Nov. 9, 2020
Dear Fords families:
We’ve now been in session for two months; it is a daily joy to see the boys playing, learning, and growing. I am particularly proud of the way that they have embraced the health and safety protocols we implemented during this most unusual year.
Those protocols are working. We have had a total of four student cases during our first two months of school, two each in the Upper and Middle Schools, and none in the Lower School to date. Most importantly, we have had no cases of transmission on campus, an indication of the strength of our protocols and of our adherence to them.
Per the recommendations of the Montgomery County Health Office, when we have a case on campus, we notify those families that may need to take additional precautions because their son was in extended close contact with a positive or suspected case. We do not notify families whose son, in the opinion of the Montgomery County Health Office, does not need to take additional precautions. We intend to continue to follow the recommendations of the Montgomery County Health Office to the letter in order to protect our community.
Those recommendations are changing as we learn more about COVID-19 and its extremely limited rates of transmission inside schools that exercise proper health and safety protocols.  While we informed you over the summer that COVID-19 test positivity rates above 5% would likely result in Haverford reverting to online learning for all students, that conclusion was based on a belief that we would see substantially more transmission inside school buildings. We have consulted with our health professional partners, who have informed us that it is likely safe for in-person learning to continue as long as there is no community spread on campus - particularly for Lower School boys who have the lowest rates of infection and transmission.
However, while it may be safe for some or all of the boys to learn on campus with the proper protocols in place, it is not clear how long we will be able to maintain in-person operations given the high degree of community spread off campus we are now seeing. At some level, it is likely that too many of our faculty and staff would be quarantining themselves, or caring for their family members who are in quarantine, for us to continue to teach all of our boys in person.
This analysis comes against the background of rapidly increasing test positivity rates and broad community spread in our region.  These numbers are extremely worrisome; we agree with the medical experts that they result in no small part from social events in homes and around club sports, and as we move toward Thanksgiving and the winter break, we are quite concerned that they may get even worse and necessitate moving at least some divisions into Virtual Haverford.
We are not yet ready to make the decision to have some or all of the boys attend school virtually after Thanksgiving and/or the winter break, but we wanted to inform you that doing so is a real possibility based on the growing rates of community transmission. The choices you make—particularly about whether to travel over Thanksgiving and winter break, about social interactions around those special times, and about choosing to have your son compete on outside athletic teams and engage in social activities with those teams—will play a huge role in determining whether we can continue to teach some or all of the boys in person.
We are immensely grateful to the faculty who are doing such an extraordinary job teaching and mentoring the boys under extraordinary conditions. They are making the difficult choice not to travel and not to see friends and family in person over Thanksgiving in order to protect the health and well-being of the boys. We urge you to make similar choices, to continue to wear masks and wash your hands, and to avoid social interactions whenever possible, in order to give the boys the chance to learn and grow on campus in the company of our faculty and their friends. If you travel to a location listed as of concern by the Pennsylvania Department of Health, we respectfully ask that you follow the state’s recommendation to quarantine for fourteen days after your return and that your son not attend school in person during that time.
Thank you for your continued support of Haverford, and for trusting us with the growth and education of your sons.
John A. Nagl, D.Phil.
Ninth Head of School
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