Please continue to check this page for more information on how Northwest Academy is handling the current COVID-19 outbreak.
UPDATE #3 – Monday, March 9
Dear Northwest Academy Families,
In an effort to keep you fully informed of our deliberations and decision-making regarding the COVID-19 outbreak and its impact on our school, we will be providing you with regular updates in the coming days. Thank you in advance for taking the time to read these communications, and bringing your questions or concerns directly to us.
The school’s administrative leadership is conducting an ongoing review of new information as we move into the week. To date, we have considered the following:
- There have been no reported cases or reported exposures to COVID-19 in our community.
- Public Health – Oregon Health Authority continues to recommend schools remain open. They also recommend avoiding large gatherings, working remotely if possible, and protecting people at higher risk of infection.
- The absentee rate at NWA remains within the normal range for illness, with a low percentage of families keeping children at home out of caution.
- We have informed faculty and staff that those who are in a high-risk category or caring for someone in that population should feel comfortable taking time away from school. Thus far we are not seeing significant numbers of employee absences, and faculty want to remain in their classrooms.
- Portland Public Schools and many other area districts remain open.
- While some peer NWAIS schools in the Seattle area have elected to close proactively through mid-April, an equal number remain open. Schools are making decisions based on their specific needs and circumstances, and Seattle area schools currently operate in an environment markedly different than ours.
- We have not yet seen reported cases of COVID-19 increasing exponentially, and we are not seeing cases reported in children, even with increased testing underway.
At the same time, we duly acknowledge:
- There is an absence of information regarding under what circumstances schools that are closed would be allowed to reopen.
- The Oregon Health Authority and the Multnomah County Department of Health are weighing a broad range of issues that impact an array of constituencies, whereas our community at Northwest Academy may have a more narrow and unique set of needs.
- We know that the data and information is changing rapidly and that we must be prepared to respond promptly as new circumstances emerge.
In light of the above, Northwest Academy remains open. At this time we do not plan to close until there is new information or protocols indicating a closure is warranted to ensure the health of the NWA community and the greater Portland area. We do encourage and fully support families, faculty, and staff to make decisions that reflect their own health needs and personal comfort.
The possibility of an extended closure is real, and we are preparing in earnest for this scenario. Our faculty are developing lesson plans and learning activities that will facilitate continued student learning as well as support parents during what will be a most unusual time.
UPDATE #2 – Thursday, March 5
Greetings, Northwest Academy Parents:
Since my letter to you last week about the school’s response to the coronavirus outbreak, in addition to engaging in the rich and full life of NWA as we careen toward spring break, we have done the following:
- Given students good, science-based instruction on hand-washing and other prophylactic measures during a viral pandemic;
- Addressed with students (and teachers) the anxiety students may experience about missing class so that they can know, believe, and feel that it is not just okay but right and good for them to stay home if they have a cough and fever, or other flu-like symptoms;
- Continued a discussion as a faculty about the implications of any future school closure, including developing learning continuity plans and bolstering our online capacity for teaching and communicating with classes;
- Initiated planning for situations in which school doesn’t close but individual students have extended absences by priming teachers to have digital materials accessible for ease of remote learning;
- Arranged to stock all classrooms with hand sanitizer and sanitizing wipes, equip the reception desks with temporal thermometers, post-virus-hygiene notices at sinks and in restrooms, and establish new cleaning protocols with our cleaning crew;
- Spoken with the student body about the importance of steering clear of xenophobic and racist characterizations of the coronavirus based on its origin, while also avoiding “jokes” that imply particular students have contracted the virus;
- Read, talked, listened, and learned a lot about the coronavirus, the field of epidemiology, the complexities of managing a collective response to an issue embedded in the community, and our own capacity for managing fears and anxieties, carrying out meaningful plans, and promoting healthy living.At the end of this letter you will find links to agencies we are tracking in addition to regular communications with the Northwest and National Associations of Independent Schools. I am including links to Washington state agencies as well because we are learning from their more immediate experiences. Meantime, you can expect an update from me next week before we head out for spring break.If you have questions or concerns that aren’t answered here, please do not hesitate to contact us.
Resources for accurate information and/or to ask specific questions:
- Centers for Disease Control (CDC), Interim Guidance for Administrators of US Childcare Programs and K-12 Schools to Plan, Prepare, and Respond to Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19
- Oregon Health Authority, Statewide updates and guidance
- Multnomah County Health Department
- Washington Department of Health (DOH), Coronavirus School Resources and Recommendations
- Public Health – Seattle and King County (PHSKC), Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19
UPDATE #1 – Wednesday, February 26
Dear Northwest Academy Parents,
Like many of you, we have been tracking coverage of the new coronavirus, including yesterday’s update from the Centers for Disease Control (see CDC update here) and a Washington Post compendium of advice from epidemiologists and public health professionals (see: How to Prepare).
The best counsel, it appears, starts with, stay calm (“Stay calm! Stay calm!” he shrieked above the din). It’s comforting to note we’ve evolved—if ever so slightly—since The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy instructed us: “Don’t Panic!” (which advice Arthur C. Clarke suggested was the best and most important wisdom ever shared with humanity).
While starting there, we are not stopping with “stay calm,” and we’ve begun conversations and planning for how we might respond to such possibilities as unusually high absenteeism among students and/or faculty, a public health request that schools close, a determination that we ourselves make to close temporarily, compromised public transit system, etc.
We are currently enhancing our ability to work and teach remotely in a way that can provide some measure of learning continuity. We will keep you informed of any impact on our programs created by the virus or by our response to the community’s health needs. We understand that there are some in our school community whose immune systems may require particular care; please let us know and we will work to accommodate. Meantime, we also ask that—as ever—if your child is experiencing cold or flu-like symptoms, you keep them at home.
Wishing you good health,