The adventures of “COVID Time” call for periodic updates, and I’m happy to offer them.
There is much speculation about how schools intend to respond, or will be required to respond, to a “second wave,” county case counts, etc. Providence Academy is committed, so far as is possible, to making its own independent judgments about how to hold classes during the pandemic.
Here are some key points about PA’s experience with COVID since I last wrote two weeks ago:
* PA has 2 “active cases,” both in the Middle School. We have broadened our definition of an active community case as follows: “a lab-confirmed diagnosis of a member of our school community who (1) was present in school or a school activity while infectious, (2) and/or possibly contracted COVID-19 as a close contact while in school or a school activity, and (3) who is currently isolating at home.”
* Now into the 11th week of school, we have had a total of 11 active community cases thus far. Students needing to quarantine at home using SimulClassroom as close contacts now total 163, spread out over the past 6 weeks. The quarantines range from 3 to 10 school days, averaging 5-8.
* We now know of two student cases, among the 11 total, that were likely contracted from being in “close contact” with another infected student at school. Last time I wrote, we had 0 cases of likely transmission. Now we have these 2.
* We know of two students who have tested positive while they were quarantining due to other infected family members in their households. PA does not count these as “community cases,” because the students had no association with school during their period of infectiousness.
* Students who have tested positive have reported symptoms ranging from asymptomatic to cold and flu-like symptoms. There have been no hospitalizations among community cases and, so far as we know, no hospitalizations for COVID among PA households.
Mrs. Murphy reminded me of a time several years ago when nearly two-thirds of the 6th Grade was out with the H1N1 virus. These were students out with the virus, not quarantining to avoid a virus! In comparison with other virus scenarios during PA’s history, the current extent and severity of COVID to our students–contagious as it is–is blessedly less than much of what we have experienced before. Indeed our virus and bacteria mitigation measures seem to us to have reduced the overall incidence of autumn viral illnesses among students, faculty, and staff members.
PA’s Middle and Upper Schools will, next week, operate an experimental “In-Person On-Campus Hybrid” day, as a test run of our “Plan B.” This model would assure 6-foot separation of students in each classroom, utilizing alternative on-site spaces for SimulClassroom usage on a rotating basis. While not as convenient for students as the everyone-in-class Plan A that we are currently following, it would greatly reduce close-contact quarantining while continuing to guarantee students in-school opportunities 5 days a week.
We have no declared threshold at which we would change to Plan B unless required to do so. But I can imagine scenarios that, in consultation with the Parent Association, might lead us to make the change at some point at least temporarily: a stark rise in community cases leading to very large numbers of quarantines, a concerning rise in likely community transmissions, etc.
We know that cases in the broader community have been on the rise recently, so we are not surprised that there continue to be cases in the PA community. What matters to us most is our ability to continue to pursue two top objectives simultaneously: the safety of our community and our obligation to serve your children here. So far, so good. We’ll stay in touch. And feel free to contact our health office at any time with COVID-19 questions or concerns.