In the paragraphs which follow, you will find Northwest Christian School's updated COVID-19 Campus Readiness Plan. With each passing week, our school community learns more about management of the virus and which management strategies are most effective in terms of health and safety on campus.

This newly revised plan--updated on December 4, 2021--contains several updates intended to keep our community safe in the face of variants, vaccines, and other innumerable variables.

As you review this information, please bear in mind three things. First, as a school, we take the health of our students and staff very seriously. Within the development of this COVID Campus Readiness Plan, we have worked very hard to circumvent the pitfalls of political polarity associated with COVID and make decisions based on the best information available as well as the data we collect as we manage the situation on campus. Second, due to this first point, please recognize that as we follow the data, this strategy is very much subject to change. Third, over time, we have come to realize that each circumstance of COVID infection bears a remarkably diverse set of variables that play into the decisions that we make as a school. For this reason, please be aware that we reserve the right to determine strategy in individual cases differently, depending on those variables.

Finally, the efficacy of the Northwest Christian School COVID-19 Campus Readiness Plan for 2021/2022 is very much contingent upon the partnership between home and school: as a school, we need to regularly and transparently communicate the as families, you need to use this data to inform the decisions within your home that are based on your own unique convictions. This data is published weekly, on Sundays, in the Northwest Christian Week-at-a-Glance email.

The notification process. As a school, we are presently treating COVID-19 like any other communicable disease. Parents should be aware that as with all communicable diseases, the Maricopa County Department of Public Health does require all schools to report when a student is positive for COVID-19 in accordance with its guidance. This means that in the event of exposure, we notify both the MCDPH and the family. To get an idea of what this exposure notice will read like, please click here. If, after notification, you choose to quarantine your student at home, they are able to work towards staying current in their classes using NCS Plus for absentee work. To learn how to utilize NCS Plus, please click here. If, after monitoring, your student has tested positive for COVID-19, our nurse, Mrs. Anna Johnson, R.N., will send home a questionnaire to help shape our unique strategy for your individual family and answer your questions. The questions in the questionnaire can be reviewed here.

Reporting to MCDPH. During the 2020/2021 school year, we reported to the Maricopa County Department of Public Health only those cases of COVID-19 infection that, as determined by internal contact tracing, were known to take place on campus. This year, given the increased infectiousness of COVID's several variants, we are reporting all positive cases to the Maricopa County Department of Public Health.

Responding to outbreaks. MCDPH defines "outbreaks" as "≥2 laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 cases among students or staff with onsets within a 14-day period, who are epidemiologically-linked, do not share a household, and were not identified as close contacts of each other in another setting during standard case investigation or contact tracing." Given this relatively low bar for outbreak qualification, parents should be aware that, according to this definition, "outbreaks" have been and will likely remain a weekly event within the school until herd immunity is achieved. In the case of an outbreak, MCDPH asks that schools distribute a piece of communication that the department has developed to speak to associated issues. Given the frequency of occurrence and the pertinence of the information as produced by the school, Northwest Christian School has opted to stay the course in distributing only the school's aforementioned notifications and to make the MCDPH communication available on a weekly basis at this link.

Mitigation measures. As of this writing, the on-campus data would lead us to believe that employment of mitigation strategies (masks, social distancing, cohorts, and barriers) between August 2020 through March 2021 resulted in just a slight decrease in COVID transmission. Given the strain and stress that these measures have demonstrably produced within students, it is the current position of the school that this differential is not presently significant enough to redeploy or require most mitigation measures. We will remain vigilant in monitoring this particular data point on a weekly basis and reserve the right to change direction if developing data shows a new direction to be prudent. There are two exceptions:
  1. In cases in which a staff member is immune-compromised, we may require greater mitigation measures in certain classrooms.
  2. In situations in which a student has received an exposure notification from the school and is demonstrating symptoms associated with COVID-19, we may require a negative COVID-19 test to be produced in order to return to campus. (Home tests are permitted.)
Further, if a family independently decides that they wish for their student to wear a mask or socially distance, we will support that decision to the degree that the administration determines it is a reasonable expectation of staff.

Attendance. This year, we are not quarantining students for the reason of exposure alone. However, if your student has received one of the exposure notices described above and is demonstrating one or more of the symptoms associated with COVID, as mentioned above, we may treat the situation as a presumptive positive COVID case and ask the student to quarantine. In such an instance, if the student resolves the symptoms and can show a negative COVID test, we could allow the student to return to campus prior to the end of the quarantine. As we have previously communicated, across all school divisions, Northwest Christian has resumed enforcement of the attendance policies as represented in the handbooks. However, if a student produces a positive COVID-19 test, their related absences will be excused. Following an exposure notification, if a family independently decides to keep a student home, absences can only be excused with prior approval from the division principal and if the student is active on NCS Plus while away from school. Additionally, if a student is displaying symptoms associated with COVID-19 or any other type of communicable illness (fever, congestion, cough, rash, etc.), we would ask that student to remain home until the symptoms have resolved for a period of no less than 24 hours. At this point, parents would want to connect with Mrs. Johnson to determine the return to school date. If such absences approach the handbook-prescribed limit to absences before penalty, please have a conversation with the principal. One important note: if a parent or sibling is COVID-positive, we request that all students in that family remain home until your family has connected with Mrs. Johnson, R.N., and she has developed a plan for their safe return based on the unique circumstances of the situation.

Vaccine mandates. In accordance with guidance provided by the Arizona Department of Health Services, Northwest Christian School only requires the immunizations that are stipulated by the AZDHS and the Arizona Administrative Code. We will not require COVID-19 vaccines or inquire about the COVID-19 vaccine status of any student or staff. (For more information on the school's position on vaccines, please listen to the 8/9 episode of the school's "Kingdom Culture Conversations" podcast.)

Subject to the governing authorities. Romans 13:1-2 says, "Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves." In response to this scriptural admonition, below, please find, in summary form, a review of the applicable laws and mandates as established by the governances which have the greatest standing to influence the decisions of the school during the COVID-19 pandemic. As well, as a Christian school with a covenant enrollment model and a clearly articulated doctrinal statement, you will also find below some of the pertinent information that has informed school decisions made to date based on conscience and religious conviction.

Geoff Brown
(623)225-5573 (cell)