Updates from the COVID Task Force (October 26, 2021)
New protocols for travel, outdoor masking, and indoor visitors
With the surge of the Delta variant in late summer, SFS started this school year cautiously, establishing COVID-19 mitigation measures that would enable the greatest safety; this included a number of restrictions that were more conservative than required by SFDPH. As we have done throughout the pandemic, we have continued to work with our COVID Task Force (CTF) and other bodies to continuously evaluate our approach and make adjustments where possible based on new knowledge, local transmission changes, COVID-19 vaccination rate changes, and community sentiment.
In the context of declining case rates (locally and across the country), the CTF has considered easing some of the protocols we have had in place since the start of the school year that were more restrictive than those required by the SFDPH. As always, our discussions were rooted in the science and the data, this time including recent survey responses from over 200 staff and parents/guardians about their comfort levels concerning a variety of possible changes to our COVID restrictions.
Last week’s meeting integrated new scientific knowledge and an update on COVID in SF by SFDPH infectious disease doctor and SFS Parent Dr. Darpun Sachdev. The CTF considered the very low case rates currently in San Francisco and the risk of COVID transmission outdoors being effectively zero. Review of the aforementioned survey responses indicated staff and parents/guardians averaged between 4 and 5 in various on campus scenarios (with 1 being very uncomfortable and 5 being very confortable).
Below are the resulting changes to our COVID policies that SFS will begin implementing gradually in the next few weeks. For more information, please refer to https://www.sfschool.org/covid19/.
Travel / School Break Guidance. As we enter this holiday season and anticipate the desire of families to travel to visit loved ones and the increased likelihood of community members attending large, unmasked gatherings, we have updated our travel and return-to-school guidance. Rather than enforcing CDC travel recommendations that include unvaccinated students quarantining for 7 days, effective immediately, we will institute the following protocol for everyone to follow after all school breaks of a week or more and for unvaccinated individuals to follow after any off-break travel involving mass transit.
Re-entry Protocol After All School Breaks of a Week or More: All staff and students, regardless of vaccination status, must test two times upon return from a school break: once the day before returning to classes and again the third day back at school (e.g., Sunday and Wednesday).
Tests: SFS will provide at-home tests for usage after breaks. Every family should have already received one BinaxNOW at-home COVID test kit with two tests. We will distribute additional tests to families with multiple students. (If the School requires you to use any of these tests prior to Thanksgiving, we will replace them. If you use them for other reasons, please replace yourself.)
If families are traveling at other times during the school year, unvaccinated students/staff must follow this same protocol after any trip involving mass transit.
Tests: Please secure your own tests for this purpose; they are readily available at CVS and Walgreens.
We ask that everyone take appropriate precautions when traveling and gathering and hope that this shift in our travel protocols gives staff and families the flexibility they need while also keeping our community safe and healthy.
Outdoor Masking. We will begin moving incrementally toward optional outdoor masking. Over the next two weeks, staff will work with their Divisions to plan the best, developmentally-appropriate way to implement optional masking outdoors. This will include figuring out the logistics, such as where students will keep their masks, as well as how to educate our students on the “why” of this shift, and to address the social-emotional aspects of this shift. As optional masking rolls out by Division, families will be notified.
We will stagger implementation, with the following changes starting on October 27:
- Middle Schoolers will be able to eat outdoors in any groupings they choose.
- Staff who teach outdoors will have the option to work with their students to beta test optional outdoor masking with their students.
Dr. Monica Gandhi will be speaking to all Upper School students on Wednesday, November 3rd about the current state of COVID-19 in the Bay Area and beyond and what it will likely look like to begin living with COVID-19 as the new normal. Related to our shift to optional outdoor masking, she will explain the low risk of COVID transmission outdoors. There will be time for Q&A with students, and the session will be recorded and sent to our entire SFS community.
Indoor Visitors and Gatherings. Please note that indoor masking is still required for ALL.
Within large spaces (e.g., Community Center, Learning Commons):
- Masked, vaccinated visitors will be permitted indoors with students, regardless of the students’ vaccination status.
- Indoor group singing for performances in large groups will be allowed, with grades seated separately at least 6 feet from one another.
- Masked, vaccinated visitors are currently allowed in classrooms of vaccine-eligible students (7-8th graders).
- Masked, vaccinated visitors will be allowed in 1st - 6th grade classrooms once 5-11 year olds are able to be fully vaccinated.
If you have questions or concerns regarding these changes, please do not hesitate to contact a member of the CTF (roster posted on https://www.sfschool.org/covid19/, and contact information available in the ParentSquare directory).
Posted October 26, 2021