November 20, 2020
Dear BB&N Families,
I thought I would take a moment to share with you the answers to a few questions I have been asked frequently over the last several weeks. I hope the answers prove helpful as we collectively navigate this next chapter of our school year.
What’s the latest on the positive cases?
Both on-campus members of our community who tested positive over the past two weeks are doing well. In addition we have found no evidence of community spread from either of these cases, which reinforces our commitment to the safety measures and cohorting we have in place on all three campuses.
Why were members of our community identified as close contacts?
Based on what we have experienced, it’s important to remind all families about the policy change recently established by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) regarding the definition of close contact. Specifically, the CDC now describes a close contact as, “someone who was within 6 feet of an infected person for a cumulative total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period starting from 2 days before illness onset.” This threshold is often met during athletics and could also be invoked, as it was in our second case, when an adult is working with younger children. Per updated state guidance, any BB&N student identified as a close contact is required to quarantine, and study remotely, for at least 14 days from the date of last exposure, or 10 days, provided all of these conditions are satisfied.
What are your thoughts about staying open?
Let me begin by saying once again that our plan from the beginning has been to stay open as long as possible. This intent has not changed. So much of what we are doing each and every day (masks, 6 feet of distance, hand hygiene, cohorting students) derives from our effort to stay open. While some cases are being seen, schools as a whole are not being identified as places where the virus is spreading. So, my thinking is pretty simple: Stay vigilant. Ensure a strong testing plan moving forward (see my letter from October 27). React to instances of the virus within our community thoughtfully, transparently, and quickly. Furthermore, if we do have an instance where we have to go remote based on cases within our school, I envision that we would only transition the impacted cohort(s) to remote mode—one of the main reasons we created cohorts in the first place.
Why are students in grades 7-12 not back on campus every day?
Stated simply, we do not have the room on our Middle and Upper School campuses to accomplish full attendance while maintaining 6 feet of distance—a standard that we consider, based on CDC guidance, to be essential not only to ensuring the safety of our faculty, staff, and students, but also allowing our campuses to stay open.
What about testing after Thanksgiving?
I want to remind you that we are requiring re-entry testing after the Thanksgiving Break for every member of our community who plans to be on campus in December. The testing will take place on Sunday, November 29 and Monday, November 30. If you have not yet registered your child(ren) for a testing slot, please refer to this email sent on November 18th by our Health & Safety team.
How about travel and family gatherings over Thanksgiving?
I join numerous health officials and the CDC in strongly encouraging you to avoid Thanksgiving travel and gatherings. It is clear that we are in a critical stage of this virus, and our vigilance during this time cannot be overstated. As a reminder, here is the State guidance on travel and gatherings. I want to highlight that our testing after Thanksgiving does not change my thoughts about this. As you know, testing is only about a point in time and, as we have seen, is not a panacea. So it is critical we all remain vigilant, follow our COVID-19 Community Pledge, and understand that re-entry testing may not fully account for exposure over the holiday weekend.
Will classes “cover” all the material that they would in a normal year?
I spent Tuesday afternoon with the 20+ academic leaders from all three campuses discussing this exact question. The simple answer is that the challenges of this year will result in us having to make some coordinated modifications to our curriculum. These modifications will be implemented with a focus on ensuring students are taught the necessary content and skills to be prepared for a smooth transition into the 2021-2022 school year. Much more to come on this from Dr. Jed Lippard, our Chief Learning Officer, but please know we are paying close attention to this matter and will be devoting dedicated time to faculty curriculum planning within and across campuses in the coming months.
How can I show my appreciation during the holiday season for BB&N faculty and staff?
As the Parents’ Association communicated in their letter yesterday, an online gift-giving campaign has been launched to provide BB&N parents and caregivers an avenue to recognize the dedication of the school’s 300+ employees. Be sure to check out their email for more details on that initiative. I’d also like to thank the PA for their partnership in ensuring that this incredible generosity is distributed equitably among our faculty and staff schoolwide—it plays a crucial role in supporting our efforts to sustain a uKnighted community. Thank you all!
Okay, that’s all the questions for now. I am sure more will emerge, though, so keep them coming. Thank you, as always, for walking with us on this journey.
Dr. Jennifer Price
Head of School