MACON, Ga. — When 29-year-old Logan Bowlds took over as Stratford Academy's head of school in 2019, the first test of his leadership came just a few months later.
"People would ask me... they said, 'As a young head of school who's never had any experience as head of school, how do you feel going through an international pandemic?' and the blessing of it was nobody, old or young, experienced or inexperienced... nobody has experience dealing with this," Bowlds said.
They went virtual in March when the pandemic hit and Bowlds worked over the summer on a plan to make sure students had the choice to return in-person on August 19.
"We knew there were really three things: the social distancing, the masking and the frequent sanitation, so we made sure that all the kids have masks on. Masks are required from 4-years-old up to 18. Our Pre-K classes all the way up to our seniors," he said. "The only class where it's strongly recommended but optional just because of the sheer management of it, is our 3-year-old program."
Smaller class sizes, desk shields, adjusted cafeteria seating and offering the virtual learning option were keys to the plan. They've had only 14 positive cases since August out of 1,000 total students and staff members.
"Not a single one spread to anyone else sitting at their table, in their classroom, on their team. We did the diligent, close contact... we traced to see who they encounter, who they ride to school with... siblings, things like that," said Bowlds. "We've been pleased because now we can say -- because we have the data of the last six months -- that when cases are identified here, because of our mitigation efforts here, it did not spread."
They haven't had to shut down campus since students returned in-person, and they started off the second semester following the same plan.
"It's our faculty following the rules and really our families adhering to what we've asked them to do," Bowlds said.
Stratford still offers the virtual option. In fall 2020, they had 47 students sign up for online school. Just 17 remain remote for the second semester.