Happy New Year!
I hope this correspondence finds you and yours healthy, safe, and gearing up for the second semester.
As is always the case at VVS, our staff worked miracles this past semester. Working in a boarding school is never easy, and 2020 posed some extra challenges. I am grateful for the professionalism and care each of our staff demonstrates each day. It takes a special kind of educator to work and live in this community, and we are blessed with the best staff around. We all had a break, and we are all ready, set, and energized to welcome our students back, including a few new students who will join VVS next week. Welcome new students and families!
Verde Valley School enjoyed an extraordinarily successful first semester, and we are optimistic that we can continue that in the second semester. VVS made it through the first semester with a reopening plan recognized by the State Epidemiologist as among the best in the state. While I am pleased with the efforts to design and implement the plan, I am incredibly proud of our students and staff for their commitment to follow the plan’s guidelines and protocols. We are VVS - and each one of us is integral to our success.
I’m writing to share the schedule for the first two weeks and share a few reminders and updates before our second-semester launch. Our priority is and will always be to create a safe and healthy educational community. We will continue to follow the CDC recommendations to prevent an outbreak of COVID-19. Specific safety procedures will be implemented upon the return of our boarding students on January 13th. We will follow the same health/safety guidelines and expectations as we did for the fall semester opening. Our goal is to be extra vigilant in following all protocols and best practices so that we can once again be rewarded with fewer restrictions. The memory of all of us dancing on the quad during the Dream Concert sticks in my head. I want us all to take extra responsibility in the first weeks of the semester so that soon we can get back to those moments.
While we will be quarantining at the start, we will still enjoy outdoor activities. There are very few educational settings where students can hike, bike, and enjoy their natural surroundings. A student wrote to me over the break, thanking us for creating a place where each student could have the freedoms and opportunities to “be normal.” She went on to write that so many of her peers were “stuck doing school from their houses.”
While our greatest wish remains to have our whole community together on-site, unfortunately, due to our area’s current positivity rate, day students will start the academic semester remotely. More information will be forthcoming regarding the daily schedule, dates, and timelines. We will monitor the Yavapai County Health Department’s data on new COVID-19 cases and use the same gating benchmark we have used all along: day students will return as soon as the two-week positivity drops below 5% over a two week period. I want to emphasize that while we will miss our day students on campus as we start the semester, our virtual program will begin on January 14th for all students. We will also continue to encourage day student virtual participation for all activities throughout the year until our day students can return to campus.
A reminder that VVS has invited all local students to board for this academic year, and there is still some availability. Kim Hollingsworth, Director of Enrollment Management, firstname.lastname@example.org, sent out a day student survey this week for families to indicate if they plan to participate in the temporary boarding program. Please contact Kim with any questions. I encourage you to consider this opportunity.
Testing before return
All students are required to present verification of a NEGATIVE SARS-COV-2 (COVID test) result before arrival on campus. The results must be within seven days of January 13th. We realize the turnaround from test to result is not within your control, and we understand that this requirement has been a challenge for some families for a variety of reasons. While it is not possible to create an impenetrable COVID “bubble” of VVS students and staff, we are adhering to the same protocols as we did this past fall, which was set in conjunction with local and regional independent residential, educational institutions, as well as the State of Arizona Epidemiologist. Arriving on campus with a negative test result enables us to continue moving forward, responsibly with the exciting programming we have planned for them.
All students and staff must have a PCR test within seven days of their return to campus. Students and staff are expected to quarantine before their arrival on campus. Please send a copy of your child’s test results to Julie Pompos, our Director of Health Services, at email@example.com before your child’s trip back to campus.
No student will be allowed to return without a negative COVID-19 test result. If you have any questions regarding testing or need any assistance, please contact Julie.
During the next semester, students and staff will be subject to periodic COVID-19 testing and periodic screening protocols.
Symptom Monitoring and Reporting - Students will also have daily health checks each day. Students and staff must also self-monitor their health condition and report any COVID-19 symptoms to Julie Pompos.
On another note, please do not make any non-essential medical/dental appointments for your child this coming semester. While urgent situations may come up, please work with us to limit student contact outside of our campus.
Health Center Notes
We ask each family to build healthy habits before your child’s return to school. We request that students wear masks while in closed, public spaces; maintain at least 6 feet of distance from others; monitor their health and that of their family members, and wash their hands regularly. We ask that all students strictly follow these guidelines before returning to campus to minimize infection risk before arrival.
Once on campus, if a boarding student tests positive or becomes ill with COVID-19, VVS has arranged a limited number of dorm rooms, where they will isolate and quarantine under Julie’s care. Depending on the situation, families or guardians may be required to travel to Verde Valley School to provide care for their child off-campus until they have passed the CDC protocols and can return.
Our protocols may be updated from time to time based on evolving guidance and directives from our state’s Public Health Department and the CDC. We will notify you with updates as soon as we have them.
Boarding Student Arrivals - January 13th
Please remember to complete the VVS Travel Form in MySchoolApp. If you have any questions or have not received the travel form, please contact Dana Blavat, Travel Coordinator, at firstname.lastname@example.org. If your child requires transportation from Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport, we will also book this for you. New families, please include your information on your child’s arrival. If your child is traveling via airline or other transportation, please ensure they strictly follow the CDC guidelines provided here.
When students return to campus, they will again be required to take part in an observation period upon arrival and will attend classes virtually during this phase. Once students have been re-tested and results have been confirmed, we will begin in-person instruction again.
While John Kelley, Assistant Head/Dean of Students, will schedule a meeting with all students to review all school expectations, the following protocols and policies were established to support the School’s efforts to maintain a safe and healthy campus environment:
Physical Distancing - Maintain six feet between students and others when possible
Wearing masks or face coverings - While in class and public areas, community members will wear a cloth face covering or disposable surgical mask. Buffs, gators, face shields, and valved masks are not approved facial coverings at VVS as they do not confer the same level of protection.
Hand washing and sanitizing - Frequently throughout the day and upon return to living quarters.
The health and safety of our students and staff is our highest priority. Families, please continue your support and partnership in this area. I count my blessings that we have a community that comes together and does extraordinary things in education. The world needs VVS now more than ever, and we need all of you to help keep our campus open. VVS centers around our belief that each of our actions will impact the entire community. As you enjoy the remainder of the break with your child, please remind them of that responsibility, so we can safely enjoy being together in person very soon.
Best to all of you,
Paul Amadio Head of School
Verde Valley School
3511 Verde Valley School Road
Sedona, AZ 86351