Gonzaga Preparatory School

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Letters from President Dougherty


August 25, 2020

Dear Parents and Guardians, 

Thank you for your passionate commitment to your student’s education at Gonzaga Prep. I am concerned that my last letter did not adequately communicate our commitment to increasing opportunities for in-person instruction. Here are a few clarifications:

  1. We are fighting hard, and will continue to fight for our students to return to in-person instruction. We share your dissatisfaction in the need to cut back our original plan for hybrid instruction. The good news is that our board has approved a phased approach returning to in-person instruction, despite the strong recommendation of the Spokane Regional Health District. We have a strategic path forward. 

  1. Our phased approach is designed to accelerate our ability to return to safe and in-person instruction by: 1) enabling the school to teach and enforce new safety and health protocols, 2) minimizing the impact of any SRHD mandated quarantining or closures as a result of school based COVID spread, 3) giving the school data that will support the incremental expansion of in-person instruction. 

  1. The school will monitor several factors as we evaluate our opportunities to expand in-person instruction, most importantly the effectiveness of our safety measures at preventing COVID spread at school. We will increase in-person instruction as quickly as possible, while ensuring the safety of our students and the adults who serve them. We ask for your trust and confidence in our discernment and timing.  

  1. While we have exercised our right to reopen with in-person instruction, the SRHD retains the legal authority to mandate quarantining and/or school closures in the event of school based COVID spread. Starting the school year with one day of in-person instruction gives us the best chance to avoid disruptions and/or closures in the first weeks of school.  

As a private school, Gonzaga Prep has unique challenges and opportunities for reopening during the COVID pandemic. We remain concerned that the SRHD is not adequately considering the unique circumstances of private education, as well as the holistic health of our high school youth in their efforts to control COVID spread. We are committed to advocating for our youth and acting in a manner that places their interests as our highest priority. 

AMDG,

Michael Dougherty
President

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August 18, 2020
 
Dear Parents and Guardians, 
 
I am excited to update you on Gonzaga Prep’s plans for welcoming students back to campus for the start of school on September 1. As I send this to you, our faculty are eagerly preparing for our students to return. We have modified our existing Back To Campus Plan due to recent recommendations by the Spokane Regional Health District (SRHD). A new phased approach will give families the option of choosing either fully digital instruction, or starting the year with in-person instruction in small groups, one day per week. This model was developed in consultation with the SRHD and will add robustness to existing health and safety measures, while supporting the school’s goal to incrementally expand future opportunities for in-person instruction. By the end of the week we will be sending detailed plans and answers to your frequently asked questions.
 
School leadership, in partnership with the Board of Directors, has carefully considered the recent recommendation by the Spokane Regional Health District (SRHD) that all high schools in the county begin the year in online-only education. The SRHD's assessment is that even with the strict implementation of required safety measures, returning to in-person instruction presents additional risks to students and the adults who care for them, and that these risks must be weighed carefully with the benefits of in-person instruction.
 
It is our conviction that our parents are in the best position to weigh the risks associated with in-person instruction with the specific needs of their child. The school is asking each parent to discern the unique educational needs of their children, in light of the recommendations by the SRHD, and our shared commitment to acting in a manner that promotes the greater good of both the Gonzaga Prep and Spokane communities. In a recent survey, nearly 80 percent of our families indicated a strong desire for their student to receive in-person instruction. 
 
In order to meet the needs of our students, the school has developed a phased approach for returning to in-person instruction, and is offering parents the option for their students to begin the school year receiving in-person instruction one day per week, or fully online instruction. Our modified planning for starting the school year adds resiliency to our existing health and safety measures by:
  • Decreasing the number of students on campus each day to a maximum of 25% of our student body, and reducing class sizes to an average of six students.
  • Dividing each grade level into four cohorts, in order to decrease the potential exposure and/or spread of COVID, while minimizing the impact of any required quarantine measures.
  • Enhancing the school’s ability to teach and enforce the required safety protocols, while developing a body of evidence that will support the school’s continued improvement.

If the school is successful in preventing COVID spread in this initial phase, we will work to incrementally expand students’ access to in-person instruction. Alternatively, if our experience demonstrates that we are unable to prevent or minimize COVID outbreaks and experience disruption to our in-person instruction, then we will be prepared to move to fully digital learning until we are confident we can ensure the health and safety of our students and our faculty/staff.
 
Parents who opt for in-person instruction will be required to sign a forthcoming acknowledgement of risk and commitment to a shared duty of care for ensuring that their child and family will act in a manner that minimizes the potential health impact of their decisions on the safety of fellow members of our community. Students who attend in-person instruction will be required to sign an acknowledgement of new school rules, and an honor code for abiding by these rules at all times. The school will continue to offer the option of fully online learning with synchronous instruction while providing enhanced support for our online learners to support their success. Families may choose to move between in-person or synchronous digital learning. 

We have carefully evaluated our 2020-21 budget and will be offering a tuition rebate of 5% of your family’s Fair Share Tuition commitment.  This tuition rebate recognizes that some of our programs will be limited for part or all of the school year.  The tuition rebate will be applied to your tuition account on a quarterly basis (September, November, February, and April) if we have not yet returned to fully in-person instruction for that quarter. Families who have been granted an Emergency Tuition Assistance Grant will not be eligible for the tuition rebate.

I want to conclude with deep gratitude for the significant sacrifices that are required in order to sustain our mission, by you, our parents, as well as your extended families, and especially by our faculty and staff. These generous commitments are not made lightly, and are the lived expression of our work to educate our students to be persons who are for, and with others. Thank you for all you do to prioritize the importance of your child’s education, and for the trust that you place in Gonzaga Prep to serve your family. 
 
Most gratefully,
 
Michael Dougherty
President