Dear GAC Parents,
As we anticipate the beginning of the school year, I know you’re well aware it will not be the “typical” start of school. GAC is blessed with faculty and staff that love our students and their families. We recognize some families are ready to be on campus, while some have concerns and are not ready. We’ve been working for the past several months to adopt new processes while training with new technology and tools in order to support your children. We want each of our students to feel a part of our community and enjoy the GAC experience whether they are attending class on campus or from home. Over the next few weeks we will be sharing a lot of information but we’ll work to keep it in manageable segments.
The purpose of today’s email is to share our plan entitled A Purposeful Start to the School Year*. As you read it, you’ll see the details that have been shaped by the priorities to promote the health and safety of our students, as well as our faculty and staff, while delivering transformative learning to our students.
As you get familiar with elements of the plan, you’ll see there are still some details to finalize, and I suspect we’ll continue to refine and modify it throughout the fall.
While we are all facing increased uncertainty, we take comfort in knowing that God is leading us. So let’s put our trust in Him, let’s encourage each other, and let’s walk faithfully and confidently into this school year together.
We remain grateful for your partnership.
Scott Harsh, Ed.D
*Note: We recommend that you download the plan to a PDF document or utilize the Chrome browser.
Dear GAC parents,
A few weeks ago, we announced that GAC is launching a new flexible educational model, increasing our commitment to Personalized Learning and Expanding the GAC Choice. Families may now choose at-home or in-person learning with the same high caliber academic experience in a synchronous environment.
Covid-19’s long term impact prompted us to invest in special AI technology, ensuring a high level of cohesive learning both virtually and face-to-face, simultaneously. This Synchronous Learning provides students real-time teaching and collaboration regardless of location, allowing our families the flexibility to choose (even on a daily basis) to attend school from home, while travelling, or on campus in person.
This technology allows GAC to go well-beyond what we offered during the shelter-in-place mandate last Spring or during inclement weather days in the past, truly transforming the GAC educational experience providing increased choice for our parents.
What will it look like? Here’s a sneak peek.
Dear GAC Family,
We hope that your summer is going well and that your family is enjoying some time to relax and re-energize. Our faculty and staff are continuing to use the summer months to prepare for the new school year. As communicated in our letter last week, our goal is to bring the GAC community back to campus the week of August 10 while prioritizing everyone’s health and safety. Because of the on-going COVID-19 crisis, we will all need to work together with some adjustments in the way we teach, learn, and interact with one another in classrooms, workspaces, and elsewhere on the GAC campus.
This email will give you an overview of what our return to campus will look like, some of the changes you may expect, what precautions we are taking, and new options for your students in their learning environment. Already this summer, several activities have resumed on campus with strict protocols in place based on the most up-to-date guidance from Governor Kemp and his COVID-19 Task Force, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH). There are still details to be finalized and we will continue updating you as more information becomes available.
New Academic Instruction Option: Synchronous Learning Program
We recognize some of our families may not be ready to return to a face-to-face learning environment. For the past several months, a team of GAC senior leaders, school level administrators, and lead teachers have been working to transform our K-12 learning spaces so that classes can be taught face-to-face and online, simultaneously. We are investing in remarkable technology that will allow students to dynamically engage with their teacher and peers, just as if they were sitting in the classroom. Further, this synchronous learning option provides an alternative for the family who would like the periodic flexibility for their children to engage in their classes from home.
This technology allows us to go well-beyond what we offered during the shelter-in-place mandate, truly transforming the GAC educational experience. Starting this school year, if your child is sick but doesn’t want to miss class, they may participate online. Furthermore, all instructional content every day will be recorded and readily available for students to access later. So, when a student wants to review a given concept discussed in class, they can view the lesson as many times as needed. If you would like to learn more about GAC’s synchronous learning option, please take a look at this video we filmed for you this week. Over the coming weeks, we will be sharing additional information regarding this new option for students.
Outlined below are additional steps underway for returning to school in August.
Teaching and Learning
Prevention through increased focus on sanitation and healthy hygiene
Infection control as a priority
Large Group Gatherings and Activities
Chapels and other assemblies
Travel and school trips
As we continue to monitor and assess risk in our community, we will adjust our methods in order to minimize exposure to COVID-19. The chart below outlines the steps that will be implemented based on the level of risk we observe.
We are committed to leading through this pivotal time with transformative learning. And we want to hear from you too. Please take a moment to complete this form and share your thoughts with us related to our progress on health and safety initiatives.
We know this is a unique time and while there is much uncertainty around us, we believe GAC is in a unique position to move forward with exemplary educational opportunities for your children. Thank you for your partnership.
Scott Harsh, Ed D
As a follow up to the message earlier today, we have an update on another topic of vital importance—Health and Wellness Preparation for the return to school in August.
When it became apparent that the Covid19 pandemic would have long term impact beyond this spring, we began to consider what that might mean for the 2020-21 school year. For months now we’ve been redesigning and investing in all new initiatives and upgrades to help safeguard our children and to provide even broader paths for learning. We have conducted both our own research and sought out the best external resources and counsel.
A few weeks ago, Governor Kemp announced guidelines for the reopening of summer camps, summer activities and daycare facilities. This allowed us to reopen GAC Aquatics, our Tennis Academy, GAC Summer Camp, and Young Learners. Our student-athletes are back on campus training and Summer Camp will begin next week. We are adhering to the guidelines established by the Governor and Department of Health, and this has provided an opportunity to practice protocols and develop our own best practices.
As we look toward the 2020-21 school year, our plan remains to begin school on the GAC campus on Monday, August 10. In a separate letter next week, we will share what I believe are significant safety and health initiatives that will make both the GAC campus far safer for you and your children--plus give you new individual choices in learning as well.
Some of you have been asking if we plan to provide options for families who may not be ready to return to the GAC campus. The answer is yes. I look forward to sharing details next week of our plans to add a synchronous online model of teaching and learning, so that students can learn together in classrooms on the GAC campus and at home, if needed, simultaneously, providing the same instruction and engagement for all.
Watch for that good news next week. We remain committed to providing your children with the very best in learning, support, engagement, and preparation for the future.
Scott Harsh, Ed D
Dear GAC Parents,
We’re now down to the final weeks of this semester! I can’t thank you enough for your encouragement and support to our teachers and your children during the last two months. The hardship on students and families should not be minimized. Still, through this struggle, I’ve been reminded of the strength of the GAC community and the blessing of the relationship we share.
I’d like to ask you to complete a short anonymous survey on our school’s response to COVID-19 and our online learning platform. Independent School Management (ISM, Inc.) created this survey and has asked the top independent schools across the U.S. to participate in order to provide an aggregated picture of the overall independent school experience during COVID-19. The survey will close at the end of day Thursday, May 21st. The answers you provide by completing this survey will help our GAC leaders understand your experiences—and make improvements going forward.
In addition to the survey and a review of what GAC did in response to the COVID-19 protocols, I’d like to also keep you informed about the end of this school year and our initial view of the upcoming school year. There is nothing unique about winding down one year while finalizing plans and setting sights on the year to come. We share those kinds of details each year about this time. What is challenging this year, as you know, is planning for contingencies that we’ve not had to think about in the past. Even so, we are committed to putting together a plan for next year that addresses the potential challenges we may face, takes learning forward for students, and provides the high value you’ve come to expect from GAC.
We’re planning for classes to begin on the GAC campus on Monday, August 10. We don’t know yet about some of our annual traditions that mark the start of a new year—Spartan2gether, First Day All-School Chapel, and student retreats—look for those details to follow mid-summer. In the meantime, we are working diligently to develop plans that will maximize our time together on campus for learning and community engagement in 2020-2021. We can’t wait to welcome our students, and you, back onto the GAC campus!
While we are hopeful for classes to remain on campus all year long, we’re creating several contingency plans that include options in the event there are limits placed on the number of students that can be in a classroom, at lunch, or in hallways. We’re reviewing elements of our technology infrastructure that would make it possible for some students to synchronously access classes from home while other students are in classrooms. In the event we are required to shift to an extended period of online learning again, we’re prepared to make the best experience possible for each student, improving on the experience of the last seven weeks. We’re listening closely for guidance from medical professionals and the CDC to put in place health and safety protocols to protect our students and staff. Our leaders are looking at options for class trips and learning excursions, athletics, mission trips, and more —all significant aspects of the GAC experience for students.
We already announced our plans for a special week of senior events including a cookout, Prom, and Graduation the last week in July. For those of you with students in 5th or 8th grade, we’re making plans to celebrate those milestone transition years as part of coming back to campus in August. Of course the safety and well-being of our students and faculty/staff will be our top priority.
Behind all the plans and details is an unwavering commitment to our GAC families—we want you with us next year. If you’re concerned about next year, let us know, as we shared in earlier communications, we stand ready to help you. I’m thankful for many who have already donated to the GAC Family Assistance Fund, including those who donated the credits and refunds we issued. It’s not too late to help us grow this fund. If you’re in a position to do so, you can give today using this link.
Thank you for continuing to share your own GAC experience with friends and neighbors. This year we had an exceptional number of quality applicants to select from and we’re continuing to receive applications. Thank you!
As the writer of Proverbs stated, “We can make our plans, but the LORD determines our steps.” Parents you and I know we can make all the detailed plans for every contingency we can imagine, but we will put our trust in God to determine our steps for today, this week and in the weeks and months ahead.
May God bless you and your family. I can’t wait until we can be back on campus together!
Scott Harsh, Ed. D
I hope your family is well and that you are enjoying the beautiful weather this week. While there is much that our family misses right now, we are enjoying the opportunity to get outside in the backyard together, dinners on our deck, and sitting around our fire pit in the evenings. And while we can’t wait for all of this to pass, I have a feeling we’ll look back on this time with a special fondness for the time we were able to spend together as a family. I pray the same is true for your family.
Update on Spring Grades and Exams in Grades 6-12
Over the past couple of weeks, our team has been giving a lot of thought and exploration to our plan for spring grades and semester exams. The plan we’ve developed reflects the uniqueness of our current educational situation, the care we have for the added stress on our students, the integrity of our academic program, the desire for students to master content and be fully prepared for future courses and programs, and our commitment to set our students up for future success.
With these premises in mind, we’ve decided we will not be giving comprehensive exams in most classes, the exceptions being the National College Board test for AP/Advanced Placement and the DC/Dual Credit courses. This will allow us to continue with classes right through the last day of school on Thursday, May 21. By doing so, students gain an additional two weeks of dedicated class time for learning that would have otherwise been devoted to preparation for semester exams. Your student may still have unit tests or other assignments due that last week, but no semester-long final exams. We believe this is helpful to students in multiple ways.
We are announcing this decision now, to ensure clarity, to help our students manage stress, and to prepare for the end of the semester in the very best way possible. Details of our current plans are as follows:
Advanced Placement (AP) Courses
AP courses involve a national test created and managed by the College Board. Those national exams are scheduled to begin on May 11. You can view the AP Exam Schedule here.
Dual Credit (DC) Courses
Dual Credit courses (offered in partnership with Colorado Christian University) require an end of year culminating exam. Our teachers for our Dual Credit courses will work to ensure these culminating tests fit within the 70-minute class periods and will announce the date of these tests well in advance.
Update on Spring Grades and Exams in Grades K4-5
The Lower School will continue to monitor student progress throughout the semester using familiar tools that give both parents and teachers insight into gains in learning for both reading and math. Our teachers and administrators are working diligently to identify the best measures that give the most meaningful and useful information. For specific questions, please contact your child’s teacher.
We hope this update equips you to support your child as we prepare for the end of this semester. All of our teachers are working to provide clear expectations for students. While many questions are best addressed when students and teachers can communicate directly, we want to provide clear communication at every step in this process. If you, or your child, have specific questions related to a class, please communicate directly with the teacher. If you have broader questions related to our academic plan for this semester, please contact Lauren Hollier (grades 6-8), Matthew Beasley (grades 9-12), or Jill Baker (K4-5).
We remain committed to providing your children with the very best in learning, support, engagement, and preparation for the future. Our teachers have risen to the occasion, and every day, our team is working to increase the support and engagement for students and families. Even today, we rolled out a number of new initiatives and programs for students that I hope are a blessing. Yesterday we announced some fun and engaging plans for next week. I know we’re sending a lot of emails, and it can be difficult to keep up with all of the details at times. To help, we’ve put together a special Community Connection page for you with resources for students and parents. We continue to seek your feedback and have provided this form for you to share comments and input.
I pray for you all daily, and I can’t wait until we can be back together again.
Scott Harsh, Ed.D
This week we have an incredible opportunity to come together as a school family to celebrate Good Friday. We hope that you will join us virtually as we honor the suffering and sacrifice of Jesus, knowing that it led to his resurrection, our salvation, and the promise of eternal life. This year's chapel will look like no other in our school's history, and we hope to remember it as a time that we celebrated together in spite of circumstances and obstacles.
We invite you to tune in from 10:00-10:30 a.m. on Friday. Easter chapel will include participants from all school levels, all three principals, Dr Scott Harsh, GAC dancers, High School chapel band, and a devotional from Board member and local pastor Don McLaughlin.
You can follow along in one of three ways:
For those who don't have social accounts, you can view the livestream embedded on theCOVID-19 web page.
We look forward to worshipping with you!
In addition, we want to recognize the winners of the last #GACfamilychallenge and share the next challenge with you. This time, we ask that you share what your family is doing to celebrate Easter. There is nothing like a shelter-in-place order to get our creative wheels turning. Let's continue to encourage one another by doing good, stretching ourselves to seize all of opportunities for joy even in the midst of these trying times. We can't wait to see your submissions!
Dear GAC Parents,
I hope and pray your family is well and that you’ve enjoyed this week together. We are excited to see your children again as our online classes resume starting Monday, however there is no replacement for being together in person. We miss your child, and we miss you! Every teacher and staff member feels the same. While we recognize that we must remain physically apart, we are blessed to have the opportunity for learning to continue, to connect online, share stories and to celebrate together over social media, to commit to praying for one another, and to find ways to encourage and provide hope as we go through this challenge together. I remain grateful for our GAC community and the connection we share.
Governor Kemp’s Announcement & GAC’s Plans
We are all aware of Governor Kemp’s announcement earlier this week to close all public K-12 schools, colleges, and universities for the remainder of the school year, as well as the many other steps being taken as a state and region to defeat the COVID-19 pandemic. Given all that is occurring, we have decided to continue our online learning through the end of the school year and keep the campus closed. While we all knew this decision was a strong possibility, the decision was not made lightly and is a very disappointing reality for each of us. We know that there are many spring activities, events, and year-end achievements that our students and families anticipated celebrating in-person. This is not only limited to the events that we control at GAC but those beyond our control as well, including GHSA’s (Georgia High School Association) announcement to cancel all spring athletic events. Our sense of loss is real. These losses are especially painful for our seniors and their families.
While I wish that I could promise that we’d find a way to reschedule each activity, we know that won’t be possible. However, we are committed to finding a way to celebrate our seniors and are working on plans to shift several of the most significant events, like Prom and Graduation, to the summer months. We have a team working on those events, and we will update you as soon as we are able. We’re also thinking about the many spring performances for our arts groups, 5th and 8th grade graduations, and so many other events. If it is safe to come together prior to the end of May, we will make every effort to provide students with an opportunity to come together for special events and connection. In addition, just as soon as it is safe to do so, we will reopen Young Learners. We recognize that many of you are anxious for this, as well as our auxiliary programs such as aquatics and the Tennis Academy. We will continue to update you in the weeks ahead. Now more than ever, our students, and all of us need the support and connection of the GAC family. Together, we can find our way through this.
Your Family and GAC for the 2020-21 School Year
While much of our energy is focused on the weeks ahead, we are continuing to plan for the next school year. There are exciting days ahead. In fact, we are preparing to send out our first round of acceptances for the 2020-21 school year. Please join us in praying for these new GAC families. I’m so excited for the caliber and number of families who want to join our community.
We are counting on your family for the upcoming school year. In fact, the vast majority of you have already completed the appropriate steps. However, we recognize that some families are facing new economic uncertainties. We are here for you. If you are experiencing difficulty, that you worry may prevent your child from being back with us next year, please talk to us about that. If you have a question, please call or email our Vice President of Finance, Josh Thomason. We stand ready to support you.
The Weekly and Daily Schedule
As we turn our attention to this coming week, please remember students have class Monday through Thursday and no flex-day. Friday, April 10, remains a student holiday and celebration of Good Friday as scheduled. Students in grades 6-12, will follow our revised daily schedule. Students in K4-5th should continue to follow the schedule posted on teachers’ pages with specifics of daily activities posted each morning, including Zoom sessions.
As a point of clarification, our aim is to provide a full week of instruction and learning each week for all students. The flex-day, beginning Wednesday, April 15, is provided so that we can more fully support the learning needs for each student with added time to connect with teachers, time to collaborate with peers on class projects, special offerings by our counselors to address social emotional needs, connection points by coaches and other program leaders, chapels, student led discussions, and more. We will continue to evaluate the schedule and will make adjustments to improve learning and connection as we progress.
In addition to regular email communication, we will also continue to post updates on our GAC COVID-19 webpage, where you may also provide feedback and ask questions. One note, I shared an update earlier this week to this page related to new information from the Department of Health regarding communicating positive cases within our community. If you’ve not seen that update yet, I invite you to review it.
We hope your family will join us Friday for our Easter Chapel. Instructions for accessing that special chapel online will be sent later this week.
I remain grateful for every GAC family. I pray for you daily and I look forward to the time when we can be back together again.
Scott Harsh, Ed.D
We have prayerfully and carefully considered our next steps related to Governor Kemp’s announcement today that Georgia public schools will remain closed for face-to-face instruction through the end of the school year. While GAC may also need to take this step, we have not yet made a decision. For now, we know with certainty that we will continue with online learning through Friday, April 24. We are confident we can continue to be successful in this platform, both in achieving academic outcomes, and in caring for our students. I appreciate the phenomenal efforts of our teachers and the overwhelming support of our GAC community. We will update you via email in the next few days. Hope you all are enjoying your Spring break.
The COVID-19 crisis is challenging and unlike anything I have experienced in my 26 years in education. As we have mentioned in every communication this situation, we rely on guidance from the CDC, the Governor’s office, and state and local (Gwinnett, Newton, Rockdale) Department of Public Health (DPH).
As COVID-19 is now classified in the stage of community spread, the DPH has advised us to NOT to notify our entire community about cases. We recognize this is a change from what we previously communicated. The Department of Health will fully take the lead on all cases when individuals test positive, and will work with the individual to notify anyone that may be at risk of exposure. The DPH has informed us that they will issue notification to those who they deem may have been exposed to the disease. As an organization we must adhere to the guidance of those departments on the frontlines of the crisis, and HIPAA (health privacy) laws. This does not prohibit the individual themselves from notification.
As the crisis continues, we know that the members of the GAC family have and/or will be affected. Our prayers are that the symptoms will be mild. Our hearts and prayers go out to each of them and the members of our community who are providing needed medical care and taking on risk for the rest of us. We are confident that Christ is near and will hear our prayers.
Scott Harsh, Ed.D
I want to thank all of you for your gracious support during our first two weeks of online learning. I’m so very proud of our students for the way they have risen to the challenge, embracing a new routine with energy and optimism. I’m also so very grateful for our incredible teachers who have worked tirelessly to provide our students with the very best in learning, engagement, and encouragement throughout these last two weeks. Parents, your overwhelmingly positive feedback has been a source of energy for our faculty and staff. Thank you for supporting us the way that you have.
Early this week I shared some thoughts in one of my videos about how we can use this time to spread encouragement. I referenced an article in the Harvard Business Review entitled, “How Bad Times Bring Out the Best in People”. The article encouraged readers to focus on the opportunity we have right now to “express the very best we have to offer”, to “feel an increased sense of belonging”, and to “come together in unity to do good”.
As we get ready for Spring Break, I want to encourage every GAC family to give some thought to the opportunities we each have next week to make a difference for others --- people in our home, in our GAC community, and beyond. A few ideas we shared through the #GACFamilyChallenge are:
Many of you already responded with creative, heartfelt ways to do good and inspire others. You’ve taken Galatians 6:2 to heart, “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” I look forward to seeing more of you take action this next week.
So while our Spring Break plans may no longer include some of the things your family traditionally does each year, we have an amazing opportunity to create new family memories. Let’s get creative and let’s spend some time next week blessing others and bringing joy. If you do, I promise this will be a Spring Break your family will never forget.
Spring break travel and guidance | March 30 - April 3
The health of our entire school family remains a top concern. There is a chance that some of you will travel internationally or domestically during Spring Break. While we can’t restrict your travel, we want you to know of our concern. As a reminder, the State Department has issued advisories in regards to international travel. The CDC posts similar health notices for many countries and even restricts re-entry from several countries. If you choose to travel internationally during Spring Break, we want to know your plans and we will request that you self-isolate for at least 14 days upon your return. The CDC also offers recommendations in regards to travel within the U.S. states. If you choose to travel domestically, we ask you to be careful in choosing your destinations. Please consider self-isolation upon your return as well. We’re counting on each other, as a community, to abide by the advisories and to use an abundance of caution.
During Spring Break we have plans to continue sending you uplifting morning messages from GAC with some special guests from our GAC community. So be watching for those!
Join us for a Virtual Good Friday Chapel | April 10
We are providing an opportunity for the GAC community to come together to celebrate Good Friday. If we had been in school on campus that week, we would have celebrated with an All School Easter Chapel. Even though we won’t be able to be together in person, we can connect digitally in worship, the reading of scripture, special videos, and an inspiring message. Please make plans for your family to join the GAC family for this special digital Good Friday Chapel. More information will come out the week after Spring Break.
Online Learning Continues | April 6 - April 24
Today, Governor Kemp announced that all public schools are to remain closed through Friday, April 24. We will extend our Online Learning and suspension of campus activities through April 24 as well.
As I stated earlier this week, the rhythm of online learning is different and we will be adopting some adjustments to the weekly schedule for K4-12th grade students following Spring Break. The schedule will continue with four days each week with scheduled classes and one flex day reserved for students to catch up on work that may be piling up, work ahead, collaborate with peers, get additional help from a teacher, participate in digital chapels, connect with a GAC counselor, and more. Starting after Spring Break, we will be adding optional sessions for students to engage socially with different activities such as co-curricular team devotionals, student-led discussion groups, digital chapels, and more. In addition, our teachers are using this flex day for additional training, collaboration, and checking in on individual students. We believe this rhythm holds many advantages for students and teachers.
The week following Spring Break includes Good Friday on April 10 that was already a scheduled student holiday. With that, we plan to host classes beginning on Monday, April 6, with no flex day that week. Starting the week of April 13, the flex day will shift to Wednesdays.
New Middle and High School Daily Schedule
As online learning moves into an extended time period, we have listened to feedback from our parents, students, and teachers. While this feedback is overwhelmingly positive, we all recognize there are differences between face-to-face classes and online classes that should be taken into consideration for our daily schedule. One of the things we’ve found is that learning in an online format is more efficient. Our teachers have commented that they are able to cover more material in each class session. In our current schedule we have a mixture of 45 and 90 minute classes. While both work well face-to-face, we think a 70 minute class may be more ideal in this new online platform.
Therefore we have made some adjustments to the daily schedule for Middle and High School students. Making these shifts will allow us to address issues such as prolonged screen time, provide appropriate breaks between classes, allow students to focus more intently but with fewer classes each day, and provide additional time for students to connect with teachers before and after the class schedule. We believe this schedule allows for more personalization of learning and is more sustainable for students and teachers in the weeks ahead. Of course, we will be monitoring and evaluating these changes and, if needed, we will be ready to make additional adjustments for the benefit of students.
Lower School Daily Schedule
The Lower School daily schedule will remain very much the same with adjustments (such as Zoom sessions occurring at a consistent time) that will be reflected on each teacher’s page of MyGAC. Students will still have the flexibility of working through activities at their own pace or following a more structured schedule that more closely mirrors a typical school day. Daily activities will still be posted each morning on teachers’ pages.
GAC Activities and Events
The month of April contains many significant events in the life of students in all three school levels. Some events, like Prom on Friday, April 17, we are postponing - not canceling - with plans to reschedule when it is safe once again to gather in large groups. We will announce plans for other annual events at a later date, but as of now all activities through April 24 are canceled or postponed. We will be working to reschedule as many of those activities as is feasible. My prayer is that we will be able to preserve many of our spring celebrations and events, especially for our seniors.
As of today, we remain thankful that we have no known members of the GAC family that have tested positive for COVID-19. We pray this continues to be the case. However, if you or someone in your immediate household is diagnosed with COVID-19 we continue to ask that you notify our Director of School Life, Jimmy Chupp. We continue to welcome your feedback and encourage you to visit the COVID-19 Updates page for any updates or communication you may have missed.
I am thankful for every GAC family and I pray daily for your well-being and protection. I hope you have a wonderful Spring Break, filled with joy and meaningful family time. We look forward to resuming our online classes on April 6, and I can’t wait to be back on campus together soon. May God bless your family and our entire GAC community.
Scott Harsh, Ed. D
U.S. State Department Travel Advisories
CDC Global Travel Health Notices
CDC COVID-19 and travel within the U.S.
You made it to Wednesday afternoon! Hopefully you've enjoying the early end to the school day and this wonderful spring weather. Here's a short video announcing our #GACFamilyChallenge. You can check our social channels to see my family's submission and consider sending yours in by Friday morning.
Scott Harsh, Ed.D
Dear GAC Parents,
I am so encouraged by our first day of online classes. It has truly been a successful day. Your feedback has been overwhelmingly positive, and we loved seeing the photos of your students in their online learning environment. We continue to be grateful for how you and your student(s) have responded to this move to online learning with grace, understanding, and a positive spirit. The feedback from our teachers has also been equally positive, with many commenting that our students adapted exceptionally well to the online learning platform with eager engagement and a real desire to learn.
Please continue to share your photos, stories, and feedback. We shared some of your photos below and on social media (I hope you are following us).
Yesterday we shared a google form to collect your feedback, and from your questions, we’ve started an FAQ page that will be updated regularly and placed on our COVID-19 Updates webpage. Please use this resource to stay informed and continue to submit questions you may have. While we love to hear your positive feedback, we also need to know what isn’t working well so that we can respond. As a reminder, we’ve set up an IT Hotline (770-243-2388) with additional staffing to ensure our students, teachers, and parents have access to real-time support for any technology issues that may arise.
With day one of our online classes complete, I continue to be grateful for the opportunity we have to serve your family. We are committed to providing the very best in learning, engagement, and support for each student and your family. As a community, let’s resolve that in this season of physical distance, that we will creatively and proactively create ways to connect remotely, to celebrate our students and teachers, and to work together to strengthen our families and our community. Let’s be attuned to each other in support and love. We will get through this temporary crisis, and I believe that together we will emerge a stronger community.
Thank you for your partnership,
Scott Harsh, Ed. D
Thank you for your patience and support as we’ve finalized our online learning plans. As a change of pace, we made a short video today that I hope will help you and your family know what to expect in the days ahead. For the video I interviewed our two Instructional Lead Teachers (ILTs), Crystal Downs and Derek Wilson, and asked them to answer “what will my child’s day look like during online learning” and other questions you may have.
As a reminder, the Online Learning Schedule will run Tuesday - Friday of this week. Then, Monday March 23 will again be a Student Holiday. The additional Student Holiday is intended to provide a break for your child and time for planning and additional training for teachers.
Beyond teacher specific questions, in the event you have challenges with your device (Macbook, iPad or accessing Zoom), feel free to contact our IT Helpdesk via a HelpDesk ticket or call our IT Hotline 770-243-2388. We’ve worked to allocate our IT Staff to be responsive to your needs as quickly as possible.
We’ve also created a Google form so you can submit questions you may have. We are committed to serving your student/s and your family well during this time so I encourage you to make use of this tool. In addition to responding to your individual questions, we plan to use your questions to create an FAQs page which will be posted to our COVID-19 Updates webpage.
For those of you with students in 6-12th grade, I want to call your attention to one action item your student(s) need to take within the next 24 hours. In order to facilitate a secure testing environment, your student will need to access the system used by our Ethos School which utilizes a Lockdown Browser. Students will be receiving login information later today for Ethos via email from firstname.lastname@example.org. This email will give instructions with a username and temporary password. Students should click the link and create their password. Students will take their major tests and quizzes by logging in at https://lms.ethosschool.org/login. Please bookmark this site for future reference. Your teachers will be providing further instructions, but it’s important for students to set up their login with Ethos now. If you do not receive an email from Ethos by 8:00 AM, March 17, please email Tasha Jenkins.
We continue to be grateful for your partnership. I hope you find the video below to be helpful.
Scott Harsh, Ed. D
Dear GAC Family,
Today was a productive day of preparing students for success during our online learning days. Teachers and students held practice zoom sessions, talked about daily expectations, ensured needed software and applications were accessible, and identified communication pathways. Our goal is for our students to feel confident in the process. The work we have completed this week will be important to maintaining academic progress and sustaining a sense of community — albeit in a different setting — among our students and their teachers.
As we progress and build on our plan for Online Learning, it is important to recognize that this plan is not the same as our past plans around GAC Cyber Days. Students and teachers will be following a typical day schedule (8:30-3:15) utilizing our online learning platform. This will include a structured schedule for students and attendance will be taken for student participation. This will provide students with consistency in the structure of the school day, as well as awareness of exactly when each teacher is available and providing instruction.
What does this look like?
Our team of teachers, counselors, and administrators will work to recognize and address areas of concern for students and families as they come up. If you have a question related to our shift to online learning, please reach out to your child’s teacher (grades K-5), Lauren Hollier (grades 6-8), or Matt Beasley (grades 9-12).
Reminder, Monday is a student holiday, allowing our teachers another day to finalize their plans. On Monday, you will receive a more detailed email with student expectations and processes for the online learning days. Young Learners families, you will receive a specific email as well. You may also check our COVID-19 webpage and your School level group pages inside MyGAC for information.
This is an unprecedented time. While we are all facing challenges, I want to encourage you to consider the opportunity during the next two weeks for your family to spend more time together, to rest, have family dinners, to plan game nights, to read, and to enjoy an extended time together with far fewer interruptions and distractions. While this is not a scenario that we would have wished for, let’s use it as an opportunity to strengthen our families.
Over the weekend, we recommend that you think about spaces and needs for productive learning free from distraction in your home. Students will need a quiet location to work each day. We also recommend creating a daily schedule and routine that includes plenty of sleep, physical exercise, good nutrition, social time with family members, and time outside. This will help you and your child feel a sense of routine and normality during this disruption.
During the next few weeks we will be communicating with you often. We’ll also be praying for you and we ask that you join us in praying for our GAC community. As I said goodbye to our elementary students and families in carpool today, I was struck with an overwhelming sense of gratitude for the relationships we share. We are blessed with an incredible community, amazing teachers, and phenomenal students. We will miss seeing you during the next few weeks and will be excited to be back together just as soon as it is possible.
May God bless your family,
Dear GAC Family,
As I shared in my letter earlier this afternoon, our senior leadership team continues to monitor the situation and be proactive while striving to communicate clear and comprehensive information with you.
I imagine most of you are now aware of Governor Brian Kemp's statement during today’s 3:00 p.m. press conference. Citing the rapid rise of the Coronavirus in Georgia, Governor Kemp issued a call to action that schools should consider closing as early as tomorrow through the next two weeks.
Earlier today we announced our plan to begin utilizing our Online Learning platform Monday, March 16. While we had hoped to stay open into next week, that is no longer a possibility. Based on Governor Kemp’s announcement, we have now decided to shift completely to our online learning platform beginning Monday and continuing for the next two weeks, followed by our week of Spring Break, March 30 - April 3.
This means that all students (Young Learners - 12th grade) will not come to campus Monday, March 16 through April 3. We recognize the hardship this creates as many of you will need to reorient your schedule, however, our highest commitment remains the safety and welfare of our students and community. Monday will be a student holiday and teacher workday. Our teachers will be making final plans to support online learning for the next two weeks with content creation, testing our digital tools and applications, and fully preparing for this shift.
We remain confident in our ability to deliver engaged and meaningful instruction through our online learning platform. We also recognize that we are navigating uncharted territory. We are ready to be fully responsive with deep levels of support with ongoing communication to our entire GAC community.
Over the next few days we will update you with a more thorough list of GAC activities that will be canceled or postponed, as well as, greater details that will help you as you prepare for this shift to online learning.
Thank you for your ongoing support.
Scott Harsh, Ed. D.
Dear GAC Family,
As we continue to monitor the evolving situation around COVID-19, our priority remains the health and well-being of the entire GAC community. We are constantly monitoring the situation, making adjustments, and striving to communicate clear and comprehensive information with you. Please know that at this time, there are no known cases of COVID-19 within the GAC community.
As you know, yesterday the World Health Organization (WHO) elevated the COVID-19 virus to pandemic level. The core team of our senior leadership is meeting multiple times each day to review advisories from the CDC, Department of Health and other agencies, within the context of the goals for the GAC family.
The purpose of this letter is to:
1) Inform you of our plans to close the campus Monday, March 16 (K4-12, with Young Learners remaining open) to conduct a full day preparedness test of our online learning platform.
2) Provide clear guidelines for our decision making process for when we would announce a school closure and move to our Online Learning platform.
3) Share the new protocols we’ve instituted to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 during regular school operation.
Monday, March 16 - School Closed for Preparedness Test
My last letter (dated March 9) informed you of our work during this past Monday’s Professional Development Day that focused on refining our plans and processes for online learning in the event of a closure related to COVID-19. It was a very successful day, due to the dedication of the GAC faculty and leaders. Our early adoption to a digital learning environment years ago, as well as, our most recent two years of supporting and growing a consistent online platform through Ethos (GAC's online school) has allowed us to be well-prepared. We are indebted to the hours of dedication and work of our stellar faculty led by Dr. Betty Morris, our Instructional Lead Teachers - Crystal Downs and Derek Wison, and our Academic Deans, Matt Beasley, Lauren Hollier, and Jill Baker. I’m also grateful for the spirit of our faculty as they have responded to this challenge with energy, grace, and great care for our students. We are blessed with a phenomenal faculty and staff.
Due to the escalating nature of the number of COVID-19 cases in the United States and Georgia, we feel that it is necessary to take the next step in preparing our students for the potential of moving to a full online learning environment. There are over 100 universities and colleges that have already made this decision. While we are not currently making the same decision today, it is prudent to realize that we may need to do so in the future.
Therefore, we are announcing that Monday, March 16 will be a GAC Online Learning Day. This will allow us to fully test the process and technology. We are asking all students to stay home on Monday and follow the instructions sent to them for an online school day. We will work with the students on Friday, March 13 to ensure they are ready for Monday.
Our teachers, instructional lead teachers, technology team and senior leaders have worked together to create a great plan for Monday. We will be ready to respond with assistance to ensure our students and parents have the tools, resources, and communication needed to be successful. We are hopeful to be back together on campus on Tuesday to address and resolve any issues that surfaced during the day. We feel this is an important step because if GAC was required to close, issues would be more complicated to resolve with everyone at home.
Varsity practices and games will continued as scheduled for Monday March 16. All other levels will be canceled. All other co-curricular activities and practices are canceled. Any exceptions will be communicated by program leaders.
Thresholds for School Closure
It is our sincere hope that GAC will continue to operate as normal on campus, but the current situation calls for contingency planning. The following thresholds have been determined for the potential closing of our physical campus and shift to our Online Learning platform:
As this COVID-19 situation continues to evolve, we ask that you notify Jimmy Chupp, Director of School Life immediately if you or your student is exposed to someone who has tested positive and that you keep your student/s home.
Of course, if the CDC, Department of Health, Governor, or another agency with authority gives guidance for schools on closure, we will follow that directive.
New Prevention/Wellness Protocols
Following the protocols for social distancing, we are reducing the number of large group interactions, providing additional space for instruction and activity when possible, and limiting the number of non-parent campus visitors. In addition, we’ve instituted new procedures for our dining hall and lunchtime.
Service Hours for Graduation and Student Credit
Many of you have asked about the annual service hour requirements in light of our decision to cancel upcoming mission trips and service days. While we still hope your child will look for opportunity to engage in service, we realize the hardship these cancellations pose and the challenge in this current environment to find service opportunities. With that in mind, we are awarding each student who was scheduled to serve on a Spring Mission Trip or Service Day the full number of hours associated with their intended experience. In addition, we are hopeful we will be able to promote additional service activities later this spring. We hope this removes any anxiety students may have had from missing an opportunity to gain needed service hours and we also hope it will further a desire for students to serve in their home, neighborhood, community, and the world.
In closing, I want to share a message of hope and perspective. But rather than sharing my words, I want to share the inspired word recorded by the apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 4:7-8. I received these words of encouragement today from a GAC parent and friend, and I am passing them along to you with the same intent. “We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves. We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair”.
I hope these words remind us of the eternal perspective to which we are called and of the hope that cannot be taken away. May God guide us in our decisions and actions as we care for our students and each member of the GAC community.
Scott Harsh, Ed.D
Dear GAC Family,
As we monitor the situation around COVID-19 our priority remains the health and well-being of the entire GAC community. Please know that at this time, there are no known cases of COVID-19 within the GAC community.
Today, as students hopefully enjoyed a day away from school, our PK-12 faculty refined and expanded our online learning plans in response to the evolving situation with our students’ continued academic progress as our top priority. We will continue to share relevant information as quickly as possible:
We have decided to cancel all GAC-sponsored spring break trips (both domestic and international locations). Details will be shared by each of the trip leaders with the students on a trip-by-trip basis in the next few days.
We are aware of the many plans GAC families make each year for spring break (Monday, March 30 - Friday, April 3). However, we strongly recommend that you not travel to the five COVID-19 CDC Level 2 or Level 3 areas (currently China, Iran, Italy, South Korea, and Japan).
GAC will continue to observe the CDC guidelines and will follow their lead should this list be expanded. Like many U.S. organizations and in accordance with CDC guidelines, we ask GAC students, parents, faculty, staff and volunteers who plan to travel in the next few weeks to these areas, or whose household members are returning from those areas, not to return to school (including any school activities on or off campus) until a 14-day period has elapsed following their return. As with other extended absences due to illness or extenuating circumstances, students who must self-quarantine will not be penalized academically in any regard.
If you are planning to travel to these areas or if you have come in close contact with someone who has traveled to those countries or been diagnosed with COVID-19, we ask you to inform Jimmy Chupp, the Director of School Life. Should your student require quarantine after travel, we are prepared to support your student at home with the very best in online learning supported by our GAC teachers with opportunity for regular communication and assistance.
Prevention on Campus
In the meantime, we continue to take a proactive and preventative stance. We are reminding families and faculty of precautions to follow, including, as always, staying home if they are sick or with a temperature of greater than 100 degrees. Visit our COVID-19 webpage where you will find previous emails from me outlining our prevention plans and any future GAC updates regarding this situation.
Planning for Possible School Disruption
It is our sincere hope that GAC will continue to operate as normal without disruption, but the current situation calls for contingency planning.
Status 1: School is Open, Potential of Increased Absences
GAC already has experience with a hybrid model of instructional continuity with face-to-face learning while at the same time supporting students at home, ensuring they receive relevant instruction and the opportunity to participate and collaborate from a distance. If your student experiences an extended absence this spring, our teachers are ready to provide instruction, engaged learning, and regular communication to support their progress and learning. If you believe your student will be away from school for multiple days, please communicate with your child’s teacher (through 5th grade) or your school level Academic Dean, either Lauren Hollier in Middle School, or Matt Beasley in the High School, so that we can ensure seamless communication and full support.
Status 2: Campus is Closed, Learning Continues Online
Today, in anticipation of this possibility all faculty spent the day updating our plans for all school levels (Early Childhood through High School) to deliver instruction and foster uninterrupted and meaningful learning in the midst of the disruption of our daily operations for a short or an extended period of time. GAC is a leader in digital and online learning methodologies. While we hope we do not have to close our physical campus, if we do, our teachers will be ready. If and when this decision is made, we will communicate detailed plans with daily updates by teachers via myGAC. GAC has experience with past cyberdays as well as with the launch of Ethos, our online platform, and we are now more prepared than ever before. We are confident we can provide the very best in learning, communication, and care for our students during a time when we are not able to be together on campus.
Communication with GAC
Moving forward, please know that any urgent information will be disseminated schoolwide via an email from me or via our emergency notification system. In addition, our principals will be in frequent contact with you regarding curricular and other specifics that are more divisional in nature. Finally, we will continue to send out the Weekly News on Thursdays with the regular highlights and updates that it usually includes.
While the threat posed by the spread of Covid-19 is concerning, we remain hopeful and faithful. We serve a God who is more powerful than any virus or disease, and He has called us to keep our eyes fixed on Him. So, let’s continue to be wise and careful in our planning, and let’s be full of care in our words and actions with each other, especially with our students. We parent and teach a generation that is already said to be the most anxious of all time. We have an opportunity in the way we respond to this current crisis to lead them with love. Let’s not miss this most important lesson of the year.
Scott Harsh, Ed. D.
Dear GAC Parents,
Thank you for your response to my letter last Thursday regarding the novel Coronavirus (COVID-19). As we take both practical and proactive steps to the growing global health concern, we remain committed to the safety of our students and the larger GAC community.
As you know, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) still considers the immediate health threat of COVID-19 to be low for the general public. However, we are mindful of the concerns for students with weakened immunities, students with spring/summer mission trips and study abroad plans, in addition to individuals undertaking personal travel, either domestic or international, and the potential concerns their return could present.
Additionally, yesterday afternoon a group of GAC leaders met and discussed each of the upcoming planned GAC-sponsored trips. At that meeting the decision was made to cancel the Thailand mission trip scheduled for late May. Students involved in that trip will be contacted by the trip leaders directly. Moving forward decisions will be made on a trip-by-trip basis.
We want to be wise in regards to health, safety, and other issues associated with trips and travel. We are closely monitoring travel advisories, considering time tables for fundraising and trip payments, talking with leaders in the other locations to which we are planning to travel, and carefully considering the health and well being of our students and community. We will update you as we make additional decisions.
As a reminder, our emergency plan mirrors plans recommended by federal and local health agencies and calls for the following responses to help prevent situations such as the spread of the COVID-19. In addition to the general plan, we will continue to adapt as the situation warrants. For now, we have:
If you choose to travel personally, please:
We covet your prayers and your support for our efforts. We are committed to doing the things we can do to protect our students and at the same time we walk in faith, lifting our eyes to remember that our help comes from the Lord. Let’s be cautious and hopeful, wise and joyful, and faithful in our response to this growing concern.
Scott Harsh, Ed. D.
Dear GAC Parents,
As you are well aware, there is growing concern globally in regards to the novel Coronavirus (COVID-19). While the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has stated that the immediate risk of this new virus to the American public is low, we want to assure you that we are taking precautionary steps. Our highest priority is the safety of our students and staff, and GAC leaders are proactively monitoring the information as it is released by the CDC, the Georgia Department of Health, and other organizations that deal directly with schools.
Each year we take steps at GAC to reduce the spread of the seasonal flu and other communicable diseases including the intensive cleaning and disinfecting of all student areas. The disinfectant solution regularly used by GAC kills flu, strep, MRSA, and other communicable germs.
The CDC and public health officials continue to encourage the use of nonpharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) as the best defense against the spread of respiratory viruses, including the flu, Coronavirus, and other illnesses. These include measures such as:
We will continue to monitor the situation and update our emergency management plan as needed to address this specific situation. Although a temporary closure of campus is not anticipated, GAC is well-prepared to conduct cyber school days using the best platforms and strategies with our online instruction in ways that support authentic and engaged learning.
We are especially mindful of the potential impact to upcoming mission trips and study abroad programs planned for later this spring and summer.
Please pray for those affected by this disease and their families; wisdom for the medical professionals involved; and protection of our community. If you have any questions or concerns, please direct them to Jimmy Chupp, Director of School Life, or to one of our school nurses, Annabelle Townsend or Kristin Wilson.
Scott Harsh, Ed. D