• Friday, January 15, 2021

Head of School Newsletter - January 15, 2021

Some Quick Thoughts Before a Long Weekend

“Covid fatigue is real,” we hear often. Over our recently concluded holiday break I found myself thinking, newsletter fatigue is real too. So with this in mind, plus the nagging voice of one of my favorite parent advisors (let’s call them “Z”), I am offering my shortest, most direct-and-to-the-point missive ever. In fact, I’ll just do bullet points:

• At the end of a two week break during which time the nation experienced a surge in Covid cases and people feared a travel induced surge on a surge and while some schools reverted to DL out of concern, CAIS has had two straight weeks of testing in which zero students and zero employees tested positive.

• We are the only school in the city doing weekly saliva testing for all of its employees and students.

• I have always believed that the harder you work, the luckier you get. For those who say we are “lucky” to have escaped a post holiday spike in cases among our students and employees (so far), I would say that our “luck” has a lot to do with the hard work and cooperation of our community. I would also say two other things: 1) thank you, and 2) don’t let up on your vigilance—what got us here is what will keep us here.

• Testing is great, but it is not a silver bullet. It gives us data on how well we have been doing to date (but says little about tomorrow) and it can identify asymptomatic cases so that those people can be quarantined and we can slow the spread.  It does not protect us from the virus—face coverings do, hand washing does, symptom screening does, and distancing does. We must continue to do these things in addition to testing.

• The school’s protocols and policies—informed by science and public health advice—are working, and our kids are in school, learning. Please do not ask for exceptions. Everyone is important, everyone is special, but when it comes to your obligation to keep yourself and others healthy and safe, no one is exceptional. When we have to spend time addressing requests for exceptions, it is time we are not spending educating your children. Thank you for your understanding and cooperation.

• Our community is awesome, and serving you is a pleasure and a privilege.

• Have a nice weekend, be healthy and safe.

Best,

Jeff


 

  • Midday Temperature Taking

    After reviewing guidance from public health and our own experiences, the Pandemic Response Operations Team decided that teachers will no longer be conducting daily temperature checks of student cohorts. Some of the rationales for the decision include:

    • We require everyone coming to CAIS to do a temperature check as part of Magnus Health Screening, and we take temperatures of incoming students if families have not completed the survey.

    SFDPH does not require that schools do additional temperature checks during the day, and studies have not shown it to be a useful way to screen students on its own.

    • Halfway through this school year to date, we have not sent anyone home for signs of fever from these midday temperature checks.

    • Our weekly saliva screening protocol is a more effective layer to screen for asymptomatic positive cases among our students.

    Faculty will continue to keep infrared thermometers in classrooms in the event a student may show signs of fever.


     

  • Watching the Inauguration and Watching Out for Impacts of Any Protests

    The Educational Leadership Team will be working with faculty on plans to stream the Inauguration next Wednesday, January 20 (if the timing aligns with the school day) in an age-appropriate manner. Teachers will exercise their judgement if anything occurs in the way of televised protests escalating to riots. We ask that you continue the discussion of the historic event by asking your children about it at home Wednesday evening.

    In related news, please know that we continue to work closely with NCIS and the SFPD to stay apprised of any planned protests in the City or around the Bay Area that might have the potential to affect school operations. Our response protocols are outlined in the message sent in November outlining our Post-Election Precautions.


     

  • Adam's Corner

    By Pandemic Response Coordinator Adam Ross

    As you have seen over the past two weeks, I will be sending brief updates on Fridays to all CAIS families to let you know about the results of students’ weekly saliva testing. We ship out samples each Wednesday by 3:00 p.m., they arrive at Mirimus Labs in Brooklyn, New York the next day, and Mirimus pledges to post results of the test within 12–24 hours of their receipt. With the winter surge and a large increase in positive cases, Mirimus’s postings of results have tended more toward later than earlier, so you may not receive these messages from me until Friday afternoon.

    I wanted to take a little time to explain how Mirimus conducts its pool testing, as I have received several emails from families who are unfamiliar with how this process works in the lab. First, when we receive students’ samples, Lesly Louie and I work to arrange them into preset pools of 24 samples. In most cases, one testing pool comprises two cohorts of CAIS students, though we’ve had to move some students into other pools when the number of students exceeds 24. This has no effect on the testing process, as will become clear below.

    Up to now, we have shipped 19 pools to Mirimus for testing. This will increase to 20 next week when we welcome more students from distance learning cohorts back into in-person class cohorts. When Mirimus receives our shipment, it tests a pool as one bunch. If the whole pool tests as “Not Detected,” we know that all students in that pool tested negative.

    If, however, there is a detection of COVID-19 RNA in the whole pool, the pool is retested in  “hotspots” of 2 (or occasionally 3) individual samples. When a hotspot is identified as positive, we then work with families to approve individual diagnostic tests to identify an infected individual. Here is a graphic from Mirimus that might be helpful to understand this process:

    I wish to emphasize that there is no benefit or disadvantage in being in one pool over another. We will be able to work with Mirimus to identify an infected individual pretty quickly. This process was instrumental in very quickly identifying a teacher who had contracted COVID last December, allowing us to keep the teacher home and quickly place the affected cohort into quarantine.

    As you may have seen from my emails today, our process today was a little more complicated when one of the pools came out as “Inconclusive.” Fortunately, the hotspot retesting protocol was able to identify the error with the original pool testing and confirm that all of the students’ samples were indeed “Not Detected” for COVID-19.

    We feel strongly that this new protocol is a useful new layer for protecting members of our community against COVID infection. Weekly testing is another layer of “Swiss cheese” to supplement our other layers of masking, hand washing, physical distancing, cohorting, ventilation, etc. As a cheese lover myself, hopefully this image from the NYTimes last month is a fitting way to get everyone’s mouths watering (yay, saliva!) as well as helping to understand how all of these protocols are key in these efforts.

    Image source: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/12/05/health/coronavirus-swiss-cheese-infection-mackay.html


     

  • Chinese American International School

    www.cais.org

    Early Childhood Division (Preschool) | Alice A. Carnes Center
    42/52 Waller Street 
    415-655-9362

    Early Childhood Division (K-1)
    and Lower School (2-5)
    150 Oak Street 
    415-865-6000 

    Middle School (6-8)
    888 Turk Street 
    415-349-7201 

    San Francisco, CA 94102