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2021-2022 Covid Updates from our Head of School

The mission and vision of Veritas Academy has remained unchanged since the founding of the school and is rooted in partnership. As we navigated the 2020-2021 school year together, our primary objective was to maximize in-person, on-campus instruction for our students, conducted in a manner that was as safe as reasonably and practically possible for both our kids and their teachers. Striking that balance was not the easiest thing we attempted, and yet we saw it was possible as we remained committed to supporting the safety of our community and upholding the mission and values of Veritas Academy that brought us together. 

Our mission and commitment continue to anchor us as we now launch into the 2021-2022 school year. In what may still be a unique year, please continue to read our weekly Covid updates and join us in praying for each other and our school community, that we would be gracious and full of care and consideration for one another, that the Lord’s hand would cover and protect our children and families, and that we would individually and collectively be wise in our decisions as we fully rely on Him.

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Covid Update – 2021.08.06

August 06, 2021
By Jef Fowler, HOS

My first Covid update of the new school year, published in last week’s School Memo, appears to have provoked anxiety in some to many in our community. From concerns that Veritas was going to change its mask-optional policy to concerns that it wouldn’t, I acknowledge that my communication was a little vague and non committal. That was intentional, and here’s why...

We had just been surprised with word that several students in our first summer school class had tested positive in just the first few days of class, and feared that many more positive cases might emerge over the weekend and into this week from that one class of 40-50 students meeting in the auditorium. We were also reading early reports of an outbreak of infections among a large number of vaccinated individuals in the northeastern U.S. that was causing the CDC to suddenly alter its recently issued masking guidance. Had we had one more day to publish the School Memo, we would have had a much better grasp of the incident on Cape Cod and its ramifications; and by the middle of this week, we had gained a much better understanding of what was going on─or, more accurately, not going on─in our summer school classes and camps.

In Provincetown, Massachusetts (at the tip of Cape Cod), several hundred people became infected with Covid (presumably all or most with the Delta variant) during Fourth of July celebrations. Surprisingly, almost three-quarters of them were fully vaccinated; and samples indicated that they carried about the same amount of viral load as unvaccinated, infected patients. That latter piece of information is what prompted the CDC to conclude that vaccinated people may be just as likely to spread the virus as unvaccinated people; therefore, vaccinated individuals should resume wearing masks in areas where Covid transmission levels are high. However, that conclusion was not universally held among scientists within the CDC; and external critics were attacking the paucity and validity of data that the agency was offering to support its revised guidance. Meanwhile, we had a School Memo to publish. ;-)

Re our own real-time experience with transmission of the virus at Veritas in the last two weeks (since students have begun returning to various classes and camps), I am pleased to report that we have received no more reports of infection among the 120 students attending classes since those first few cases in the Logic class last week. Praise God! However, due to the summer time absence of a school nurse, I learned just today that during the week before last, we had four SL/R cheerleaders (out of 22) become symptomatic; the parents of all the cheerleaders were notified and those practices were suspended for at least ten days. To date, there have been no cases among the 33 football players practicing on campus.

So, the transmissibility of this virus among our students is not yet proving to be what we initially feared it might become; however, we have heard anecdotally that local hospital admissions of Covid-positive young people is increasing. This week’s numbers have not yet been published by Austin Public Health, but for the week ending this past Sunday, one child under age 10, and three between the ages of 10 and 20, were hospitalized with Covid in Austin/Travis County. Per the Austin-Travis County Health Authority, virtually all hospitalizations─of all ages of patients─are among those who have not been vaccinated.

Current Protocols

At this point, we are maintaining our current protocols with respect to Covid and other communicable illnesses: mask-optional throughout campus, no contact tracing or forced quarantines (except for infected individuals), and no virtual or distance learning options. We will continue to quickly inform affected students/families of positive Covid cases and on a weekly basis inform the entire community of reports we’ve received that week so that families are informed in making decisions on behalf of their kids.

As a collaborative school in partnership with parents, we are counting on all members of our community to be considerate of one another in order to navigate the challenges related to Covid. If a student is sick, the student needs to stay home and communicate in a timely manner with the school by completing an Absence Notification Form (to be published) and contacting teachers. We understand the concern about missed classwork; consequently, our teachers will work diligently to help the student get caught up on any work that is missed during this absence. Details to follow.

Lastly, to all who have already been reaching out with comments, critiques, suggestions, ideas, and resources for navigating us through this complex issue, thank you. Sincerely, thank you for the constructive feedback. Just as was the case last year, there are times when so much information and commentary is coming in that I can’t respond to each email, voicemail, text, or note/letter without coming across as perfunctory (and, therefore, dismissive). Please know that I read/listen to everything offered, including most links (especially to peer-reviewed studies, though not to long videos or podcasts or to many newscasts), even if I don’t respond directly to your communication.

We pledge to continue to keep ourselves informed and, based upon the facts in our possession, make decisions that we believe to be in the best interests of our students and community in the furtherance of our mission. First hand experiences─from student camps and classes to this week’s faculty in-service meetings to next week’s Paideia conference─will also continue to guide our decision-making. By no means do we think we are exempt from the possibility of being hammered by this particular variant of Covid; so we will continue to pay close attention and adjust if and when necessary, but not “out of an abundance of caution.” We prefer reasonable and informed caution that, if errant, would be on the side of allowing a bit too much personal autonomy and responsibility in this corporate setting.

Please continue to pray for the health and well being of our students, families, faculty and staff so that we may commence and enjoy a great year of personal growth and corporate unity. Thank you, and see you at Paideia!

-Jef


Archive of 2020-2021 Covid Updates


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