Reopening Plan

The John Cooper School is committed to delivering our educational program guided by our priorities and values: student and faculty safety and well-being, learning and growth, flexibility and options, and support for all our students and families.

Lower School will begin the school year on Thursday, August 13. Students will return to campus in staggered small groups on August 13 and 14. This will allow us a safer first entry and will enable us to introduce and practice our new protocols with smaller numbers of our younger students. On Monday, August 17, Lower School students will report to school for on-campus learning with our de-densification and health protocols in place. Online learning option also remains available, and classes will begin for those students on August 17.

All Middle and Upper School students will begin the school year on August 13 in a short-term online learning plan. We expect this short-term online plan to conclude before Labor Day, at which time we will implement a de-densified on-campus AM/PM schedule, where students will be assigned to a group based on alphabetical split, and a rotation will be used to allow students the chance to attend classes in the AM as well as the PM. Students who wish to stay enrolled in the online learning plan may continue with that plan as we progress through the semester.

During our short-term Middle/Upper School online learning plan, all students will attend online synchronous classes daily, will have online advisory meetings, and will have online tutorials with their teachers by appointment. The academic day will be significantly different from the format used in online learning last spring. Classes will begin for all students at 9:30 a.m. and conclude at 3:00 p.m. Each day there will be four class periods in the Upper School and three class periods in the Middle School; students will attend their classes via video conferencing technology.

As we reopen, and regardless of the learning scenario, the following values will guide our efforts:

List of 3 items.

  • Health and Well-Being

    The health, safety, and well-being of everyone in our school community will continue to be our top priority as we bring students back to campus. We intend to practice physical distancing and implement other protocols to promote health and safety in our classrooms, hallways, and facilities. Importantly, we will continue to center our efforts to support the social and emotional well-being of our students as well.
  • Learning and Growth

    Despite the complexity of our current circumstances, the schedules, structures, and routines we developed for our students are all centered on and designed to support student learning and growth. Each division developed schedules for the academic day that will continue to deliver our curriculum and program and provide an experience that is replete with familiar and important community experiences. Our faculty have spent the summer re-designing their curriculum, developing additional activities and resources, and creating new opportunities for students to learn. We will continue to plan creatively to ensure we are fostering community and affording students opportunities to socialize safely and meaningfully.
  • Flexibility, Options, and Support

    We are preparing for all Cooper students to return to campus in August/September. We will, however, provide a robust educational option for all our students, whether they are able to return to campus in August/September or not. For students who may need to self-isolate or quarantine at any time during the semester, our resources and plan of support will ensure student learning is not interrupted.
As we head into this unprecedented school year, it will take support and cooperation from all of us to create a safe learning environment that is not only effective and engaging, but is also flexible enough to adjust as conditions change in our area. We are actively monitoring local, state, and national health agencies and will use the Centers for Disease Control guidelines as we prepare to safely reopen campus. As evidenced throughout the summer, the fluidity of the pandemic will require all of us to remain patient, understanding, and flexible. We also ask that we all find reasons to be grateful as a school community.


Health & Safety Protocols

List of 9 items.

  • Medical Counsel

    While our school nurses know our community best and are the “boots on the ground,” the School has received counsel from a number of physicians in the Cooper community. We are grateful for their expertise and support as we navigate the COVID-19 pandemic. Our decisions and plans will be significantly informed by their clinical insights, in addition to the guidelines and recommendations provided by the Centers for Disease Control and the American Academy of Pediatrics.
  • Campus Preparations & Precautions

    • Nurses Office: The nurses offices in the Lower School and Middle/Upper School have been remodeled, allowing us to reconfigure our spaces to provide distinct well, intermediate, and sick areas.
    • Capacity Limits: Each classroom, building, and common area on campus is being evaluated for optimum capacity in order to de-densify and abide by distancing parameters set forth by health and government officials. Every effort will be made to reduce staff in-person meetings in close settings. The LS and MS/US clinics have undergone a renovation allowing the clinical staff to provide patients with well, intermediate, and sick areas.
    • Physical Distancing: To the greatest extent possible, individuals will be kept at six feet apart and the practice will be strongly encouraged throughout the school day. The Facilities Department has installed plexiglass barriers at points of entry and key locations in order to provide another layer of protection. Additionally, tape (delineating recommended physical distance) will be placed on the floor around a teacher’s desk as a visual reminder.
    • Hygiene Practices: The school has purchased additional handwashing stations to place at strategic locations throughout campus, we will have multiple no-touch hand sanitizer dispensers available, and disinfecting wipes will be readily available to faculty and staff. The practice of thorough and effective handwashing will be encouraged and promoted through posted signs.
    • Cleaning and Disinfecting: The school’s Facilities Department will increase its efforts to sanitize frequently touched surfaces throughout the day, and will clean and disinfect every classroom, office, bathroom, and common area after school. All cleaning supplies will be stored in a safe manner. When developmentally appropriate and prudent, students (and employees) will be provided with the opportunity and supplies to clean their own spaces. Attention will be given to surfaces in areas used by multiple class groups in between.
    • Student athletes who wish to continue participating in athletics after recovering from COVID-19 must provide a doctor’s clearance to resume play.
    • Members of the Health Services Team and Human Resources will be trained in proper contact tracing procedures.
    • School employees will be apprised of the protocols outlined in this re-opening plan and will be assigned a course on COVID-19 through our online training partner prior to the first day of school.
  • Facial Coverings

    Evidence shows that the use of a facial covering (mask) is an important way to prevent the spread of COVID-19. As of this writing, it is expected that every adult and student (grades 1-12) wear either a cloth face covering that fully covers the nose and mouth or a non-medical grade disposable face mask while on campus. Please note:
    • If a student arrives to school without a face covering, a disposable mask will be provided for the day.
    • There will be times throughout the school day when, while physically distancing, masks can be removed.
    • If a medical reason prevents a person from wearing a face mask, a doctor’s note stating so will need to be provided to the school. If a face mask cannot be tolerated, a face shield will be required.
    • No student or employee will be discouraged from wearing additional protection such as face shields or goggles.
    • Please convey to your child that the use of a mask will be expected at school and help them adapt to wearing one prior to the first day of class.
    • While the CDC recommends that all people two years of age and older wear a cloth face covering, we recognize that this may not be practical with our youngest students. We are currently evaluating options for prekindergarten and kindergarten students, including minimizing crossover among cohorts and the use of face shields, but will not prevent a student from wearing a mask if their families so wish.
    • When the use of a mask by a teacher impedes the education process (i.e. students with hearing impairments, teachers of foreign languages, etc.), the teacher may wear a face shield while maintaining strict physical distancing from students.
    • Should our policy on face coverings change (based on public health guidelines) prior to the start of school, we will send a notification.
  • Health Screenings & Testing

    Based on recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics, the CDC, and the Texas Education Agency, the school will not conduct routine temperature screenings on asymptomatic individuals. Rationale for this decision includes the fact that children are less likely to present with fever as an initial symptom of COVID-19, that such screens will not identify asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic individuals, and that the practice can result in unnecessary loss of instructional time. Instead, as an added level of caution, the school will ask that students and employees alike monitor their temperature twice daily prior to arriving at school and in the evening, and we encourage all families to have an accurate thermometer on hand. Once the school day begins, the faculty will refer students who are feeling unwell or appear to be ill to the nurse’s office for assessment. Our fever threshold is 100°F (37.8°C) and any person with a fever should not come on campus.

    We will defer to each person's health care provider to decide if testing (diagnostic or antibody) is indicated; the school will not administer COVID-19 tests.
  • Cooper Health Clinics & Clinical Services Staff

    For your student’s health and safety, The John Cooper School has enhanced its onsite health capacity as part of its response to COVID-19. We have remodeled the Nurse’s Offices in the Lower School and Middle/Upper School buildings. These newly configured spaces allow our staff to provide distinct well, intermediate, and sick areas. We have also added another full-time nurse to our team and have a pool of nurses (all familiar with JCS) to call upon as needed. Throughout the summer, we have continued to bolster our personal protective equipment as well as EPA-approved disinfectant supplies.
  • Suspected and Positive Cases

    Any individual (student or employee) who is experiencing symptoms of the disease or who has tested positive for it cannot be on campus and must stay home. The school nurse must be notified upon diagnosis and will ensure that the criteria to discontinue home isolation (per CDC guidelines, below) has been met prior to campus re-entry.
    • A person who is diagnosed with COVID-19 may return to school when all three of the following criteria are met:
      • 24 hours have passed without fever (without the use of fever-reducing medications).
      • Symptoms (cough, shortness of breath, etc.) have resolved
      • At least ten days have passed from the onset of symptoms
    • A person who has symptoms that could be indicative of COVID-19 and is not evaluated by a health care provider or tested for COVID-19, shall be presumed to have the disease. In order to return to school, the three-step criteria outlined above has to be met.
    • A person with COVID-19 symptoms who does not want to complete the home isolation period stated above, may return to school after either:
      • Obtaining a note from a health care provider indicating an alternative diagnosis
      • Receiving two negative COVID-19 tests collected at least 24 hours apart

    Should a student or employee exhibit symptoms of COVID-19 while on campus, they will be immediately taken to the nurse’s office. Everyone will be assessed by a member of the Health Services Team in a respectful manner, and care will be taken to not cause embarrassment or alarm. This assessment will take place in one of the clinics’ sick areas. Employees will be sent home immediately. Parents of affected students will be notified, and it is our expectation that the student will be picked up from school promptly. The school will clean the area as soon as possible, using EPA approved agents.
  • Response Measures

    • If an individual who has been in the school is confirmed by laboratory testing to have COVID-19, the school (upon becoming aware) will immediately notify the Montgomery County Public Health District to determine the next course of action. This will be done while maintaining the confidentiality and privacy of the student or employee, and their respective families.
    • Areas that were heavily used by the person with the lab-confirmed case will be closed off until surfaces in those areas can be disinfected.
    • Contact tracing will be performed to identify close contacts within the school setting.
    • The school will promptly notify families and staff of confirmed cases in our school community, consistent with confidentiality requirements.
  • Travel Guidelines

    If you are planning on international travel over the summer, we urge you to consult the CDC’s website about recommendations and restrictions on returning from international travel and travelers prohibited from entry into the US, as there might be restrictions on your return or a quarantine period might be indicated upon your return. For domestic travel, consult state or local health departments’ websites for travel guidance or possible restrictions upon arrival. All students and employees should complete any travel-related quarantines prior to returning to school.
  • Divisional Mitigation Efforts

    • Students in Grades 1-12 will begin the year wearing face masks or protective shields.
    • In Lower School, rearrange drop-off and pick-up procedures to physically distance students.
    • Prop classroom doors open at all times, prop bathroom doors open when feasible; limit the number of students in the bathroom at any time.
    • In Lower School, divide classes so that half eat lunch in the classroom and half eat in the Multi-Purpose Room; PreK students will eat lunch in their classrooms.
    • In Lower School, have students remain in place while co-curricular and non-homeroom teachers rotate to the students’ homeroom classroom.
    • In Lower School, utilize additional personnel (teaching assistants and co-curricular teachers) to schedule frequent outdoor breaks for groups of students to allow fresh air and breaks from wearing face masks/shields.
    • In Lower School and Middle School, limit the number of classes that participate in recess and PE together at one time.
    • Revamp Band and Choir to adhere to performing arts’ standards of care.
    • Adhere to physical distancing when transitioning students from place to place, and not gather students in groups.
    • Where possible, ensure spacing in halls and walkways in buildings.
    • Have protective, non-permeable table dividers for students to enhance distancing in classrooms.
    • Thoroughly clean our campus facilities throughout the day and each evening.
    • Increasing the rating on our air conditioning filters to the highest level possible, increasing the frequency of changing our filters, and increasing the flow of outside air through the system.
    • Space seating/desks six feet apart when feasible, turn desks to face in the same direction, and have students sit on only one side of the table.
    • Stagger the usage of and regularly disinfect common spaces around the campus.
    • Afford students outdoor spaces and times throughout the day to remove their masks and/or shields safely while maintaining physical distancing.
    • Place handwashing stations throughout our buildings and outside spaces.
    • Pursue virtual activities and events in lieu of assemblies and large grade meetings.

Frequently Asked Questions

List of 9 items.

  • How will food service be handled?

    Physical distancing guidelines limit the number of students who can eat in the dining areas. For this reason, we will utilize other spaces and devise schedules that allow students to be distanced while eating. Students will eat outdoors when possible. We encourage students to bring their own lunches daily. Students who wish to buy lunch at school can purchase a meal plan, and a prepacked lunch will be available to them. Specific information about this meal plan option will be provided at a later date. Students are also encouraged to bring their personal (and labelled) water bottle to lunch. Non-labelled water bottles will be thrown away when found.

    Teachers and food service staff will continue to work with families and students with allergies or dietary restrictions.
  • What is the policy for shared devices, supplies, and equipment?

    There will be a reduction in the number and kind of materials that are shared. Shared items will be sanitized after they are used. For some materials, students will be issued their own sets/kits. For Middle School, the grade-level supply lists are available online. Upper School teachers will communicate expectations for class resources closer to the start of school. Lower School supplies will be provided for students.
  • What will recess look like?

    As always, students will be outdoors for recess, weather permitting. We will reduce the number of students engaged in recess activities at any one time to allow for physical distancing. Equipment used will be cleaned between uses.
  • What about lockers?

    To avoid crowding in Middle and Upper School hallways, students will not use lockers. Instead, students will use backpacks and will be able to store belongings in classrooms. Lockers will be used in Lower School, and students will access them in staggered groups to adhere to physical distancing guidelines.
  • How will visual and performing arts be affected?

    The visual and performing arts department at Cooper is an integral part of our program. We are developing protocols and plans to continue to offer our Fine Arts programs and to devise ways to ensure appropriate physical distancing in our arts facilities.
  • Will there be athletics this fall?

    At this time, the Southwestern Preparatory Conference (SPC) has delayed all athletic competitions until September 8. The Houston Junior Preparatory Conference (HJPC) has not decided whether sports will compete in the fall season, or when the fall season will commence. We continue to correspond with our peer schools, the SPC, and HJPC, and we will update you accordingly.
  • Will there still be Extended Day and after school activities?

    We know that ExDay is a necessity for many Lower School families, and we will continue to offer it. Of course we will implement mitigation protocols during ExDay to protect the health and safety of students and staff members. In order to minimize mingled student activity after school, and to allow our maintenance team adequate time to clean the buildings at the end of each day, we will not offer after-school activities to begin the school year.
  • What about visitors to campus?

    We will begin the year limiting nonessential visitors, volunteers, and activities involving external groups or organizations. When necessary, parents may access the Lower, Middle, and Upper School entrances in limited numbers. Essential vendors will be permitted on campus only after proper screening. In the Upper School, our College Counseling Department will schedule virtual meetings with college admissions representatives.
  • What about Field Trips and Class Trips?

    At this time, we cannot determine whether taking field trips or class trips will be feasible. We will continue to monitor the situation in and around our area, as well as the location of the trip, as we plan forward.

More Information

Please log in and visit the Communication to Parents tile to read past parent communications and view webinar recordings. In addition, more information is available from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Texas Department of State and Health Services, and Montgomery County Public Health District.

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