In preparing for the start of a new year, schools typically look for opportunities to improve their academic, athletic and fine arts programs and enhance their extracurricular offerings. Toss a global pandemic into the mix, and preparing for the safe return of students requires a whole new level of campus planning.
Fortunately, St. Stephen’s administrators, teachers and staff spent the summer reimagining every aspect of the campus experience to ensure we could welcome students back to a safe and healthy school environment.
Preparations for the reopening of school in August began back in the spring. In addition to creating a focused reopening task force, we established a medical advisory committee comprised of nurses and doctors, infectious disease and global public health experts, and pediatricians. Further, a number of St. Stephen’s employees were certified in contract tracing by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Collectively, these dedicated professionals helped identify and inform the many strategies and tactics employed throughout the summer to ready the campus for the safe return of students, faculty and staff.
New health and safety enhancements to our physical campus and structural procedures include:
Information boards with COVID-19 symptoms were posted at the guard station at the entrance to campus.
Hand-sanitizing stations were added to the entrances of school buildings and in classrooms.
Additional picnic tables were set up outside the Kathryn Respess Crossroads.
Classrooms were redesigned so that desks and work stations are physically distanced from one another. Occupancy of classrooms will be governed by the 45-square-foot per-person standard.
Health and safety signs were posted to building and classroom doors, reminding students to wear face masks, wash their hands frequently and stay a safe distance from others.
Six new canopies will be erected to cover new outside seating areas across campus, including three by the Upper School and three below the dining hall by the Middle School.
Dining hall seating was reconfigured according to safe distancing guidelines, and additional outside seating areas were added.
Sneeze guards were put in place around the dining hall servery and dining area to inhibit the spread of disease.
Study spaces in the library were reconfigured according to safe distancing guidelines.
A number of special air-purification systems were installed in high-traffic buildings around campus.
A total of 21 separate quarantine/isolation spaces were established on campus. These include new stand-alone living units installed near Clayton Gym, as well as a refurbished Advancement/MarCom trailer (next to the Health Center), which was reconfigured into student living quarters.
Our custodial team will use four new electrostatic sprayers to routinely clean high-traffic indoor spaces throughout the year.
Water fountain drinking spouts were replaced with water bottle fillers for added safety.
“St. Stephen’s has taken extraordinary measures to promote the safety and health of all students and employees this school year,” said Head of School Chris Gunnin. “Although we cannot completely control every aspect of our environment, we believe we have made enhancements to our campus and facilities that will help keep our community members as safe as possible.”