Graded is Ready for Take-Off


Superintendent Richard Boerner met with the Graded community through Zoom on Thursday evening to discuss the school’s reopening plan in compliance with the Ministry of Education’s guidelines. 


“Eagles Flight Testing” is scheduled to begin on October 8, almost seven months after the school closed its doors in early-March. During “Coffee with the Superintendent,”  Mr. Boerner shared the school’s plans for the first phase of reopening, which will run until November 3, 2020. 


On Zoom, Mr. Boerner explained that during October, in accordance with government mandates, students will be capped at 35% in the Lower school, and 20% in the Upper School and no academic learning will take place during the two days each cohort will be allowed to return to campus. 


The two day test flight guarantees that all students have an opportunity to return to campus and that new students have a chance to see the school for the first time. 

Mr. Boerner did, however, emphasize that these two days are optional. Families who are uncomfortable returning to campus should not feel pressured to send their children to school or be worried that their children will miss out on academic opportunities. Any student  who is currently abroad or uncomfortable or unable to be on campus will be able to Zoom in on the second phase of flight testing when Graded will practice “dual synchronous learning.”


All families will be sent a video tour with more information regarding how the school will operate during flight testing. Subsequently, Graded will send out a survey asking parents to confirm whether or not their child(ren) will participate in flight testing. Parents may not change their minds after they make the decision. 


Mr. Boerner outlined that these days are an opportunity for students to bond with their classmates in their convos, strengthen their relationships with their new teachers, develop social and emotional skills that may have been stored away during quarantine, but most importantly it is designed for students to have fun. From 8:30 am – 3:30 pm each day of the week, Graded will be prioritizing the mental health of students by having them take advantage of our open campus to play outdoor games and take part in team-building activities.


While cohorts differ between grade level, for juniors and seniors they consist of their entire grade. This places a lot of responsibility on those students in order to help ensure that the school stays open past this test phase. At the same time, Mr. Boerner mentioned that the High School Administration is doing everything in its capacity to ensure that the Class of 2021 is able to continue with the many Graded traditions. The seniors, along with  Pre-primary students, will continue to be the school’s priority. The school has planned many surprises for the seniors when they return, starting with Senior Sunrise — which of course will involve a lot of social distancing and masks at all times. 


In response to parents’ concerns, Mr. Boerner clarified that academics take priority during distance learning. During the days that convos are not at school, they will continue with regular Zoom classes. This will be possible as not all teachers will be on campus at the same time, ensuring that learning is not interrupted. 


Graded will look different, Mr. Boerner noted. Not just in terms of how many students and faculty are on campus, but also in regard to infrastructure. These changes are some of the many precautions that the school is taking in order to prioritize the health and safety of the Graded community. Tents have been set up throughout the Graded Greens to ensure that outdoor learning is successful, and classrooms will remain well ventilated with open doors and windows at all times. All hallways and classrooms are all covered with signage to facilitate social distancing. These signs include stickers indicating where students can and cannot sit, which direction they should walk down the hallways, and where desks should be placed to ensure they are six feet apart. During phase one of reopening, the snack bar will also remain closed.


With all of the changes Graded has endured, students will also be required to shift the way in which they normally act at school. Before returning to campus, all students will be required to quarantine for two weeks. When at school, it is a given that students do not hug each other, and prioritize social distancing at all times. It is also important that students become accustomed to wearing a mask at all times– except during lunch– and bring at least three extra masks to change into throughout the day. Students returning to campus will be instructed on the proper ways to wear a mask and how to be as hygienic as possible. It is also expected that students bring a reusable water bottle to school- in order to limit germ spreading from people drinking out of the water fountain. 


Another major change for students will be the departure from campus. Buses will not be functioning, thus students will all have to be picked up in the parking lot, and without any after school activities, this will all happen at the same time. While many may remember the overflow of students in the parking lot at 3:10 pm on a regular school day, that memory will begin to shift as Graded introduces an app that developed with similar features to Uber. This app will allow students to track their ride, and be notified when they should enter the parking lot. While carpooling will not be allowed, students may take Uber or taxis to and from school. Mr. Boerner noted that Graded acknowledges the challenges put on parents. However, he reiterated that the pick-up schedule developed will ensure that students do not crowd each other and risk contamination. 


Mr. Boerner insisted that communication will continue to be a priority during these uncertain times. He explained that every two weeks Graded will publish Covid-19 statistics, tracking the number of positive tests within the community. In addition, the school will be administering random Covid-19 tests to track asymptomatic spread during the reopening. For this to be successful, however, it is important that everyone cooperates and continues to be very transparent. Also, he mentioned that the distance learning updates and surveys will continue as a means for parents and students to give feedback and voice their concerns.


To conclude, Mr. Boerner emphasized that Graded is doing everything in power and taking all necessary precautions to mitigate risk. When students are allowed to return to campus full time they want it to remain open. This is in the hands of the Graded community. This means prioritizing health and safety by limiting social interactions, notifying the school if children present any symptoms, and complying with the safety measures approved by Hospital Sirio-Libanes.