From Principal Tom Korta
I want to keep you posted about what we are hearing at school and share how we are responding. First, I need to clarify a point that was brought to my attention last night. I mistakenly classified “community-spread” as being dependent on the medium of contact. Regardless of the method of contact, community spread refers to whether or not a new case can be directly traced to a known person with COVID-19. I am grateful to the parent who clarified that for me.
Here are some important updates:
- Effective immediately, we are suspending the 10-absence rule for illness. If a student has a fever of over 100, shortness of breath or cough, the student MUST stay home for the safety and wellbeing of others. All absences prior to 3/12/20 are still subject to our 10-absence policy, but until we get to the other side of this pandemic, we will not consider absences due to illness.
- If a student comes to the school nurse with complaints of any of the coronavirus symptoms, the student will be quarantined immediately at our school until a parent comes to pick him/her up (or if a parent gives permission for the student to drive home). The student will be asked to wear a mask while in the quarantine area, but will not have to wear the mask when exiting the building. The student will not be allowed to leave the school during a passing period. The “quarantine room” will be disinfected regularly.
- If you suspect you or your child has COVID-19, please CALL your doctor. This site from the CDC (https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/about/steps-when-sick.html) gives guidance on “What to do if you are sick.” Highlighted at the top of the page is “Call your doctor.”
- We are trying to minimize the times that students have to touch public surfaces. To that end, we will leave classroom doors open so that students don’t have to touch a doorknob to get in. We will prop open the main entrances to the school from 7:30-8 am (only those doors that are unlocked anyway) as well as any internal doors that need not be locked, including bathroom doors if sightlines permit it.
- After each passing period, we will disinfect all drinking fountains, door handles and railings.
- Every room will have hand sanitizer available. If you can spare some, please send to PiusJ
- Signs in bathrooms remind students to wash their hands with soap for at least 20 seconds.
One of the things that came out of the Commissioner’s phone call last week was the three-fold response from our community: Self-monitor, self-quarantine, and self-isolate.
- Self-monitor—Everyone is asked to monitor themselves for the symptoms of coronavirus (fever, difficulty breathing and cough). We need to be vigilant in watching our own health and symptoms so that we don’t end up spreading the virus to others.
- Self-quarantine—“a quarantine separates and restricts the movement of people who were exposed to (or thought to be exposed to) a contagious disease to see if they become sick.” (From the CDC’s page about quarantine and isolation: https://www.cdc.gov/quarantine/quarantineisolation.html). I was informed by a Lancaster County Health Department official last night that symptoms can appear in as few as 2 days, the average is 5-7 days, but can appear as late as 14 days. If you have heard about the 14 day quarantine with COVID-19, that is where the number is coming from. A person who is quarantined is asked to stay home as much as possible for the 14 days and limit your contact with others.
- Self-Isolate—A person who has active symptoms and/or has been diagnosed with COVID-19 should isolate him/herself in a single room with very limited contact with family (see above link on “what to do if you are sick”).
A decision to close school will be made by the Lancaster County Health Department and the Chief Administrator of the Lincoln Diocese. We are instructing our teachers to prepare for the possibility of an extended absence, and to think about how we can continue to deliver instruction through distance learning. The school is working on a plan to support distance learning even for those who may not have access to a computer or the internet in their home. We are encouraging teachers to tell students tomorrow which textbooks or other materials they might need at home in the event that our school is closed. We do not have an indication of when school would close or even for how long, so we want to be as prepared as possible. In the event of a school closing, we will continue to communicate with you about how we will proceed.
Please check with your student to verify that he or she knows how to access PowerSchool Learning and Office 365. These will be two key tools our teachers will want to use if we are faced with delivering instruction in a “distance learning” format. If your son or daughter does not know how to access these, please have them stop in the main office tomorrow or ask one of their teachers for help.
I need to end this email with a “shout-out” to the unsung heroes at the Lancaster County Health Department. At 10:15 last night I called the Coronavirus hotline with a question. I was put on hold for only a few minutes before one of the “on-call” specialists came on the line to hear my question and collect some pertinent details. Within half an hour, I received a call back from the Communicable Disease Supervisor at the health department, who gave me terrific information and guidance on how to proceed. When I woke up this morning, there was a follow-up text on my phone from him, giving me some helpful additional information. The text was sent at 4:09 this morning! Can you believe what those folks are facing as the community keeps looking to them for answers at all hours of the day? I would say “go hug a Lancaster County Health Department worker today” but instead let’s just offer up a prayer of thanksgiving and a prayer for continued strength and wisdom as they lead us through this situation.
I am sorry this is wordy, but I feel like I have so much to share. If ever there was a time for us to be partners in your kids’ education, it is now. Let’s keep talking to each other and to your kids and we will move through this trying time with our arms locked together in solidarity and our hands folded in prayer.
May our confidence in God’s abundant love and mercy be a source of peace for us all.