As we move into our final week of school – we finish the term on December 18 – there is an important change that will affect you as we move into the New Year. We will be extending our Christmas Holiday from January 6 to January 11. Read on for my explanation.
First, our nursing staff continues to monitor the data made available by the local Public Health Department. We have information that is available publicly on the VDH Pandemic Metrics website that was designed to help schools make decisions, and it shows a surge in COVID-19 cases that concerns us. Perhaps this is the Thanksgiving surge that many anticipated, but whatever it is, Centra and other health care providers are taking it seriously.
Second, there are four positive COVID-19 cases in the high school in the last ten days. It is difficult to say how many of these are school related, given the widespread transmission rate. Our decision to pivot the high school to online for the term was exactly the proper call. Moreover, one faculty member has tested positive and the nursing staff has responded appropriately in this case. All of this together has affected programming, causing us to cancel our service of Lessons & Carols.
Thus, as we enter another major holiday season, the medical staff has recommended – and I concur – that it would be wise for us to alter the academic calendar in January. We never make such a change lightly and admit that this change represents a further disruption to school life. Our decision is to change the return date from the Christmas break from Wednesday, January 6 to Monday, January 11. This will give us a full 14-day “quarantine” from Christmas Day, and a 10-day “quarantine” from New Year’s Day.
Our assumption is that many families will travel to visit relatives, just as they did over Thanksgiving. We can reasonably anticipate another increase of cases in our community. Our strategy, therefore, provides families with a built-in time frame to return home and monitor their children before sending them back to school. It is quite likely that cases will surface before Monday, January 11. A delayed start, therefore, will buy us extra time to suppress transmission at school.
As always, we urge you to be vigilant, careful, and reasonable in your holiday plans. Families need to be together. It’s essential to our basic need for love and care of our relatives. We also need to care for our school community and take steps to maintain healthy practices. Remember, our goal is to stay in school. Even a small outbreak across grades can quarantine multiple cohorts of children, so we ask you not to let down your guard.
A separate advisory will be sent to athletes for more information on how they are affected by the calendar change.