March 6, 2020
Dear Shady Side Academy Families,
I write to provide you with some important updates regarding Shady Side Academy's preparation and response to the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19). Please read this email in its entirety.
There are currently no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Allegheny County or southwestern Pennsylvania; however we are closely monitoring the situation and following recommendations from the Allegheny County Health Department and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). If cases arise in our area, we will follow the guidance of public health officials. There is currently no recommendation to close schools in our area.
Our 40-person Incident Command Team convened this week to review emergency protocols, discuss possible scenarios and formulate contingency plans should COVID-19 appear in our community. Some important developments coming out of the team and that meeting include:
We have created a web page at www.shadysideacademy.org/coronavirus, which contains COVID-19 facts, information about SSA's response plans, parent resources and more. We will continue to share updates via email, but the web page will serve as a centralized hub for the latest information. Please bookmark this page and check back often.
We have increased cleaning measures across all four campuses. During peak hours, extra custodial staff are wiping down high-contact surfaces such as handrails, light switches, doorknobs, water fountains and bathroom facilities with disinfectant. All classrooms and large group spaces are equipped with either hand sanitizer dispensers or disinfecting alcohol wipes. All SSA-owned buses are being wiped down after each trip.
Students at each campus have been educated in age-appropriate ways about preventing the spread of illness, and signs reminding everyone of hand-washing and other preventative measures are hung throughout our schools. Equally important, our teachers and counselors are attending to the emotional and psychological needs of our students.
We have established travel recommendations for community members. SSA families or employees who plan to travel over spring break or in the coming weeks should check the CDC Coronavirus Information for Travel and U.S. State Department Travel Advisories websites regularly. In accordance with CDC and Allegheny County Health Department recommendations, SSA asks the following:
- Avoid all travel to areas with CDC Level 2 or 3 Travel Health Notices.
- Report any travel to Level 1, 2 or 3 areas to your school nurse before returning to SSA.
- Should you decide to travel to a Level 2 or 3 area, or should the level change to a 2 or 3 while you are there, we ask that you heed CDC recommendations and do not come to school for 14 days following your return. SSA will work with you to keep your child(ren) up to date with their classwork during that time.
We are finalizing a distance learning plan in case of an extended school closure. Classes will continue online, and the faculty will use a variety of digital tools to teach remotely. Specific tools, procedures and expectations for each division are currently being refined. Distance learning may take different forms depending on grade level and subject area, and learning experiences will vary in ways that are developmentally appropriate and instructionally feasible. More details will be made available to families in the coming weeks; however we ask the following right now:
- Students and employees should plan to take everything home over spring break that they would need to resume classes or work remotely. This includes devices, textbooks, notebooks, binders, work files, etc.
- If you do not have adequate technology or internet service at home for your children to participate in regular online classes, or for employees to work remotely, please talk to your school head or supervisor now so that we may make any necessary arrangements.
If you develop flu-like symptoms, stay home and call your health care provider immediately. Students, faculty and staff should not come to school if they have a fever of 100˚ F or higher and must be fever-free for 24 hours without fever-reducing medication before returning. If you or a family member are diagnosed with COVID-19, contact the school nurse immediately.
Remember, the following actions are the best way to prevent the spread of infection or illness:
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
- Stay home when you are sick.
- Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
Thank you for your partnership and understanding as we work together to ensure the health and safety of everyone in our community. I will continue to share updates with you as needed.
Bart Griffith '93
P.S. Don't forget to visit and bookmark the Coronavirus (COVID-19) web page.
Dear Boarding Families,
We continue to monitor updates from the CDC and Allegheny Health Department regarding the spread of COVID-19. We have spent a great deal of time thinking about the implications of a local outbreak of the virus for our residential life community. At this point, we are assuming we will be in session until Spring Break.
As Chad Green communicated in early February, our dormitories will be closed as planned over Spring Break. We will not have food service or nursing staff available during this time, nor will we have faculty in the dormitories to supervise students. Please know that if the school must remain closed after Spring Break, or close after we return from break, due to an outbreak of COVID-19, we would face those same conditions. Thus, due to health and safety concerns, in the event of a prolonged school closure, we will need all students, including boarding students, to depart campus.
Furthermore, we have learned from the Allegheny Health Department about the requirements for self-quarantining students. Our assessment of these requirements has made it clear that we would be unable to house self-quarantined boarding students safely on campus. Due to these realities, we will need assurance from boarding families that they will be able to pick up their students (or make other arrangements for departure) within 48 hours should the school close or should any students be mandated to self-quarantine.
We understand that this is a hardship for families who live a significant distance from campus, but it is a necessary request in the face of these unprecedented circumstances. Please spend some time between now and March 23, one week before the start date for students after break, to make plans for how you will handle a potential school closure or quarantine situation.
In order for a boarding student to return to campus after break, we will need written assurance from the family that the student will have a place to go within 48 hours should school close or a quarantine situation arise. Please complete this Google form by Monday, March 23, 2020 indicating your plans for your child under these circumstances.
If you choose not to have your child return to SSA after Spring Break because you are concerned about a potential closure, we will support your decision and work with our teachers to ensure that your child continues to learn and earn credit for the third term.
This is a rapidly evolving situation, and we are working hard to make decisions that are in the best interest of the health and safety of our school community. Thank you for your cooperation and understanding.
Director of Student & Residential Life
Head of Senior School