News & Blog

COVID-19 September Update and Q&A

Highlands School
 
As it relates to our 2021 – 2022 Health and Safety Protocols, there have been some questions about what is different this year compared to last year. We have also heard from parents wanting clarification in certain areas. So, we thought it would be easier to share this information with you in the below Q&A format.  

We know this is not an exhaustive list, please know: if you ever have a question or concern about the health and safety of your child, reach out directly to Nurse Dorothy, Robert, or me. We are your first ‘go-to’s and request that you please contact us about these matters rather than your student’s teacher. 

Why the changes from last year to this year given the nature of the Delta variant and the impact on children who are not vaccinated?
Last year was difficult for our entire community. While our decisions such as virtual learning, limited extracurricular activities, and strict cohorts were absolutely necessary at the time, we saw the social-emotional toll it took on our students by the end of the year. This year, we are trying to strike a balance between resuming “normal" Highlands activities and keeping our community safe. While many of our protocols (like universal masking) have stayed in place this school year, we have worked with our Medical Consult Team to identify areas where we can make allowances this year, such as: 
  • 3 feet of social distancing in classrooms rather than 6 feet 
  • Increased cohort sizes  
  • Allowing parents on campus for special events, like community meetings and Parent Back to School Nights  
  • Resuming in-person classes for all students  
  • School sports with guidelines for all to follow 
All of these measures align with CDC, ADPH, and the medical consult team’s guidelines.  


Where can I find the 2021-22 Highlands Health & Safety Protocols? 
These were shared in a community-wide email that was sent to all parents on August 6th. You can also find our 2021-22 Highlands Health & Safety Protocols by clicking here or on the Parent Resource Board in Pulse. 
 

How are you handling positive cases and exposures this year that is different than last year? 
We are following CDC and ADPH Back to School Guidelines for Schools as well as recommendations from our Medical Consult Committee.  Our protocols for a positive COVID-19 case remain the same and can be found in our 2021-2022 Health & Safety Protocols.  
 
We are following close contract tracing per ADPH to determine who else within a class/grade level may need to quarantine due to a positive case within a class/grade level.  This allows us to only quarantine those students who were in close contact with the positive student rather than an entire class/grade level. Please keep in mind that in some cases, close contact tracing may result in no one else in the class/grade having to quarantine.  
 
NOTE: If despite our best ability, we cannot determine close contact tracing, the School reserves the right to quarantine an entire class/grade level. If we get multiple positive cases simultaneously within a class/grade level, the School reserves the right to quarantine the entire class/grade level in order to not risk additional exposure.   
 

What is the definition of ‘close contact’? 
We are following CDC and APDH Guidelines for close contact which state: 
  • The CDC definition of close contact is someone who was within 6 feet of an infected person (laboratory-confirmed or a clinically compatible illness) for a cumulative total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period. 
  • In the K–12 indoor classroom setting, the close contact definition excludes students who were 3 feet or more (but within 6 feet) of an infected student (laboratory-confirmed or a clinically compatible illness) if:  
*Both students were engaged in the consistent and correct use of well-fitted masks; and 
*Other K–12 school prevention strategies (such as universal and correct mask use, physical distancing, increased ventilation) were in place in the K–12 school setting.  

  • Any unvaccinated students who the School determines are in close contact with someone with COVID-19 will need to quarantine for 10 days after the last known exposure. 
NOTE: If you are unable to avoid close contact with someone with COVID-19, unvaccinated individuals will need to quarantine throughout that person’s isolation period plus an additional 10 days. 
Individuals should monitor for symptoms 2 to 14 days after known contact. 

If your student becomes symptomatic during this time, have them evaluated by their healthcare provider/doctor and report to the school nurse the results and outcome of the medical evaluation. Vaccinated individuals who have been in close contact with someone with COVID-19 will not need to quarantine unless they are symptomatic following exposure in a 14-day period. 
  

Who gets notified if there's a positive case or exposure on campus? 
As soon as a parent notifies Nurse Dorothy of a positive COVID diagnosis, we will work with your student’s teacher to conduct close contact tracing. We will then notify families of students who will need to quarantine. We will notify all families within a respective class and grade of a positive COVID diagnosis or a COVID exposure. 

 
Will the community be notified so everyone is aware of cases/exposures on campus? 
There will be a Weekly COVID-19 Dashboard in Happenings with totals for Thursday-Wednesday of positive cases and exposures listed by grade level. We will not be sharing any additional information with the community. 

 
Who should I notify if my child is ‘under the weather,’ not feeling well, has tested positive, or has been directly exposed? 
Contact Nurse Dorothy immediately for any health issues. You may also notify your student’s teacher, but please be aware that our teachers are busy instructing throughout the day and may not get to emails until the end of the school day. In order to ensure the School deals with positive cases or exposure in a timely manner, please contact Nurse Dorothy immediately. 

Keep in mind some children testing positive are not showing fever symptoms but are fatigued, have a runny nose, scratchy/sore throat. PLEASE DO NOT SEND THEM TO SCHOOL- you are risking the health of the entire class/grade level.  

 
Is Highlands considering asymptomatic COVID testing for students and faculty/staff? 
We are in contact with the UAB School of Public Health which is currently partnering with the ADPH and the Alabama State Department of Education to offer voluntary asymptomatic COVID-19 testing in K-12 schools. As soon as we have the details and logistics worked out, we will share the information with you.  This will be completely voluntary and require parental consent for students as well as consent from any Highlands employee who is interested. 

 
What is the vaccination rate of faculty & staff at Highlands? 
The vaccination rate for all 2021-22 Highlands employees is 97%. This is up from 90% at the end of May 2021. We are extremely grateful to our employees who are vaccinated in order to protect themselves, their loved ones, and our school community. We will not share any further information regarding who is or is not vaccinated among our employees.  

 
What can I do to keep my child/ren safe outside of Highlands? 
Believed to be far more contagious than the original version of the virus that causes COVID-19, the Delta variant appears to be fueling a rise in infections and hospitalizations, especially among unvaccinated adults. COVID-19 caused by the Delta variant largely appears to be a disease of the unvaccinated. Because kids under age 12 are not yet eligible for the COVID-19 vaccines — and because most new COVID-19 cases are now caused by the Delta variant — it may seem as if Delta is worse for children than the original virus. 

If your child is eligible, they should be vaccinated. Otherwise, the advice for protecting students from the Delta variant is the same as it has been for the original COVID virus: Wear masks when in public indoor spaces, practice social distancing when possible, and wash your hands thoroughly and often.  

  • While we are not trying to tell parents what they can or cannot do outside of Highlands, at this time, we respectfully request parents put a pause on student sleepovers. The majority of our student population is not eligible for the vaccine yet, therefore most susceptible to the Delta variant.  The transmission rate is 1 to 2 minutes and children are at increased risk of transmission.  
  • We also advise our families to be careful at events with large crowds – especially in indoor settings and when others are unmasked. 
  • While we know the Labor Day holiday is one usually celebrated with friends and families, we again ask our families to be extra cautious and follow mitigation strategies such as mask-wearing, social distancing, washing of hands, etc.  
  • We also ask parents to be mindful of extracurricular activities where masking protocols are optional or not in place.  
We also want to note that parents are responsible for making sure their contact information is current and up to date in Pulse. Due to the quick turnaround of contact tracing, we must be able to contact parents or their designated caregiver right away and parents/designated caregivers must be able to come to the School immediately to pick up their students.  
 
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Highlands School, 4901 Old Leeds Road, Birmingham, AL 35213, (205) 956-9731
Highlands School's 'whole child' approach to education and commitment to academic excellence, creative expression, and leadership development prepare and motivate students in grades 4k through 8 to make a positive difference in an ever-changing world. Located in Birmingham, Alabama, Highlands School holds dual accrediation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) and the Southern Associations of Independent Schools (SAIS).

For more information, visit www.highlandsschool.org.