Like many of you, I follow COVID-19 news pretty obsessively. It is hard to avoid given the current state of affairs. I have a professional interest in following news around school, college, and university openings in the age of COVID. I have been really impressed with the thought and care that schools have applied in their plans. Much like our own plan, they are well thought out and thorough, and one can tell that hours of hard work went into each and every one of them.
Yet, one sees many stories about educational institutions being forced to abruptly end face-to-face instruction and switch to online learning. As I read through the stories and consult with experts, the problem rarely is centered on the institutions themselves. The real culprit seems to be community behavior outside of school. It is off-campus parties, travel to dangerous areas, and “super-spreader” events. It is people – in small and large groups – not taking mask wearing seriously. In school after school and college after college, elaborate and extensive plans fall apart because people decide to act irresponsibly outside of school. They become infected with COVID-19 and then spread it to other people. When I speak to public health officials, they tell me time and again that it is off-campus behavior that is causing the virus to spread.
I am beyond thrilled to have our community back on campus. The Visitation faculty, staff, and administration have dedicated hours to making Viz a safe place amidst a pandemic. Our nurses have spent countless hours in COVID-19 response training and education, including training in contact tracing. We have designated an isolation room where students exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms will be separated from others in our community. We have revised our lunch accommodations and procedures to maximize student safety. We have invested heavily in keeping our building safe and have implemented a strict regimen of disinfecting the campus. (Details can be found on the COVID-19 FAQ page of the Viz website.) We worked with mechanical contractors over the summer to increase the fresh air flow into our building and accelerated scheduled HVAC filter replacement. We are encouraging open windows in classrooms and offices when possible and have expanded our outdoor learning spaces. Mask usage, social distancing, and hand washing will be strictly enforced. The Middle and Upper School principals will be sharing more details regarding student safety in their weekly communications as each of those divisions prepare to return to campus on September 8 and 14, respectively.
I cannot stress enough that if our school is going to be able to continue face-to-face instruction, each and every one of us has to behave responsibly. Our goal is to keep Viz open and keep our community together during these challenging times. To do this, we need to dedicate ourselves to responsible behavior.
I thank you in advance for doing your part to keep our community safe. By wearing masks, maintaining social distancing, not gathering in groups, and staying home when you or those you live with are ill, you are helping us maintain face-to-face instruction for our students. We know that the times ahead will be filled with challenges. If we all, however, come together and look out for the common good of Visitation Academy, the St. Louis community, and indeed the nation, we can get through this.
Yours in Christ,