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Returning to School

Be Happy. Be Together. Be BRIGHT!

First Day of Fourth Grade

From Head of School O.J. Morgan:

Bright School is committed to welcoming our students home in August. We plan to come together again as a school community for the start of the 2020-2021 school year unless it is determined to not be safe for our students and teachers.  Public health concerns, of course, may dictate the model we use to educate our students at school, but we are planning to adjust nimbly to whatever the shifting priorities require. Through additional technologies and advanced preparation, we will be able to provide, as well, a seamless integration between classroom and home should the situation change dramatically.

The following plan outlines our thoughts regarding the implications for teaching and learning and the requirements for maintaining the health and well-being of our students and teachers. We will evaluate these procedures at the end of the first trimester (November 11) and implement changes over Thanksgiving break. Your patience, good will, and willingness to partner with us will help tremendously in helping bring all of these plans to fruition.

Fortunately, Bright School is in a strong position to do what’s necessary to bring everyone back together again. Our admissions numbers remain strong, we are financially sound, and our faculty and administration have been preparing diligently to provide a quality Bright School education no matter the circumstances. Furthermore, we hope to relieve some of the burdens our parents have so bravely borne these last few months. In addition to reopening school, our after-care program will be available, as will many of the activities to which we are accustomed. 

Finally, as shown in our no-cost summer programs, Bright Prep and Bright Care, as well as in the tuition credits afforded those enrolled this past year, we remain committed to working with families in need of financial assistance. Our hope is to give all our students the opportunity to engage again in the vibrant, Bright School community, building that strong foundation upon which their future growth and success will depend.

On Campus Learning Environment

Start of School: August 18-21

Our goal is to be together as one Bright School as soon as we can. Unless we are mandated by authorities to close campus, we will begin classes in August as planned. Bright School and our mission will remain the same, but there will be differences in daily schedules and logistics to follow health and safety guidelines for schools set forth by the Centers for Disease Control and our local and state health departments. In order to be together, we will need a little more personal space, greater accountability for individual health and more precautions. Plans and their details are constantly developing and could change before the start of the school year. These are plans we are making now with the information we know at this time.

Phase-In Days

We will alter the school schedule to accommodate health guidelines and provide a transition period for students and teachers. We will not hold a traditional Registration Day, which was scheduled for August 18. Teachers will be in touch with families well in advance of the start of school to introduce themselves and provide details about beginning classes. We plan to hold Phase-In Days for all grades on August 18-21 with about four students per classroom coming to school on different days for the entire school day. Parents will be invited to visit the classroom with their children and stay for a set amount of time that morning. We will provide more information about the first week of school, including the day your child will attend that week on August 3.

First Trimester: August 18 - November 11

Kids in garden

Teachers and students will interact as always in the same classroom - with the entire class, in small groups and during individual time. We will continue to provide center time in Early Childhood (JPK-K). To adhere to health guidelines as we know them today, students and teachers will remain together as one cohort most of the day. Handwashing and cleaning of desks and supplies will become an integral and frequent part of the day, and students will learn to take ownership of the classroom space and their own well-being. The Eco-Literacy program in Early Childhood will continue, and teachers throughout the school will be encouraged to spend more time outdoors throughout the day.

Special areas are special for a reason, and we will continue to provide these enhancements to the school day by possibly bringing the teacher to the classroom, slightly altering the schedule with small groups of students or changing the location of classes. Recess and P.E., too, are important for a child’s development, and we remain committed to providing these activities each day.

Face Coverings

Each child is required to wear a face covering (mask, buff/gaiter, bandana) at all times indoors. Face coverings must be worn upon arrival to school and during dismissal time as well. Based on the continuing rise of cases in the Chattanooga area, we believe wearing face coverings throughout the day is one of the best ways to protect each other and remain in school.

Teachers and students will be encouraged to take regular breaks when they may remove their face coverings while distancing, and we plan to take advantage of our beautiful outdoor areas around the school for these breaks.

With appropriate physical distancing, students may be allowed to remove face coverings during:

  • PE class
  • outdoor recess
  • lunch
  • time at designated tables with plexiglass dividers

Students will be required to bring two face coverings to school to keep in case extras are needed. There will be face coverings -- children's masks and buffs -- sold in the bookstore. You may provide face coverings of your choice from any store.

As we have learned at Bright Prep and Bright Care this month, children need time to adjust to wearing face coverings, but once they know face coverings are needed to play and be close to each other, they wear them with ease.

All adults, including teachers and staff, are required to wear face coverings inside the school per Directive No. 1 of the Hamilton County Health Officer.


Morning Drop Off/Afternoon Dismissal

Students who arrive between 7:15 and 7:35 a.m. will gather in the Centennial Theater (grades 1-5) or library (JPK-K). Students who arrive after 7:35 a.m. will go directly to their classrooms. Parents of children in early childhood may walk their children to the classrooms between the Phase-In Days and Labor Day; parents/adults bringing the children must use the outside classroom doors and wear face coverings.

In the afternoon, students in grades JPK-4 will dismiss from their classrooms, and fifth grade from the gym. 

Before and After School Activities

We do plan to offer Bright Afternoons in a controlled environment by grade level, and we are continuing to monitor health guidelines to determine whether we can safely offer after school classes and athletics. Cadek is planning to offer music lessons after school at Bright. Pre-registration is required for Bright Afternoons. No drop-ins will be allowed because we need to plan in advance for the number of students participating.

Returning to the classroom is our priority in the fall, but we hope to resume all morning activities when conditions permit. These activities include Morning Math, handbells, choir, Advanced Spanish and the Bright Family Breakfast. 


All students will eat lunch in their classrooms or perhaps outdoors on some days determined by the teachers. Lunch for grades PK-5 will still be provided by Sodexo. We are working with Sodexo to plan how best to serve food and offer choices to students. We will continue to support students with allergies and dietary restrictions. We encourage students to bring their own water bottles that can be filled at stations throughout the school.

Parents, guardians and others may not join their children for lunch while we are restricting visitors in the building. Cupcakes, doughnuts, cookies or other edible treats may not be brought for birthdays or other celebrations. 

Second and Third Trimesters

We will evaluate health protocols at the beginning of each trimester and determine what to continue, ease or reinstate as needed.


Our goal is to provide seamless integration of technology at school and at home when necessary. Each student in grades K-2 will have iPads, and grades 3-5 will have Chromebooks in order to provide consistency in learning no matter where students are located. Learning from our distance learning program of the spring, we will alter digital learning platforms and teach students and parents how to use Google Sites and Google Classroom. Google Sites and Google Classroom will be the central communication platforms for all classroom schedules, grade-level newsletters, and grade specific distance learning plans. If distance learning takes place, students will have all of their materials, manipulatives, and curriculum needed to ensure authentic, hands-on learning continues.

Our instruction and curriculum will remain student-centered within our Responsive Classroom framework, Reading and Writing Workshop, and Bridges in Mathematics program. Bright School teachers are committed to furthering their professional development and expertise to ensure that all students are making positive academic, social, and emotional growth both in and outside the classroom during this school year.


School Calendar

Events such as Parents’ Night and our Thanksgiving Program which involve large numbers of people likely will be altered, postponed or canceled. We will communicate these changes as soon as we can to help parents with planning.

See the Health and Well-Being section below for more about health and safety considerations.


Distance Learning

If Learning Continues from Home

If there is a mandate to close campus, we will return to distance learning. Based on the distance learning program we implemented in March, we are planning changes that would be instituted if necessary in the fall. Students in grades K-5 with iPads and Chromebooks would be equipped to take those home and use them on a more independent basis. We recognize the hallmark of instruction for JPK and PK includes hands-on experiences in play, exploration and creation, and we are committed to creating a distance learning program consistent with instruction at school.

Distance learning would incorporate both real-time instruction and lessons students do on their own time. Synchronous learning would include individual tutorials, small group study, conferencing, demonstrations of learning, and connecting with classmates. Asynchronous learning would include independent work, portfolio development, project-based assignments, and certain types of assessment. Our goal is to move seamlessly between school and home if distance learning is required.

A temporary and limited online option is available for families with special circumstances such as having a child or other family member living full-time at home in a high-risk category or being an essential and/or healthcare professional.

Health and Well-Being

Monitoring Illness

The following guidelines and processes will be followed in response to COVID-19, as recommended by public health experts such as the Center for Disease Control (CDC), World Health Organization (WHO), American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) as well as federal, state and local health officials. This is a “living” document that may be updated at any time by The Bright School given the fluidity of this situation. 

All students and staff must provide and wear a disposable or washable face covering daily.

All students and staff must complete the daily COVID-19 questionnaire for symptoms and temperatures checks via the Ascend system. Ascend’s online system asks health questions, including a current temperature, and helps people determine next steps if they are not well. All of the information in the system is kept secure and complies with the American Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. The only information the school shares with Base Camp Health is student name, family name, and email addresses. Students, faculty and staff who are ill will be required to remain at home. A child should not be sent to school after taking fever-reducing medication. This is an important partnership with parents, and we will rely on families to help us all stay safe.  

Fever Policy

If a student presents at school with a temperature of 100.4 F or above, the school nurse will contact the child's parents or guardians to pick up the child. The child should not return to school until the temperature has been normal without fever reducing medication for a minimum of 48 hours. 

Symptom Policy

A student who presents at school with any of the following symptoms should report directly to the school nurse to be evaluated. The nurse will contact the child’s parents/guardians to be picked up from school and discuss whether a COVID-19 test is required. A test also may be necessary for any siblings currently enrolled at Bright. These symptoms include:

  • Fever 
  • Cough 
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing 
  • Or two or more of these symptoms: chills, repeated shaking with chills, muscle pain, headache, sore throat, new loss of taste or smell 

Testing Positive for COVID-19

Any student, faculty or staff member, or family member of a student, faculty or staff member who receives a positive COVID-19 test must report these findings to Bright School by notifying the school nurse on the same day of results and upload the information to the Ascend online program.

The school will notify local health officials of any case of COVID-19 and communicate to the school community any quarantine or potential closure of school, campus or building. The identity of any individual diagnosed with COVID-19 will not be disclosed within applicable guidelines. The area where a positive COVID-19 has been present will be closed off to be cleaned and disinfected based on CDC and OSHA guidelines.


The health department will advise whether a person who tests positive should quarantine at home and the length of time a person would remain quarantined. If a member of a student or employee's family is diagnosed with COVID-19, the student, faculty or staff member may be restricted from school. Distance learning will be provided for cohorts that must remain at home. The school will notify families of this information as soon as possible and enact the required quarantine quickly.

Returning to School After a Positive Test

After a student, teacher or staff member tests positive and is symptomatic, that person may return to school by meeting both of these requirements:

  • be at least 10 days since the first symptoms appeared
  • be symptom-free for 24 hours (or 48 hours for a fever) without medication

If a person tests positive and is asymptomatic, he or she can return 10 days from a positive test.

Testing Negative for COVID-19

If a student, faculty or staff member receives a negative test and presents no symptoms, that person may return to school after submitting the results to Ascend and contacting the school nurse.

If a test comes back negative, but the person is still showing symptoms, the fever policy must be followed for a fever (48 hours fever-free), and other symptoms must subside for at least 24 hours without medication.

Possible Exposure to COVID-19

If a students, faculty or staff member believes he or she may have been exposed to COVID-19 and has been tested, the person should wait to receive a negative test result and be symptom-free before returning to school. In the case of a positive test, the protocols above should be followed.


We expect higher than normal rates of absenteeism this school year. We encourage parents to keep children home whenever they are sick to help protect our community.

The school will work with families to help find medical assistance such as telemedicine to make it easier to be assessed and evaluated.

Our goal will be to remain in school; however, we encourage families to prepare for periods of time when school may be closed or a hybrid model of in-school instruction and distance learning is implemented.

Facility Space and Supplies

The health guidelines related to COVID-19 continue to evolve, and it is hard to predict the landscape in the next few weeks, months or even years. As a school community, we all play a role in reducing exposure and slowing the spread of the virus. During the summer, families should make a habit of frequent hand-washing to help students get accustomed to doing this at school. Try to encourage your child to sneeze or cough into the elbow or tissue and to touch their faces less.

Facility staff will take the lead in cleaning, sanitizing and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces multiple times per day. But students and teachers will help in their own classrooms as they transition between activities. Items that are not easily cleaned, sanitized or disinfected may be put away until they can be used again.

Maintaining Physical Distancing

Students and their teachers will mostly stay within their classroom cohort during the day. We will encourage distancing of six feet from each other but realize this is difficult for young children. Classroom furniture will be arranged to provide as much space as possible. In the first trimester, there will likely be no large gatherings such as Bright Fest Fridays or other assemblies in the Centennial Theater. 


Promoting Daily Hygiene Routines

Think of all the fun songs we will learn about washing hands! Students and teachers will wash hands frequently during the day. The Facility Team will deep clean spaces after hours as well as wipe down door handles and hard surfaces during the day. Bathrooms will be cleaned several times during the day. Faculty/staff and students will partner together for regular cleaning practices for desks, equipment, writing utensils, and other classroom materials. Physical Education equipment will be disinfected throughout the day.

Parent Visitors/Volunteers/Vendors

Visitors must check in at the main reception desk in the front lobby and undergo a brief health evaluation, including taking temperatures. Face coverings must be worn by all visitors in the hallways, but face coverings may be removed in an office or where a meeting is being held. Parents or guardians may not join their children for lunch. See Lunch under On Campus Learning Environment.

Evaluating Restrictions

As the school year approaches, we will provide more guidelines for checking students in and out of school for appointments, parent volunteers and conferences, buses, visitors on campus, morning drop off and afternoon car line, and field trips.

Well-Being of Everyone

We want Bright School to be a place where everyone is comfortable. Staff, including the school counselor and the school nurse, will be working together to serve and support students' physical and emotional health. This year, we are implementing a new school wide social-emotional curriculum from Sanford Harmony, and we believe this program in partnership with parents will help students improve their knowledge and skills in diversity and inclusion, critical thinking, communication, problem solving and peer relationships. Perseverance and providing a helping hand are good practices during any time but especially when the world is uncertain as it is today.

Preparing for the Year

We have created a series of videos to inform and help prepare the school community for the upcoming school year.

Mr. Morgan's Introduction

Teachers Are Committed

Health Monitoring

Social Emotional Learning

Back to School

COVID-19 Task Force

Members of the task force meet regularly to discuss and update these guidelines and help inform the Board of Trustees and school administration. Members include:

  • Austin Center '85, Board chair and alumnus
  • Betsey Kates, trustee and parent
  • Philip Byrum '85, trustee and alumnus
  • Dr. Kathleen Hunt, former trustee and parent
  • Dr. Jay Sizemore '84, infectious disease specialist and alumnus
  • Renee Kropff, assistant head
  • Kendra Reasor, assistant head
  • Elizabeth Davis, director of marketing and communications
  • OJ Morgan, head of school

School Affiliations