The COVID-19 protocols that we put in place during the last school year worked to keep our community members safe throughout the pandemic. While it appeared that we were on our way out of this crisis in May and June, the Delta variant remains a cause for concern and continued vigilance. While we are in a much better place as we start this school year than we were last year, out of an abundance of caution, we plan to return to most of the safety protocols from last year until we are confident that the potential threat is behind us.
Hawken is fortunate, due to its resources and its leadership at the Board of Trustees level, to be positioned better than most when it comes to mitigating the vast majority of the risk. Many schools, including Hawken, will continue to require masking, distancing classrooms to a degree, enhancing cleaning procedures, and instituting protocols for safe behavior. In addition to maintaining these standard measures, Hawken’s Board invested over $2 million of investments last year to supplement the pre-existing structural advantages of our large buildings, spacious campuses, and already small class sizes. We have been able to mitigate risks better than most schools because we have increased the housekeeping staff to allow for more frequent and deeper cleaning and sterilization, upgraded air sterilization and filtration to all of our campuses beyond the MERV-13 recommendation to keep our indoor air as safe as possible, created smaller class sizes, utilized tents on our campuses to enable more outdoor teaching and common spaces, added more hands-free bathroom fixtures and handwashing stations all around the campuses, redesigned lunch delivery, and installed plexiglass dividers wherever additional barriers are needed.
While COVID-19 certainly continues to remain a concern, it is important to keep in perspective how much better positioned we are going into this school year compared to just one year ago. The most vulnerable among us are mostly vaccinated and no longer at enormous risk of serious health complications, we are confident in our ability to minimize risk, the vaccine is very effective and appears to provide a degree of protection from the Delta variant, and vaccination rates are increasing in many places. This is good news as we continue to face this challenge. As always, because the health and safety of our community is our highest priority, we will continue to evaluate guidelines from our local health boards, medical institutions, and the CDC as we move through the school year and will adjust our protocols accordingly if necessary.
We will not only hope for a collective spirit of responsibility and good citizenship to guide all of our constituents to do their very best to follow the safety protocols articulated in this guide, but we will insist upon it. Please know that our efforts as outlined are organized around the ideals of Fair Play and guided by the best thinking of public health officials.
D. Scott Looney
Head of School