Mount Paran Christian School, located in Kennesaw, spent the spring and summer months of 2020 in extensive pre-planning, preparing for enhanced sanitization and safety measures to begin the new academic year on August 11. In a July email to its school community, Head of School Dr. Tim Wiens announced the school would return to in-person, on-campus learning, with detailed plans to mitigate COVID-19.
Dr. Wiens said, “COVID-19 has changed the world in which we live and the manner in which we are called to interact with one another – at least for the time being. Community and gathering are at the heart of all we do. Our goal is to ensure that this life-giving community is provided in an as uninterrupted manner as possible throughout the course of the school year.”
The small size of its student body and the ample space on its 68-acre campus allow MPCS to be nimble and flexible with its return strategy. The MPCS Scenario Planning Committee - composed of leadership, nurses, operations, faculty, and staff - has spent extensive time over several months discussing multiple options for learning possibilities during the pandemic. Three strategies were chosen as the most beneficial scenarios for families and fitting within DPH/GaDOE recommendations for a PK-12 setting. This multi-phase plan allows for flexibility, depending on government/DPH/CDC restrictions and in order to provide a continuous, world-class education. The school opened under a combination of its Phase 1 and Phase 2 scenarios, as outlined in its Family Reunion Plan.
MPCS requires masks during specified times of day, such as arrival, departure, during transitions, and in common spaces, and has provided child-size buffs to students in grades K-12. Masks are not required in classrooms when students are able to be physically distanced, nor in preschool, which operates under the safety code of Bright from the Start.
Large-group gatherings, such as chapel, are limited to numbers that allow for physical distancing. The dining hall allows for separation of students, including utilizing tents for extended outdoor covered eating areas. All classrooms implemented physical-distancing measures, with tracing plans in place in the event of a positive COVID-19 case. Each school division uses additional age-appropriate strategies. The duration of these strategies is still unknown but will be followed until it is safe to do otherwise.
Investing in Safety
This year, MPCS has invested significant financial resources in the installation of the state-of-the-art Synexis Microbial Reduction System, which eradicates airborne and surface contaminants. The Synexis system is a continuously-running green technology that helps reduce germs such as viruses, bacteria, and fungi in the air and on surfaces. The Synexis system is specifically designed for occupied spaces and operates 24 hours a day - every single day - to disinfect continuously. Synexis technology is installed in hospitals, restaurants, major league sports venues, casinos, hotels, schools, daycares, office buildings, retail stores, animal hospitals, and many other populated indoor spaces.
MPCS also updated all air filtration systems, provided safe EPA-approved cleaning solutions, and increased nursing, counseling, and safety measures, including the hiring of an additional full-time nurse and second full-time security guard.
Synchronous Virtual Option
For those parents who wish to keep their children home for the time being, Mount Paran Christian School offers an at-home synchronous virtual option. Learning happens in real time, using cameras that are designed specifically for academic live-streaming.
To view a video overview of What to Expect at MPCS for the 2020-2021 year, visit www.mtparanschool.com/events/news/what-expect-mpcs-2020-2021-school-year.
Building Community During a Pandemic
In the midst of the Coronavirus pandemic, our country has been facing not only social distancing and uncertainty about the future, but also calls for racial justice and reconciliation. Prior to the August return to campus, MPCS high school students spent the early part of the summer planning a CommUNITY Rally for Hope and Healing, which was held on Juneteenth. The outdoor event was led by the MPCS Student Government Association and the People’s Club, a high school group whose purpose is to foster a welcoming environment for MPCS students and to promote multicultural awareness and diversity. The rally featured prayer, worship, a spoken word, and time for reflection to promote change in our country. Dr. Wiens said “the color of a person's skin should not be the determinant of his destiny.” In a letter to the MPCS school community, he encouraged readers “to speak up, to speak out, and to come together around what we, Mount Paran Christian School, can and will do about justice, about equity, and about the sanctity of all life.”
MPCS is committed to becoming an environment that is diverse and inclusive, reflecting God’s Kingdom. Human and financial resources are allocated to assist in establishing leadership, driving professional development, and cultivating a Christ-centered environment that is both welcoming and nurturing. The MPCS CommUNITY Task Force leads the charge in teaching and guiding students to love all people and to learn to celebrate our unique differences.
Catina Taliaferro, MPCS Director of Diversity and Inclusion, said, “What can happen - what needs to happen - is we need to see one another. We need to listen, to educate ourselves, to lament, to reconcile. We need to change.”
As the Mount Paran Christian School family finally reunited on campus for the start of the new academic year, the community focused on what matters most, adopting a theme of “Love One Another” for the year. The goal of the initiative is to focus on loving all people, with displays of unique and creative banners across campus. Each banner was designed by an MPCS high school visual art student and embodies their interpretation of a Bible verse that is inclusive of the diverse body of Christ.
Dr. Wiens says, “Discussing diversity is never easy, but to remain silent about such issues, especially as the head of school at a good-sized Christian independent school, would be wrong. I am hopeful that all of us will desire to learn, to understand others’ perspectives, and to better exemplify the kindness of God here on earth. Diversity makes us better,” he continues. “It makes us stronger. It is what God intended for his people, for his church, and for our community.”
Mount Paran Christian School has compiled resources for parents seeking to discuss issues of social justice, racism, and equity with their children. These resources can be found on the school’s CommUNITY webpage at www.mtparanschool.com/christian-life/community.
Special thanks to the MPCS high school visual artists who dedicated time over the summer to complete the CommUNITY Series banner works of art:
Love One Another – C. Monroe
Seek Justice – N. Roberts
Stand Together – C. Finch
Be Compassionate – H. Meilstrup
Live in Harmony – B. Hawkins
Have Courage – H. Abernathy
Be One in Christ – C. Pulley
See as God Sees – C. Kalichack
Value Others – M. Westbrook
Let Your Light Shine – R. Harvin