After careful review of Virginia Department of Health (VDH) newly published guidelines, I am reassured that our strategies to reopen last school year were in lockstep with the science-based best practices recommended by public health officials in federal agencies, and accredited medical associations. The most current guidance from VDH and data driven advice from Virginia Department of Education (VDOE), give our school the opportunity to review and adjust our mitigation strategies for the upcoming school year. Based on a consistent, science-based approach, the following mitigation measures will be followed to open the 2021-2022 academic year.
-Indoor masking. Updated contact tracing guidelines suggest that having all elementary school community members continue to wear face coverings during the indoor portions of the school day will ultimately result in fewer classroom closures even in the event of a positive case at school. STM will require a solid color, disposable, surgical mask or 2-ply STM designed gaiter while indoors.
-Outdoor activities. Repeated studies have shown that masks are not necessary outside. Recess, Physical Education, Outdoor Classrooms, and other outdoor activities will NOT require mask wearing.
-Covid exposure/quarantine. The new VDH guidance indicates that in a setting where all students are masked, regardless of vaccine status, said students will not be considered “exposed” in the case of contact with another masked person who tested positive for Covid. This means that in most cases, classmates of students who tested positive will NOT be required to quarantine, and classroom instruction will continue for anyone not Covid positive or exhibiting Covid like symptoms.
-Attestation. Magnus daily attestation meets the VDH guideline of encouraging parents to monitor the health of their children prior to the start of the school day. STM will continue to require Magnus attestation prior to morning drop off.
-Illness. Students who show signs of illness, including but not limited to a temperature of 100.4 or higher, vomiting, diarrhea, or respiratory symptoms not contributable to another condition, must present a note from a healthcare provider prior to returning to school.
-Social Distancing, While outside for lunch-recess, students will be able to traverse the entire play ground and will not be restricted to cohorted areas of play.
-Live Performance. Sacraments, milestone celebrations, pageants, and performances will once again have in person, unlimited parent/grandparent audiences. Beloved community events like Thrilling Thursday, Oktoberfest and Country Christmas will return to the STM calendar of events.
-Volunteers. Masked and appropriately attested volunteers will once again be welcomed into our building.
-Vaccines. In accordance with VDH, CDC and AAP guidance, we will continue to promote vaccines for those who are eligible.
Brick and mortar education is the superior modality for elementary education and continuity of such has become a hallmark of STM. In the 2021-2022 academic year, it will remain a priority. Review of all mitigation practices will be reassessed weekly for situational awareness and to continuously inform planning. Ongoing modifications to mitigation policies will be rooted in science and, as always, will be transparently shared with the community.
Through these policies, I remain committed to providing your children with the best possible education: mind, body and soul.