December 30, 2020
I hope you have enjoyed a peaceful break from school. The campus is very quiet this week, though our facilities staff has worked incredibly hard throughout the break to clean and disinfect the school. We are eager to welcome students back to campus as scheduled on January 5, but in order to do so safely, we are introducing a new testing requirement.
Please read the full letter below—action on your part is required.
Last week I communicated that we had learned of four positive COVID-19 cases since the start of break; we have since learned of three additional cases, two in Lower School and one in Upper School. Many of these cases have been asymptomatic. Also over the break, we learned from the Rhode Island Department of Health and the Educational Operations Center that we will be able to administer asymptomatic testing with BinaxNow tests for our school community on-site. We are in the process of submitting our testing plan to the State so that we can get our staff trained on how to safely administer the tests. As of now, our understanding is that the training will be available starting during the week of January 4, and then we will be able to get the tests needed. We anticipate we will be able to start testing the following week—unfortunately not in advance of when we are scheduled to welcome students back to campus. Due to the challenging logistics, it is likely that we will test on a weekend, hopefully the weekend of January 9–10. We will hope to implement periodic asymptomatic testing throughout the spring.
We continue to work through the details of this plan, but in the meantime, given the number of positive cases and the prevalence of the virus in Rhode Island, we are going to require that every student in Grades K–12, as well as all faculty and staff members, show proof of a negative COVID-19 test before returning to school. Testing through the state of Rhode Island is easy, free, and accessible. I have been tested at several of the testing sites over the past few months (for asymptomatic testing) and it has gotten easier and faster each time. To schedule a test, go to portal.ri.gov.
While we are not requiring testing for Little School and Early Childhood students, we encourage families of these children to pursue testing if indicated (for example, due to an exposure, if a child has symptoms of COVID-19, or if recommended by a pediatrician).
We will plan to start school in person as scheduled on January 5. Students who plan to return that day must be tested between January 2 and 4 and have received their results. The BinaxNow tests which are available at the Dunkin Donuts Center and several other testing sites are rapid tests and the results are available in about 15 minutes; the PCR tests take 24–48 hours for results. Negative results from either the rapid antigen test or the PCR tests will be acceptable for students to return to school.
A reminder of our school travel policy: anyone who has traveled to a state on Rhode Island’s restricted list must quarantine for 14 days upon return. They may shorten the quarantine period to 7 days if they have a negative test taken 5 days or more after return, and they should continue to monitor for symptoms. This only applies to domestic travel; people who travel internationally must quarantine for 14 days.
We ask families to enter the testing information and to upload a screenshot of the results HERE. Students who have a documented case of COVID-19 within the last 90 days do not need to be retested.
Remote learning will be available for students who do not get tested in this window. If families choose to test later in the week, students can return as soon as they have a negative test. We will know more early next week about the timing of on-campus testing.
We understand that this is an added and unexpected requirement, but we feel that it is necessary in order to open school safely. Faculty and staff will also be tested. While we do not anticipate this being the case, if we find that we are unable to open school due to a shortage of available faculty, we will let you know as soon as possible.
I am in conversation with other school leaders locally and across the country, and I continue to be proud of and impressed with what Rhode Island is doing to make testing accessible in order to protect our health and safety. I am so hopeful that as we turn the calendar to 2021, the end of the pandemic is approaching. Until then, we will do all that we can to keep our community safe. I am so grateful for your partnership as we continue to navigate these challenging times.
Sophie Glenn Lau ‘88