Head of School Blog "Community Health On and Off Campus"

Dear Orchard Friends and Families,

Our third week of school has been a very successful one.  Students have settled into the routines and procedures of the new year, and it has been wonderful to see them using our outdoor spaces across the entire campus as places to learn and play.
The health and well-being of our students, faculty, and staff remain our top priority, and I’d like to share some updates and information to keep families apprised of our practices on campus, and what to do if your child is exhibiting any symptoms at home or at school.

I am glad to report that to date we have had no positive cases of COVID-19 amongst our students, faculty, or staff.  I’m appreciative of the great care and vigilance that the members of our school community continue to practice in order to ensure the health and well being of everyone.  Despite our precautions, I anticipate that we will have positive cases during the course of the school year, and I will notify our school community when we have a positive case.  While we will keep the information of individuals confidential, anyone who is identified as a close contact of a student, faculty, or staff member who has tested positive for COVID-19 will be contacted directly by the school and advised about the next steps.  
As we monitor our children’s health at home and across the school day, it can be hard to discern the differences between symptoms of influenza, common colds, and seasonal allergies from the symptoms of COVID-19.  We have shared the most recent guidance from the Indiana State Department of Health on “When a student, faculty, or staff member can return to school” on the parent portal, and we have also included a chart below with the decision tree for parents and our school as we’re evaluating the health of our students:




While we will continue to vigilantly monitor our students and the implementation of our health and safety procedures on campus, the decisions that we make outside of school have an impact on our entire school community.  In a conference call with independent and charter school leaders last week, Indiana State Health Commissioner Dr. Kristina Box shared what the data has reflected about the transmission of COVID-19 amongst school-aged children:  “Younger students do not normally get infected at school.  Normally they get infected in their own home, because parents or older siblings bring it home.  Older students are also not usually getting infected at school:  it’s through the social activities that those older students are doing after school” (August 27, 2020).   You can monitor updated public health information for communities and schools on the ISDH’s Indiana COVID-19 Data Report, and the Marion County Public Health Department’s COVID-19 School Guidance Dashboard.  
I will continue to ask all members of our community to do everything they can to prevent the spread of COVID-19 within our school and the city of Indianapolis.  Monitoring yourself and your children every day for symptoms, consistently wearing face coverings, maintaining physical distance, practicing excellent hand hygiene, and avoiding large social gatherings and indoor venues make a significant difference in the health of our community, and our ability to be in school.  Please keep these mitigation strategies in front of mind, most especially as we approach the Labor Day weekend.  Thank you for being diligent and for partnering with us to support a healthy school environment for everyone.
Sherri C. Helvie, Ph.D.
Head of School

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