One of the things that is beginning to feel certain in this continued time of uncertainty is that once we communicate policy and procedures for life at Darlington, the dynamics related to the COVID-19 pandemic change. We saw this last year and are seeing it now as our excitement for the start of the school year has been somewhat tempered by the surge of the Delta variant.
As we have mentioned consistently since March of 2020, our goals are to have in-person, on-campus learning while fostering the health—physical, social and emotional—of our community. The lagging vaccination rates and subsequent surge of the Delta variant do not make meeting those goals easy, but we are very pleased that well over 80% of Darlington’s faculty and staff are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and others are currently in the vaccination process.
I write today because we are making some adjustments to our procedures and protocols as we begin the 2021-2022 school year in person and on campus Aug. 16, 2021. These decisions have been made with care after much thought, consultation and deliberation, while also realizing that circumstances can change quickly. Rest assured that we are prepared to adjust as necessary.
The CDC recently recommended that those in a school community reinstate wearing face coverings indoors, regardless of vaccination status, if the school resides in an area of substantial or high transmission. Darlington’s policy beginning the year is that all students and faculty/staff, Pre-K to 12, must bring a face covering to school. We will continue to fully support the adults and students in our school community who choose to wear a mask and strongly encourage mask wearing for anyone whose immune system may be compromised. However, there will be significant opportunities for students to be mask-free during the school day if they so choose.
Beginning Aug. 16, we will require the use of face coverings by adults and students, regardless of vaccination status, in the following indoor settings:
Our commitment to in-person learning means that we are also committed to returning to a fully-masked campus if the health situation within our school and community warrants that decision. For now, we are confident that our commitment to staying home when sick, testing for COVID-19 when necessary, hygiene and other mitigation strategies, desire to limit exposure outside of school, and high vaccination rates will allow us to have a successful school year.
As per the Georgia Department of Health, fully vaccinated students and faculty/staff without symptoms are not required to quarantine if they come in close contact with a person who tests positive for COVID-19. Vaccinated students and faculty/staff may be asked to wear a face covering at school after the extent of exposure has been determined. The policy above also pertains to students and faculty/staff who have tested positive for COVID-19 in the past 90 days. For non-vaccinated students and faculty/staff, the quarantine period remains the same as the end of the 2020-2021 school year:
An asymptomatic person is required to quarantine for 7 days if they receive a negative test on or after day 5.
An asymptomatic person who chooses not to get tested is required to quarantine for 10 days.
Students and faculty/staff in this situation may be asked to wear a mask until Day 14 in certain circumstances.
The best way to combat the COVID-19 pandemic is to get vaccinated. To that end, Darlington School encourages all eligible members of the community to do so and will provide an opportunity for students to be vaccinated Aug. 18 and any member of our community to be vaccinated at the first home football game on Aug. 27. Eligible day students who wish to be vaccinated on Aug. 18 at Darlington should email email@example.com by Aug. 11.
Vaccination not only protects individuals from serious illness; it also serves to protect the community. So while a significant portion of our community, children under 12, are not eligible to receive the vaccine, I hope that those adults who support them have been or will consider being vaccinated. If your child is not yet vaccinated, we encourage you to consult a pediatrician for recommendations on personal masking choices and on receiving the vaccine if he or she is eligible.
In an effort to collect as much data as possible that will aid us in our decisions moving forward, we ask that you CLICK HERE to fill out our confidential Student Vaccination Status Form.
Given the availability of vaccines, less restrictive international travel, and the hardship hybrid learning places on teachers and students, we will not offer a virtual-learning option for the 2021-2022 school year. Only students in quarantine or isolation may be given the opportunity to learn remotely. Arrangements for virtual learning should be made with the student’s division director and not with an individual teacher.
Darlington plans to have a host of events on campus this fall. The Georgia High School Association has declared that fall sports should proceed as scheduled and without restriction, and we look forward to the softball, volleyball, cross country, and football seasons. The Soccer, Golf, and Tennis academies are also looking forward to a robust schedule. Field trips (with appropriate protocols) are in the works as are events for adults like the Purple Tie Affair and Alumni Weekend.
Invited visitors are welcome on campus. This would include parents invited to an on-campus event, admissions or alumni visitors, and/or other visitors who have an appointment.
We know that life has not been easy over the past 18 months, and our goal with these policies is not to make life easy for our students and faculty/staff. However, we also know that anxiety, loneliness, and feelings of isolation are prevalent, and that those feelings are very real. While we are unable to see them clearly at first glance, we know they are there.
Thoughts and opinions vary widely in all directions and we understand that some may not agree with some of these policies; however, we hope you will respect that we are doing what we feel is best for our entire school community and, most importantly, the physical, social, and emotional health of our students. This approach is what guided our decisions and allowed us to be successful last school year, and what we feel will allow us to do the same in 2021-2022.
Thank you for your partnership as we navigate these challenges. I look forward to welcoming all of our students back to campus very soon and cannot wait to get the year underway together and in person.
Head of School