O'Neal Communicates Expectations for Back to School

John Elmore, Head of School
Once again, thank you everyone who has reached out with questions and ideas about O’Neal’s reopening plan.  We are a community united in our care for O’Neal and for one another, and your support is appreciated.  Even as I write this, preparations are going into place all over campus.  Our incredible faculty has returned and are busy with specialized training ahead of welcoming students back to their classes.

Our plan was published a month ago, and guidance from the State and CDC has evolved in recent weeks.  You recently heard from your Division Heads, and today, I am writing to provide schoolwide details regarding some of the most widely discussed and current protocols and requirements for O’Neal’s opening day on August 11th.  Please check your inbox regularly this week for more information about orientation, symptom screening, requirements and more division specific topics.
Things will simply be different when we open O’Neal’s campus this year.  Students will see desks distanced in each classroom, signs reminding them of expectations, hand sanitizer stations and face coverings.  Under the Governor’s July 14th school announcement, face coverings are required “for all teachers and students K-12,” and everyone at O’Neal will be following these guidelines when indoors.  Coverings will not be required when students are outdoors and distanced, so teachers will use the spaces on our beautiful campus for classes, lunch and breaks whenever they choose.  We know that it may take some time for our youngest elementary students to become accustomed to a face covering, and our teachers are prepared to help guide them just as they do with other self-care skills.  Pre-K students are not required to wear masks.  All Lower School students will always remain exclusively with their individual class, and any interaction between Middle and Upper School students will be minimized to limit exposure between groups.
O’Neal’s daily routines will also be different.  Symptom screening will be conducted online before arriving at school, and temperature checks will be taken before entering the school.  Each division will have designated entrances and coordination for foot traffic moving through the building.  Hand washing and sanitizing will be required at regular times, desks and student surfaces will be cleaned between each class, and the porter will be cleaning touch points, restrooms throughout the day.  Additionally, families can expect that all rooms and spaces will be sanitized by an electrostatic sprayer and/or a UV-C lamp two times per week.
Our layers of virus control measures are intended to keep as many people in our community as safe as possible.  No single precaution is enough on its own to effectively mitigate spread, but together, these layers of procedures and precautions create an interdependent net of mitigation with a higher likelihood of overall effectiveness.  O’Neal’s plan relies on repetitive routine and thoughtful precaution, on individual and family adherence to safe behaviors in and out of school, and on transparency and honest self-reporting.  We are all integral partners in O’Neal’s reopening and continued operation.
If O’Neal does have a positive case of COVID-19 in our on-campus community, we will notify the entire school community, and as privacy laws allows, notify families, teachers and staff who may have been directly exposed to the individual.  In response to COVID-19 symptoms, exposure and/or cases, O’Neal will follow the guidance provided by the Moore County Health Department.
The teachers at O’Neal are exceptional, and they will work with and support students who are absent due to quarantine or illness.  As always, teachers are prepared to provide assignments, notes and materials, and we are planning to record direct instruction when appropriate to share with absent students.  There will be no penalties for absences due to COVID-19 procedures.  Unfortunately, O’Neal cannot offer a completely virtual option for students to learn from home for an extended period when neither sick nor quarantined.  O’Neal teachers give 100% for their students, and many are taking extra classes and duties to help us deliver on-campus instruction as safely as possible.  Due to the constraints on their time and resources, and the potential impact on our quality O’Neal experience, we cannot ask teachers to provide a fully virtual option in addition to our on-campus programs.
Given the risks that remain in spite of our best mitigation efforts and in light of those efforts’ dependence on individual compliance, we appreciate the difficult decision it is for some families to send their children to school for in-person learning during this pandemic.  Every family situation is unique, and some families have decided not to have their students return to campus for the 2020-21 academic year.  If your family has signed an enrollment contract but decides that returning to campus is not the decision that you want to make, please notify me via email or in writing before the close of business on August 6, 2020, and The O’Neal School will refund your deposit, payments and fees for the upcoming year.  Each of our O’Neal families play a meaningful role in our community, and we hope to welcome you back in the future should you decide this is the best path for your family.
We look forward to seeing our O’Neal students next week. Our teachers and staff returned to campus today, and their dedication and professionalism cannot be over emphasized.  Summer Camps and last week’s Leadership Academy were excellent and have given us greater insights into how to efficiently and effectively implement our on-campus protocols.
Please watch your inbox for back-to-school information throughout the week.  If you have specific questions or concerns, please contact me or your division head at any time.
All the best -
Serving Pinehurst, Southern Pines, Whispering Pines, Sanford, West End, Aberdeen, and areas surrounding Moore County, NC.

The O’Neal School
3300 Airport Road
Southern Pines, NC 28387

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The O'Neal School admits students of any race, color, national and ethnic origin to all the rights, privileges, programs, and activities generally accorded or made available to students at the school. It does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national and ethnic origin in administration of its educational policies, admissions policies, scholarship and loan programs, and athletic and other school-administered programs.