Dear School Family,
I write to share additional information following yesterday’s meeting of our COVID-19 task force. First and foremost, we continue to be successful in our management and mitigation strategies. Since last Friday’s email, we have been made aware of two additional cases among our students, for a school-wide total of three positive cases since the beginning of the school year. Additionally, four students are at present quarantining. As far as we can ascertain, all were exposed away from school.
We are doing everything we can to protect your children’s wellbeing - physical, emotional, and educational. Families are our first line of defense away from school in the daily battle to prevent community spread in our buildings and any subsequent need for potentially widespread quarantining of students. I cannot overstate just how critical your support is to our ongoing efforts, and how much we need your continued vigilance when your children are not at school. The presence of an exposed or infectious child at school significantly increases the risk of other members of the school community becoming infected, having to be quarantined, or worse.
Below are ten questions posed by members of our school community and discussed by the task force yesterday. We hope the answers are helpful as together we continue to navigate this challenging situation. There is a lot of information provided; families should always feel welcome to consult the school for further guidance or instructions.
Q. It’s not always practical or feasible to keep my child home from school any time they have symptoms of illness. Can the school provide any specific guidelines to help me determine whether my child should stay home or come to school?
A. We fully understand the challenges associated with children having to be cared for at home rather than at school and empathize with parents any time they face this prospect. Accordingly, we hope the following is helpful:
Any time your child has a temperature of 100.4 degrees or higher (without fever reducing medication), they should not come to school.
If your child has no fever but does have a combination of congestion, coughing, and/or sore throat, they should not come to school.
If your child has diarrhea or vomiting within a 24-hour period, regardless of cause or frequency, they should not come to school.
Other than the above, a child can come to school. Whenever possible, however, families should err on the side of caution any time a member of the household is feeling unwell and not send their child to school. Any time a child is kept home, the respective division office should be immediately contacted for further instructions.
Q. What circumstances dictate whether my child must quarantine?
A. Every situation is unique thereby making immediate communication with the school nurse imperative. In general:
A student who stays home due to symptoms noted in question #1 should not attend school or any school-sponsored activities until the student receives a ‘Negative’ diagnostic PCR test result after testing is conducted on/after day 3 of symptoms.
A student who has received a positive diagnostic PCR test for COVID-19 should not attend school or any school-sponsored activities until ten days have passed since the onset of symptoms or positive PCR test result, the student has had no fever for 24 hours (without fever-reducing medication) and the other symptoms are improving.
A student who is masked while indoors and exposed to COVID-19 and who remains asymptomatic does not have to quarantine.
A student who is not masked while outdoors and exposed to COVID-19 may have to quarantine depending on the circumstances.
If any member of the family is ill and/or getting tested for COVID-19, all St. John’s students in that family must stay home until the individual concerned receives a negative PCR test result or provides the school a doctor’s note affirming they can return to school.
Q. My child was exposed to COVID-19 away from school. What should we do?
A. A student who is exposed outside of school must immediately quarantine for 7 days. He or she can complete a PCR test on day 4 or 5 of the quarantine and return to school if the PCR result is ‘Negative.’
Note: St. John’s does not accept the results of in-home COVID-19 testing when determining whether quarantine is required or the appropriate date for return to school.
Q. My child has been fully vaccinated. Does he or she need to be quarantined if exposed in or outside of school?
A. If a fully vaccinated student (2 weeks post second dose) who is asymptomatic provides proof of vaccination to the school nurse, he or she is not required to quarantine. They should still be masked for 10 days post exposure. If families are uncomfortable providing this documentation, the student must quarantine, regardless of vaccination status. Fully vaccinated students who are symptomatic must quarantine.
Q. My child received a positive diagnostic PCR test for COVID-19 in the previous 90 days and has been in direct contact with someone who has received a positive diagnostic PCR test for COVID-19. Does he or she need to quarantine?
A. A student who has received a positive diagnostic PCR test for COVID-19 in the previous 90 days and who is in direct contact with an individual who has received a positive diagnostic PCR test for COVID-19 is not required to quarantine so long as they remain asymptomatic. They should still be masked for 10 days post exposure.
Q. My child has been fully vaccinated. Why does he or she have to wear a face covering?
A. Fully vaccinated students can still transmit and shed the virus and potentially put others at risk. Therefore, at this time fully vaccinated students are required to wear a face covering.
Q. What is St. John’s position on medical exemptions for face coverings?
A. We are not offering medical exemptions for face coverings. According to information provided by medical experts, a true medical exemption is extremely rare and not likely to be encountered in most school settings as it would include children with severe developmental delays and special needs. We are not aware of any St. John’s student who meets these criteria.
Q. How long will the universal requirement for face coverings remain in place?
A. At yesterday’s meeting, the task force unanimously agreed that the requirement should remain in place for at least the next week. We will revisit this question next Thursday.
Q. What criteria will the school use to determine the appropriate time for face coverings to be less than universally required?
A. At a minimum, we will be looking for a downward trend in positive cases in Hillsborough County, as well as continued encouraging data from the school that shows we are not experiencing community spread in our buildings.
Q. Is the school planning anything specific to support the mental and emotional wellbeing of the children?
A. Our priority remains caring for the ‘whole child.’ We are working in partnership with our Parents’ Club to host an upcoming parent enrichment session that focuses on supporting students’ mental and emotional wellbeing. The event will feature a panel of experts in children’s health, development, and education. Details will be shared with the school community once finalized.
I will update the community next Friday on any new developments resulting from the next meeting of the task force. I again want to thank each of the members for their time, expertise, and dedication as we care for our school community. Thank you, again, for your continued support and understanding as we provide for and protect each child. As always, any time you have a concern about your child’s experience at St. John’s, COVID-19 related or other, please reach out to us so we can do our best to help. Have a blessed weekend.
Head of School