COVID-19 Updates

September 22nd Update

Dear Athena Families of Primary Students,

We are writing to give you reminders as well as an update to our mask protocol for Primary students in the classroom. In a nutshell:

All Primary children need to bring a clean mask to school every day (or five on Mondays);

The guides are conducting lessons around masks, why we wear them, and why they are important to keep ourselves, our friends, and our family members safe;

The guides will be asking all the Primary students to wear them while they are working inside the classroom when sitting close to other students;

They do not have to wear them while working in the outdoor environment, on the playground, exercising, napping, or when socially distanced. Masks are optional during drop-off and pick-up.

As promised, we are giving a month’s notice to ramp up to these new protocols before we start to implement it for the Primary students, and we are customizing the approach in each class to meet the needs of the group and to meet individual needs. This should also give everyone time to find masks that they are happy with. In these first few weeks of school, the children have demonstrated a tremendous capacity to adapt, and have shown us that wearing masks are easy for them, but if, and only if, everyone is doing it. It has been difficult to explain to some children that they need to keep their mask on when other children are not. And it is difficult for teachers to model it for all, enforce it for some, and not enforce it for others. It sends a confusing message to the children if we tell them that masks help keep us safe in a pandemic but not everyone is doing it. It is our job to be clear and consistent in our messaging with the children to be effective and to earn their trust and respect.

We have spent many weeks thinking about this decision, listening to parents, discussing amongst our team, gathering input from teachers, reviewing research, listening to experts, and learning from our observations in the classrooms.

We are a school that puts the health and safety of our community first. I need to be able to look my teachers and my families in the eyes and tell them that I am doing everything in my power to keep them safe while in our care and on our campus. It is a responsibility and commitment I do not take lightly.

The bottom line is new research suggests that to rely solely on identifying symptoms and taking temperatures is insufficient to minimize the possible viral spread amongst children, and children to teachers and families. Instead, infection control measures need to focus more on the strategies of 1. Mask Use, 2. Hand Washing, and 3. Distancing. Because there is no way to guarantee distancing between children of this age group, wearing masks is our most powerful weapon against an outbreak at school. If we know that it is important to wear masks when we are not able to distance to keep ourselves and our friends and family members safe, then we should all make the commitment. And if increasing our mask use helps the teachers and other children in the pod not get sick, then we won’t have to have temporary classroom closures and can provide a better educational experience for your children.

Most children present with mild or no symptoms for Covid-19, but have the potential to carry and shed high viral loads even before symptoms develop, and that when present, the symptoms are non-specific and overlap considerably with non-COVID-related illnesses.

Identifying infection in children will become even more challenging during allergy and flu seasons this fall. The only way to truly mitigate the possible spread of the virus for the safety of all, is to implement a campus-wide mask or face shield requirement.

To be clear, these findings and recommendations contradict the research from the early days of the pandemic but much has been learned since. For these reasons we have re-evaluated our position.

We encourage you to read the position of the American Academy of Pediatrics, which strongly urges all children ages two and older to wear face coverings.

To those of you with concerns:

Some may feel there is insufficient and inconclusive evidence to support this decision. But after extensive review of literature and expert consultation, there is more than enough evidence to support putting safety first.

Some worry our children are missing out on normalcy. And yes, these times are not normal. But getting back to school was our first step towards restoring normalcy, which is a process we have to take in steps. And teaching our children to live with, and to protect others in a pandemic, is part of our responsibility and is embedded in our curriculum.

Some of you have commented on the weariness of having children wear masks all day long. We are only asking children to wear them during their work period and if they are inside, not all day. And we take frequent breaks from the masks, and rotate time outside where we have them take them off. Think of it as intermittent mask wearing and for relatively short periods of time.

Some feel that it is an inconvenience to remind your child to bring or wear a mask. It will be more of an inconvenience to families if we have an outbreak at school and have to close down the classroom for a period of time. More mask wearing will also help prevent the spread of the flu and other common illnesses, which would be a net positive for attendance. And we will do all the work at school to remind the children (right now the older children are taking care of the reminders for us!).

Some worry about unique challenges individual children may face. Our job as Montessorians and educators is to treat each child uniquely, to hold them as our North Stars, and to evaluate what is in each child’s best interest. If we need to make accommodations and/or exceptions for certain children for certain reasons, we will. And for some children, a kid’s face shield may work better than a cloth mask.

Some of you have voiced concerns for the teachers if we require masks. The teachers are on board and feel that having children wearing masks in their classrooms is in support of their health and safety. They are prepared to create systems for mask wearing in the classroom. They feel it would be easier to have a system that applies to all (or most) of the children, so that it becomes part of what the community is doing together.

It is my privilege to run a school that is a model of health and safety in the community. If we all do our part to look after one another now and into the fall and winter, perhaps we’ll be able to lift the requirements by spring. If we continue with half measures, we may inadvertently and significantly prolong the time we all have to take these measures.

Mask resources, Athena student-approved: Martex Health, Bailey Blue

Face shield resources: Little Lives PPE

To learn more about the facts and science behind this decision, ask questions, as well as learn practical tips for keeping your family safe, please join us for:

Our third Community Gathering with Athena’s leadership team and Sera Bonds of Waking Giants:

Tuesday, September 22, 2020 from 1:00 to 1:45 p.m.

Join Zoom Meeting:

Click Here

Meeting ID: 824 8012 0263

Passcode: 102180

We will post a recording of the session on the private YouTube channel accessible via the COVID page of our website.

For those of you that cannot attend either session and wish to speak with one of your admin team, please call the office and the appropriate team member will return your call as soon as possible. Please note that we will not answer individual emails regarding this change. In addition, please direct all concerns to your administrative team. The teachers will not address mask concerns with you on an individual basis; we ask that any special considerations be directed to a member of admin.

In health and gratitude,

Lisl Friday

Covid Community Gathering with Sera Bonds September 8th

Please view our Covid Community Gathering with Sera Bonds below!

 

Health and Safety Protocol Updates

REQUIRED READING

 

As stated in our Back to School correspondences, we as a Leadership team continue to monitor trends in best practices regarding responding to transmission of COVID-19. We are working closely with Sera Bonds, our Public Health consultant, who is advising us on what we can continue to do to mitigate as much risk as possible in a time when the science around this virus continues to evolve. While our classrooms are divided into smaller pods, as mentioned in our Community Commitment documents, we live in a time and place where our actions outside of school have the potential to impact the Athena community at large. We appreciate your adherence to these updated recommendations so that we are able to continue to keep open our doors safely to your family and our dedicated faculty. 

 

Illness and Doctor’s Notes:

In the event that your child is ill with a fever and/or more than one episode of vomiting or diarrhea we will ask you to stay home and make contact with your doctor. Your child can return to school when they have been fever free and symptom free for 72 hrs (unmedicated) and come back with a doctor’s note. When you make contact with your doctor please request an email or written note that confirms that when your child is symptom free they will be well enough to return to school. You can bring the note at drop off or email it to Joy at Office@AthenaMontessoriAcademy.com

 

In the event there is an ill person in your child’s class (either pod), we will send an email to the entire classroom making you aware of symptoms to look out for and will follow up if symptoms change or increase. We will be in close contact with the individual or family regarding how they are doing and confirming that they have connected with their doctor. 

 

Mask Wearing for Students:

We are strongly recommending that all children two years and older come to school wearing a mask, and wear it as much as possible inside during the school day. Our viewpoint on mask wearing has evolved after talking with Sera Bonds and also now that both the CDC and the American Academy of Pediatrics are strongly encouraging mask wearing for children two years and older. Click HERE to read an article from AAP about children wearing masks. Click HERE to read an article with some great suggestions of what you can do at home to normalize mask wearing for your child.   

 

Below are the steps we are taking to normalize mask wearing in our community. We are:

  • Asking each child to bring a clean mask to school everyday, or to bring five on Monday to keep in their cubby.

  • Giving group lessons on mask wearing, and why it’s important. Guides will be hosting regular circles about how we keep ourselves healthy, which will include handwashing and wearing masks. These discussions will be child appropriate given the ages in each pod. These circles and lessons about masks will be done in the same fashion as we teach how to put on a coat or how to wipe your nose. It is part of the Montessori practical life curriculum. 

  • Incorporating “Montessori style works” in the classrooms to encourage the normalization of masks, through photos and free exploration to encourage the safe usage and reasoning about why wearing a mask can keep everyone safe and healthy.

  • Continuing the discussion with you all as we learn more about how to keep each other safe and healthy. 

  • Providing education and resources for our families, and opportunities to engage as a community via our Community Gatherings bi-monthly with Sera Bonds and her team. 

 

Below are some bullets from our first COVID Community Gathering with Sera Bonds last week. If you missed the session, please view the recording here.

 

Birthday Parties:

At this time, the CDC guidelines are still recommending that no more than 10 people gather in groups. Sera is recommending that if we gather away from school, it be ideally outdoors like in a park with no more than a couple of families at a time. As a Leadership team, we feel it is appropriate to host an outdoor birthday party with just a few families where the expectations and guidelines for safety are very clear (i.e. adults are wearing masks, parameters for social distancing, and a plan for restroom use), and the total group size does not exceed 10 people.

 

Playdates:

In optimal settings, smaller gatherings are much more preferred during this time of airborne transmission of the virus. Setting up a playdate with one other family at a time has the potential to create minimal risk while also allowing for a layer of normalcy and intimacy. When considering setting up playdates with another family, Sera recommends: 

  • Invite your companions in the playdate into a dialogue around behavior to set up consensual agreements regarding mitigation of risk, before getting together. 

  • Set the tone for what all parties involved feel comfortable with, such as location, masks or no masks on the children, sharing of food and spaces, prior to the first playdate and make plans to continue to connect regarding any periodic changes that occur.

  • When discussing plans, define how each of your families are handling things such as school, travel plans, playdates with other families, work life during the pandemic, etc.

  • Enjoy playgrounds and swimming pools (the chlorine is a good protectant for the virus), and wear masks when not distanced. 

 

Bank of Risks and Holidays:

Look at these times as though we all have a bank account of risks from which we can make withdrawals. Sera reiterated that complete isolation (the only risk-free option) is not only not sustainable but also not expected of anyone. You can choose to go to school and maybe go to one extracurricular activity that is practicing safe COVID procedures (i.e. performing health screenings, providing class sizes with low numbers of attendees, and, optimally, outdoors). Your risk choice could be to go to a small group of friends you decide to be in a playdate pod with and that you all have common family agreements on the health protocols you are choosing to live by. Your risk choice could be seeing family at an upcoming holiday. Sera stresses the importance of transparency and continued conversation around your family’s practices when establishing such relationships with others and planning for gatherings. 

 

Thank you for taking the time to read this update carefully. Please reach out to us if you have any questions. We hope to see you at the next Covid Community Gathering on Tuesday, September 8th at 1:00 p.m. Zoom details can be found on your Google Parent Calendar (visit the Calendar page of our website to sync). 

 

Warmly,

Your Leadership Team

August 21, 2020 Public Health Update from Waking Giants 

Living through a pandemic requires constant risk assessment and tradeoffs. Risk is not binary, it is more like reading the weather. We have to consider the different factors and elements at play in our houses and in our community at large. This week some schools are returning, UT students are coming back together, and the heat is driving us inside. All of these will factor into how the virus trends in Austin. We are in the rhythm now, where we are able to see it takes about three weeks to see the effects of community behavior change on the numbers of community spread. 
 
Data continues to affirm that mask wearing is critical to our ability to more safely be together. The sooner we are able to normalize that behavior change, the better. Kids in Asia have been doing this for years and we are in the midst of a culture shift for the same here. 
 
Yesterday Sera Bonds spoke about risk allocation. She imagined saving up risk, then spending it intentionally on those activities most valued by the family at any given time. For example, deploying some risk to spend time with grandparents, but in order to do so, cutting off physical exposure to friends. We are in this for a long haul and have to craft a way to live with this virus until there is a vaccine. 
 
Some tactical advice on risk management: 
Evaluate the risk of the activity, which includes its duration and setting. The highest risk for transmission is with close contact, prolonged interaction, and enclosed environments. In contrast, keeping a distance of at least six feet, brief interactions, and outdoor settings will keep risk lower. Sitting indoors a few feet away from a friend and having a long talk is a higher-risk situation than going for a stroll or chatting briefly with that person outdoors.
 
When trying to determine what the level of risk is in any situation as you try to make a decision about whether or not to do it, consider using this easy to use COVID calculator.
 

Link to Sera Bonds + Athena Montessori Community Session: 

August 14, 2020 Covid Public Health Updates from Waking Giants

COVID public health updates –>

Recent studies suggest that wearing face masks reduces the spread of COVID-19 on a population level, and consequently blunts the growth of the epidemic curve. Still, determining mask efficacy is a complex topic that is still an active field of research. This is made even more complicated because the infection pathways for COVID-19 are not yet fully understood and are complicated by many factors such as the route of transmission, correct fit and usage of masks, and environmental variables that are still emerging.

A recent study published in Science Magazine discusses a very thorough test of these fourteen designs of masks. The bottom line is that any mask that covers the nose and mouth will be of benefit and any mask with a valve or a bandana should not be considered. 

August 17 Update from Lisl

Dear Athena Families,

It’s hard to believe that we are finally entering the FIRST WEEK OF SCHOOL! Family visits are going so well and it is delightful to see happy children on campus! Tomorrow is the half day schedule to ease in; and Wednesday is the first regular day of school for all children.

Community Commitment:

Now that we are all about to be together, it is time to re-read and recommit to our Community Commitment. It is essential that our entire community follow the guidelines of our Community Commitment before starting school, and ongoing, throughout the school year. It is imperative that everyone in our community be committed to doing their part to keeping everyone safe. Every decision each of us makes affects everyone else in our community and we need to take all of the health and safety guidelines and protocols seriously, to take care of each other and our special community.

Masks for Children:

We have not yet made a final decision, but we are leaning towards requiring all students, ages two and older, to wear masks while at school, when inside the classroom. We are watching the research and listening to our advisors and will make our final decision soon. In the meantime, we are strongly recommending that all families search for child-size masks that are comfortable and well-fitting for your child and bring a few to school, labeled. Try to find patterns or images that your children love! We will incorporate lessons on how to don a mask properly, and why it’s important, as part of our Montessori Practical Life curriculum. Montessori is all about preparing children for life; and for taking care of self, others, and the environment. The children will have lots of support and encouragement in their practice wearing masks.

Covid Zoom Forum:

We encourage you all to join us this Thursday, August 20th, for our first meet and greet/open forum for Covid discussion and Q&A with Sera Bonds, our Covid consultant. She will be hosting this Zoom meeting to give you some helpful information and answer any questions you may have connected to school and behaviors outside of school to protect your family and ours. Possible discussion points will be:

  • How to have playdates safely

  • Extra-curricular classes outside of school

  • What should birthday parties look like

  • Children wearing masks

  • Transparency and communication

Bring your thoughts and questions for a productive discussion as a community.

Here are the details for our first community Covid meeting/open discussion/Q&A, this Thursday, August 20th, 12 pm CST:

Join Zoom Meeting

https://us02web.zoom.us/j/86546014271?pwd=WTFOdEU5b3dCUEs2SUJlenV2RzhVQT09

Meeting ID: 865 4601 4271

Passcode: 840047

Once again, we thank you for putting your trust in us, and in each other, this school year.

 

In health and gratitude,

Lisl

August 10 Update from Lisl

Hello Athena Families!

As we move into our week of Back to School events for the 2020-2021 school year, I wanted to introduce you to a consulting team that we have chosen to help guide and support us as we welcome teachers and students back to campus amid COVID-19. They have provided on-site guidance for our redesigned classrooms and playgrounds and have been a sounding board for expert advice and guidance on our policies and procedures. We will be making them available to our community on a weekly basis, for a period of time, to help all of us sift through facts and strategies to navigate the experience of being at school during a pandemic.

 

We have hired Sera Bonds, MPH, and her Waking Giants co-founder, Martha Pincoffs, to provide COVID-19 specific public health guidance and communications support to the Athena community. They are focusing their efforts on advising us on COVID-19 emerging community contagion strategies to keep our community safe as well as supporting us through weekly open forum zoom sessions with the Athena community to help answer questions, and provide guidance and information.

 

Sera Bonds, MPH is a global and public health expert. She has worked on global  health and infectious disease programs in over twenty countries spanning North America, Africa, Asia, Central America, the Middle East, and the Caribbean, having  impacted over three million women and children globally. She is the founder of a leading feminist global aid organization, Circle of Health International.

 

Martha Pincoffs is a strategist and native Austinite. She has special powers when it comes to connecting ideas, people, and institutions with winning outcomes. She has a core belief that the world will be a better place when we can all live our truth. She is on a mission to help people, campaigns, companies, and nonprofits find that place. She is the founder of Hot Dang, a vegetarian burger that can be found in stores across the country.

 

Here are the details for our first community meet-and-greet/Covid open forum discussion/Q&A, hosted by Waking Giants, on Thursday, August 20th, at 12 pm:

 

Join Zoom Meeting https://us02web.zoom.us/j/86546014271?pwd=WTFOdEU5b3dCUEs2SUJlenV2RzhVQT09 Meeting ID: 865 4601 4271 Passcode: 840047

 

We are excited to welcome all of you, finally, to the new school year! We will continue our commitment to not only doing everything we can to keep your children safe and well-loved, but also to do everything we can to take care of you as parents through direct, transparent communication and frequent opportunities to connect with us in community.

 

In health and gratitude, 

Lisl

Drop Off & Pick Up Schedules

Please Click Here:

DROP OFF AND PICK UP SCHEDULES

 

July 23 Update

Hello Athena Families,

We want to acknowledge that we have sent you lots of information in the last few weeks. We are doing our best to dole information out in small manageable chunks so that you have time to digest it before we share more details. We are a school that prides ourselves on robust and transparent communication. Due to the pandemic, this communication style is even more valuable than previously.  If you have any questions or feel confused along the way, never hesitate to reach out by phone or email.

Our communication today is to present and explain the Community Commitment we are asking you all to adhere to. Please read the document carefully and make sure that you understand and agree with the requirements. We feel more than ever that our community has a responsibility to each other to make safe choices so that we may come out of this historic time safe and healthy. This document will give you details about the 14-day quarantine that we are asking our families and staff to adhere to before the start of school, as well as other important information.

After reviewing the Community Commitment, please login to your Parent Portal and review the 2020-2021 COVID-19 Health Information form. Please complete this form the week of August 3rd (we will send a reminder), as well as any other incomplete forms you have.

We will be reviewing and evaluating our health and safety protocols and policies constantly, and are prepared to adjust or change them as we see fit on a monthly basis. If we have learned anything in the last few months, it is that we need to adapt and continue to learn from professionals that know more than we do.

In gratitude and solidarity,

Your Athena Leadership Team

July 21 Update

Dear Athena Families,

We are so close to the beginning of a new school year! While we know this year will look somewhat different than usual, we couldn’t be more grateful to be with you all in community in the coming weeks.

Our summer program has been off to a great start, our car-side arrival and departure plan has been effective and seamless, and all of our returning guides and staff are looking forward to being back on campus in a few short weeks. We have been busily preparing for the start of the new year keeping you all in mind as we navigate next steps.

In order to help you and your family best prepare for the start of this new school year, we are sharing with you several documents:

Later this month, you will receive your child(ren)’s classroom placement.

In August, your teaching teams will reach out to you and share your Welcome Packet which includes supplies needed for the upcoming year.

We appreciate your patience and your continued support of our work and mission. We truly are all in this together. If you have any questions or needs this month, please feel free to reach out directly to our leadership team via email or by calling the front office at 512-494-6237.

With gratitude,

Athena’s Leadership Team

July 17 update

Please review our new and updated health & safety plan:

Health & Safety Plan

 

July 8 Update

Hello Athena Families,

This document details our school’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic and shares important guidelines that are integral to our redesign. We believe that in-person, on-campus learning is optimal for our community given the developmental planes of our students. The health, safety and academic needs of our students and faculty will drive our decision-making moving forward.

Please review our 2020-2021 School Year Strategies in response to the COVID-19 Virus here.

June 30 Update

Hello Athena Families,

As we approach the deadline to enroll for Fall, I am writing to respond to several of your questions about the coming school year and to give you more information about our plans.

The highlights are:

  • We plan to open on schedule and on the published 2020-2021 School Calendar that can be found on our website
  • We plan to be open five days a week on a regular school day schedule (no Early Arrival, After School, or Extracurricular Programs in the beginning)
  • We are redesigning our program with significantly reduced Primary class sizes, and dividing the rooms in half to create smaller pods, to hedge against another forced closure
  • In the event of another City closure, we intend to stay open as an essential business, if we feel it is safe to do so
  • If we DO have to close, we plan to extend the school calendar by the number of days of the closure, up to and including through next summer, but no later than July 23, 2021
  • We ask that families commit to paying for the entire school year, per their contract, either on an annual, semi-annual, or monthly basis, July through April, per usual
  • In the event of a closure mid-year, we will evaluate whether we would provide some virtual connection with the teachers during the closure
  • Enrollment contracts and tuition must be received by July 1st to secure a spot for fall

With the addition of three new Primary classrooms, as well as physically dividing all the classrooms, we are able to spread out our teachers and students so that we have several small groupings, “pods”, of students and teachers across campus and protect them from interacting with each other. We are fortunate to have large rooms and so much space on our campus to be able to be in separate buildings and have separate outdoor environments so that we can limit exposure between people. We are prioritizing placement of siblings together in Primary classroom pods. (We therefore may need to make some classroom placement adjustments but will do so with utmost consideration of your child and their relationship to their community.)

Because this new design aligns with the new pandemic guidelines of the CDC, local, and state governments, we will likely be able to stay open during a City closure as a licensed childcare facility, an essential business, barring something unforeseen or based on new information that deems it unsafe to do so.

What we are doing to prepare:

  • Working with city planners and engineers to get a portable building installed in our current parking lot which will house two new Primary classrooms and outdoor work environments
  • Converting our gym into a Primary classroom
  • Providing Montessori training for new teachers
  • Building Montessori shelves, ordering Montessori materials, and buying furniture for the three new classrooms
  •  Dividing the rooms in half to create smaller pods on each side that will not intermingle with the other pod
  • Beginning the school year with pods of a maximum of 10 Primary children (likely fewer) with a teacher; the Tots classes will have even smaller pods on each side of their rooms (7 or fewer students in a pod).
  • Building fencing and other structures to create new borders and divisions for the new classrooms and the playgrounds
  • Ensuring each Primary class will have their own playground time; classes will not intermingle on the playgrounds (the Tots classes have their own playgrounds)
  • Creating trainings, manuals, and protocols for preventing and containing Covid-19
  • Working hard throughout the day, and at the end of the day, to disinfect and clean the environments
  • Using our AustinAIR filters on High at all times; having doors and windows open with the A/C on whenever possible
  • Continuing to utilize our outdoor work environments during work time

In order to make sure Athena is around for the next 12 months to serve children and families, we all need to take care of each other and do our part to avoid an outbreak of Covid on campus. We are asking all staff and families to agree to follow the recommended guidelines of the CDC when AWAY from school, so that we will all be in a better position not to have to face additional closures during the school year.

In addition to the extreme protocols we are taking with the children, we are taking extreme precautions with the staff:

  • We’ve asked our staff to commit to following the safety protocols recommended by the CDC while away from school
  •  Teachers and staff will wear masks in the classroom
  • We take staff temperatures and run them through a health screening every morning before the children arrive
  • If a teacher or staff member has a fever and/or any symptoms or confirmed exposure, we will send them right away to get a test; they will not be allowed back on campus until they receive a negative test and their symptoms have subsided
  • We will have substitutes on staff following the same protocols
  • We will continue to train our staff in our COVID-19 Health & Safety Protocols 

In the event there is a positive case of Covid in a classroom:

  • We will notify families right away
  • We will notify the Health Department right away and follow their subsequent guidance
  • We will follow the Austin Public Health Department Flow Chart for guidance with COVID-19 symptoms

Enrollment contracts for the coming school year were due on June 15th and tuition is due July 1st. Because we will be keeping our class sizes small, we may decline your enrollment if you miss the upcoming tuition deadline, and we will prioritize families that completed their contracts by that deadline. If you have been enrolled but not yet submitted your contract, please contact us right away to secure your commitment for fall. If you do not secure your spot by the deadline, you will be placed into a priority enrollment pool for future openings.

Summer Camp:

For those of you enrolled in camp, we still plan to conduct two weeks of camp, and will then close for our usual two weeks of teacher prep, staff development, and preparing the campus for the children’s return.

Thank you for your continued support and commitment to Athena. Enjoy your summer. We look forward to a great school year!

In gratitude,

Lisl

 

June 26 Update

– URGENT SUMMER CAMP NEWS –

Dear Camp Athena Families,

My sincere apologies for the short notice, but I have decided that in order to ensure the safety of all of our community members, we need to postpone camp by two weeks.

There are several factors that led me to this decision:

  • The current spike in our local community of COVID-19 cases
  • The fact that the Governor announced earlier this week that there are new regulations for schools but has not yet announced what those are

  • New complexities that I am learning about in my collaboration with several other local owners and directors of childcare facilities in our area that have been open

  • The daily fluctuations in our enrollment for camp

Here is the current plan:

Until we have an opportunity to review and implement any new regulations or guidelines that are imminent, we are going to redesign summer camp so that our groupings of children are much smaller than originally planned. It is clear that community spread is high right now in our area, and at the same time many people feel that it is still safe to come together in small groups as long as everyone is committed to following the recommended guidelines, especially:

  • Small, isolated groups of 10 children
  • Wearing masks
  • Physical distancing
  • Frequent hand washing and disinfecting of each classroom
  • Not touching faces
  • Lots of outdoor time
  • Group members practicing the same protocols away from camp

These next two weeks will give us time to:

  • Prepare four new rooms for summer camp
  • Divide and redesign the rosters for each class
  • Redistribute camp counselors and guides
  • See if we are in the beginning, middle, or end of a COVID-19 spike in cases
  • Learn how many of these new cases convert to hospitalizations
  • Continue to learn more from our colleagues who are open about how our new protocols and regulations are actually working and what adjustments we might need to make

I know that many of you who have decided to entrust us with your children for camp feel that there is a net positive in allowing the children to be in a social situation, out of the home, and engaged with their peers. I know that by making this decision you have also demonstrated your trust in me to make decisions based on what I feel is in the best, and safest, situation possible for all involved. I believe that if we can spread out our campers even more and further reduce our group numbers, we will be able to do a better job of ensuring that we can enforce the above bulleted recommendations.

Please note that over the next two weeks, it is possible that we will receive new information that may require us to again change our plan, postpone another week, or possibly cancel altogether. As mentioned above, I sincerely hope that we will be able to offer at least one week, preferably two, and we promise to stay current with you as decisions unfold.

Our staff is taking seriously their community responsibility to limit their exposure to the virus. We ask that you join us in this effort for the safety of our community at large.

Of course we will credit/refund any unused tuition for camp; at this point our plan is to refund 50% of the summer camp tuition in two weeks. Returning students will receive credit toward their fall tuition and alumni will receive refunds via check in the mail.

My “door” is open–although now it looks like a cell phone. Please feel free to reach out to me via email to schedule a call with me anytime. I am open to your thoughts, ideas, suggestions, and feedback.

I hope to see you all on campus very soon and hope that all of you are keeping safe and healthy through it all. Thank you for your continued support and trust in our leadership.

In much gratitude,

Lisl

June 10th Update

Athena Reopening Design Overview

The Texas Governor announced that Licensed Childcare Centers will be allowed to reopen
with this next phase of reopening Texas. The Health and Human Services Department has laid out new guidelines and regulations for us to follow in order to do everything we can to provide
quality care for children and families with the utmost attention to the health and safety of our
community members. This email pertains to the upcoming school year which is scheduled to
start mid to late August.

As we were anticipating, the new guidelines require a redesign of our programs at Athena. We know that there is a chance that by the time school is scheduled to start in August they will again change the guidelines and regulations. For now, we are working on a redesign of our program to meet the current guidelines and will adjust as we go, as needed, where we deem safe, and/or where possible, and with your input and plenty of advance notice of changes.

Below are the highlights of the new design. Our sincere hope is that we will still be able to accommodate all returning families who wish to return to school as well as all new families
whom we have already enrolled. However, we are also aware that some of you may not be
comfortable with a return to campus and of course we understand, and will have no hard
feelings if you choose to withdraw your enrollment. However, if you do withdraw, we will not
be able to hold a spot nor guarantee re-enrollment at a later date.

The highlights of the changes are as follows:

  • Children must remain with the same teachers for the entire day; there can be no
    transitions to other classrooms or to different teachers throughout the day.
  • No separate programs for Early Arrival and After School until further notice.
  • Children must stay in their classroom for a nap.
  • Primary classrooms are limited to 20 total students so some students may be moved into different classrooms (we plan to add portable classrooms to accommodate all families).
  • Tots classrooms will remain the same size as before, but the room and students will be
    divided into two groups. Each group will have one caregiver each and these groups will
    not intermingle or share materials throughout the day.
  • Food preparation is not allowed so parents will need to provide both snacks and lunch for their child(ren).
  • Extracurricular Programs are cancelled until further notice.
  • Parents are not to come inside campus gates except in emergency or for prearranged situations.
  • At-car drop-off and pick-up procedures with health screens and interviews for students before admittance.
  • Strict adherence to limiting attendance to healthy individuals.
  • Enhanced hand hygiene protocols for children and staff.
  • Intensified cleaning and disinfection regimen.
  • Additional health and safety training for all staff.

We are opening three new Primary classrooms to accommodate the smaller class sizes. We are doing our best to maintain as much consistency as possible from our original design for this school year to this new design. We will do everything we can to keep teams intact and children in their currently assigned classrooms. We will also do our best to maintain the mixed age group model for all children but this will be dependent on our enrolled students. We are fortunate to have such a strong team of teaching staff so rest assured that regardless of where your child lands, they will be in exceptional hands. And as always, the children are our North Star for all of our decisions and our plans include much training and attention to how to best take care of their social and emotional needs in the midst of this new design and re-entry to school.

If you are interested, you can read the guidelines for Licensed Childcare Centers, including
Minimum Standard Health Checklists to help guide both care providers and families navigating
our return to school.

Frequently Asked Questions

Fall Survey FAQ Update

March 31st Update

March 29th Update

A video message for Athena Families

March 26th Update – Weekly Activity Packet #1

March 25th Update

Ways To Help In Our Community During This Time:

Here’s how you can help in the community at this time – we will be updating this page as more information is accumulated.

Please follow these accounts to keep up to date:
Facebook
Instagram

We urge you to follow the guidance released by AISD on their Coronavirus update page.

Tips on avoiding colds and flu:
Branch Basic’s guide to avoiding colds and flu

LINKS:
Coronavirus language–from a pediatrician
CDC Travel Notices
Austin Public Health Notice
Center for Disease Control (CDC) Fact Page
World Health Organization (WHO) Fact Page
Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) Fact Page
NPR: Just for Kids- A Comic Exploring the New Coronavirus