Principal’s Letter

This week we lit the third candle on the Advent Wreath.  The rose candle symbolizes the joy we feel at drawing nearer to the birth of Christ.  We, the faculty and staff at St. John, also feel joy in the support and cooperation you have demonstrated over the past months.  We are all very grateful for the generosity and kindness you have shown to the teachers – Santa’ has been dropping off gifts in teachers’ boxes throughout the week!  We are also grateful and humbled by the generosity you have shown to our Unbound friends.  Thank you!  As we anticipate the final Advent candle, peace, we pray that the miracle of Christmas will bring just that.  May Christ grant us hope, love, joy and peace during this Christmas season.

We are all hopeful as we hear about the arrival of the COVID-19 vaccine.  However, we must remain diligent.  We continue to be guided by local health directives to avoid crowded areas, gatherings with people outside your immediate household, and to quarantine after unnecessary travel.  I encourage you, again, to review Governor Inslee’s recommendations as you make plans for Christmas break.  Additionally, there is updated information from Public Health – Seattle & King County for quarantine based on CDC guidelines.

Your choices during the holiday will help chart the path for our return to in-person learning in the new year. Yesterday, Governor Inslee issued new guidance for the re-opening of schools.  Specifically, we learned of an update in the metrics used to inform local school decisions for in-person learning.  Washington state outbreak data, along with national sources, show that, while cases and outbreaks do occur in schools, transmission of COVID-19 in the school setting has been limited when strict adherence to health and safety protocols are followed.

This has been our experience here on campus.  While a small number of students and families in our school community have contracted COVID-19, transmission among our on-campus student cohorts and staff has been negligible. The school is confident in the mitigation strategies deployed thus far and the new metrics will allow us to begin bringing more students on campus.  To minimize the risk of transmission within schools, the CDC’s key mitigation strategies will continue to be implemented:

  1. Consistent and correct use of masks
  2. Social distancing to the largest extent possible
  3. Hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette
  4. Cleaning and disinfection
  5. Contact tracing, if necessary, in collaboration with the local health department

Based on the new metric, at the current High (>350 cases/100K/14 days) COVID-19 activity level,  a phased approach to in-person learning in groups of 15 or fewer students is recommended when schools can adequately meet all safety measures. Schools should prioritize the youngest learners – preK, kindergarten, and grades 1-3 -using small group instruction of 15 or fewer students and strict cohorting due to the level of community transmission. Then phase in grades 4-5, similarly in small groups. You can reference the newly published tools and provisions (December 16, 2020) Washington State Department of Health information here.

What does this information mean for St. John School?

  • Work remains to prepare our campus for the introduction of intermediate cohorts.  There will be an identification phase, planning phase, and facilities phase to prepare for welcoming more in-person students
  • Re-entry of grades 3-5 will be a phased, hybrid approach, beginning with 3rd grade
  • Timelines for re-entry are not defined yet.  Specific start date for each grade level is TBD
  • Please don’t make any definitive plans for your student to be back on campus until more information is made available by the school.

When will PreK and Primary students, currently in the remote classroom, be able to join in-person instruction?

  • Communication to families with remote students will be delivered Friday, December 18, with an opportunity to confirm your preference
  • Grades PreK – 2 will continue as they are now in cohorts
  • Introduction of new students to the cohort will be based on safety measures established by DOH (cohort size, physical spacing, etc.)
  • Please be aware that we will make every effort to place your child with their homeroom teacher; however, due to space and mandated social distancing requirements, your child may be placed in another cohort

When might Middle School students return?

  • In the Moderate (~50-350 cases/100K /14 days) COVID-19 activity range DOH recommends careful phasing in of in-person learning starting with any elementary students (PreK-5) not already in-person and middle school students
  • Once the school is confident in our ability to maintain mitigation strategies with all preK-5 students in the building, we will move to bring middle school students on campus for in-person learning
  • This will also likely be a phased, hybrid approach

Next Steps for Parents:

  • Attend Live-Stream Mass on Christmas Eve via the Parish FaceBook Page
  • Look for information in the new year as to our re-opening plan based on new guidance

As you celebrate the holidays, please continue to practice safety protocols – wear masks, social distance, avoid large gatherings, and quarantine if traveling. There is hope and light in 2021. Wishing you a joyous and blessed holiday!

Nollaig Shona!