Revised May 27, 2020
Dear Grace Families,
This communication has been edited since mid-March to provide the most up to date information to all of our Grace Family and our extended constituency. In the midst of a highly unusual health crisis here in the United States and around the world, Grace Baptist Church and Academy took a direct hit from a tornado just before midnight of Easter Sunday, April 12 that devastated the surrounding neighborhoods of East Brainerd and caused catastrophic damage to our campus. It was immediately evident that we could not function on our campus as a school nor church and faced a monumental recovery and rebuild process.
Since the Academy had already responded to the restrictions of the COVID-19 crisis by launching a distance learning program, we were in full gear of a new and strategic pursuit of our mission of providing a high-quality, Biblically-integrated academic program. We are confident that our students are making good academic progress as our loving teachers continue to cultivate the caring community that is the cultural fabric of Grace. We have not wavered in our vision that GRACE TRANSFORMS! Grace Academy is a school where God transforms hearts, minds, and futures. You can watch the first video message from our Head of School, Matt Pollock to the Grace family by clicking here.
The following FAQ's were originally developed related to our response to the restrictions of the health crisis but have now been updated following the impact of the tornado in East Brainerd. Shortly after that event, Governor Lee recommended the closure of the physical campus of schools be extended due to the COVID-19 crisis through the end of the 2019-20 school year in Tennessee. We will continue to update these responses as necessary and helpful.
How can I help?
There are actually several things one can do to help Grace Academy:
1) Pray for us: pray for those who are organizing and making critical decisions; pray for the students and teachers, particularly the seniors; pray for the organization of the coming school year.
2) Identify with us: all of our friends and supporters...be 'Grace' with us.
3) Tell our story; you never know who may be able to respond and lend a helping hand.
4) Support Grace and our future with your gifts of love.
When will campus re-open?
Not only in response to the COVID-19 health crisis but then due to the devastation of our campus from the tornado strike, Grace Baptist Academy extended our distance learning plan through Friday, May 22nd. (Our distance learning program began on Monday, March 23 at the conclusion of our Spring Break.). We are already working with passion on the recovery and rebuild process that will take incredible effort. We completed our academic program for 2019-20 with exceptional teachers providing unique, dynamic delivery of our educational program at this time due to the health crisis. However, our commitment is to return to "live, in-person" instruction once again this fall of 2020. We will announce our temporary housing for this fall on May 31 and can hardly wait to continue accomplishing our God-given mission to our student body in person.
Who do I contact if I have a question?
We are available to help. Our main school number 423-892-8224 is currently active and being monitored for voice messages. However, it is probably best to use email to initiate communication with our administrators, staff, and classroom teachers. Some specific leaders, you may wish to contact directly.
Upper School Principal: Scott Hicks ([email protected])
Lower School Principal: Nancy Cooper ([email protected])
Children's Center: Sheri Hicks ([email protected]) *our daycare & preschool (ages 6 weeks - 4 years old)
Camp Grace: Beth Smith ([email protected]) *our unique ten week camp that will be open for Summer 2020
IT Support Staff: [email protected] (Jessica Pollock & Marty Cooper)
Athletic Department: Bob Ateca ([email protected])
Financial Office: Lisa Payton ([email protected]) *student accounts
Development Department: Les Compton ([email protected])Head of School: Matt Pollock ([email protected])
Will Camp Grace be operating once again in the Summer of 2020?
With guidance from the CDC and Hamilton County Health Department, we will be running our highly successful program for children from ages 5 to 12 for ten weeks as scheduled. Our kids need Camp Grace like they never have before! We are thankful to Redemption Point Church at 3831 Ooltewah Ringgold Rd for offering their beautiful facilities as our home base this summer, so that our one-of-a-kind program will continue for the 5th summer in a row!
The safety of our staff and campers is our number one priority. Along with following the COVID-19 safety guidelines, we will have Dr. Barbara Richardson, DNP, ARNP with us every morning during drop-off performing health/COVID screenings of every staff member and every camper as they arrive each morning.
Camp Grace will have DAILY enrichment in STEAM, cooking, music, arts & crafts, sports, science, and active group games. Because of the current health restrictions, as of right now, Camp Grace will not be able to take field trips. We are hard at work organizing additional activities in order to create many meaningful and memorable experiences for our campers this summer! If local guidelines change and we are allowed to resume field trips, we will do so as soon as we can. We are so excited that the same camp staff will be returning to help create a summer full of amazing adventures and cherished memories that your camper will treasure in their hearts forever! We have over 120 students registered for the first day of camp on June 1!For more information you can visit our website https://www.campgracechatt.org/ or contact Beth Smith @ [email protected].
Is the Children's Center open?
Sadly, due to damage from the tornado, our preschool had to close operations temporarily. Initial assessments have encouraged us that the building is repairable and it has become our top priority. We serve families with babies as young as six weeks old up to four year old children. Our goal is to re-open and serve these children as soon as possible. https://www.gracechildrenscenter.org/.
Will my child be on a screen all day long during this period of distance learning?
We certainly do not expect that to happen. We are committed to live, face-to-face instruction during this period, however, our faculty understands that the amount of screen time will vary by the child’s age and grade. It is our goal to design our distance learning plan so that it is developmentally appropriate. Breaks from school work, off-screen time, and physical activity are all very important. We hope that a part of your child’s educational day will be spent outside, as weather permits.
How is Learning Support delivered for those children with unique needs during this period?
NILD effectively provides Teletherapy with the same accuracy as face-to-face therapy. The NILD/Zoom teletherapy platform will be used. An NILD Teletherapist License is required to actually use this platform, and all six of GBA's therapists are trained in this very helpful therapy for times like these.
Will families receive a tuition refund while students are not on campus?
Our faculty and staff have not wavered in their commitment to see each of our students move forward effectively in their academic progress. They have dedicated themselves to providing excellent distance learning classes for our students. Distance learning demands new innovation and additional initiatives by our faculty and staff as they are putting in countless hours to ensure our students have the optimal learning experience at home. We are convinced that you will be very pleased with our work during this crisis period. Teaching and learning is continuing, and therefore Grace Baptist Academy will continue to collect the annual tuition as usual. Families who are experiencing an extreme financial hardship due to the economic impact of this pandemic or due to the effects of the tornado strike should contact our Student Accounts Manager, Lisa Payton. As always, we will work with you if you need to restructure your current payment plan.
Can prospective families still check out Grace Academy and enroll their children during this crisis period?
We continue to welcome inquiries from prospective families. We are scheduling virtual visits and also encourage you to share your experience of partnering with Grace Academy. Applications are in process right now and we already have new students enrolled for next fall. If you have a family member or friend who may have interest in our school, please encourage them to reach out to Donna Dean ([email protected]), our Lower School Admissions Coordinator or Jennifer Ross ([email protected]), our Upper School Admissions Coordinator. You may also suggest that interested parents can TEXT them at 423-892-8224. https://gracechatt.org/136/schedule-a-visit
What is our plan for standardized testing?
We have cancelled our standardized testing for this spring. We are working on a plan for rescheduling in the future.
Challenges with bandwidth for distance learning?
This is something that Grace Academy cannot improve for you in your own home. With the potential of multiple devices being used simultaneously in a home, bandwidth could be taxed. It will be helpful if parents observe so that one user isn’t streaming or playing video games ( Netflix, Fortnite, etc.) while another is having class via Zoom.
What is the status of our Golden Eagle athletic program?
Due to the current restrictions across our region and state, no athletic teams have been practicing or competing since March 13. In response to Governor Bill Lee's most recent directive, the state athletic association, the TSSAA announced on Wednesday, April 15 that all spring sports have been cancelled for the remainder of this school year. It is with sincere regret that we recognize this loss for our student-athletes and their coaches who work so hard on their skill development as well as enjoy the personal growth and positive camaraderie experienced through team sports. As this health crisis diminishes, our student athletes are returning on JUNE 1st to other local practice fields and gymnasiums with guidance by our county health department and other professionals to get ready for our fall sports seasons. Go Grace! Soaring Like Eagles this Fall 2020! www.gracegoldeneagles.com
Have any plans been adjusted for our major end of the year events?
We had worked very hard to preserve field trips and major school functions during the health crisis but it is clear now that we are no longer able to hold these special experiences for our students. Since our high school graduation was scheduled to be held at Bayside Baptist Church, we have continued to plan this important ceremony for our high school seniors, however, we moved the date to June 19 because of the ongoing restrictions from the COVID-19 crisis.
We have been discussing how we might hold an activity for our student body and our parents also after these health restrictions are lifted. We desperately want to enjoy the in person fellowship with all of our school family members we have grown so accustomed to. More information will be published as plans are developed.