|Dear Stevenson Community:
As we begin our well-deserved break, I write—on behalf of all Stevenson employees across all three divisions—to reiterate our gratitude for your trust, resilience, courage, and constructive feedback as we work together to meet our unprecedented challenges. I also write to provide an update regarding our planning for the remainder of the academic year, and to offer some supportive counsel as we enter the holiday season and the pandemic worsens.
Before proceeding, it’s been truly inspiring to witness the joy that small group outdoor athletics have brought to participating PK-12 students. I’m grateful to Justin Clymo ’93, our athletics director, for carefully designing programs that offer students exercise, fun, and welcome camaraderie while protecting their health and safety; to Cooper Kehoe ’07, Sylvia Ishii, J.R. Sosky, and Nathan Gault for their additional support; to our coaches for providing attentive supervision and enthusiastic guidance; and to our students, whose respectful adherence to our expectations has been deeply reassuring.
We remain sincerely optimistic about providing safe campus instruction for those PK-12 students who are ready and able to return in the spring semester. As I explained in my letter of October 26, our preparations for campus instruction—which include major investments in technology and infrastructure—are proceeding in earnest. We will provide you with a revised edition of Planning for Our Return—adapted into an easily navigable website—on December 1, and will continue to update you as we move forward.
However, regional and national trends are deeply concerning, and appear to bode poorly for a return in January. The Monterey County health department is reporting that our county data—specifically, the number of cases per 100,000 people—sets us at increasing distance from escaping the state’s purple tier, a designation that signals that the virus is presently widespread and we are within the state’s highest level of risk. At the same time:
Additionally, many experts predict that travel and gatherings during the impending holiday will result in an accelerated spread of the virus.
new cases are rising sharply across the United States,
hospital systems in some areas are overwhelmed, and
the federal government appears months away from implementing the multi-layered national pandemic strategy that has delivered effective results to the people of other countries since the first appearance of COVID-19.
Within this complex environment, in which so many forces are beyond our control, we are methodically designing sequences of actions that will have our School ready and able to move decisively forward once it is safe and permissible to do so, and we are also envisioning alternatives for every imaginable contingency. I’ll be the first to admit that living with such uncertainty is not easy, and we’ve all been doing it for much longer than is comfortable. Like you, I’m eager for more conclusive data (especially regarding the transmission of the virus by and among children) and good news. But false assurances and counterfeit optimism are, as we have seen, no substitute. Instead, we will keep to the course our community has chosen since we began to navigate the pandemic last January: work hard and together, stay safe, take care of our kids and one another, tell the truth without slant, count our blessings, and celebrate small victories.
Insofar as small victories go, here’s one that will come as welcome news to many, and a signal of our commitment to effecting a safe and socially responsible return to campus instruction. It’s my great pleasure to announce that we have signed a lease this week with the Diocese of Monterey to use part of the former Junipero Serra School campus—once we are able to resume in-person instruction—to provide maximum physical distancing for our lower and middle division students. [As of this writing, we expect that middle division students and teachers will relocate to this facility upon our return to campus instruction.] We’re grateful to Father Paul Murphy and Justin Burke at the Carmel Mission, as well as Bishop Garcia and the Roman Catholic Diocese of Monterey, for their partnership and support in crafting the agreement that will allow us to make effective use of this marvelously convenient campus and its many amenities.
Holiday Safety and Post-Holiday Quarantine
Two weeks ago, Monterey County joined with ten other California counties and the city of Berkeley to issue guidance advising against nonessential travel, including holiday trips, that could increase chances of infection and potentially spread the virus, and also gatherings that involve people from more than three households. [Travel is deemed essential if it pertains to work and study, critical infrastructure support, economic services and supply chains, health, immediate medical care and safety and security.] Soon afterwards, California joined Oregon and Washington to issue travel advisories that urge against non-essential out-of-state travel, ask people arriving from other states or countries to self-quarantine for 14 days after arriving from another state or country, and encourage residents to stay local. The states’ advisories also recommend that people limit their interactions to their immediate household. Then, last week, California issued a limited stay-at-home order “requiring that all gatherings with members of other households and all activities conducted outside the residence, lodging, or temporary accommodation with members of other households cease between 10:00 p.m. and 5:00 a.m., except for those activities associated with the operation, maintenance, or usage of critical infrastructure or required by law.”
Such measures are agonizing, but they are crucial to protect our safety, as well as others’ safety. Please review this recent guidance from the American Medical Association, these tips from the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, and this advice from the CDC, and consider amending your holiday plans accordingly. Additionally, click here to listen to an interview—broadcast last week on KAZU, our local National Public Radio affiliate—with infectious disease specialist Dr. Allen Radnor, Chief Medical Officer of the Salinas Valley Memorial Health Care System and one of the local experts with whom we have consulted since the start of the pandemic.
On a related topic, our current plans take account of the potential for Stevenson families (who intend to return to campus instruction at the first opportunity to do so) to travel or receive visitors over the winter holiday in ways that increase their chances of infection. Owing to the fact that COVID-19 symptoms may take up to 14 days to appear following exposure, in even the best case scenario we will not welcome students in any of our three divisions back to campus any sooner than January 18 (which is 14 days after January 4, the date when classes will resume following the end of the winter holiday).
Things to Do
Though much is clearly beyond our control, we are not powerless. As we await the creation and distribution of a vaccine (and the latest news from Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna is promising!), there are concrete actions we can take to help protect our health and safety, as well as our mental and emotional wellbeing. Among them:
“The strength for that which is to come…”
Review The Pirate Pledge with your family, and commit to adhering to it vigilantly.
Follow updated guidance on masks from the California Department of Public Health.
Get your child vaccinated against influenza—one of our School’s health requirements for students and employees—and send confirmation of having done so to the School.
Reserve ample time for family activities that Stevenson trustee Dr. Susan Swick P ‘21, physician-in-chief at the Ohana Center for Child and Adolescent Behavioral Health, describes in terms of “movement, mastery, and meaning.”
If you fall ill with COVID-19 symptoms, take these precautions as advised by the Centers for Disease Control to prevent spread in your household and beyond while you await your test results:
remain indoors, and wear a mask as often as possible;
sleep alone in a separate room, if possible; and
ventilate your home, and use air purifiers if you have them.
While there is mounting evidence that a vaccine will be available soon and that the end of the pandemic may be near, it appears that we may still be in for a harsh winter. It’s been a long year, but let’s not allow situational fatigue to diminish our resolve, and undo the gains we’ve achieved through our shared sacrifices. Please reach out for help as you need it—especially where your children’s needs are concerned. We’re here for you, and for them.
Dr. Kevin M. Hicks ’85, P ’29