March 11, 2020
Dear Parents,

We just finished a Board of Trustee conference call to assess our current situation regarding COVID-19. We are aware that several schools in Fairfield County have announced closures based on reported potential exposures in their school community. As of 6pm this evening, Newtown Schools are open tomorrow.

HVWS will follow the Newtown Schools and Public Health Department and will remain open tomorrow/ Thursday. Friday is already a scheduled day off for a Staff Development Day. However, staff training has been postponed and we will concentrate our efforts planning for project-based, distance learning in the event of a school closure in the near future.

In addition, we continue to have students home sick with confirmed cases of the flu, type A and B, and strep. Again, we are in consultation with the Newtown Public Health Department frequently to keep on top of any out of the ordinary trends in illness for this time of year.

For the time being, we are adjusting our sick day policy from a 24-hour waiting period to a 48-hour waiting period for a child to return to school after a fever of 100 or more, vomiting or diarrhea. Please If your child is experiencing other symptoms that might be related to a virus (such as a cough or rash), please also consult with your child's pediatrician regarding a time frame for returning to school.
We will do our best to give parents as much notice as possible should a closure occur, but please be aware it is possible for a closure to happen from one day to the next.   There are few families currently opting for social distancing. We do encourage and fully support families, faculty, and staff to make decisions that reflect their own health needs and personal comfort.

Our Task Force is now meeting daily and every other day Board of Trustees conference calls have been established to keep abreast of rapidly changing developments. The health and safety of our community is our top priority.

The HVWS Office
From previous communication:
Regarding COVID-19, the CDC and Connecticut Department of Public Health offer similar guidelines for preventing the spread of the virus that causes this illness as they do for influenza and the common cold:
  • Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash. (Coughing into your elbow is preferable to coughing into your hand.)
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
Cleaning and Hygiene at School
We are currently taking the following steps:
  • The school cleaners are disinfecting all high touchpoints such as doorknobs, light switches, etc. with each visit.
  • Desks and tables will be wiped down each day.
  • Grade School students will discontinue the use of mugs in the classrooms as well as school utensils and we ask parents to send your child in with a water bottle as well as utensils (as needed) to go back and for the with them each day since we do not have a dishwasher in the grade school buildings.
  • Reinforcing proper handwashing techniques.
  • Reinforcing sneezing and coughing etiquette.
  • Reinforcing that snacks, lunch, and water bottles are not shared among students!
Updated information on recommendations for travel can be found on the travel information page on the CDC's site: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/travelers/index.html. If you must travel, please consider the potential risks involved in visiting your destination and avoid locations experiencing sustained community transmission. Keep in mind that guidance may change while you are away, or after you have returned home. You could be required to self-quarantine, and you could end up stranded in a location that comes under quarantine while you are there.
We are following CDC recommendations that if you arrive from an area where there is a travel advisory, you and your children will need to follow any self-quarantine guidelines and promptly report a fever, cough, or difficulty breathing. Currently, the guidelines for self-quarantine cover a 14-day period at home watching for any changes in your family's health, avoiding contact with others, and contacting your healthcar e provider for guidance should symptoms develop.

Planning for Parents
In order to feel better prepared in the event of any work, school, or life disruptions, we recommend parents begin to think about necessary childcare plans and your own work from home possibilities. Here is a helpful tip sheet to help parents remain calm and begin thinking through any necessary alternatives: https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2020/03/03/811656226/pandemic-panic-these-5-tips-can-help-you-regain-your-calm .

Take care of yourself! Step up your family's immune boosting practices. Remember fear and anxiety can adversely affect your health, so work on staying grounded and calm with the aim of being prepared, not panicked.

Finally, please remember that the risk of contracting or transmitting the coronavirus is not connected with race, ethnicity, religion, or nationality. As a school we will do our part to prevent social stigma and discrimination and instead come through this with a spirit of compassion and cooperation as a community.