No. During the summer, the Health & Safety Committee reviewed the CDC guidance and the results from the last school year and decided to replace the 4-phased plan with new safety strategies influenced by the CDC Guidance issued on July 9, 2021. We continue to monitor the level of community transmission for Cobb County on the CDC’s 4-level system, and we will factor in the level of community transmission as we make safety enhancements throughout this year.
The Health & Safety Task Force reviews COVID-specific data, studies, and recommendations from a variety of sources including the CDC, American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, The ABC Science Collaborative, State of Georgia DPH, National Federation of State HIgh School Associations (NFHS), GHSA and Epidemiologists Amber Schmidtke and Katelyn Jetelina.
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, we also have relied heavily on our relationship with the Cobb and Douglas Department of Public Health and physicians within the Walker community.
At the end of the 2020-21 school year, over 90% of Walker's faculty and staff were fully vaccinated. Over 80% of students in grades 7-12 have received at least one dose of the vaccine as of mid-August.
Yes. Immunization cards should be submitted via Walker Web for all students. Cards can be uploaded to Walker Web. Just click the “Upload” button and follow the instructions. This information will be used during contact tracing to verify who does or does not need to quarantine if exposed to either suspected or laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 cases. Students identified as close contacts with a complete vaccination card on file will not be required to quarantine as long as they are asymptomatic. Vaccinated students will need to wear a mask after their close contact until either 1) a negative PCR test taken at least 5 days after the exposure is obtained or 2) 14 days has passed since the close contact exposure.
We strongly believe that having students physically on campus is the best way for them to receive the full benefit of a world-class Walker education. While we are extremely proud of the percentage of our population that is vaccinated and still believe that vaccines are our best path forward to reducing the negative impacts of COVID, the Delta variant continues to surge and is driving up cases in our state, county and in our schools.
Recent studies show that while the current vaccines are still highly effective against severe infection, hospitalization and death, the effectiveness of the vaccines against asymptomatic, mild to moderate disease is less effective with the Delta variant than in previous strains of the virus. Additionally, we have learned that vaccinated individuals who are infected with the virus can have the same viral load as those unvaccinated and can spread the virus even if they are not experiencing symptoms.
Students will be served in the dining halls and will eat in the dining hall, other large designated indoor spaces or in one of our outdoor eating areas. Students will sit physically distanced when unmasked for lunch. The delivery style for food service will return to the pre-2020 style meaning that the students will have SAGE-served or self-serve food options and that students may choose what they eat at the meal times. Students in Primary School will select from two entrees, including one vegetarian option. Students will also be able to choose from additional items each day including salads, fruit, and/or a sandwich each day. Students in Lower School will select from two entrees, including one vegetarian option. Students will also be able to choose from additional items each day including a salad bar, sandwiches and a soup option. Students in grades 6-12 will be able to choose from the various entree options or will be able to self-serve pizza, soup, salad bar, sandwich bar, ice cream or the dessert station. Students will also have access to a microwave and to a panini press. Vegetarian and gluten-free options are available. Seconds are always available.
Students in Primary and Lower School will be allowed to have recess as an individual classroom or as a grade. Students' contact with other classes or grades will not be limited during outdoor activities.
Collaborating with classmates and developing life-long relationships are important parts of the Walker experience. Group activities will be a part of student life during school and in afterschool enrichment opportunities. The CDC has adjusted its recommendation to allow for closer seating in the K-12 environment and has adjusted the definition of a close contact for students in K-12 environments after reviewing data from schools during the 2020-2021 school year.
A close contact is:
Someone who was within 6 feet of a COVID-positive person for a cumulative total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period. The exposure could be up two days prior to symptom onset or at any time during the 10 day isolation period.
Exception: In the K–12 indoor classroom setting, the close contact definition excludes students who were within 3 to 6 feet of a COVID-positive student where both students were engaged in the consistent and correct use of well-fitting masks; and other K–12 school prevention strategies (such as universal and correct mask use, physical distancing, increased ventilation) were in place in the K–12 school setting.
Close contacts are determined through contact tracing. The COVID Support Team will enact the response protocol once a COVID-positive case has been identified. Families will be notified via phone call if their child has been deemed a close contact. All low-risk contacts will be notified via email.
No. We plan to use the same methodology for COVID testing this year as we successfully used last year. Faculty, staff and students who are exhibiting the signs and symptoms of COVID may be asked to provide a negative COVID test prior to returning to campus. Additionally, community members who are in quarantine may provide a negative COVID test in order to reduce their time in quarantine to 7 days so long as they are not showing the signs and symptoms of COVID. The CDC currently recommends that individuals who are fully vaccinated but otherwise meet the definition of close contact obtain a COVID test 3-5 days after exposure.
Individuals who have been diagnosed with COVID-19 are required to isolate themselves. Community members who have been diagnosed may return to campus 10 days after the onset of symptoms so long as their symptoms have improved and they have been fever-free without the use of fever-reducing medications for at least 24 hours. Individuals who are considered close contacts to a person who has been diagnosed with COVID-19 are required to quarantine. Close contacts are generally defined as follows: A close contact is someone who was within 6 feet of a COVID positive person for a cumulative 15 minutes or more over a 24 hour period. The contact must be within the 2 days prior to when the COVID-positive person first showed symptoms or anytime during the COVID-positive person’s 10 day isolation period. For students in an Early Learners-12 classroom setting, the close contact distance must be within 3 feet of the COVID-positive person so long as both the COVID-positive person and the potential close contact were properly masked. Fully vaccinated community members are not required to quarantine unless they begin to show the signs and symptoms of COVID. However, they will be required to wear a mask until 1) a PCR test is obtained at day 5 and is negative or 2) 14 days have passed since the exposure. Community members who have tested positive for COVID-19 are not considered close contacts for 3 months following their positive test so long as they are not showing the signs and symptoms of COVID.
If a student has to isolate or quarantine as a close contact, the Grade Level Dean (MS/US) or Advisory/Homeroom teacher (PS/LS) will develop an individualized plan for that student on how to best continue learning during their absence. For some classes/subjects, students will join the class over Zoom, while for others where the classroom activities do not translate as well remotely, it will be best for the students’ learning that they complete work asynchronously with teacher check-ins. Regardless, all teachers of that student will reach out to set up an individual time to meet with them over Zoom to ensure that they have the support they need to continue learning during their isolation or quarantine.
We are proud of the work our teachers did last year to provide an engaging learning environment for both in-person and remote learners. At the same time, we know that students learn best when they are learning on campus and benefiting from in-person interactions and instruction from our talented and caring faculty. The student experience is also best when teachers’ attention is not split between students in person and online and teachers have the flexibility to create an active learning environment that is not tied to a screen. Finally, our experience last year demonstrated the effectiveness of our safety protocols, especially now that such a large portion of our eligible students are vaccinated. Therefore, we are expecting all students to attend school on campus this school year, and we will not be offering a remote learning option.
Based on the success of schools across the country last year, we believe that we can safely have school on campus. We believe that students learn best when they are in the classroom with teachers who care about them, and we know that our on-campus educational experience is a whole-child-centered program that is difficult to replicate in a remote setting. We also understand that until this pandemic is over, it would be fool-hardy to make definitive statements about the best way for us to balance the health of our community with the educational experience. It is certainly our intention to have school on campus each day that we can safely do so.
Student-athletes will travel on school buses to and from athletic competitions. All riders, regardless of vaccination status, will be required to wear masks on the bus. Each bus has been outfitted with a bipolar ionization system that proactively purifies the air. Students will be allowed to sit two per seat, but will be physically distanced when possible.
Our buildings are sanitized each day using electrostatic sprayers. We have installed hand sanitizer stations across campus and in key areas such as dining halls and entrances.
Many spaces around campus including the isolation rooms, the nurse's office, the music, band and chorus rooms and a variety of other spaces have bipolar ionization systems installed which proactively clean the air. Additionally, air filters across campus have been upgraded and the building’s mechanical systems have been recalibrated to maximize outside air.
Each of the school buses has bipolar ionization systems installed which proactively clean the air.
Field trips and overnight trips are anticipated to be a part of the 2021-2022 school year. Trips will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis to determine the safety enhancements needed to schedule the trip.
Yes. We are working with the Walker School Association (parent volunteer organization) and the Wolverine Club (parent volunteer athletic association) to plan events for Homecoming, which is Sept. 10 this year. We look forward to seeing all of our families there!