Our COVID-19 Response

COVID-19 Update Letter – October 02, 2020

Dear Friends:

September has come and gone.  Unbelievable!  It was a crazy, wonderful, challenging, and amazing month that already seems a distant blur of activity.  In any given year the start of school is always a busy time, but ensuring we were ready to receive students and protect the health of them and our staff while continuing to offer an academically and spiritually rich program has made this school start the busiest, I believe, in our history.  We are so grateful and feel blessed because God’s grace is so good, our community is so supportive, and our staff are so convicted to serve well that this school year has started extraordinarily well!

We are currently hosting 81 students on site (full days and classes every day) and 31 students online, which exceeds our expectations!  This is a rich blessing for what will be, from a fiscal perspective, a challenging year.  Thank you to parents and guardians, near and far, for trusting us and helping us ensure that this is a safe place for your children on site and that our program can serve you well if you are forced to attend from a distance.  Uniquely, the distance students attend two classes daily in real-time with their peers in the classroom (synchronous learning) and then both groups continue in those same two classes working from materials prepared by teachers to be done asynchronously, which allows overseas students to do their work in the day-time at home instead of attending school through the night.  Therefore, over every two days most students have four classes.  We continue to work with families and authorities to bring all of our students to campus, but we are equipped and prepared to serve our students whether they are on or off site.  Our decision a couple years ago to provide students school-issued devices and put in place a robust software infrastructure that can be accessed anywhere you can get online continues to reveal its tremendous value.

We are excited about our Bible and Chapel programs.  In Bible, all of our students have been divided into small groups of 6 – 10 with a staff facilitator and two student leaders.  The entire school is working through the Gospel of Mark using an approach called Discovery Bible Study, which encourages a personal engagement of all students with the ultimate aim to equip them to study the Bible for themselves.  For Chapel we are broadcasting from an in-school studio with two opportunities each week.  On Mondays, the Bible groups are working through the Alpha Course for Youth, a course that explores the basics of the Christian faith, helps young people work through common life experiences from a Biblical perspective, and equips them to share their faith with others.  While a staff person is present, this program is designed to be driven by the students and to develop student spiritual leadership.  On Wednesdays, we have a shorter Chapel time and our emphasis has been devotional with participants sharing how a Bible passage impacted them and, after sharing, providing reflection on what was shared.

As an update on how we are protecting good health in our school environment, we continue to actively screen all people—staff, students, and guests (currently restricted to “essentials only”)—before they enter our school.  All students wear masks throughout the day unless they are eating lunch in a designated physically distant space or are outside and exercising appropriate distance.  Some classes are taking advantage of the few warm days we have left to give outdoor class time and “mask relief,” as they are able.  Heightened cleaning and sanitization is happening consistently across campus.  Teachers must wear medical grade masks and, if needing to interact with students more closely, wear face shields.  Signage around the school and limitations in all spaces maintain physical distance.  Each classroom is now equipped with active air purifiers and air circulators.  Although competitive sports and extra-curricular activities such as Chorus or Play are cancelled, our faculty have created several opportunities that provide physical activities while minimizing contact.  We are excited after much work to ensure protections to host a Fall Spiritual Retreat for students down the road at Cave Springs Camp.

There is no denying that we are doing almost everything differently in a thoughtful and conscientious response to current circumstances, but underlying every choice is the same commitment to the delivery of a robust academic program in a spiritually enriching environment.  Kudos to the dedication and work ethic of all of our staff for doing their very best in serving our students and their families well.  Thank you to our student families for your support and trust.  Thank you to all of the GL Community for your prayers, encouragements, and support.  We are truly blessed during a challenging time!

Grace, peace, and good health to you and to your loved ones.

On behalf of all of us at GLCHS,

Don Rose
Chief Administrator

COVID-19 Update Letter – August 10, 2020

Dear Friends:

It has been a while since we have updated what is happening at GLCHS in the age of COVID-19.  After successfully navigating a very different school year to its conclusion this past June, the students and staff were encouraged to take full advantage of a well-earned rest for the summer.  For the most part, we have been able to step back, separate, spend treasured and focused time with loved ones, assess, and come back with plans for another unique school year that will soon begin.  It is a good time to catch up with all of our stakeholders and community.

First, thank you to everyone who donates, encourages, volunteers, and prays for us.  Even when physical distancing is necessary, so many people helped us finish the last school year well and positioned us for a successful year ahead.  You are part of what has distinguished GLCHS during a very challenging time for education—and communities—everywhere.  Although we were unable to have a graduation ceremony (we hope we will be able to have it in October), commencement, or spring banquet, we were able to host a virtual Baccalaureate Service to bless all of our graduates.  We were also able to finish the year on a high note: a virtual “Grad Chapel” wherein many of our graduates shared their gratitude, fond memories, spiritual encouragement, and advice to younger students.

We are excited to begin classes again in September and we are prepared to do that.  We have several plans that will enable us to respond to the latest regulations and guidelines offered by our provincial and federal governments and Health Services.  Our express goal is to get students back into in-person classes as much as possible and support those efforts with distance and online options for those who, for whatever reason, cannot be on campus in September.  Being a small school is a distinct advantage as we organize ourselves for classes to begin: we can limit class sizes, enforce physical distancing, and ensure spaces are sanitized regularly and effectively.

The dorms will be open, although many residential students will come late, depending on restrictions and regulations.  For those who will live on campus, they will complete a quarantine protocol before being introduced into what will be a closed and controlled community.  This initiative allows students from afar to participate in classes in real time and enjoy social interactions with others while remaining separated from the larger community around us.  For students who will arrive later in the year, distance options created in live classes will be provided.  Through a combination of creative scheduling, co-horting, increased sanitization, enforced use of appropriate PPE, strategic barriers, detailed signage, staggered release times, and use of all available spaces in the school, we look forward to having staff and students back on campus!

For those concerned about the financial operation of the school we note that 2020-2021 will be a tight but not insurmountable year with regard to finances.  Enrolment has declined, which we projected even before COVID-19 since 2020 marked our second consecutive year of a graduating class over fifty students.  The good news is that most students committed in the spring remain committed to participating whether in person or via distance-learning options.  Also on the positive side, this decline enables us to operate more safely with regard to class numbers and physical distance.  We anticipate serving about 100 students in some way come September.

Although it was initially reported in April that all schools would not have access to government aid with regard to wage subsidies, this has changed in the interim.  Subsidies and a smaller staff for the 2020-2021 academic year enable us to engage all current staff fully.  In addition, donors have been generous, particularly in the wake of this pandemic.  We look forward to focusing again on the delayed Vision 2020 capital campaign with the hope that it will be completed in 2021.  As the new year unfolds we will report on that progress regularly.

Even as many pray for us, we are praying for our students, their families, and our world.  Together, we can encourage one another, build each other up, keep each other safe, and glorify the Father in whose hands all these things are held.  May you find health and safety as the summer winds down and the busy school season ramps up.

On behalf of all of us at GLCHS,

Don Rose
Chief Administrator

COVID-19 Update Letter – April 17, 2020

Dear friends:

It is difficult to believe that it has been five weeks away from the school and four weeks of delivering our synchronous distance learning program.  As I am sure it is for many of you, it sometimes feels shorter and sometimes infinitely longer.  While we have established manageable patterns and seem to be getting into a groove with regard to what daily life looks like in this new reality, I know all of us are also entering a new phase of struggle.  This is like a Wednesday that lasts weeks instead of a day.  Wednesday is as far away from the weekends as you can get.  The difference, of course, is on any given Wednesday we know we just have to get through a couple days to reach the next weekend, and, right now, no one knows when the next “weekend” will arrive.

We know that the school will now be off limits until at least mid-May.  What does this mean for our community?  First, we are fully committed to exceeding the provincial recommendations for our students for as long as necessary.  Our goal is not to engage our students, but to equip them well for whatever is to follow.  Second, we are seeking ways to meet needs other than academics because we have always understood education as being about developing the whole person and not just one’s intellect.  Third, we are striving to ensure best practices with regard to how we serve by meeting regularly internally and with fellow educators and experts in our fields across the province.

If you don’t follow us on Facebook, let me encourage you to do that.  Today we posted a picture of our latest Faculty meeting.  In addition to our faculty is a group of dedicated staff who have all committed to serving students throughout this pandemic.  The burden of each person serving varies and we solicit your prayers and encouragement as they continue to adapt to their own circumstances while supporting students.  Although it may be difficult, we encourage students who are away from home to stay the course and remain where they are to optimize the synchronous learning experience.  We also recognize for some this is not a viable ongoing option, and we are committed to serving all our students regardless of where they are, although we ask for understanding that there are limitations when trying to support learners who are farther away.

As a Christian school we seek ways to encourage and edify our students spiritually.  The loss of regular Bible classes and Chapel is something we lament.  Beginning last week, everyday someone from the GL community (sometimes a student and sometimes a staff member) is posting a spiritual thought on our in-house communication platform, Edsby.  Student Council has been challenging staff and students to participate in positive acts and initiatives to lift spirits.  Last week we introduced the opportunity for students to explore God’s Word for themselves a couple days a week and to join a conversation about those passages once a week online. In lieu of a Bible and Chapel program, we hope that these kinds of opportunities can help students find some spiritual grounding and encouragement.  Other opportunities are being posted on Edsby weekly.

An initiative was engaged over the last two weeks to reach out to student families as an expression of care in general but also to determine ways we can improve student experience with the synchronous distance learning.  Regular discussions with faculty and staff and with other educators and administrators are helping us evaluate initiatives and to improve practices.  Examples of changes since we have started include the better balance of onscreen and off-screen work, limiting schoolwork to school hours, providing times for individual support, and coordinating efforts across classes to achieve better balance.  For our Grade 12 class we will be hosting a “town hall” meeting to address the many unique concerns they have including but not limited to graduation requirements, university and college acceptance processes, and graduation itself (which we will have in some way at some time!).

We are learning everyday.  This is new ground for all of us.  We appreciate and solicit feedback and advice and continue in a spirit of constant self-improvement because, like all of you, this continues to be uncharted territory.  This weekend would have been the annual Great Lakes Youth Rally.  Sadly, it is not the first or the last event cancelled this year, and each cancellation is a loss that comes with some form of grief.  While grieving is never easy, we hope we can grieve together instead of apart.  Moreover, we pray we can help each other to focus on what we have instead of what we are losing.  We need to continue to acknowledge that things are difficult but also need to dare to work toward a brighter future and cling to the hope that it will get better.  We will finish this semester.  Students will be equipped for future success.  Staff and students are being and will continue to be supported.  Individuals and families are loved.  Lives are being saved.  Freedom will return.  It will not be easy for a time, but, by God’s grace and strength and by the compassion and conviction of His children, love will win and blessings will return.

One last note: some people have been asking about the status of the Vision 2020 Campaign.  We are currently reaching out to those who have already contributed or made pledges toward this effort and we will issue a public update soon.

Much love and good health to all on behalf of all of us at GL.

Don Rose
Chief Administrator

GLCHS COVID-19 Update Letter – April 01, 2020

Warm Greetings to all of our stakeholders in what is an ongoing time of uncertainty and unprecedented upheaval.

While our main focus is serving and caring for our students we are mindful that our staff, donors, suppliers, parents, prayer partners, and all of your families are impacted by what is unfolding like a great shadow over our world.  Thank you to every person stepping up in this time of need to provide healthcare, supply food, transport goods, and to protect and provide for those who are vulnerable and/or who cannot care for themselves.  We are a people of prayer and we are praying for our school but also for our communities and our world.  May our collective efforts bring this fearful time to an end sooner than later and, in the interim, give us the peace and strength to provide academic, spiritual, and emotional support to our students.

Our school building and on-site academic program will remain closed until May 4, which keeps us in line with what has been determined for Public and Catholic schools in the Province of Ontario.  However, unlike most schools in the province we are blessed to be in our second week of synchronous distance learning.  “Synchronous” means learning in real time where feedback and communication is live and immediate.   One of our teachers commented that with all of its limitations one advantage to virtual teaching is providing more immediate individualized assistance to her students.  There are diamonds in the coal!  Although we cannot meet in class on site, we are so blessed by decisions and investments made in recent years that enable our program to continue.  With these offerings our school year will not be extended into the summer, and our students will be well prepared for their next level of education in September.

Yesterday, we offered a “Literacy Day.”  Originally, the Ontario Secondary School Literacy Test (OSSLT) was scheduled.  In a regular year, the school closes for the day and only those students requiring the OSSLT use the day to complete the test.  This year, the OSSLT was cancelled and is, for graduate candidates who have not yet written or passed it, not a graduation requirement in 2020.  Instead, we encouraged all of our students to take the day yesterday, give themselves a rest from the screen, and read or work on writing on assignments.  Whether finishing a journal entry, working on an essay, or reading the Bible, a school assigned text, and/or something for pleasure, we pray the day was one with less screen and pages of something enriching.

I am encouraged deeply by the dedication and tireless service of our staff.  While I lament with everyone the closure (and more importantly, the reason for the closure) of our schools and non-essential businesses, I rejoice that the majority of our staff through technology can continue to serve in an active and productive way.  Almost 90% of our staff are engaged to meet the ongoing support and needs of our students and their families.  In addition, we are blessed with strong, compassionate, and decisive leadership.  One of the great needs in a time of uncertainty is good leadership and direction.  Regular communications between the Board of Directors and the Administrative Team and with the many different communities that comprise the GL Family have enabled us, together, to serve effectively (relative of course to the limitations imposed upon all of us!) during this pandemic.

Most of our residential students are either at home or with homestays in Ontario.  We have encouraged our students and staff to stay where they are and to follow all recommendations regarding physical distancing.  As such, we begin the process of refunding or adjusting the fees of students who are not in our dormitories so that these funds can be used to meet their needs where they are.  Since our academic program continues, most of our offices—from home—are active, and the dorms remain open to a limited number of students who make their primary residence at Great Lakes, our expenses will decrease marginally.  While we will lose money as the closure continues, we are grateful that we are able to maintain most of our revenue, unlike so many right now.  Negatively, since we are not losing more than 30% of our revenue we are not eligible for the Government of Canada subsidies.  We believe that God will provide and we are dedicated to being good stewards with the ways in which He blesses us.  As closure continues, please pray for us as we make decisions regarding how best to support all of our staff.

In the midst of all that is happening, we rejoice in what we are able to see: students engaged and continuing their Christ-centred education even if it looks a lot different than just a month ago.  Please pray for us as we continue to serve, and know that our prayers continue for you.  Please stay home, be safe, be healthy, and may God’s face shine upon you in this dark time.

Your servant in Christ,

Don Rose
Chief Administrator

Letter from the Chairman of the Board – March 26, 2020

Please note that this letter was directed to Parents and Guardians of our students,
But we believe  it serves as an encouragement to all of our GL communities.

On behalf of the GLCHS Board of Directors I would like to express my appreciation for our Principal Kerri Kennedy, the faculty, and our support staff for their exemplary service to our school and its students.  I am so proud of the work the school has done in adapting our educational program to an online learning environment in what are already challenging circumstances. Our students are continuing their learning and their academic achievement.

This pandemic is an unprecedented disruption to our world, and we pray for healing across the globe and the development of a vaccine that can protect us as well as populations that remain at risk. We want to assure you that Great Lakes Christian High School is committed to serving its students in the name of Jesus Christ.

No one knows exactly what the future holds but I wanted to assure our parents and guardians that we are committed to the successful completion of our current academic school year. Our online course offerings are off to a good start. We will continue to adapt our online classroom environments to ensure that our students achieve their learning outcomes and are prepared for further study this fall. In consultation with our educational partners and with Niagara Public Health we will return to in class instruction when it is safe to do so and will work hard to ensure that none of our students will be left behind.

I also want to assure you that we are committed to offering a comprehensive High School program this September. Whatever our future holds we will be able to continue to offer Ontario High School curriculum in a Christ centered educational environment. Kerri Kennedy and our Chief Administrator Don Rose will keep you apprised of developments as they happen. Through uncertain times we remain in God’s hand and under God’s care. In closing, I offer a blessing from Scripture,

“May the LORD bless you and keep you;
May the LORD make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you;
May the LORD turn his face toward you and give you peace.” (Numbers 6:24-26)

Dr. Noel Walker
GLCHS Board Chair
Minister of the Tintern Church of Christ, Vineland ON

COVID-19 Update at GLCHS – March 23, 2020

The most amazing thing happened today: almost all of our students were in class!  Yes, you read that correctly, although our “classrooms” are nothing like they were before March Break.  Two years ago (and some may argue one year ago) we would not have been able to adapt so quickly and ably to the current situation, but we are up and running, praise God!

Our physical facility remains closed, as mandated.  Our Faculty, Administrators, and students have laptops and software that enable us to conduct virtual classrooms and host virtual meetings.  Before students left for March Break we were able to instruct them on everything they would need to attend these virtual classes and continue their education, albeit from the comfort of their own rooms.  Make no mistake, there is a learning curve and glitches to troubleshoot, but our program is well supported and it continues.

While most of our staff and students are working from their homes, a handful of students and some of our staff are on campus.  The students who are on campus have nowhere in Ontario to stay and travel home at the present time is more risky than staying put.  Most of these students are under the school’s custodianship, meaning their parents have entrusted us with and we are legally responsible for their care and safety.  While we did consider homestays, this would multiply their contacts, put each family with whom they are placed at risk, and restrict them to small environments over which we have no control.  As post-secondary institutions close their residences it may be seen as counter-productive to have any students on campus; however, a big difference between a high school residence and a university residence is the control of the dormitory environment.  With few students (each in a separate room and with access to their own bathrooms) and strict protocols in place, all returned students are isolated but fully supported for the next 14 days.

Some plans for the near future have been adjusted to respect the safety concerns all of us have.  All events on campus up to the end of April are cancelled, including our annual Youth Rally and the Training for Service program (a.k.a Good Friday Meeting).  While we are sad that these events will be missed this school year, efforts and planning exerted this year will form the groundwork for events we hope to be able to offer a year from now.  Lots of questions have been asked about year-end events like Graduation.  All graduate candidates from GLCHS will not only still have opportunity to graduate but they will be well prepared graduates since our classes are able to continue.  With regard to a formal Graduation ceremony or hosting other June events, it is simply too early to make those determinations.  As this pandemic continues to unfold and we receive more information about what are and are not able to do we will update you.

The same technologies that are enabling our classes to run are also enabling us to communicate internally and externally on a regular basis.  In the last twenty-four hours alone, we have hosted and participated in “face-to-face” administration, faculty, and staff meetings, all of which are regular and ongoing.  These same tools are being used to support, encourage, pray with, and pray for each other.  One of our main commitments is to keep our spiritual focus at the centre of everything we do.  Many of our discussions today have looked at ways we can proclaim Christ and build each other up in faith – especially in the face of so much uncertainty.  In just one example, students and staff have the ability to forward specific prayer requests, which can be anonymous if so desired.  Staff are dedicating time to praying these requests each day.

While much is still uncertain, we have, at least for a short time, a clear way forward.  Please pray for our leaders, our staff, and our students even as we pray for our families, our communities, and our world.

Don Rose, Chief Administrative Officer

COVID-19 Response at GLCHS

At GLCHS the safety and health of our students, staff, and anyone with whom we may come into contact is paramount. In addition to ongoing prayers for the health of all we are communicating regularly and responding as we are able to new developments as they unfold. As I write it is our March Break and there is no student program this week—all teachers, residential staff and food services staff are off. Other support departments (Business Office, Admissions, Development, IT, and Facilities) have been encouraged to do as much as they are able from home. If any employees need to be on site, they are to follow strict protocols that highlights limited interaction and increased diligence with regard to sanitation/disinfection.

As you may know, all Public and Catholic schools in the province of Ontario will be closed for two weeks following March Break; GLCHS will also be closed with regard to meeting in a traditional way. We have been blessed to have students equipped with devices so that we can provide an academic program from a distance and this is what we plan to do during the closure of our academic facility. We have encouraged all residential students to make arrangements to extend their stay in their homes where they have been over March Break. In order to best expedite this arrangement, we have instructed students to remain in Ontario and follow all recommended guidelines. For a dozen or so students for whom we are the custodians or for whom extended living arrangements cannot be made, we are opening our dormitories. With a limited number of residents we are able to enforce social distancing, strict cleaning protocols, and the elimination of large group interactions (for example, providing meals in the dorms versus using the cafeteria). Support departments will continue to work offsite as much as possible and follow heightened protocols if needing to be on site.

While our program will, at least for the intended two weeks following March Break, continue to operate for our students, our campus is effectively closed to all visitors and non-essential vendors. We will update this notification if anything changes; you can also follow us on Facebook (Great Lakes Christian High School) or Twitter (@GLCHS).

This is a fearful time. Do not succumb to the fear. Pray, surrender fears to God, practice healthy habits, and take recommended precautions seriously. We are praying and planning for all of our families every day. We are praying for whomever finds and reads this notification. As things develop we will keep you informed. Although it will look very different and be very quiet on campus, we are blessed by modern technology to be able to continue, at least for a time, to operate. Praise God!

On behalf of all of us at GLCHS, may you experience much grace, peace and health during this stressful period of time.

Don Rose, Chief Administrative Officer