Based on the COVID alerts received in your inbox in the last two weeks, you may be wondering about the state of COVID at St. John School since masking became optional 2 weeks ago. To put some context around these numbers, here is a review of the school case count (students and faculty/staff) over the past 6 weeks:
- From January 4 to present, we have done 269 PCR tests, with 29 positive results (just under 11% positive test rate)
- In the last 2 weeks, we have done 91 PCR tests, with 9 positive results (10% positive test rate)
- In King County: 53 new cases per 100K residents over 7-day period ending 3/15/22 was the lowest point since the beginning of 2022. Since that time cases have been slowly increasing but continue to remain in the “low transmission” category: 78/100K in the 7-day period ending 3/26/22
Of note, the school experienced a relatively high number of positive cases in 2 separate homerooms in the past two weeks (Grade 2 and Grade 6). The school’s practice during these times, under the guidance of Public Health – Seattle & King County (PHSKC), has been to ask these classrooms to mask for a period of time, as well as remain vigilant for symptoms, and test (either rapid or PCR) 3-5 days after possible exposure. Despite best efforts, it has been difficult to ascertain whether these “clusters” were due to in-class transmission.
Current School Response
- Communicating to grade-levels via email notification regarding positive cases
- PCR testing symptomatic students and close contacts on-site
- Providing PCR testing and rapid tests for those who request them
- Staying in close communication with PHSKC regarding positive cases, recommendations for testing method and timing, and temporary masking for certain classrooms
- Initiating an air filtration review through PHSKC
- Asking students in classrooms with 3 or more cases in a 2-week period to mask for a certain communicated period of time
- Rapid test prior to arrival back at school the Monday following recent exposures
- Assisting families with positive cases in the household to determine a timeline for return to campus
- Creating contingency plans for staff and teacher absences
The recent case increases, both at St. John and in the broader community, combined with the arrival of the milder and more transmissible BA.2 variant in the setting of a 2+ year pandemic, have compelled us to re-evaluate (with the aid of PHSKC consultants) how best to usher our community safely – both physically and emotionally – through the end of this school year while acknowledging COVID may be, with ebbs and flows, a constant companion.
Increasingly, data about the variants circulating in our area are showing that, for the majority of our population, the threat COVID poses to our collective health is lower than it has been in previous months. While the school cannot predict an exact threat level to the St. John community and have it apply uniformly to each student and family, the faculty and staff are making thoughtful attempts to re-strategize some of our general practices. As we implement new communication and testing strategies, with guidance from DOH and PHSKC, the school will continue to support the physical and social-emotional well-being of students and staff.
Please read on to learn about the changes that will be implemented and possible action steps for you:
Communication and Testing Changes
- Beginning Monday, April 4, on-site PCR testing at St. John will only be available to:
- Students who become ill during the school day, if you wish to have your student tested prior to going home (provided they have not had COVID in the last 90 days)
- Students who need a PCR test and are unable to secure an appointment in the community. Local testing sites have readily available appointments. Email COVIDresponse@st-johnschool.org if you need more information about local testing sites
- Our faculty and staff
These are the primary reasons for this decision:
- Current PCR testing capacity is not sustainable at the school administrative level and test appointments are far more universally available in the community
- Public Health consultants are encouraging us to make greater use of rapid antigen tests, particularly for asymptomatic students who may have been close contacts
- Beginning Friday, April 1, the school will no longer be sending grade-specific email alerts when an individual tests positive unless there is a cluster (3 or more) of cases in an individual homeroom or grade level. While it is difficult to identify close contacts in a school setting, should contact tracing determine a communication is necessary, individual families will be contacted.
- To ensure you can still receive information about COVID cases in your student’s homeroom, starting Friday, April 1, you will be able to access a regularly updated dashboard linked on St. John’s COVID Response page. This will provide homeroom/grade-specific COVID case information for the prior two weeks. Weekly COVID updates will also continue in NewsViews.
- As we move away from sending grade-level updates, we are cognizant of the need to communicate directly with families of students who are immunocompromised or otherwise at high-risk for significant illness or complications due to COVID regarding positive cases in their classroom. If this applies to your student, you likely provided this information at the start of the school year; if you are unsure whether we have the needed information on file, please email COVIDResponse@st-johnschool.org.
- And finally, the school reiterates: students who are symptomatic should be kept at home. Even with a negative rapid test, a child who is not feeling well or exhibiting symptoms, regardless of how mild-seeming in the morning, should stay home until they are symptom-free. The school has seen multiple instances this week of children coming to school who do not feel well.
Thank you for your patience as we navigate these changes and for your continued commitment to the health and safety of our St. John community!