Adjusting to life in a COVID-positive world has been one of the biggest lessons for all of us over the past eight months and is retested each and every time we leave our homes. As a community, we depend on the consistent execution of our COVID safe practices and each of our unfailing abidances to our COVID Community Commitment Pledge. It has been incredibly validating and reassuring to see our community respond so thoughtfully and comprehensively to the required changes that have allowed us to bring students back to campus in the hybrid model over the past seven weeks. A significant amount of work continues to go into making this a reality with our COVID task forces preparing the required plans, policies, and procedures to bring students back to campus while meeting our core goals to:
- Minimize risk through adherence to COVID-19 safe practices
- Maximize in-person teaching, learning, and community
- Be prepared to pivot
- Work in partnership with our community in support of our community.
Returning to in-person teaching, learning, and community amid a global pandemic hasn’t been easy on anyone. There was understandable anxiety when we first pivoted to hybrid, and again now that the weather is getting colder requiring us to spend more time indoors. This anxiety is natural and expected as each pivot raises a new fear of the unknown, paired with rising COVID case counts across our state and country. Our COVID task force continues to meet weekly, reviews public health data daily, and considers any needed adjustments to support our community in light of current trends. We continue to be committed to our plan: (1) to maintain hybrid learning for the remaining 3.5 weeks until Thanksgiving Break; and (2) to shift to remote teaching and learning for the 3 weeks between the Thanksgiving and Winter Breaks and continuing for 2 more weeks through January 19. This shift will help buffer our community from the inevitable uptick in COVID cases due to increased social gatherings and travel over the holidays.
The COVID task force members continue to be reassured and grounded by the Governor’s nuanced approach to education during the pandemic. In a press conference on October 20, when Dr. David Scrase was asked his thoughts regarding schools in light of rising case counts in NM, he shared:
“Just one thing to add about schools. I think in all of the things we're talking about, we really have to learn how to live in that COVID positive world. Just flipping back and forth with an on-off switch is not going to get us there...Now, we've had schools open in a hybrid model in some places for five weeks now...And we do see cases, [but] we're not getting any evidence that what's happening in schools is a big contributor or driving in any way this uptick we've seen in cases. And so to the extent that we can hold that and, and keep those kids there and get more schools systems involved in that after we get the cases down. That's really in my mind, an important priority on the road to learning to live with this, because we have a fair number of additional months between now and the vaccine and after the vaccines released plenty of months after that, till everyone's immunized. So I have not seen any data that would make me suggest we have to pull back on that in-person schooling right now. “
Lieutenant Governor Howie Morales added shortly thereafter about schools:
“And just in addition to that, because I know that I've been in personal communication with superintendents across the state or school board members. And I know that our educators are out there doing the best they can to keep their students safe. And that's apparent of what we've seen within the data at schools. I know that this was the week that we were going to re-introduce middle-school, and I just want to remind everyone that from the very beginning, it was always wanting to move forward to in-person instruction, because that's what the research shows us. That we can move forward, and that's the best possible instruction that can be given. We're still wanting to do that. Obviously with the high impact of cases that we've seen, we weren't able to do that. And I don't want to lose sight about what the goal has always been is to get those students in the classroom, and to have that face-to-face contact with their students.”
As COVID-19 continues to circulate in the community, exposures at Bosque and other schools are unfortunately inevitable. We understand this causes understandable anxiety. Please know that our entire community’s commitment to comprehensive and consistent COVID safe practices will continue to be our best defense against virus spread. One reality that we have not yet faced is a COVID school exposure. While there have been a small number of positive cases and a larger handful of potential cases that proved to be negative within our students, families, and staffulty since COVID started, in each of these situations, the presence of these individuals on campus occurred outside of the New Mexico Department of Health (NMDOH) parameters for a school exposure. Recognizing that anxiety is often reduced through information, I wanted to share our Positive COVID Case Response Protocol that we will employ when we do have an inevitable school exposure:
What To Expect for Contact Tracing:
- If we have a school exposure, we will provide all required close contact information to NMDOH who will manage all communications with any identified close contacts and ensure that anyone at risk is notified and provided information regarding testing and self-isolation protocols.
- Anyone who does NOT receive a call from NMDOH is not considered to be at risk and will have no reason to self isolate/not attend in-person classes.
What To Expect Regarding Communications:
- Communications will be sent from the school only if there is a determined school exposure (as defined by NMDOH as meaning: the positive individual was on campus within two days of symptoms starting or within two days of a positive test result). If there is not a determined school exposure, to maintain the privacy of individuals involved, there would be no reason for public communication.
- Should we experience a school exposure, we will send communication to our internal community of staffulty, students, and parents/guardians. To protect privacy, we will not disclose any specifics including the names of any students or staffulty members involved.
Note: In both situations above, we recognize that individuals may choose to share personal information through a variety of channels. Please know that if you do not receive formal communications from the school, then you should rest assured that the specific case did not meet the parameters of a school exposure. While there is heightened interest and anxiety in COVID-19 cases, I hope we can lean into our values of cultivating community and fostering integrity by avoiding gossip and/or shaming behaviors, and instead be kind and respect our fellow families during these challenging times. Additionally, it is important to note that there are a number of far more frequent and likely reasons for individuals to be home sick that have nothing to do with COVID-19.
I hope you find this information reassuring and helpful. We are all being challenged in countless ways by this global pandemic. As always, Bosque community members are displaying resilience, thoughtfulness, and determination.
Stay healthy. Stay Connected.
Jessie Barrie, PhD
Head of School