Dear Parents/Guardians and Students,
The administrative team met today to assess the current situation in light of Governor Newsom’s latest guidance regarding cancellation or postponement of gatherings of more than 250 people, as well as smaller gatherings that don’t allow for 6 feet of distance between people. Newsom also gave additional guidance limiting gatherings of groups of high risk people, such as those over 60 or with compromised immune systems, to no more than 10 people. Today, we have nearly 10% of our student body absent from school and, while these absences no doubt are for a variety of causes, we know that some of you are keeping children at home because of your concerns about the coronavirus. We do not currently have any known community exposure to or infection with COVID-19.
Much of the information we have gathered from a variety of sources, including the medical professionals within our community, indicates that the United States is in the early phases of the coronavirus outbreak that we have seen in other countries. The coronavirus is spreading at a very rapid rate nationally and globally, and what’s become clear is that social distancing within and across communities is the best we can do at this time to reduce spread of the virus. Many experts are suggesting that the current efforts in the United States focus not on containment but on slowing the rate of spread towards the aim of not overwhelming the healthcare system and protecting our most vulnerable populations. While it is very tempting, given the health and resilience of our students and generally young and healthy staffulty, and our natural and constant commitment to our students and daily endeavors, we feel it is our responsibility to participate in this community containment effort.
School closed tomorrow and through spring break
Although the Sonoma County Office of Education has not yet indicated that schools in our county should close, many schools within the Bay Area have begun closing or moving to online instructions. We have decided to close school at the end of the school day at 6 pm today in order to support the exposure reduction efforts across the country and state and to allow our faculty a professional development day tomorrow to begin their instructional continuity planning should we need to remain closed after Spring Break.
Event cancellations and postponements
We have also decided to postpone the Jazz Showcase scheduled for tonight for a future date to be decided at a later time. Additionally, tomorrow’s athletic competitions and practices are also canceled and Chris Ziemer will work with other athletic directors to determine if and when those games can be rescheduled.
Lastly, we are cancelling Grandparent/Significant Elders Day, scheduled for May 1, out of an abundance of caution and to allow grandparents the opportunity to cancel travel plans at this time. We will send an email to grandparents with this information as well.
What are the implications going forward?
This is obviously a rapidly changing situation. Should we need to remain closed beyond spring break, we hope to be able to let you know by the end of next week (March 20). Faculty are continuing to prepare the instructional continuity plan and students would receive notification and details concerning these plans after the decision is made. Our campus will be closed to parents and students throughout spring break. We know that athletic teams are scheduled to return to campus during the second week of Spring Break. Chris Ziemer will be in touch with all teams next week with a decision about whether these practices will resume or not.
What about events scheduled for after spring break?
No events scheduled for after spring break, except for Grandparents/Significant Elders Day on May 1, are being canceled at this time.
As we said in our last communication, we highly encourage all families to cancel any planned travel to countries identified by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as risk level 2 or 3. Should travel out of the country be unavoidable, be prepared to self-quarantine for 14 days upon your return from any area determined to be at that risk level.
Given that the situation continues to evolve, it is possible that countries not currently at this risk level may change in the coming weeks. Please notify Ellie Dwight or Darren Duarte if you are traveling to an area that is, or becomes during the course of your travel, identified as a CDC risk level 2 or 3 area. For more information about the CDC’s travel guidelines, visit: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/travelers/index.html
What about homework/quizzes/assessments/3rd Quarter Grades?
Students should submit any essays or written projects that are due tomorrow. Any in-class assessments will be postponed. Faculty will grade the 3rd Quarter based on all work completed and submitted by the end of the day tomorrow, and report cards are scheduled to be posted on Thursday, April 2.
May students meet or gather off-campus?
Some students and parents have asked us whether students can meet together off campus. We suggest that parents and students follow the guidelines set by the state, as well as their own best judgement and comfort level.
We are grateful that we are heading into spring break, a natural time for us to be closed. We want to acknowledge the emotionally challenging nature of this experience and encourage all of you to take good care during spring break. We know that there are very different levels of concern and anxiety amongst our students. Many are aware of global uncertainties or worried about grandparents or other people in their lives with health issues; others are wondering what the fuss is all about. We remain relieved that the health impact on teens and children remains very low.
In advisory today, I told my advisees the story of Sonoma Academy opening its doors three days before 9/11, moving into our new campus at the nadir of the downturn, and how we survived and thrived. I told them of my absolute belief that, though these are uncertain and unsettling times, we’ll get through this as well. I also know that many seniors are wondering about the possible impact on senior speeches, graduation, and the usual sweet last weeks of school in the spring. With our spring break coming early in the school year, we have more than two full months before graduation and I also believe that we will be able to reconvene long before then. I’m sure you know that we are not making this decision lightly. Our concern for your wellbeing as well as what we imagine to be your likely disappointment about canceling events are palpable in the small conference room as we make this difficult decision.
Take care of yourself and each other.
Janet Durgin, Head of School
PS: All of our current information regarding coronavirus and its impact on our school community and operations is being updated here: https://www.sonomaacademy.org/coronavirus