Students at Gaston Day School will return to class this week for the first time since March, though it will be far from a normal day at school.
Like many schools in the area, every student will be screened for COVID-19 symptoms before they enter the school, according to Head of School Richard Rankin. Once they’re cleared, students will receive a wristband that says they’ve been screened.
Gaston Day School recently hired a wellness coordinator to facilitate, monitor and record health screenings at the school. If a student were to become ill or show symptoms of COVID-19, the wellness coordinator will supervise the student until a parent or guardian picks the student up.
“She will keep them safe and isolated until they can go home,” Rankin said.
During a typical school day, students won’t see or interact with students in other grade levels to limit the possible spread of COVID-19.
“If we do have someone get sick in one of the grades, they will have not interacted with others,” Rankin said. “We’re broken into cohorts, so it may well be that a grade has to go virtual and go home and not the entire school.”
Everyone at Gaston Day School — except for preschool and elementary students — is required to wear face coverings while indoors, as well as outside if they are closer than 6 feet apart. Young students are only encouraged to wear a covering.
The school will also provide masks to anyone who shows up to school without them.
“We see masks as essential to keeping people safe at Gaston Day,” Rankin said. “We have an ample supply of masks to anyone who needs one or has forgotten one.”
For lower school, teachers will wear see-through face shields, rather than masks, so young students can see the teacher’s face to better communicate.
“The smallest children literally need visual clues from a person’s face as a part of basic communication. As you get older, you become more adept in handling just verbal communications,” Rankin said.
Within classrooms, students will be placed at least 6 feet apart. Physical education classes will be primarily held outside, according to Rankin.
Meals will be delivered to students, and students will eat either outside, whenever weather permits, or in classrooms.
Virtual learning is also on the table for students at Gaston Day School at any point in the semester. For example, a student can choose to come to school Monday but opt for virtual learning on Tuesday.
“If they need to go home, or they choose to go home, they can inform us of that and they have the option of virtual learning at any time during the year,” Rankin said.
Teachers will stream live to remote learners in middle and high school, but elementary students will use pre-recorded lessons to learn from home.
Though demand for private school learning has significantly increased over the last several weeks, Rankin said Gaston Day Schools will be accepting about 25 students less than last year to ensure social distancing is maximized in classrooms.
“The reason is because of space constraints on our campus. As you can imagine, when you spread people out 6 feet, you have a lot fewer students on your campus at any one time,” Rankin said. “If we get it just right, we can get about 485 students in.”
Additionally, Gaston Day School is installing a state-of-the-art air purification system, which Rankin says uses ionization to kill bacteria and viruses.
A first wave of Gaston Day School students begin school Thursday, and the other wave begins Friday.
You can reach Gavin Stewart at 704-869-1819 or on Twitter @GavinGazette.