Setting Our Sights On August

Read on for back-to-school plans as our school community navigates a return to campus in the latest stage of the coronavirus pandemic.
Greetings from what is, happily, a typically busy and productive summer campus in many ways. Camps and other programs continue week by week, propelling us, in the process, to Bastille Day already. Bravo to all my colleagues who've worked together to make it happen, and for those of you who've enjoyed the hiatus in myriad other ways, here's the official update as attention turns toward the new school year. Not to bury the lead — one month out, we fully anticipate a complete and enthusiastic resumption of classes in person on Tuesday, August 17. 

Yes, we watch the COVID-19 new case numbers daily still, having seen them drop to near zero last month and then bump up incrementally as delta variant worry manifests. And yes, we're buttressed by the self-reported, enviably high vaccination uptake numbers in the USN community. The self-evident benefit for each of us and for our neighbors in terms of public health means so much, especially against the backdrop of so many in our state and region choosing to transpose this moment with a chance to make a statement of politically-charged freedom to embrace and amplify the societal risk of going it alone unvaccinated. 
But that's all well beyond our reach at school. Instead, we're getting ready to return to as full a schedule and set of programs as circumstances and prudence permit. What that means, as we look four weeks ahead, is as follows: 
We'll follow recent CDC guidance, which you may well have seen, directing first and foremost that we get back to school. Next, we will make mask wearing indoors optional for fully vaccinated people and required for those who are unvaccinated. Given current availability, and until things change for the under-12 population, that condition bifurcates our student population around sixth grade. Look for a more detailed explanation of exactly what we're planning for your children from relevant Division Heads and After School soon.
Past that key mitigation measure, we'll take down all the plexiglass partitions, recycle the one-way traffic signs in hallways, thoughtfully open the dining facilities (while keeping outdoor options at lunchtime), and keep the expanded hand hygiene capacity going strong. And we will open the campus to visitors, you included, provided upon check-in that unmasked folks show proof of full vaccination and others mask up. 
To the delight of more than a few of you, we will retire the daily Magnus health app screening, in exchange for your remembering what those queries asked and for your absolute vigilance when it comes to keeping sick kids home. We got so good at that, with the predictable result of almost no in-school spread of any illnesses, as was noted widely last year. We're still working to make possible an easy upload of confirmed vaccination status through our Health Team. Stay tuned. 
Expect a measure of caution as we reconvene larger groups here at school — we need to remember how to do that and reacclimate. But don't doubt for a minute our understanding of the benefit of being in community. Having just read every page of the 450+ annual surveys recently completed (big thanks to all the respondents), I got that message loud and clear. Suffice to say it was a powerful window on what everyone carried through those trying times, featuring some heartwarming reflections and some emptying of cups of frustration that needed emptying. Now it's time for us to focus on moving forward together, lessons in hand, high standards in place, appreciation for one another renewed. 
Or so it is for me, for a host of reasons. This opportunity to step back for a time heightens my excitement to begin anew, and I'll return to getting ready, having shared with you our best understanding of what's ahead, with the benefit of the still meeting, still expert in the daily coronavirus saga Medical Advisory Group. Look for more granular information from each Division Head and from After School, and never be shy about reaching out directly to me. Going so long without a letter your way has been tough on this end. 
Optimistically yours,
Vince Durnan
    • Director Vince Durnan gives remarks at Commencement 2021.

More USN News

List of 5 news stories.

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    8 seniors named National Merit Semifinalists

    The National Merit Scholarship Corp. and USN applaud Kaya Booth, Latham Hall, Michael Kim, Greta Li, Arnav Reddy, Nandan Sarkar, Jude Warren, and Elena Wierich of the Class of 2022 for their high PSAT scores.
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