COVID-19 » Blended@Beacon: Fall 2020

Blended@Beacon: Fall 2020

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 changing circumstances.

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 our individual health, each other, and our community as a whole.

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. In that spirit, 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 Task Force of medical experts, staff, faculty, parents, and board members 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 for our 2020-21 school year.

Returning students will notice many changes 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’re implementing.

Please note that because Beacon Academy’s value of interdependence promotes a culture of mutual care and safety, we will ask you and your students to sign an Honor Code that recognizes our mutual obligations. It will outline new procedures and expectations for following safety rules and remind us all of our interdependence as we enter the new school year.
Blended@Beacon: Academic Schedule
This year, Beacon Academy will engage in a blended learning approach that incorporates in-person and remote learning on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday; and fully remote learning on Tuesday and Thursday. Academic classes will be on a two-week rotating schedule that will provide a routine for structure and commuting. In order to protect the health and safety of our faculty, they will be on-site at the school only one day a week. To accomplish this, our schedule focuses each in-person day on two subjects. Wednesday is Math and Art, for example. Please note that because inhabitants of our building must maintain social distancing at all times, at no time will the entire school body be in the building at once.
Tuesdays and Thursdays will be dedicated to remote synchronous learning (where students are engaged in learning at the same time) and asynchronous learning (students will learn the same material at different times and locations). These days will allow our school building to have fewer people in it to minimize the risk of transmission. Our fall 2020 schedule has been built to allow for an easy transition to fully remote learning should we need to make that switch. Additional IB hours can be scheduled for mornings and afternoons on remote learning days as needed. Students or faculty may also choose the option of 100% remote learning or teaching if and when needed.
Appointments will be built into the schedule for students to meet one-on-one with teachers, learning specialists, a college counselor, or social-emotional counselor. Students who need to “layover” and wait (for an afternoon class, for a sibling, for a ride) will be allowed to do so in designated areas. Due to space limitations, we will only be able to honor a limited number of “layover” students. Please note: Beacon Academy will transition to 100% remote learning between Thanksgiving and the end of winter break when the flu season risk increases. Tentative plans for the second semester will be released at a future date.
Blended@Beacon: Academic Overview
Our academic program ensures that IB requirements are met, accommodates different learning styles, and allows for smaller, socially distanced science labs and collaborative work. Teachers and departments are working this summer to find innovative ways to assign projects and labs that can continue to engage students during remote learning days. Services such as college counseling and learning support will be available to students by appointment every day of the week.
While we continue to work through details, we plan to offer our full curriculum of academic and elective courses, IB requirements, arts, science labs, advisory, community meetings, learning support, college counseling, and social-emotional counseling. (Details, including information on grading and homework policies, class format, small group work, and learning support will be provided in mid-August.)
We are currently evaluating our Grading Policy with the goal of creating a clear and equitable grading policy that motivates and recognizes the work of our students and is accepted by colleges. We are also assessing methods and means of examination in a remote environment and will provide details on both grading and assessment.
Students who need to transition to 100% 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. This summer, we provided Beacon Academy faculty and staff with professional development opportunities focused on remote learning. We've also worked to ensure the technology offers the best possible teaching experience and reviewed learning from our spring semester to enhance our approach to distance learning.

Health & Safety Procedures Overview
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.” 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.
  • Social distancing of 6 feet wherever possible.
  • Extensive cleaning and disinfection throughout the day and overnight.
  • A limit of no more than 50 individuals gathering in one space
Beacon’s plan not only meets, but exceeds all of the minimum requirements and also adds more tiers of protection against viral transmission:
  • Faculty will only be expected for on-campus learning one day per week, with students in attendance three half days per week.
  • Students are required to wear a mask or face shield with a drape while at Beacon Academy. This is very important for the safety of everyone. If they are unable to abide by this practice, an academic equivalent is available through our remote learning program.
  • We have arranged pre-determined and staggered entry and exit times into and out of the building to limit numbers of students in the entry/exit area.
  • The schedule has been designed so that students are not in the building during lunch, however, we will accommodate the few that might need to stay on campus.
  • Beacon will require BOTH symptom screenings or self-certification and temperature verification for all faculty and students.
  • Temperature checks are required for all faculty and students on entering the building daily.
  • Adult visitors will not be allowed to enter the building during in-person school days.
  • We will be using an app that will record entry and exit date and time so that we can do contact tracing if needed.
  • Mask checks will occur on entry to the building to ensure that masks are secure and fitted properly over the nose and mouth with minimal gaps.
  • Hand sanitizing upon entry into the building is mandatory.
  • Sanitizer stations will be installed outside of each classroom.
  • Social distancing of 6 feet as OFTEN as possible is required.
  • Before and after each class, we will ask that desks and high touch areas be wiped down by faculty and students.
  • Before and after each class, we will ask that students and faculty sanitize hands and check masks for proper fit.
  • Daily cleaning in the building will be increased.
  • We have created a dedicated Wellness Suite where sick students can quarantine until picked up.
  • We are hiring a COVID-19 Coordinator who will be responsible for daily screening, management of the Wellness Suite, and COVID-19 related communications.
  • Beacon will supply every staff member with a “kit” which will include a mask, face shield, and goggles.
  • Plexiglass partitions have been installed in strategic places throughout the school.
  • We will restrict and discourage the borrowing or sharing of items.
  • One-way paths are marked in the building and on staircases for traffic flow on entry, exit and between classes.
  • Beacon Academy strongly recommends the flu vaccine and all other vaccines to keep yourselves and others well, and to limit the potential times in quarantine for the community. The CDC, AAP (American Association of Pediatrics), and local health department are strongly urging everyone to get the flu vaccine this year.
Arrival Procedures
Every day before being allowed to enter the building, students will be asked to do the following:
  • Self-screen with our app. The app will assist students to identify possible symptoms, pre-screen to ‘green-light’ which students come to school that day, streamline the building entry process, and assist in contact tracing, if needed.
  • Wear a face mask upon arrival to campus.
  • Attestation and temperature check. All persons entering the building will be asked if they are experiencing symptoms and have a touchless temperature taken.
  • 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 sanitizing station before entering the building.
    Masks As required by IDPH, all individuals in a school building are required to wear a face covering at all times, except while eating, even when social distance is maintained.
  • Students must bring their own cloth 2-ply masks (without one-way valves).
  • 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.
  • Students and staff are required to wear masks covering their nose and mouth at all times while in the school building, with the exception of meals. 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 and inform us of alternative PPE (i.e., a face shield with a drape) that may be utilized and is not medically contraindicated for the student. If a note is provided and no alternative PPE may be used, a student may then be required to utilize the fully remote learning option. This is very important for the safety of everyone.
  • Special circumstances: Our goal is to protect the entire community and therefore, everyone in the building must wear a face covering. An online desensitization program can help those who are sensitive to face coverings. Students who have a physician’s note exempting them from wearing a face covering may wear a plastic face shield with attached fabric that can be tucked into a shirt that creates an impermeable barrier (if not also medically contraindicated). Students are also welcome to opt for fully remote learning in these circumstances.
  • Classrooms, hallway passing procedures, arrivals, and departures are designed to maintain a minimum of 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.
  • Assigned seating may be required.
    Food & Beverage
  • 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.
  • Students must bring their own snacks and avoid sharing. We ask that students bring their own thermal lunch bags if they are on campus over lunch (most students will not need to stay for lunch) as the refrigerator is off-limits.
  • Designated areas with distanced seating will be available throughout the day for a limited number of students at a time.
  • If masks are removed, students must refrain from talking while eating.
  • Ideally, masks are not removed for longer than 15 minutes for eating.
  • 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.
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 will be detailed in mid-August outlining steps to take 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.

COVID-19 Coordinator
We’re excited to announce that we are currently hiring for the position of COVID-19 Coordinator. Beacon Academy’s COVID-19 Coordinator, who will have medical training and be up to date on the latest safety standards, will 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 will train 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.
Detailed Protocols Forthcoming
Following are protocols and policy changes that will be provided in our detailed plan in mid-August:
  • Honor code
  • Infection/Contact Tracing Protocol
  • COVID-19 Exposure Protocol
  • Isolation Protocol
  • Travel Disclosure Form

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.
  • Halls are designated as one-way for safe passing between classes; class changes will be staggered.
  • Science and arts labs will be conducted with fewer students.
  • 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.
Travel is defined as any time spent outside of the city of Chicago and its suburbs.
  • Families are discouraged from traveling out of town to prevent risk to our community and loved ones, many of whom are in the high-risk category.
  • If students do travel out of the country or to areas experiencing significant COVID-19 outbreaks, we ask that students self-quarantine for two weeks and participate in fully remote learning.
  • Beacon Academy will follow advisories about “significant outbreaks” from Johns Hopkins, local and state government officials, and the North Shore Health System, all of which follow the most scientifically reliable data.
Social-Emotional Support for Students and Faculty
No one will argue that these are challenging times for our young people. Our students are not only managing the social isolation of the pandemic, but they are also managing urgent conversations around race and politics that can be challenging even for adults.
We will be working on intentionally and thoughtfully planned social-emotional opportunities to build understanding both through our advisory program and through integrated opportunities throughout our curriculum. Students and faculty will also have the opportunity to meet with each other and our counseling staff as needed in person or virtually throughout the year. We encourage our students, faculty, and families to reach out to any of our faculty or counseling staff if they need support.
Our space has been optimized over the summer with new equipment in each classroom, allowing 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 this fall. With this, our remote learning program is now set up to combine both live streamed classes and fully remote classes. Additional training for both students and faculty will occur at the beginning of the school year. We will continue to use the Zoom platform, along with Google Classroom, and Live Streaming.

Athletics, Clubs, and Theatre Athletics
Beacon Academy will participate in athletics this fall with strict safety protocols in place. Pre-season begins August 10. Students and coaches will be required to wear masks at all times, including during practices and games. Beacon Academy will provide all team members with masks or gaiters, water bottles, and transportation to games. (Parents will be asked to pick up.) Teams will practice Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays to help limit physical contact between teammates, opponents, and outsiders; virtual training will be held on other days. Beacon Academy will participate in outside competition if IHSA-approved. Teams will play no less than six games and no more than eight games in the fall season to limit exposure to outsiders. However, we will encourage more intrasquad scrimmages to keep things fun.
Stay tuned for more information on a Beacon Academy Athletics YouTube channel to broadcast games. (We’ll ask spectators to refrain from cheering on the sidelines and instead to watch from their vehicles or by broadcast.)
Clubs will run virtually for the first 6-8 weeks of school. After that time, we will re-evaluate club programs with safety as our top priority. A club schedule will be available in mid-August. Theatre: Theater offerings this fall and winter will be entirely digital and entirely creative! Our 2020-21 season will include our student-led one-act festival readings, a fall radio play, a digital musical, and our very first spring Shakespeare in the Park. Titles and more information will be coming soon.
October Interim - Fall 2020
Beacon Academy traditionally holds two, week-long interim sessions per year to allow students to explore and deeply engage in various fields of interest. The interim session scheduled for October 2020 will be used to allow for more academic and extracurricular time. An alternative interim plan will be announced at a later date.
Transportation is a necessity and we recognize that for some students the only option is public transportation. We've designed our on-site schedule for travel during off-peak hours, whenever possible.
Student lockers will not be available this fall 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.

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.