Dear Bullis Families,
What a beautiful Friday to end the first five-day school week of the year! And of course, the weekends can be Bullis days too. Tomorrow we have the first cross country meet of the year at Georgetown Prep, and Varsity Football is playing Avalon here at Bullis (7 pm). It’s so good to see our students fully engaged in all their different activities, and not just athletics:
- The Upper School Fall Open Studio Art has a full roster of students working on independent projects. Watch out for news of their show opening in November.
- Rehearsals and set building are underway for the fall musical, Little Shop of Horrors. Be sure to get your tickets for October 29th or 30th.
- Dance students are prepping for their pep rally and Fall Dance performances.
- The music ensembles, the band, and jazz groups are getting ready for their shows.
- The second annual Family Arts Night—a fun-filled night of music, drama, dance, and fine art activities for Lower and Middle School students—is scheduled for September 30th.
Parents are pretty busy too. Thanks for supporting your children and the school through attendance at Back-To-School Nights over the last two weeks, social gatherings, coffees, and various sporting events and shows. Bullis is a fulcrum of our community, and it is so good to see people using the school and campus. While we are not completely back to normal, we are doing our utmost to ensure our students are engaged in not just their academic, athletic, and arts activities, but social events too. For example, we will be holding the Upper School Homecoming dance and have rented a large marquee and dance floor so that it can be held safely outside. While these are extra expenses for the school, we believe that our young people need these social moments, and especially those with tradition and meaning. It is beyond worth it!
In less encouraging news, I was distraught to read the statistics shared by Montgomery County Public Schools this week indicating that the proficiency of their tested students in math and literacy plummeted last year. There is now clear evidence that not being physically present in school is a public health risk, not only academically but with regards to mental and emotional health too. I am worried about the arc of this pandemic and will not be surprised if the numbers of new cases in Montgomery County spike as winter approaches. You can track COVID-19 numbers in Montgomery County. I find page 2 of 7 to be particularly useful. Just like last year, we will do our very utmost to fully educate our students, and I am determined to do so without resorting to livestreamed, remote education if at all possible, but I need your help in this effort. Please continue to remain vigilant and do your utmost to follow school and public health protocols that are keeping our community safe.
Vaccinations and Exemptions:
As you know, I have mandated vaccination for eligible students and employees as soon as a vaccine has been fully authorized by the FDA. There is a procedure in place for individuals to apply for religious and medical exemptions. Of our 900 students and 250 employees, eleven students and four employees have had exemptions approved.
The Upper School sports leagues that we play in (ISL for girls and IAC for boys) both recently decided that they would require all athletes competing under their auspices to be vaccinated in time for the winter athletics season. This does have implications for students at Bullis. As you know, currently we only require students 16 years and older to be vaccinated. When the winter season starts on November 10th (ISL) and 15th (IAC), all athletes will need to be vaccinated, other than those with school-authorized exemptions. Fortunately, of our 250 students in the Upper School who are 15 years of age or younger, only 24 remain unvaccinated, even though it is not yet required. In any event, it seems that the FDA is close to fully authorizing a vaccine for this age range. Given these realities, I do hope that all our students who are eligible (12 years of age and up) are vaccinated as soon as possible.
Our second vaccination clinic is on October 8 from 2-5 pm. If you have not already done so and would like to sign up your student or anyone else in your family to receive the flu vaccine, please sign up [link can be found in your email].
COVID-19 Testing and Results to Date:
My medical advisors and I continue to believe that comprehensive testing, including of vaccinated individuals, is an important weapon in the fight to prevent transmission on campus; there is strong evidence that even vaccinated, asymptomatic individuals can have a high, transmissible viral load. And while weekly testing is just a point in time, it does give us all a level of confidence and comfort that we do not have widespread infection or transmission at school.
Of course, those vaccinated are much less likely to contract the virus or have bad outcomes if they do. This week, we carried out 1,078 tests, all of which produced negative results. This year, we have conducted 4,790 tests, including the baseline testing at the beginning of the year. There has been a total of four positive student tests, three of which arose before the start of school. Three adults have also tested positive, two of which arose before the start of school. Our test positivity rate is 0.15%.
And last, but certainly not least, I want to let you know that the Board of Trustees met on Wednesday and unanimously passed a motion affirming the strategic plan that was presented to them by the strategic plan steering committee. So many of you were involved in this process, and I am extremely grateful. The plan presents a compelling, exciting vision for the future of Bullis over the next five years. At its heart, it is student-centered, and we look forward to sharing it with you next week. In the meantime, have a wonderful weekend.
Christian G. Sullivan
Head of School