Be Ye Doers of the Word and Not Hearers Only Start Doing

Church Virtual School

Detailed Design Plan for Church Virtual School (CVS)


As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, there is an educational and mental health crisis unfolding in our city and across the nation for students and their families. While some schools in our area are opening doors to students, many schools are conducting classes 100% virtually. Many parents have returned to work, and are now in a terrible predicament of leaving children home for the entire day to attend school online alone. In other households the parents may be home, but students are experiencing increasing levels of anxiety, depression, and difficulty concentrating. Peer relationships are very important during the adolescent years for the development of personal identity. Due to physical distancing guidelines, students are limited in their ability to interact safely with peers to fulfill this developmental need. The virtual school design adopted by many area schools reduces COVID-19 exposure, which is why it’s being done this way, but exposes students and parents to a multitude of negative psychological, emotional, and social consequences.

The mission of our St. James’s Youth Ministry is to “love and support our youth through a joyful Christian community.” As announcements about virtual schooling hit the local news, a conversation started early August among church staff, youth leaders, and parents exploring ways the church could respond and support our youth and their families during this incredibly challenging time. From that conversation was born the idea to host middle and high school virtual learning students in the Michaux House classrooms during the school day while they attend online classes.


The goal of hosting students while they attend virtual school is to support and nurture their spiritual, psychological, and emotional well-being. We’re not offering academic, educational, or technology support per say, but rather St. James’s will:

  • Provide a safe environment by enforcing strict health and safety protocols
  • Utilize the church’s ample classroom space to create well-spaced workstations for students that comply with physical distancing guidelines
  • Staff two adults to supervise and encourage students throughout the school day
  • Foster peer relationships by encouraging conversation between classes and lunch/snack breaks
  • Communicate frequently with parents and church leaders
  • Provide enhanced internet connection with dedicated Wi-Fi on a designated virtual learning private network
  • Create a sense of belonging and community among peers (at a distance)
  • Lighten the burden on parents by taking care of their teenagers during their school day  
  • Model for these students the unconditional love of God through hospitality, companionship, grace, and encouragement.  

Church Virtual School Operating Procedures

  • Staff: There will always be two adults (age 21+) on church campus designated to supervise CVS.
  • Mary Beth Abplanalp, Director of Youth Ministry, is the church staff member responsible for Church Virtual School. Her office will be relocated from the parish house to the 3rd floor of the Michaux House so she can be in close proximity to students while performing her other youth ministry responsibilities. She reports to the rector.
  • Kilpe Singer, the newly hired part-time CVS Coordinator, is directly responsible for implementation of CVS health and safety protocol, supervision of students, and creating a loving and supporting environment conducive to learning. She reports to the director of youth ministry.
  • The CVS coordinator’s role is to supervise students and encourage a positive environment. She is not expected to provide academic support, solve problems with technology, or even making sure that the child is actually attending/participating in their virtual school classes.
  • Volunteers or other church staff will be engaged to serve as “substitutes” as needed.
  • Contact information:
  1. Mary Beth Abplanalp, cell 703-470-6832,
  2. Kilpy Singer, cell 804-836-3550, 

  • Student grade 6 - 12s: CVS is open to students in grade 6 -12 who are existing parishioners of St. James’s Episcopal Church.
  • While we know there is a high demand for childcare of younger children, the social and academic needs of preschool and elementary students exceed what the church staff is equipped to provide. Also, we do not feel equipped at this time to open these services to the broader community without existing relationships. If there’s interest to expand, we can always reevaluate this after first beta-testing this design with our middle and high school parishioners.
  • Capacity:  12+ students: We intend to launch CVS with up to 12 students. We’ll reevaluate effectiveness and demand for this service throughout the first few weeks. We have the potential to expand up to 20 students, based on safe church recommendations and available classroom space, without adding additional staffing (1 adult:10 students, and always 2 adults.)

  • Schedule: CVS will operate 4 days a week on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday beginning on September 14, 2020. There is no CVS on Fridays.
  • School hours TBD: We’re thinking likely 8-9 am start and end likely 2-4 pm. Hours will be set based on registration information received.
  • Full-day Attendance: To avoid distractions and support supervision and health monitoring, students must attend for the full school day; they’ll need to arrive when CVS opens in the morning and stay until it ends each afternoon. If a student’s individual school classes conclude prior to the end of the CVS school day hours, that student may do homework, relax, or take a nap at their workstation until CVS dismissal. We will reevaluate the schedule frequently to make it manageable, safe, and realistic.
  • Partial-day exceptions: Rare exceptions can be accommodated with advanced notice (i.e. dentist appointment.) Prior approval is required from the director of the youth ministry.
  • Weekly Attendance: Students may attend CVS every day it’s offered (Mon.-Thurs.), once or twice a week, or every once and awhile. We hope to make this as accessible as possible. We’ll reevaluate this constantly based on participation demands. Sign Ups will be done online via

  • Registration: This is a two part process.
  • 1) Families must complete two online forms to register their child for CVS:
  1. St. James’s Youth Ministry Universal Permission Form
  2. Church Virtual School Registration 
  • 2) SignUp - Once these two forms are completed, registered families will receive a link from CVS staff to Families then may select the specific days their child wants to attend CVS and sign up for one slot per student. The form will have school dates available for about 2-3 weeks at a time. Additional weeks will be added as the program progresses. This will be done on a first-come-first-serve basis. We’ll reevaluate this constantly based on convenience and effectiveness. It may be that preference is given to students who desire to attend more frequently.
  • Liability: Parents of participants will be required to sign liability releases embedded in the online registration forms prior to participation.

  • Cost: The church will cover the cost of operating CVS for the first four weeks of the program (September 14- October 8.) This allows families to send their students to CVS on a trial basis without financial obligation. After we have a better sense of participation numbers and ongoing costs, families will be expected to share the cost of this program beginning October 13. Exact cost per family will be determined by average enrollment levels.

  • Transportation: Families are responsible for their child’s transportation. Students with driver’s licenses may drive themselves to/from CVS and park in the parking garage with a parking pass provided. Student drivers must still abide by the school day hours. Carpooling is discouraged due to inability to social distance in vehicles.

  • Location: Michaux House 3rd Floor (1133 W. Franklin Street, Richmond, VA 23220): There are extremely spacious classrooms on the 3rd floor where we will host students for CVS. The occupancy numbers for these classrooms are typically 50-70 people, and our design is for 4-6 students to work in each classroom. Careful consideration has gone into measuring classroom space for ample social distancing, traffic flow, entry/exit, noise levels for virtual learning, etc. The floors will be marked with colored tape to indicate where students may or may not enter.
  • Entrance: CVS participants will use the back alley door of the Michaux House. Students will be greeted by church staff every morning at the back alley door of the Michaux House for a Health Screening. Students will be given a key code that opens only this back alley door during school hours only. They will use this door to go outside for lunch and breaks and use their code to re-enter the building. Only CVS students, staff and essential facility staff will be permitted in the Michaux House. Parents are not permitted, but can be given a virtual tour via phone on request.
  • Stairwell: Students may go up and down the back stairwell of the Michaux House to access the 3rd floor. The elevator will only be used with special preapproval of CVS staff.
  • Workstations: Each student will be given a “blue” workstation to use for the day which measures at least 11 feet x 12 feet squared. The perimeter of the workstation will be marked on the floor with blue tape. Within each blue zone is a small green zone, approximately 3 feet x 3 feet squared immediately around the student’s desk and chair. A large folding table, chair, lamp and power strip will be provided at each student’s workstation.
  1. Blue workstations are personal space to promote social distancing and minimize commons surfaces.
  2. Students may not enter another student’s blue workstation.
  3. The number of workstations has been carefully measured to provide at least 15 ft. distance between green zones.
  • Room 302 – 6 workstations
  • Room 304 – 6 workstations
  • Room 303 – 1 workstation for students who need to do a significant amount of talking during their classes at a “noisy desk.”
  • If the decision to expand occurs, we can host 4 workstations in room 306 and 4 in room 308. A second “noisy desk” space can be made available at the end of the hallway. The second floor has also been measured carefully as a backup location if needed.
  • Doors: All classroom doors will remain open at all times.
  • Staff desks: The director of youth ministry will have a workstation in Room 301. The CVS coordinator will have a workstation in the hallway directly outside room 302 and 304.
  • Outside: Students will be allowed to go outside to enjoy fresh air, attend a class outside, read, eat lunch, enjoy recess, etc.
  1. They must stay on church campus in the vicinity of the Michaux House, which includes the church parking garage, surface parking lot, Birch St. white-fenced garden, and Birch St. sidewalk, and the steps of the sanctuary.
  2. CVS students are not allowed past the sanctuary steps, into the Memorial Garden or the church playground which are used by the St. James’s Children’s Center.
  3. Before going outside, students must get permission from the CVS coordinator, sign out, and indicate their return time.

  • Supervision & Behavior
  • The CVS coordinator will roam through classrooms, hallways, and outside spaces frequently. The director of youth ministry will have an office near student classrooms and will also have a steady presence in classrooms and outside. Both staff will have a walkie-talkie for ease of communication.
  • It’s important for all involved to understand, that similar to any middle or high school setting, there will certainly be times that students are not in direct sight of the CVS staff.
  • Students will be expected to behave well, respect others, and maintain all health and safety protocol with or without the presence of an adult.
  • All CVS students and adults will be expected to abide by the Youth Ministry Covenant of Community Expectations (Appendix A) at all times.
  • We may find it’s helpful to develop a system of peer-leaders to help encourage peer monitoring. Perhaps awards will be given for self-monitoring. We’ll reassess this need as the program progresses.
  • If necessary, students who fail to behave appropriately will lose certain privileges or may be sent home from CVS.

  • Student Supplies: Students will need to bring the following items with them to CVS.
  • Devices and technology for virtual learning (laptop or tablet)
  1. Device Power cord (one power strip will be provided in every workstation)
  2. Headphones (required). Multiple students would be situated in each room.  Students may wish to consider over-ear headphones to minimize sound distraction.
  3. Cameras and microphones
  • Any other school supplies (pencils, paper, calculator, etc.)
  • A camping or tail-gate style chair to use for lunch outside and in your workstations for added comfort.
  • Lunch, snacks, and two water bottles. Refrigerators and water fountains will not be available, but there will be a microwave.
  • Comfort items (optional) – pillow, yoga ball, cushion, alternate desk chair, blanket, etc.
  • Donations to CVS – Clorox/Lysol cleaning wipes and hand sanitizer (60% alcohol+)

Health and Safety Protocol

These are the health and safety measures that will be implemented in an effort to provide as safe an environment as possible for all who are associated with CVS. CVS is following recommendations set forth by the CDC. We will hope for the best, but plan for the worst. We take very seriously the responsibility we are assuming by offering CVS and yet we feel the call to serve our young people is both worth the effort and can be done in a safe manner. We’ll operate with an abundance of caution. We will constantly reevaluate the design based on new guidelines from the CDC, health data in our region, and on feedback from participants’ families.

  • A word about personal behavior: Everyone associated with CVS must understand that their personal behavior outside of CVS can have a direct impact on the health and well-being of the entire St. James’s CVS community and our ability to provide this service. We encourage all students, staff, and families to make choices in their own personal behavior that comply with recommendations of the CDC.

  • Prevention Measures

  • We will follow the 4 main prevention strategies recommended by the CDC 
  1. Maintain good social distance (about 6 feet).
  2. Wash your hands often with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
  3. Routinely clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces.
  4. Cover your mouth and nose with a mask when around others.

  • Social distancing: Workstations have been measured to ensure ample distance is provided between students. Lunchtime and recess will all be done with social distancing (6+ feet) enforced, ideally outside whenever weather permits. There may be the occasional passing in the hall, classroom, or bathroom when less than 6 feet is feasible. Masks will be worn in all those circumstances as a second layer of prevention. No touching of any kind (hugs, handshakes, pats on the back, etc.) is allowed.

  • Hand hygiene: Upon arrival, students will go directly to the restroom to wash their hands thoroughly with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds. Hand sanitizer (60% alcohol+) will also be available and encouraged throughout the day.

  • Cleaning: The CVS coordinator will oversee cleaning at CVS.
  1. Staff: The CVS coordinator will clean commonly touched shared surfaces at least twice during the school day. This includes door knobs, door bars, door plates, bathroom faucets, light switches, stairwell handrails, and any shared surfaces.
  2. Student Chores: Students will be responsible for wiping down all surfaces in their individual workstation as well as helping clean other commonly touched surfaces at the end of the school day.
  3. Professional: The church’s cleaning company will do routine cleaning of classrooms nightly (trash removal, vacuum, bathrooms).

  • Masks: Students must bring two masks with them each day. Masks should be well-fitted to cover both your nose and mouth. Masks must be worn from the time you exit your vehicle, until you re-enter your vehicle at the end of the day; this includes indoors, outdoors, and even if socially distant from others. We are operating under an abundance of caution.

Students may remove their masks in two very specific circumstances only:

  1. While seated in the green zone of their personal workstation. This allows students to communicate effectively in virtual classes. Workstations have been carefully measured for social distance; each green zone is at least 12+ feet from the next closest green zone. Green tape on the floor and desk will provide visual reminders. Singing or shouting without a mask, even in the green zone, is not permitted.
  2. While seated to eat or drink at a social distance of at least 6+ feet from all others. Lunchtime and any breaks will be done outside whenever weather permits.

  • Daily Health Screening on Arrival: Students will go through a Health Screening Checkpoint upon arrival every morning conducted by the CVS staff.

  1. Temperature check: Up to 100.3 = Ok; 100.4+ = fever

  1. Health Questions:
  • Diagnosed: Have you, or anyone in your household, been diagnosed with COVID-19 in the last 14 days?
  • Exposed: Have you, or anyone in your household, been exposed to anyone with a confirmed COVID-19 diagnosis in the last 14 days?
  • Definition of an exposure is provided by the CDC.
  • Symptoms: Have you experienced symptoms of COVID-19 in the last 14 days? This includes,
  • Fever or chills
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headache
  • New loss of taste or smell
  • Sore throat
  • Congestion or runny nose
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea

  • No entry allowed: In an effort to maintain a healthy environment for all, students and staff will not be granted entry to CVS under any of these circumstances:
  1. A temperature of 100.4 or higher in the last 24 hours.
  2. A “yes” answer to a health screening question. We recognize screening for these symptoms can be limiting since they only indicate the presence of an illness, not necessarily COVID-19. In an abundance of caution, we will not allow entry if a student has any of these symptoms. Once a student is symptom free for 24 hours they may return to CVS.

  • Response Measures: Protocol if there’s an exposure or confirmed case of COVID-19.

  • In the event a student participant or staff member of CVS is confirmed to have COVID-19, parents are required to notify the director of youth ministry, Mary Beth Abplanalp at 703-470-6832 immediately. Notification of a confirmed COVID-19 case will be provided as soon as possible to all CVS families and staff. CVS will be immediately suspended (students sent home immediately if it is during the school day) and the program will remain closed for at least 14 days. Thorough disinfecting cleaning will be performed throughout the classroom spaces prior to reopening. Reopening will be done in consultation with the rector. The COVID-19 positive participant or staff member may only return to CVS when it reopens with written proof from a medical facility or doctor that their 14-day period of isolation is complete and they are no longer contagious.

  • In the event a student participant or staff member of CVS is exposed to someone with a confirmed case of COVID-19, parents are required to notify the director of youth ministry, Mary Beth Abplanalp at 703-470-6832 immediately. Notification of a confirmed exposure to COVID-19 case will be provided as soon as possible to all CVS families and staff. The student/staff who was exposed must quarantine at home for at least 14 days, or show written proof from a medical facility or doctor of a negative COVID-19 test, prior to returning to CVS.
  1. Definition of an exposure is provided by the CDC.

A Nurturing Environment

Once safety measures have been met, our second priority is to provide a comfortable environment, and joyful learning community. Students will be allowed to:

  • Work at their desk or lay on the floor in their designated blue workstations
  • Bring comfort items from home to enjoy throughout the day (yoga ball, pillow, blanket, etc.)
  • Enjoy their own snacks, drinks, and lunch brought from home
  • Go outside on the church campus to enjoy fresh air
  • Set up a camping chair brought from home for a lunch break, at a distance, with their friends
  • Play games that comply with social distancing – ping pong, four square, ladder ball, corn hole, etc. Any shared surfaces (paddled, balls, etc) will be cleaned between uses.
  • Decorate the classrooms to festive and conducive for learning
  • Move to a private classroom across the hall at a “noisy desk” to attend classes requiring students to engage in lots of discussion
  • Plan spirit days typically experienced in high schools (theme days like wear your favorite sports jersey, pajama day, etc.)
  • Enjoy music in the halls upon arrival and during daily “chores”
  • Talk with friends and find companionship in a shared experience among peers and adult leaders

God our Father, you see your children growing up in an
unsteady and confusing world: Show them that your ways
give more life than the ways of the world, and that following
you are better than chasing after selfish goals. Help them to
take failure, not as a measure of their worth, but as a chance
for a new start. Give them strength to hold their faith in you,
and to keep alive their joy in your creation; through Jesus
Christ our Lord. Amen. 

Appendix A

Youth Ministry Covenant of Community Expectations

To preserve and protect the physical, emotional, and spiritual health of all members of our community, all participants in events for youth sponsored by St. James’s Episcopal Church must agree to and abide by following rules and guidelines that are equally binding for youth and adult leaders/chaperones.

Non-Negotiable Rules 

Participants who fail to abide by these rules will be sent home immediately at personal/family expense.

  • The use and/or possession of drugs, alcohol, tobacco, and weapons are strictly prohibited.

• No sexual misconduct, including but not limited to indecent exposure, touching, or inappropriate reference to body areas normally covered by undergarments.

  • Seat belts must be worn by drivers and all passengers while in a vehicle that is in motion.

• Sleeping areas for males and females will be separate. Coed visitation occurs only in shared community space and is prohibited in sleeping areas.

• Obey all applicable state and federal laws and regulations while in the United States and while abroad.

Guidelines for Christian Community

• Be respectful, encouraging, and maintain a positive attitude toward self and others, recognizing Christ’s presence in all persons.

• Participate fully in all group activities, as you are physically able, and obey time-related instructions such as bed times.

• Be respectful of personal property and the property of others.

• Attend to safety for yourself and others.

• Avoid the use of foul language, cursing, or any speech (including “humor”) which puts down, makes fun of, or stereotypes other persons or groups.