7380 Girard Avenue, La Jolla

Gillispie School / covid19  / Roadmap: 2020-2021 School Year
Gillispie School

Roadmap: 2020-2021 School Year

Hello Everyone,

As promised last Friday, below are Gillispie’s plans to open school on September 1. Given Governor Newsom’s recent announcement, will our elementary students meet on campus or online as we open the 2020-2021 school year? Time will tell, and rest assured that we are assiduously planning for both possibilities. In the July 17 Framework for K-12 Schools in California, the California Department of Public Health referred to a waiver that might be granted by the local health officer for elementary schools to open for in-person instruction. Gillispie will explore this possibility when it is made available and will continue to plan for success regardless of whether we meet on campus or online.

This report is divided into four sections:

  1. Gillispie’s early childhood plan as a licensed provider of childcare through the State of California

Community Care Licensing Department (CCL)

  1. Gillispie’s On-Campus Learning Model with an online option for elementary students
  2. Logistics for all students when on campus
  3. Gillispie’s Online Learning Model attended by all elementary students

We are focusing our efforts and resources on the variables we can control by taking guidance from experts and applying it to support our families and employees. In making our decisions, the Administrative Team, along with the Director of Health & Safety/Pandemic Coordinator and the Facilities Manager, monitors updates and guidelines from the California Department of Public Health (CDPH), California Department of Education (CDE), San Diego County Public Health Services (SDPH), and San Diego County Office of Education (SDCOE) as well as the Centers for Disease Control and World Health Organization. 

Given these unprecedented times created by COVID-19, it is important to keep our priorities in the forefront. First, we recognize that our program must honor our mission in creating a learning environment that serves as a “springboard for children’s love of learning, creativity, and readiness for the future.” We believe in a participatory, hands-on, active approach. Second, we need to be able to design a setting that is physically and emotionally healthy for children and our teachers and staff. Finally, we must commit to change course as circumstances change. This may mean toggling between onsite and virtual learning at least for the first semester to meet state or local government ordinances designed “to reduce the number of individuals who will be exposed to COVID-19 and thereby slow the spread in the county” (County of SD HHSA, July 15 Order). Communication with our families in these areas is critical to sustaining our sense of community.


Because the Early Childhood program is a licensed provider of childcare through the State of California Community Care Licensing Department (CCL), the EC programs are currently unaffected by the Governor’s announcement on Friday, and we are moving forward with our plans to open the EC campus on September 1. At this time, it is our intention to remain open throughout the COVID-19 pandemic in order to serve the needs of families in our community. We plan to remain open for children whose parents are essential workers (as defined by the Health Order). The on-campus EC program would close if we were given a directive by the County Health Department to do so in response to a reported positive case of COVID-19. The length of any such closure would be determined by the Health Department.

Early Childhood Classrooms

  • To minimize the number of individuals that any student or teacher has contact with each day, each early childhood classroom will act as a cohort. All cohorts will maintain the same small group size of 10-14 children with 2 teachers and will not be mixed with any other cohort. Each cohort will have designated outdoor spaces for their daily use.
  • Because young children continue to grow in their social-emotional development, they are not expected to physically distance while in their limited stable class groups. Teachers will not discourage interaction among other students within their group. We believe children learn, grow, and develop by playing with and alongside other children and caregivers
  • To help prevent the spread of illness, space will be increased between children when sitting at tables; during nap time all cots will be 6 feet apart placing children head to toe; and ventilation and access to outdoor spaces will be increased. Teachers will wear face masks as required by California licensing.

Early Childhood Distance Learning

For families who do not feel comfortable returning onsite, we invite you to consider Gillispie at H.O.M.E. (https://www.gillispie.org/gillispie-at-home/). This is an interactive community of children age 2 through Prekindergarten and their parents embarking together on a home learning adventure. The program includes:

  • Approximately 3 hours’ worth of investigations and activities for each day delivered in an easy-to-use, parent-friendly online platform
  • A daily virtual meet-up of 20-30 minutes with a dedicated early childhood educator featuring specialty classes such as movement, music, and yoga
  • Optional small parent group meetings to connect with others in a similar phase of the parenting journey
  • A curated box of developmentally appropriate materials for each session, including expendable supplies and enduring items to enhance learning well beyond the length of the session

Some students who attend on-campus programs may need to stay home due to self-quarantine, during a stay-at-home order in which parents are not considered essential workers, or if the County Health Department requires a campus closure. In this case, students will utilize a distance learning model to stay connected to classmates and teachers, including activities similar to current classroom explorations and regular virtual meeting opportunities with teachers and classmates.

Can a family shift from online to on-campus learning at any time in the year?

For early childhood students, mid-year enrollment may be considered depending on space availability and health and safety considerations. If a student does not return to on-campus programs at the start of the year, we cannot guarantee a space for mid-year enrollment or for the following year. However, previously enrolled students will have priority in the admissions process for the 2021-22 school year. 

Please see the LOGISTICS section below for specifics such as drop-off and pick-up procedures, tuition policies, as well as health and safety measures that will be updated based on new information from State and County authorities.


Section 2: Gillispie School On-Campus Learning Model with an Online Option 

Following safety guidelines and when permitted by San Diego County and California State, we will open the campus to elementary students. With the age of our student body, low student/teacher ratios, flexible campus layout, and access to outdoor classrooms, we believe we can successfully come to campus for face-to-face instruction while also offering an online option for those families who are not ready to have their children on campus.

For On-Campus Learners:

Honoring a hands-on, constructivist approach, we feel that an on-campus experience best serves students who will continue to benefit from in-person engagement with teachers and classmates as well as through access to on-site core and specialty subjects. Note that the school day has been shortened by 45 minutes (see below for hours of operation). This is to allow for increased planning time for teachers who will be developing curricula for both on-campus and online learners. Please note that core academic time is not decreased as the schedule has been compressed due to less movement between classrooms and the restructuring of specialty classes.

 Elementary Classrooms 

  • To minimize the number of individuals that any student or teacher has contact with each day, each elementary classroom will act as a cohort. As much as possible, all classes and activities for a cohort will take place in a designated area. During outdoor activities such as exercise breaks, snack time, and lunch, two cohorts at the same grade level will interact using physical distancing protocols. Bathrooms will be designated by grade level.
  • Students who are on campus will be placed into classrooms that allow students to sit six feet apart. Our largest class, Grade 4, will be housed in the gym. Taking into account that some students will opt for learning from home, each classroom will be capped in enrollment to maintain physical distancing.
  • To decrease the sharing of items, student libraries and communal items (i.e. staplers and pencil sharpeners) have been temporarily removed. Instead, students will have individual cubbies, supplies, and materials.

Elementary Specialty Classes

  • For the upcoming year, media literacy will not be a separate class. Computer skills and the use of platforms and devices will be taught in response to each grade level’s needs within their classrooms.
  • P.E. class will take the place of morning and lunch recesses and will, therefore, meet outside twice daily for 15-20 minute intervals to provide students with exercise and fresh air.
  • Teachers in Science, Spanish, Art, and Music will either come into classrooms in person or virtually to teach each cohort or will hold classes outdoors.

Other Changes to Spaces

  • The removal of the library will allow for additional space for the two sections of Kindergarten. Books have been stored and will move to the Sandbox for its planned opening in February 2021.
  • Pirtle Field will be used mostly for exercise breaks. Classes may gather on the amphitheater steps in the afternoon.
  • The south end of the elementary sport court, the play structure/lunch table area, and the Girard Avenue south parking lot will also be transformed into outdoor classroom spaces complete with portable chairs and desks and shading. Each cohort will have a scheduled time in one of these spaces at least once per day. Outdoor classrooms will be cleaned between each use.
  • In the event that anyone feels unwell during the school day, there will be an isolation room, which will be located in the Conference Room, reserving the nurse’s office for tending to minor injuries or requests for supplies (i.e. ice packs).
  • Each grade level is assigned a bathroom to better keep cohorts isolated. 
  • Almost every classroom has a sink in the room, and we have rented a double hand-washing sink for the elementary sport court. 
  • Drinking fountains have been turned off. Children may fill their personal water bottles at filling stations. 
  • To increase the distance between people while traveling between classrooms and outside, Fielden Hall’s two stairwells will be strategically used.

For Online Learners:

Some families may opt for the Online Gillispie Program. Below is an outline of what families can expect. This program is being developed and will be finalized as we know the number of families choosing this option. 

The Assistant Head of School, grade-level teachers, and online learning coaches will work to create a schedule and learning plan that includes live synchronized class times, asynchronous independent work time, access to recorded core academic lessons, virtual office hours with teachers, and interactions with other students as appropriate for the student. What might the day look like? 

  • The day will start with Google Meet morning gatherings with on-campus and online students.
  • The focus for online learners will be on the core subjects of Math, Language Arts (writing and reading), and Social Studies. On-campus classroom teachers will provide online learners with videos that are pre-recorded or recorded while the teacher is conducting the live lesson. (All students will have access to these videos which will allow them to review content.)
  • Specialty teachers will use synchronous (students participating in live interactions) and asynchronous (students working independently or reviewing pre-recorded videos) lessons to teach Spanish, Science, Art, and Music. 
  • Small group sessions and office hours will be conducted by alternating the classroom teacher with a learning coach who has been assigned to that class. These daily sessions will allow children to interact with each other and work through questions in a small, supportive setting. 
  • Certain aspects of on-campus learning cannot be duplicated at home, and families are encouraged to provide remote learners with opportunities for social interactions, physical activity, and creative pursuits that occur away from the computer screen.

Can a family shift from online to on-campus learning at any time in the year?

For elementary students, we are keeping class sizes consistent whether your enrolled child is off or on campus; in other words, your child’s physical spot will be maintained so that your child may eventually join classmates on site. Any student that is required to stay home due to illness or family isolation may join this online cohort while out and then return to class once cleared to do so. Temporary access to the online learning program is limited to students who are unable to be on campus for COVID-related concerns or due to other types of illness.

Section 3: LOGISTICS for Early Childhood and Elementary Programs While on Campus

School Hours and Arrival & Departure Protocols

School Day:

  • Early Childhood Students: 8:30 AM to 2:15 PM
    • Drop off 8:15-8:30 AM and pick up 2:15-2:30 PM at Fay Avenue
  • K – Grade 2 students: 8:30 AM to 2:15 PM
    • Drop off 8:15-8:30 AM and pick up 2:15-2:30 PM at Girard Avenue 
  • Grades 3 – 6 students: 8:15 AM to 2:00 PM
    • Drop off 8:00-8:15 AM and pick up 2:00-2:15 PM at Girard Avenue
  • For families who have siblings in different time groups, parents may drop off all of their children at the earlier time. All students will go directly to their classrooms. In the afternoon, you may pick up all the children at the later time. We ask that you attempt to arrive at the early end of that window. All students will be held in classrooms until called to the car lines.

Drop-Off and Pick-Up Protocols:

  • Early childhood students will enter school off of the Fay Avenue driveway where they will say goodbye to their caregivers and be escorted in by their teachers to their individual classrooms. All early childhood students must also be picked up in the Fay Avenue driveway.
  • Elementary students will use three access points on the Girard Avenue side of the School. More detailed instructions will be given in August. 
  • Parents will not be allowed on campus unless they are picking up a sick child and non-essential service providers will not be allowed inside school buildings.

Health Screenings at Drop-Off 

Health measures, including frequent hand washing and temperature checks, are critical in order to maintain the health of our students, faculty, and staff, as well as helping our campus to remain open. Before entering campus, students (and employees) will take part in a simple health screening process:

  • A friendly staff member will take the temperature of each child through an open car window or at the gate. Anyone with a fever of 100 degrees or higher or showing other signs of illness will not be allowed on campus. 
  • The parent or caregiver will be asked screening questions such as: Has your child displayed COVID-19 symptoms? Has your child come in contact with anyone who has tested positive for COVID-19 in the past 14 days?

We ask parents to have their children wash their hands before leaving home and teachers will have them wash their hands upon arrival at school. Parents must notify the School if a child has taken any fever-reducing medication in the past 24 hours. Children and staff will be monitored throughout the day for any possible signs of illness. If a child is found to have a fever during the day or display other symptoms of illness, the parents will be notified immediately and the child will need to be picked up within one hour and may not return to school the next day. The student will not be allowed to return until he/she is symptom-free for 48 hours.

Before and After-Care

For the present time, there will be extremely limited before-school care. Please communicate with the School if you must have before-care options for your child. We will provide after-care, which will close at 5:00 p.m., for families that require it. 

Will students be wearing masks at all times on campus?

Medical and scientific research shows that our chances of keeping teachers and students healthy increase by wearing masks. There are no sure bets, but masks and physical distancing are two excellent safety measures, along with increased attention to personal hygiene and facility cleaning. It’s the layering of these practices that will make a difference.

Early childhood students have the option of wearing a facial covering while in their cohort groups. In the best interest of our teachers’ and staff’s health, Kindergarten through Grade 6 students will be required to wear masks coming onto and leaving campus and will wear masks in the classroom as directed by teachers. As well, Gillispie employees will be wearing masks or face shields when working with other individuals on campus, and parents are required to wear a facial covering during drop-off and pick-up.

What new safety protocols will be implemented at Gillispie?

To help prevent the spread of COVID-19 and reduce the risk of potential exposure, we have updated our health and safety protocols to accommodate the recommendations of federal, state, and local agencies. These include:

  • Enhanced sanitation practices for the campus, including mid-day cleanings of spaces and often-used surfaces and materials by staff and a newly added day porter  
  • Additional and continuing student and employee training related to health and safety
  • Hygiene protocols including frequent hand washing and proper use of restrooms
  • Health screening procedures
  • Limited and stable groups of children and teachers
  • Physical distancing practices 
  • Face coverings as required
  • Increased ventilation and access to outdoor spaces
  • Limited campus access (students, staff, and essential personnel)

Section 4: ONLINE LEARNING MODEL for all elementary students when not permitted on campus

Many lessons were learned from our online experiences this spring. After listening to feedback from teachers, parents, and students, as well as continuing to research and learn with independent school educators from around the country, we are designing an enhanced and refined online learning program. Furthermore, all elementary teachers have undergone professional training either in the area of using online platforms such as Seesaw and Google classroom or in the area of blended and online learning pedagogy, planning, and assessment. All this hard work will culminate in a learning experience that focuses better on individual students, small group work,  and preparation for the next grade level at Gillispie.

If we must open the year online or are ordered by the State to shut down at any point, this is what you can expect:

  • The focus of the academic program will be on the core subjects of mathematics, reading, and writing for lower elementary (K-Grade 2) with the addition of science and social studies for upper elementary (Grades 3-6) students. Specialty classes will be scheduled strategically, sometimes pre-recorded and other times live, to enhance a well-rounded education and children’s social and emotional wellbeing.
  • In an effort to build community and better focus on students’ needs, learning coaches will be assigned to assist grade level teachers.
  • In addition to whole-class instruction, teachers and learning coaches will divide students into smaller groups and meet daily, rotating the subject matter between the core subjects.
  • Office hours will be held every afternoon so that students can ask questions of their teachers and learning coaches.
  • Synchronous (when students participate in live interactions) and asynchronous (when students work independently or review pre-recorded videos and other teacher-curated content) opportunities are important and serve different purposes. Rather than tethering children to their screens for hours at a time, we aim to promote their self-advocacy, sense of responsibility, and independence.
  • Students need time to socialize with classmates. During the week, children may join “play” sessions organized by coaches and volunteers. This might be a trivia bingo game, a chess match, open-mic/share-a-talent time, or simply a conversation.
  • For teachers, devising online lessons, coordinating efforts with remote colleagues and learners, and making and uploading instructional content require additional planning time. Thus, classes will end at 2:00 p.m. each day. 
  • Parents and caregivers need guidance on supporting learning at home. Guidelines will be provided before September 1 so that adults can put structures and routines into place that support online learning as well as add clarity on what healthy support looks like.
  • Families, especially those with multiple children attending online classes, need a standardized schedule that is posted in a similar way across all grade levels before the start of the school day. Similarly, uploading assignments needs to be streamlined. Please see below on how technology will effectively address these issues.

Sample Schedule

  • The day will start with Google Meet morning gatherings.
  • Classroom teachers will provide lessons using a combination of live instruction and pre-recorded videos. 
  • Teachers and grade-assigned learning coaches will divide students into smaller groups to reinforce or expand concepts learned in the whole-group meet.
  • Specialty teachers will use synchronous and asynchronous lessons to teach Spanish, Science, Art, and Music. 
  • Office Hours will be conducted by alternating the classroom teacher with the assigned learning coach. These daily sessions will allow children to interact with each other and work through questions in a small, supportive setting. 


  • Platforms and Devices: Equipping students with effective digital learning tools will be a key part of successful teaching and learning both in-person and online. For this reason, we selected tools that are developmentally appropriate for use with students’ specific ages. Early childhood classrooms will use SeeSaw and Storypark. For Kindergarten and Grade 1, students will use iPads along with SeeSaw and Google Classroom. Grades 2-4 will use Chromebooks and Google Classroom (Grade 2 will also use SeeSaw). Grades 5-6 will use Apple Laptops and Google Classroom. Gillispie will be extending its one-to-one device policy thus providing these devices to each elementary student. The individualized devices will be used by students while on campus and can be taken home if we shift to distance learning. In addition, Gillispie has increased its bandwidth and cybersecurity measures. 
  • Tech Support: We have assembled a team to help on-campus teachers and online families with technology issues and the delivery of digital content. We have also selected a new Learning Management System (LMS) and Student Information System (SIS) through FACTS which will allow for centralized access to important information and learning resources. Technology orientations and resources for parents and caregivers will be made available at the beginning of the school year. These sessions will be repeated if Gillispie needs to move completely to distance learning.

Will there be a reduction in tuition under various circumstances? 

As we learned in the spring, distance learning is challenging for our EC students and families. As a result, we will be offering a credit of 35% of the tuition owed for the days missed for any closure lasting more than two weeks. Additionally, our plan is for the EC to remain open for children of essential workers even in the case of a shelter-at-home mandate.

Elementary online learners will not receive a reduction in tuition in the case of distance learning whether by family choice or by mandate. These students will have access to teachers and the Gillispie curriculum through asynchronous and synchronous learning opportunities. Distance learning requires the retention of all faculty, the hiring of additional staff, as well as increased technology expenses.


In an upside-down world, how can we work together? How will we explain to children why some students will be on campus while others will not or why we need to take certain safety measures? When we talk to children it is very important that we not use a fear-based approach but rather one of respect and regard for one another. For example, wearing a mask and distancing when out and about on campus are ways of showing we care for everyone and are actionable ways that elementary children can make a difference. A parent who keeps a child home when they are not feeling well is acting on behalf of others. Will these changes be hard? Will our patience be tested as we potentially toggle back and forth between holding school on campus and home? Absolutely, but we will develop resilience as we learn to adapt to life with compassion and understanding. 

Enjoy the sunshine and fresh air, 

Alison Fleming

Head of School

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