October 27, 2020

Dear BB&N Community,

If you had told me back in August that we would still have our students on campus as we head into November, I would have signed on in a second. Now I am hoping for even more and am writing to outline a plan to double down on our efforts to keep our students in school in person. There are significant benefits to having our students connect with their teachers and classmates on campus, and only through a collective commitment to this goal is it possible. Unfortunately, we are all seeing signs that the landscape around us is growing more and more challenging. Infection rates are rising across the state, school districts are moving toward remote learning, ice rinks are being shut down, and we are heading into the colder months. As a result, we need to make a few adaptations to give us the best possible chance to keep our community healthy and allow our campuses to remain open in the months ahead. 

Below, I outline the testing changes we are implementing, share guidance from the state that underscores the importance of our uKnighted Community Pledge, highlight how we can all help with this goal, and end with a few important announcements. I apologize in advance for the length of this email. As you will see, a lot of logistic pieces need to be put in place to make our plan successful, but it is worth reading to the end :-). 

Testing Plan Moving Forward
With the support of our Board of Trustees, we have developed a more robust testing plan that we believe will be an important part of our plan to remain open:
  • Immediately after both our Thanksgiving Break and our Winter Break, we will conduct mandatory re-entry testing for all students, faculty, and staff who intend to be on campus. This PCR testing will be conducted in a very similar fashion to how we opened school in early September. 
  • The testing will be administered on our Upper School campus by our testing partner PhysicianOne, and samples will be processed by the Broad Institute.
  • Testing to return from Thanksgiving Break will take place on Sunday, November 29 and Monday, November 30. Testing to return from Winter Break will take place on Sunday, January 3 and Monday, January 4.
  • School will not be held, remotely or in person, on Monday, November 30 and Monday, January 4. 
  • All grades B-12 will engage remotely on Tuesday, December 1 and Tuesday, January 5, in order to give time for all testing results to return. 
  • Each campus will be in touch with you about plans for Tuesday’s remote learning and the schedule for Wednesday through Friday for those first weeks back.
  • Further detail on times and sign-up for our on-campus testing dates will be sent in a separate email. 

In addition to the mandatory re-entry testing noted above, we will also continue to conduct voluntary PCR testing for faculty and staff each Friday until we are able to put a surveillance testing program in place. Since the start of school, we have conducted more than 900 tests, and thankfully not a single positive case has yet been detected.

Moving into the 2021 portion of our school year, we are working hard to figure out the best options for weekly surveillance testing in our community. We have been in touch with a number of experts in this area, including members of our parent community, and we are optimistic that a promising solution awaits. More to come on this in the near future.

Updated Health and Safety Guidance 
I want to point out a few other notes relating to safety guidance that have recently emerged from the state:

  • With the holiday season just around the corner, I want to remind everyone about the travel order mandated by the state. Also, please be aware that any student whose travel requires a PCR test for COVID-19 must wait to receive their negative lab result before returning to campus. 

  • It is clear that youth/club sports are heavily impacting many schools in terms of positive cases and the fact that entire teams are being contract traced. For example, you probably already heard about the temporary pause on all indoor ice rink and ice skating facilities in Massachusetts due to more than 30 COVID clusters traced to ice hockey activities. I am very worried that some of these programs are not adhering to health and safety guidelines and ask that you think critically about engaging in any activity that puts our community at risk. I am especially concerned about this as many of these activities move indoors.

  • The state is highlighting a reminder that people should be wearing face coverings at all times while carpooling. Additional safety points about carpooling can be found here

  • Last week, the Centers for Disease Control heightened their definition for a close contact to anyone who was within six feet of an infected person for a cumulative total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period, starting two days before the onset of illness. BB&N, of course, will continue to consult closely with the Cambridge Department of Public Health to observe the proper protocols in any potential positive case or close contact alert that might emerge in the future.

All of this highlights how important it is for us all to adhere to our COVID-19 Community Pledge. As we have seen across our nation, face coverings, physical distancing, hand hygiene, and our shared adherence to the pledge—both in and out of school—are essential to ensuring that our campuses remain open.

A uKnighted Community
A number of community members have asked me how they can help us through these challenging times. My first response, take a moment to thank a member of our faculty and staff. I am humbled each and every day by the work that faculty and staff are doing to make this new reality work, and I know acknowledgment from you would go a long way. 

Second, as previously discussed, in order to open and keep school open this year we have already incurred $3.8 million of COVID-related expenses, which translates into an additional cost of $3,670 per student. The Board and I agree that these expenses are critical for BB&N to provide the top-notch educational experience our school is known for. While we feel it is important to not pass these additional costs onto our families at this point, my responsibility for the financial health of BB&N also compels me to make a pleafor anyone who may be ableto consider an increased contribution to The BB&N Fund this year

Finally, a Few Announcements...
  • We have decided to cancel our half-day of school on Wednesday, November 25th. We made this decision given that much of what we normally do on campus that day is not possible this year (Grandfriends Day, pie at my house, special assemblies). 

  • I am excited to announce that we have been able to secure additional space for our Middle School by renting a building from St. Peter’s Church, which is directly adjacent to the Middle School campus behind the Carriage House. This addition will allow us to move lunch inside in a safe manner and provide additional instructional space.

  • Dr. Jed Lippard, Chief Learning Officer, will be hosting two different Community Book Discussions in early December for any members of the BB&N adult community who would like to participate. The first book will be Educated: A Memoir by Tara Westover—check out this link for more information.

  • We shared a letter with Grades 6-12 yesterday, co-signed by the 16 Independent School League heads, to update families about the ISL winter sports season, which is shaping up to look a lot like it did this fall. In the next week Chuck Richard, Director of Athletics, will provide families with more detailed information about the BB&N winter season.

  • I am pleased to announce that this weekend will be a Head’s Homework Holiday, which means there will be no homework due on Monday, November 2nd. I hope this small gesture will support our students to take an important break and give our seniors time to work on college applications. 

Thank you as always for your strong and enduring support of all the efforts noted in this letter—I know it’s a lot for everyone to manage and stay on top of. But as I’m reminded every single day I see our students on campus, IT’S WORTH IT! 

Best,

Dr. Jennifer Price
Head of School
P.S. A reminder that if you or your family are struggling in any way due to the implications of the pandemic, please let us know via this confidential form. We are ready to help in any way we can!