Dear BK Families,
As discussed in every BK Alive letter since the start of school, our BK Leadership team meets every week to review the status of the metrics we monitor, with particular focus on what is happening in our school and in our broader community. We assess whether we should make any changes and adaptations to our Instructional and Operational Plan, especially around requiring masks. The three key internal metrics that we monitor are:
- Number of cases and spread within our school.
- Attendance rates (including # of students in quarantine)
- Percentage of staff out
In addition to the above, we also watch carefully, and are concerned about, what is happening in our community in terms of Ada and Canyon County incidence rates, other school districts, our fellow TVCS schools, COVID hospitalizations and capacity, especially ICUs.
This week in our meeting we made the determination that beginning this Friday, September 10th, we will move to requiring masks in all indoor settings on the Bishop Kelly campus, with the commitment to assess every two weeks if we need to make any modifications for the upcoming two week period. We do not take this decision lightly. No one likes to wear masks. But we felt compelled to take this action as we will explain below.
Our primary goal for this school year – as it was last year – is on-campus learning in a face to face model. All students on campus all day every day. Safely. Here is our analysis of the above metrics for this week:
- Number of cases and spread within our school – we have had 12 cases in the past three days (11 students and one staff) and 27 for the first 3 ½ weeks of the 2021-22 school year. This compares to only 2 cases last August and 0 last September and a total of 86 for the whole year. We are clearly dealing with a much more contagious virus with the Delta variant.
- Attendance rates – our weekly attendance has dropped each of the past three weeks from 98.7% the first week, to 97.3% the second week to 95.06 this week, to 93% today. This is a trend we are concerned about as we want all kids in school every day. The absenteeism is a mixture of kids out sick with a variety of illnesses, not just COVID, with many waiting for COVID tests which are taking up to 72 hours at times due to the high volumes at our health care providers.
- Faculty/Staff absenteeism – we currently have one teacher out who is positive for COVID and one staff member in quarantine. We have no other faculty or staff sick or in quarantine. This is the least concerning of our three internal metrics at this time, but could be a huge problem in operating the school should it change direction quickly.
- Community factors
- The ICUs are full in Boise, Meridian, Nampa and Twin Falls for both St. Luke’s and Saint Alphonsus. 57 out of 62 ICU beds at St. Luke’s have Covid patients and 98% of them are unvaccinated patients.
- Health districts 1 and 2 in Northern Idaho have implemented Crisis Standards of Care due to the overwhelming number of COVID+ patients. Southern Idaho is not far behind.
- Significant staffing shortages at hospitals with outpatient providers being re-deployed to support hospitals
- The positivity rates at Primary Health the past three weeks are at 19% – 21% overall with positivity rate for 12-18 year olds at 14.4%
We need your partnership with us – as you did last year – to lower the possibility of transmitting COVID-19 here at BK and in our community. Here are several suggestions to further protect your children and family and provide a safer environment at our school and in our community:
- Continue to encourage your children to wear masks when outside of school, especially indoors, or in crowded spaces outdoors. Please discourage sleepovers, movie nights, car pools, etc. on weekends. The students at BK who have tested positive contracted COVID through family contacts or these types of activities. You can help us keep school safe by limiting your children’s risk outside of school.
- Have your children vaccinated and encourage your friends to have their children vaccinated. Don’t wait. This protects your children, those around them, and also keeps them from having to quarantine at home should they be a close contact. Vaccines are the best way to reduce cases and keep people out of the hospital.
- Keep your child home should they exhibit any symptoms – cough, sore throat, fever, stuffiness, etc. Wait 24 hours to see if the symptoms persist and then have them tested for COVID-19 if your medical provider recommends it. We have convenient Vault Covid tests available to all who wish them with turnaround times of 48-72 hours.
- Please be kind. Be civil. Be understanding. Be respectful. There has been so much vitriol and divisiveness over the wearing of masks in many schools in our community and our country. Wearing masks is just one additional layer of risk mitigation that we are choosing to implement to keep kids in school, keep them and their families safe and healthy, and to help reduce transmission in our community. That is it. No more. No less.
In conclusion, we believe it is time to make a change to our masking policies with a commitment to assess our metrics every two weeks and determine what, if any, changes we should make to our mask policy and other risk mitigation strategies going forward. Last year showed us that masks work. We believe that masking at this time will help prevent or slow the spread of the virus within our school and our community and ultimately help keep students, faculty and staff in school so we can avoid going online. We have made good progress these past four weeks on strengthening the sense of belonging and community by getting to see and know each other. In addition, sports and activities will continue over this two week period and we will be addressing in the next few days if any of our policies and plans around indoor sports, Homecoming, and spectators at games should be modified.
Let’s work together to safely navigate our way through this period of high transmission in our region. We will continue to assess every two weeks and hopefully we can return to optional masks soon. But it is up to us. Thank you for your support, understanding, feedback and trust.
Rich and Mike