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Lakeview Academy head says mask mandate 'literally the only way' school will stay open
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Lakeview Academy Head of School Kirsty Montgomery is preparing the Gainesville private school for students returning to class Wednesday, Aug. 19, amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Montgomery joined Lakeview Academy in July. - photo by Scott Rogers

Lakeview Academy Head of School Kirsty Montgomery said protective face coverings will be the key to keeping the private Gainesville school open when students return to classes on Wednesday, Aug. 19.  

All Lakeview faculty, and all students, kindergarten and up, will be required to wear face masks while inside, as well as outside in situations where social distancing is not possible, Montgomery said.  

She said even the lion statue outside of the school will don a mask in a show of solidarity with the rest of the Lakeview community.  

“We haven’t been shy about saying that that’s our requirement, because we feel like it is literally the only way that we will be able to stay open,” she said of the mask policy. “If you do your part, if the entire Lakeview community does its part, and they put any sort of feelings and differences aside about how they feel about it and they just do it for the sake of the community, that is the best chance we have of being successful and keeping each other safe.”  

Mask wearing is the first part of Lakeview’s “Protect. Distance. Disinfect,” initiative, designed by the school’s COVID-19 task force comprising school administrators as well as local health experts.  

The “distance” portion of the plan includes greater spacing between desks, a restriction on school visitors and the isolating of Lakeview’s lower, middle and upper schools to certain buildings to cut down on cross-school interactions. The “disinfect” part of the plan will involve regular wiping down of high touch surfaces, as well as access to hand sanitizer in all classrooms, per the Lakeview website.  

The plan also includes increased filtering of indoor air, noting that “ventilation and filtration performance will be verified.”  

“The plan we feel is robust enough that no matter what happens over the coming year, even if we have to go through periods of interruption due to the nature of the virus, that we can deliver a high-quality education continuously,” Montgomery said. “And our goal, obviously, is to stay on campus for as long as possible and as much as possible.”  

Montgomery said the smaller class sizes offered at Lakeview compared to those at a public school make social distancing and mask wearing regulations much easier to enforce. The school has nearly 600 students, from pre-K to 12th grade, according to its website.  

Lakeview has seen increased interest from parents of students currently enrolled in public schools, according to Montgomery, because of the perceived level of safety in private school settings. She said she expects the school to continue taking on new students all the way into September.  

Those who feel unsafe returning to classrooms despite the precautionary measures Lakeview is taking can also choose remote learning, which will be done synchronously with in-person instruction, school officials said. Virtual students will still have interactions with their peers and teachers throughout the school year. Montgomery said around 10% of lower school students have selected the remote option, while close to 5% of middle and upper school students will be learning remotely this year.  

With the start of the school year less than a week away for Lakeview students, Montgomery said school administrators feel comfortable with the return plan that has been in the works since early June. All that remains now is for faculty, students and parents to adhere to the new regulations.  

“None of this is going to be possible without it being a collective community effort,” Montgomery said. “The staff, the faculty, the parents, the students, everybody kind of doing their part to keep one another safe in school and out of school will hopefully lead to us being able to stay open for the entire school year.” 

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Lakeview Academy head of school Kirsty Montgomery has announced she will be leaving the school at the end of the year. Montgomery started at Lakeview in November 2019. - photo by Scott Rogers