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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.

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Week 31 Covid Update & Area Numbers

April 21, 2021
By Jef Fowler, HOS

Week 31 COVID Update & Area Numbers

Immediately after sending Wednesday night’s email reporting on the surge of Covid cases at Veritas from this Monday and Tuesday, we received word of another one. And then...crickets. Ahhhh, the blessed sound of silence. (Well, except for those crickets in the background.) For the week, over 60 people within our community were quarantined, but hopefully, we’ve turned the corner.

Thank you to all who responded to my Wednesday email with encouragement and/or suggestions. There proved to be too many─and too many ideas to explore─for personal replies, but please know your response was read and appreciated even if you did not receive a follow-up. 

Also, an important piece of information for everyone to know, and to clarify from Wednesday’s email, is that we are aware of only three incidents of student-to-student transmission of Covid involving (unrelated) Veritas students, and each occurred over a school break in which those students spent a lot of time in close─and usually pretty confined─proximity to each other. There has been no evidence of classroom transmission, either between students or between students and teachers, at Veritas Academy all school year.

This would seem to confirm one of the conclusions of our research last summer: that viral load (or the quantity/volume of COVID-19/SARS-CoV-2 microorganisms being exchanged) is the critically determinant factor of transmission of the virus. Either a lot of payload exchanged briefly (e.g., by kissing, spitting, sneezing, coughing…with the first clearly being the favorite, at least in my mind) or a lighter payload being exchanged over a longer period of time, eventually accumulating to an infectious load. 

That’s why outdoors and distancing (to allow dispersion of viral organisms) and masking and filtration systems (to screen or capture particulates before inhalation/ingestion) are at least somewhat, to greatly, effective in reducing transmission of a very common virus: the coronavirus, which causes illnesses ranging from the ubiquitous and relatively innocuous common cold to the much more severe and deadly MERS, SARS, and now this particular variant of SARS: COVID-19. Fortunately, the kind of modern HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) systems with HEPA (high-efficiency particulate absorbing) filters that we have in our individual classrooms at Veritas both disperse and screen/capture viral particles, maximizing air quality─and minimizing viral loads─when students and teachers have to be indoors.

From what we’ve seen, COVID-19 (which I usually shorthand to just “Covid”) appears to spread as easily as a cold but with far more dangerous repercussions, especially to those whose immune systems are compromised, usually by underlying health conditions (or illnesses, called “comorbidities”) or simply by old age when our immune systems naturally degenerate. Though very few of our students would be considered “high risk” for a severe outcome from a Covid infection, a much higher percentage of our adult faculty and staff─as well as our students’ parents/grandparents─fall into that category. The mitigation strategies that we’ve employed at school have largely been targeted at minimizing the potential for infectious viral loads to accumulate and be spread within our buildings to our students and staff, thereby protecting both them and their families. And from our experience thus far, those strategies appear to be working.

Apologies to all for the above layman’s lesson from a fellow layman. I just thought that you were entitled to know what we─or at least, I─think about this virus so that you could better anticipate and appreciate/understand the decisions at school that have been made about it. 

Now having done that, I also want to let you know how frequently I share with the School Board that I am incredibly blessed to be here serving a community like this and governed by a board comprised of the likes of our current and former board members. They─and y’all─are amazing. Our community of kids, parents, faculty/staff, and board members are just as fervent in their often-opposing beliefs as anyone else; but to everyone’s credit this year, we haven’t let that divide us. That is the result of one simple thing, but very difficult, thing: maturity. A mature respect for one another that allows us to restrain or temper our tongues─or, at least, tones─in deference to each other. From the bottom of my heart, I thank you for that. And I mean it sincerely. Your care for our community has caused you to resist lighting the fuse that could blow us up, which fellow Heads of Schools have shared is not the case in their communities. As you can imagine, dealing with Covid issues─especially with the severe polarity of parent, student, and employee opinions about masking and related protocols─is, by far, the most time consuming, draining, and defeating part of most school heads’ jobs this year. And I, too, have had much time, attention, and prayer diverted to this area, but with the huge benefit of having a mature, respectful, and restrained community behind me here at Veritas.

Now, I realize that I may be speaking a bit prematurely since there are still six weeks for this powder keg to go off, but I’m stepping out in faith believing that we, as a community, will continue to bind together to do everything we can to make these final weeks of our kids’ school year as great as they can possibly be, especially for our seniors who have endured a slow-motion, fifteen month train wreck of a high school ending, missing their class trip to Europe, their Junior─and now, potentially, Senior─prom, and so many other smaller, but significant, rites of passage. [And, no, at barely over 100 words that’s not even close to my top ten longest run-on sentences.]

But even these seniors have much for which to be grateful, for they have experienced this ride together, physically together, when so many of their peers have not. So, don’t indulge any senioritis whining out of them─instead, rebuke (if necessary) and then bless them by doing everything you can to keep Covid out of their school. A one- to two-week quarantine could be especially disheartening right now to a graduating senior whose final theater performance, athletic contest, thesis presentation & defense, college decision day, prom, AP/final exams, senior creek day, commencement, and more are all riding on them actually being here.

Lastly, this: please be kind to our school nurse. She has a largely thankless, no-win job of protecting us all by tending to sick kids and delivering bad news to parents and/or teachers almost every day now. She deserves better than some of the discourteous things that have been communicated to her when we or our kids don’t feel well or are faced with an inconvenient quarantine. I’m enough trouble for her already, so you don’t need to be. Thank you, Erica Thompson, for doing a hard job with a great attitude. And for not quitting. 

Onward, everyone!
Jef

As of Thu, Apr 15

     

  


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