2021-2022 Covid Plan
Dear FA Families,
I am writing to share Frederica Academy's 2021-2022 Covid Plan for the start of the school year on August 11. As I mentioned in previous correspondence, this plan may change/evolve over the course of the year … maybe often, as it already has, as emerging developments best inform us in this incredibly fluid pandemic spike as to how we can responsibly protect members of our school community when on campus within a relatively low-risk environment. Our first plan revisit time will be two weeks after school starts.
The advisory committee that has been meeting to discuss the most recent Covid variant trends are premising our school response based on these four assertions:
- The Delta variant, along with Covid-19 is real, potentially very dangerous, and increasingly penetrating the local market.
- Unlike the first wave of Covid-19, children under the age of 12 are now increasingly susceptible to and contracting the variant virus, in part because of the nature of the virus and in part because there is no vaccine available to them.
- Masks do provide some meaningful level of protection both against contracting and spreading the virus to others and in helping to make contact tracing more manageable and accurate.
- Stacking various risk-reduction tactics on top of one another is the most effective, holistic school-wide strategy available. (more to follow)
The advisory committee collectively agreed that these beliefs are amply endorsed by the most reputable infectious disease and general medical and scientific groups and therefore are a sound basis for constructing an institutional risk-reduction plan. Our plan is designed to reduce the risk to a reasonable and acceptable level for our families on campus, while trying to recognize and be sensitive to unnecessary restrictions where possible.
There are both significant similarities to elements of the plan that we implemented last year and also significant differences. For the most part, our intervention strategies are much less intrusive and restrictive into the regular daily life of the students than last year’s plan and are largely confined to the classroom and similar indoor areas.
Our healthcare team has created a three-tier protocol system in Frederica Academy’s 2021-2022 Covid-19 Plan. Effective Wednesday, August 4, Frederica Academy will operate at Level 2. The plan contains a detailed outline of each level and its requirements for students, employees, and campus visitors.
In developing the plan, we grouped all school-related activities/programs into two general categories: those that are optional and those that are mandatory. For all activities and events that one voluntarily chooses to attend or participate in - attending a sporting event, for example - the reality is that these propositions will become a “buyers beware” environment. You will almost certainly be entering a mixed crowd of vaccinated and unvaccinated spectators, and you will need to be aware of that. Masks will be optional at all three levels of the plan. School employees will not be policing mask wearing, so your family’s attendance should be based on your assessment of the particular risk to all of you and the personal value of your attending.
For all mandatory activities/programs such as classes and assemblies during the day at all grade levels, mask wearing is mandatory when inside with any group of people, starting at Level 2. That translates to classroom activities in all three divisions, hall passing times in Middle and Upper School, and when standing in line in the cafeteria. That still leaves a significant portion of the day when students are unmasked, including all unstructured times outside, physical education classes, lunch, recess, and designated mask breaks.
Regarding the “stacking” assertion… we believe that the optimal strategy for combatting the virus is to combine or layer various deterrents. For us, the foundation of the stacking premise is parents responsibly keeping sick children home. That alone significantly reduces the likelihood of contracting or transmitting the virus on campus. In addition, we endorse vaccinations and masking to reduce the chances of contracting and transmitting the virus and mitigating the effects if one does contract the virus. We learned last year that monitoring social distancing at any grade level is largely an untenable task within the reality of a school day despite constant monitoring, so the vaccinations and masking are particularly important in our school setting. The school will be cognizant of the potential danger of large gatherings indoors and limit the size of the gathering and/or move the event outside.
This Covid policy is based solely on the most recent data (click HERE to access the Georgia Department of Public Health’s most recent report), interpretation of that data by local medical experts, and the committee’s best judgment as it seeks to develop protocols that responsibly balance human safety and personal enjoyment. Members of the committee have great empathy for all those who have experienced mask fatigue and see the return to masking as a major step backwards. Honestly, members of the committee concur; to have created a proposed plan scarcely one month ago that mandated no masks and a virtual return to a pre-Covid routine on campus to now crafting a plan that mandates masks to protect our students and employees and best secure an on-campus school experience throughout the year is immensely discouraging. But the rapid rise and the very nature of the Delta variant along with Covid-19 and its threat to the health of our children requires the mask protocol. Again, we are trying to adopt a plan that is first and foremost designed to support a safe environment for all, with the least unnecessary inconvenience for any. The best available strategy to ensure the safety of your child, and especially your under-12 child and, the safety of others, is for him or her to simply wear a mask at those designated high exposure times.
When the advisory group became aware of the dramatic upturn in positive local cases and more recently the limited effect vaccines appear to have solely in terms of reducing the transmission of the virus, especially among young, healthy people, we knew that the responsible school plan to adopt now would include masking for all. FA had two documented positive tests recently at summer camps, and it was very cumbersome and complicated to contact trace with no one wearing masks. We have also experienced the devastating and heartbreaking effects of the Covid virus on members of our school community, and creating a plan that would reduce the risk of anyone else contracting or transmitting the virus seems like incredibly important work.
Despite our initial disappointment, we believe that the inconvenience of the mask wearing for all is well worth the privilege to work and play in a school community that cares so deeply about the health of everyone in our community. Again, when the number of local positive tests diminish significantly and the threat of the virus is reduced for our students, FA will adjust our plan - and specifically our mask policy - accordingly.
Thank you in advance for respecting the work of the committee and subscribing to the plan. This highly contagious virus is still in our community and to paraphrase a familiar quote, “Just because we can’t do everything doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do anything. Let’s all do what we can.”
Please click HERE to access the school’s 2021-2022 Covid Plan.
Scott L. Hutchinson
Head of School