While most students in Vicksburg were enjoying an extra week of summer vacation, students enrolled in two local private schools began as originally scheduled.
Porter’s Chapel Academy and Agape Montessori Christian Academy opened to students Monday, Aug. 10, despite the COVID-19 pandemic. Both schools are Christ-centered and the decision to open was “based largely on prayer,” according to Lynn Townsend, director of Agape Montessori.
Porter’s Chapel, under the leadership of Chris Williams, welcomed nearly 200 students with “a handful” choosing the virtual learning option, while Agape serves nearly 80 students in Pre-K through 12th grade in the Vicksburg Warren County area. Approximately 20 students are utilizing distance learning, and all of those students are in grades six through 12.
“The choice wasn’t an easy one for sure,” said Brandy Boyd. Boyd has three students enrolled at Agape, and she chose virtual learning via Google classroom for her two older children.
“I decided based on the fact my oldest has Type 1 diabetes, which is an autoimmune disease. I just feel it’s best for his health and safety to stay at home. My other teenager chose the online classes because she wanted to be there for her brother in case of emergency.”
Porter’s Chapel and Agape have similar safety plans in place for those choosing in-person learning. Both schools are requiring masks in common areas, temperature checks at entrances and classrooms are being sanitized multiple times a day. Sanitizer and sanitizing stations are available throughout both schools, and lunch and break schedules have been modified to ensure as much social distancing as possible. Every elementary student at Agape chose in-person learning, so the school purchased an ActivePure Certified Cleaner that uses space technology to clean air and surfaces throughout the day. Safety measures like this played a large part in Boyd’s decision to have her youngest child attend class in-person.
“My 8-year-old learns best in person, face-to-face,” she said. “He has to stay engaged and doesn’t have the attention span needed for virtual classes. I just knew it was imperative that he physically attend, and I’m very confident in the school’s ability to keep him safe.”
“I think we were all worried about getting the little kids to keep their masks on and keep a safe distance from their friends,” said Jennifer Heldenbrand, an elementary teacher at Agape. “They’ve really made me proud, though. They understand how important it is if we want to keep our loved ones as healthy as possible.”
Thousands of students in the Vicksburg Warren School District and Vicksburg Catholic Schools are preparing to start Monday, Aug. 17, and even though it is impossible to predict what lies ahead, it is certain the 2020-2021 school year will be one for the history books.