St. Stephen's Episcopal School is actively monitoring news and information about the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) in our region. We will look to the local government, CDC, and/or Health Department for recommendations regarding closure of our campus. 
St. Stephen’s School campus will remain closed through April 10, 2020. Learning, however, will continue.

Letter to Parents from Head of Schoool, March 20, 2020

We continue to keep you and your families in our thoughts and prayers during this time of great uncertainty. As you are aware, guidance is changing on an almost daily basis regarding how to stay healthy in the midst of this global pandemic. We at St. Stephen’s Episcopal are working diligently to stay abreast of the latest developments, to remain in contact with area schools and school advisors, and to make plans for student learning.  In light of the current recommendations for curbing the spread of COVID 19, St. Stephen’s School campus will remain closed through April 10, 2020. Learning, however, will continue.

To advance our students’ academic work, we will implement an online learning curriculum.  Beginning the week of March 30, teachers will email and post lessons, assignments, office hours, video, and parent support to guide students in on-going lessons. For ages 5 to 14, lessons and assignments will include due dates and/or instructions for returning student work.  Assignments will be reviewed by the faculty and will be highly relevant to learning; busy-work will not be assigned. Our goal is to keep students on track. Teachers will also provide opportunities for maintaining student connection, and the Chaplain will post Level-Chapels for this purpose, as well. We will adapt these learning tools over time and will seek your feedback. This will be new territory for us all, and grace will serve us well.

Together, we will make the most of this situation. Montessori methodology is creative by definition, and we will focus on inventive ways to promote engaged learning and health. Our faculty are masters of thinking outside the box. They are already devising innovative ways to provide creative learning opportunities for our students, and to keep them on track. Despite the campus being closed, we remain fully committed to providing our students with a stellar education.

Because we will not be in session next week (the week of March 23), we will make up those days at the end of the year. Our current plan is for students to return to campus April 13 and finish the semester on June 3, as previously communicated.  This continues to be a rapidly changing situation, however, and further adjustments may be necessary. 

Below you will find additional information regarding calendar adjustments:

  • Information about Lower Elementary Summer Camp will be made available the week of March 23.
  • In the interest of student health and safety and to create more time for schoolwork, overnight trips for Elementary and Middle Years are canceled.
  • At this time, the IOWA test for Elementary and Middle Years students will be rescheduled
  • Spring Festival, scheduled for April 18, will be streamlined this year to safeguard our community’s health. We will hold the auction, but the Campus-wide Festival and Discover Us activities are canceled.

Like you, I am disappointed that these activities have to be canceled. They are wonderful opportunities to socialize, celebrate, and learn, and we have already invested a lot of time and effort in planning. Nonetheless, safety has to be our top priority right now, and we can look forward to having amazing events when the situation changes.  I thank the parents, administration and faculty who have already invested so much time on this event.  

At this time, there are suspected cases of individuals having direct contact with someone infected with the virus.  As testing becomes more available, we hope to provide more clarity.  Our school families are important to us. Please continue to keep the school notified should a member of your family be exposed.

Our community is strong.  St. Stephen’s Episcopal School is strong.  Together we will shoulder these challenges.  We look forward to seeing you online as we work together to maintain engaged learning for our students.

In Peace,

Jerri King
Head of School

Letter from Head of School to Parents, March 12, 2020

As you are likely aware, there are indications that COVID-19 is spreading in the Houston area. The local government and health department are recommending that we take precautions  to prevent greater spread of the virus. St. Stephen’s does NOT have an identified positive diagnosis within the school community. However, in an effort to work proactively in care of our students and school community, St. Stephen’s Episcopal School will be closed the week of March 23rd. School events, meetings and Bulldog 360 programming will be canceled. Currently, the first day back to school after Spring Break will be March 30th.  

Adjusted School Calendar

To make up the lost class time, the school year will be extended as follows:

  • May 26th  - school in session – no change
  • May 27th – full school day
  • May 28th - full school day
  • May 29th - full school day
  • June 1st - full school day
  • June 2nd - full school day
  • June 3rd - half-day school day
  • June 4th and 5th - Teacher In-service
  • June 8th – 1st week of camp for Orientation, Primary and Lower Elementary

Online learning, while appropriate for some schools, would not provide our students with the same robust learning experience you have come to expect. Our approach is individualized and personal. Therefore, we are offering make up classes in lieu of online learning.

During the two-week break, additional cleaning will be completed to all facilities. During the week of March 23rd, the Administrative Staff will be working remotely to manage the work of school.  during the week of March 23rd, the Principal, Director of the Arts, and other staff will work with me to provide a few interesting activities or resources for students. Please refer to the Hallway and to the website for resources, video, and up-to-date information regarding our school responses and decision making. 

Lower Elementary Camp information will be provided in addition to other school information while school is closed; again, the Hallway and website will be a valuable parent resource.  Families who have registered for the first week of Orientation or Primary summer camp will be issued a refund or provided the opportunity to change their registration to a different week. 

About Family Travel

Many of you have modified your spring break plans in response to the State Department advisory.  Please remember the following:

  • Any families traveling to a Level 2 country or hotspot should not return to St. Stephen’s School until the 14-day self-quarantine period has passed.
  • The CDC advises canceling cruise travel.
  • If your family travels to a Level 2 country (currently, there are five) or in the event a family member contracts COVID, please notify the school immediately by emailing info@ssesh.org 

Please know that we are doing everything in our power to ensure the safety of your children. We will continue to consult the recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control as well as other experts in the public health community. We are working diligently to keep you informed and your questions answered in a timely manner. Our intent in delivering this news today is to allow you time to adjust your June schedules.

Sincerely,

Jerri King
Head of School
St. Stephen's Episcopal School - Houston

 

Letter from Head of School to Parents, March 11, 2020

Dear Families, 

I'm contacting you this morning with an update regarding COVID-19. A neighboring independent school is reporting two incidents of direct contact by their school members and persons positively diagnosed with having the virus. As a result, and in an abundance of caution, St. Stephen's students with siblings attending that school will not attend St. Stephen's for the incubation period. There are no reported cases of COVID-19 or direct contact with a person having a confirmed case of the virus within our school.

If a member of your family has direct contact with a person with a confirmed case of this virus, please keep your child at home and notify the school. We are continuing to monitor this ever evolving situatuation and will notify parents regularly with updates.  We are working to plan for the possibility of school closure and to respond quickly to other directives.

I commend parents and teachers for the calm I see reflected in our students and the school life witnessed on campus. Our students have become champion handwashers and remain engaged in their work. 

As a school, we send prayers of support to the families and the school communities touched by this virus.

Sincerely,

Jerri King
Head of School
St. Stephen's Episcopal School - Houston
 

Letter from Head of School to Parents, March 4, 2020

Dear Parents,

As you are aware, this has been a particularly hard flu season for children and adults, and the Center for Disease Control (CDC) is now cautioning the public about COVID–19. At St. Stephen’s Episcopal, the care of our students is paramount. We follow best practices for planning and preparing to keep students safe in a variety of scenarios. As Head of School, I confer with school leadership and consult national and local resources to aid in such planning and preparation. In light of international concern about COVID-19, it is important that our faculty, staff, parents, and leadership remain calm and emphasize the basics such as staying informed, washing hands and maintaining our strong community as we wade into these waters, together.  Here’s what you can expect at school:

  • Teachers are repeating lessons about hygiene and courtesy when coughing and sneezing and how best to wash hands. This means encouraging students to cough/sneeze into elbows rather than hands, and making lots of bubbles while handwashing.
  • School employees will continue to be strongly encouraged to stay home when sick. Employees will be sent home, if necessary.
  • We are encouraging frequent handwashing for the length of time it takes to sing Happy Birthday as a way to form good habits in young students.
  • The cleaning staff are giving special consideration to facility cleanliness, especially in common-use areas such as door knobs, handrails, and light switches.
  • Currently, the Middle Years trip to the Grand Canyon and the Elementary trips to Camp Allen that are planned for the end of April are expected to take place. Nonetheless, this is an evolving situation, and we will keep parents apprised if we need to cancel trips in the interest of safety.
  • All visitors are welcome to campus.

While it is important to remain calm and demonstrate that calmness with our students, we also need to follow the basics, including consulting a doctor if your child exhibits symptoms such as fever. Parents are strongly encouraged to keep sick students at home and to revisit the Parent Handbook for good information about symptoms that warrant staying home. If your child has fever and/or meets any of the symptoms outlined by the CDC, please see a doctor. As Spring Break approaches, please give additional thought to your planned destinations, consulting the State Department’s Do-Not-Travel List. If you travel internationally,  we strongly recommend that upon your return you consider keeping your child home for the incubation period (currently, it is 14 days) and observe your child for symptoms before they return to school. 

As an Episcopal School, we will remind students who are invited to participate in the Holy Eucharist (Elementary and Middle Years students) to wash their hands before Whole-School Chapel. Please see the attached information provided by the National Association of Episcopal Schools regarding the safety of Holy Eucharist. 

Parents are encouraged to research age-appropriate guidelines before discussing COVID-19 with children.

We will look to the local government, CDC, and/or Health Department for recommendations regarding school closure. In such an event, we would utilize online schoolwork and/or homework, if age appropriate, to keep students engaged in school work. We would only schedule School Make-Up days should school be closed for a long period. We hope to remain open but will keep parents apprised if we are advised to close. 

If you have questions and prefer to speak with me, please contact me by phone at 713.821.9100 or join me for coffee on Friday morning at 8:15 a.m. in the library.

The Episcopal Church has put together a collection of resources about COVID-19, which can be found here: https://www.episcopalrelief.org/what-we-do/us-disaster-program/faith-based-response-to-epidemics/

Sincerely,

Jerri King