Reimagining school: Shady Side Academy reopens with in-person learning, plus remote option

This sponsored content is provided by Shady Side Academy.

This fall, schools faced the unprecedented challenge – and profound opportunity – to reimagine the way they deliver an education to their students.

Shady Side Academy was one of a few local schools that opened with in-person instruction for every child, every day, welcoming a record 1,108 PK-12 students on its four campuses in Fox Chapel and Point Breeze. This, of course, was no easy feat. The administration worked around the clock this summer to craft a reopening plan grounded in safety, flexibility and academic excellence.

“When it is safe to do so, we believe children are at their best academically and socially when they attend school in person and form close relationships with their teachers and peers,” said SSA President Bart Griffith Jr.

SSA’s reopening plan fully aligns with federal, state and county public health guidelines, and was designed in consultation with UPMC infection prevention experts. Extensive health and safety measures are in place to minimize the risk of COVID-19 transmission.

Each morning, parents complete a COVID-19 screening via mobile app to generate a “green pass” for their child to attend school. Students and employees must undergo temperature checks upon arrival and wear masks. Hallways and stairwells are one-way, with hand sanitizer stations everywhere. Academic schedules keep students in smaller, more consistent cohorts throughout the day, and lunches are delivered to classrooms or served grab-and-go.

Every classroom meets CDC social distancing guidelines, keeping students and teachers 6 feet apart. With 189 acres across four campuses, Shady Side has an advantage many other schools do not – sheer space. Extensive summer renovations expanded existing classrooms, converted common areas into new classrooms, and created new outdoor learning spaces.

Students unable to learn on campus utilize a live remote video attendance option to attend classes alongside their peers via Zoom and Meeting Owl Pro 360-degree classroom cameras.

SSA kindergartners enjoy a socially distant snack on the hay bales in the new outdoor classroom

A month into the school year, students and teachers have settled into new routines and found creative ways to learn and play safely – from a socially distant, restaurant-themed second-grade “book tasting” to a herpetologist visiting a sixth-grade outdoor science class, to seniors enjoying lunch on the quad. Sports teams are competing with strict safety protocols, and music and drama classes are safely rehearsing and performing. Although covered by masks, it’s hard to miss the students’ smiling faces.

“It has been so good for the soul to see students back at school and connecting with friends,” said Griffith.

If it is deemed no longer safe to learn on campus, Shady Side’s plan provides for flexible toggling to distance learning, with an age-appropriate mix of synchronous Zoom classes and asynchronous lessons offered every day in every grade, plus virtual faculty office hours, assemblies and club meetings.

Whether classes are held on campus or online, Shady Side Academy continues to deliver the challenging, engaging curriculum for which it is nationally renowned.

Learn more about Shady Side’s four campuses at monthly Zoom information sessions and Saturday tours by appointment on Oct. 24, Nov, 7 and Dec. 5. Details at