 
Beacon Academy not only meets, but it also exceeds, all minimum requirements and adds many more tiers of protection against viral transmission:
  • Mandatory weekly COVID testing for all faculty and students opting for in-person learning.
  • Installation of air filtration units in all classrooms and community spaces.
  • Beacon Academy has supplied every faculty and staff member with a kit containing a mask, face shield, and goggles.
  • Students are required to wear a mask or face shield with a drape while at Beacon Academy. An academic equivalent of 100% remote learning is always available.
  • All students will go through a mask check on entry to the building to ensure that masks are secure and fitted properly over the nose and mouth with minimal gaps.
  • Beacon Academy has a supply of disposable masks available for students whose masks malfunction or if they occasionally forget to bring a mask.
  • Beacon Academy’s new COVID-19 Coordinator will ensure all safety protocols are carried out, including daily screening, management of illness and isolation, interfacing with local health officials, and ensuring the community is continually updated on safety issues.
  • Students will fill out a survey on our Evive app before coming to school. As students arrive, the app will record entry and exit date/time for contact tracing, if needed.
  • Beacon Academy requires BOTH symptom screenings or self-certification and temperature checks for all on-site faculty and students. A thermal scanner will take temperatures at the entry.
  • Students with a fever or who are ill will be escorted to our dedicated Wellness Suite for quarantine until transportation home.
  • After mask checks, students will sanitize hands with a touchless hand sanitizer.
  • One-way paths are marked in the building and on staircases for traffic flow on entry, exit and between classes.
  • The building will be cleaned professionally during the day and by our staff during on-campus learning days. The building will be cleaned every night.
  • Hand sanitizing at entry to the building is mandatory.
  • Touchless sanitizer stations are installed outside each classroom. Students and faculty will check masks for proper fit and sanitize hands when they enter and leave.
  • Before and after each class, students will clean their work areas and faculty will clean all high touch areas.
  • The borrowing or sharing of items is discouraged. Any materials that must be shared will be sanitized before a new person uses them.
  • Physical distancing of 6 feet as OFTEN as possible is required.
  • Plexiglass partitions have been installed in strategic places throughout the school.
 
Coordination with Evanston Health & Human Services Department
We have been working with the team at Evanston Health & Human Services Department (EHHSD), who have confirmed Beacon Academy meets or exceeds all requirements and guidelines for public health and safety. EHHSD monitors local, regional and surrounding regional data and will communicate with Beacon Academy if they have new recommendations.
 
COVID-19 Coordinator
Aminah McBryde-Redzovic, Beacon Academy’s COVID-19 Coordinator, will be up to date on the latest safety standards, and ensure our school meets and exceeds health standards set by epidemiology experts and local, state, and federal entities. In addition to assisting in carrying out our new safety procedures, the COVID-19 Coordinator has trained all faculty and students on safety measures, manage wellness checks at the building entry, oversee our Wellness Suite, conduct protocols for ill community members, track pandemic trends, consult with local health officials, train our community in our safety protocols, and advise the school as conditions change based on the latest scientific research and expert recommendations.

If A Student Is Ill
Anyone reporting COVID-19 like symptoms or who has a temperature over 100.4ºF will be escorted to the Wellness Suite and assisted in arranging a return home.
 
Protocols and isolation procedures for our community
We have a number of safety protocols in place if a student or community member tests positive for a COVID-19 infection or is exposed to a person who has tested positive for COVID-19.
 
Response to a confirmed positive COVID-19 case at Beacon Academy:
  • Building cleaning and use of common areas per our usual protocol.
  • 24-hour closure of room(s) used by a COVID-19 positive individual. If possible, wait 24 hours before cleaning people access the room.
  • Contact identification and tracing implemented by Beacon Academy and EHHSD
    • EHHSD will be notified of EVERY positive case and will contact-trace for Evanston residents or enter the case into a database to alert “home Health Department” for follow-up for a non-Evanston resident.
    • EHHSD will help Beacon Academy determine if multiple cases or more widespread transmission suggest a need to go fully remote.
  • Quarantine is recommended for all those with close contact. Close contact is defined by CDC as someone who was within 6 feet of an infected person for a cumulative total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period starting from 2 days before illness onset (or, for asymptomatic patients, 2 days prior to test specimen collection) until the time the patient is isolated.
 
Isolation/Quarantine Protocol and Return to School Policy
(Policy for a number of possible scenarios is outlined below)
  • A symptomatic individual with a positive COVID-19 test should stay at home and remain in isolation for for 10 days from symptom onset AND at least ONE day after fever resolution without fever-reducing medication (if fever present) AND improved respiratory symptoms.
  • A symptomatic individual who was not tested for COVID-19 should stay home and remain in isolation for 10 days from symptom onset AND at least ONE day after fever resolution without fever-reducing medication (if fever present) AND improved respiratory symptoms.
  • A symptomatic individual determined to have an alternate cause of illness by a medical provider should stay home until symptoms of the diagnosed illness are resolved/no longer considered contagious. Beacon Academy will require documentation from the treating provider, including a clear statement that they are not concerned about COVID-19 illness.
  • A symptomatic individual/child with COVID-19 test negative should stay home until without fever for 24 hours without fever-reducing medication (if fever present) AND improved respiratory symptoms (if present).
  • Any community member exposed to an individual who is COVID-19 positive (less than 6 feet apart for greater than 15 minutes, regardless of mask) outside of school OR meeting quarantine criteria at Beacon Academy should follow the guidelines below:
    • If the community member becomes symptomatic: stay home and quarantine until criteria above is met.
    • If community member remains asymptomatic: stay home for 14 days from last exposure.
  • It is appropriate to get tested 5-7 days after exposure (for the purposes of contact tracing). Please inform Beacon Academy of any positive test and extend quarantine to 10 days from date of positive test. If the test is negative, please complete the 14 day quarantine.

Facility Changes to Increase Safety
The school has been transformed in these important ways to help keep our community safe:
  • The building can accommodate a total of 120 students at a time; the school schedule has been changed to ensure this limit is not exceeded.
  • Filters have been replaced with ASHRAE (American Society of Heating Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers) recommended MERV-13 level filters for capturing airborne viruses.
  • Entry/exit process: the entry space has been reconfigured to allow for one-way traffic in and out of the building and outfitted with a thermal scanner.
  • Doors have been fitted with tap-in entry and touchless exit features.
  • Halls are designated as one-way for safe passing between classes; class changes will be staggered.
  • Plexiglass barriers have been installed in high traffic areas.
  • The building will be cleaned thoroughly at night, along with increased cleanings throughout the day.
  • Students will be asked to clean their desks after every class.
  • Sanitizing stations will be set up around the school. Students will be asked to sanitize hands before and after each class.
  • Only one student will be allowed in bathrooms at a time.
 
FINANCIAL & OTHER HARDSHIPS

Families and students who are experiencing financial, technological, or other hardships during this difficult time are invited to reach out to us. In this way, we can better support your students and fulfill our wish to be a supportive and caring community.
 
QUESTIONS?

There will never be a perfect solution and there will always be questions. We don’t have all the answers yet but will continue to provide updates as we get new information. You can find answers to frequently asked questions here or under Beacon Academy’s website in the COVID-19 section.