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Preparing for the Challenges Ahead

Dear Duke School Families,

I’m delighted to share that we enjoyed a successful second week of gradual opening for our students. This past week allowed us to further integrate our distance and on-campus learners, become more adept with drop off and on-line readiness routines, and practice safe snack, outdoor activity, and hygiene routines. 

Gratitude to our Phenomenal Faculty and Staff

It is a marvel to observe faculty deftly coalescing their distance and on-campus classrooms, using technology in ways to truly connect and support the formation of new relationships despite the expected challenges presented by masking, distancing, and tech itself! The Leadership Team and I are mindful and deeply grateful of the extraordinary efforts of our faculty and staff to preserve and promote the distinctive Duke School community—one that celebrates upstanders (observed daily as students reach out to support one another); bold thinking and problem solving (obvious in the creative lessons underway); and empathic leadership (the sense of caring of all  in support of shared success during this time is laudable).

We have welcomed support personnel to every cohort to start the year. Providing help to teachers to facilitate both distance and on-campus learning, our support personnel also serve readily as guest substitute teachers for their cohorts in instances of teacher absence. We also have assigned many of our specialists, who normally float across their division levels, to be in person with one cohort of students, while “Zooming” with other cohorts. They will be “embedded” in the grade level for a scheduled period of time this fall, prior to rotating safely to another cohort, following our policy guidelines for safety.

Remaining Responsive and Communicating Regularly

Our community responded with support last week to the news that a faculty member had been exposed to an individual who tested positively and remained asymptomatic, with that faculty member subsequently testing negative for the virus. Thank you! Throughout this month, I will continue to provide such information through email communications. As we move forward, we will continue to assess optimal means for providing you with the information you need to know. 

Our vigilance with our key strategies of health checks, masking, physically distancing, and handwashing hygiene remain key to our ability to be on campus, and I remain grateful to all families, faculty, and staff for your considerable efforts.

Preparedness for the Challenges Ahead

I am compelled to call to your attention, too, that Board of Trustees and I remain keenly aware of the challenges we face this fall. We fully anticipate and are prepared for the inevitability of a COVID-19 case on campus. The most likely scenario will be someone coming to campus with COVID-19 and NOT that the individual became infected by being on campus. Every risk-mitigation strategy in place is designed to support the goal of no transmission on campus.  Working closely with the Clinical Analyst Group (CAG), the Leadership Team, an appointed tracer/recorder on campus, and having established a relationship with the county public health department, we are prepared to respond immediately.  

Looking Ahead this Month

All in all, at this point we remain confident to move forward with our full reopening plan, scheduled to commence on Monday, September 14, where we will welcome back all on-campus students full day. This plan will necessitate additional observation and adjustments, and we will remain nimble and flexible. On Thursday of this week, Governor Cooper is scheduled to address the State of North Carolina, sharing further reopening metrics. We will follow the guidance of the State, as we have indicated since the summer.

Additionally, the school’s CAG has provided us key metrics that they are actively following to provide recommendations to the Leadership Team and Board in the instance that we need to toggle to distance learning within grade levels or throughout the school. These metrics include community level transmission rates and positivity rates as well as evidence of on-campus transmission.

While the goal is to sustain on-campus learning for those who have selected the program, we need to remain ready for all unwanted but necessary possibilities.

I continue to be grateful for every member of Duke School. This past week’s success at home and on campus has been the result of a true collective effort. We appreciate the patience of students and families as we remain nimble and flexible through these ever-changing times. 

Warm regards,

Lisa

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