Dear Harbor Families,
Recently, listening to the news has been an interesting experience, as public schools are beginning to re-open. The safety protocols we have been living and breathing since the fall have recently become a hot topic in the news. It’s actually kind of surreal.
Last spring and summer, our Health and Safety Committee spent hours upon hours researching guidance to develop our Health and Safety Plan. Guidance back then was still emerging, and at times guidelines were conflicting since there was so much we were still learning about the virus. Looking back, it was like we were grasping for a flashlight in the midst of so much darkness, and so many unknowns.
As you know, but I think it is worth celebrating, we opened for in-person learning five days a week from the first day of school. Our teachers spent the days leading up to that day working out the details that make our safety protocols so strong - more conservative than the strict guidance, but doable. We managed cohort transitions between distance and in-person learning - beginning on day 2 (remember that, cohort KA?). We figured out what to do with a runny nose. We discussed situations as they arose and established our limits to levels of exposure (while the CDC defines exposure as a one step, we stop at “contacts of contacts” - and not “contacts of contacts of contacts”!). Teachers developed careful routines with their students for a new type of classroom, building in handwashing breaks, reinforcing how to wear and handle a mask, and even wiping down toilets after every use. And some days, our administrative team spent morning to night managing health and safety issues, as we worked through the emotional experience in the early days of intense decision-making and communication. It was, and still is, exhausting. But wow, was it worth it.
In early November, we all waited with bated breath to learn that our first positive case, in fact, did not transmit (neither have the other two separate cases we have had in classrooms). We made the difficult decision to move to distance learning between Thanksgiving and early January. Upon our return, we engaged in a pooled testing pilot before many people knew what that was, and transitioned to a new system once the pilot ended. Remember learning about Gingko Bioworks at a parent session in early January? Our participation helped develop a system that will be used in Montgomery County Public Schools - check it out!
I remember calling my contact at the Montgomery County Health Department early in the school year almost daily to ask nuanced questions about implementation of CDC protocols as applied in schools. Several times, she would bring up our question in meetings with the Maryland State Health Department, which in turn, informed the guidance that schools across the state are using to re-open now. We were helping to create the map that schools across the state are now using.
This might be strange to say, but as a faculty and staff, it’s really been an honor as a small school to be a leader in making in-person learning successful and safe in a global pandemic, something none of us ever thought we’d be adding to our resumes!
And as the spring approaches and warmer days are finally upon us, we know that in no way are we out of the woods, but at least we have a map and a flashlight!
Head of School