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Head of School Briefing: October 2, 2020

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Head of School Briefing: October 2, 2020
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Dear Bullis Community,

This letter has significant organizational information pertaining to how we will increase opportunities for students to be on campus and how we will organize testing and school in the weeks immediately following the Thanksgiving, Winter, and Spring vacations. However, before I get to that, I would like to address the state of the world, and Bullis’s place in it.

We are living in turbulent times. As the world confronts this devastating pandemic, we are also faced with violence, disrespect, and uncertainty about our democratic institutions and the future in general. During these times, my most heartfelt aspiration is that Bullis is a bastion of light for inclusion, respectful behavior, safety, and an honorable pillar of stability for this community. I am proud that we try to live this daily. And that is not to say that everything is perfect at Bullis – there is always work to do; just as our Alma Mater states, “We at Bullis, ever striving…”

Inclusion is a word that is used easily, and I think it warrants a little more definition for our community. I believe there is a genuine desire at Bullis to authentically include people from diverse backgrounds, with diverse perspectives, opinions, and life experiences. Within Bullis, this diverse community comes together in our shared goal of raising well educated, caring citizens. However, there are limits to our inclusivity. It is antithetical to our mission and to our values to tolerate racist behavior or attitudes – white supremacist, Neo-Nazi or antisemitic views are never acceptable. Please know that I mention this now not because of anything that has occurred at Bullis specifically, but rather because of the state of the world as I see it. I commit to you that we will continue to strive to make Bullis that bastion of light.

I feel fortunate indeed to be surrounded at Bullis by ethical, sensible faculty, trustees, and parents who really want to do the right thing for our community and especially by our students. These are difficult moments, but I remain optimistic. We will remain focused on our students’ academic, artistic, and physical development, and support their families in raising young people of character.

And so on to those organizational issues I mentioned.

The Most Recent Test Results:

The third round of testing was carried out last Friday and Tuesday. There were 882 people tested and only one positive test. This one person, a member of our faculty, is isolating at home and will return to Bullis next week. We reported that case immediately to the Montgomery County Health Department on Saturday. After they investigated, it was determined that there were no close contacts within the Bullis community that needed to quarantine. We received the following email from the investigating nurse:

"At this time, based on the prevention strategies that Bullis has in place and the reports that [the faculty member] was not in close contact with the students we do not feel that the students need to quarantine at this time."

As previously reported, in the first round (August 24-26), we tested 862 people and had 4 positives. The second round (September 11-14) tested 868 people and had zero positives. Our overall test positivity rate is 0.002%. We use the PCR tests, the most sensitive tests, and are much more accurate than ‘rapid tests.’

Middle School In-Person Education Arrangements:

As a result of our low positivity rate, good compliance with protocols, and stable Montgomery County data (positivity rate and new cases per 100,000), we can now offer more on-campus education to Middle School students. We are planning this change because we believe it is safe to do so, and because of the relatively low number of additional students who will be on campus each day (6th grade will have an additional 20 students, the 7th grade will have an additional 24 students and the 8th grade will have an additional 31 students each day of in-person instruction.) We have the capacity in every classroom and other spaces to ensure that all students remain at least six feet apart.

We will start by bringing in the entire 6th grade on Monday, October 12th. The following day (Tuesday, October 13), we will bring the entire 6th and 7th grades to campus. The 6th, 7th, and 8th grades will be brought to campus on Thursday, October 15, and going forward. Of course, families can still choose to learn remotely. If a family wishes to change from remote learning to on-campus learning, please get in touch with Dr. Moreno at least 48 hours beforehand to ensure that all screening requirements are in place. Here is the schedule:

  • Mon, Oct 12: Entire 6th Grade, Blue 7th Grade, Blue 8th Grade
  • Tues, Oct 13: Entire 6th Grade, Entire 7th Grade, Blue 8th Grade
  • Wed, Oct 14: Everyone Remote
  • Thu, Oct 15: Entire 6th Grade, Entire 7th Grade, Entire 8th Grade
  • Fri, Oct 16: All Middle School In-Person

More details will be forthcoming from Dr. Moreno. Don’t hesitate to get in touch with either of us if we can help.

Upper School In-Person Education Arrangements:

In order to give Upper School students the opportunity to come together with their entire grade and to spend more time on campus, we are organizing for grades to come on to campus for community activities on some Wednesday mornings, from 8:00 am – 12:30 pm. Buses will run and lunch will be served. More details will be forthcoming from Mr. Pollicino at the beginning of next week. We hope to start these programs on Wednesday, October 14.

Safety and Testing after the Major Vacations; Changes to the Calendar:

We have given much thought to how to ensure health and safety after the major vacations. These periods of time present more potential risk to our community due to the possibility of more socializing, travel, and older siblings or extended family visiting after being in residential college settings. I urge families to maintain all health and safety measures and protocols during the vacations. In order to minimize the risk of transmission after the vacations, we have put together a comprehensive testing program that will result in some calendar changes. We need to avoid on-campus education after vacations until after everyone is tested.

Please note that the school year will now go through to Friday, June 11th rather than earlier in that week. Further, any inclement weather days will result in remote learning rather than a snow day with no teaching or learning. Of all the unpopular things I have done in a very short time at Bullis, I understand that this might take the biscuit! The head grinch who stole the snow days. Sorry! We need to protect instructional time. This program and the changes are detailed below, and the division directors will be in touch very soon with specific details.

Post-Thanksgiving Break:

  • Mon Nov 30: All faculty Tested and Virtual Professional Development
  • Tues Dec 1: No School for LS and MS, only drive-through testing. US Fully Remote
  • Wed Dec 2: No School for US, only drive-through testing. LS in school (Provided test results are in.) MS Fully Remote
  • Thurs Dec 3: LS and MS In School (Provided test results are in.) US Fully Remote
  • Fri Dec 4: LS and MS in School (Provided test results are in.) US Fully Remote

Post-Winter Break:

  • Mon Jan 4: All faculty Tested and Virtual Professional Development
  • Tues Jan 5: No School for LS and MS, only drive-through testing. US Fully Remote
  • Wed Jan 6: No School for US, only drive-through testing. LS in school (Provided test results are in.) MS Fully Remote
  • Thurs Jan 7: LS and MS in School (Provided test results are in.) US Fully Remote
  • Fri Jan 8: LS and MS in School (Provided test results are in.) US Fully Remote

Post-Spring Break:

  • Mon Apr 5: School Holiday
  • Tues Apr 6: No School for LS and MS. Only drive-through testing (Students and faculty).US Fully Remote
  • Wed Apr 7: No School for US, only drive-through testing. LS in school (Provided test results are in.) MS Fully Remote
  • Thu Apr 8: LS and MS in School (Provided test results are in.) US Fully Remote
  • Fri Apr 9: LS and MS in School (Provided test results are in.) US Fully Remote

This is a lot of information! Sorry for the deluge, but I wanted to get it to you as soon as possible. We have updated the calendar, and the concise version is in the link below.

Updated 2020-2021 Condensed Calendar

And one last thing – I am being urged by many physicians in our community (and the Montgomery County Health Department) to encourage everyone to get a flu shot – adults and young people. We will be making the flu shot available at no charge to all faculty members. I encourage you to get a flu shot too!

Please have a wonderful weekend, and as usual, don’t hesitate to get in touch if I can help with anything: christian_sullivan@bullis.org

Sincerely,

Christian G. Sullivan
Head of School