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Head of School Community Update: December 31, 2021

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Head of School Community Update: December 31, 2021

Dear Bullis Families,

Bullis Community Update from Head of School, Christian Sullivan

I write briefly on the last day of another tumultuous year to remind you of our plan for the start of school next week.

  • Monday, January 3rd - Remote professional development day for teachers.
  • Tuesday, January 4th - Students and faculty COVID tested at school. Blair Center 8:15 am - 2:45 pm.
  • Wednesday, January 5th - No School. COVID testing results delivered.
  • Wednesday, January 5thHead of School Coffee postponed until January 12th.
  • Thursday, January 6th - School reopens on campus at 8 am. All students and faculty re-tested.

This plan is necessary because the results in the community have skyrocketed, and we are resolved to open school on campus for all students. At the height of the spike last winter (1.12.21), there were 348.72 cases per 100,000 in Montgomery County. Yesterday, there were 995.35 cases per 100,000. Nevertheless, initial results from South Africa suggest that the Omicron variant results in less severe illness, especially for those who are fully vaccinated, and particularly for those who have received a booster shot. There is also some evidence that this spike may be short-lived; let’s pray it is so.

As previously reported, everyone will be tested every Monday and Thursday for the foreseeable future. I believe this gives a greater degree of confidence that we are limiting the possibility of transmission at school - community members who test positive for COVID will not be on campus. It is essential that students who have tested positive off-campus recently provide the school with their positive test result and upload the positive result into Magnus; these students do not need to test for three months after this positive result unless they are experiencing symptoms. We already have the results if the student was tested on campus.

Additionally (hopefully, for a short period of time), we will be bolstering our protocols at school.

  • Masks - please ensure your child is wearing an excellent quality, well-fitted mask, preferably a surgical or KN95 or N95. Masks again need to be worn outside, and adults, including those vaccinated, need to wear masks when meeting with each other.
  • Lunch - in order to physically distance those eating, we will be reverting to brown bag lunches temporarily and having students and faculty eat in a variety of locations.
  • Athletics and Arts - we will be taking a layered approach to athletics and arts. We believe it is critical that students still participate, but this must be in an environment that is least conducive to the transmission of COVID. Details will be shared next week. Varsity athletic practices will recommence next Wednesday evening for those students who have received negative results from their Tuesday testing.

It is possible that the testing on Tuesday will result in positive results for students. Students who receive positive results will obviously have to isolate, and we will ensure that their education is facilitated very closely by our teachers. Parents whose children test positive will be contacted by their division director detailing how we will support the students’ education. Through significant experience, we know that live-streaming and a hybrid approach is a much less effective teaching model, and we will not be offering that modality.

It is also possible that teachers will test positive. In that instance, if the teachers are asymptomatic or feel well enough to do so, they will teach remotely - the students will be in the classroom, the teacher will be remote, and an available faculty member will be physically in the classroom to help facilitate learning. While less than ideal, this will allow for the continuation of school, providing, of course, that we have enough adults available to be physically present in the classrooms.

This is not the last letter of the year that I wanted to write to you, but I want you to be reassured that the Senior Leadership Team and I have given great thought about how to reopen school safely, and we are taking care of all the details. We met this morning, and I am confident we will be ready to open school on Thursday morning.

Pat Caulfield (Board Chair) and I will write to you on Monday evening, and I will write again on Wednesday afternoon/evening with news of our test results from Tuesday (and during the winter vacation) and any last-minute details for the start of school on Thursday. In the meantime, I hope you are able to say goodbye to 2021 in the company of friends and family and welcome the new year with hopefulness and joy.

Warmly,

christian sullivan signature

Christian G. Sullivan
Head of School