Dear MCS Community,
On behalf of the school leadership team and the Construction Committee we’d like to update the community on important start-of-school details. Our school team is working tirelessly to prepare, so we ask that you refer to the FAQ and send any questions regarding this update to the Board directly. Your grace is appreciated in allowing the school team to stay focused.
Our decision is driven by the following factors. Extensive details can be found in our FAQ:
- Despite hurdles, Bright Future Phase 2 construction has stayed close to schedule to hit our September reopening date. Yet within the last 2-3 weeks, COVID-related complications completely out of our control with respect to construction crews, city inspection bandwidth, and critical building materials/supplies have significantly impacted the schedule. Construction will not be completed in time for us to start the school year on campus, thus the necessity for remote learning through October 9. Please refer to the FAQ for more details.Know that we’ve explored every angle and relationship in an attempt to meet our September date. We remain confident that this team has and will continue to work unceasingly to get our campus open as quickly and safely as possible.
- As of 8/19/20, Orange County has come off the State’s Monitoring List. The county needs to remain off this list for 14 consecutive days in order for us to reopen in-person education without a waiver. Please see details in the FAQ.
- MCS submitted its Waiver on August 10, 2020 seeking approval for on-campus learning for TK-6th grades and we’re still awaiting the State’s approval.
- Please reference the MCS Fall Reopening Plan for details about our On-campus and Remote Learning programs.
- Please refer to our FAQ and send all questions regarding this announcement to the Board directly.
Lewis Brewster, Board Chair
Ruth Sanchez Kobayashi
The entire MCS community is continually on my heart and mind; from our beloved staff, our amazing students and their parents, to our faithful partners. I have specifically prayed for God’s presence to fill you to overflowing as you rest, relax, and enjoy quality family time this summer. We all recognize our need for His presence in our daily lives, communities, and the world and I pray that you experience Him in ways that are unique and specific to you.
Also, at front and center is the 2020-21 school year, which I am sure is on your minds as well. Thank you for the extension of patience as we navigate through all matters related to the Fall reopening.
As previously communicated, our plan and intention is to fully reopen this Fall. This plan has not changed and, barring any significant changes in local health or mandated restriction, this plan will not change. We eagerly look forward to Meet the Teacher Day on Tuesday, September 15th and welcoming our students on campus the next day for the first day of school in our newly-completed campus! We are unwavering in our dedication to the school’s mission of “building a firm foundation through Christ-centered education” as we pursue our core values of Love for Christ, Exemplary Academics, Connected Community, Whole Child Focus, and a Culture of Innovation. These are our highest values and being together, on campus, is vital for achieving these and fostering the academic, social, spiritual, and emotional growth of our students. We want nothing more than to be back together with our students and community!
With the decision to reopen in the Fall in place, our next few months will be devoted to determining any necessary guidelines, practices, and programs to support our return while prioritizing the health and safety of all members of our community. We recognize the varying family situations, preferences, and needs. It is with this in mind that we invite parents to complete a survey, as your input will help inform decisions and plans. Please take a few moments to complete this survey.
As a school team, we confidently agree that there is tremendous wisdom in taking additional time to monitor, research, gather feedback from all stakeholders, and better understand local realities before determining reopening details. These decisions will be based on what is in the best interest of the MCS community including our staff and families and will be communicated in mid August, a full month ahead of reopening.
Continued patience, understanding and prayers are appreciated as we navigate through extremely unclear, continually changing, and difficult times. First and foremost, MCS is a community of believers, bonded as brothers and sisters in Christ, united in His purpose and mission. We are grateful for a united posture through an extension of grace, understanding, and love. Thank you for this vital care and unity. 2 Chronicles 20:12 says, “Lord we don’t know what to do, but our eyes are on you.” Yes and amen!
In His Service,
Head of School
Dear MCS Families,
With just a few days left in the school year, the entire staff is wholly focused on a strong and successful completion to the school year. No doubt, this year brought unexpected challenges and I am grateful for how our staff responded and persevered through these challenges. To say that I am proud of each and every one of them would be an understatement. I am also proud of our students who have risen to the challenge, exhibited great resiliency, and conquered! Our staff couldn’t be more proud of our students. And, I am grateful for the support of the MCS families as we have all truly been in this together. This has been a time for unity and grace within the body of Christ and I thank you for answering that call.
Though our primary focus is rightfully on finishing the year, the 2020-21 school year is in view. As of today, it is our intention to fully return to school in the fall. We look forward to being together and celebrating the opening of our newly completed and expanded building on Meet the Teacher Day, September 15, 2020. We excitedly look forward to welcoming our students back on the first day of school, September 16th!
Given that we are four months away from the start of school, any other decision would be premature and without relevant data. It is important that we all recognize we are in unprecedented times facing situations where no one can be expected to have all of the answers. Over the next few months, we will continue to assess and monitor data, recommendations from health organizations, guidelines provided by government agencies, and evaluate local COVID-19 scientific realities. Please understand, though we are a private school, we must comply with certain governmental issues and mandates. We will remain steadfast in balancing all information with what we believe to be in the best interest of our staff, students, and families. We take seriously the responsibility of protecting the safety and well-being of every member of our community while accomplishing our school’s mission and core values. As always, we will be uncompromising in these efforts.
To be clear, it is, and has always been, the intention and goal to return to school in September. With this current decision in place, it is also prudent and responsible to plan for a variety of scenarios should the situation drastically change. We will act decisively and as necessity dictates. Decisive and quick action was successfully taken this year and will be taken again in the future, if necessary.
Please continue to pray and trust that God has a perfect plan for MCS and each of our families. Let us hold on to peace and “hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for He who promised is faithful” Hebrews 10:23. God is sovereign and, as always, all of our decisions are prayerful, heeding His direction and wisdom at all times.
Dear MCS Community,
Over the past month, the board and I have met extensively to discuss various matters related to the pandemic, state mandated social distancing requirements, and resulting transition to remote learning. One important topic has been the severe financial strain some MCS families are experiencing during this time. As a Christian community, it is our desire to follow the example seen in the early church described in Acts where “all believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed any of their possessions as their own, but they shared everything they had…. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all that there were no needy among them” Acts 4:32-33.
The desire to care for the MCS community extends to our staff and families alike. For our staff, it is our intention to fully utilize each staff member to support remote learning and maintain full employment of the entire staff. Through this difficult season, this is an important commitment we feel strongly convicted to fulfill.
Just as we desire to care for our staff, we also desire to support families now experiencing a financial crisis. We have prayerfully decided to focus attention and resources on providing assistance to families with true need as modeled in the early church (Acts 2:44-45, Acts 4:32-35). To that end, the Board and school administration have established a MCS Relief Fund for the purpose of providing short-term financial assistance, or emergency tuition aid, to families whose finances have been specifically affected by COVID-19. Families can apply for emergency aid in accordance with the school’s established COVID-19 Emergency Tuition Assistance process. Assistance will be awarded based upon demonstrated COVID-19 related need that has led to the inability to continue tuition payments. To support this fund and better serve and meet the needs of the MCS community, we seek donors with the capacity and heart to live out Acts 2 by contributing to the MCS Relief Fund. If your family feels particularly led to contribute, visit the MCS Relief Fund Giving page. More information regarding the MCS Relief fund and tuition assistance process can be found below.
Know that we are in constant prayer for the MCS community. We trust God’s provision, faithfulness, and goodness at all times. We are confident God is ever-present working all things together in our lives and our community. As always, we deeply appreciate your partnership and prayers.
Heather Harrison, Head of School
Keven Kroehler, COO
Important and Common Questions
Is MCS going to offer a tuition discount?
The Board, administration, and Finance Committee have had significant conversations surrounding this topic. Through much discussion, serious consideration, and prayer it has been decided that MCS will not offer a tuition discount. This decision was based on several factors. First, one of our key goals is to provide and maintain an affordable Christian education. To do so, we strive to maintain a balanced budget that manages expenses and relies upon annual fundraising (Annual Fund appeal and Spring Gala) to achieve the operational budget. As a result, the school’s budget does not have the ability to absorb a school-wide discount. Second, given that we continue to pay our entire faculty and staff through this remote learning season, the operating costs and streamlined budget of the school remain unchanged. Third, we strongly believe that the budget’s limited financial margin should be earmarked for helping families experiencing severe financial need directly related to this unprecedented season of COVID-19. As modeled in Acts 2, it is our intention to support meeting specific needs rather than provide a broad discount. Fourth, we are confident that the remote learning program maintains our core value of Exemplary Academics. While we fully recognize the added responsibility and support parents have had to assume, faculty and staff are working tirelessly to continually improve and provide high quality online instruction, support and engage all students in learning, and provide enrichment opportunities all while prioritizing spiritual nourishment and relational connection.
My family is experiencing significant financial impact as a result of COVID-19 and we are in need of assistance. What options and process can we pursue for support?
Because we are dedicated to supporting members of our community experiencing unexpected need due to COVID-19 related issues, available funds within the budget have been specifically designated for emergency, short-term financial assistance. This aid is specific to financial impact occurring within the timeframe of COVID-19 shutdowns. Though funds are limited, if you truly find yourself financially impacted by COVID-19 and therefore unable to continue tuition payments, we will do whatever we can to support through financial aid or tuition payment extensions. We care deeply about our families and want to make sure we do what we can to address any issue that is within our ability. Please do not just cease tuition payments, but reach out to learn more about our financial assistance program through the COVID-19 crisis. We are all in this together and there is help available for those who have true need. For more information, please contact Keven Kroehler.
The MCS Relief Fund was mentioned. Is there a way for my family to contribute to this fund to support staff, their families, or financial aid for MCS families in need?
Yes! To augment this fund and better serve and meet the needs of the MCS community, we seek donors with the capacity and heart to live out Acts 2 and contribute to the MCS Relief Fund. We are thankful for a generous MCS family that has already contributed to this fund and seek additional families who feel led to contribute. Further details for this fund can be found here. Contributions to this fund can be made here. Please contact Heather Harrison or Julie Hellriegel with further questions.
A prior letter mentioned continual improvements to remote learning and increase in rigor. What are some of the specific changes?
Upon returning from Easter break, our students’ schedules have changed incorporating more time with teachers to dive deeper into subjects. Teachers have developed a new scope and sequence that will guide instruction for the final weeks of the school year. Additionally, assessment practices have been adjusted to better monitor the progress of student learning. In elementary, science, social studies, and Bible are now incorporated into the weekly schedules as well as rotations in art, music, and Spanish. For middle school, students are now participating in weekly electives in addition to all core classes, Spanish, and Bible. And, all students now have PE each week. These additions provide a well rounded, full schedule experience for all students. For more information, please refer to the communication sent by our division principals last week.
Have we lost instructional days due to the extended Easter break?
While extension of Easter break may appear to be a full week, the net impact on instruction is three days. The break had always been planned to extend through Monday after Easter. The last day of school has been moved from Thursday, May 21 to Friday, May 22. Additionally, though this school calendar year felt more compressed, the earlier start in August ensured the total number of teaching days matched the 2018-19 school year. You will likely recall this was made possible by changing the holiday break schedules (Thanksgiving and Winter Break/Ski Week) and eliminating staff development days. In addition, instructional time has been prioritized by reducing the number of events that can tend to impact instruction. Finally, the last week of school is typically busy with end-of-year celebrations but the staff is planning alternative options that will allow the final week to be fully utilized for learning, moving celebrations outside of instructional time. More information regarding end of the year celebrations will be provided before the end of April.
Does MCS qualify for any of the available federal assistance funds?
Yes, and we have been approved through our lender. However, MCS can only draw these funds as necessary to supplement any shortfalls in revenue required to cover operating expenses including staff salaries. MCS will fully comply with all federal funding guidelines which states “funds will be used to retain workers and maintain payroll or make mortgage interest payments, lease payments, and utility payments.”
Will we take advantage of an empty campus to pursue early Bright Future construction?
his is definitely an option we are pursuing and our Construction Committee has been exploring all options. More information on our Phase II Bright Future construction will be provided soon! As a reminder, Bright Future funds are restricted designated to construction-related work only. Donors pledged their funds toward Bright Future and there are strict guidelines by which those funds can be spent. Bright Future funds cannot be spent on the operating budget. As communicated in the fall, 5% of the annual budget is provided through undesignated giving provided by the Annual Fund and Spring Gala. These proceeds are generally used for operating needs and are separate from designated fundraising such as Bright Future or Fund a Need (Gala).
Dear MCS Community,
When we first set out on this remote learning journey, we were unsure of how long the school closure would be. Our greatest hope was for a short closure, one that would allow for the students to be with us and for the school to be full and joyfully noisy again. The original closure of two weeks extended to three and then beyond Easter break. Today, we share the final duration of the school closure.
We have been closely following the CDC, WHO, state and federal government’s social distancing guidelines, direction from the Orange County Department of Education, as well as decisions made by local districts and schools regarding school closures. Additionally, on March 31, the California Department of Education issued a statement that recommended schools remain closed and fully employ remote learning for the remainder of the year. After much consideration, discussion, and prayer, the very difficult but necessary decision has been made. MCS will not reopen but will continue remote learning for the duration of the 2019-20 school year for which the last day of school will now be Friday, May 22nd (extended from the original ending date of Thursday, May 21st).
We remain dedicated to providing exemplary academics and, as such, are committed to improving our remote learning program. Considering this dedication and long term timeline, it is imperative that our staff be given the opportunity to further plan, prepare additional home learning kits, implement program improvements and changes, and receive necessary professional development. For these important reasons, we are extending the student’s Easter Break by one week through Friday April 17th. All students will resume remote learning on Monday, April 20th with an increased level of instructional support and academic rigor. Principals will provide further details regarding improvements and adjustments before students return from the extended break.
We recognize there are many year-end events that are cherished and loved by students, families, and staff alike. It is our intention to preserve these beloved traditions regardless of the school closure. At this time, planning continues for these events including character quality awards, class celebrations, 8th grade awards and parent blessing, and graduation. Our hearts share in the disappointment over the change this may bring, particularly for our 8th grade students and families. Please know, while the dates and avenues of these important events are not yet determined, all possibilities and alternatives are being pursued. We will ensure a special end to the school year for all of our students. Families will be provided more information regarding end of the year events from the divisional principal by the end of April.
In this unprecedented time, we know that this decision is particularly difficult on the community. However, the administration, staff, and Board unanimously believe this is the best course of action for the well-being of our staff, students, and families. We also believe this decision demonstrates a genuine love and care for our community. Across the 33 years of our school’s history, we have seen and experienced challenging times. This time is uniquely challenging. Yet, no matter the season or challenge, we have remained a community that loves, supports, prays for, and champions one another. Colossians 3:14 provides a beautiful picture of this, “And over all virtues, put on love which binds together in perfect unity.” This is undoubtedly true of the amazing MCS family. The entire school team sends you love and prayers, even from afar, and we are thankful for yours!
Interim Head of School
Dear MCS Parents,
We can all agree that we are not just living in uncertain and unprecedented times, but these times are a bit crazy too. Yet, even in these times, we can also agree that God is still sovereign, He is still in control, and He is still good. As a community of believers, these times bring a unique opportunity to live out the command Jesus gave to “Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:34-35). The opportunity to love as Jesus called us to love is for us within the MCS community, and to the world who desperately needs to know the love of Jesus. If we ask God to give us ears to hear, eyes to see, and hearts to understand, He will show us exactly how to love one another through these difficult times. On behalf of the staff, I want to thank you for how you have already loved, supported, and encouraged the school team. Know that we desire to do the same for each of you.
As we head into a new educational world of remote learning, we continue to be committed to the success of each student and close partnership with parents. It is with this in mind that I share the following important information.
Updated Length of School Closure
Over the past couple of days, it has become clear that it is best and wise to extend the length of our school closure from two weeks to three weeks. Therefore, the school will remain closed as remote learning will continue Wednesday, March 18 through Friday, April 3. Easter Break will be observed as originally planned April 6-13. The situation will be closely monitored which will determine whether further extension of the school closure is necessary or if school will reopen following Easter Break. It is our commitment to provide as much advance notice as possible.
Launch of Remote Learning
Today: By the end of the day today, you should receive a communication from your child’s teacher(s) with a link inviting you and your student to their first live Zoom session tomorrow. The purpose of this Zoom session is to give students and parents the opportunity to practice “Zooming In” before remote learning begins. We encourage all to attend this session, however, it will be recorded and shared by the teacher in the event it is missed.
Tuesday: Join the first Zoom session hosted by your teacher(s) at the designated time provided by your teacher. This will be a great opportunity for your teacher(s) to welcome you to remote learning. Also on this day, teachers will email a written summary of class expectations, daily schedule, and other important information specific to their class/grade.
Wednesday: Remote learning begins! Follow the instructions that were provided by your teacher(s) on Tuesday to kick off our first day of remote learning. It is going to be an adventure and one we will take one day at a time. There will be some bumps along the way but your teachers will be with you every step and we will be successful together! We are learning together and that is the best way to learn!
Daily Schedules by Grade Level
As we all adjust to not only remote learning but to learning at home, it will be important to establish a daily routine with defined structure. We believe this will help all adjust more quickly and successfully. Grade level teachers have worked hard to develop a daily schedule for all students to follow. To see the daily schedule for each grade level, click here.
While a daily schedule has been provided, we do understand that families are developing new routines. As a result, please know there is flexibility within the schedule based on individual needs. It will be important to prioritize all live instruction and support provided through Zoom though all sessions will be recorded and shared.
Enrichment Resource Board
In addition to the academic learning and support, we are excited to announce Enrichment Resources for Remote Learning. To explore these enrichment opportunities, visit https://sites.google.com/marinerscs.org/enrichment-resources/home, or access the board through our MCS website.
The Enrichment Resource Board is full of activities including MakerSpace, Music, Art, Theatre, PE, Gardening, Pen Pals, and more! If you check out the MakerSpace section, you will also find fun family activities you can enjoy together. In addition, each day, a new morning devotional will be provided so that students can begin their day with encouragement and teaching from God’s word. The first devotion will begin on Wednesday which will be a wonderful opportunity for our community to still worship together, even from afar. Enrichment resources will be updated regularly and there is no shortage of activities to keep students busy!
On the daily schedules provided by each grade level, you will note teachers have included enrichment time blocks. It is our hope that, during those times each day, parents and students will utilize these optional opportunities and we are confident they will bring fun and excitement to the day.
Remote Learning: Recommendations for Parents
The school closure and remote learning presents new challenges for all parents as you seek to find the best way to support your child’s learning at home. We are in this with you so please do not hesitate to work closely with your child’s teacher. We will find a groove and settle in but it will take some time and adjustment. By the end of the day Tuesday, check out the Enrichment Resource Board (link above) for helpful tips and recommendations on how to best transition to and support remote learning.
Through these times, no matter how long they may be, I pray that our students, staff, and parents feel His presence in tangible ways. That you are comforted with His peace, filled with His goodness, and strengthened by His power. I pray that, as you draw near to Him, you experience His nearness in new ways, because His mercies are new each morning. That you are enveloped in and covered by His Spirit. I ask that God surprise you with unique gifts and joys, even in the midst of uncertainty. That your family is strengthened and renewed during this unexpected season. That God’s protection surrounds and shields you, mind, body, and spirit. And I pray that we embrace His grace for ourselves and for each other as we navigate these new waters together.
With prayers and blessings,
Interim Head of School