Headmaster Update: New Report Reinforces Bear Creek COVID-19 Protocols

Dear Bear Creek families,

Last week, I mentioned that we have incorporated the data from the Institute for Disease Modeling (IDM) into our analysis. On November 5, IDM released "Testing the waters: is it time to go back to school?" This report analyzed data from across the country, examining the safety measures needed for schools to open safely. The report found:

  • Risks could be significantly mitigated through hybrid school schedules or via a phased‐in approach that brings back K – 5 first.
  • Countermeasures to pandemic spread, include masking, cohorting students, daily symptom screening, follow-up diagnostic testing, contact tracing, physical distancing, hand hygiene, and improved ventilation, reduce the risk to students to less than 2%, even with a full schedule of five days of in-person classes.
  • Regular testing is not significantly effective in countering the spread.
  • School‐based transmission did not significantly increase the community‐wide reproduction number (Re) in this analysis for scenarios in which school‐based countermeasures were in place.

This data bolsters our confidence that the health and safety measures we have undertaken at Bear Creek are fully aligned with research on how to keep everyone safe and healthy, while still allowing students the option of in-person education. Each week we continue to evaluate this data and data regarding the level of community transmission, as well as the school’s ability to maintain a safe environment with our procedures, protocols, and systems.

Step Start Plan 

Taking all of this into account, while cases in King County overall continue to climb, the Bear Creek health reporting areas remain relatively flat. So, we will maintain the previously announced course of moving grades 5 – 8 to Step Four beginning today, meaning students may be on campus three days a week. Of course, with Bear Creek Choice you can continue to decide how many days, if at all, you would like your child to attend in person. We will not make any changes to the Step Start Plan for the week of November 16.

Social and Emotional Well-Being

We know that student social and emotional well-being is a key component of learning, and that the isolation caused by the pandemic has been especially difficult for our students. Our Deans are working hard to develop meaningful ways for all of our students to connect with one another, to build a sense of inclusion, belonging, and involvement, and to just be kids. If your child is struggling, please reach out to the Dean of Students in your child’s division. We want to partner with you in helping your child to thrive, whether he or she is learning remotely or attending on campus.

We also realize the Upper School has been in Step Three for over a month and many of you may be wondering why that is the case. As the IDM report also finds, the infection rate for high school students is nearly double the infection rate of elementary school students. Likely, this is because older students are more socially and practically mobile. As such, we have tried to bring the preschool – grade 8 students back to campus and establish our protocols and health and safety measures with lower risk, before proceeding to do the same with higher risk. While the Upper School has remained in Step Three, we have been looking at possible ways to safely increase social interactions for our older students. Beginning Monday, November 16, Upper School students will be allowed to eat lunch in the Nagel Commons, socially distanced in grade-level cohorts by day, rather than in classrooms. Look for more information about this in Ms. Miller’s Upper School Update later this week.

Town Hall 

Finally, I want to invite you to attend a Town Hall meeting on Friday, November 20, at 4:00 p.m. I will provide you with a status update, more information about our health and safety measures, and details about how we are approaching decision making during and after the holidays. You will also have the opportunity to ask questions.

Join Event

As always, I am grateful for the spirit of partnership and for the actions that each of you are taking to keep our Bear Creek and broader community healthy and safe. In these times of uncertainty, we are at our strongest as a community. #grizzliestogether

Grace and peace,

Patrick Carruth