Schools share common goals of excellence, safety and in-person studies for students
CLARK COUNTY — As public schools around the county plan for a 2020-2021 school year steeped in COVID-19 uncertainty, private schools are also facing similar challenges, but with some new strategies.
On June 11, the Washington state Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) and State Superintendent Chris Reykdal released guidelines for having in-person instruction at schools in the fall. Many private schools in Clark County, including King’s Way Christian, Seton Catholic and Cornerstone Christian are hoping to have robust in-person classes.
“We are emphatic about student safety and student well being,” said King’s Way’s Superintendent Dr. Jason Tindol. “I know that student safety and student well being may not be the same to every single parent. So we have to kind of distinguish between what the science is showing and what we are mandated to do and then make good decisions based upon the well being of our students.”
Tindol said they are hoping to be open for students and families that are comfortable with learning on campus. Personal protective equipment, such as masks will be mandatory, per OSPI and Governor Inslee’s newest mandate on the face coverings.
When asked about the requirements by the state, Tindol was clear that King’s Way will comply with whatever they are asked to do.
“I am not interested in going to war with the government,” he said. “I’m not interested in going to war with the public schools. We’re all in this thing together. I just think that we are different, and so because we’re different, we can make decisions that maybe in many ways are positive for us. But in some ways it could even be negative for us.”
At King’s Way, an online learning platform was launched at the beginning of the 2019-2020 school year. It has obviously become much more critical to operations, Tindol said. The schools are now upping their game for the fall with new technology to make learning online even more robust.
Swivel cameras will track teachers as they move about their classroom, giving them more room for creative online learning activities with students while still conducting in-person instruction like normal.
“Our online Academy is not here just for the pandemic,” Tindol said. “We’re actually strategically planning to have two schools in the future and that is our online academy which will continue to grow over the next three-to-five years probably exponentially. King’s Way is reimagining itself.”
King’s Way has also conducted several surveys with parents and staff over the course of the past year which have impacted their online academy structure. Many families and staff are not fully in favor of an online academy, but did see the merit of the resource and still support it.
At Cornerstone, Principal Mike Hoff outlined his school’s approach to the fall in an email to parents earlier this month. Cornerstone intends to be fully open without the requirement of masks, but with social distancing. The email went out prior to the governor’s mandate requiring face coverings, so the schools stance could likely change.
“We will have a plan in place that encompasses wisdom, common sense and clear health guidelines,” Hoff wrote. “Our highest priority is the health and well-being of our students and staff. We will practice many of the already used protective measures at CCA such as regular handwashing, the use of hand sanitizers, and rigorous cleaning processes every day after school. Kids will still go to recess and eat lunch together. We believe it is important to get our kids back to their normal routine while also practicing protective hygiene.”
Cornerstone families will receive updates in mid-July and again on Aug. 1. Their distance learning program will be for third-through-eighth graders, and will cost the same as on-campus tuition. King’s Way will be offering discounted tuition for their online academy students’ families.
At Seton Catholic, online learning has been a component for several years, and the school of just over 200 students is in a good place to easily meet all social distancing guidelines, according to Principal Dr. Robert Rusk.
“Our number one goal is to get everybody, because we’re small enough,” Rusk said. “We’re going to try to pull off in person and just limit 12 to 15 in a classroom, again, using social distancing. I think we’re pretty close to really thinking outside the box. We bought robots, as well, just to ensure that we can, if someone’s at home because they’re sick, and they need to be quarantined that they could remote-in and still see live instruction. I do not see us being [exclusively] online unless we have to.”
Right now, Seton Catholic staff is working on what their master schedule will look like, with Rusk checking in with families every two weeks. Rusk explained that the school’s subcommittee for things relating to COVID-19 has members in the medical field and they will be working with public health officials to make informed decisions. The school has not decided what their stance on mandatory masks will be, he said.
“People are scared and people are nervous, and it’s important that schools take the approach of educating people on our stances as opposed to defending ourselves against our stances,” Tindol said. “We’re not going to be defensive. We’re going to just have a spirit of empathy because we know people are scared. We’re going to have a spirit of education because we know people are receiving just all sorts of conflicting information.”
Many schools, including Seton Catholic are currently offering virtual tours of the campus for prospective students and their families. For more information on each of the schools and distance learning, virtual tours and updates on the fall, visit the respective sites below.