September 24, 2020

Dear Harbor Families,

While the field of early childhood education has its fair share of nose wiping,  I never thought I would spend so much time talking about runny noses as a Head of School. 

Now that we are settled into our health and safety routines for COVID prevention, we have spent more time processing our response protocols. While the plan seemed very clear when we wrote it, questions like “what constitutes a cough” and “can a child return to school with a runny nose” have consumed the thinking of the task force recently. There is conflicting guidance about these questions depending on where you look.

In this new world, common childhood illnesses (even those that are slight) have become reasons that individuals or even class cohorts must quarantine. Guidelines dictate that students must stay home if they are presenting with only one unexplained symptom - and yes, congestion and runny nose are on the list. We confirmed with our contact at the Maryland Department of Health today that, at least at this point in time, any one symptom - even a runny nose - must be completely resolved before a child returns to school. The health department representative informed us that updated Maryland Guidance will be published soon with specific attention to the upcoming cold and flu season.

Some of you may be thinking - how do we ensure that we aren’t going too far? Do we call the health department every time one student coughs once? Well, no - we are working with the descriptors of uncontrolled and persistent for at least 30 minutes for coughs. But still, there will likely be times when following the protocols prescribed to us may feel like an overreaction - and that’s a necessity of this system's design.

As a reminder, we are required to report cases to the health department when they fit the description of “COVID-Like Illness”, which includes a set of single symptoms as well as a list of symptoms where two warrant a health department call (see page 9 of our Health and Safety Plan). Usually, when we have to make a call, we will be directed to send a cohort of students home. In years past, symptoms may come and go through classrooms without much publicity, so it may feel like there is more illness than in the past - though our masks and distancing are actually limiting it.

As always, full information is available in our Health and Safety Plan, but to help you digest it all, we’ll highlight changes or aspects of our plan each week in this newsletter, just below my weekly letter.

Thank you, again and again, for entrusting your children’s education and safety to us. And as always, reach out with questions or thoughts at any time. We are in this together!

Warm regards,

Leah Musico
Head of School

Harbor School