COVID-19 Safety Response
Current Update as of February 18, 2022 from BCS
Greetings from Bethany on this snowy day!
The purpose of this communication is to give the school community an update on where we are, and where BCS is headed, with COVID-19 mitigation strategies. We are aware that many of you, like the school, follow the state dashboard and other data closely. Thank you in advance for understanding the complexity involved in interpreting the data and weighing health risks against educational priorities.
Many of you are probably aware that yesterday February 17, the Indiana Department of Health (IDOH) released updated guidance for schools. According to the IDOH
- Several scientific and other factors reduce the utility and feasibility of universal case investigation and contact tracing for each COVID-19 case.
- Large number of asymptomatic and less severe cases, vaccination has helped with this
- Many infections are not identified by public health agencies because individuals were asymptomatic, didn’t get tested or used an at-home test
- Omicron has a shorter incubation period
- Highest risk of transmission to others occurs prior to symptom onset and during the first few days of symptomatic illness—contact tracing usually occurs too late
Because of the Governor’s Feb. 1 executive order, Bethany had been requiring masks in order to avoid mandated contact tracing and related student absences. This new IDOH guidance eliminates the requirement for school contact tracing, allowing us to discontinue mask requirements without penalty. The updated guidance shifts from universal contact tracing to an outbreak- based approach. Individuals are now responsible for informing close contacts rather than schools. However, if an outbreak occurs at school, Bethany may reinstitute contact tracing.
As of today, it has been more than three weeks since BCS has had a known positive case of COVID-19 amongst our students and staff. This is a significant drop from mid-January when we regularly had several new cases per day. Our experience reflects the Elkhart County metrics found on the Indiana COVID-19 dashboard. For example, on January 24 Elkhart County had 1435 cases per 100k and the most recent data from this week shows 162 cases per 100k.
BCS continues to be in a good position due to the high number of vaccinated individuals within our school community. The faculty vaccination rate is 100% and our student vaccination rate is around 80%. Additionally, our experience is that virtually no transmission has occurred in areas of the school where students are not typically masked such as while eating in the cafeteria or engaged in strenuous activities.
Given our current circumstances and state guidance, Bethany will institute a mask-optional policy for all students beginning February 23. Even as COVID-19 increasingly becomes endemic, it is still important to exercise basic precautions outlined in previous communications regarding staying home when sick, testing if covid symptoms appear, and so forth. In summary:
What is changing / not changing:
- Beginning February 23, masks are optional for all students and staff except for on buses where they are still required by federal mandate, and as outlined in point 5 below.
- Contact tracing will be discontinued unless doing so in the midst of a future outbreak is deemed necessary.
- PCR batch testing will be discontinued
- Rapid testing will be conducted upon request for students and staff, as long as testing supplies are available to the school. Individuals who suspect a COVID-19 infection should still get tested, either at school or at home.
- Positive individuals will continue to isolate for at least 5 days and wear a mask at school for an additional 5 days (days 6-10).
- Positive individuals should inform the school, notify their close contacts, and consult a healthcare professional if at higher risk.
- A negative test or doctor’s note is no longer required to return to school. As with other illnesses, students should not return to school unless they are fever free for at least 24 hours without the use of fever-reducing medication and their symptoms are resolved.
- Protecting others who might be vulnerable is still important. Vaccination is a powerful tool for reducing the chance of serious illness and reducing the spread of COVID.
Thank you for your patience and cooperation.
COVID Policy Communication Updates
COVID-19 Information and Resources
- Transportation is once again possible for many school activities. Masking will now be required at all times in vehicles per federal guidelines (adjusted based on changes to federal law and local circumstances).
- Social distancing is continuing where possible. Classrooms, hallways and common spaces are set up to provide the greatest amount of space between students, faculty and staff.
- Sick students should stay home and adhere to expectations that will be shared in a future communication.
- Sanitation stations are set up outside of all classrooms and common areas. Students should utilize these stations throughout the school day.
- Restrooms and drinking fountains are set up to mitigate cohort interaction and provide maximum hygiene. Drinking fountains remain closed with water bottle filling stations available throughout the school.
- Hallways, lockers and passing periods continue to be monitored by school personnel to help ensure social distancing. Passing periods are lengthened to five minutes to help with traffic flow and congestion.
- Daily breaks for students and staff are built into the schedule to give all individuals the opportunity to spend time outside.
- Outside classrooms and instructional spaces are again available to teachers for use throughout the day.
- The School Cafeteria is continuing to limit the number of individuals per table and will run five lunch shifts, allowing us to cohort groups, provide social distancing space and ease congestion during transition times.
- Guests to our school will continue to be limited and those entering must be screened and tracked.
- The Drop-Off / Pick-Up system utilized last year for items and students is once again in place to decrease office traffic and traffic.
- Symptom screening at home is essential to maintain a safe school. While we will no longer be taking temperatures of all students this year, we will need families to screen all students before coming to school (a COVID-19 Parent Screening guideline will be provided).
- Student pick-up at the end of the day will continue to be staggered to help alleviate congestion and cohort interactions.
- School cleaning continues in a thorough manner to ensure safe classrooms and common spaces for all individuals.
- Bethany Christian Schools will comply with the ECHD recommendations and beginning on Tuesday August 10, will require masks for all people in the school building. We are hopeful that the incidence of the COVID-19 Delta variant will decline soon, and we can relax some of our masking requirements.
- A voluntary COVID-19 screening program for students provided by Health and Human Services (HHS) will help Bethany identify students who have COVID-19, but don’t have symptoms and who may be contagious. This will allow us to take quick action to prevent further spread to other students and their families, faculty and staff.
- BinaxNOW rapid antigen testing provided by the state of Indiana can be utilized to determine positive COVID-19 cases on an individual basis when students display symptoms at school or immediate results are required.
- If your student has tested positive for COVID-19 or been in close contact with someone else who has tested positive, please fill out this form to communicate with administrators.