This page outlines our plans to move forward together during the COVID-19 pandemic. As new information becomes available, this page will be updated.
Page last updated: September 14, 2020.
- Re-Entry Plan
- Guiding Principles
- Nerve Center and Task Forces
- Scenario Planning
- Key Assumptions
- Helpful Resources
As the school formulates plans to respond to the pandemic and prepare for fall 2020, Trinity's mission remains at the forefront.
The following principles will guide Trinity throughout the planning process:
- The glory of God is the most important thing. Non Nobis: this is our mission and our commitment, and COVID does not change this at all. We should ask, how can our response to this and in this give glory to God, and make Christ’s name great?
- Safety is a top priority. This includes physical safety, to minimize viral exposure to our students and faculty; emotional safety; and spiritual safety, teaching students that God will hide us in his shelter in the day of trouble.
- Trinity’s distinctive mission (classical, Christian, rich, and unhurried; truth, goodness, and beauty) has deep roots and is adaptable to all sorts of conditions. We have remained true to that mission, and we will continue to do so.
- God never wastes a crisis. God works through times of disruption—remember the story of Joseph. He can use this time to build character, to deepen our commitment to Trinity’s mission, and to help us clarify our vision.
- Relationships are central to Trinity. Students are known and loved. Faculty model what it means to follow Christ and learn.
- The public authorities are God’s servants, and we owe them respect and honor, especially in these times of crisis (Romans 13).
Our Non Nobis core value means that we must be willing to sacrifice our own needs for the good and safety of others, especially those who are most vulnerable. This whole springtime of remote learning has been a huge Non Nobis moment for our school.
To prepare for Trinity’s re-entry to school in the fall, we created a Nerve Center, which consists of five senior staff covering a wide range of Trinity departments and divisions and representing a broad diversity of the Trinity community. This group communicates regularly with the head of school, and in conjunction with him the Nerve Center makes decisions about the re-entry plan and sees that these plans are executed.
In addition, we have established task forces (on the perimeter of the diagram below) that have met through the summer to do scenario planning for various areas. The task forces report back to and carry out tasks assigned by the Nerve Center.
The head of school keeps the Board informed about the planning progress. When there are Board-level or policy decisions to be made, the head brings these to the Board.
We are planning for two scenarios, as illustrated below. We anticipate that during the course of the coming school year we will need to toggle between the two scenarios when the school administration deems it is no longer safe to continue with in-person learning and/or when the governor mandates schools to move to remote learning.
We base our planning on the following assumptions:
- We rely on reputable sources of data (e.g., the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Center) and guidelines (e.g., those of the Centers for Disease Control and our local health department).
- Mitigation and social distancing reduce the rate of COVID-19 transmission.
- The pandemic threat is likely to continue, to wane and return, until large-scale herd immunity is achieved, probably through a vaccine. This immunity is not likely to be achieved during the 2020–2021 school year.
- We expect several additional waves of this infection—at the very least, it is prudent for us to plan for such.
- Different Trinity families have different needs (e.g., vulnerable family members) and risk tolerance. We want to honor these different needs as much as possible.
- One of the ways to minimize risk is to establish clearly defined contact circles.
- For the 2020–2021 school year, we will need to be prepared to toggle among different models that range from in-person to distance learning.
- As much as possible, we want to design these different models to be manageable and sustainable for both faculty and parents, both of whom are tired from last spring's emergency remote learning.
- We will need to be flexible and to adapt our decisions to new insights about the virus and its transmission, and to the emerging and evolving needs of the Trinity community.
- We want to deploy resources in support of all Trinity students, parents, faculty, and staff. This includes making available financial support and support for learning, mental health, and more.
How to Talk to Your Kids About the Coronavirus (Healthline)
Additionally, Trinity School communicates regularly with other schools across the country through its INDEX network, with the schools in the Southern Association of Independent Schools, and especially with the North Carolina Association of Independent Schools and other independent schools in the Durham–Chapel Hill area.
- Priority of Learning In Person
- Mask Breaks
- Exposure Protocols
- Travel Restrictions
- Early Care
- Hill Center Students
- Off Campus Learning
- Enrollment Contracts
- School Finances
- Daily Wellness Check
What is the rationale behind the decision to start school in person, given that the move to remote learning is likely at some point?
Although it is possible that school will be held in person for the entire year, we are planning for the possibility of transitioning from in-person to remote learning. We believe that our investment in in-person learning time will enable students to learn how to use the digital tools and systems needed for successful remote learning. If we can begin to build community, establish trusted relationships, and know students personally, then remote learning will be much more rich and unhurried if it becomes necessary. Part of the success of our spring remote learning was that teachers already had relationships with their students and students knew each other. Beginning remotely would make it very hard to establish these connections, and the challenges for new students and families would be especially difficult.
How will mask breaks and lunchtime be handled safely?
Students will be able to take their masks off to eat, but they will need to maintain at least six feet of social distancing. There will be opportunities for mask breaks that will likely coincide with breaks in the schedule, but we will be monitoring students closely to ensure compliance with distancing protocols. The maintenance of six feet of separation is an essential goal for us, and this is even more critical if a student removes his or her mask.
Will travel restrictions exist and be enforced for students, faculty, and families during weekends and school breaks?
There are no travel restrictions or end-of-summer quarantine requirements in place at Trinity. Families are expected to follow all CDC and state guidelines for travel. Currently there are no mandatory domestic travel-related quarantines in NC.
Is Early Care available this year?
We regret that we are not able to offer Early Care this year, as it would be too difficult to maintain the student cohorts that are important for safe learning. Information about after-school care was sent to Lower School families and is available here.
What is the off-campus learning capacity in each division?
We want Trinity’s off-campus learning (OCL) program to be as rich as possible. This limits how many students we can serve, as we want to ensure meaningful relationships regardless of the primary contact.
- In the Lower School, we have one OCL coordinator for students in grades TK–1 and one for students in grades 2–6. Both of these coordinators are part-time.
- In the Middle School, we have one part-time OCL coordinator for students in grades 7–8. This person interfaces with six subjects and the corresponding teachers, which involves a significant commitment of time and effort.
- The Upper School is operating on a hybrid model of three days of in-person learning and two days of remote learning each week. This model allows Trinity to accommodate Upper School students who have chosen off-campus learning while serving on-campus students in person throughout the school day, but it adds an additional layer of responsibilities for teachers and administrators.
If students are allowed to move into and out of the off-campus and in-person cohorts, our off-campus learning coordinators would be required to accommodate more than a classroom teacher would, serving students in different grades with different schedules and teachers, all on a part-time basis. Budgetary constraints and the ability to find qualified personnel to fill these roles at the start of the school year make it very difficult for us to accommodate additional students in OCL.
What happens if my student is exposed to the coronavirus or tests positive and needs to quarantine? Will the teachers reach out with work to do at home or will my student join the OCL program?
If a student is sick, their classroom teacher(s) will arrange make-up work for them. This arrangement may be dependent on the individual teachers, as would be the case when a student is absent from school for any other illness.
- The Lower School will address coronavirus-related absences on a case-by-case basis depending on the grade/teacher, the health of the child, the health of the parent(s)/guardian(s), and the family's situation. For example,in kindergarten it might be easier to wait to catch the student up after they return to school, while in sixth grade it might be more beneficial to share class recordings if the student feels well enough to engage. The classroom teacher will be in touch with absent students who are not enrolled in OCL.
- The Middle School may have their off-campus learning coordinator work with students who must be off campus for an extended time due to COVID-19. The instruction in this case will likely be asynchronous in nature.
- The Upper School teachers of students who must remain out of school due to COVID-related exposure or illness will be in touch with the students about any missed school work.
What if I want my student to do remote learning but haven't signed up for OCL? What happens if I no longer feel comfortable sending my child to school?
If your student is enrolled for in-person learning but you choose not to send them to school, they will be marked absent. Please be aware of the impact that extended absences may have on your student’s ability to retain information and make progress in their studies. At the end of the first quarter, families of students in OCL will have the opportunity to reconsider whether their student(s) will remain in OCL or return to in-person class instruction. This may or may not open up space for other students in our OCL program.
Enrollment contracts are binding for the full academic year. If a family would like to withdraw their student from school, they should consider the net tuition obligations without regard to the student's attendance or participation in class.
Students who withdraw may be moved to the wait pool. When spaces open up in classes, preference will be given to students who were in person at Trinity for the longest amount of time. Please be aware that there is no guarantee that the space of a student who withdraws from Trinity can be held for them, however, as any such space is subject to being filled by a student currently in the wait pool.
Will Trinity hold families to enrollment contracts signed prior to the COVID-19 pandemic?
Our enrollment agreements commit families for the next academic year. On the basis of these agreements, we enter into faculty agreements for the coming year: over 70% of the school’s expenses are in personnel, and faculty agreements are finalized in the spring before the next school year. Trinity School and its faculty and staff depend on families to keep those commitments so the school can continue to function. Also, enrollment agreements determine the number of new offers of admission that can be made beginning in early February.
We work with families to help them honor their agreements and to make the decisions that are best for their family. We can be flexible with payment plans, if families are unable to meet the expected deadlines for payment. And we are happy to talk to families about how to manage their particular challenges and risks through this extraordinary season.
For families who feel they might have to withdraw from Trinity School in the upcoming school year, we offer the opportunity to purchase a tuition refund plan at the time of enrollment/re-enrollment. We encourage families to review the financial obligations they are committing to when they sign their enrollment contracts.
If Trinity must move to distance learning in 2020–2021, what is the potential impact on tuition?
The Board, through its Finance Committee, has studied this carefully. On the one hand, we recognize that another period of remote learning would impact certain parts of the full Trinity experience, especially in cocurricular areas like athletics and the performing arts. At the same time, most of the real costs of a Trinity education continue through remote phases, and the faculty and staff end up working harder during these times than normal. Adding and subtracting faculty as we toggle into and out of different learning phases is not a strategy that would promote the integrity of the Trinity educational experience over the long term, and our commitment to our missional, excellent faculty informs our decisions in this regard. Our faculty and staff’s ability to plan for and implement multiple models of education is one of the great values that Trinity offers.
At this point, there are no plans to refund tuition under remote conditions, but the Board and the Finance Committee will continue to monitor the situation and evaluate options as new information becomes available. For now, the Board has focused on allocating additional funds for flexible tuition to be offered to families whose financial situation has been impacted negatively by the pandemic.
Many families have greater financial need when the wages of one or both parents have declined, and we are committed to keeping currently enrolled students enrolled for the upcoming school year. For families who are experiencing financial hardships in conjunction with the COVID-19 pandemic, we are offering additional one-year tuition assistance through our pandemic relief grants. If interested, please contact Brent Clark, Director of Finance, and complete an application for flexible tuition for the 2020–2021 academic year.
How is Trinity doing financially?
To keep tuition rates lower, Trinity operates under a tight budget with little contingency. Still, we entered this crisis in a very strong financial position. We have built up a meaningful cash reserve and are in the final stages of a successful fundraising effort for our new building and faculty support. Nevertheless, the current COVID-19 situation presents us with new and unexpected challenges.
Like most independent schools, we rely primarily on tuition revenue to fund operations. The uncertainty of the current financial situation is having an impact on decisions regarding enrollment. On the good news front, we have seen new inquiries for admission and subsequent enrollments based on our strong distance learning efforts last spring. On balance, Trinity is in good shape, given the circumstances. The length of time it will take to return to the “new normal” could test us in the months ahead, but we are planning as best we can for a variety of operational and financial scenarios.
Do you anticipate layoffs or other cost-cutting measures?
As of now, we have retained all of our faculty and staff and have filled our open faculty positions. We are always mindful of costs but have asked division directors, department heads, and the finance team to redouble their efforts to find savings in light of what may be a challenging year.
At this time it’s not possible to assess the amount of liquidity sufficient to support ongoing operations in this new environment. Potential limits on classroom size, requirements for new space, potential shifts to online learning, heightened health and safety standards, and new cleaning protocols will require additional spending and human resources in the transition to the new COVID reality.
We continue to closely track our enrollment, as it drives our revenue. We will take appropriate action to bring our costs in line with revenue should circumstances require us to do so.
Why did Trinity decide to apply for and accept PPP funds?
Trinity applied for, was granted, and decided (through Board action) to accept the funds offered through the Payroll Protection Program (PPP). In the best judgment of the Board and the Finance Committee, the economic challenges of the current crisis (primarily in enrollment and financial aid) make it likely that the school will not be able to run a balanced budget through this period of COVID-19 restrictions. We are applying the PPP funds for payroll only, in accordance with the legal advice we have received and the practice of many other independent schools of similar size across the country.
Are we planning to continue with the construction of the Arts and Engineering Building?
The Board and staff have discussed the Arts and Engineering Building (AEB) project at length. As you may know, we had planned to break ground this past March. As the COVID-19 pandemic began to take shape, we paused to consider our changed circumstances.
We are now moving forward again in what we believe is a measured and prudent way, with the unanimous approval of the Board and relevant committees. At its May 14, 2020, meeting the Board approved funding for an overhaul of the existing modular units to significantly improve the interior and exterior space for the Trinity Neighborhood after-school program, using donor funds specifically allocated to improvements to the Lower School. The Board also voted to proceed with the “messy” portion of construction for the AEB with site prep and infrastructure work, some of which is best completed alongside the improvements to the modular units. Both of these steps are being taken using existing donated funds.
We believe the AEB is still the right building for the long-term needs of Trinity, and we plan to continue the project unless there is a significant change in our financial position or future outlook. Should we need to hit the “pause” button once again, we will be in a much better position to restart construction at some future point after having invested in the work done so far.
- Faculty, staff, and parents should complete the Ascend screening before leaving home.
- The Ascend screening must be completed daily, even if the student, teacher, or staff member is not coming to campus.
- Students will need to show the Ascend green checkmark screen (or a screenshot or printout of that screen) when they arrive on campus.
- Please note that if a carpooling student arrives at campus with a fever above 100º F or other potential symptoms of COVID-19, all students in that vehicle will need to return home.
Supporting Your Child’s Emotional Needs
"Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go."