Step Start Plan Rationale - August 2020

  • Headmaster
Patrick Carruth, President and Headmaster

Greetings,

Since my email on Friday, I have received several emails from you asking questions about The Bear Creek School Step Start Plan. The questions largely surround the rationale for the decision to start in this way, the data being used to make decisions, and the timing of each of the Steps. I know that for many students and families, it is disappointing to not be able to return to campus right away. I would like to reinforce with everyone that we, too, want nothing more than to have students back on campus because we believe it is good for their schooling (watch the video). We created the Step Start Plan to make that happen in such a way that students are not constantly moving in and out of on-campus learning mode because of a school or cohort shut down. It might be helpful to think of our plan as being motivated by a desire to have a dimmer switch instead of just an on-off toggle on a light switch, as dimmer switches may be controlled at whatever speed the conditions require, whereas toggle switches are blunt instruments, either on or off. This plan is a pragmatic solution we believe allows us the best opportunity to start school and stay in school. 

Rationale

On August 5, the Governor, the Superintendent of Public Instruction, and the Washington State Department of Health issued a strong recommendation that schools not reopen for on-campus learning if community spread continued. They created a set of recommendations that were broken into three parts by cases per 100,000 people. 

These new recommendations caused many local independent schools, like Lakeside, Overlake, Eastside Catholic, Bellevue Christian, and The Bush School to name a few, along with nearly all the major public school districts in our area, to re-evaluate and modify their plans and decide to provide remote instruction only in grades 5 – 12 and reduced on-campus days for preschool through grade 4.

In reviewing and analyzing recommendations from a wide variety of sources, including the CDC, national and state health departments, the American Association of Pediatricians, independent school associations, and multiple additional COVID-19 data sources, we developed our Step Start Plan to thoughtfully return to school while minimizing community spread within the school, an increase of which would likely cause the local health department to respond by mandating that all members of our school community receive remote-only instruction, as recently happened in Pierce County for private and public schools. The Bear Creek School Step Start Plan provides us with the practical flexibility to move back on campus for those wishing to do so, while minimizing that risk. In other words, we start slowly to stay in school, rather than starting and stopping.

Moving Forward

The senior administrative leadership team will determine the progression of steps based on analysis of recommended data sets from King County and data sets from local Health Reporting Areas. Each week we will review:

  1. The number of positive COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people in a 14-day period,
  2. Hospitalization trends, and
  3. Test positivity rates.

The school will also consider other relevant metrics and data, including the rate of spread within The Bear Creek School community, and make decisions about moving between steps in consultation with medical experts and judgement about the best way in which to deliver our mission. This approach also gives our community the ability to predictably return to campus and respond quickly to rising or falling case rates, by analyzing what is happening at school, in the local community, and the larger community, rather than relying on one set of metrics. See a summary of each of these metrics here:

Data Benchmarks

King County COVID-19 Activity Level Considerations

Local Health Reporting Area Considerations

State Recommended Education Modality

HIGH RISK

  • More than 75 cases per 100,000 people over a 14-day period 
  • Test positivity more than 5%
  • Increasing trend in cases or hospitalizations

HIGH RISK

  • More than 75 cases per 100,000 people over a 14-day period 
  • Test positivity trends
  • Hospitalization trends

Strongly recommend distance learning with the option for limited in-person learning in small groups, or cohorts, of students for the highest need students, such as students with disabilities, students living homeless, those farthest from educational justice, and younger learners.

MODERATE RISK

  • 25 – 75 cases per 100,000 people over a 14-day period
  • Test positivity less than 5%
  • Decreasing trend in cases or hospitalizations

MODERATE RISK

  • 25 – 75 cases per 100,000 people over a 14-day period
  • Test positivity trends
  • Hospitalization trends

Recommend distance learning as described above. In addition, consider expanding in-person learning to elementary students.

Over time, consider adding hybrid in-person learning for middle or high school students if limited COVID transmission occurs in schools.

LOW RISK

  • Less than 25 cases per 100,000 over a 14-day period 
  • Test positivity less than 5%
  • Decreasing trend in cases or hospitalizations

LOW RISK

  • Less than 25 cases per 100,000 people over a 14-day period
  • Test positivity trends
  • Hospitalization trends

Encourage full-time in-person learning for all elementary students and hybrid learning for middle and high school.

Over time and if physical space allows, consider full-time in-person learning for middle and high school.

The team and I continue to be grateful for the strength of The Bear Creek School community in remaining unified in partnership around the mission to provide a high-quality, Christian liberal arts education in a nurturing environment that will enable each student to become the individual God intends and in the Lord's faithfulness to The Bear Creek School.

Grace and peace,

Patrick Carruth

  • Headmaster
  • Learning Together
  • Remote HM