Time to Talk Spring Break

Despite the good news of vaccination being on the horizon for educators, the CDC continues to recommend that you do not travel at this time and instead stay home to protect yourself and others from COVID-19. Families that choose to not heed this advice should get PCR tested and self-quarantine for seven to 10 days after travel.
By some miracle of time and space, we’re now just a month away from the spring holiday that seemed so distant when we resumed, on tenterhooks, in January. First, whew — we’re weathering the seasonal ups and downs, making our way through the toughest stretch that schools in town have faced so far. Next, we need to keep doing what we know works, day by day — and we’ll get there. Then once we do, we each need one of those look-ourselves-in-the-mirror moments in advance of our time away from campus.
We can refer to precedent now — to Fall Break, to Thanksgiving, and to the Winter vacation. In each instance, we worried (or at least I sure did) about cases materializing when we came back, and we actually saw very little. But as they say, past performance does not guarantee future results. So we’re rocketed back into worry mode, wondering about variants and COVID-19 fatigue and complacency. After all, we deserve a break, right —but a break from being sensible about public health? I’d argue, unsurprisingly, no.
In the school head chat world, there’s a superabundance of strategizing and second-guessing sprouting up to protect campuses from irresponsible travel choices — in the form of delayed starts, mandated testing, shifts to remote, and the list goes on. Let me confirm that USN won’t go down one of those alternative roads, and here’s why:
First, we’ve worked too hard to simply concede that in-person school should be sacrificed preemptively. Second, many families aren’t in a position to travel, whether because of work obligations, financial challenges, or their deep commitment to limit risk. And they should not be asked to accommodate others who are willing to roll the COVID-19 dice. Third, from a practical standpoint, lengthening the break just postpones the return anyway, and we rarely get more when we expect less from one another.
To quote verbatim from its travel advisory page, “CDC recommends that you do not travel at this time. Delay travel and stay home to protect yourself and others from COVID-19.” Not exactly subtle — and to reiterate, it applies any time we travel. That’s not to say that you could not put the family in a hermetically sealed minivan and head to a remote cabin to safely hole up for a while, but this is no time for a big group outing to the beach or a multimodal journey to a high-profile destination. It’s just not.

If resisting that temptation proves impossible, our backstop is to rely on your choice to follow the directions further down that CDC page it says “Get [PCR} tested again with a viral test 3-5 days after your trip and stay home and self-quarantine for a full 7 days after travel, even if your test is negative. If you don’t get tested, stay home and self-quarantine for 10 days after travel.” I can promise you that our Health Team would appreciate any call to clarify expectations, and our school community would appreciate you taking responsibility to help us all stay safe. So much better than starting us down the road to playing detective, which, in truth, we will reluctantly do when all else fails.

The big news of the week, of course, concerns our quest for vaccines. We’ve received confirmation that by Saturday, February 20 — and perhaps even on that very day — faculty and staff can receive the Phase 1b jab, courtesy of TriStar Health. That timeframe does put us smack dab in Spring Break for our second shots, but we’ll figure it out. Mostly, we’re just grateful that our turn is in sight. And for me, relief to the greatest worry I’ve carried since last summer — the health risk to the remarkable people whose efforts make USN possible.

To celebrate, how about the special virtual version of Music Night — presented in the comfort of your home sweet home? Some of the dearest friends this treasured facet of the USN gem ever brought to our stage graciously volunteered to share a song. And we’re highlighting some USN-connected restaurants as options for dinner. It’s Saturday, February 20 for what I’d deem the perfect week-after-Valentines-Day evening.

Gotta pull together to make this work,
Vince Durnan

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