Fortune Academy, an independent school in Lawrence, has had zero cases of COVID-19 since students returned to school. Fortune Academy Head of School Vanessa Coles is relieved about that.
“We feel fortunate and grateful we haven’t had a positive case. We are all doing the best we can,” Coles said. “We are certainly thrilled because we, as a school, believe so strongly, as well as our parent group, that kids need to be here in person to get their unique learning needs met. We are working just as hard as anyone else.”
Fortune Academy students have language learning differences, such as dyslexia, which makes learning via Zoom or other virtual methods especially difficult. Fortune Academy students are taught through the Orton-Gillingham Approach, which is a direct, multi-sensory and structured way to teach literacy when reading, writing and spelling doesn’t come easily to students.
“At Fortune Academy, we really believe all students need to be provided as stable of an education and learning environment as possible,” Coles said. “Students need teachers to be responsive in the moment.”
Coles said the best learning environment is in-person human interaction, but students were offered a completely virtual option if they were uneasy about returning to school during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Coles said the school “longs for the carefree days of the past” but has taken steps to protect the health of students and staff.
“We spent a long time preparing our plan, just as did anyone else. One of biggest advantages is our small size,” Coles said. “We have 85 students enrolled, and some of them did choose a completely virtual option. We provide that for them as well, so we have a very small amount of students actually on campus.”
Ten students chose to learn virtually, so only 75 students are learning in-person on the Lawrence campus.
“Some of the things we have used that have helped us on a regular basis is continue to ask for input from parents and use that information to make informed decisions about programming, like when considering we are such a small school, do we have sports or just clubs?” Coles said. “Based on parents’ responses, we are just having clubs. So, students get skills and practice with volleyball, but they’re not playing other teams.”
Some of the school’s other safety protocols include temperature checks for all students each morning as well as symptom checklists for students in the car line. The lower school and high school students have been directed to different areas of the building, in which they use their own classrooms, their own doors and don’t cross paths with each other. The school also is utilizing its outdoor space, so students aren’t inside as much.
There also is social distancing within the classrooms, with desks spaced out so students are 6 feet apart. Students and staff also wear face coverings when they are in the building.
In case of infection
Fortune Academy Head of School Vanessa Coles said the school continues to meet with the Indiana Non-Public Education Association and works with the Marion County Health Dept. to ensure the school is following guidelines. If a COVID-19 case discovered within the school, Coles said contact tracing will be utilized and Fortune Academy will follow the same protocols as other schools.
“We have partnered with the Marion County Health Dept. to make sure we are following updates and maintaining vigilance and protocols and just make sure we are ready to respond,” Coles said.