December 30, 2021

Dear Collegiate Community,
 
I hope this email finds you and your families doing well and having had an opportunity for rest and rejuvenation. We are looking forward to welcoming the boys and faculty and staff back on Monday morning for the start of our second semester. 
 
It has been a busy break as the administration has monitored the latest COVID surge and followed rapidly evolving information and changing guidelines from health officials. I am grateful for your patience and understanding as we have waited for the most updated information to make decisions that will allow us to return in person as safely as possible. 
 
To be sure, we will be navigating this new phase of the pandemic as it likely develops into an endemic that we will need to manage for the foreseeable future. If that is indeed the case, we must do so while the boys are in school, engaging with one another and their teachers, learning in classrooms, experiencing a robust extracurricular program, and forging the Collegiate brotherhood. To be sure more positive cases await us, and we will hope they are mild and we will be able to manage them with as little disruption as possible. 
 
To do this under these particular circumstances, it will require more robust mitigation measures and a community commitment to the same both in and out of school. We must manage this together with mutual support, patience, and a commitment to our own and everyone else’s good health. 
 
As expected, we did hear about several more cases over the break after we sent our last community email about a positive case on December 19th. As of this writing, we have learned of 23 cases during the break across several grade levels and among students, faculty, and staff. I am pleased to report that these cases have been reported as generally mild in nature, and all have recovered or are recovering well. Moving forward, we will immediately inform any close contacts of an exposure to a positive case at school, and we will report positive cases to our full community in a weekly dashboard rather than individual emails. If there is a need to communicate anything sooner, we will of course do so. 
 
Detailed below are the mitigation measures and protocols we are continuing with and others we are expanding or adding. In the interests of clarity and efficiency, I am sacrificing detailed explanations so as to make this information as digestible as possible. All of the steps below have been carefully considered, researched, and deliberated, and I have continued to seek the guidance of our consulting epidemiologist and other experts. Everything below aims to get the boys back into school and keep them and their teachers here as safely as possible. We still believe that being in school is one of the healthiest places to be, both physically and emotionally. 
 
A few reminders of previously announced requirements, with a few emendations:
 
  • Everyone at Collegiate is required to be fully vaccinated (including a booster) when eligible. Boys 5-11 must have at least one shot already documented in Magnus before Monday and all must be fully vaccinated by January 24. Booster shots are also required of everyone once they are eligible (for most faculty and staff this will be around February 1).

  • Everyone* must take an at-home rapid test on Monday morning, January 3, before coming to school. Do not take the test Sunday evening; it must be done Monday morning in order to provide the most accurate result. Students will then attest to the negative result as a part of the daily health check in the Magnus app before entering school. This will be a weekly requirement moving forward: a rapid at-home test on the first morning of every school week and the attestation of the negative result in Magnus. (*Those community members who have had COVID-19 in the past 90 days are exempt from this requirement until 90 days following their diagnosis.)

  • If your son is showing any symptoms of COVID, the common cold, and/or the flu, he must stay home. Contact the nurses immediately and follow their instructions on testing. Only students who are placed in a COVID protocol by the school can learn from home over the course of isolation or quarantine.

  • We will be conducting our weekly PCR pool testing twice per week while circumstances warrant, on Mondays and Wednesdays. It is important that parents or caregivers administer or observe your son’s nasal swabbing, regardless of their age. We must have every boy take the sample correctly and are relying on our parents to help with this. 

  • Masking continues to be required, yet cloth masks are no longer sufficient during this highly transmissible Omicron surge. Everyone must wear a medical-grade disposable mask, such as an N95, KN95, KF94 or a surgical mask. Each family should acquire a supply of these masks. The school will also have appropriate masks available for faculty and students if needed. If a child has a cloth mask, he will be given a medical-grade mask to wear at school. Please do not send your child to school with a cloth mask. And please know that, per state requirement, there are no indoor mask breaks permitted, and we will strictly enforce proper mask-wearing. Please reinforce this with your sons, as students who do not wear masks appropriately will be sent home.

  • While we await full vaccination status for everyone in the building, we will employ a test-to-stay (TTS) protocol for any close contacts. That means that any boy identified as a close contact can take an at-home rapid test each day after the exposure and, if negative and symptom-free, he can continue to attend school. The TTS protocol will be managed by our nurses and requires a daily check-in with the parent. (Once everyone is fully vaccinated, TTS will no longer be necessary as fully vaccinated, asymptomatic individuals identified as close contacts do not need to quarantine.)

  • Lunch and snacks are times of higher transmission risk, so we have made some changes. We will continue with our normal lunch service in the cafeteria and, for some Lower Schoolers, in the library. We will aim to expedite lunchtime so that we limit the amount of time the boys are unmasked. To increase air circulation, we have removed the polycarbonate shields and have made adjustments to spacing and the direction of the seating. Snacks will continue to be offered but will be expedited to ensure maskless time is minimized. 

  • Sports, plays, choruses, orchestras, and clubs will continue to play, perform, and meet. These are important parts of the boys’ experiences, and we will take the same measures as elsewhere in the school regarding masking and the like. For athletes, all players and coaches will need to take a rapid test on the day of any interscholastic competition, as will those on the opposing team. We are also in discussions with our athletic league about spectators, and more information on this and other adjustments is forthcoming from Athletic Director Voelkel. 

  • We continue to report all cases to the NYCDOH as required. Our intention is to remain open for teaching and learning for as many boys as possible, knowing that we will have positive cases (likely more than in the past) and will be managing some level of disruption in the weeks ahead. 

  • As I wrote previously, we are asking community members to do everything they can to source at-home rapid tests on their own. If you are unable to find a test for Monday, the School will have a limited supply of tests available. We are also working on securing additional tests to help cover these first few weeks back at school. We do have an ample supply of medical-grade masks if your child needs an appropriate face covering. We will have someone at school over the weekend and early on Monday to distribute kits (as available) and/or masks to families who need them. Please reach out to securitybooth@collegiateschool.org to arrange a pick-up time so that we can confirm availability and have your kits and/or masks ready.  
 
I continue to lean on our school motto—In Unity There is Strength. The wisdom of that phrase will carry us through the challenging days ahead, just as we continue to look forward with realistic optimism and excitement to see everyone back together again. We must make the best of a difficult situation, and unity of purpose will help us do just that. Thanks, as ever, for your support, encouragement, and grace. I look forward to seeing everyone again on Monday in the year 2022.
 
David Lourie