COVID-19 (Coronavirus) Information
In order to safeguard the health, safety and welfare of our community, Gilbert Christian Schools is temporarily moving to online learning during the current coronavirus situation. We are carefully monitoring and adhereing to CDC guidelines and will continue to update the community on any changes.
GCS administration’s goal is to continue eLearning for all GCS students through online environments as best as possible given the required social distancing.
Moodle our online learning management system and will be the central location for all information. Information for each class period and grade level will be held within this system. The teachers will prepare and make available to students, prerecorded teaching lessons, assignments, grades, other content, and conduct forums within the Moodle classroom.
Live instruction and tutoring will be conducted through Zoom an online video communication tool.
Based on research, testing, and feedback from other schools, the administration team has found that at home internet bandwidth is a significant issue for families. It is our goal to build a realistic plan for families that spreads grade levels requirements to different times to help with technology sharing and bandwidth issues. Chromebook computers will be made available to students who do not have adequate technology at home.
GCS eLearning Plans
From Superintendent Jim Desmarchais
As we have worked through the changes caused by the Coronavirus, it has been a challenge for the entire Gilbert Christian community. The move to eLearning in a short period of time was a challenge for teachers and administrators. I could not be more impressed by how they all rose to the challenge. Of course, the move to eLearning has also been a challenge for students and families to navigate. I am thankful for how our families have adapted to a change no one expected or desired.
Initially, we felt that the impact of the Coronavirus on the Phoenix area would be minimal. We announced the school would temporarily transition to eLearning until the end of April with the hope of returning to normal in May. Obviously, that has not been the case. The impact has been greater and longer-lasting than I anticipated with the threat of a “second wave” in the fall.
When the shutdown was first announced the federal government responded to the economic impact on businesses being forced to close and the resulting loss of income for families by announcing increased unemployment benefits, stimulus checks and the Payroll Protection Program. The Payroll Protection Program, in particular, was designed so that businesses who experienced a loss in revenue could continue to pay their employees rather than respond to reduced income by reducing staff or furloughing employees.
When the Payroll Protection Program was announced, I put out a video on April 1st saying if we received the PPP money, we planned on using that money for payroll and then use the money we saved to discount tuition. At that time, that was my plan and my hope in an effort to be a blessing to the families at GCS.
Since then, the discussion of the loan being forgiven has further developed. After talking with many business owners who have received PPP money, and the GCS board, we are concerned if the government will actually forgive the full amount of the loan we received. We are confident that where we can show a loss of revenue, those funds will be forgiven, however, if we put forth an action that would intentionally reduce our own revenue (like discounting tuition for our families), it is unclear if that would qualify for forgiveness since we would be self-inflicting the loss of revenue.
If we discounted tuition, utilized the entire PPP loan, and then find out down the road that a majority of the loan is not being forgiven, that would create a significant financial issue for the school.
With these concerns in mind, we have decided to not utilize the PPP funds for an across-the-board tuition reduction for all families. I apologize for this change from the initial plans I discussed a month ago. Our first and foremost goal with the PPP money was to retain all our staff, and we are thankful that we have been able to accomplish this goal.
That being said, if your family is experiencing a financial hardship due to COVID-19, we are here to help. Please reach out to us so we can walk you through the options we have to support you through this difficult time.
Additionally, I have had families ask me how they can be a blessing to a fellow GCS family who is struggling. We are starting a “Families Blessing Families” fund with 100% of your charitable donation going directly to a family in need. Please visit our website here and select COVID-19 Scholarship, if you would like to participate.
For His Glory,
We are so thankful for all the support we have received from our GCS community. I appreciate your understanding that we are attempting to adjust how we provide education in a way that brings value and continues your child’s academic and spiritual growth while also adhering to federal, state and local guidelines.
Today was the first day of e-learning. I am so thankful for the many hours spent by our administrators, teachers and staff to make it a reality. Typically, a school would spend months putting together an online learning system, but the GCS staff pulled this together in days. I am so thankful for their hard work and commitment to providing a quality Christian education to our families. I am also thankful for how all of you have adapted to these changes. Change is never easy, so I truly appreciate how everyone is adapting to e-learning.
This morning, Governor Ducey made the decision to close all public schools for the remainder of the 2019-20 school year. Private schools do not come under those guidelines, so we will not be making a similar announcement. It is our prayer that we will be able to return to regular school at some point in May. May is such a wonderful month with key culminating events such as concerts, 8th grade graduation, and of course, high school baccalaureate, graduation and the senior trip. If it is at all possible, we want these special events to occur as scheduled. We will wait for later in the month of April to make a decision regarding extending our closing. At this time, we are just following the federal guidelines to be closed until April 30.
We understand that for some of you this Coronavirus outbreak has not only impacted how your child is educated, but it has also impacted your family’s income. For some of you, your family’s ability to pay tuition may be impacted. Some of you have asked if tuition can be reduced or eliminated. Let me explain our situation.
As a non-profit, almost all of our revenue is from tuition. It is through your tuition payments that we are able to pay our teachers and staff. At this time of year, nearly every dollar that we receive goes directly to pay salaries. We also set our tuition rates as low as possible each year to make a GCS education more affordable, so it does not leave the school with extra income that can allow us to cover an extended period without tuition.
The reality that we need to continue receiving our tuition income to be able to pay our staff, does not change the reality that some of you have had significant changes to your ability to pay your tuition, so here’s the plan:
- Those of you who are still able to make your tuition payments, please continue to do so. We appreciate your ongoing support of GCS! If you are able, please consider making a donation over and above your tuition which will be used to bless other families.
- Those of you who are using tax credits to assist with your tuition payments should still do so. I would recommend reaching out to more friends and family members to see if they can donate through the tax credit system to reduce your tuition owed. Please remind everyone that though the government has extended the time to file your taxes, they have not extended the date at which you can take advantage of the tax credits. The donation through the STO must be submitted prior to April 15th to be used for this school year’s tuition.
- Those of you who are not able to meet your tuition obligations due to changes to your financial position, please contact our Tuition Account Manager Tara Turner – Tara.Turner@gcsaz.org. We will work with you to help you obtain any scholarships that fit your situation. Gilbert Christian Schools is pursuing additional scholarship funds and also funds made available through the federal government’s recently announced Paycheck Protection Program. We hope that through these additional resources we will be able to help our families who are struggling to meet their tuition while also meeting our payroll obligations for our staff.
James 1 provides us with that familiar passage, “2 Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, 3 for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. 4 And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” (James 1:2, ESV) In the recents weeks and months these verses have challenged me given what I have faced both personally and professionally. They have challenged me, but I also know they are true. As we go through challenges that test our faith, our response of turning to Him and trusting Him, truly does bring us closer to Him. I pray that the tests you are facing now from e-learning, social distancing, working from home, financial struggles and all the other tests out there will cause you to turn to Him and produces the steadfastness that will make you “perfect and complete, lacking in nothing”. What a promise!
Jim Desmarchais, Superintendent
I just sent an update on Monday, but things are changing so dramatically that it is already necessary to provide you with an update regarding how Gilbert Christian Schools is dealing with the continued spread of Coronavirus or COVID-19. Schools across the county are struggling with the best course of action to keep children safe. Many school districts have announced closing including Gilbert Public Schools and other Phoenix area schools. It is our desire at Gilbert Christian Schools to not only keep your children safe, but also maintain an effective education environment. The continued spread of the virus is making that a challenge.
There are certainly those that would argue that universities and schools are overreacting. I hope they are right. What I do know is that the flu spreads through a school campus incredibly fast effecting a large number of students. If the coronavirus is similar, and many experts believe it spreads more than the flu, then it will have a dramatic effect on the student body.
It is becoming more and more apparent that the spread of this virus is only going to continue to get worse before it gets better. Therefore, it is inevitable that some of our families will have a family member who will contract the virus. Just like the flu, if one family member contracts the virus, it will be difficult for it not to spread to other family members including children. Thankfully, children seem to be much less affected by the virus, but they would still bring it to school. It would not be long before we would have a number of students who needed to stay home because they tested positive, a large number of students at home because they had been exposed, and another large number of students home because parents do not want to risk exposure. Quickly, we would have an educational environment that was impossible to manage. The question then becomes, “Can we provide a solution that keeps your children learning while also keeping your child and your family free from risk of exposure from school?” The answer is yes.
Here’s the plan:
- March 16 – 20 Second Week of Spring Break. During that week school leaders will be developing plans to provide virtual learning to our students beginning March 30th.
- March 23 – 27 Third Week of Spring Break. We will be extending Spring Break one additional week. During this week, our teachers and staff will be trained on how to deliver effective lessons virtually. This will involve students logging into a website to join a virtual classroom. More details will be shared as we finalize the plan. As you can imagine, there is a significant difference in how we prepare to teach first grade students virtually as opposed to high school students. The goal is to keep our students moving forward academically while protecting them from exposure.
- March 30 GCS Virtual School Begins
- We will return to traditional school as soon as it is safe.
I wanted to communicate to you as soon as the decision was made, since I know that this decision has a significant impact on your family. You will receive more detailed information regarding the execution of virtual learning next week.
Please click here to watch a video I just created this morning for parents.
We continue to monitor the situation with the Coronavirus. As I am sure you are aware, we have now moved to what is considered “community spread”. In other words, the virus is spreading among the community and cannot always be traced back to an individual who has recently traveled to areas where the virus is widespread. In the United States, we are seeing that the virus has the most serious effect on those who are elderly or those with other underlying health issues which is similar to other countries. Italy has had 463 deaths due to the Coronavirus with an average age of 81. Thankfully, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “children with confirmed COVID-19 have generally presented with mild symptoms” such as fever, runny nose and cough.
What We Know (from the CDC):
- The virus is thought to spread mainly from person-to-person (within about 6 feet)
- Spreads through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes
- People are thought to be most contagious when they are most symptomatic (the sickest)
- It may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads.
- The symptoms are fever, cough and shortness of breath, and may appear 2 – 14 days after exposure.
What Gilbert Christian Schools is Doing:
- A deep cleaning of all campuses during Spring Break.
- The two-week Spring Break along with the cleaning should result in a “virus-free” school when students return.
- We have received a generous donation from James Murphy of Willmeng Construction to replace all the faucets at the high school. The existing faucets make it very difficult for students to thoroughly wash their hands for the recommended 20 seconds.
- Limiting or eliminating activities that bring large groups together in close proximity such as assemblies, concerts, cafeteria lunches, etc.
- Limiting or eliminating student travel to potentially infected areas such as field trips, Senior Trip, choir trips, etc.
- Restrooms cleaned regularly throughout the day.
- Desks and computers cleaned throughout the day.
- Any student who is not well – coughing, sneezing, fever – will be sent home.
- Creating plans for continuing your child’s education if they are not able to attend school or the school is required to close for an extended period.
- Consulting with federal, state and county health departments and following all recommended guidelines.
What GCS Families Can Do:
- Do not let your child come to school if he/she is showing any symptoms.
- Do not send your child to school if someone in your home or someone you have come in contact with is showing symptoms.
- Remind children to wash their hands regularly. Follow this link from the CDC on hand washing.
- Remind children to:
- Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue then throw the tissue in the trash. Wash hands after sneezing or coughing.
- Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth.
- Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
- Spring Break is a great time to practice these healthy habits.
- Parents also should not come on campus if experiencing symptoms.
- Inform the school if your child or someone in the family has been confirmed to have a case of COVID-19.
While we are praying that the spread of the Coronavirus will not continue or impact our GCS community, we want you to know that we are doing all we can to provide your child with a safe and healthy school environment. I will provide another update prior to returning from Spring Break
At Gilbert Christian Schools we take your child’s health and safety very seriously. We are monitoring the developments regarding the coronavirus very closely. When the outbreak was first reported, we quickly equipped each campus with Clorox wipes, Lysol spray, and hand sanitizer to avoid the spreading of germs. Clorox wipes and Lysol spray both have been shown to kill the coronavirus. They also protect our students from the spread of the flu, which at this point, has affected far more Americans than the coronavirus.
To this point, there have been minimal cases of the coronavirus in the United States and no deaths. Every case thus far has been related to individuals who have traveled to nations where the outbreak is more widespread such as China, South Korea, Japan, Iran, Italy, and Hong Kong. It is not currently spreading in the community in the U.S. though today there was a case in California which they have yet to identify the source. The Center for Disease Control believes that “current global circumstances suggest it is likely that this virus will cause a pandemic”. We are not there yet, and praying that we never get to that point, but we are watching it closely. If the virus were to dramatically increase in the U.S. then places, where large numbers of people gather such as churches and schools, may be affected. Japan announced today that they will have a prolonged closing of their schools to reduce the spread of the virus.
There are a few things we can do now to help reduce the spread of the flu or the coronavirus:
- If you or your child has a fever, DO NOT come to school. This is always our policy, but particularly important to follow those guidelines during flu season and our current situation.
- Encourage your children to wash their hands frequently for 20 seconds with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, then they should use a hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
- If you have traveled to China or another area that has been affected by the coronavirus and feel sick with fever, cough, or difficulty breathing then you should seek medical treatment immediately and limit your interactions with others.
Gilbert Christian Schools is prepared to alter our procedures and planning should the situation change. We are also thinking ahead regarding how future school trips may be affected should the virus begin to spread through communities in the U.S. We will communicate any changes when the time is appropriate.
We will continue to monitor this situation closely and follow any recommended precautions to keep your children safe.