March 5, 2021
Dear BB&N Community:
As promised, I write today to talk about what our school life will look like after we return from March Break. As you know, both the COVID and the educational landscapes have been shifting at a dizzying pace these last few weeks, but this has not changed in any sense our guiding principles at BB&N: ensuring a safe, smart, and resilient learning environment for all of our students, faculty, and staff.
Re-entry testing for all members of our community
As we announced last week, BB&N will conduct mandatory re-entry testing coming out of Spring Break for all students and faculty who plan to be on campus. The pooled testing will take place primarily on Sunday, March 28, with some appointments also available on Monday, March 29. Classes will begin remotely on Tuesday, March 30, and will return in person on Thursday, April 1. Please note that this timeline is a result of the challenges we faced after the Winter Break with turnaround times and the challenges associated with collecting individual PCR tests from families providing their own test results. While it is difficult to predict how long it will take the lab to process results this time, we anticipate that any reflex testing required by positive pools will also be cleared in time for a Thursday return.
Our re-entry testing, of course, supplements the pooled testing program that we are conducting weekly for students and faculty/staff schoolwide. As a reminder—especially our Grade 4-6 parents for whom this marks the first week of testing—we update the pooled testing results for our community each weekend on our Dashboard page. As you can see, the positivity rates from our testing continue to be remarkably low.
As has been the case with any extended break so far this year, we ask that you follow the state travel order. Please be aware that if you gather, travel, or do anything that increases your “normal” risk, your student should wait at least 5 days before returning to campus. In an abundance of caution, we ask that your student test again at that point to ensure the safety of our community. And, of course, if you have any symptoms outlined in our COVID-19 Community Pledge—please stay home.
Increasing on-campus learning for MS and US students
As I outlined in my recent State of the School, we are committed to increasing the amount of on-campus time for our MS and US students in a manner that stays true to our existing safety protocols. When BB&N returns from Spring Break, the Middle School will revise their schedule to get students back to campus on Wednesdays in an alternating fashion: 7th graders on campus one week, 8th graders the next. The Upper School schedule for Grades 9-11 will be built around a three-week cycle that uses a Thursday rotation to equitably provide one additional on-campus day for two of the grades each of the week. Wednesdays will continue to be used for arts, activities, and athletics, as well as the much-needed addition of class-based social programming—in response to the clear feedback from our student “pulse” survey. Campus Directors will be in touch with MS and US families this weekend to share more details about the specific details of the post-Break schedules on each of their campuses.
What lies ahead
Over the course of the pandemic this past year, we have all learned that we rarely know what awaits around the next bend. A flexible mindset is key, and in that spirit I can tell you that BB&N will continue to adapt as the guidance continues to evolve from both the CDC and our state government. Some key issues still remain unresolved as we plan for the remainder of the year:
- Number one on the unresolved list is the vaccination schedule for our faculty and staff. Earlier this week, Governor Baker announced that educators statewide will be eligible to book vaccination appointments starting on March 11. Less certain, however, is how much supply will be available to vaccinate all educators at the outset of that eligibility date. My team and I have been researching potential alternatives for vaccinating our employees in as timely a fashion as possible. I will update you as soon as we have a window into the timing of getting our faculty and staff vaccinated.
- The battle continues over 3 feet of distance versus 6 feet of distance in schools, with different guidance coming from the CDC and the state. We will continue to monitor this guidance and engage in conversations with the Department of Health, our medical advisors, and other educators. This determination will be a key part of our decision about whether we can further increase on-campus time at the MS and US later in the spring.
- The CDC is expected to release an update very soon that will contain guidance for vaccinated individuals. This will impact how our faculty/staff are able to function once they have been fully vaccinated.
Above all, please know that we will approach the remainder of the year in the same manner we have navigated the last 12 months—focusing on safety while working to provide the best possible educational experience for your children. As always, we will keep you informed of our thinking along the way.
In my Boston Marathon analogy, I had always described this part of our school year as summiting Heartbreak Hill. Now that we’re approaching the top of the hill, the horizon looks bright indeed: our MS and US students are about to be on campus more often and our hope is that our educators will soon be able to get vaccinated. Thank you, as always, for your support and partnership along the way.
Dr. Jennifer Price
Head of School