Dear Families, Colleagues and Upper School Students,
Having launched the school year with our new colleagues (last week) and our full faculty and staff (this week), we are feeling a healthy mix of elation and caution as we return from summer and resume on-campus learning for all. Our varsity athletic teams have been in action already on campus since early August. We can’t wait to see all our students next week!
As always, our highest priority is the health and safety of the DA community. Thank you for your cooperation in reading, signing and reviewing the appropriate documents in Veracross and uploading your child(ren)’s medical information in Magnus. Key COVID-19 protocols and resources are listed via the links below. As always, we welcome your health-related questions at email@example.com.
- 2021-22 DA Community Health Compact (Parents)
- 2020-21 COVID-19 Addendum to All-School Handbook
- DA Health Desk
This week members of our Administrative Team and Board of Trustees met (for the second time in three weeks) with our medical advisory team. We talked through a series of questions relating to the Delta variant, vaccination, testing and a myriad of specific campus protocols. Today the Administrative Team discussed and confirmed several needed adjustments to protocols and policies. These are represented in the documents linked above. Among the most notable of the changes:
- We will require masks for all people at all times (indoors and outdoors), with the exception of:
- brief periods for distanced eating and drinking (though we will be eating outside as much as possible)
- vaccinated adults alone in closed offices or classrooms
- Upper School students outdoors, seated and at least 3 feet apart
- For large indoor gatherings, we will observe a 50% capacity (allowing at least one empty seat between audience members).
- We will require the siblings of students experiencing COVID-like symptoms and awaiting testing results to stay home. If a parent receives a positive COVID diagnosis, children will need to stay home. If a parent develops a COVID-like symptom, contact firstname.lastname@example.org immediately to determine whether children need to stay home.
While we will begin the school year with these policies in effect, we will continually reassess them and adjust as necessary and possible throughout the year.
For our Open Houses on Monday, August 23, we ask that you attend only if you and your child(ren) can answer each of the following questions appropriately. We will use these same screening questions for all pre-approved campus visitors and volunteers this fall. Though we will not be requiring families to check-in daily using the SaferTogether app this year, we expect that students who cannot answer these questions appropriately will stay home.
- Are you exhibiting any of the following symptoms: new or worsening cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, fever of 100.4 or higher, chills, new loss of taste or smell, fatigue, muscle or body aches, headache, sore throat, congestion or runny nose, nausea or vomiting, diarrhea?
- Have you been diagnosed with COVID-19 in the last 14 days?
- Have you been in close contact in the last 14 days with anyone confirmed to have COVID-19 or anyone with symptoms consistent with COVID-19?
- Do you agree to abide by DA campus rules (wear a mask indoors and outdoors, social distance, wash hands)?
If your family has traveled or attended large gatherings, please seek PCR testing to ensure the safety of all and remain at home in the event of illness. Here is the CDC’s Frequently Asked Questions page for domestic and international travel.
We continue to monitor developments of the pandemic, including growing concerns about the Delta variant, new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines for vaccinated individuals, and new guidelines for educational settings from the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, American Academy of Pediatrics and ABC Science Collaborative. For those interested in reading those guidelines:
- NC DHHS Strong Schools Toolkit (Updated August 18, 2021)
- CDC Operational Strategy for COVID Prevention in K-12 Schools (August 5, 2021)
- American Academy of Pediatrics Guidelines for masking (July 19, 2021)
- ABC Science Collaborative’s COVID-19 Guidance for Schools
Next Thursday (8/26) from 4:30-5:15 p.m., Kristen Klein and I will host the year’s first DA Family Conversation. We’ll focus exclusively on health and safety topics — sharing any fresh updates and fielding your questions. Zoom link info is available via the Family Conversations button in your Veracross portal.
Among the most common questions we’ve fielded: how many DA faculty/staff and eligible students are fully vaccinated? Families continue to upload documentation in Magnus. Our census of employee vaccination is nearly complete. We have enough data to make it clear that faculty/staff vaccination rates will be above 95%, and that confirmed vaccination rates among eligible students are nearing 90%. While DA is not currently mandating vaccination for faculty, staff and students, our medical advisory team has encouraged us to continue to discuss this option.
It is important to understand that this virus and its variants may force us to be more conservative, more aggressive, and more nimble about mitigation and transmission prevention strategies than we have in the past. However, we know from our experiences of the last 17 months that we all must work together, remain flexible, and be ready to adjust at any time.
Thank you for your patience and collaboration as we continue to navigate the pandemic. My colleagues and I are ready and eager to get back to work, play and learn with your children. Together, we can build a healthy, moral, happy, productive school year!
Head of School