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.
This week’s confirmed new cases at Veritas totaled 16 in all three schools, including one teacher, three GS students, four SL students, and eight SR students. However, our nurse and teachers, particularly in the SR, suspect that other students are attending school with symptoms and/or while awaiting the results of a Covid test. Please stop doing this, even if you are having a hard time finding a test kit, as we are relying on your help to keep sick and symptomatic kids at home. Even though students who don’t suffer immune deficiencies or other comorbidities aren’t at great risk of serious injury from this virus, others—including some of their classmates and several of their teachers—are. And even if our teachers escape the virus or serious illness from it, the fact that so many are having to miss work from close exposure to sick kids (often their own) or while awaiting test results threatens our ability to continue holding in-person classes without interruption. None of us want to return to Virtual Veritas, even for a week or two, so please stay away from campus if symptomatic as we seek to remain in-person this semester.
As the graph starkly illustrates, the Omicron surge in Austin continues unabated, setting records for new hospitalizations, as well as transmissibility. The former is up to 114/day (from 82 last week), and the latter, as measured by new cases per 100k people, is up to 1,233.8 (from 1,066.8 last week). This mirrors the surge throughout all of Texas and the U.S. with those community transmission rates climbing to 1,295.7 (from 922.7) and 1,650.4 (from 1,168.8), respectively.
Minor Update to our Covid Protocol: In the email I sent last week announcing some revisions to our protocols as a result of the CDC shortening its recommended period for isolation/quarantine, a detail from the CDC recommendations was included after I completed my draft that runs contrary to how we have been handling masking at Veritas.
At this time, I wish to continue our previous policy of having masks be voluntary instead of compulsory; however, with that liberty, I still encourage all to be personally responsible for assessing their condition and doing what they can to avoid spreading this virus in our community. Correction as of 7:30pm on Fri, Jan 14: We will revert to the voluntary, instead of compulsory, masking requirement in this particular protocol after transmission rates at Veritas and in Austin come back down. We will be monitoring this week-to-week, and publish the effective date of that change in the Covid Update section of the School Memo. Apologies for the back and forth—my mistake on both counts. -JEF
No new Covid cases at Veritas for the second straight week, and only one in the past four weeks; so it looks like we’re about to end the school year on a great streak. Similarly encouraging news in the broader Austin area as the 7-day moving averages for both daily new cases and daily new hospitalizations continue their recent plunge from 67 to 42 and 17 to 13, respectively, returning Austin to Stage 2. (See charts below.) And for the first time in a year, the entire state of Texas went an entire day without a lost life from this virus. Praise God!
On the heels of last week’s relaxation by the CDC of its guidance on mask-wearing, this week Governor Abbott issued an Executive Order forbidding government entities or officials from mandating masks (with certain exceptions), though public schools may continue their mask mandates until June 4. The Governor’s order does not apply to private institutions, except to be relieved of mandates imposed upon them by government entities and officials.
With only 1.5 more school days for the SL and just 2.5 days of final examinations for the SR, I’m going to keep in place our plan to continue masking while moving about indoors until 11am next Wednesday, at which time Veritas will become completely mask-optional. This continuation of current policy will prevent our upper school teachers from having to suddenly provide new Distance Learning accommodations for students in these last few days of school. While seated in class or in the cafe─or while doing anything outside─students are not required to mask up.
Absent some dramatic resurgence of viral infections over the summer, we will return to our standard operating procedures at Veritas this fall. And those procedures will not include a requirement for COVID-19 vaccination for any member of the Veritas community.