We are all mindful that the uncertainty and anxiety about the coronavirus and the illness it causes, COVID-19, have continued to escalate this week. I am writing to:
Update you on our planning at Community Day School
Reiterate the steps we should all be taking in the interest of public health, and
Signal our readiness to adjust our course of action as this situation evolves.
As the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has emphasized, there is currently not a coronavirus pandemic in the United States, and as of this morning, there have been no confirmed cases in Pennsylvania. While the number of COVID-19 cases across the U.S. is still small, we are constantly monitoring new developments in this very fluid situation and preparing for the possibility that the virus could cause significant disruptions in Pittsburgh and at CDS as it has elsewhere in the world.
The administrative team at CDS is following the guidance of the CDC, the Pennsylvania Department of Health, and the Allegheny County Health Department. We are also grateful for the valuable expertise and support of the National Association of Independent Schools, Prizmah: Center for Jewish Day Schools, and the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh as we continue to reevaluate our steps and actions daily.
Meantime—and echoing the message that has been shared repeatedly this winter by our Health Office—the most effective ways to prevent the spread of viral infection include:
If your children are sick or exhibiting contagious symptoms such as fever, cough, or sneezing, it is imperative that you keep them home from school to avoid spreading illness. Your children must be fever-free for 24 hours without fever-reducing medications before returning to school. This critical school policy applies to everyone, every year, including our staff.
Remind children that hands should be washed often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds (the equivalent of singing “Happy Birthday” to themselves twice!), and they should avoid touching their eyes, nose, or mouth.
Make sure your children cover their nose and mouth with a tissue (or a flexed elbow) when they cough or sneeze, dispose of the used tissue, and then wash their hands immediately.
The CDC also still recommends getting a flu shot if you haven’t already.
Nurse Susie Kerr and our educators have been reminding children of these best practices, and we encourage you to do the same. We will also be reminding children not to share food or drink and to bring reusable water bottles to school that they refill rather than drinking directly from the fountains.
In the context of a difficult flu season, our maintenance team has been performing additional cleaning and disinfection of high-touch surfaces such as door handles, tabletops, and faucets this winter and will continue to do so. In addition, we are ensuring there are adequate supplies of disinfecting wipes, tissues, and hand sanitizer in every classroom and building extra time in the school day for hand hygiene.
We are committed to minimizing disruptions to school, but the safety and well-being of our students and staff supersede even this commitment. Therefore, we are also engaged in the important work of preparing institutionally for different scenarios including temporary closure and determining how we might use technology to sustain learning in this event.
In addition, we are paying attention to student chatter, and our school counselor Casey Briglia is available to reinforce the facts and allay children’s fears. Please be mindful of what children are exposed to by limiting exposure to media coverage, being careful about conversations you have with other adults in front of your children, and sharing developmentally appropriate information. As always, try to balance hearing your children’s concerns with encouraging them to think of different things and to focus on what they can do to keep themselves safe. This article from the National Association of School Psychologists provides good advice about talking with your children about coronavirus. .
We will continue to keep you updated as we have any new information.
With gratitude to our community of helpers and healers.
P.S. - We're stocking up on cleaning and hygiene supplies. We've been approached by parents who wish to help and we are grateful to accept contributions of funds and/or supplies such as tissues, disinfecting wipes, and hand sanitizer.