St. John’s Episcopal Parish Day School prepares each of its students for lifelong intellectual and spiritual growth by providing a superior educational experience within a nurturing Christian environment. Situated in Hyde Park and near Downtown Tampa, St. John’s is a co-ed, Episcopal K(4)-8 independent school with a rich 68-year tradition of exceptional academic achievement. Founded in 1951, St. John’s is Tampa’s oldest Episcopal school.

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COVID-19 Information 2021-2022

Dear School Family,

Following yesterday’s meeting of the Task Force, I write to update you on our COVID-19 protocols and policies. We end this week - the sixth in a row - with no new confirmed cases of infection among our students and employees. As you may be aware, additional data for the area shows a steep and continuing decline in confirmed cases, as well as the infection rate. Moreover, there are reports the vaccine for children ages 5-11 will become available in the near future. 

Based on the above, we are modifying our face coverings policy, effective Monday, November 8th, at which time they will become ‘recommended but no longer required’ for students and employees, as well as parents who visit our campuses at any time. This means that students need only bring a face covering to school if they want to wear oneWe will maintain a stock of face coverings on each campus for any student who wishes to wear one but who forgets to bring it or misplaces it. At some point after the vaccine becomes available for children ages 5-11, our face coverings policy will transition to ‘Optional.’

Between now and November 8, should a family elect to have their child(ren) remove their face covering when seated at their desks, they must complete and return this form to their child’s respective division director(s). The form will no longer be necessary after November 8.

Our policy regarding quarantine will remain in place for the foreseeable future. Namely:

  • A student or employee who tests positive should stay home for 10 days following the positive viral test for COVID-19.  
  • A student or employee who is directly exposed while wearing a face covering will not need to quarantine if they remain asymptomatic.
  • A student who is directly exposed while not wearing a face covering may be required to be quarantined for 10 days from the date of exposure, depending on the circumstances. That same individual can take a PCR test on day five and return to school on day seven if the result is Negative. 
  • A vaccinated individual who is directly exposed does not need to quarantine if they remain asymptomatic. It is recommended they take a PCR test five days post-exposure.
  • If any member of a household tests positive, the student or employee must quarantine for 10 days from the date of exposure. If the individual is vaccinated, he or she does not need to be quarantined if they remain asymptomatic.

As we consider how best to keep our community well and maintain in-person learning moving forward, we remind everyone that the single biggest factor influencing the risk of community spread of any infectious disease is parent decision-making when a child or family member is or may be ill. Parents must keep their children away from school anytime they or anyone in their household exhibits any of the following symptoms or if any member of the household has taken a COVID-19 PCR test and is awaiting the result:

  • Any time your child has a temperature of 100.4 degrees or higher (without fever reducing medication).
  • If your child has no fever but does have a combination of congestion, coughing, and/or sore throat.
  • If your child has an upset stomach, diarrhea, or vomiting within a 24-hour period, regardless of cause or frequency.

As an additional reminder, our position regarding COVID-19 vaccination - including when a vaccine becomes available for children ages 5-11 and for the foreseeable future - is that it is not required as a condition of enrollment at St. John’s at this time. It is important to note that COVID-19 vaccination may at some point be added to the Florida Department of Health list of those currently required for children entering, attending, or transferring to Florida public and non-public schools. We have partnered with Tampa General Hospital to facilitate on-site COVID-19 vaccinations (at school) for interested families and will communicate more information in due course. 

While hopeful the tide has turned once and for all in the fight against the pandemic, we remain prepared to adapt to any circumstances, including the possibility of managing further individual cases should they arise. As such, we do not anticipate the Task Force needing to continue to meet for the foreseeable future. School leadership will continue to monitor the situation, as always, and will reconvene the Task Force should the need arise. On behalf of the entire school community, I want to express my deep thanks and gratitude to the Task Force members for their time and dedication:

  • Dr. Tracy Burton - Board Certified Pediatrician and Fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics and St. John’s parent
  • Mrs. Lauren M. Smith, ARPN - Pediatric Nurse Practitioner and St. John’s parent
  • Ms. Sharon Weaver, ARPN - Nurse Practitioner and St. John's School Nurse
  • Mrs. Amy Patenaude - Licensed School Psychologist and St. John’s parent
  • Dr. John Marston - Board Certified by the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology, former St. John’s parent and trustee
  • Mrs. Lisa Strauch, Mr. Michael Salzer, and Mrs. Ana Ibanez - Division Directors and experts in childhood education and development. Mr. Salzer and Mrs. Ibanez are also current St. John’s parents.
  • Mrs. Jenny Spencer - President of the St. John's Parents' Association and St. John's parent
  • Mr. Eric Williams - Chair of the Board of Trustees
  • Mr. Hugh Jebson - Head of School

Have a blessed weekend and thank you for sharing your wonderful children with us.

Best,

Hugh Jebson

Head of School

Read More about October 29 Update

Dear School Family,

I write to share a brief update following yesterday’s meeting of our COVID-19 task force. 

Families are our first line of defense away from school in the daily battle to prevent community spread in our buildings and widespread quarantining of students. I cannot overstate just how critical your support is to our ongoing efforts in keeping everyone safe and at school. If anyone in your household exhibits any of the following symptoms or if any member of your household has taken a COVID-19 test and is awaiting the result, do not send your child(ten) to school:

  • Any time your child has a temperature of 100.4 degrees or higher (without fever reducing medication).
  • If your child has no fever but does have a combination of congestion, coughing, and/or sore throat.
  • If your child has an upset stomach, diarrhea, or vomiting within a 24-hour period, regardless of cause or frequency.

Since last Friday’s email, there has been an increase in school-wide student cases. Based on the circumstances of some of those cases, it has also been necessary for other students to quarantine. At yesterday’s meeting, the members of the task force reviewed school and local pediatric COVID-19 data and unanimously agreed that the face covering mandate remain in place for at least one more week. We will continue to revisit the face covering mandate at each meeting. 

School leadership remains most concerned about the overall well being - physical, social, emotional, and educational - of our students. We encourage all parents to participate in the upcoming parent enrichment event on September 30th. A panel of education experts and child psychologists will share their thoughts, answer questions, and provide guidance for parents wanting to support their children’s emotional and mental health. More details about this event will be communicated soon.

I will update the community on any new developments resulting from the next meeting of the task force. As always, any time you have a question 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 wonderful long weekend. 

Hugh Jebson
Head of School

Read More about September 3 Covid-19 Task Force Update

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. 

Sincerely,

Hugh Jebson
Head of School

Read More about August 27 Covid-19 Task Force Update

2020-2021: How the St. John's Community Achieved Success During a Pandemic

WE PLANNED CAREFULLY AND MOVED SWIFTLY. Because we have a culture of continuous improvement, we were preparing before it became apparent that schools would need to close. We quickly formed a COVID-19 Task Force that included physicians, faculty, administration, and parents. We designed a detailed Safe Entry Plan to ensure we could provide in-person learning when the next school year began. 

WE EXERCISED AUTONOMY AND INDEPENDENCE. Our school size, culture, and the support of our engaged parent community allowed us to make decisions in the children’s best interests—without political considerations or bureaucracy. We believe children’s academic, social, and emotional wellbeing are best served when they are in school. We opened the 2020-2021 school year with a comprehensive approach that offered families:

  • A choice to learn on campus or participate in class live from home
  • Counseling to help each family make the best choice for their child

Most families chose to return to in-person teaching, trusting that we had their children’s best interest in mind. And by the end of the school year, all but a few had returned to class.

WE COMMUNICATED TRANSPARENTLY. Ongoing, timely, and detailed communication assured our school families and neighbors that we were responsible and responsive members of the Tampa community. Throughout the pandemic, we have regularly communicated our approach, its results, and the safety measures we are taking.

WE INVESTED IN EDUCATIONAL CONTINUITY AND COMMUNITY HEALTH. We went above and beyond to safeguard students and employees, and to protect the integrity of the educational experience—which is why we were able to open—and remain open the entire year. We partnered with Tampa General Hospital on COVID-19 testing and worked closely with health agencies on contact tracing and quarantine procedures. We monitored CDC guidelines for schools and adapted, as necessary. We added a nurse practitioner with extensive experience in infectious diseases and invested heavily in resources to promote learning—in the classroom and the living room—such as:

  • Virus-mitigating resources, like HVAC system air filtration, air purifiers for every classroom, and sneeze guards on every desk.
  • Educational resources, like software and training to help teachers engage remote students, the PikMyKid app to improve the efficiency and safety of carline, iPads for every student and teacher, and ClearTouch® interactive displays.

WE SAW A CRISIS AS AN OPPORTUNITY. We embrace any opportunity to adapt, innovate, and evolve in ways that see our school emerge even stronger. We adapted our teaching methods almost overnight, and—with our parents' support— invested in innovative technology that allowed us to further “throttle up” each child’s educational experience.

Everyone in the St. John’s community—parents, supporters, faculty, staff, administration—stood shoulder to shoulder to ensure that St. John’s could continue to shape the lives and futures of the children entrusted to our care.

It was a challenge unlike any we’ve faced in our lifetimes—and we faced it together, successfully.

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