Return to School January 2022 UPDATE

January 13, 2022

Dear Birch Families,

I am writing with an update about our back to school plan. We are all anxiously anticipating our safe return to school and it looks like we will be returning shortly.

This week we received specific information and guidance from the New York State Department of Health concerning the latest protocols and procedures for a healthy return to in-person learning. 

We also were grateful to receive a number of at-home covid antigen tests this week.

Our Outdoor Forest School will resume operations on Tuesday January 18th. We are asking Forest School students to come prepared to social distance during the program, and to wear a mask. It is cold, and masks keep us warm too, so until the worst of the surge is past we want to take all precautions to keep us all safe.  Even though the virus is often harmless for children, many of our families share their homes with vulnerable folks and it is our community responsibility to protect them too.

At this time our plan is to return to in-person, in-building learning on Tuesday January 25th. This allows us time to implement the new guidelines and also allows a few more days for the local infection rate to fall.  This week the local rate has been falling slightly each day, although it remains high: today 23.4% of all tests were positive in Orange County. If the rate begins to increase again we may need to adjust our plan, but so for we are moving in the right direction. 

 This Return-to-School plan comes with several additional procedures:

We are asking that staff and students have a negative covid test before we return to school.  To assist with this goal, on Monday January 24th we will have our last virtual learning day.  In the afternoon on January 24th school will be open from Noon to 4 for families to come to school and test their students using our testing supplies. The tests that we received require you to come to our facility to test.  These tests will provide results in 15 minutes. The entire process will take about 20 minutes.  Or, if you have access to your own covid test you can test on your own and provide proof of a negative test within 72 hours of Jan 25th 9am, or proof of covid infection within the last 90 days. Let us know if you need more information. 

Moving forward we will adopt the updated guidance we recently received from the Department of Health.  One major change is that contact tracing will no longer occur. Instead, we will utilize the ‘test-to-stay” method. This means that if there is a positive case identified among staff or students, anyone who was vaccinated and exposed could potentially avoid quarantine and instead test daily.  If students test negative they can stay in school for the day. More information and details are available by request.

Thank you for your patience and understanding as we work hard to protect our students and their families during these uncertain times. 

We look forward to welcoming students back to school and as always, please let us know if you have any questions or concerns.

The Birch School Team 


December 30, 2021

Dear Birch School Families,

We hope this holiday season has been safe and you have been able to spend time with loved ones.

As you can imagine, we are keeping a close eye on the recent developments in our current health crisis. Our school receives regular updates and status reports from the local and state Department of Health and the New York State Education Department. Our goal is to provide the safest environment for our students, staff and families.

We are aware of, and embrace Governor Hochul’s recent announcement that New York State will adopt the “test-to-stay” method, which will allow students who have been exposed to the virus to remain in their classrooms, so long as they test negative.

At this point we have not yet received specific guidance about safety protocols for a safe return to school on January 3rd. We do not have information about when we can obtain Covid rapid testing kits from the health department to implement the “test-to-stay” protocol, and to test students and staff upon return to our building.

For these reasons we have made the decision to pivot to remote learning for the first 2 weeks after our return from winter break. At this point we plan for students and staff to return to in-person learning on January 18th. We hope that this brief pause in gathering will allow us time to prepare for a safe and responsible return, with adequate testing supplies, as well as give plenty of time for the post-holiday rise in infections to subside.

We will keep you updated as we receive additional information, especially when it impacts our schedule and routine.

The good news is that our teachers and students are fully prepared to learn remotely, and we will experience a minimal disruption to our educational program, despite this challenge. Last school year we demonstrated our ability to offer a consistent program in a variety of formats.

For in-person students we will continue to meet daily at 1:15 for our “stand-up” meeting and for virtual afternoon program and class options.

Forest School will be closed January 5, 6, 7. With the information we have today, our plan is to reopen the outdoor Forest School program on January 12. In exchange, we will offer 3 makeup days later in the season.

As always, please let us know what questions and concerns you have.

Warmly,

The Birch School Team