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. We continue to believe that together we are better, and this is at the forefront of our minds as we navigate this school year's many moving pieces.
Our primary objective for the 2020-2021 school year is to maximize in-person, on-campus instruction for our students, conducted in a manner that is as safe as reasonably and practically possible for both our kids and their teachers. Striking this balance will not be the easiest thing we attempt this year, and yet we believe it is possible as we remain committed to supporting the safety of our community and upholding the mission and values of Veritas Academy that have brought us together.
Week 26 Covid Update & Area Numbers
Week 26 COVID Recap
This week at Veritas we’ve had another test-positive Covid case in the SR, and again were spared much of an impact since the student was on campus for just a few hours before experiencing symptoms and returning home. No other cases were reported for the week.
In the Austin area, rates of hospitalizations and new cases are continuing their decline, though with a brief uptick over last weekend and into the start of the week. As one of the charts below attests, the area has retreated into the upper areas of Stage 3. Hopefully, we will continue the progress and return to Stage 2 (with fewer than 10 new hospitalizations per day) this Spring, something the Austin area hasn't experienced since last Memorial Day.
And finally this, earlier this morning we heard that Veritas parent Kelsy Leyendecker continues to rapidly improve and may even be discharged from the hospital in the coming few days. Praise God! And thank you all for persistently lifting her up in prayer and for tending to the needs of her family. What a great family we have here to care for one another like this in our most dire moments.
As of Thu, Mar 11
To Mask or Not To Mask... That Is The Question
Short Answer, Sans Explanation:
For now, yes, please keep masking at school immediately after the break.
Long Answer w/ Explanation:
Like many, we, too, were surprised by Governor Abbott's sudden announcement last week to remove restrictions and rescind the mask mandate, effective this past Wednesday. To be clear, the Governor's latest Executive Order (No. GA-34) does not forbid private entities (like Veritas) from requiring masks, but rather repeals statewide orders to that effect and forbids government jurisdictions from imposing similar restrictions.
In his Executive Order, Governor Abbott strongly encouraged the continued wearing of face coverings while also encouraging private schools to establish similar protocols to the guidance that the Texas Education Agency (TEA) provides to public schools, which still include masking, distancing, frequent hand-washing, air filtering, etc. Though the State of Texas does not mandate that private schools adopt and follow these protocols (and even allows public school boards to determine their own protocols), there is, however, a "reasonable man" doctrine in law often used to assess a party's level of responsibility/liability for their actions when harm has occurred. In brief, this doctrine considers what a reasonable person would/should have done in a similar circumstance. What that means for an institution like Veritas is that we should have good reasons for significantly varying from safety protocols recommended by governmental authorities for similar institutions.
But, as you have surely recognized in your tenure at Veritas, we are a bit of a maverick. Not because we're proud, stiff-necked, and think we know better than others, but because we are generally not content with the status quo and are fiercely loyal to our mission and vision. That's why so early on last summer, we declared that our primary objective for the coming school year would be to maximize the amount of in-person, on-campus instruction that could be safely delivered to our students...because we know that that is the best way for education─the successful transmission of knowledge, understanding, wisdom, culture, virtues, and values─to happen: in person, shoulder-to-shoulder. And that's what we've done.
And that continues to be our priority for the remaining two months of this school year. When our School Board convened for its regular meeting last week, we spent time reviewing Governor Abbot's Executive Order that had been issued only hours earlier. After reading and discussing it, we decided that the school's preliminary response should be to continue our Covid protocols--including masking when moving indoors or when in close proximity to others--through at least the first week after Spring Break in order to minimize the opportunity for Virtual Veritas to again be deployed, not because that mode is bad, but because it's clearly inferior and more burdensome than the alternative of in-person, on-campus schooling.
In a nutshell, what we've been doing this year has been working. Yes, we've had several cases of Covid throughout the school year, but we've seen little evidence of spread within our community (beyond the members of individual families infecting each other: usually parents to kids), with the notable exception of holiday breaks where we believe there have been instances of student-to-student spread during frequent or prolonged social and recreational activities. Spring Break will represent another opportunity for that kind of spread to occur, so we want to provide a week for evidence of such transmission to be revealed and isolated before we consider relaxing our standards.
Now, the School Board did not consider that our four-day Easter Break occurs less than two weeks after Spring Break this year, so the timing of that holiday may prolong our current protocols; but if new Covid cases and hospitalizations continue to quickly decline in both the Austin area and the Veritas community, and if all of our teachers who want to be vaccinated have had the opportunity to do so in the coming weeks, then we do want to consider relaxing our protocols. But, again, our priority is to finish this school year in person, on campus.
I'll admit that I have become enamored of our current Senior class, and I want to do everything in my power to ensure that they do not suddenly end their time at Veritas like last year's Seniors with the cancelation of every in-person event from Spring Break until the all-but-miraculous Graduation ceremony that happened in June. This year's class may lose out on their Class Trip to Europe, originally planned for last May/June, and then this March, and now maybe May. I don't want to see their Senior Thesis presentations, Prom, and other traditional rites of passage of Senior year added to a list of lost experiences as a result of Covid quarantines. In short, I don't want to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory when we are so close to conquering this school year. So, please keep reading the School Memo each Friday afternoon to see how we're doing and what changes we're considering for the remaining weeks of the term.
Finally, just a quick heads-up for next year: I fully intend for us to return to our normal operations focused on in-person learning happening on this beautiful campus. Our amazing teachers have nearly exhausted themselves delivering instruction via multiple modes over the past twelve months in order to accommodate the needs and preferences of our widely varying families. Next year, we intend to allow them to return to the job for which they originally signed up. Teaching and mentoring young people in person is their chosen vocation and inspired ministry. And seeing bright shining faces baring genuine smiles is a rewarding part of that job that we want them to again enjoy.