COVID-19 Latest Information

St. Stephen’s is committed to providing all our students with an outstanding educational experience for the 2020-21 school year—one that embodies the school’s enduring mission, vision and values. Our top priority throughout all our planning and implementation efforts remains the health, safety and well-being of our students and employees.

Our Decision-Making Process and Criteria

St. Stephen's Administrative Team is working closely with the school's Reopening Task Force, Medical Advisory Committee and Board of Trustees to make all decisions regarding reopening school this fall. Our top priority throughout all these efforts remains the health, safety and well-being of our students and employees, and we are working diligently to minimize risk. The decisions we make in conjunction with these consultative and governing bodies will adhere to Diocesan standards as well as CDC guidelines and official orders from local, state and federal officials.

Reopening Task Force

St. Stephen’s Reopening Task Force guides the school's planning and preparation for the 2020-21 school year, working closely with the Medical Advisory Committee and the Board of Trustees. The task force consists of representatives from nearly every segment of our school, including academic administration, advancement, admission, athletics, dining hall, facilities and grounds, faculty, finance, fine arts, health and wellness, human resources, our international and residential programs, marketing and communications, and IT services.

Task force members are considering the myriad details required to prepare for different scenarios—from health screening, social-distancing protocols and facilities usage, to online teaching, assessment and collaboration tools, as well as daily and weekly academic schedules, and even the length of the fall term and appropriate breaks and holidays.

All of these issues are complex and interconnected. In making its decisions, this task force is drawing upon a range of internal information, including survey feedback from parents and students, as well as best practices from other school districts, universities, and independent and boarding school associations; the latest guidelines from the CDC; and official orders from local, state and federal agencies.

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  • Medical Advisory Committee

    We have established a Medical Advisory Committee that will guide our decision making with respect to a healthy reopening in August and ongoing operations throughout the school year. Head of School Chris Gunnin will serve on this committee along with Gretchen Inman, director of health services; Cindy Stadulis, chief financial officer; and Dr. Kerry Rhodes, school physician; as well as parents Dr. John Abikhaled, a general surgeon currently serving as president of the Travis County Medical Society; Dr. Liz Douglass, an infectious disease expert; Dr. Lauren Ancel Meyers, an expert in integrative biology and infectious disease surveillance and control; Dr. Okey Nwanyanwu, a global public health expert; Beth Ozmun, board of trustees representative; Dr. C. Leilani Valdes ’91, a specialist in anatomic and clinical pathology; and Dr. Leslie Wells, a pediatrics specialist. St. Stephen’s is grateful to all the members of this committee for their assistance in accessing the latest medical information, understanding health policy guidelines and connecting the school to valuable health resources.
  • Protocols for Responding to Positive Cases on Campus

    Updated on Sept. 10, 2020
    In the event that a student or employee on campus is confirmed to be COVID-19 positive based on a positive test result or is presumed to be COVID-19 positive based on a careful evaluation of symptoms, St. Stephen’s will adhere to the following response protocols.
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  • On-Campus Health and Safety Protocols

    Last Updated: Nov. 13, 2020

    Our Reopening Task Force, Medical Advisory Committee and Health Center staff have worked diligently to establish on-campus health and safety protocols for COVID-19.
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  • Contact Tracing

    To bolster our health-related knowledge and resources, a number of St. Stephen’s employees will become certified in contact tracing this summer. In the coming weeks, our nursing team, house leaders, deans and division heads, and athletic trainers will complete an online Coursera class developed by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. We do not expect these employees to serve in an official contact tracing capacity, as we would rely on Austin Public Health officials to perform that service if we should need it. However, the training will give these employees a greater understanding about how COVID-19 spreads at a community level and provide them with strategies and tactics to keep our community members safe.
  • Immunizations and Physical Exams

    St. Stephen’s understands the challenges related to seeing healthcare providers during this time. However, the Texas Department of Health Services has not changed its immunization requirements for school entry. In addition, the American Academy of Pediatrics states that immunizations should not be deferred at this time and highly encourages the administration of the influenza vaccine in addition to those required. All St. Stephen’s students will need to meet these state immunization requirements for the upcoming school year. You may choose to sign your child up for an influenza vaccine to be administered at school in the Magnus Health portal.
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  • Student Insurance Coverage

    Updated on Sept. 15, 2020
    International students or students whose parents live outside the United State are eligible for the school's student health insurance. P
    lease find below valuable information concerning the student health insurance plan coverage as it relates to COVID-19.

    Please note this is not intended to be a comprehensive summary of the benefits/exclusions in the plan. You should refer to the plan summary and brochure/certificate of coverage for additional details.
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  • Counseling Services

    St. Stephen's health and wellness counselors are here to ensure that our school community remains well supported socially and emotionally. We provide counseling, resources and timely tips on ways to create effective coping strategies, realistic life balance and meaningful connections. Through remote counseling, supportive guidance, and virtual discussion groups, we are ready to help as this new school year beginsLearn more.
  • Giving Families a Choice

    St. Stephen’s recognizes that each of our families is unique. We also know that our families have different concerns about their children returning to classes on campus. While the school may be able to resume classes on campus sometime this fall, and some parents may be comfortable with that decision, others may prefer for their children to continue learning remotely from home. Whichever model we start the new year with, we will work with families as best we can to provide an educational experience that honors their concerns. We also recognize that many of our boarding families need to make travel and other logistical plans, and we will strive to make decisions and communicate them as expeditiously as possible so they can plan accordingly.
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  • Remote Learning Survey Highlights

    St. Stephen’s is sincerely grateful to those parents and students who took time to complete the remote learning and living survey we distributed at the end of the 2019-20 school year. Well over 250 students and more than 300 parents completed the survey.

    Following are highlights from the results.
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  • Tuition Payment Options

    St. Stephen’s understands that some of our families have questions and concerns regarding tuition in light of the financial distress and uncertainty caused by COVID-19. We have looked at several solutions to help you manage uncertainty and alleviate stress.
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  • Tuition Insurance

     
    All families are strongly encouraged to purchase tuition refund insurance. The insurance policy will cover 60% of the unused tuition assuming the student attends 14 consecutive calendar days of school. The family will be obligated for the balance (approximately 40% of the unused tuition). All terms and conditions of the tuition refund insurance program are governed by insurance policy documents covering this program and should be read in full by families purchasing this insurance.
     
    Note for families that have purchased the tuition insurance coverage: If we open school in August in a remote living and learning model, our tuition insurance provider is requiring an additional charge for the tuition insurance premium. The school will cover the additional premium charge for the families that purchase the tuition refund plan.
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Coming Soon: We will provide more information about our plans this fall for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion; Chapel and Worship Services, and Learning Specialists.

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  • Remote Learning Resources

    Students can access remote learning resources as well as technical help and tips at Remote Learning at SSES.
  • Major Calendar Dates for 2020-21

    Updated on October 16, 2020

    The major academic dates as previously published still constitute the current plan. The dorms will remain open during the Thanksgiving Break for boarding students who need to remain on campus.

    Plan for Classes after Thanksgiving Break
    School administrators are continuing to work with our Medical Advisory Committee and Health Center team to develop a safe plan for resuming in-person classes after Thanksgiving break. We will still ask our community members to follow the same health and safety protocols, code of conduct and duty to disclose during Thanksgiving week that have been in place since the start of the school year. Students who are able to strictly adhere to those protocols will be able to resume on-campus activities on Tuesday, Dec. 1. (Monday, Nov. 30 is a Teacher In-Service Day with no classes scheduled.)

    Shorter Quarantine + Surveillance Testing
    We are finalizing a plan for those students (day and boarding) who travel on public transportation or gather in large groups lacking safety protocols over the Thanksgiving break. Their return-to-campus plan would include a combination of quarantine and surveillance testing provided by the school during the first week back from Thanksgiving break. (Please note that individuals who come in close contact with a positive COVID-19 case during the break will be required to follow the 14-day quarantine.)

    This plan is based on three assumptions: 1) Austin does not experience a significant surge in positive cases between now and Thanksgiving that results in city orders restricting in-person school programming, 2) we do not have a significant outbreak of positive cases in our school community between now and then, and 3) we are able to build sufficient surveillance-testing capacity by Thanksgiving through the smaller-scale pilot program described below.

    Cost of Surveillance Testing
    While students would not incur the costs of these surveillance tests, they would need to produce two negative test results during the first week back from Thanksgiving break in order to resume in-person activities on campus the following week of Dec. 7. The testing provider we plan to work with will be able to directly bill individual insurance companies for the costs of its tests, or bill the state for the costs in the event that an insurance provider will not cover the test.  

    Building Our Testing Capacity in the Coming Weeks
    In the coming weeks, we will work with the testing provider to implement surveillance tests on a smaller scale in hopes of building our testing capacity by Thanksgiving. This initial effort will entail conducting surveillance tests on cohorts of residential students and employees. This smaller-scale effort will give us the valuable experience and additional level of safety and assurance necessary to safely resume in-person activities on campus following the Thanksgiving break and beyond. 

    In the coming weeks, we also will provide more detailed information about how the quarantine and surveillance testing program will work for the full community beginning the week of Nov. 30. For those students who have decided to continue remote learning between Thanksgiving and our December break, we will continue to support them with outstanding online programming.

    It is possible that the academic calendar may change. We will do all we can to honor the number of days for student learning and vacation time while finishing the school year as published on the current master calendar. We will communicate any changes to this calendar to the entire St. Stephen’s community as expeditiously as possible.
     
     
  • Technology Enhancements

    We are investing in several technology enhancements designed to improve the educational experience for teachers and students whether they are interacting in person or in hybrid or remote-learning environments. These include the installation of video conferencing systems in more than 55 classrooms. This will allow teachers to present richer content while facilitating more dynamic interaction among all participants, wherever they are. Increased wireless coverage will enable us to deliver a consistently higher-quality experience for faculty and students engaging in online learning anywhere on campus. New audio-visual equipment in the Chapel will enrich the experience of our online worship services, as well as those occasions when our community gathers in person for time-honored traditions and sacred rituals, including Baccalaureate and Graduation along with marriages and baptisms.
  • Technology Requirements

    Through our technology requirements, St. Stephen's seeks to accomplish three objectives:

    • Ensure that students can fully engage in academic activities and realize the corresponding learning benefits.
    • Help students build and sustain the strong sense of being connected to our community that is distinctive of the St. Stephen’s Experience and particularly important during times of physical distancing and remote or hybrid learning.
    • Minimize the extent to which students share computers and other devices that could spread COVI
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  • Faculty Professional Development for Online Instruction

    Our faculty have started taking professional development courses offered by Global Online Academy. As I mentioned in an earlier communication, GOA is a pioneering organization committed to helping seasoned classroom teachers adapt their traditional approaches for teaching, collaborating and assessing to the online learning space. At the end of June, more than 50 faculty and academic administrators will have completed a one-week intensive “boot camp” course. By the end of the summer, 100% of full-time teachers and over 90% of part-time teachers will complete specialized training on how to make online learning engaging and dynamic. Teachers, advisors and dorm parents will study a variety of topics—from increasing student agency and voice, to optimizing instructional design in an online environment, to assessing students for understanding and mastery. Two of the overarching goals for our partnership with GOA are to figure out the best ways to: 1) nurture community-mindedness in an online classroom and 2) motivate students to embrace new kinds of academic and intellectual activities. We are confident that these efforts will yield innovative and exciting learning experiences for our students this fall.

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  • Arriving On Campus

    Using a Phased Approach to Welcome Boarding Students to Campus
    As you are aware, St. Stephen’s has invested a significant amount of time, energy and resources to prepare for a safe and orderly opening of school this fall. However, Austin’s medical community is currently experiencing significant stress due to the high level of confirmed local cases of COVID-19. As a result, we have developed a phased approach that will allow groups of boarding students to return to campus for the school year in a staggered manner. The timing of this phased approach is based on the current plan to begin the school year on August 25 in a remote learning and living model until at least September 8. All boarding students returning to campus will engage in remote learning while on campus until such time as governmental authorities determine that on-campus instruction is allowable and the school believes it is safe for all students, boarding and day, to engage in a less restrictive learning model.

    The school sent a survey to all boarding families regarding your plans to return to campus. Please complete that survey as soon as possible.
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  • Travel and VISA Issues

    We will work with residential students on a case-by-case basis to try to resolve any Visa issues resulting from the COVID-19 situation if students are not able to get back to campus or back into the U.S. this fall because of travel restrictions, or if F1 Visas become invalid during the time that students are out of the U.S. over the summer holiday.
  • What additional details do boarding students need to know about returning to campus in January 2021?

  • What additional details do residential need to know about returning to campus in January 2021?

    Updated on Dec. 14, 2020:
    Following are additional details about the plan for boarding students to return to campus in January after the Winter Break.
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Address: 6500 St. Stephen's Dr., Austin, TX 78746
Phone: (512) 327-1213