The Altamont School is committed to providing a safe and healthy environment for all of our faculty, staff, students and parents. As a Microsoft School with a 1-to-1 laptop program, we are fortunate to have a robust infrastructure in place for both in-person learning and distance learning. We continue to pursue our mission of graduating compassionate, well-educated individuals.
- Altamont's Back to School Plan
- Academic 4x4 Block Schedule
- 1-to-1 Laptop Program
- Commitment to Support Altamont's Health, Wellness and Safety Protocols
- Masks and Social Distancing Protocols
- Cleaning and Disinfection Protocols
- Hygiene and Source Controls
- Building and Ventilation Protocol
- Altamont Spaces Set Up for Social Distancing
- Student Activities
- Athletics for Fall 2020
- Training Practices
- Town Hall PowerPoint Presentations
- Counselor Resources and Student Support Team
- Internet Access
- COVID-19 Public Service Announcement Videos
Starting Oct. 13, The Altamont School offers in-person learning for grades 5-12. As a reminder, all families, grades 5-12, have the opportunity to participate from home if that is what they feel is best for their family. Here are some specifics of the plan:
Grades 5-6 participate in in-person classes on campus from 8 a.m. to 2:50 p.m. five days a week. Starting Oct. 21, the start time for grades 5-6 is 9 a.m. on Wednesdays. The six period, 60-minute schedule will include only Math, Science, History, English and PE. There will be a 45-minute elective rotation classes, including character education, creative writing, introduction to musical theatre, library skills and leadership. There will be one lunch period for these grades.
Starting Oct. 13, grades 7-12 will move to in-person learning on campus with student density at 80% of full capacity. The school day will be 8:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m. on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. Starting Oct. 21, we will have late start on all Wednesdays. 7th-12th grades will begin class at 9:30 a.m. and dismiss at 3:30 p.m. on Wednesdays.
The schedule is the full 4 x 4 block teaching schedule with four 90-minute classes.
This plan allows for students who choose to participate in classes in person to be on campus four days a week. Five new cohorts will be created for all 7th-12th grade students participating in in-person school.
Families can continue to choose to participate in classes remotely. Any decision to move from in-person school to remote participation, and vice-versa, will happen in two-week cycles. Students who choose to remotely participate, or those in a cohort participating at home, must follow the school’s daily, 4 x 4 block schedule.
Academic 4x4 Block Schedule
The school will employ a 4x4 block schedule for the 2020-21 school year. When Altamont is at full capacity with in-person school, classes will be 90 minutes in length and will meet every day of the week. There will be 8 placeholders in the school schedule, and a student’s yearly course selections will be spread over two semesters—no more than 4 courses in each semester. At the end of the semester, students will transition to 3-4 different courses. Each course will receive 1 credit toward the Altamont graduation requirement. All core course credits will be satisfied by the end of the year. All courses can be delivered through our DLP. We have created mechanisms for content delivery so that the transfer to DLP is as seamless as possible.
- Allows for a deep-dive into a child’s education.
- Smaller class sizes and real-time student-teacher engagement. Teachers see fewer students which allows for greater individualized attention.
- Reduces or eliminates the amount of homework students must finish on any given night.
- Minimizes transitions in any given day.
Commitment to Support Altamont's Health, Wellness and Safety Protocols
All families must commit to supporting Altamont’s health, wellness and safety protocols, and must agree to keep their children home when they are not feeling well, have COVID-like symptoms, or have potentially been exposed to the virus. Any symptoms, such as a fever over 100.4° F or a persistent cough, would mean the child needs to stay home. Families are required to complete and sign the Altamont School Health and Wellness Pledge. The Health and Wellness Pledge will be a requirement on the Magnus app and will be available to sign prior to the start of school.
Before coming to school each day, students should take their temperature at home and complete a symptom checklist on the Magnus app. The checklist is a short symptoms and exposure review that must be completed each morning before students enter the building. Faculty and staff will be stationed at entrances to make sure students have completed the checklist before entering the building.
Anyone without a device to use the app must contact the school nurse, Mrs. Mary Waker, at
firstname.lastname@example.org for an alternative check-in system.
The Magnus app includes questions about exposure and quarantine. Use the app to report possible exposure, quarantine and testing to the school. Keeping the school informed of any known exposure and symptoms is critically important in keeping our students, faculty and staff, and community safe and healthy.
Masks and Social Distancing Protocols
Masks and physical distancing are required to keep children healthy and in school. Masks must be worn every day by students, faculty and staff, with the exception of during lunch and scheduled mask breaks. Please have your child practice wearing a mask while at home and going about normal activities to get acclimated to wearing it all day. Spare masks will be provided if a mask becomes wet from sneezing or coughing, or breaks during the day.
We highly recommend having a few masks on hand for your student(s) to wear throughout the week. Masks must cover both the mouth and nose, must be at least 2-ply and must attach at the ear or tie behind the head. No bandanas or gaiter masks allowed.
Social distancing of at least six feet will be implemented and maintained between teachers
and students in school at all times through the following engineering and administrative controls:
The beginning and ending of the school day will be staggered by division so that students will not enter and leave the building at the same time.
The school will use a 4x4 block schedule to eliminate excess transition times and common periods
where students and teachers would congregate.
Classrooms have been audited by the school’s Crisis Team and Medical Advisory Committee to provide maximum occupancy limits that adhere to the six-feet guidelines.
All desks and tables will be spaced so that students will be no less than six feet apart during normal classroom activities.
Teachers will have assigned seating in each classroom to assist with contact tracing measures, if necessary.
All faculty and staff will have training sessions prior to the start of school regarding all social distancing and personal protective equipment (PPE) measures. Students will be reminded of these practices during advisory.
Signage and floor and furniture markings will help inform and guide students to maintain social distancing guidelines.
The school’s Crisis Team has created a traffic flow plan throughout the school property to include one-way traffic in hallways and stairways and multiple entry points to reduce student density. Other student and faculty gatherings, including assemblies, class meetings and informal club gatherings, will be managed remotely.
Facility enhancements in the 5th/6th grade hallway, Rotunda, Student Center, Orange Bowl and Senior Commons reflect our adherence to social distancing. The spaces in the 5th/6th grade hallway and Senior Commons have been widened and seating has been placed at appropriate distances to help mitigate student density. Some seating in the Rotunda, Student Center and Orange Bowl has been removed so that social distancing can be maintained.
Lunch will be served as Grab and Go, and students will be assigned lunch areas with their advisories that have seating spaced at six feet.
Students will not be assigned lockers.
Plexiglass barriers will be used to reduce exposure to aerosols in many community spaces, including the Rotunda, Hames Gallery, The Knight’s Den (5th and 6th grade space) and Student Center. Plexiglass partitions will be placed on all tables in common areas throughout the building, including all lunch tables.
Only three faculty members will be permitted in the faculty workroom at one time.
Non-essential visitors/guests will be permitted on campus by appointment only. Virtual meetings will be required for all parent/teacher meetings.
Masks must be worn at all times during school hours while in the building, in classrooms and outside. Faculty and staff training for personal protective equipment (PPE), social distancing and disinfecting protocols will occur during the orientation/pre-planning week prior to the opening of school.
Failure to comply with any distancing/PPE protocols will be considered a disciplinary issue and will be addressed by the school’s administration. Compliance within each classroom is considered a classroom management issue and is the responsibility of the teacher.
Signage regarding safety measures, social distancing, PPE requirements, and various sanitation stations will be positioned throughout all school buildings.
In classrooms, offices and various other spaces, social distancing will be maximized by furniture placement and space configurations. Seating diagrams and maximum capacities will be displayed
in each classroom. Reservations and assigned seating may be required in some facilities to aid sanitization and contact tracing, and to minimize the use of high-touch surfaces.
Floor stickers will be placed in six-foot increments in lunch lines and waiting areas. All hallways and stairways will have directional signage as well.
Students will walk single file down the hallways. They will follow the arrows on the floors and walls.
Stairwells are one direction only. Appropriate signage will be installed to direct students on which stairwells are which direction. There will be no congregating in the hallways or stairwells.
Cleaning and Disinfection Protocols
Regular practices of cleaning and disinfecting have been implemented in accordance with CDC guidelines, including a schedule for routine cleaning and disinfecting of work surfaces, equipment, supplies, vehicles and areas in the work environment, including restrooms, break rooms, lunch rooms, meeting rooms, common areas, the Rotunda, and drop-off and pick-up locations.
Frequent cleaning and disinfecting of high-touch areas, including phones, keyboards, touch screens, controls, door handles, elevator panels, railings, copy machines, credit card readers, delivery equipment, etc. is being conducted.
Disinfecting of classrooms and class equipment and materials will occur after each class. The school will employ two temporary workers who will be responsible for the “rails and knobs” job throughout the school. The school will continue to clean the building each night. All students must be off campus or in school-sponsored activities by 3:30 p.m. There will be no exceptions to this guideline.
Appropriate and effective cleaning and disinfecting supplies have been purchased and are available for use in accordance with product labels, safety data sheets and manufacturer specifications, and are being used with required personal protective equipment for the product.
The HVAC system is being equipped with bipolar ionization units that will help cleanse the air in each Altamont classroom. Each week the school will do an electrostatic spray throughout the entire building. Restrooms will be limited to three students at a time. Students should wait until they get to class and then ask their teacher if they can leave to go to the restroom. Every classroom will have an assigned bathroom. There will be signage to remind students to wash their hands. Trash cans are located outside the bathrooms.
Hygiene and Source Controls
Basic infection prevention measures are being implemented at school at all times. Teachers and students are instructed to wash their hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and water frequently throughout the day, but especially at the beginning and end of class periods or common time, prior to lunch and after using the restroom. All approved visitors to Altamont are required to wash or sanitize their hands prior to or immediately upon entering the facility. Hand-sanitizer dispensers (that use sanitizers of greater than 60% alcohol) are at entrances and locations throughout the school so they can be used for hand hygiene in place of soap and water, as long as hands are not visibly soiled. The school will employ workers whose primary role will be replenishing hand hygiene equipment.
The school will create hygiene stations across the campus so that every student will be within 50 feet of cleaning equipment. Faculty will be stationed throughout the hallways to monitor distancing during transitions as well as becoming the gatekeeper for the bathroom needs of our students. No more than 2 students will be allowed in the restroom at any given time.
Source controls are being required on campus at all times. Each student and faculty will receive multiple masks. Faculty will receive masks and face shields.
Faculty and students are being instructed to cover their mouth and nose with their sleeve or a tissue when coughing or sneezing, and to avoid touching their face, particularly their mouth, nose and eyes, with their hands. They are expected to dispose of tissues in provided trash receptacles and wash or sanitize their hands immediately afterward. Respiratory etiquette will be demonstrated on posters and supported by making tissues and trash receptacles available to all workers and other persons entering the school.
Building and Ventilation Protocol
Operation of the school includes necessary sanitation, assessment and maintenance of building systems, including water, plumbing, electrical and heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems. The HVAC system is equipped with bipolar ionization units that will help cleanse the air in each Altamont classroom. The maximum amount of fresh air is being brought into the school, air recirculation is being limited, and ventilation systems are being properly used and maintained. Steps are also being taken to minimize air flow blowing across people.
Cocurricular Offerings for Grades 5-6
PE period will be truncated on certain days for special grade-specific programming for grades 5-6.
Programming will include academic enrichment/continuation of core subject study and club meetings. Approved sports will meet after school for grades 5-6.
Distance Learning Plan for Cocurricular Offerings
When we are following our DLP on or off campus, we will use Wednesdays as the day for clubs and
organizations to meet virtually for all grades.
Full Capacity, In-Person 4x4 Schedule for Grades 7-8
PE period will be truncated on certain days for special grade-specific programming for grades 7-8.
Programming will include academic enrichment/continuation of core subject study and club meetings.
Large school-wide assemblies will be discontinued this year.
Lunch can be used as a time for clubs or organizations to meet with the permission of the teacher/sponsor.
All masking rules apply when participating in student activities.
Full Capacity, In-Person 4x4 Schedule for Grades 9-12
Cocurricular offerings will be spaced throughout the day.
Large school-wide assemblies will be discontinued this year.
Lunch can be used as a time for clubs or organizations to meet with the permission of the teacher/sponsor.
All masking rules apply when participating in student activities.
The “new” Zero Period on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays will be used for upper school
activities and clubs to meet starting as early as 7:50 a.m.
Athletics will be maintained on a limited basis beginning August 10 for high school volleyball and high school cross country. We will be working with the athletic department and the head coaches of both programs to assess the safety needs of each activity. We reserve the right to adjust schedules accordingly and will limit participation in events that may not be in the best interests of our athletes.
Training for faculty and staff on classroom disinfecting procedures took place during August in-service meetings.
On August 20-21, returning parents and students were allowed to tour the building to acclimate to traffic flow plans and see facility mitigation efforts. New families had the same opportunity to tour the building during Knights Camp on August 19.
The school nurse provides ongoing remedial training for personal hygiene and proper PPE and hand sanitizer usage.
Students and faculty are held accountable for adherence to all safety protocols through the Altamont student and employee handbooks.
Consequences for repeated disregard to established and amended safety protocols may result in
discipline up to and including dismissal from Altamont.
The July Town Hall presentation is only available on Blackbaud for current families because it contains specific details about times and locations for Altamont students. All relevant information from that presentation is included on this website.
Click here to access resources for managing the emotional impact of social distancing and distance learning.
Student Support Team
The Student Support Team (Lia Gerety, Danielle Wattleton-Anderson, Lauren Garrett, Cameron Gaede, JP Hemingway) will continue to gather information on student well-being during distance learning and will address concerns as they arise. Mrs. Garrett will be available by email during office hours from 9-11 a.m. on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays to address any pertinent counseling needs. She will also be holding Teams video/audio sessions (by appointment only) from 12-3 p.m.
The following videos were created by the Alabama Department of Public Health to help provide education and information to the public on COVID-19.
Learn more at https://alabamapublichealth.gov/covid19Protect Yourself & Others
The number of COVID-19 cases and deaths in Alabama continue to rise, but you have the power to change this. A few simple steps can greatly reduce your chances of being exposed and exposing others to COVID-19.
You are Safer at Home
Know the Symptoms
If you have symptoms of COVID-19 and want to get tested, call your healthcare provider first. For testing sites near you, call the Alabama COVID-19 24/7 Hotline at 1-888-264-2256. If you are tested, you should self-isolate and follow quarantine instructions.
We would love to tell you more about our school! Go to the admissions page of our website to connect with our admissions team, watch informational videos and schedule a virtual visit.
Casey Gillespie is a relative newcomer to Altamont, but in her three years of teaching art at the school she has made her mark by finding unique and innovative ways to engage our students.
This year Mrs. Gillespie was part of a faculty learning cohort focused on incorporating technology into curriculum and instruction. The timing couldn’t have been better. She has been able to infuse all that she has learned over the year into her distance learning plan (DLP) modules.
The format of Altamont’s DLP allows for teachers to highlight different topics each week and refocus their curriculum to achieve the most important outcomes. “One major change is the freedom to be able to teach new assignments weekly. This has given us the ability to constantly learn and try new things and ideas, which we rarely have time to do in a traditional setting,” said Mrs. Gillespie.
One tool that Mrs. Gillespie has used to stay connected with her students and keep them connected with one another is Flipgrid. Flipgrid is a Microsoft product that allows short video discussion to happen asynchronously. Mrs. Gillespie has used Flipgrid to give students an outlet for their research and creativity. In her 7th/8th grade art class, students recreated famous paintings. “They really had a lot of fun with this and have been talking about it non-stop all week,” she says.
Upper school students were inspired by artist Jamal Cyrus to draw a sound they had never heard before. They watched a video of Cyrus explaining the concept and then created a piece employing his ideas with a Flipgrid video to present their work to the class. “Watching the videos really gave me insight into the fascinating and varied perspectives each student took away from this assignment.”
Learning from home means that students don’t have access to Altamont’s well-supplied art room. Mrs. Gillespie’s solution? “Flexibility and creativity!” She has given students a wide range of options, including using alternative mediums like coffee and soda for paint.
While she misses the “bustle of the hill and everyone on it,” Mrs. Gillespie has found inventive ways to deliver art instruction and new techniques that she expects to incorporate into her classes when we return to school.
In his 13 years at Altamont Buck Crowe has worn many hats—Latin, Greek and history teacher; swimming, baseball, track coach; Scholars Bowl advisor and much more! So, it comes as no surprise that he was ready and eager to move forward when Altamont made the switch to distance learning.
Mr. Crowe had already been using online tools, including Minecraft, in his Intro Latin classes to give students the opportunity to explore antiquity like never before. Lessons on Roman city planning, Greek temple and theater construction, and ancient art became more like a time machine giving students the framework to build and live in the classical world.
Mr. Crowe’s Latin classes are currently absorbed in a role-playing game. Students choose their own adventures during the wars of the Second Triumvirate. For the anniversary of the Battle of Mutina, students' avatars will take part for Octavian against Antony, or Antony against Decimus Brutus, or as spies for Cicero or Lepidus... The plot continues to thicken!
Through tools such as Teams, students have translated clues, studied architecture and archaeology, and participated in real-time debates about their historical characters.
In describing how he took his classes online, Mr. Crowe says, “We're in a unique moment in history. Classwork needs to adapt to the needs of students. I thought about what I'd like to do—travel, have adventures, solve language and geography puzzles, learn about the history of as many places and people as possible—and came up with a plan from there.”
What does Mr. Crowe miss most about being at school? “Seeing the seniors have their spring.” In support of the senior class, he hosts live weekly trivia games for them using Teams and Kahoot. In addition to being a lot of fun, it has helped create community and an opportunity for classmates to see each other.
Dr. Mary Williams has been inspiring scientific inquiry at Altamont for 12 years. She teaches 7th grade Life Science, AP Biology, and Lab. Tech. She is also the architect and caretaker of Altamont’s International Monarch Waystation.
In every class or activity, Dr. Williams encourages students to conduct careful and thorough research, in or out of the lab. When we had to leave campus in March, her focus was on keeping students, “engaged in thinking about science and, when possible, doing experiments.” She has crafted games, such as Distance Learning BINGO, as well as experiments students can do from home: plant classification, dissecting flowers, and a seed hunt. Her students say they love lessons that take them outdoors.
Dr. Williams has also set up experiments at her house and sent videos and pictures to share the results and facilitate data analysis. Life Science and AP Bio students are utilizing videos and simulations. She gives students options so they can set personal learning goals. “All I ask is that they do their best work, learn something and have fun.”
Because we are not all in class together, it’s harder to gauge how students are handling the work, so Dr. Williams includes an opportunity for students to provide feedback, which helps her make adjustments for upcoming lessons. “In the classroom, teachers receive feedback constantly and in the moment; when we're behind computer screens that goes away so we have to make sure to check in with each other. Email and video meetings with students are helpful and our 1-to-1 computer program has greatly facilitated distance learning.”
Things she misses most about school? “Gosh, there's so much I miss. As a parent of a senior, I'm especially disappointed to miss out on the senior traditions, and this year's senior class is most outstanding...but I say that every single year! Also, Altamont students ask wonderful curiosity questions, so I sincerely miss thought-provoking conversations that arise daily. Anyone who knows me know that I am an introvert, but I dearly love people. I miss our extraordinary students; I also miss my supportive colleagues. I'm very proud of Altamont for our distance learning efforts. Everyone is working so hard during this challenging time and not seeing each other is part of the challenge.”
Niko Tsivourakis, or “Mr. T” as he is affectionately known, has been inspiring students at Altamont for 15 years. He has taught middle school English, history, and creative writing. He is also the director of Altamont’s Global Initiatives program. Mr. T’s sense of humor and high standards mean that his students expect both fun and a challenge in his classes. Class participation is important to Mr. T, so students know to stay sharp.
When we left campus in March, Mr. T focused on creating meaningful experiences for his students, even though they couldn’t be together in person. While he didn’t change his approach to lessons, he did adapt them to accommodate the constraints of distance learning . Mr. T says, “My goal with distance learning is to facilitate deep conversations; to encourage reflection and connection; to promote creativity; and to provide ample opportunities to socialize (formally and informally).”
He is using several apps to give students a range of options for how they engage with texts, including Teams, OneNote, Flipgrid, YouTube, and Vimeo. Many of his lessons, such as artistic responses to novels, have moved seamlessly online. Facilitating class conversations, which Mr. T describes as “the core of the classroom experience,” has been more challenging. To solve that issue he uses Flipgrid, which gives students a chance to verbalize their thoughts, and a dedicated conversation channel in Teams, which gives students a chance to discuss content back and forth.
Mr. T knows his students need places to hang out and socialize at school, too, so he’s created spaces in Teams for them to do that: “'The Beach' is a place to hang out and share what’s on your mind. ‘Your Daily…’ is a space to share cool things that we notice daily online or in real life (cool art, articles, science news, pictures, ideas, etc.).” These spaces help create a digital separation between the Teams version of hanging out in the hall and coming into the classroom ready to work!
What does Mr. T miss most? “Wow, where to start? I definitely miss my 5th & 6th grade cohort and our space: Mrs. Gerety directing traffic, Mr. Ballard’s stone-faced wit, and Mrs. Laney’s boundless energy! But mostly, I just miss our students. Whether they are in goofball mode, superstar learner mode, or the infinite dispositions in between, they're such wonderful people to be around!”
Laura Anne Ottaviani-Chacón, better known as Mrs. O-C, has been a constant at Altamont for almost 25 years. She currently teaches Algebra 2, a section of Pre-Algebra, the math enrichment elective Common Denominator, and Geometry over the summer. During her tenure she has taught math at every grade level and courses ranging from economics to keyboarding to art!
Mrs. O-C’s willingness to jump right in has served the school well as we transitioned from traditional classroom learning to our online distance learning plan. Student engagement in her class has gone uninterrupted, causing one parent to remark: “Students probably feel like they’re still in her classroom, which is a feat.”
How does she do it? Mrs. O-C creates detailed PowerPoint presentations, distributing them through Stream. She also uses Teams and OneNote to engage students and track their mastery of concepts, making sure they are well prepared for their next math course. Her learning modules are direct, relevant, and appropriate. No matter what, or how, she is teaching, Mrs. O-C’s students get straight-forward explanations and absolute patience as she guides them through problem solving exercises.
Consistency is something Altamont teachers are striving to provide for our students during this unique, challenging time. While our faculty are taking different approaches to bringing Altamont into your homes, Mrs. O-C's sentiment is one that is shared universally by our teachers: “Of course I miss my colleagues, but mostly I miss the students!”
Alex Melonas has taught in the history department at Altamont for the past two years. Dr. Melonas’ classes are known for their seminar style—desks in a circle and students facing one another to engage in debate and discussion. When we left campus in March, he had to think through not only how to deliver an authentic “Melonas” classroom experience, but also how to tie what students were learning in history with what they were experiencing in real time.
Dr. Melonas says, “My goal during distance learning is to provide students with a framework that prompts them to ask the kinds of questions that help them explore the new ideas that have emerged in response to the COVID-19 crisis. Big, historical shocks [like COVID and the New Deal, which students were studying in class] open up possibilities for change.”
To deliver learning modules, Dr. Melonas uses a mixture of video lectures via PowerPoint, live meetups via Teams, a video blogging platform called VoiceThread, reflection essays, and the discussion board option on Haiku. His students have created video journals, which record “tangible, archivable historical accounts of their thoughts, reactions, experiences, fears, and concerns during this crisis.”
What does he miss most about school? “When students stay after class to talk…when I linger in the hall between classes just walking, listening to what others are teaching and learning, and generally enjoying the atmosphere at The Altamont School. All of that to say, I miss the human stuff the most.”