Principal’s Letter

We are preparing for State of the School next week, and as I reflect on the year, I am once again struck by the truth in that well-worn phrase: it takes a village or in the words of our school theme: “Together we can.” Thank you for your ongoing support and continued efforts as we focus on our top priority: keeping school open for our students’ academic and mental well-being. The Omicron variant continues to spread rapidly in the community, and we have not yet seen the peak of this current wave of infections. We have seen an increase in positive cases in students and staff (see Dashboard below). However, these numbers remain low given the number of cases in the community. This speaks to the incredible job faculty, staff, students, and parents together are doing to implement mitigation protocols and reduce risk. I want to formally thank parents, Dora Hall and Lee Rolfe, for joining our COVID Response Team. Both nurse practitioners, their guidance has greatly assisted teachers and staff during these first few tumultuous weeks of January. I ask you to read on as the school is providing updated guidance regarding testing, quarantine/isolation, and masks.

COVID Dashboard (1/4/2022 – 1/20/2022)

  • Students Tested Positive (grades preK-8): 14
  • Staff (School and XDC) Tested Positive: 9

The school has been implementing PCR testing for students/staff who present with COVID symptoms. Through contact tracing we have, at times, also tested identified close contacts of individuals who test positive. Contact tracing may identify some students as close contacts. However, even though we make every effort to ensure social distancing and mask-wearing, it is challenging to determine who may have been a close contact. Parents of close contacts will be notified as soon as possible, and the students will be offered PCR testing (per CDC Guidelines/DOH at least 5 days after the exposure or sooner should symptoms present). A consent form must be completed for the school to test your child. Parents can complete this form if needed.

In order to keep our case numbers low and remain open for in-person learning, we have updated our guidance.

       Household Positive Contacts: Of the positive cases we have seen at St. John, around 50% had at least one, if not more, household members test positive days or even a week later. Despite current guidance from Public Health, Seattle & King County, that fully vaccinated household members do not need to quarantine, some school families with a positive case in their household have proactively made the choice to hold siblings out of school to monitor for symptoms. We encourage families to consider this option to prevent potential spread or exposure at school. Unvaccinated close contacts must still quarantine as per DOH guidelines.

       Rapid Antigen Testing after Isolation: The current guidance is to isolate for 5 days after testing positive. St. John has ordered rapid antigen tests that should arrive at the school soon. Once test kits arrive, we are going to implement a “rapid test to return” policy for students after day 5 given that new data suggests contagiousness from Omicron infection likely lasts greater than 5 days. If families choose not to test to return, isolation for 10 days will be recommended. Please note that a PCR test is NOT recommended if it has been less than 90 days since original COVID infection.

       Masks: We highly recommend sending your student to school with an N95/KN95 mask or 3-layer surgical mask if possible. Data implies cloth masks do not offer as much protection as surgical masks or N95/KN95 masks. Please see this graphic published by the Wall Street Journal in early January comparing protection of different types of masks.

       Vaccination Records: Please send vaccination records to Mrs. Q. if you have not done so already. There are different protocols for quarantine for vaccinated versus unvaccinated students and having these records greatly helps guide our COVID response for identified close contacts. 

Again, thank you to Dora Hall and Lee Rolfe, for their assistance. Speaking of thanking nurses, join me in participating in the Lulu Nurse’s Second Annual Virtual Stair Climb Challenge. Lulu Nurse is a non-profit organization dedicated to supporting the health and wellness of the nursing community. More information can be found in the Community News post.

I also invite you to join us for the State of the School next week. Like last year, the program will be virtual – the link will be emailed to families on Monday – and you may choose to attend on Tuesday, January 25 or Thursday, January 27 at 7pm. Do recall that attendance at State of the School is required for all families.

Congratulations to Mr. and Mrs. Olsen! Twins, Emma and Anders, were born today.

Bernadette O’Leary