Dear North Cross Community:
We have just completed our most recent round of testing and found 4 positives out of 463 tested, for a positivity rate of just under 0.9%. The positives were one upper school student, one JK3 (Hagan), one JK4 (Cook), and one 2nd grader (Daly). All close contacts have been notified and those positives will isolate according to our policy. All positives are asymptomatic.
In keeping with recently established Board policy, our 0.9% positivity rate allows us to lift our masking requirements for students. You will receive a follow-up email from your division directors that answers many of your questions but do not hesitate to call them.
We will lift our mask requirements beginning Monday, February 21. If you wish for your child to remain masked, please send them to school with a mask. Students returning from isolation, however, will be required to remain masked for ten days following a positive result or the onset of symptoms, whichever came first. I point out that masking when indoors continues to be an effective way to protect your child.
I know this news will make some of you very happy and that some remain more concerned about the virus. I am aware that our decision to lift mask requirements comes with strong emotions but what I can tell you is that over the last three weeks, we have watched a number of very similar schools across the State make a safe and successful transition to mask optional. That, combined with our most recent test results that indicate a low level of virus in our community, will hopefully provide some much-needed assurance that the time is appropriate for lifting the mask requirements.
The lifting of the mask requirement makes it even more important for you to keep children at home if they show symptoms. Aileen Fleming, our school nurse, is at school each day and if necessary, she can perform a PCR swab and you can get results back usually within 24 hours. Obviously, there are also at-home rapid tests that come in packages of two. Two rapid negative rapid tests, 24 hours apart, provide excellent assurance the symptoms are not COVID related. Let’s err on the side of caution.
While I do not anticipate a need to reinstate masking requirements, we will retain the option if the circumstances warrant.
As always, I appreciate your understanding and I am glad we are taking a significant step towards a normal school year. It has been a long slog and I am hopeful the dramatically decreasing new case rates are an indicator we can put the past two years behind us.
Dear North Cross Community:
On Wednesday, we tested 459 students, faculty, and staff and there were 23 positives for a positivity rate of 5%. The bad news of course, is that we are still not at 2%, but the good news is that we saw a 50% decrease in our positivity rate over the past two weeks. Of the 23 positives, we had 1-JK4, 1-K, 1-1st, 10-2nd, 2-3rd, 3-4th, 1-5th, 1-9th, 1-12th, 1 staff, and 1 volunteer parent. Fortunately, all our positives were either asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic.
The most obvious number is the 2nd grade total but equally interesting is the predominance of positives in the lower school. A disproportionally high number of the lower school, and 2nd grade, positives appear to be students that have taken part in our “Learn to Skate” program. If we include students tested in late January, 11 of 28 students taking part in skating have tested positive. As a result, we will pause “Learn to Skate” until such a time we feel the community positivity rate decreases.
Obviously, the lower school has a lower vaccination rate than middle or upper divisions but we did see a significant number of vaccinated lower schoolers test positive as well as unvaccinated students. I am encouraged by no middle school positives and only 2 upper school positives. We will continue to watch these numbers following the February 16 round of testing.
Another important number is the decreasing number of those testing. We have slightly more than 250 members of our community that are not testing as they have tested positive during the past 90 days.
As always, we will follow our protocol for those students testing positive and close contacts.
Of course, masking continues to be on everyone’s mind and while communal masking is not a guarantee of remaining COVID free, we do continue to run a schoolwide positivity rate significantly lower than the current 28% positivity rate in Roanoke. It is good to see COVID trends in the Valley have peaked and are decreasing quickly. I remain optimistic we will soon return to positivity rates we saw late last fall.
Thank you so much for your patience and understanding as we negotiate what I hope is the beginning of the new normal.
Christian J. Proctor, PhD
Dr. Proctor is the ninth Head of School at North Cross and has served as such since 2011. He has more than 30 years of experience in education. He has served as headmaster at Porter-Gaud School in Charleston, South Carolina, St. Martin’s Episcopal School in Metairie, Louisiana, Grace Episcopal School in Monroe, Louisiana, and as Interim Headmaster at Wesley Academy in Houston, Texas. In each location, Dr. Proctor’s tenure was marked by creativity, innovation, and school growth.