A letter to parents about upcoming events, gradual return of visitors to campus

Oct 07 2021

A letter to parents about upcoming events, gradual return of visitors to campus

Dear Friends,

We send this letter with a feeling of hope. For the past several weeks, COVID numbers have been moving in the right direction: The positivity rate is declining, the case rate per thousand is heading downward, fewer people are being hospitalized with COVID, and fewer hospital patients are in intensive care and on ventilators. At the same time, the vaccination rate is rising and the coming availability of vaccines for young children will mark another important milestone in the fight against this virus.

As we have done since the pandemic began in March 2020, we continue to base our decision-making on the most recent findings in science and medical research. With these recent milestones in mind, we believe it’s time to revise some of our protocols and begin planning for the gradual return of visitors and parents to our campus in a way that’s safe for our students, families, faculty and staff. We think we can balance the process of opening campus and keeping our community safe.

We will begin this process with several upcoming events over the next few months. So you will know what to expect, we would like to share more information about these events, and explain our rationale for holding them in person, or virtually.

Please know that we have vetted these events with our medical experts, taken into account their counsel, and made plans based on their advice. In addition, for the foreseeable future, we will maintain universal masking indoors and optional masking outside. This is to protect against COVID and what some medical experts are predicting to be a particularly virulent flu season.

Upcoming Events

Visit Keystone: On Oct. 17, we will host families who are interested in their students attending Keystone. The program will take place outside, and will be mask optional. Any time spent indoors will be minimal — with facemasks required. Tour guides will be fully vaccinated students in Middle and Upper School. We will hold an activities fair in the gym, with doors open, fans blowing to provide good circulation, and masks required.

Halloween Parade: On Oct. 29, we will hold an outdoor Halloween parade on the main campus for Lower School students. As we did last year, we will live stream the parade for parents and grandparents who cannot come to campus. However, we will also allow parents to come to campus and watch their children process. In keeping with our current COVID protocols, this outside event is mask-optional. Please be on the lookout for more details.

The Little School will also hold a costume parade that parents may attend, and will be asking for volunteers to work craft stations outside. Here again, additional details are forthcoming.

GrandFriends Day: On Nov. 19, we will hold GrandFriends Day for Lower School families. This event will take place virtually. Right now, we are working to develop the program for the morning. At the Little School, the event is postponed until next year, but students are making cards and mailing them to their Grandfriends.

“New normal” on campus

For other events, we are working to return to a sense of normalcy on campus, even if it has changed from before.

High School Dance: On Nov. 6, we will celebrate the first Upper School dance since the pandemic began. It will take place outdoors at the SilverHorn Golf Club. Since it’s an outdoor event, masks are optional. Because students will be in close proximity, we will require attendees to provide the school nurses with either their COVID vaccination record or a negative test result a couple of days before the event. As in the past, this information will remain confidential.

Athletic events: For volleyball games this semester, we will begin to allow more student fans inside the gym. Our students have been asking to attend and support their friends and classmates, so we have decided to create a student section in the gym for games. For events in the gym, we will have doors open and fans blowing to keep outside air circulating. Already, we allow families of visiting teams to come to our gym, and require masks for all spectators. This policy will continue.

Theatrical productions: We will allow Middle and Upper school theatrical productions inside the Theatre. For the Upper School play, the overwhelming majority of cast and crew members are fully vaccinated. The Middle School production has a Halloween theme, so all cast and crew members will be masked during performances. We will allow spectators in the Theatre and limit the number of people attending. In all cases, we will keep doors open to ensure the flow of outside air and attendees will be masked.

Lower School parent gatherings: Over the coming weeks, Head of Lower School Mallory Matthews will invite small groups of parents on campus for grade-level information sessions in our outdoor spaces, such as the Theatre Garden.

Keystone Food & Drink Festival: Next spring if conditions allow, we plan to hold an outdoor fundraiser on campus. It’s scheduled for March 25, so please mark your calendars now!

Rationale for decisions

We would like to explain the reasoning behind our decision for opening up the campus for most events but not GrandFriends Day. We have two main reasons:

Outdoor activities. For most of our events, activities are taking place outside, and outdoor events have shown throughout the pandemic to pose a far smaller risk than indoor events for spreading the virus that causes COVID-19 or the Delta variant. For events taking place indoors, we are making accommodations to ensure they have plenty of outdoor airflow.

Vaccine availability. Most of our Upper School students are fully vaccinated, as are Keystone faculty and staff. A significant proportion of Middle School students have been fully vaccinated. All the student tour guides for Visit Keystone will be fully vaccinated. Even if several guests during Visit Keystone are unvaccinated, the fact of holding the event outside helps keep the risks low.

Unfortunately for GrandFriends Day, the Lower School students are too young to receive the vaccine. Even if children ages 5-11 are allowed to receive the vaccine in the coming weeks, they would not have enough time to be fully vaccinated. The combination of a large number of unvaccinated children together in the company of a largely vulnerable population of elderly people at a time of year when weather can force us to be inside poses a risk we choose to avoid.

In the next few months, the COVID vaccine will be available for children ages 5-11, and this will reduce the potential of virus transmission on campus even more. With this in mind, we plan to create more opportunities for parents to come on campus for a variety of events and meetings.

Building independence
Before the pandemic, we allowed parents to come onto campus any time, and this caused mixed reactions. Some felt it was welcoming for parents, while others saw it as inadvertently holding back children’s development, and creating a potential security risk.

A lesson we learned from the pandemic is how young children blossom and develop self-confidence and independence when parents drop them off and let them enter school on their own. Teachers have commented repeatedly on the students’ self-assurance as they navigate their way around campus with their peers or their teachers. To help our students continue to grow and develop, we will continue this protocol for now.

The past year and a half has tested our community in ways we never imagined. As we have done all along, we will continue to incorporate the lessons we have learned over the past year and a half, so we can improve as a school for all of our students.

It’s an exciting time to be at Keystone.

With hope,

Billy

Billy Handmaker
Head of School

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