2020-2021 School Year

Reopening Plans: 2020-2021

The health and safety of our community remain our priority as we prepare for the upcoming school year. Our goal is to deliver the best possible Athenian education while mitigating the risk of COVID-19 transmission. Though we now plan to begin the year in distance learning, we have every intention to bring our students back on campus as soon as we are permitted to do so.

Our expansive campus, temperate climate, and already small class size bring great advantages in the current environment and with the help of experts, we are thoughtfully leveraging these advantages. With the goal of preserving what is at the heart of the Athenian experience—highly interactive and hands-on learning—we have designed a daily schedule that will work for a variety of learning scenarios. Possibilities include having all students on campus in-person, a hybrid approach (low-density on campus alternating with distance learning), or a full-time distance learning plan.
We have also made significant modifications to campus to promote optimum physical distance and to support an adherence to the highest standard of safety protocols. We have done this in partnership with expert consultants and have developed an extensive Safety Plan. Click here to see a summary of this plan. While no return to school is without risk, we remain committed to doing all we can to get our students back on campus as frequently and as soon as is safely and legally possible.

Video Update: 10/7/20

General FAQs

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  • County Plans for Reopening

    Here is a map that shows California’s new color-coded system outlining COVID-19 restrictions. This system is based on COVID-19 health data including the average number of new daily COVID-19 cases over a two week period. Put simply, a county must be color-coded red for 14 days in order to be permitted to open schools (in addition to complying with a wide range of safety restrictions). 

    On September 29, Contra Costa County moved from the purple risk level (widespread) to red (substantial). We estimate that we will be able to return to low-density (not all students on campus every day) in-person school by the end of October. We created a phased approach to our return to in-person learning, outlined HERE. We’ve made a few minor modifications since these plans were published, and will share final details well in advance of our return.

    We were able to open for sixth grade while in the purple zone because the State created a waiver system (for counties that were not healthy enough to be color-coded red) for elementary school grades only.
  • Our Community Agreement

    We are incredibly excited to welcome all of our students back to campus in the coming weeks. But just because we are able to return to school at this time does not mean that COVID-19 is not present in the community, or that we do not need to remain vigilant about virus transmission. Our behavior on campus and at home are inseparable, and will either contribute to, or detract from, the safety of in-person school. Please read our full Community Agreement here
  • Sixth Grade Waiver

    On September 1, the county and state authorities approved our waiver to allow sixth graders to return to in-person learning, and we have moved to a Phase 2 schedule with our sixth graders only. For those parents with children in other grades, please know that only our sixth grade met the waiver criteria. In the State of California, only elementary school grades are eligible to apply, and by definition, sixth grade is still considered elementary school. We continue to monitor our county's status and plan to transition to in-person learning when we can safely and legally do so.
  • 2020-21 Schedules

    Our academic schedules for the 2020-21 year are organized into Phases corresponding with the expected progression of COVID-19 guidelines. Please take a look at our 2020-21 Schedules web page for more information.
  • Athenian Safety Plan

    Athenian has worked in partnership with expert consultants to develop a comprehensive and evolving Safety Plan. This Plan will continue to be updated as the school receives new State, Federal and CDC guidance. Many of these processes guide the opening of school for in-person learning, which we call Phase Two. Please view our four-page summary document or read the full Safety Plan. Learn about our process for handling COVID-19 cases here
  • On-Campus Essential Housing

    Athenian is welcoming a limited number of students needing essential housing on campus during distance learning. Their dormitory life follows strict COVID-19 protocols, including testing, quarantine, and single rooms for at least the first weeks of time on campus. We will resume in-person classes on campus as soon as we are given clearance by the state and county.

  • Campus Visitors and Events

    Through the end of the 2020 calendar year, Athenian will have no non-essential visitors or events on campus. The campus will be open to students, faculty, and staff only. Typical fall events, including back to school nights, will be moved to an online format. 
  • Upper School Athletics Clinics

    We are fortunate to have guidance and permission from Contra Costa County to run an on-campus sports program beginning this fall, and Athenian Athletics is excited to be able to offer a team-specific, clinic-based program similar to our summer camps. We are following schoolwide protocols aligned with The Athenian Safety Plan, which was mentioned in Eric’s August 12 message. The summary of the plan is accessible here
    Read More

Community health and safety is our shared responsibility. Familiarize yourself with this information and begin practicing now. Remember our mantra for the fall:

Face - Space - Hands - Home
Face: Wear a mask at school and in the community to protect yourself and others. 
Space: Standoffish is the new cool - staying six feet apart just means you care.
Hands: Learn to wash your hands well and often! 20 seconds is best.
Home: Low-risk, responsible habits at home protect your family and the community.


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  • Q: How can I prepare for the fall?

    A: Look for the right mask and help your student get used to wearing it for longer periods of time.

    • Try a few options with your student to find the most comfortable fit to cover your mouth and nose. When trying out a mask, wear it for at least an hour. 
    • Watch this video with your student for instructions and important hand washing recommendations for masks!  https://youtu.be/9Tv2BVN_WTk
  • Q: Which type of mask is best?

    A: There are different types of masks that work well for different situations.

    Cloth Masks:
    More eco-friendly and recommended for routine use.  Wash in hot water, limit fabric softeners/scented soaps. Look for a mask that fits your face well and is comfortable enough that you’ll be willing to use it. There shouldn’t be any gaps around your nose, mouth, and chin.  Mask should attach with ties, straps, or ear loops.

    Make sure you get enough to have two clean masks daily. For cloth masks, this will depend on your laundry schedule. Use a permanent marker to label the name on the inside surface--this will help your student consistently position the mask.

    If you buy a mask:
    Old Navy and Target have good budget options 
    If you make a mask:
     Use two or three layers of fabric, either tight weave cotton mix fabric or 100 percent cotton T-shirt 

    Paper Surgical Masks:
    Supplies may be limited. If you decide to use a paper surgical mask, these can be saved and reused after a week if stored in paper bags. Mark the paper bag with the student’s name and the day of the week to avoid re-using too soon. Discard a mask after six uses or if it becomes wet, torn or visibly dirty. Make sure you have 20 per student per month, as well as a supply of paper lunch bags. 

    Items not acceptable as face coverings:
    • Bandanas or gaiters/buffs will not be allowed as a substitute for a mask while at school. These are fine for home use and hiking but slip too much for classroom use.
    • Face shields will not be allowed as a substitute for a mask while at school, though they are welcome as an additional layer of protection.
    • Any mask with a “valve” will not be allowed as a face covering while at school. Valves release unfiltered virus from the wearer to the world. https://www.fastcompany.com/90496717/what-is-a-mask-valve-and-why-are-cities-banning-them 
  • Q: Will face masks be mandatory at school?

    When Athenian reopens, face masks will be mandatory at school. The school is developing specific plans for when masks can be removed, including eating. A single mask can be worn all day, but it is better to bring a fresh, clean mask and change after lunch. Please plan for two masks daily.
  • Q: What is the best way to cover a sneeze or cough?

    Sneeze straight into your mask and also bring up your elbow to cover your mask. Bring a second mask to school and replace with proper hand cleaning if your mask becomes dirty. 


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  • Q: Why is six feet of space important?

    Scientists have determined that most infections are passed when people are closer than six feet. That is why the public health department considers being within six feet of a known COVID patient for more than 15 minutes to be a concerning exposure. Contacts must quarantine at home for 14 days after their known exposure. By maintaining at least six feet of space, you are more likely to stay healthy, prevent transmission, and go to school.
  • Q: What precautions is school taking to ensure adequate spacing?

    A: Athenian has hired an industrial design team to look at and optimize all school spaces. Students will be seated six feet away from each other, hallways will be marked to optimize traffic flow, outdoor spaces will be marked for 10-foot distancing to allow additional space for eating and mask breaks.
  • Q: How will Athenian be using outdoor spaces?

    A: Outdoor lunch and break areas, outdoor meeting spaces, and outdoor classrooms are transforming campus. We want fresh air to keep us healthy.
  • Q: What about indoor spaces?

    A: Additional spaces have been rented and existing spaces repurposed, classes will be small and spread out. Stationary windows have been replaced so classrooms will have open windows and doors. HVAC systems have been evaluated, optimizing filters and fresh instead of recycled air. HVAC will be used in combination with opened windows and doors to increase flow.
  • Q: How is Athenian cleaning its spaces?

    A: Our industrial design team also works with hospitals, and is reviewing all Athenian cleaning materials and protocol to design a sound virucidal cleaning process and frequency. Electrostatic sprayers will be one component of this plan.


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Additional Health Information

Our efforts to mitigate risk and preserve the health of our community begin now, with all members taking action in their own homes and activities. Please note that risk reduction starts with 14 days of good physical distancing. Here is an important visual to represent why the 14-day period is so important, both in preparation for school and once classes begin.

List of 5 items.

  • Q: What is the most important way to decrease risk of bringing COVID to school?

    A: Protect your student and your household group with extra precautions at least 14 days before school starts. Any member of your household who is exposed during this time can bring the virus home to your student. We need two weeks of careful behavior because someone who is not exposed during the 14 day period will be at a lower risk for bringing COVID to school.
  • Q: Is there a risk of COVID at school?

    A: Working together to shelter-in-place 14 days before school and continuing through the school year will be our best chance for decreasing risk of infection, but it is not a guarantee. Contra Costa County Health Department has told us they expect cases to be in every school, and we are developing plans to identify cases and decrease risk of transmission at school. Please do your best at home as well to protect your child and us all. What you do at home and as a family will help decrease the risk of COVID at school.
  • Q: What are the signs and symptoms of COVID-19?

  • Q: What happens if my student has symptoms?

    A: Athenian will have a no-sniffles policy. Families will be asked to do daily temperature checks and symptom screens before school. Students with symptoms will need to stay home and consult their medical providers. Students who develop symptoms at school will be removed from the classroom, kept safely apart from others, and families will be asked for prompt pick-up.
  • Q: What happens if someone at school has COVID?

    A: Athenian will be working closely with the Contra Costa Department of Public Health to do contact tracing and will advise any impacted members of the Athenian community, while protecting individual privacy. All public health guidance will be followed.