Dear Palm Valley Community,
The Palm Valley School takes this situation seriously, and we are taking every precaution to prevent and limit exposure and every legal action available to us to address potential infection and exposure of students, families, and employees. In communicating with several organizations that handle emergency and crisis services for schools and other organizations, and various communications from public health officials, we are following their advice in regards to when the school might face a closure:
Closing a school is an extreme measure. Very little evidence of benefits arise from preventative closures, and they bring with them unintended risks (e.g. when students aren't in school they may congregate and gather elsewhere. It can be a huge disruption to families with smaller children, and those needed most in the medical workforce must stay home to attend to children, etc.)
The Palm Valley School will consider closing should the following occur and will follow these guidelines:
- A student or staff is likely or confirmed having been directly exposed to COVID-19.
- That student or staff immediately self-quarantines, preventing additional exposure to others.
- The student or staff then tests positive for COVID-19.
At that time, we would then consider a school closure and a move to online instruction.
- If the school is closed, all students and staff are asked to impose a self-quarantined for 14 days (usually symptoms appear within 3 days, but 14 days is the most conservative).
- During that time the school would be deep cleaned and disinfected.
- After 14 full days, any asymptomatic students and staff could return and/or we would consider continuing on a modified/blended online format for a time to accommodate students and staff physically present and those still at home.
We have become aware of certain instances of infection that could potentially be traced to our community through the cases that are confirmed in the valley. This includes travel to areas that are on the watch list, travel to airports that could have exposed folks to others coming from high infection rate countries, frequenting local workout facilities that have confirmed cases of infection, etc. If you are in one of these categories, we encourage you to be responsible and to stay off-campus temporarily and/or to keep your children or family members home who could have been exposed. Obviously, in situations like these, it is impossible to monitor everyone's comings and goings, or to legally bar certain persons from campus without ascertaining confirmation of a diagnosis or other confirmed exposure. Please consider the community during this time and take the 14-day self-quarantine period. We will make every reasonable accommodation for students who need to be away from campus for this two week period and can ensure continuous instruction and academic support.
Our approach to this virus from day one has been to follow the CDC regulations for travel. We have required and continue to require a self-quarantine or doctor's note from anyone having traveled to a country that the CDC identifies as receiving a Leveled Rating (1, 2, or 3). A few countries have been added to this list since we last sent a communication to you. These countries now include China, Iran, Italy, South Korea, and Japan. We will continue to require doctor clearance or completed self-quarantine for anyone traveling to or from these areas deemed infectious by the CDC or having been directly exposed to someone traveling to or from these areas. We are actively following up with families or employees that have been traveling during this time period and with anyone else in our community that may have been exposed. There are other high infection areas of concern on the CDC watch list, and we will continue to monitor the CDC for updates.
We have been adding more and more deep cleaning and sanitizing beyond our usual approach to campus cleaning. Our Preschool utilizes a sanitizing spray for toys and other things that we have begun to use for surfaces around campus that could contain germs. However, COVID-19 is not likely to be surface based transmission, but droplets from sneezing, coughing, etc. We will continue to disinfect all areas of the school as appropriate, but please note that the best way we can keep germs from spreading is through good hygiene and behaviors that we should use for regular/annual cold and flu season. Cough or sneeze into a tissue, try not to touch your face whenever possible, and wash your hands thoroughly and often. Parents should make every attempt to discuss these and other strategies with their children, along with alleviating their anxieties about COVID-19 whenever appropriate. Here is a great article for what to consider when speaking to your children about COVID-19.
For a week or more now, we have enacted procedures limiting physical contact between student to student, and teacher to student by eliminating handshakes and hugs and substituting elbow bumps, etc. We will continue to do so and will also talk with students about practicing limited "Social Distancing." This is choosing to cancel or avoid attendance at larger gatherings that are optional or can be done without great risk.
As such, we are choosing to cancel the following events for our students and community:
- Canceling field trip to Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles for Middle School.
- Canceling the CyberSeniors service learning field trips to Atria Senior Living.
- Canceling Grandparents and Special Friends Day events and festivities on Friday - we will reschedule for a later date.
- Postponing monthly Buddy activities across grade levels for now.
We will still hold all other planned activities as of now, but stay tuned for additional cancellations. If your student is scheduled for a field trip and you are uncomfortable sending them, you may choose to keep them home in lieu of attending and we fully support that decision. In your time at home, we encourage you to consider implementing "Social Distancing" with your own family activities as a means to avoid unnecessary risk of exposure. We will also evaluate more events in the future as we move forward, so please watch for more updates in this area.
One piece of important news for schools is that this virus seems to behave very mildly in children. Even in countries with high rates of infection and significant testing, early studies are showing that while there are children who have contracted the virus, they are only experiencing mild cases/symptoms. This is, of course, a preliminary finding, but seemingly positive for families and schools concerned with the well being of our children. You can read more about these findings on the CDC website on this topic or in this article.
We have been and will continue working closely with CAIS (California Association for Independent Schools), NAIS (National Association for Independent Schools), Joffe Emergency Services consultants, the Jane Group for crisis communications, and several California public health departments to ensure that we are receiving up to date information and resources for best practices in schools as it comes. We are also continuously monitoring local, state and national news, the Center for Disease Control (CDC), and the World Health Organization (WHO) websites. We receive alerts from them should new news, recommendations, or changes in the virus behavior occur. The COVID-19 situation is a bit of a moving target in that the information is changing constantly and we have to remain diligent. As we learn more, we may change our approach, cancel more events, or even close campus. However, we are comfortable with the measures we have taken, the plans we have laid out for possible future outcomes and approaches, and the communications that we have in place to ensure we are kept up to date and that we keep you up to date.
We will be setting up a web page at www.pvs.org/covid19 later today that will house all these communications, announcements, and resources as we continue to address this situation and make for easy access if you have questions. We thank you for your support and for your continued partnership. Please do not hesitate to reach out to me, or to your Division Heads if you have any additional questions or concerns.
Head of School