Updated September 11, 2020
Who should I contact if I have a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19 in my family?
If an SCCS student or immediate family member has a suspected or confirmed positive case of COVID-19, or is concerned about an exposure in your immediate family, we ask that your first point of contact at SCCS be the Head of School at (314) 339-6190, not your child’s teacher. Unlike a typical student absence or illness, we are handling cases of COVID-19 in consultation with the St. Louis City Health Department and must follow appropriate contact tracing and confidentiality protocols. Once we establish the appropriate action plan for your student and family, we will inform your child’s teacher and create a support plan together for continuing your child’s education at home in the event that a time of isolation or quarantine is required.
Why is SCCS conducting in-person school during a pandemic?
The American Academy of Pediatrics stated in July that having students physically present in school should be a goal of all school leaders, with an eye to the local community realities of COVID-19, in cooperation with local health experts and authorities, and with proper countermeasures in place. As a community school, we take seriously our mission to serve the real needs of real families in a way that best supports their overall health, stability, and well-being, while also strengthening the fabric of our local community. Through extensive phone interviews with our parents this summer, we learned that the majority of our parents were in favor of sending their children back to in-person school whenever possible this school year.
When preparing for in-person school, we took into account the unique characteristics of SCCS, including smaller class sizes, ample facility space, no reliance on buses for student transportation, and a school culture that already promotes outdoor learning. As a Charlotte Mason, attachment-informed school that has a high opinion of what children are capable of in the areas of fortitude and habit formation, we were also confident that our children would be capable of rising to the challenges of new school-day routines and protocols.
We believe that we are conducting school in a manner that is responsible and accountable. In line with the advice of our nation’s pediatricians, we are receiving close, ongoing guidance from a team of local infectious disease specialists at Washington University, including Dr. Rachel Orscheln, Dr. Jason Newland, and Dr. Sheyda Namazie-Kummer. Through our membership in ISSL, our school leaders attend a weekly huddle with this group of experts which is designed as a platform for asking questions and receiving locally-informed guidance. Moreover, our school’s infection control plans have been reviewed by Dr. Fredrick Echols, the acting director of health for the City of St. Louis, with whom we are in dialogue as we continue to follow our plan based on his approval and make minor adjustments based on his feedback. We were also greatly encouraged by a public letter signed by over ninety local pediatricians written in support of area schools that are inviting children back for in-person schooling.
If at any point the City of St. Louis issues renewed stay-at-home orders or places legal limitations on the number of people who can gather in person, we will comply by shifting to either a hybrid model of in-person school that allows for smaller gatherings, or to online learning.
How is in-person school going so far?
We believe it is going well. Our staff and families are participating in daily health screenings and vigilantly staying home from school and work if they present with any COVID-19 related symptoms. Our students and staff are wearing masks indoors and staying within their classroom cohorts. Our facilities are clean, and we are practicing good hygiene and social distancing habits during the school day.
While we know that in the broader context of our local community, access to COVID-19 testing is varied and not robust, so far we have not documented a positive case of COVID-19 in our school community. Any member of our community who has experienced a suspected case in their immediate family has taken the necessary steps to stay at home and await a negative test result. In the event that we do have a known case on campus, we will dilligently follow testing and contact tracing protocols and require the necessary individuals or groups to quarantine, per the advice and oversight of our local health department. Additionally, a member of our staff is receiving six hours of formal training on COVID-19 contact tracing through a free course offered by Johns Hopkins to better support our alignment with best practices.
Have mask requirements for students changed since the start of the school year?
In the July 24 version of the SCCS Pandemic Handbook, we shared that masks would be required for grades four through eight while indoors, and required kindergarten through third grades when moving through shared spaces in the school building. Kindergarten through third grade would be encouraged to wear a mask in the classroom at other times as well, as we seek to promote a community where mask-wearing is seen as an act of kindness and concern for the welfare of all.
As our understanding expands based on evidence, the advice of experts, and the lived experience and evolving best practices of other institutions, we are moving toward requiring masks for kindergarten and up. In the interim, our teachers have been gently working with our students to build up stamina in the habit of mask wearing. Much to our delight, we have found that our students have been extremely adaptable and amenable to the practice of wearing masks at school! We anticipate sharing an updated Pandemic Handbook on September 15th, with a few updates to our policies, including a more formal policy about requiring mask wearing in kindergarten through eighth grades. By that time, our younger students will already have made the shift into this habit.
We know some parents are concerned about masks in the classroom interfering with the relational aspect of school and the social-emotional development of children. As a school that fully embraces attachment-based learning, we share this concern and explored this issue by inviting Dr. Kelley Munger—whose expertise is in the social-emotional development of children in educational environments—to host conversations with our staff and parents in August, before the start of school. Based on her research and experience witnessing the adaptability and resilience of children with disabilities (for example, the loss of sight or hearing), Dr. Munger does not believe that mask-wearing poses a hinderance to children forming healthy attachments and relationships with their caregivers and peers.
What can we do to make morning drop-off go more quickly?
Daily health screenings are a time investment, but they make in-person schooling possible during a pandemic, so we are incredibly grateful for the high level of cooperation we’ve received from everyone! Our goal is to have 100% compliance with the Magnus app health check every day. Thank you for doing your part to help us hit this goal!
Please display your orange sign in your car window. This will help our staff identify you quickly and give your child permission to head into the building. One orange sign came home in your child’s backpack the first day of school. If you need additional signs, please email Cheryl Hennkens.
Play a game with your kids or make it a fun challenge to see how quickly they can gather up their things, say their goodbyes, and be ready to hop out of the car when you reach the unloading zone.
Out of an abundance of caution for our kids, please wait to be dismissed
by staff before driving away from the loading zone.
Can we carpool with another family?
SCCS is following the Contact Tracing Protocols of the Washington University School of Medicine. According to their guidance for schools, adults and students who share transportation are considered a close contact for the purposes of contact tracing and quarantining. Please give careful consideration to these factors as you make plans to share transportation with members outside of your own household. Students who have shared transportation with another SCCS student who tests positive for COVID-19 will be asked to quarantine, so minimizing any non-essential carpooling this year will support our efforts as a community to keep everyone in school.
Anyone who picks up your child must be listed as having permission in the forms you filled out as part of your Magnus Health registration. To keep afternoon pick-up running smoothly, please email Cheryl Hennkens twenty-four hours in advance so that our teachers and staff know where to direct students at pick-up. If you have a standing carpool arrangement, reach out to Cheryl and she will provide additional orange pick-up and drop-off signs for the students outside of your household.
Per the advice of the Washington University specialists, we are asking our families to carpool with windows down and masks on for everyone. Let’s fight the chance of disease transmission together!
My child’s school masks do not fit. Can we trade them for another size?
The Swaddle Design masks distributed to students only come in a child size (which is designed to fit ages two to preteen), adult medium, and adult large. There is no size between child and adult medium. If your child’s mask is too big, you could try washing and drying with heat to shrink it. You can also tie a small knot on the ear loops to create a more secure fit.
If you have un-opened masks and want to swap sizes, email Julia Wickes to see if there are any available. You can also use the SCCS private parent Facebook group for swapping masks or donating any masks you won’t use to another family.
How will I know when to keep my child home this year?
For clarity on this subject, please read St Louis City Schools Exclusion Guidance. Internally, we are referencing this chart, along with the School Nurse Algorithm and Contact Tracing Protocols from Washington University. We are also closely following own own sick policy in the SCCS Family Handbook.
Through our weekly meetings with local health experts, we are receiving advice about special situations like students who experience symptoms from seasonal allergies, and so forth. The advice we are receiving is clear: this is not the year to come to school or work while sick! But there may be some instances when symptoms merit an exemption by a doctor. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to the school office if you have a specific concern.