COVID-19 Recent News & Updates

Next Week’s Testing and Two Positive Cases

Dear Colleagues, Families and Students,

Tomorrow we get a fresh opportunity to start building a better year.

One way to help: Pre-register now for COVID testing next week at DA. Our partners at Express Test NC have further streamlined their process and are prepared to test over 1,200 people. You, your relatives, nannies, babysitters and neighbors are all welcome. Average drive-through time for pre-registered patients is 5 minutes. Here’s the link. 

  • Monday, Jan. 4 from 8 a.m. to noon
  • Tuesday, Jan. 5 from 8 a.m. to noon and from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.
  • Thursday, Jan. 7 from 8 a.m. to noon

Two community members (one Upper School student and one staff member) have informed the school in recent days about positive COVID-19 diagnoses. Both are now following all DA and Durham County Department of Public Health guidelines for isolation and return to the community. Given the timing of the cases, DA has not identified any students, faculty or staff beyond immediate family members as potential close contacts. HIPAA laws and CDC/DHHS guidelines limit what Durham Academy is able to share publicly in these situations. We are grateful for the prompt and transparent communication from both families.

Below is my full message from Dec. 18 — including our expectations regarding learning from home after travel or gatherings during the break and communication with the school about any positive cases during the break and our remote week.

Thanks for your collaboration off campus (wearing masks, washing hands, maintaining safe distance, and staying home when sick) so that we can spend more time on campus in 2021. With the pandemic and so much more, our success in 2021 will depend on personal responsibility and mutual support. 

Happy New Year!

Michael Ulku-Steiner
Head of School



Dear DA Families, 

As we pause for Winter Break, I write to thank you for your partnership through four months of on-campus learning. Remarkably, we arrive at this point with just four COVID-19 cases (two students and two faculty/staff members) and zero transmissions at school. We are also grateful that we have not had to quarantine a single class or send home groups of students this fall. All this required faithful adherence to our protective protocols, good fortune, abundant patience and tremendous collaboration from you and your children. So much of the credit for this fall’s success goes to our faculty and staff, who have made unprecedented sacrifices to advance the school’s mission. We are grateful. 

We hope that everyone enjoys a much-needed break over the next two weeks. We look forward to seeing all our students — bright-eyed and ready to make 2021 a great year — for remote classes on Monday morning, Jan. 4. We plan to return to campus on Monday, Jan. 11.  

Travel and Gatherings

The smooth continuation of on-campus learning in January depends on the choices we make during Winter Break. The CDC and NCDHHS are clear in their recommendations to avoid travel and gathering with people outside your household. If you do plan to gather with people beyond your immediate family, follow the CDC recommendations to make your celebration safer. If you choose to travel over the holiday season, please keep your student(s) home for 10 days after your return. Students may also return after 7 days with a negative result of a PCR test administered 5 days after returning home. Throughout the break, wherever and whenever you are with those beyond your household, please wear a mask, wash your hands often and practice social distancing.

Testing at Durham Academy

During our remote week in January, we will once again host drive-through PCR testing sessions in collaboration with Express Test NC at the times below. Pre-registration through this link is strongly recommended. All are welcome.  

  • Monday, Jan. 4 from 8 a.m. to noon
  • Tuesday, Jan. 5 from 8 a.m. to noon and from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.
  • Thursday, Jan. 7 from 8 a.m. to noon

Information on free, no-strings-attached PCR testing is also available through the links below:

Express Test NC’s other sites in Durham, Chapel Hill and Cary (drive-through testing available 7 days/week)

Communication with the School

Even over the break, as per the DA Community Health Compact, you will need to report any positive cases within your family. If you or anyone in your household receives a positive test, please contact Gem Gates immediately at or 919-489-3400 ext. 6513. It is beneficial for the whole community when families are transparent and prompt in communicating with Gem, who is conscientious about privacy and adept at guiding families through COVID protocols.

Finally, thanks to the 458 of you who have responded so far to our December Family Feedback Survey. If you have not yet shared your experience and suggestions, please do so before it closes at midnight.

On behalf of my colleagues, I wish you and your families a restful break, a joyous holiday season and a healthy New Year. May we continue to use the challenges of this pandemic to inspire compassion and growth in ourselves and those around us.


Michael Ulku-Steiner
Head of School

PS. This flyer offers concrete reasons for hope in 2021. As the NCDHHS puts it, “Tested, safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines will help us defeat the virus, get back in control of our lives and back to the people and places we love.”