Information & Updates
Westminster is closely monitoring the COVID-19 pandemic. General updates will be posted to this page. Current families should stay tuned to emails and consistently check Veracross for updates specific to our community.
- Campus Opening
Our current plan is to hold classes on campus, five days a week. We are also offering a Learn from Home option, see below for details.
The safety of our school community has always been a priority but COVID-19 has made this an even more urgent matter. Ensuring the safety of our community is one way we can love our neighbor as we love ourselves, and how we can do to others as we want them to do to us.
Over the past few months, administrators have participated with school leaders from CSASL (Christian School Association of STL) and ISSL (Independent Schools of STL) in regular virtual meetings to discuss what it will take to reopen our schools in the fall for in-person learning amidst the coronavirus. During these meetings, we discussed best practices outlined by health professionals and compared numerous ideas and methods for school operations.
NOTE: The following protocols have been established in accordance with current guidelines issued by federal and local health agencies and authorities and are consistent with policies established by local private schools including CSASL and ISSL. Our plans for reopening the campus and the protocols we have established while on campus are subject to change based on case numbers, transmission, community spread and guidelines, and/or mandates from health agencies and government authorities.
As you read through this information, you will see guidelines for things such as social distancing and face masks. The new policies will be inconvenient for all. To some, these guidelines may seem too restrictive. To others, they may not seem restrictive enough.
The guidelines we have established are our best attempt at creating conditions under which the members of our school community can pursue their studies safely. They are also designed to do all that we can to keep the campus open. We hope that everyone will see them as our best effort at creating a healthy environment for everyone and will partner with us in promoting a safe campus.
- Guiding Principles
The following principles have informed our plans for the opening of school. As we progress through this year and our knowledge and the implications of COVID-19 evolve, these principles will be our ‘true north’ and help us navigate our operational plans.
- Loving God, loving His Word, and living for Him are at the heart of everything we do and every decision we make.
- Protecting the health and safety of our entire community as we navigate COVID-19.
- Prioritizing the provision of on-campus instruction and extracurricular activities whenever possible.
- Providing flexible alternative educational options for parents.
- Maintaining and innovating our academic program.
- Creating, nurturing, and sustaining strong relationships with our students, faculty, staff, and community both on-campus and virtually.
- Reaching higher by loving our neighbors as ourselves and doing to them as we would have done to us.
- Giving and receiving grace as we navigate the understandable desire of our community for clear and timely information with a patient and flexible approach for Westminster to respond to the rapidly changing nature of COVID-19, governmental restrictions, expert guidance, and best practices.
- School Plan
We have decided to extend the early 1:15 p.m. dismissal past September 4. We will reassess this decision near the end of each quarter to determine if early dismissal will continue for the following quarter.
This decision was not made lightly. Since the initial mandates and guidelines laid out by the St. Louis County Department of Health have not relaxed but become more stringent, we believe this reduced schedule provides a needed break from mask-wearing, time for on-campus and at-home learners to connect with teachers, more time for our students to do homework, time to clean and properly sanitize our school, and is an ideal time for clubs to meet—giving our students an opportunity to safely connect and socialize.
For those that need extended care after school until 3 p.m. or stay for athletics, you can sign your child up to remain on campus, bring a sack lunch, and have a safe and supervised time to eat inside the cafe, outside on the plaza, or do school work in designated areas. A sign-up form is available.
We will continue to monitor COVID-19 developments at school and in the community. These plans are subject to change pending mandates, restrictions, and guidance from health and government agencies. If you have questions about the Learn from Home option or this revised temporary schedule, please contact Mr. Gall.
- Learning Options
Families have the option to choose in-person learning or learning from home. See below for more information about learning from home.
Is the learning option we select for the entire year? Can we switch if the circumstances change and how often?
Students and families will be given an opportunity to switch to a different learning option at the end of each quarter.
- Drop-Off and Pick-Up
Once students are on campus and checked in, they will report directly to their first-period classroom, where they will be free to work on homework, projects, or other school-related items until 7:55 a.m.
Zero Hour Classes (ie. Jazz Band)
As they arrive on campus, students will report immediately to their zero hour class.
Students will be dismissed at 1:15 p.m. For families who need extended care after school until 3 p.m. or stay for athletics, you can sign your child up to remain on campus, bring a sack lunch or take part in our scaled-back lunch service, and have a safe and supervised time to eat inside the cafe, outside on the plaza, or do school work in designated areas. A sign-up form will be sent to families prior to the first day of school.
Students will have the option to bring their own lunch or purchase lunch from our food service provider Campus Cuisine. Our food service provider has discontinued the sandwich and salad bars and instead will offer prepackaged items along with the daily plate special. Students will proceed through the serving and check out areas socially distanced.
You may pre-order the daily hot lunch, a deli sandwich, or a pre-made salad. There will also be a limited amount of grab and go options available each day. All pre-orders must be placed by noon on Friday for the following week using this form. Meals will be charged to your student’s bookstore/Café account. See the menu for more details.
As students remain on campus, they may eat lunch with their clubs or while waiting for practices or activities to begin. Students may eat inside in the Café and Grand Entry or outside on the upper fields, the tennis pavilion and courts, the grassy areas in front of the school, the stadium plaza, or the lower soccer fields. Each of these areas will be supervised by a staff member. We ask that students make a concerted effort to remain six feet apart and use their portable plexiglass dividers (when eating inside) to help prevent the spread of droplets.
- Extracurricular Activities
Relationships and socialization are fundamental to the well-being of our students. The pandemic has made building and sustaining those relationships challenging but we are determined to carefully add back opportunities for our students to connect and socialize within as normal a school day as possible. It’s not only important for our students but also for our teachers. Teaching is about nurturing, engaging, and inspiring students as they grow academically, spiritually, and socially. To foster that growth, we must provide the framework to connect. We believe we can safely add back supervised student clubs and other after school activities that will benefit students and teachers.
- On-Campus Meetings
Building a strong and warm partnership between home and school is one of our core values. Historically, one way we foster a healthy partnership is through relationships, which are often facilitated through meetings.
While this core value remains, the need to protect our school community during the pandemic necessitates a change in how we handle meetings. We have established the following guidelines for meetings with staff.
- Whenever possible, meetings will be held by conference call or video conference. In-person, face-to-face meetings will be limited.
- In rare instances when face-to-face meetings are deemed necessary and appropriate, they will be guided by the following policies:
- The meeting will be as limited in duration as feasible.
- Attendees will be limited to only those who are deemed essential and must be present.
- Face masks are required for all attendees.
- Social distancing will be maintained during the meeting and the meeting will be held in a room that will accommodate social distancing requirements.
- Checking Into Campus / Health Screening
Students and staff will complete a health screening questionnaire each day before they are allowed to enter the building. Checkpoints will be set up at the two front entrances to ensure completion of the questionnaire.
Health Screening Questionnaire
The daily health screening questionnaire will screen individuals for the new onset of COVID related symptoms (fever or chills, cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, fatigue, muscle or body aches, headache, new loss of taste or smell, sore throat, congestion or runny nose, nausea, vomiting or diarrhea) and assess if individuals have been in close contact with an individual with a confirmed case of COVID-19 or if the individual has tested positive for COVID-19 themselves.
Will there be daily temperature checks?
No. The daily health screening questionnaire will screen individuals for the new onset of COVID related symptoms (fever or chills, cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, fatigue, muscle or body aches, headache, new loss of taste or smell, sore throat, congestion or runny nose, nausea, vomiting or diarrhea) and assess if individuals have been in close contact with an individual with a confirmed case of COVID-19 or if an individual has tested positive for COVID-19 themselves.
Temperature screening alone has not been proven to be effective in stopping the spread of COVID-19, since infected individuals may be in the incubation period, may not express apparent symptoms early on in the course of the disease, or may dissimulate fever through the use of antipyretics.
- Face Shields vs. Masks
At this time, current research data does not support the use of a face shield as a stand-alone device for protection against COVID-19. According to the Department of Public Health and the CDC, cloth mask-style face coverings are the preferred barrier to help prevent the spread of respiratory droplets from traveling into the air and onto those around you. However, it is recognized that certain health diagnoses may prevent an individual from being able to wear a face mask; for these instances, a face shield may be worn. If a student falls into this category, documentation from his/her medical provider will be needed for this accommodation.
- Face Mask Requirement on Campus
Students and Staff
Consistent with health guidelines, to mitigate the spread of the virus, students and staff are required to wear face masks. This will help protect our school community. The wearing of masks will also enhance our ability to remain on campus and not have to go to online instruction unless directed to do so by local authorities.
Parents and Visitors
All parents and visitors will be required to wear masks while they are in the building during the school day.
Spectators at Sporting Events
Spectators are required to wear masks when social distancing is not possible.
Masks must cover from the bridge of your nose to the base of your chin. A good rule of thumb is if you can blow out a candle wearing your mask, it is not an effective covering.
- Hand Washing and Sanitizing
We will encourage hand washing or the use of hand sanitizer upon entering a building, before eating, after eating, and after restroom usage. Hand sanitizer is readily available to all students and staff for frequent use, in addition to handwashing stations in the bathrooms.
- Plexiglass Dividers
All students will be provided plexiglass dividers for their desks.
- Cleaning Procedures
Our facilities department has modified cleaning procedures and building ventilation systems based on CDC and St. Louis County Health Department guidance. All classroom desks will be cleaned after every class. Frequently touched surfaces will be cleaned regularly throughout the day.
What is the protocol for cleaning/sanitation of the school when faculty/students test positive?
Routinely all classroom desks will be cleaned after every class. Frequently touched surfaces will be cleaned regularly throughout the day. If a student is sent home with symptoms or if a positive case is identified, additional cleaning will be provided based on the CDC guidance.
- Social Distancing
Classrooms will be arranged to allow the most efficient and effective use of space. In addition to the requirement for staff and students to wear masks, we will provide each student with a portable plexiglass divider to use during each class and at lunch.
Students will be encouraged to carry a backpack with them at all times to cut down on the number of trips they need to make to their lockers. In addition to this, students will be expected to go straight from one class to the next, even if a brief stop at a locker is necessary, which will cut down on time spent in the hallways during passing periods.
Students will proceed through the serving and check out areas socially distanced. We have spaced out and expanded our lunch areas so that students can be spread out as much as possible. Students will also use their portable plexiglass dividers to help prevent the spread of droplets.
- Faculty Testing
Will any of the faculty be tested for COVID-19 before they go back to school?
No, not unless they have been advised to do so by their medical provider.
- Policies for When Someone Tests Positive for COVID-19
Once WCA is made aware of a positive case, we report it to the St. Louis County Health Department. Often they are already aware of positive COVID-19 tests from the testing facility. The Health Department will then provide us guidance on any additional actions that need to be taken on our behalf, which includes steps for mitigations and communication to all at risk for exposure. If a student or employee is tested positive for COVID-19, the student or employee must be quarantined for 14 days. Only the Health Department may release an individual who has tested positive from quarantine. If a student or employee has recently had close contact with a person diagnosed with COVID-19, the student or employee may be excluded from the school campus and advised that they self-quarantine for 14 days.
What is the exact protocol when a student or teacher gets sick or shows symptoms?
For a student: If a student becomes sick at school they will be referred to the school nurse, who will assess the student and isolate until a parent or guardian can pick them up. High school students who drive will be released, as appropriate, upon permission from a parent to drive home. Parents will be advised to contact the health department or their healthcare provider for direction.
For a staff member: If a staff member becomes sick at school they will leave the building and contact the health department or their healthcare provider for direction.
If a student/staff tests positive for COVID-19:
Timely reporting of positive cases within the Westminster Community is essential. If you are diagnosed with COVID-19, we request that you notify the school immediately through a Google form found on the Veracross Parent Portal.
Simply, click on the Google form called: COVID Reporting. Enter basic information, such as name, date of the positive test, and contact number. Once the information has been submitted, one of Westminster’s internal contact tracers will reach out to you to collect additional information regarding your diagnosis and close contacts.
After the essential information is gathered, we will report it to the St. Louis County Health Department. The Health Department will then provide us guidance on any additional actions that need to be taken on our behalf, which includes steps for mitigations and communication to all identified close contacts who are at risk for exposure.
The WCA community will be kept up to date with positive cases via the parent portal. If there is a case, personal information will be withheld. It is important to remember, federal law protects the privacy of all in regard to medical information.
How many students/faculty need to test positive before the school will be closed?
The St. Louis County Health Department suggests that if over 5% of the student body in a building or district test positive any day, 4% test positive over two days in a row or 3% test positive for three days in a row, then that building or district closes for 10 days (percentages may change as better scientific data becomes available).
Will I be notified if a student or staff member tests positive for COVID-19?
The Westminster community can stay up to date with the number of confirmed cases on campus via Veracross parent portal. A number graphic will be displayed at the top of COVID-19 Information and Updates webpage. The graphic will reflect confirmed positive cases that have been on Westminster campus and will be updated regularly as information is received. Westminster has trained contact tracers on staff to ensure proper notification protocols are followed when an individual tests positive for COVID-19. In all cases we will follow St. Louis County Department of Public Health guidelines for communicating with staff and students. If there is a case, personal information will be withheld. It is important to remember, federal law protects the privacy of all in regards to medical information.
Will the number of positive COVID-19 cases in the school be transparent to all parents?
The Westminster community will be kept up to date with positive cases via the parent portal. All individuals who are identified as a close contact to a known positive case will be contacted directly from the school and the county health department.
What’s the plan for contact tracing, cleaning closing/reopening and continued learning while dealing with illnesses?
Once a positive case has been reported, Westminster’s internal contact tracers will work to identify potential close contacts and notify the DPH. This will simultaneously start the chain of cleaning and prompt notification of at-risk individuals. Students who are placed on self-quarantine or isolation by the DPH will continue their learning online.
- Counseling Support
Our counselors and director of spiritual life are trained to provide any spiritual and emotional support for our students, especially those who are dealing with pandemic related trauma. The department staff will be available to talk to any student in need of additional support during the school year.
- Performing Arts
We are working diligently on plans for our Fine Arts performances. We will share details as soon as we have them finalized, but please know we are committed to providing our students meaningful opportunities, even if those opportunities look a bit different than they have in the past.
We will continue to worship on Wednesdays as a community. However, in compliance with social distancing guidelines, students will remain in the classrooms with teachers and watch the live streamed chapel together.
- Student Clubs
All student club activities will meet in-person. All students and staff will be required to wear masks and maintain social distancing requirements where possible.
Most will meet weekly, on-campus, and be led by faculty sponsors. Most clubs will begin after school at 1:15 p.m. with lunch. Here is the current list of student clubs; we are planning to add new clubs this month. Specific announcements regarding each club’s time and date will be posted in the morning announcement every day.
- Senior Service
Due to COVID-19 and specific guidelines regarding visitors, most of our partner organizations for the senior service opportunities notified us that they are not allowing any volunteers this year. Our senior service program will need to be significantly modified this year. Westminster will provide multiple service projects on Saturdays throughout the year for the seniors to sign up. All seniors will need to complete 40 hours of service until April 30, 2021. These hours can be completed through the projects provided by WCA or their personal choice of service. Seniors will be given Thursday mornings to serve in any project they plan and arrive at campus by 12:10 p.m. More detailed information will be provided.
- Note from the Athletic Director
It is our hope that this list of frequently asked questions (FAQs) concerning Westminster Athletics will be helpful to you as we navigate the uncertainty of the fall and athletics. Questions submitted by Westminster families populate the majority of this list.
It is important to know that Westminster’s primary goal this fall is to safely open campus for in-person teaching and learning. While other aspects of the school experience such as athletics are important, decisions made surrounding these experiences will always be made to provide the best opportunity for students and teachers to be on campus.
As you can imagine, the situation surrounding athletics is fluid at best and many things can change throughout the school year. These FAQ answers are what we know as of September 11, 2020. Please join me in praying for our school, community, and leaders as we work together to navigate this time in our lives.
- Fall Sports
This is a question with layers of complexity. The short answer is that Westminster is planning to begin fall sports practices on August 10, following the recommendations and guidelines from St. Louis County and the St. Louis Sports Medicine COVID-19 Task Force (the Task Force). Below are some additional layers that impact our ability to have fall sports.
- Currently, sports are classified into one of three levels based upon the amount of contact. Low-frequency sports include tennis, swim, golf, and cross country. These sports are allowed to start competitions with other schools on September 11, 2020. Moderate-frequency sports include cheer, dance, softball, soccer, field hockey, and volleyball. Middle school moderate level teams are allowed to start competing while high school teams are still restricted. High-frequency sports include football and are still restricted at both the middle school and high school levels.
- We are hopeful that another announcement will be made in the near future to continue lifting restrictions. Announcements have generally come every two weeks throughout the summer and fall but there is no assurance that this timeline will be maintained.
- In order to hold games, officials must be available and willing to work. Some officials will choose not to officiate this year due to COVID-19. How many and the impact this will have is unknown at this time but may limit the ability to play games.
- Sam Page’s September 9 Announcement
Did Sam Page’s announcement on September 9 cancel the fall season for team sports?
No. Dr. Page’s announcement lessened restrictions on all sports while allowing for low-frequency sports to begin competitions. Moderate and high-frequency sports can continue to practice, with fewer restrictions, while waiting and hoping for clearance to play games.
- Participation / Eligibility
Will a student be permitted to participate in athletics if they choose the virtual option at Westminster?
Yes, students who choose the Learn at Home option may still participate in athletics.
Will non-contact sports such as tennis be allowed to compete even if other sports are restricted?
We anticipate that Phase 3 of the reopening guidelines does permit sports deemed “low-frequency of contact” to compete against other schools. So it is possible that those sports will be allowed to play games/matches before “high-frequency of contact” sports.
Will MSHSAA consider altering seasons of sports (ie. move football to the spring or delay the start of athletics with shortened seasons such as other states have done)?
MSHSAA has provided an alternate fall season (held in the early spring) for sports that are unable to play during the regular fall season. Schools are able to wait until later in the fall to make the decision to opt into the alternate fall as long as the teams have not practiced for more than 35 days.
Can Westminster hold unofficial seasons and competitions or participate in sports “out of season” (ie. football in the spring)?
No. Westminster is restricted to the sports seasons as written in the MSHSAA by-laws. MSHSAA would need to make changes or exceptions to its by-laws in order for sports to play out of season.
How will tryouts be held if sports are restricted so that they cannot be adequately played or practiced in Phase 2?
Each individual sports coach is best able to determine whether tryouts can be fairly completed for their program given the restrictions. If a coach determines that they are not able to hold tryouts at the beginning of the season (August 10 for Upper School, August 21 for Middle School), workouts will continue but tryouts will be delayed until restrictions have lifted enough to evaluate athletes. Coaches will communicate this with the families in their program.
How will athletes be screened each day?
The initial screening used to enter school at the beginning of the day will be used for athletics as well. If a student chooses the virtual option, they will need to complete the questionnaire before arriving on campus for athletics. In addition, all upper school athletes will go through a temperature screening each day before practices and games.
Will athletes and coaches be required to wear masks?
Athletes will be required to wear masks any time they are not actively engaged in physical exertion at practice. It is highly encouraged to wear masks as often as possible. Coaches will be required to wear masks. This is in accordance with St. Louis County’s Sports Reopening Guidelines.
How will locker rooms be utilized?
The standard for COVID-19 exposure is within 6 feet for 15 minutes. Based upon that standard, we will allow athletes to utilize locker rooms for changing into practice gear. A “quick in and out” in five minutes or less will be the expectation and coaches will monitor locker rooms to make sure athletes are complying. Masks must be worn at all times in locker rooms.
Middle school athletes will be allowed to change in the locker rooms before practice but must take all of their possessions (backpacks, etc.) with them when they exit as they will be unable to return to the locker room. Showers in the locker rooms will be unavailable.
How will a positive COVID-19 case and exposure in athletics be handled?
The same contact tracing protocol used for the school will be used for athletics. Close contacts will be identified and isolation and quarantine periods will be assigned as appropriate. The classroom and athletic fields are closely entwined as athletes are also students.
What does return to participation look like when an athlete tests positive?
The athlete will undergo a period of isolation before returning to campus. Once cleared by the health department to return to school, the athlete will then progress through the MSHSAA return to participation protocol which includes clearance from a medical professional and a gradual increase in activity. The athletic trainer will communicate with the athlete and parents in these situations. A negative test is not required to return to participation.
Will busses be used to transport athletes?
We are currently evaluating our transportation options but plan to utilize our busses to transport athletes as we have done in the past. Seats will be assigned by coaches and masks will be required to ride on the bus. It will not be possible to space individuals 6 feet or more apart on the bus but coaches will maximize spacing as much as possible. It is possible that students will be able to transport themselves instead of riding the bus. We will provide more information on that in the future.
Will spectators be allowed at practices? Games?
Based on our understanding of the updated Sports Reopening Guidelines from St. Louis County, spectators are not permitted at any time. We have asked the Department of Health for clarification on whether a parent qualifies as a spectator or can be an exception. At this time, consistent with other county schools, we will not permit spectators at athletic events.
Will games and competitions be live-streamed for spectators that feel uncomfortable, are unable, or are not allowed to attend in person?
We are currently researching options for live streaming all athletic events. There are many aspects to undertaking this including available technology, personnel, and internet capabilities at the site.
- Online Option
Throughout the fall semester, we will have students who are learning from home due to health-related circumstances. In order to accommodate these students, we have established a new and innovative online learning program to provide instructional options for parents who desire them for their children. Our classrooms are designed for these students to learn simultaneously along with their classmates on campus throughout the school day.
Students learning from home should plan on maintaining a normal school day schedule starting at 7:55 a.m. Teachers will post daily lessons in Canvas by the start of school (as noted in a previous communication, Canvas is our new learning management system, which will facilitate a much more effective and innovative online learning experience). It is possible some additional content could be added during the day based on that day’s class activities. This will be noted in the original lesson plan posted in Canvas.
At home, students will periodically join in live classes through Zoom in order to participate in a class discussion or view student presentations. Students will have the opportunity to seek help from their teacher through email and/or Zoom, when needed.
If you desire for your child to learn from home at the start of the school year, please contact Micah Gall by August 3.
A major initiative this coming year will be moving forward in the development of a permanent hybrid program. More information regarding these future plans will be forthcoming.
- Tech Help
Tech support will be available weekdays from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
How to Reach Tech Support
The best way to reach tech support is to email firstname.lastname@example.org. This will generate a support ticket with various members of the Westminster IT staff.
Please check Veracross for additional tech resources including ways to troubleshoot issues at home.
- Tips for Working from Home
Plan your Work and Work your Plan
Good planning can relieve stress for both children and parents. Check in with your children about their plans and help them develop a written schedule not only for the day, but for the week as a whole. Help them prioritize and learn to create goals, tasks, and deadlines, just like adults do when they go to work. It’s important to keep a daily routine. Try to create a loose schedule for your children to follow on a daily basis including times to wake up, get ready, and do homework or a learning activity with breaks in between.
Monitor your Child’s Work
Everyone needs accountability. Even though staying home from school might feel like a holiday, remind your children that they’re not on vacation. Assignments, grades, and other requirements are not going away just because classes have moved online.
One of the worst pitfalls a new remote student will fall into is not giving their work the amount of attention it needs. A classroom limits inevitable distractions. If your child has a Powerpoint or a video to get through in place of a lecture, don’t let him or her scroll through it while the TV is on. It is also advisable to have your child put his or her phone away while doing school work—all it takes is one distracting text or tweet to derail a half-hour of hard work. It may be wise to implement the school’s cell phone policy at home when doing school work online.
If Possible, Avoid Work in Isolated Areas
To help your child stay focused on his or her school work, find a quiet but not completely secluded place to work. For many students, working from the bedroom and other isolated areas makes it easier to be distracted resulting in more time than is usually necessary to complete the work. It can also result in lower quality work. Obviously, this means that during “school hours” family members will want to keep noise and distractions to a minimum.
Communicate with the Teachers
It is critical that your children check their email for messages from their teachers. Checking their email is the best way to ensure they don’t miss anything.
If you or your child is not entirely sure about something, send a message, or have your child send a message to the teacher. Explain your problem clearly and show them where you need clarification. For group projects, it’s best to block out time for discussing it with the teacher and others in the group about how the project should move forward.
Strive to Reduce Stress
This is a stressful time, for children, for parents, and for school staff. While we cannot eliminate all stress, we can strive to reduce it as much as possible. In particular, we can strive to ensure that stress does not become paralyzing.
Acknowledge the stress while encouraging your children not to stress too much about the changes and challenges that will inevitably arise. Learning to adapt to changing situations while maintaining our composure is good spiritually, emotionally, and physically. It is also an essential 21st century skill highly sought after by employers.
The situation is rapidly changing every day, and everyone is learning as they go. Together, we will get through this and will grow as believers, adults, and students along the way.