March 22, 2020
March 16, 2020
Beginning with our earliest communications to you about COVID-19, and even as we’ve seen its impact grow to become a World Health Organization pandemic, Alverno Heights Academy consistently has sought to balance our concerns for the health of our community with our responsibility to our students, their families, and our colleagues.
Last week, the Leadership Team made the difficult call to temporarily transition from in-person learning to remote learning. This was not an easy decision and we heavily weighed all the options but ultimately decided that this was in the best interest of our students, faculty, and staff. It was followed by initiatives from Governor Newsom and the Archdiocese of Los Angeles to close schools.
We proactively suspended in-person learning at the conclusion of classes on Friday, March 13. Remote learning will begin Wednesday, March 18 and continue through Friday, March 27. Alverno will be closed for an extended Easter Break from March 30-April 13, with a planned reopening on Tuesday, April 14. As of this afternoon at 4:00 p.m., the Alverno Heights Academy campus will be closed to students until further communicated.
Today, our faculty participated in a day of professional development to help with their preparations for remote learning. Tomorrow, March 17, will also be used for this preparation. On Wednesday, March 18 at 9:00 am school will resume online.
As a college preparatory educational institution, our responsibility is to ensure all of our students meet a high set of standards throughout the course of the year. Time in the classroom is crucial to academic success, which is why students will still be expected to be present during the remote learning period.
A schedule for the next two weeks has been attached to this e-mail. It is imperative that you and your daughter pay attention to the schedule and be present when class is in session. If she falls ill or is unable to participate in class for any reason, you must e-mail email@example.com. If her teacher falls ill and is unable to update the course, we will contact you.
A couple of very important notes:
- Teachers will be using ALMA, Google Classroom, and Zoom during remote learning. They may also have additional educational platforms they are using based on their specific course; however, ALMA and Google Classroom will be the “home base” for everything. I strongly recommend that you regularly access ALMA to monitor your daughter’s progress.
- Teachers will have office hours from 8:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. each day during the 8-day period of classes. They will be able to answer parent and student e-mails at this time.
- Attendance, participation, and engagement is crucial. Teachers will be regularly updating each course’s gradebook and students who are absent or do not complete assignments will see their grades impacted.
- Your daughter does not need to check-in to her study hall or an independent course with the exception of “Independent Math” taught by Ms. Judy Lee; however, she should be using this time, including the Easter Break, to work on these classes.
One of the things that has concerned me most with transitioning to remote learning, is the social and emotional health of our students. There is a great deal of uncertainty along with an abundance of information that can weigh heavily on an adolescent’s mind. Although we are not physically on campus, Outreach Concern remains available to our students through their Crisis Hotline at 1-800-4-CONCERN. If you feel that your daughter can use extra support during this time, please do not hesitate to reach out to them.
We understand that this will be a difficult time for many of our students and their families and although we cannot physically be with one another, please know that we are still here to support you and your daughter. This is an unprecedented time in your daughter’s life, and in many of ours as well. There will be challenges and there will be struggles; however, I am confident that as a community we will rise from this empowered and resilient.
I will continue to be available to students and parents through e-mail during remote learning and Easter Break. My thoughts and prayers are with all of you during this difficult time in our nation’s history. I pray for a peaceful and healthy resolution and look forward to seeing your daughter on campus on Tuesday, April 14.
Sara McCarthy ’05 M.Ed.
Assistant Head of School
March 12, 2020
Dear Alverno Heights Academy Community,
As you know, the news about COVID-19 changes by the moment. Since our planning session yesterday and letter last evening, the situation with COVID-19 has once again evolved and forced us to reassess our current plans.
This morning, I participated in a phone call with the Pasadena Area School Heads (PASH) composed of Heads of School from many of the schools within the California Association of Independent Schools (CAIS) network in the greater Pasadena area. After reviewing new information and the updates provided from the office of Governor Newsom, we have elected to take a professional development day on Monday, March 16, 2020 and move to remote learning on Tuesday, March 17 until the conclusion of Easter Break on Monday, March April 14, 2020 unless otherwise communicated. The PASH high schools have agreed to finish out the week with business as usual. Alverno Heights Academy, Mayfield Senior School, and Providence High School will continue with pre-planned spring musicals and admission events; however, beginning on Monday all student activities will conclude.
Moving to remote learning was a difficult decision to make as we have not been issued a directive by the Pasadena Public Health Department (PPHD), CAIS, or the Archdiocese of Los Angeles; however, the City of Sierra Madre has recommended that local schools consider campus closures beginning on Monday. At this moment, the Archdiocese has no plans of closing school, canceling masses, or other services.
In order to help simplify what will be occurring, our plan has been outlined below:
- Friday, March 13, 2020: School will be open and all students are expected to be on campus. This will be a crucial day to make sure that students have all appropriate software, books, etc. for their remote coursework. Students should plan to take all their textbooks, notebooks, and other school items from their lockers as the campus will be closed. Please make sure your daughter brings her fully-charged laptop tomorrow.
- Monday, March 16, 2020: School will be closed to students but the faculty and staff will be present to work on plans and protocol for remote learning. This is a day off for students and no coursework is required.
- Tuesday, March 17, 2020: Remote learning will begin. These are official school days and your daughter is expected to attend. Attendance will be taken throughout remote learning and assignments will be given. Students who do not complete remote coursework will have their grades impacted.
- Monday, March 30-Monday, April 13, 2020: We realize that remote learning will be a new experience for many of our students, as well as our faculty, and have decided to extend Easter Break by an additional week. Easter Vacation will commence on March 30 and conclude on Monday, April 13, 2020.
- Tuesday, April 14, 2020: Our goal is to return to on-campus classes as we would have following Easter Break. This date is tentative and we will be in on regular communication about any new developments.
- Senior Retreat: With regret, we informed the Class of 2020 that their Senior Retreat has been postponed. We hope to be able to reschedule but the decision will be dependent on a number of factors.
- Fullerton College Theatre Festival: For the safety of our students, we have made the decision to withdraw from the Fullerton College Theatre Festival. As of today, Fullerton College has not canceled the event; however, we feel this is the best decision for our students.
- Athletics: We are still waiting for the information from the California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) or the Horizon League, which falls under the Archdiocese of Los Angeles Department of Catholic Schools. We are hoping to have more information as early as this afternoon.
- Student Activities: All student activities on campus will be cancelled until after Easter Break.
During the campus closure, we encourage families to practice social distancing in their own lives. This means avoiding large gathering places including malls, stadiums, amusement parks, movie theaters, etc. And again, please continue to follow the recommendation of the CDC and PPHD about good hygiene and tips to prevent the spread of the virus.
We are grateful for our Alverno Heights Academy students and families and the support and understanding that we have received. This is a new challenge and experience for all of us and a pandemic that many of us have never seen the likes of in our lifetimes. As fearful as it may be, this is a historical moment in your daughter’s life and a time for us to pull together and support one another.
Public health emergencies, such as the outbreak of COVID-19, are stressful times for people and communities. We will continue to pray for the health and safety of our local communities and those impacted worldwide by this devastating pandemic. Rest assured that our priority will continue to be the safety of our community and that we will provide updated information as they become available.
Julia Fanara P’01, P’03, and P’05, M.Ed.
Head of School
March 11, 2020
Dear Alverno Heights Academy Families and Communities,
As of this morning, the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a global pandemic, pointing to the over 118,000 cases of the coronavirus illness in over 110 countries and territories around the world and the sustained risk of further global spread (who.int).
Many of you will know that our neighboring city of Pasadena has declared a State of Emergency in response to the growth of the virus. According to the Pasadena Public Health Department (PPHD), more and more individuals will be recommended by their physicians to be tested for COVID-19 due to broadened criteria from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). This does not mean that individuals may have the infection; however, if there are identified cases they will be communicated quickly.
At this time, there have been no cases of COVID-19 identified at Alverno Heights Academy, in Sierra Madre, Pasadena Unified schools, or any of our local independent or Catholic schools. There has been one graduate student at Caltech tested for COVID-19 by the PPHD; however, those results are pending and the student remains in isolation (“Caltech: Coronavirus,” 2020). One additional case in Pasadena was confirmed this afternoon but the individual is in recovery and being monitored closely by the PPHD. In light of these developments and President Trump’s address, Alverno is taking proactive steps and measures to ensure the safety of our students and community.
Alverno has been working to develop plans and arrangements to protect all of our constituents and will be taking the following immediate steps:
- Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat: As Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat will run only this Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, we have decided to continue with the production. The cast, crew, and Ms. Cales have worked incredibly hard on the show and the theater has been rented and paid for with limited availability for postponing and moving the show. Unlike the Sierra Madre Playhouse, the Lanterman Auditorium is a large facility allowing for plenty of room between audience members.
- Alverno’s Annual Gala: We regret to inform you that we must postpone our “Diamond Gala… Celebrating 60 Years” scheduled for Saturday, March 21. At this time, the CDC has recommended that schools and businesses consider cancelling events and activities that will result in more than 100 people attending. While we are disappointed that we will have to wait to celebrate together, the health and well-being of our school community is our top priority. I would like to commend the Advancement Office, especially Wendy Finch-Burk and Andrea Bertollini, and our Gala Co-chairs, Julie Dyer-Lopez ’23 and Susana Torres ’21, for all of the work they have already put into planning this celebration. We will keep you updated about the details of this special event as we move forward and we thank you for your understanding.
- Athletics: At this time, school athletics will continue until information has been confirmed with CIF. Track meets and softball games may be adjusted due to updated and constantly changing information. As track competes at Occidental College, schedule adjustments may be required if Occidental moves to online education for their students.
- Off-Campus Trips: All unnecessary off-campus field trips and activities have been cancelled or postponed.
- Faculty/Staff Illness on Campus: Teachers and staff with any fever or respiratory infection symptoms have been recommended to not come to work. Teachers and staff will self-screen (i.e. check themselves for fever 100F or higher and/or respiratory systems such as a productive cough) for respiratory infection symptoms each morning before interacting with students.
At this time, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles (ADLA), the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS), the California Association of Independent Schools (CAIS), and Public Health does not recommend proactively closing schools. We know from many of our alumnae at colleges locally and across the country that classes have already begun moving online with many more adding to the list each day. The Leadership Team recognizes that at any moment schools at the elementary and secondary levels may be called to do the same. Therefore, we are also taking the following additional actions:
- Faculty and Staff Training on Remote Education: On Monday, March 16 our faculty and staff will participate in an in-service to develop plans for remote education through our existing systems, including Alma, Google Classroom, Edmodo, and Acellus. Additionally, we will be exploring the use of remote programs including Google Meet and Zoom. The purpose of this in-service will be to create a strong, cohesive, and clear plan should Alverno be recommended to close.
- Student Training: Following the in-service, our faculty and staff members will be working with students to guarantee that they understand the expectations and responsibilities they will have for remote learning. Per the guidelines of the California Association of Independent Schools (CAIS), students will be expected to complete at least 3.5 hours of coursework per day during remote education in order to earn credits. Although school will not physically be in session, learning and coursework will continue during this crucial part of the school year. As we do not know how long a period of self-isolation may last, we must plan for an extended period of time.
- School Test Day: On Tuesday, March 24 Alverno will be closed to students for a test day of the remote education systems. Faculty will be on campus and students will be expected to log-on online to complete the work provided for them. This is a mandatory school day and just as a normal day on campus, your daughter is expected to be working.
As we move forward, we will continue with the regular cleaning of our campus and have asked our cleaning crew to take additional steps in their nightly processes. Additionally, it is crucial that you continue to take all possible precautions to help reduce the risk of spreading germs to others. These include the following recommendations from public health officials:
- • Keep children who are sick at home and away from others if they have a fever of 99°F or above.
• #1 prevention method is frequent hand-washing with soap and water for 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom, before eating, and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing. If soap and water are not available, hand sanitizer with at least 70% alcohol can be used. Use of soap and water is best.
• Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash and wash your hands. If you do not have a tissue, use your sleeve (not your hands).
• Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
• Limit close contact, like kissing and sharing cups or utensils, with people who are sick.
• Face masks are most effective when used appropriately by health care workers and people who are sick.
• Clean frequently used surfaces.
• Get the flu vaccine if you have not done so this season. It’s not too late to get the flu vaccine. Being protected against the flu will decrease the number of people using healthcare resources and allow resources to be available for people who may have COVID-19.
• Practicing simple steps that limit your exposure to others who may be ill (such as verbal salutations instead of handshakes and hugs, not sharing utensils, cups and linens).
You can learn more about our COVID-19 response on the Alverno Heights Academy website under the “Parent” tab.
Please be aware that in times like these, anything may change at a moment’s notice. These are constantly evolving situations and the Leadership Team is monitoring them closely and prepared to take actions as needed. We are working diligently to continue to provide your daughter with an exceptional education whether she is here on campus or at home.
One last, but very important, note. We understand the desire to collect information can be comforting when there are so many unanswered questions. Let us not forget that we are a community and need to be respectful of one another; it is one of our core values. Fanning the flames with rumors and gossip can lead to spreading misinformation, anxiety, and the kind of isolation we do not need to be experiencing at a time like this. This damages the very fabric of our community, which we all deeply depend on.
This is a time for us to pull together, not push each other apart. I am extremely proud of our community as we have been tested by different crises. I am certain we will continue to go from strength to strength after the COVID-19 situation is behind us. We thank you for your support as we work through this challenging and questionable times. We will continue to pray for the health and safety of our local communities and those impacted worldwide by this devastating pandemic. Rest assured that our priority will continue to be the safety of our community and that we will provide updated information as they become available.
Julia Fanara P’01, P’03, and P’05, M.Ed.
Head of School
Frequently Asked Questions
What about Senior Retreat and the Fullerton College Theatre Festival?
We will be working with Ms. Cynthia Cales, Theatre Director, and Ms. Katharine Guerrero, Campus Minister, to contact the students involved in these activities directly.
What about Prom?
Our wish is to be able to continue with holding all school events including the Prom; however, we will not be able to make a final determination on this event until a later date.
What about Graduation?
Our wish is to be able to continue with holding all school events including Graduation; however, we will not be able to make a final determination until a later date. We realize that families often travel for Graduation and will do our best to provide timely information.
How can I avoid Covid-19?
There is currently no vaccine to prevent COVID-19. The best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to this virus. However, as a reminder, CDC always recommends everyday preventive actions to help prevent the spread of respiratory diseases, including:
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
Stay home if you are sick.
Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing. If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 70% alcohol.
Should my daughter self-quarantine and/or be tested for COVID-19?
As an educational institution, we cannot make medical recommendations or decisions. We highly encourage you to reach out to your doctor for guidance. We have been told by medical professionals, the CDC, and the PPHD that it is recommended that everyone (symptomatic or not) exercise “social distancing.” If you are experiencing any symptoms of illness, please contact your healthcare provider immediately for advice and possible screening.
Should I inform Alverno staff if I suspect exposure to the COVID-19?
Yes. Please contact Ms. Julia V/ Fanara, Head of School immediately should you or a family member have symptoms, test positive, suspect exposure, is in self-quarantine due to exposure, or been quarantined by the health department or your place of employment for COVID-19. Ms. Fanara may be reached through Ms. Michelle Gray, Administrative Assistant, at 626-355-3463 x. 223.
What is the absence policy?
Alverno strongly suggests all faculty, staff, and students who are feeling ill to stay home until they recover. The CDC lists the following symptoms that would warrant anyone to stay home: Fever, cough, shortness of breath, or other flu-like symptoms. Students are given eight (8) absences per semester; however, Alverno will evaluate on a case-by-case basis as we have not been given a closing directive. Students should contact their teachers in order to make arrangements in regards to school work.
What will the school do in the event of an extended closure? How long will a closure last?
Per the letter above we are developing strategies to provide remote lessons to students, taking accessibility into consideration, as well as looking at tools to staying connected as a community. These are unprecedented times and there are still many variables; a school closure could last anywhere from a few days to a week to several weeks. Unfortunately, we will not know until the time comes.
How will the school decide if it should close?
The decision to close school will come from government agencies including the PPHD or the recommendation of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, the California Association of Independent Schools or if the Leadership Team determines that it would be safer for our students to be home. We will make that decision independently, based on facts and science. In either case, we will notify parents immediately.
What kind of support can students receive to address anxiety?
Given the level of attention that COVID-19 has attracted, students may understandably become anxious and have concerns about the virus and its transmission. Please remember that the Leadership Team and Outreach Concern counselors are available to meet with students to address concerns and fears.