Fall FAQs: COVID-19, Distance Learning, and More
These FAQS were last updated August 5, 2020. This is a rapidly changing situation and our responses to these questions are subject to change. Families will be notified of any changes to these FAQs
*An asterisk denotes a question that was asked by a parent in one of our two Parent Forums on July 15, 2020.
Learning formats, regression, intervention, scholarships, general anxiety, etc.
What learning formats or options are available for the 2020-2021 school year?
Julie Billiart Schools strongly believes (and research supports) that children with learning differences benefit from an in-person, highly-personalized approach to education. In our 2020 End of Year Satisfaction Survey, nearly all of our parents reported that they wanted their kids in school five days a week. We couldn’t agree more, and we’ve painstakingly prepared for a safe and socially-distanced return to school for our kids. We are currently offering two options: Option One is an in-person, 5-day-a-week format and Option Two is a virtual 5-day-a-week format. Both options follow a structured full-day schedule. Families must select one of two options (in-person or distance learning) by Wednesday, July 22 for the coming school year. The virtual option will be available for one quarter at a time for qualified families. Julie Billiart Schools reserves the right to phase out this option as the COVID-19 crisis wanes.
Can students have access to both teaching models, or take a hybrid approach in which they’re in-person part time and learning from home part time? *
No. We’re assessing this on a quarter-by-quarter basis. Whatever option you choose must be for the full quarter so that we assign staff appropriately. Keep in mind that while some public schools are offering hybrid approaches, they’re doing so to keep class sizes small. Julie Billiart Schools already operates at a maximum 8:1 student to teacher ratio with two classrooms per grade. We are able to safely social distance will ALL of our students in the school at the same time.
Can an exception be made to the timeline in which we have to choose our learning format? *
Unfortunately, we can’t offer any extensions or exceptions at this time. Please let us know by July 22, 2020 so that we can make sure we have the proper staff and resources in place to support your child. Keep in mind that you can make a request to change formats in October as we enter a new quarter.
How quickly can a student obtain option two if they are sick or in quarantine? *
This transition can happen immediately. Our Virtual Learning Specialist will work with the student and family to make a swift maneuver to option two.
How will you address potential learning loss?
Our spring of 2020 approach to distance learning was grounded in our general, proven approach to education. For that reason, we don’t expect unnatural amounts of regression or learning loss. However, if you’re concerned that your child has regressed, we are prepared to offer additional supports when we return to school including more breaks throughout the school day that address academic fatigue, more attention on social and classroom behavior, good hygiene, and general expectations. When we return to school, we will do so with the grace and understanding that our children may need additional social and academic supports and guidance to acclimate back into the classroom. Our full-time BCBAs will aid in support, and our teachers will be trained to handle a healthy, happy return to the classroom. We have always monitored not only “loss” of learning, but also the speed at which students can recoup that learning. We have measures in place to ensure that any progress students may have lost during a summer break or during distance learning is regained.
Will intervention specialists be available to help with student anxiety and regression? *
Yes. We are extremely mindful of the anxiety and potential regression that can come from this situation. Not only our intervention specialists, but also our therapists will be assisting in this process. Intervention specialists and speech therapists will work together to devise a plan and provide support and interventions to lower anxiety or bring a student back up to speed. We also have our art therapist, who can continue to provide one on one support to help students cope with what's going on and provide appropriate support so that anxiety doesn’t play a part in academic development.
Will the school calendar change at all?
August 25, 2020 is our targeted start date, regardless of the mode of education (in-person or distance). At this time, we have no plans to change the school calendar, as we do not anticipate a mandatory shut down. However, we understand the possibility of needed adjustments to the calendar to ensure continuity of learning. Our COVID-19 Response Team has modeled a few different calendar options that would be minimally disruptive to students, families, and faculty and staff, including added minutes of instructional time throughout the day and revised winter or spring breaks and holidays
Why should I continue to send my child to JB during COVID-19?
First, please know that we support you in whatever decision you make during these challenging times. As teachers and parents of our own little ones, we have nothing but empathy for parents who are trying to make the best decision for their kids. We know from experience, regression data, and research that children with learning differences need individualized attention and social interaction to thrive. That’s why we’ve worked so hard to make sure we can safely operate with all students in the building during the 2020-2021 school year. While distance learning is not our ideal scenario, we have thoroughly researched, invested, and planned for a distance learning option that soars above the distance learning that is offered by public school districts. Though the delivery of our whole-child education is different, we have not compromised the quality.
We’re all struggling with questions about COVID-19, but one thing we do know for certain is that it’s temporary. Our alumni repeatedly share how well their JB education has served them in life. Remember that at JB, your child is supported by daily individualized academic, social, and emotional activities and lessons. This is a small bump in a very long and successful road. We encourage you to stay the course and reap the long term benefits.
It’s also important for us to let you know that removing your child from JB would open up his spot to a child on our waitlist. We already have new parents inquiring about a spot at JB next year, and expect more to come as public schools struggle to deliver individualized distance learning for kids like ours. Consider the possibility that, if you wanted to re-enroll your child later this year or next, we may not be able to immediately get him or her back into the school. This is ultimately your decision, but we wanted to make you aware.
Will my child’s scholarship be affected?
As budgets need to be cut, this is an area that could be changed by the Governor. However, right now, we do not anticipate any changes to the Autism Scholarship or the Jon Peterson Scholarship amounts in the 2020-2021 school year. We remain in close contact with the State of Ohio about how scholarship funds are issued. Our COVID-19 Response Team and Board of Directors are speaking with lobbyists in the unlikely event that we need to rally together to support the scholarships that are so vital to our kids. The accessibility of our unique education relies on these funds, and our JB families rely on these funds. We will keep our community updated if anything changes.
Why is JB’s full tuition still in place?
Tuition remains the same because our educational services remain the same. Our certified intervention specialists, therapists, and staff are working harder than ever to make sure your child is receiving our award-winning education - whether you’ve selected our in-person or distance option. Your child’s tuition directly supports the salaries of our teachers. It is our staffing model that allows JB to continue to offer an outstanding education and supporting therapies, activities, and resources.
Unlike other schools that are offering distance learning, Julie Billiart Schools provide live web cam feeds for each classroom, a full course load of take home materials, office hours with BCBAs and therapists, virtual speech, music, and art therapy sessions, and one-on-one support for students and their parents. During the school year, if you are having difficulty paying your tuition, please reach out to us.
How do you plan on presenting/explaining the difference in the atmosphere to the students without causing any anxiety? *
As we go into the next school year, we know that there will be a number of concerns from students about the new environment. It’s new for them, and for all of us, to wear masks and keep six feet apart. However, this is no different from the many social situations our kids are faced with day to day and we will approach this new social challenge in the way we approach all social challenges. We recognize that we’ll need to dedicate time, energy, and intervention toward making students feel comfortable with social distancing and mask wearing. Our therapists and intervention specialists will be working with kids to understand the procedures. We will be dedicating an enormous amount of time to supporting our kids through this.
What about PAC? Will that still exist and what will it look like? *
We receive a tremendous amount of support for a number of different student activities and family activities from our Parent Action Committees. PAC will still play a major role, even if their support will look different. When school starts, we will be limiting parent and visitor access to the buildings. We will find creative ways for PAC to gather and support our kids and teachers.
Do you know if there have been any changes or cancellations with busses coming from the many different districts? *
Right now, no. As of now, school districts do still have to provide transportation for non-public students. You will need to notify your district that you require transportation so that they can be sure to put you in their route and rotation.
How are the teachers feeling about coming back? Have any teachers decided not to return? *
In general, our teachers are very excited to come back because they miss our kids. While there is some amount of nervousness for everyone when it comes to the COVID-19 situation, we’re dedicated to supporting our teachers through that nervousness by making sure health and safety policies and procedures are followed. We haven’t had any teachers decide not to return to school due to COVID-19.
Health & Safety Questions
Sick days, temperature taking, when to keep a child home, etc.
How will you handle sick days?
Attendance will be taken daily regardless if you child is attending school face-to-face or virtually. The excused and unexcused absences policy in our Parent/Student Handbook will remain in effect. Any child out of school for a period of time, will be expected to have a doctor's note. Any student quarantining without symptoms will be required to attend virtual learning daily. Students quarantining with symptoms will receive an excused absence.
How can we keep teachers safe? *
The best way for Julie Billiart Schools to keep faculty and staff safe is by implementing and enforcing health and safety protocols across all schools and by giving teachers the appropriate classroom resources, professional development, and genuine support that they need to stay healthy during this pandemic. The best way for our parents to help is to follow all health and safety protocols, encourage mask wearing with your child if he or she is able to wear one, AND keeping your child home from school if he or she is ill.
Should I send my child to school if I suspect he or she is ill?
No. In general, we prefer that children stay home if exhibiting a fever or any respiratory symptoms such as shortness of breath or persistent cough. Please use your best judgement. If you suspect your child has COVID-19, please get him or her tested. If your child has seasonal allergies and no symptoms related to COVID-19, you may want to send him or her to school. We’re encouraging all of our families, faculty, and staff to balance caution with research, practicality, and the best interests of our students.
How will sick symptoms vs. COVID-19 symptoms be identified and monitored? *
Again, we will rely on both the school setting and the home setting to make this distinction. It starts in the home. Please do not send your child to school if he or she has a temperature of 100 degrees or more. Your child should be fever-free without the aid of fever-reducing medicines for at least 24 hours. Unfortunately, there’s a lot of overlap between cold and flu symptoms and COVID-19 symptoms. The CDC notes similarities between COVID-19 and the flu include fever, shortness of breath, fatigue, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle pain or body aches, and headaches. One known difference, according to the CDC, is that COVID-19 symptoms may include a change in or loss of taste or smell.
How will you prevent parents from dropping sick kids off because they have to go to work? *
We are asking parents to make sure kids are healthy (fever free without fever-reducing meds for 24 hours). Teachers and the health aid at each school will be strict in looking for symptoms. We will send kids to the onsite clinic if they exhibit any symptoms during the day. If they have a fever, they’ll be moved to a special room with a faculty member so that parents can come and pick them up.
Do you plan on checking the temperatures of anyone in school? *
Yes. It is the responsibility of parents to check kids’ temperatures before bringing children to school. To support this, we will offer random “spot check” temperature screenings throughout the day using touchless thermometers. Furthermore, if a student is feeling ill, acting lethargic, or giving faculty and staff cause for concern, we will take his or her temperature.
Social Distancing Questions
Spacing in classrooms, social distancing reinforcement and expectations, etc.
Since K-2 are smaller classes, will they be split or kept together? *
We are already a smaller environment in comparison to other schools. But to ensure the social distancing recommendations are met, we will continue to split our students into smaller groups. At the K-2 level, you’ll see a 6:1 ratio across the board through all academic parts of the day.
How will kids be grouped during the day? *
We’re going to use both classrooms (two for each grade) and group kids in small cohorts of 10 or less. We will work to reduce any switching of classrooms and may choose to have teachers switch rooms rather than kids. We’ll be grouping kids based on ability over anything else (like mask wearing, gender, etc.) to stay in line with our educational model. Just like every school year, at the beginning of the year we do some reteaching and reassessments to determine where students are at. We will continue to do that this year and split students into small groups based on where they need to be for their ability.
How will you handle social distancing in the classroom?
Our small student-teacher ratios (1:8 at maximum) and two-classrooms per grade, allow us to follow all social distancing recommendations provided by the CDC and the State of Ohio. Based on grade level and current academic level or ability, students will be grouped in a small cohort of 10 or less. Student desks will be spaced six feet apart. A designated intervention specialist will remain with each cohort throughout the day, including lunch and recess, to minimize unnecessary breaches in social distancing. Students will stay in one room for most of the day, rather than switching classrooms for various subjects. We know that with younger kids it will take more effort to help demonstrate what this looks like. We will use explicit visuals to help kids understand where their bodies should be in space. Lunch will be held in classrooms until otherwise noted. Our school buildings and surfaces will be thoroughly cleaned and sanitized throughout the day, and we will enforce our JB Mask Policy, as well as social distancing guidelines. Teachers and students will be required to wear masks, face shields, or approved facial coverings throughout the day. Bathroom breaks will be reduced to one student at a time. We’ll strongly encourage social distancing practices during recess.
What do you have in place to enforce the new rules and regulations so that the students fully understand the concept of social distancing and safety? *
When we get into the upcoming school year, there will be a number of new expectations of them, including solo bathroom breaks, socially distanced recess, etc. We understand, especially for our younger kids, that these new procedures and expectations will take constant reinforcement. We will use morning reminders, visual aids, and positive reinforcements throughout the day to make new procedures feel as “normal” as possible. We also expect parents to help reinforce social distancing and school expectations at home. Please practice mask wearing at home so that they are as ready as possible for a full day of mask wearing.
Sanitation & Mask Questions
Sterilization, cleaning policies, sanitation, masks, etc.
How will you keep the school clean and sanitized during the day?
We will continue to sanitize high touch surfaces like desks, doorknobs, faucets, tables, railings, and more, twice daily. Classroom surfaces will be sanitized between any break in activities. Playground equipment is sanitized daily. Thorough nightly cleanings will continue at all campuses and include high touch surfaces, classrooms, restrooms, common areas, and more. Read more.
Will my child be required to wear a mask?
Yes. On August 4, 2020, Governor DeWine, in collaboration with Ohio Children's Hospital Association and American Academy of Pediatrics, issued a mandate that requires K-12 students returning to school to wear masks or face coverings. If you are concerned about your child wearing a mask, please consider these recommendations for kid-friendly, non-obtrusive face shields. Check out this article for tips and tricks on helping kids with sensory issues adjust to masks. We promise to do our part to make mask-wearing as comfortable, accepted, and free of distraction as possible. Unless your child’s doctor provides documentation of an exemption as outlined in the mandate, we will provide a mask for all children who don’t come to school with one.
If masks are not an option, would you consider or present the option of a face shield? *
Absolutely. You’ll see this option utilized by our teachers and staff as well. It will help our teachers communicate expressions and speech in the classroom setting. Students can choose to wear a face shield if it's more comfortable than a mask.
Do students need to wear masks that are school uniform colors? *
No. Your child is welcome to wear any school appropriate mask that is comfortable for him or her. We will be offering JB masks for purchase in our spiritwear store. The Lands End uniform catalog also offers school masks for purchase.
Will faculty and staff be required to wear masks?
Wearing masks or facial coverings is currently required for all school faculty and staff in the state of Ohio. Until further notice, all faculty, staff, and adult visitors to Julie Billiart Schools must wear a mask or facial covering while interacting with one or more people at a distance of less than 6 ft away, and/or using school common areas like hallways, classrooms, entrances, and restrooms. Please see our mask policy for full details and recommendations.
How will you address air circulation throughout the classrooms? *
Both Akron and Lyndhurst use boiler systems. Hot water provides heat throughout the whole building. There is no additional air flow traveling from classroom to classroom. When it comes to AC inside the classrooms, most have their own AC unit, so there is no air flow from classroom to classroom. If it’s a shared system, air filters are cleaned and replaced frequently. We will be opening windows and doors as weather permits. We will keep up to date and compliant with local health and CDC recommendations.
Will water fountains be utilized? If so, do you have a plan in place regarding the upkeep of sterilization? *
We’re currently adding touchless water bottle filling stations to minimize any spread of germs at water foundations. Regardless, we will be cleaning and sanitizing all surfaces, including water fountains and water bottle filling stations multiple times each day.
What about sterilization of returned library books and other communal items? *
For the library, we’ll be using a hands-off system where kids can return books to a bin where they will be thoroughly sanitized before being returned to shelves. In general, we will be minimizing communal objects in classrooms, specials, and the playground as much as possible. An electromagnetic cleaner will be used once a day and surfaces and items will be wiped down multiple times each day.
In-Person Learning Questions
Arrival and dismissal, recess, specials, academics, after school activities.
How will arrival and dismissal times be determined? Will preference or priority be given to parents who have to get to work? *
Please know that when we talk about staggering times, the start time will not be drastically different than you’re used to. As already small schools, we don’t have an influx of students who are coming in at the same time. When we talk about staggering arrival and dismissal times, you can expect it to be within the same 20 minute time window as before. Specific instructions will be released by your school prior to the start of school.
Will my child still have field trips and after-school activities? *
At this time, field trips to outside locations have been suspended. However, on campus activities and after school events and activities will continue provided we can meet the same health and safety protocols that apply to the school day. These activities may look different during the 2020-2021 school year. Contact your campus with questions or concerns about specific activities.
Is aftercare still available?
Yes. Beforecare and Aftercare will still be available to families and will follow all health and safety protocols. We will stagger the arrival of our faculty and staff, limit the number of students at each table, offer pre-packaged snacks, and enforce social distancing and hand washing. Aftercare will still be available from 3 to 6 p.m. each day.
How will bathroom breaks work? *
Students will take bathroom breaks one at a time. Throughout the course of the school day, each bathroom will have a regular cleaning schedule. We will sanitize throughout the school day.
How will recess, gym, and specials look? *
Depending on the number of students, we may make recess one grade at a time rather than in grade bands. We are using a spray disinfectant on all recess equipment between recesses. We are helping kids understand social distancing on the playground by using hula hoops as visual aids. Gym, as well as music and art will continue to be offered in small groups. In art they may not share supplies - in music we may not use certain instruments. Gym may not use certain equipment. But the actual content and the social aspect will remain the same.
Will afterschool clubs continue to be offered? *
All afterschool clubs and activities will continue IF social distancing and our safety procedures can remain in place during that activity. If it’s an activity that cannot easily follow our procedures, it will be postponed. Please reach out to your school principal about specific activities.
If a student doing in-person learning contracts COVID, are they required to do distance learning for the rest of the quarter or can they return to school once well? *
Our understanding in our communications with the board of health is that the board of health will contact a person directly who has either been exposed or who has been diagnosed with COVID-19 and learn when the symptoms started and/or when the test came back positive. The board of health will determine quarantine or isolation timelines, which would dictate when a child could return to school. Once safely out of quarantine, option one children are permitted to return to school.
Virtual Learning Questions
Academics, expectations, technology, socialization, etc.
If we participate in virtual learning, will the teachers be calling on the kids or will the students be more like observers? *
At this point, students engaging in virtual learning will function more as observers of lessons. We expect them to follow along with live streaming lessons, but there won’t be as much opportunity to engage with the class or their teacher during the lesson. That’s why we’ve hired a virtual learning specialist who will reach out to Option two students daily to provide extra support and teaching. Students will receive the same accommodations and support that in-school kids will receive, but by nature it will be less active.
How likely is it that virtual learning will be stopped (or will continue) after the first quarter? *
As we look ahead at the upcoming school year, we want to give flexibility for families to select their option for one quarter at a time. That’s because we want to evaluate our processes and programming over time. We know that we have to be prepared for the long haul of this pandemic. We will be prepared to continue this process as we head into the winter and possibly the spring. The quarterly basis is to make sure we’re evaluating our programming and offering the best experience and education for your child.
Will grading criteria be different for virtual learning? *
When we evaluate how our students are performing in both formats, there is a participation component. We are going to tie that into grading for virtual learning. Aside from participation, it will be critical that students turn in classwork and homework as expected.
Will kids be able to take home their Chromebooks? *
Yes. We will schedule pick ups and drop offs for Chromebooks and other technology and materials needed at each campus if students choose option two or if we need to shift to virtual learning. All tech that we require families and students to use will be provided. These details will come from your school.
Will my child still get the social interaction and activities he or she needs?
Yes. We prefer that our children are in the school building because we know from experience, regression data, and research that children with learning differences need individualized attention and social interaction to thrive. For this reason we will offer a full 5-day in-person option for our families. Though social distancing requires us to maintain a distance of six feet as much as possible, children will still participate in social activities and lessons that rely on interaction, collaboration, and communication. Because some families have extenuating health and safety circumstances, we will also offer a virtual learning option to qualified families. We’re committed to making that option as academically rigorous and socially engaging as possible. Children will receive the full support of our intervention specialists and onsite therapists, as well as specially designed social activities to be held virtually.
Do you monitor IEP goals during distance learning?
Yes. We are still monitoring and measuring both academic and social/non-academic IEP goals. Our teachers continue to put in place academic, social, and behavioral tasks and scenarios to support your child’s IEP goals and to assist in data collection. As we continue our collaborative approach to educating the whole child, we’re working with parents to include them in the data collection process during distance learning.
What will the homework requirements be for virtual learning? *
Students in options one and two will be responsible for completing the same number of tasks, including classwork and homework. This is because everything that we do is tied to the standards that we are trying to teach and the curriculum we are addressing. You can expect a similar amount of homework to what your child would bring home while in-person.
Where are you receiving the information on which to base your virtual curriculum? *
Our virtual curriculum is based completely on our award-winning, in-person curriculum and approach. Students who are learning virtually will cover the same topics, tasks, and assignments that our in-person group will. As far as the technology and structure of virtual education, our principals meet weekly with the Diocosean Schools to discuss best practices. Julie Billiart Schools are working closely with local boards of health and are closely following the CDC’s expectations and requirements for opening.
Outbreak, Cases, & Shutdown Questions
COVID-19 outbreaks, school outbreak plans, confirmed cases, etc.
What will happen if the Governor enacts another mandatory shut down?
We are more prepared than ever to quickly pivot into distance learning like we did in the spring of 2020. We have invested in new professional development, technology, personnel, and other resources that give us a deeper understanding of virtual learning and its application for our students. Please note that even during a mandatory shutdown, Julie Billiart Schools would adhere to the master school calendar and provide synchronized learning opportunities for the planned learning experiences.
What happens if there are one or more reported COVID cases at the school?
If a COVID-19 infection is identified among faculty, staff, students, students’ immediate families, or anyone who has visited the school within the previous two weeks, individuals must immediately report the infection to JB Administration, who will report the infection to the local health district. If a COVID-19 infection is identified and reported to JB Administration, we will
Immediately report the infection to the local health district.
Work with the local health department to identify potentially exposed individuals to help facilitate appropriate communication/contact tracing.
As necessary, JB Administration will shut down the school building and professionally clean and sanitize the building. According to the Interim Guidance for Administrators of US K-12 Schools and Child Care Programs, issued by the CDC, local health officials’ recommendations for the scope (e.g., a single school, multiple schools, the full district) and duration of school dismissals will be made on a case-by-case basis using the most up-to-date information about COVID-19 and the specific cases in the community. A recommended short-term dismissal for students and most staff is 2-5 days.
As necessary, JB Administration will reopen the school building in consultation with the local health department.
What happens if a teacher is exposed/tests positive to Covid? Will the entire school close? *
We have been working closely with the health department on this. If there is a case at the school, the health department will decide who needs to quarantine or isolate and for how long. The department will communicate with JB if there is a confirmed case and if we need to close the school for any length of time.
Will you be following Governor DeWine's Alert Status? *
Yes. At this time, Ohio is taking a county by county approach to evaluating the changing COVID-19 situation. We will be paying very close attention to the alerts to determine specifically what each alert means for our schools.
Do you have a shutdown plan in place? *
We do have a shut down plan in place - we know that we’re able to quickly turn to an all virtual learning experience and have plans in place to do this. However, we must take direction from the local board of health at the time of infection or spread to determine what the shut down will look like. In our conversations with the board of health, they do not expect shut downs. If we do have to close at any point, we will turn to a full virtual experience for all kids.
If the school does shut down again and we move to distance/virtual/online learning, will the expectation be a full day of computer time just like option 2? *
If the entire school is mandated to go into distance learning, the format does change because of staffing purposes. When we start the school year, we will have staffing in place to support both groups. But if we’re forced to close, that means all of our staff and teachers will be focused on distance learning. You could expect more live, interactive lessons. Regardless, we will keep the schedule as close as possible to a regular school day with a traditional, set schedule. This scheduled day of computer time helps our kids with structure, executive functioning, and assignments.
Will there be a notification to parents if any COVID-19 cases are reported at JB? *
If there is a confirmed case of COVID19 at Julie Billiart Schools, you will receive a notification.