January 5, 2021
Dear BB&N Community,
Happy new year and welcome back from what I hope was a relaxing Winter Break for all. I want to thank you for your collective participation in our COVID-19 re-entry testing program held on Sunday and Monday. We conducted 1,260 tests over the 2 days with 7 positive cases (0.56%) identified. These cases correspond to 2 students in separate grades at the Lower School and 2 students in separate grades at the Upper School, in addition to 3 staff members.
Because on-campus contact has not occurred for more than two weeks among any member of our community, no additional action concerning any of these positive cases is required. We will stay in close contact with these community members in the days ahead, and we wish them all well. Of course, per our established policy, any member of our community who tests positive for COVID-19 will not return to campus until they have followed quarantine guidelines and have been cleared by the Department of Public Health. In addition, I want to remind you that we only report positive individual cases to the community if the cases involve any type of on-campus exposure or were discovered as a result of our testing.
Given this low positivity rate, we are pleased to welcome our LS students back to campus tomorrow and our MS/US students back on Thursday/Friday. However, please be reminded that if you gathered, traveled, or did anything over the latter part of the break that increased your “normal” risk, please make sure that your child(ren) wait at least 5 days after the potential exposure before returning to campus. In addition, we would also encourage your child(ren) to test again at that point, in advance of returning on campus. And, of course, for anyone who is experiencing any symptoms outlined in our COVID-19 Community Pledge—please stay home. This vigilance is enormously important as we enter the heart of winter. Thank you as always for your attention to these important measures and your continued partnership in keeping all of our community members as safe as possible.
In that same spirit of enhancing our health and safety protocols, I am pleased to report that we plan to roll out a pooled testing program starting in two weeks at the Upper School with plans to roll this out on other campuses as soon as logistically possible. Pooled testing (also known as surveillance testing) offers BB&N the opportunity to increase our frequency of COVID-19 testing with students across the school in a manner that does not substantially disrupt our instructional time. As you will recall, we piloted two different pooled testing programs at the Upper School in the weeks before Winter Break. We will share more details about this program over the coming two weeks.
As you might remember, our Reopening Plan in August outlined criteria in addition to the state regulations that must be met for cross-cohort programming: 1) it occurs outside, 2) all participants wear face coverings, 3) are spaced at least 6 feet apart, and 4) adult supervision is present. As we move into the cold-weather months—and considering our access to a surveillance testing program as well as the fact that we have not seen spread within BB&N—we plan to modify our protocols to allow for cross-cohort programming/classes to happen inside, as long as they adhere to the other 3 criteria and are still within all state guidances. Any exceptions, such as athletics, will still require prior approval by the Health & Safety Committee. This modification will begin at the Upper School and you can expect to hear more details, if and as they might apply to your child’s program/classes.
We’ve Made the Turn!
Even at this moment when we regather after two weeks of hopefully having recharged our batteries, I want to acknowledge the extra fatigue and stress that this extraordinary year has layered onto each and every one of us in the BB&N community. I know it’s a lot to deal with and I’m frankly in awe of all of you and the way you are holding it together. I am convinced that a major difficulty so far has been that we’ve known we are running the proverbial equivalent of the Boston Marathon, and yet we’ve had no way of truly knowing how long it might take to get to the finish line.
However, I believe the recent news and trends—including the incredible news of the authorization and launch of two different COVID-19 vaccines—finally gives us helpful insight into where we are in the race. As someone who lived for many years by this part of the race, I’d compare where we are in this school year to having just made the Mile 17 turn from Route 16 onto Commonwealth Avenue in Newton. A lot of taxing miles are behind us, yet the most challenging hills await us in the few miles ahead. Similarly, the 10 weeks between now and Spring Break will probably be the hardest of our entire school year. But in the same way that the crowds always do at Heartbreak Hill, I know that we will support and be patient with each other over this next portion of the school calendar. The path to the Boylston Street finish line is now clear and achievable. I am confident that we will get to the top of Heartbreak Hill as a UKnighted community by March Break!
Dr. Jennifer Price
Head of School