Dear Bullis Families,
Despite the complications that COVID and the weather have thrown at us the last few days, we are ready and really looking forward to opening school tomorrow at 8:00 am. The faculty had a terrific meeting on Monday and have spent the last few days getting ready. As teachers were getting their negative results throughout the day today, many were coming onto campus to get ready for the start of 2022. We are prepared!
As I mentioned in my community letters of December 15th and December 31st, we were not optimistic about the spread of the Omicron variant, and that pessimism was, unfortunately, well-founded. The numbers in the county today are staggering–1750 per 100,000 over the last seven days. This spike is reflected in the number of constituents who reported to us that they had tested positive during the winter vacation, as well as from our own testing of students and faculty during the break (339 tested/35 positive) and in our testing numbers from Tuesday. Yesterday, we tested 992 people–60 students and 17 faculty (5 teachers) tested positive. Additionally, we have some faculty members who need to tend to family members; they will also be absent from school in the coming days. This unavoidable absenteeism will stretch us in the coming days, but those with more flexible schedules will step in to cover classes where necessary. I wish all those who have contracted COVID a speedy recovery and am very grateful to all of those who, through their additional work, will enable us to continue school in person. Further, we have four colleagues who will be absent in the kitchen; please bear with us as we work through these difficult days.
Fortunately, despite the rising numbers, it is somewhat comforting to see that the percentage of those who are becoming seriously ill is far less than with the Delta variant, and the vast majority of young people, especially, seem to be minimally affected. To further mitigate possible effects, we will be offering a Pfizer booster clinic for eligible students (we believe that the CDC will follow the recommendation of the FDA and approve the booster shot for 12-15-year-olds shortly) and adults as soon as we can arrange it. Again, please remind your student that they must wear a mask properly at all times when on campus. Please provide them with a good quality mask–preferably a surgical or N95/KN95 mask. A poor-quality cloth mask is not acceptable. For the coming weeks, while this spike is at its height, we will be asking athletes to wear masks too.
The question of how long a COVID-positive person needs to isolate has become more complicated recently, with conflicting opinions even from the same institutions. However, the most recent CDC guidance says that people can isolate for five days (the date of the positive test is Day 0) and, on the fifth day, take a rapid test to come out of isolation. Accordingly, we are directing our COVID-positive constituents to isolate for five days, and, if they are symptom-free, to take a rapid COVID test at home on Day 5, reach out to the School Nurse, and submit the results via Magnus. Once the negative rapid results are received and reviewed, individuals may return to campus, where they will continue masking and observing additional safety protocols through Day 10 of their diagnosis (such as eating snacks and lunch distanced from the larger student population and not participating in high-risk activities/sports). If the Health Department provides a contrary date on when to exit isolation, the Health Department’s directions should be followed. Please follow up with the School Nurse in this situation. Finally, if your student tested positive over the Winter Break, is asymptomatic, and is currently isolating for 10 days per the previous CDC guidance and you would like to remove them from isolation earlier following the new guidance, please contact Associate Head, Tim Simpson, who will help you through that process.
And, if things weren’t complicated enough, there is now a prediction of snow for Friday! Arghhhhhh is all I can say. If we do have a snow event, we will run an asynchronous school day. Teachers will instruct students tomorrow and provide work for Friday. Teachers will be available by email. At 10 am, advisory will take place synchronously in Upper School, and the Middle School will hold a synchronous assembly. Lower School homeroom teachers will have synchronous plans too. I sincerely hope we will be in school on Friday.
Winter, both metaphorically and literally, will pass. I am ready, and I am sure you are too. This article from the New York Times earlier in the week lays out what the American Academy of Pediatrics and others have been saying for a long time–students need to be in school and get back to normal. I commit to you that this is my goal in the coming months.
More on Monday from me, I am sad to say, and hopefully not before. See you tomorrow morning and, I pray, on Friday too.
Christian G. Sullivan
Head of School