It is hard to believe, but it has been almost exactly two years since COVID-19 first began impacting our community. As the pandemic loomed in March of 2020, we were facing the unthinkable – a scary time where we could not gather together in person, see familiar faces surrounding us in support, or hug one another to offer comfort. During our period of on-site closure, we deeply missed the joyful presence of each child and their family, and it took the concerted efforts of many to determine a path toward reopening that provided the safest environment possible while also offering the loving, playful, supportive, and engaging learning experiences that are the hallmark of Temple Sinai Nursery School.
I have often said that my crystal ball became especially cloudy back in March of 2020, and while it is still not providing a perfectly clear view into the future, we have come remarkably far together. And as circumstances continue to evolve, we will continue to forge ahead – together. This beautiful community of families, faculty, and staff has shown tenacity, creativity, resilience, commitment, and flexibility as we responded to the demands of the pandemic, and it is those qualities that will support us as we continue forward.
As we consider how we will proceed, we are informed by the recent changes in DC Health’s revised policies, which now align prevention measures to “community levels” of covid transmission and link to the CDC’s guidelines for many protocols. We will be measured and intentional as we review how these changes will be reflected in our policies at TSNS, and will continue to be fully transparent with you about shifts in protocols that are planned or under consideration.
Many factors are part of the mix as we consider our path forward, including, but not limited to:
- DC Health guidelines and requirements, and any clarifications provided by DC Health and/or OSSE for early childhood programs;
- CDC recommendations, including those linked directly to the DC Health Guidance;
- Recommendations from our COVID-19 Advisory Group and pediatric consultant;
- Discussions with faculty, staff, Nursery School Committee members, and Temple Sinai leadership;
- Family feedback (including conversations initiated by our Parents’ Association Co-Chairs, who continue to organize and share parent feedback and questions with me); and
- The children’s experience at TSNS, including how we support their ongoing development, acknowledge their resilience, and maintain our focus on their health and safety.
As we proceed incrementally, we adopted some changes beginning Monday, March 14, and made additional shifts in policy on Monday, April 4. While any policy shifts we make now may change as conditions evolve, we want to assure you that we recognize that this is not a race to return to “normal.” We will continue to approach any protocol changes with the same care we used when shaping our response to the pandemic, and the voices of all members of our community are valued sources of input.
Here’s what changed beginning on Monday, March 14:
- The playground became a shared play space! With the removal of the subdividing fencing, children are now able to enjoy the full breadth of our wonderful outdoor resource every day. Please note that this means that children are now mixing with other class cohorts in their age group while outdoors.
- Isolation periods for those who test positive for covid are reduced to five (5) days for mild or asymptomatic cases. A return to school on Day Six is permitted for those who are asymptomatic for 24 hours, provide a negative antigen test, and are able to consistently wear a properly fitted KN95/KF94 mask at TSNS for five (5) additional days.
- Quarantine periods for individuals who are not up to date in their vaccination status and are close contacts of an individual who has tested positive for covid are also reduced to five (5) days, and a return on Day 6 is permitted with a negative antigen or PCR test. Due to increased accuracy, PCR tests are preferred but no longer required.
- We will accept home antigen tests following travel outside of the DMV (PCR tests preferred); tests should be administered the day before or the day of a child’s planned return to TSNS. No quarantine period will be required.
- Children and staff members may wear a mask of their choice provided that it remains closely fitted to the sides of the face and covers the nose.
- Two adults may attend our school events, including Purim Parades, Family Shabbat Sings, and our All-School Passover Sing Along.
- All visiting adults must be up to date in their vaccinations.
Here is what changed beginning on Monday, April 4:
- Masks are optional both outdoors and inside for children, faculty, and staff. Masks will only be optional at TSNS when community levels are LOW.
- This shift to a mask-optional policy is accompanied by weekly surveillance testing for all children, faculty, and staff, using antigen tests provided by TSNS. The duration of this weekly surveillance testing protocol is yet to be determined.
- All children and adults will be required to wear masks for all-school indoor events such as Shabbat Sing.
- Children whose families elect to have them participate in school programming unmasked will be required to wear a properly fitted KN95/KF94 mask at TSNS to return on Day 6 following a positive covid test.
Many policies will remain unchanged:
- Support for all families’ and teachers’ choices to remain masked.
- Use of the MyMedBot daily screening app (which will be updated to reflect shifts in policies).
- Attention to air circulation in indoor spaces through continuing use of our air filtration units and opening windows as weather permits.
- The expectation that those who are sick stay home:
- This includes any symptoms of covid listed on our daily health screening that are not attributable to an alternate diagnosis (in which case a negative PCR test and/or doctor’s note is required to be cleared);
- Families must also follow our regular TSNS illness policy set forth on page 19 of our Parent Handbook and in the DC Guidelines for Communicable Diseases provided in the Appendix on pages 30-32.
- Our faculty members and facilities staff will continue to keep our materials and spaces clean, following sanitation and disinfection guidance from both OSSE and NAEYC.
As we look toward the possibility of additional changes in our covid policies, please know that we recognize that this is a challenging time of transition and a recalibration of mindsets and approaches. We also understand that we will likely not be able to make everyone happy with the decisions that we make; however, we hope that everyone feels that all decisions are made with the care, attention, and informed approach that they deserve, and that we will continue to place our children, families, faculty, and staff at the center of our decision-making process.
Shabbat Shalom and be well,