COVID-19 Response » COVID-19 Response

COVID-19 Response

The 2022-2023 academic year will be the fourth affected by the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic. While great strides have been made in the reduction of severe outcomes of COVID-19 through vaccinations, variants of concern have evolved rapidly, each highly transmissible. Long COVID continues to affect between 5-20% of people with the virus, even for those who have been vaccinated, and emerging evidence points to an increased risk of complications from multiple COVID-19 infections. At the same time, the high levels of mitigation implemented at SCFS over the past few years require significant time and energy on the part of the whole community and are not sustainable indefinitely.

This year’s pandemic response plan peels back some restrictions to allow for more pre-pandemic normalcy and community-building, while upholding key, layered mitigation strategies to minimize in-school transmission. We continue to be guided by scientific evidence about how to reduce transmission of the virus, the learnings and experiences from our own school, local school districts, and other independent schools, and national and state-level recommendations. Importantly, we remain flexible and are prepared to pivot if conditions change.

Given the high vaccination rate within the SCFS community, this year's pandemic policies were revised to: adapt the conditions under which masks will be required indoors, reduce social distancing to meal times, allow more interaction between classes and grade levels, and on a trial basis, ask families to self-report all cases, symptoms of illness and known COVID-19 exposures, instead of the use of the morning form.

NOTE: Some Pre-K policies differ from our K-8 policies because Pre-K is required to follow the Pennsylvania State Office of Child Development and Early Learning (OCDEL) COVID-19 Pandemic policies.

Please contact [email protected] with any questions.

Layered Mitigation Strategies

Vaccines that protect against COVID-19 are safe, effective, and continue to prevent severe disease and death against currently-circulating variants.  The SCFS Board of Trustees has approved the following vaccination policy:

Beginning with the 2022-23 academic year, State College Friends School will require documented proof of vaccination against COVID-19 for any student in an age group that has been approved by the FDA and CDC to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. Exemptions for medical reasons will be considered on a case by case basis and must be accompanied by documentation from a medical professional. The Head of School will use discernment around current SCFS families with unvaccinated children on a case-by-case basis. The school will rely on guidance from the CDC for the most updated vaccine recommendations

As of September 2022, the CDC recommends the following for children with healthy immune systems:

  • Pfizer-BioNTech: 6 months to 4 years - 3 doses
  • Pfizer-BioNTech: 5 to 11 years - 3 doses (3rd dose monovalent booster)
  • Pfizer-BioNTech: 12 years and older - 3 doses (3rd dose bivalent booster)
  • Moderna: 6 months to 11 years - 2 doses
  • Moderna: 12 years and older - 3 doses (3rd dose bivalent booster)

Following a recent COVID-19 infection, the CDC states that one may consider delaying a primary series dose or their first or second COVID-19 vaccine booster dose by 3 months from symptom onset or positive test (if infection was asymptomatic).

Please upload your child's vaccine card by clicking here. If you prefer to show a hard copy to the school Health Administrators or have any questions, please contact [email protected].

Dr. Paul Damaske, a family practice physician and SCFS parent, gave a presentation about pediatric vaccines in October, 2021.

The Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) plan has been designed and implemented under the guidance of Dr. William Bahnfleth, a professor of Architectural Engineering at Penn State University and Chair of the ASHRAE Epidemic Task Force. The IAQ plan includes ventilation and filtration components and strives to reduce the risk of indoor transmission of COVID-19 and other airborne illnesses.  

The SCFS HVAC system brings in outside air that is not recirculated between rooms. The combination of the HVAC system, open/cracked windows, and portable filtration units (and, in rare cases, window box fans) results in a minimum of six air changes per hour (6 ACH) in all rooms of the school building.

Dr. Bahnfleth gave a presentation about Indoor Air Quality in November, 2021.

Given the high vaccination rate amongst SCFS students, faculty, and staff, we will enact a mask optional policy indoors when both of the following conditions are met:

  • A 7-day incidence rate of no more than 50 per 100,000 in Centre County (PA Early Warning Dashboard and SCFS Case Monitoring)*, and
  • No more than 3 concurrent cases amongst students, faculty, and staff, which corresponds to a 2.5% prevalence rate.

*Given the increasing use of at-home tests, the Department of Health incidence rates are underreported. We have considered other possible indicators for decision-making that are generated by the local school district and local health care systems. Despite our efforts, we are not able to access reliable, relevant, and timely data from these sources. However, taken together, Centre County incidence rates combined with SCFS internal data can generate a realistic picture of community transmission. 

The PA DOH updates their webpage with case counts each Wednesday. When there will be a change in the masking policy based on these updates we will alert families by Friday and plan to change the mask policy the following Monday.

When masking is in effect, high-filtration masks (N95, KN94, KF94) or equivalent are required.  The following are recommended masks, including acceptable reusable masks:

All visitors to the building will be required to wear high-quality masks at all times while indoors, including members of the SCFS community (Visitor and Volunteer Policy).

When masking is optional indoors, the choice of the student and their family regarding the student’s mask use will be respected. 

There will be times when masks will be required indoors. Examples include:

  • after-school care
  • all-school assemblies
  • returning from school breaks
  • if there is evidence of in-school transmission
  • indoor mixing between grade levels
  • if there is a positive COVID-19 case in a classroom, we will immediately resume masking for 5 calendar days in that classroom and/or grade level if the classes were mixed for indoor activities.
  • if the school community exceeds 3 concurrent cases we will immediately resume masking for 5 calendar days.
  • masking for specials will be at the teacher's discretion
 
Please make sure your child has access to two extra masks at school, since there are times everyone will be required to mask (i.e. Meeting for Worship, mixing between grade levels, etc.)
 

Masking will continue to be optional outdoors at all times (we call this MOO for "masks optional outdoors").

Symptom screening is used to determine if an individual currently has an illness that could be transmitted to others and therefore should be kept home. 

If a student, faculty or staff member, or a member of their household, experiences any of the following symptoms that differ from their typical health status, email [email protected].  

Before coming to school, wait for clearance by the school Health Administrators.

Symptoms that should be reported:

  • Temperature of 100 degrees Fahrenheit or higher
  • Difficulty breathing/shortness of breath
  • Cough
  • New loss of taste or smell
  • Sore throat
  • Congestion or runny nose
  • Headache
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting or nausea
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Fatigue

If a child is symptomatic and is not able to attend school, they may not participate in After School, Clubs, or any school-sponsored activities or events that day and until receiving clearance by Health Admin

If a child has symptoms of an infectious illness, but does not yet have 2 negative rapid tests taken 24 hours apart, a sibling may come to school if they too test negative the morning prior to coming to school and are asymptomatic. Once a student has 2 negative rapid tests taken at least 24 hours apart, siblings may come to school without testing if asymptomatic.

NOTE: To reduce the burden to families, SCFS will begin the school year without the use of the morning health form. We will rely on self-reporting of any household symptoms and known exposures in the household to school Health Administrators. Through the use of at-home testing it is our goal to keep everyone in school as much as possible. We have learned that when we have strong communication and transparency with families, children can be in school more often and without fear of risk to others. Our goal is to support reliable self-reporting so as not to revert to a daily health reporting system.

Overall Guidelines

Strict guidelines about distancing will be dropped in the 2022-2023 school year.  The general principle about spacing in a respiratory pandemic is: the more space between people the better.

For example, when children are seated for planned activities or instruction at hexagonal tables, up to 4 students can be seated per table. For spontaneous interactions, such as students sitting next to each other to share a book or looking at something a friend is excited about, more than 4 children in this configuration is acceptable. This will be respected as much as possible depending on the number of students per classroom and space configurations.

At other times, both indoors and outdoors, distancing requirements will be dropped.

Meal times

Eating snacks and lunch outdoors is always recommended and encouraged. When eating outdoors, ~3 feet of distance is sufficient. When eating indoors, students will be seated 6 feet apart whether we are in a period of optional or required masking. Students may remain in the same classroom if there is sufficient space. If there is not sufficient space for all students to be distanced 6 feet apart in one classroom, students should be split up into multiple rooms.

Mixing of classes within and between grades is permitted indoors and outdoors. When indoors, masking will be required for mixed-grade activities.

During morning arrival to school, all students should enter through the front door of the school. Parents may walk their child(ren) to their classroom(s) using the school’s main entrance. Parents and non-SCFS siblings will be required to wear high-quality masks (KF94, KN95, N95) at all times while indoors as indicated in the masking policy above. 

Family members may not enter the building if anyone in the household has symptoms of an infectious illness. Additionally, we request that families do not linger when indoors. Feel free to linger outdoors as much as you would like!

Response Protocols and Communications

If a student, faculty, or staff member tests positive for COVID-19, contact the school Health Administrators at [email protected]) as soon as possible.

  • The individual will isolate at home until testing negative by:
    •  A PCR test, or 
    • Two rapid antigen tests taken 24 hours apart
  • If the person was in school while potentially infectious, the Health Administrators will execute contact tracing protocols and will notify close contacts and class members of the case by email or phone without identifying the names of the individual who has tested positive.


If a household member of a student, faculty, or staff member tests positive for COVID-19, contact the school Health Administrators at [email protected]) as soon as possible. Most likely, the student, faculty, or staff member will be permitted to come to school with the use of rapid testing.

Any student, faculty and/or staff member who has a known COVID-19 exposure is asked to contact the Health Administrators ([email protected]) as soon as possible.

Exposure can be from a household member, family member, work, extracurricular activities, etc.

If asymptomatic, the person will be asked to test prior to coming to school.  The timing and frequency of testing will depend on if the exposure is high or low risk.

 In times of optional masking, close contacts will be asked to mask. 

If a student or member of their household, teacher or a member of the household, or staff or member of their household experiences any of the following symptoms that differ from their typical health status, email [email protected] to alert the Health Administrators.  

These symptoms include: 

  • Temperature of 100 degrees Fahrenheit or higher
  • Difficulty breathing/shortness of breath
  • Cough
  • New loss of taste or smell
  • Sore throat
  • Congestion or runny nose
  • Headache
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting or nausea
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Fatigue
 

If a child is symptomatic and is not able to attend school, they may not participate in After School, Clubs, or any school-sponsored activities or events that day and until receiving clearance by Health Admin.

If a child has symptoms of an infectious illness, but does not yet have 2 negative rapid tests taken 24 hours apart, a sibling may come to school if they too test negative the morning prior to coming to school and are asymptomatic. Once a student has 2 negative rapid tests taken at least 24 hours apart, siblings may come to school without testing if asymptomatic.

SCFS will continue to perform contact tracing when a case of COVID-19 is identified and the person was in school within ~24 hours of symptom onset and/or a positive test. 

The purpose of SCFS internal contact tracing is to:

  • Explore the possible route of infection or exposure.
  • Identify close contacts and others who may be at risk for infection.
  • Educate individuals on the need to quarantine or isolate and determine the individuals’ plans.
  • Identify the support services that the school can provide to the individuals to help them successfully quarantine or isolate.

This year, we will categorize any contacts by high- or low-risk using the following criteria:

  • Duration of exposure
  • Proximity to ill person
  • Masking status
  • Location of exposure (i.e indoor, outdoor, bus, etc.)
  • If person was symptomatic/time from exposure to development of symptoms (if symptomatic)

The Health Administrators will call, text, or email families of children who are considered at highest risk of exposure to inform them of next steps. Families of children who are considered low risk of exposure will receive an email.

Please note that the name of the student who tested positive for COVID-19 will never be revealed to close contacts.

The Health Administrators will call, text or email contact families of children who are considered at highest risk of exposure to inform them of next steps. 

Families of children who are considered low risk of exposure will receive an email.

SCFS will update the public SCFS Case Monitoring document weekly with the number of cases in school.
Day-to-Day Logistics

All visitors and volunteers should enter through the front doors and sign-in at the front desk and complete a health attestation form.

When indoors all visitors are required to wear a high-quality mask.

Testing is recommended for visitors who will be indoors.

More details about requirements for indoor visits can be found in the Visitor and Volunteer Policy, which has been updated for the 2022-2023 school year.

All students commuting to school on buses and vans are strongly encouraged to wear high-quality masks because this higher-risk environment is outside of the control of SCFS.

All-school indoor gatherings such as Meeting for Worship and plays can be conducted this year. Masks will likely be required indoors due to the potential mixing of many grade levels. Extra attention will be paid to ventilation and filtration during these times.

Outdoor time will be prioritized and masking will be optional outdoors during the after school program. High-quality masks will be required indoors due to the potential mixing of so many grade levels. Intermittent testing may be required based on community and in-school case numbers.

 

The outdoor grounds of campus are always available to families. Masks are optional outdoors. If interested in renting space after hours, please contact: [email protected]

Special Events

Field trips are permitted, with the following precautions:

  • Outdoor fields trips are preferred.
  • Field trips with an indoor component are allowed if the space will be private to SCFS and/or if masking is universally enforced.

Other field trips will be considered following a risk assessment.

Unless cases dip very low in Centre County, these policies will be in place regardless of the masking rules at school.

Bringing the community together has been identified as a priority for this school year. Outdoor events will follow all other outdoor procedures, including optional masking. Indoor events at school will follow the procedures outlined in the Visitor and Volunteer Policy.

Mitigation Changes

While we hope for pandemic conditions to improve over the course of the school year, we are poised to shift mitigation measures under the following conditions:

  • Sustained decrease in the number of community cases, taking into consideration the quality of data sources
  • Circulation of a variant of concern(s) that increase transmissibility and/or severe outcomes of infection
  • Significant increase in vaccine effectiveness against currently circulating variants
  • Significant decrease in vaccine effectiveness against currently circulating variants

The Pandemic Advisory Group reviews emerging scientific evidence and meets weekly to discuss school policies.

Given the high vaccine rates within the SCFS community this year's pandemic policies were updated by:

  1. Revising the conditions under which masks will be required indoors, 
  2. Reducing social distancing to meal times,
  3. Allowing more interaction between classes and grade levels, and
  4. On a trial basis, asking families to self-report all cases, symptoms of illness and known COVID-19 exposures, instead of the use of the morning form.
If a SCFS student, employee, or someone in an SCFS household is COVID-19 positive, has any symptoms of an infectious illness or has a known exposure to COVID-19, please contact [email protected] as soon as possible and await instructions before coming to school.
About the Pandemic Advisory Group

Annie Boggess, Director of Development and Alumni Relations

Joe Doherty, Head of School

Erica Phillips, PhD, Public Health, International Nutrition

Maureen Sentesy Wagner, Registered Nurse

Elizabeth Smith, Director of Enrollment Management

Deb Elliott, Pre-K Director

Joanne Thurston-Griswold, Lead Teacher

Contact the Pandemic Advisory Group at [email protected].
External Resources