Fall 2020 Reopening Plan

Resources for Families

Dear Parents,

I am writing this on a Monday morning, the first day of our 11th week of school.  We have all done extraordinarily well so far; I almost hesitate to put it in print, but we have not missed a single day of in-person school due to the coronavirus. As of this writing, we have had no known cases of COVID in any Chatham Day School students or faculty members. Some of this may be a product of our smaller size or the fact that we work with younger students, but I genuinely believe that a good amount of our success can be attributed to the measures and behaviors put in place and followed so well by all of us. Protocols and practices have made a difference.

Of course, this could all change very quickly and unexpectedly, so we want to be as prepared as we can for the weeks and months ahead. As we look forward to the Thanksgiving and December breaks, and as the current level of infection in New Jersey is very high, it is clear that we will all need to double and triple down on mitigation efforts. We will need to continue to work together to protect the overall health and safety of all of our community members.  As I have stated many times before, the ultimate goal beyond the obvious of keeping people physically and emotionally healthy is to maximize and optimize in-person learning.  One will feed the other, and if we continue to work well together, and catch a little bit of luck, we can look forward to much more in-person schooling this winter. To this end, the CDS Medical Task Force has met several times in the past months and has given careful consideration as to how we should operate this winter.

Thanksgiving Break: We plan to return from the Thanksgiving break in person, as planned, on November 30. We have expectations on how community members should engage with others over this break, and they are outlined below.

Winter Break: We have a previously scheduled staff day on January 4, and we will conduct four days of remote schooling for the remainder of that week, January 5-8. These four remote days will allow for families and teachers to see loved ones during the first ten days of the break, quarantine for two weeks, and return to a full in-person schedule on Monday, January 11. Please note that this four-day period is not an extension of the winter break;  we will be holding classes of teaching, learning, and working, and attendance in all virtual sessions will be required. All students and teachers should plan to be back in New Jersey no later than Monday, December 28 to resume in-person learning on Monday, January 11.

CDC, State, and Community Guidelines: Given the expectation that many students, families, and employees may wish to gather with others and/or travel during the breaks, it is extremely important that all of us heed recommendations from the CDC, as well as follow guidelines from the national, state and school levels.  For Thanksgiving, we recommend against travel altogether (I have canceled my trip to see my parents in Pennsylvania), but if you choose to travel to any one of the 45 states on the NJ quarantine list or any of the Level-3 countries on the CDC list, your child will need to learn remotely for two full weeks following their return to New Jersey. For the winter break, the same guidelines will be in place, and if your child is back in the state after December 28, they will not be permitted to return to in-person learning until their quarantine period is completed. A negative COVID test never obviates the need for quarantine; one cannot test out of quarantine.

As we know, the rate of infection is actually higher in NJ and neighboring states than in some of the states on the NJ quarantine list. As always, risk exposure has more to do with WHAT you do than WHERE you go. It is clear that one will be ‘safer’ in an isolated cabin in Kentucky than in a house full of family and friends for a Thanksgiving or Holiday dinner at our homes in New Jersey. And this is where practice meets protocol. So, while we are certainly asking families to follow the quantifiable rules laid out by the CDC and state of NJ, we also are asking families to follow the behavioral expectations laid out by CDS. Namely, we ask that you are cognizant of your surroundings and that you do your best to avoid indoor gatherings with groups of people. We obviously cannot police this, but the expectation remains that we will all follow these community expectations, and we will help keep ourselves and our school safe and operating normally.

If travel plans and or choices to gather in groups will prevent your child from returning to campus after the breaks, please contact your respective Division Head to arrange for them to attend classes remotely for the necessary time period. If you have any questions about whether or not your child should return to school, please contact Marybeth Bogdanski (Nurse B) at nurse@chathamdayschool.org, or contact me directly.

Again, I am thrilled to be sending this message to you on November 16, from campus, with a school full of happy and healthy children and faculty. We ALL deserve credit for getting us to where we are. Let’s keep working together and continue to be mindful in the weeks ahead, and may we look forward to many more in-person weeks together.

Sincerely,

David Buffum, and the Chatham Day School Medical Task Force

Dear Chatham Day School Families,

Since the school year started on September 8, our top priority has been the health and safety of our students, faculty, and families, with the goal of keeping campus open for as long as possible. With this in mind, and further informed by the sharp rise of local and national community spread, Chatham Day School will require and provide weekly COVID-19 testing starting the week of December 7, and continuing through the week of March 29.

To do so, we are partnering with Mirimus Labs in Brooklyn, NY, to conduct weekly, non-invasive, saliva-based, pooled testing for COVID-19 for all K-8 students, faculty, and staff who attend classes or work on campus. Mirimus is currently working with at least seven local, neighboring independent schools. They have produced reliable and accurate PCR testing results, usually within 24 hours. This additional safety measure is not intended to replace any school protocols or practices, or expected community norms and behaviors, but is rather an additive safety protocol to help carry us through the winter months. All Kindergarten–Grade 8 students and all faculty and staff are required to participate in testing in order to return to in-person learning. Testing will not be required for students in the Early Childhood Division.

On Friday, December 4, students will bring home their personalized saliva collection kit. On Monday morning, December 7, students and faculty will prepare their samples at home. Please leave at least 15–20 minutes for this so your child does not feel rushed. Students/Parents will bring the sample to school and drop it off at a designated spot in the parking lot. The school will scan the barcode of each tube, and samples will then be delivered by courier to Mirimus for analysis. No identifying information is shared with Mirimus Labs, and confidentiality will be maintained to protect the privacy of each individual. This process will be overseen by our Nurse, Marybeth Bogdanski, RN, and our Director of Technology, Heather Babington.

No member of the school community will be allowed into the school building without their sample, which must be submitted by 8:30 a.m. If your child is out of school when kits are distributed on Friday or when the samples are collected on Monday (and you are unable to come to pick up and drop off the kit for them), you must provide an independent negative COVID-19 test result, emailed to nurse@chathamdayschool.org, before returning to school. Local testing information can be found at the NJ COVID-19 Information Hub.

Additionally, you can read more about pooled testing in the CDC Interim Guidance for Use of Pooling Procedures. Please also see the video from Mirimus Labs of a child collecting a saliva sample.

Thank you, again, for being so communicative and community-minded during this time. We are pleased to add this additive layer of protection and look forward to answering your questions on Thursday evening.

Sincerely,

David Buffum and the Chatham Day School Medical Task Force

Chatham Day School Families,

I am very happy to report that, for the second week in a row, our testing yielded no positive results! There is no doubt in my mind that our continued good fortune has a great deal to do with practices and protocols, both inside and outside of the walls of the school building. Your commitment to the well-being of the community is clear, and I am very appreciative of your support and cooperation.

We must now avoid the pitfall of letting our individual and collective guard down, and continue to take thorough, comprehensive measures to mitigate risk. With this in mind, I know we are all looking ahead to the winter break. Please note the information below, which offers guidelines for protocols and practices over the break, as well as outlines our plan for testing during the remote week of January 5-8.

  • We continue to discourage travel, but also understand that behaviors can, and will, matter as much as destinations. As always, we ask that all families be responsible and communicative, and quarantine when necessary. The CDC and NJ quarantine guidance has changed slightly since my message home on November 16, and we are taking a middle of the road approach. Specifically, we will require that all CDS students and faculty quarantine for a full ten days before returning to in-person school on January 11. This means that anyone who travels will need to be back in NJ by January 1. All community members must also pay close attention to their behaviors throughout the break. This, coupled with our remote week round of testing, will provide an extra layer of security as we begin in-person classes in 2021.

  • The CDC has provided guidance and guidelines for domestic and international travel, as well as specific recommendations by travel destination. All of that information can be found on the CDC Travel Advisory website.

  • New Jersey has provided similar guidelines on their COVID-19 Information page, including very specific language “strongly discouraging” travel, as well as quarantine information for those who feel travel is “unavoidable.”

  • As I mentioned above, we will be doing one round of testing during our remote week. Please be on the lookout later today for an email from Nurse B offering specifics. The testing will take place on Friday, January 8, and will ensure that all in-person students have received a negative test result before returning to campus on Monday, January 11. Families will be asked to come and drop-off their saliva sample on the morning of Friday, January 8, by 8:45 a.m. Again, Nurse B will offer more details later today, as well as information on when the vials will be coming home to you.

  • On a non-COVID topic, we continue to carefully watch the weather. The evolving forecast of the timing of the snow’s arrival will impact our decision making. All snow decisions will be communicated via School Messenger.

Thank you, again, for everything.

All the best,
David Buffum