Throughout the summer, while we planned for the safe return of our students and faculty to campus, one refrain governed many of our conversations and decision-making processes: “The likelihood of a positive case in our community is more a question of when, not if.” So, we have planned and continue to plan for that “when.” As many of you will recall from the summer, we hosted a number of forums to update you of our progress along the way, what new health and safety protocols would be in place, and how we would keep the health and safety of our community at the fore with each and every decision we made.
I remember in late July and early August hosting forums to discuss how we would respond to a positive case on campus and our commitment to meeting or exceeding the guidelines put forth by DESE (Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education) or the local health department. It was an important planning exercise in the abstract that I now want to revisit. Cases are again on the rise in the state and in some surrounding communities. Although most of the communities that are home to our students and families remain in the ‘green’ based on the community level reporting map being used by the state, I will review our plans so that you can feel confident and assured that we are ready should a positive case be identified at Belmont Day.
Internal Contact Tracing Efforts
Internally, we have a contact tracing guide that can identify for every student and faculty member on campus precisely what the next steps would look like should someone at BDS test positive for COVID-19. As a reminder, in pre-kindergarten to grade 4, if a member of one cohort were to test positive, only the cohort of that student would be asked to quarantine, as would the teacher or teachers who have been in class with that cohort. Quarantine, in this instance, would be for 14 days per state and CDC guidelines.
In grades 5 to 8, because our teaching structure means that multiple teachers work with each cohort, our first response would be for the whole grade to go offsite and continue their learning remotely until they were ready for a safe return. Depending on our assurance testing (which we would administer to all students and faculty while they are offsite), we would work to get the cohorts and teachers without a case back as quickly and safely as possible.
An equally important element of our contact tracing plan is the identification of so-called ‘contacts of contacts.’ Imagine, for instance, a case involving a cohort in which a student has an older sibling. Of course, if the younger sibling were to be the positive case, the sibling would be a direct contact and would quarantine immediately. If, however, the younger sibling were in the cohort, but not the positive case, then that older sibling would become a so-called contact of a contact and would not need to quarantine with the younger sibling’s cohort.
What does ‘quarantine’ mean for my child at home?
If your child is home quarantining, there are some fundamental guidelines we would ask that they follow. First, we would ask that our community commitment to safe layering practices extend to home during the quarantine time:
- Staying home and leaving only when absolutely necessary, such as for doctor’s appointments.
- Being as separate as possible from other family members. Of course, we understand this needs to be balanced with children’s needs. If possible, try for their own sleeping space and bathroom.
- Not sharing cups, utensils, dishes, bedding, towels and other personal items.
- Maintaining 6-foot distance and wearing masks in the house when not able to be separate.
- Continuing with excellent hand hygiene, especially before and after eating, before and after touching your mask, and after using the bathroom.
- Monitoring your child for signs of illness, including checking their temperature twice a day.
As a part of a team that is regularly assessing our practices and protocols to ensure that they are staying consistently more conservative than those of DESE and our local board of health, please know that each and every COVID-related policy we have put into place has your children’s and your health and safety at its center. As cases begin to rise and the cold and flu season begins in earnest, a reminder of what will happen should ‘if’ turn into ‘when’ is an important and worthwhile one. As always, if you have any questions, I invite you to attend my weekly office hours on Thursdays at 6 p.m. (next on October 22) or reach out to Liz LaRocque, Deborah Brissenden, or me.
Meanwhile, the safety precautions we have been takingmask wearing, keeping our physical distance, being outside as often as possible, washing our hands and practicing good hygienehave allowed us to enjoy four delightful weeks of onsite learning, and they have served as a critical reminder of why we are going to these lengths. As has been the case from the start of our work, all of our efforts are rooted in our desire to keep school open for as many students as possible for as long as possible. Thank you, as always, for joining us in that effort.