COVID Safety Protocols and Updates

We believe there is nothing more important than safeguarding your student’s health. The Northwest School has taken a multi-layered approach to campus safety to provide a low-hazard environment in which to learn, teach, work, and visit. 

All eligible NWS students must be vaccinated for COVID-19 prior to the start of school. Our policies and procedures for the upcoming school year are informed and guided by recommendations and requirements from Public Health – Seattle & King County (PHSKC); the Washington State Department of Health (WA DOH); the Washington Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI); and, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

Please send any questions you may have about our protocols to this email address: Safety@northwestschool.org

Covid Dashboard1June7Resize

We have created a Northwest Dashboard page that includes school vaccination and test information, the COVID-19 Test Consent Form, and other current information. View the full dashboard here. 

  • June 7 Letter from Head of School

    Our final week of school marks the culmination of our journey together over the last ten months. I am excited to attend 8th Grade graduation and our senior Commencement ceremony. Both events are important milestones signaling students’ adolescent development.

    This summer, you will receive important schoolwide updates and back-to-school information from various departments and divisions. Should you need to reach us for any reason throughout the summer months, please know that the NWS main office is open.

    Thank you for a wonderful year and 41st chapter. I look forward to seeing you soon.

    Middle School: Last Day of School, Friday, June 10

    The school day starts at 8:30 am and ends at 2:00 pm. Buses will depart from school at 2:15 pm, earlier than usual. The after-school program will run from 2:00 – 6:00 pm. No regular classes will be held. Sixth and Seventh Grade students should bring their laptops, chargers, styluses, and cases (if they used one this year) to school to turn in. Eighth Grade students will return their laptops, etc. on Thursday.

    In the morning, 6th and 7th Grade students will engage in a variety of grade level experiences while 8th Grade students rehearse for their graduation ceremony which will take place from 12:00 – 2:00 pm. During this time, 6th and 7th Grade students will celebrate their peers by watching the ceremony via Zoom in their advisory classrooms. For questions about the 8th Grade graduation ceremony, please reach out to Jen Ford. For all other questions, please reach out to Maria Moses.

    To view the graduation, please use this link: 8th Grade graduation

    Upper School: Last Day of School, Friday, June 10

    The school day starts at 8:40 am and ends at 2:00 pm. Buses will depart from school at 2:15 pm, earlier than usual. No regular classes will be held. Students in grades 9-11 will engage in a variety of experiences, including Advisory, Environment, and Grade Level Meeting. Towards the end of the day, students may choose between watching the 8th Grade graduation ceremony (via Zoom) or another activity to enjoy with their classmates. For questions, please reach out to James Joseph.

    I wish you all the best,

    Ray

  • June 1 Letter from Head of School

    It’s hard to believe we are just over a week away from the end of the school year. When I walked into the building this morning, I noticed the number on the annual senior countdown board was approaching zero. Our soon-to-be graduates’ steadfast enthusiasm has helped build excitement in our community as we prepare to bring the school’s 41st chapter to a close.

    The arts department has also contributed to our high energy by organizing opportunities to showcase our students’ wonderful work. I am looking forward to today’s Arts Fair activities which will include a talent show, musical performances, and other fun and exciting moments that demonstrate how essential the arts are to Northwest.

    Students are also wrapping up their classes by completing projects, essays, or culminating assessments. Our teaching faculty continue to plan thoughtful lessons that bring meaning and purpose to the classroom while engaging an eager student body.

    This time of year is also an opportunity for parents and guardians, especially those with seniors or eighth graders, to think about this milestone moment. Both student groups are poised to enter a new stage of development that will require different layers of support and guidance. Whether they are emerging as first-time high schoolers or as adults with a taste of greater independence, these students are entering unfamiliar territory where they will confront new questions such as:

    “What am I supposed to do now that I’m in high school?" “When do I get to drive?” “How do I manage my budget?” “Laundry!?”

    These are just a few that will surface over time. As parents and guardians, remember that your children are entering the world of ‘firsts’ and will need you to be there in ways that signal your confidence in them to make their way. Their journeys will include smooth sailing and some bumps along the way. But through it all, you will be there.

    While our year is winding down, I am sure students who are returning next year are beginning to think about their new place within the school. Rising seniors will have opportunities to lead and to set an example for younger students. The class of 2023 has already begun to demonstrate leadership skills by helping to plan the recent Day of Learning, forming the Student Advisory Union, and taking on important roles within the athletics program. Next year will be exciting – new students and faculty will join the community, and parents and guardians will continue to partner with the school.

    Seeking Host Families

    Speaking of new and exciting opportunities, next year, we plan to resume our student exchange programs with our partner schools in Spain, France, and Taiwan.

    We will host four 10th Grade Spanish students from Centro Docente Marine, our partner school in Seville, in mid-September for 7-8 weeks. We are looking for families to host the students. If you are interested in this exciting opportunity or have any questions, please contact Dmitry Sherbakov.

    Parent/Guardian Association Leadership

    I invite all parents and guardians to consider a leadership role within the Parent/Guardian Association (PGA) next year. The PGA is instrumental in helping position the school to support families, students, and faculty. Please view the registration form for more details.

    Take care,

    Ray

  • May 25 Letter from Head of School

    I have stated on numerous occasions that our students are living in a time where violent acts are becoming par for the course. I continue to stress the importance of belonging and community as pathways for students to feel safe and secure at Northwest. It is clear that outside of our school campus, students are inundated with experiences – their own, or those of others whom they care about – which can, over time, erode their sense of optimism for humanity.

    As a school leader, I cannot help but think about the loss of life at Robb Elementary School. I imagine the students and educators woke up feeling energized and excited about the remaining few days leading to summer break and the culminating activities that would bring the school year to a close. Instead, they were confronted with an incomprehensible tragedy – a tragedy that cannot be forgotten or unseen – a tragedy that has eliminated the joy from school and replaced it with sadness, despair, fear, and so many other emotions.

    I care deeply about every NWS student and colleague, and I am invested in their well-being and daily experiences. We each play a vital role in ensuring that Northwest thrives. Every one of us has something meaningful to contribute towards helping each other feel seen, heard, and valued. I am aware that students and colleagues alike may need time to process their feelings, and it is with this in mind that our counseling team is available to provide immediate support.

    Please be assured that as a school centered in the middle of a city, we have protocols in place to immediately respond to a crisis. All of our buildings require a code, fob, or someone to buzz in for entry, and in cases where a visitor comes to campus, check-in procedures are consistently implemented. As with every school, the safety of our students and educators is of the highest priority.

    I continue to process my own feelings about this tragedy, as well as many others that are taking place across the country – in schools, places of worship, grocery stores, movie theaters, neighborhoods, and so forth – at a frequency that is suffocating. I believe many of our students, as well as students in general, are asking themselves questions such as: “What can I do to help prevent these acts?” or “Can this happen at my school?” My response to those questions is that students can deepen their commitment to ensuring that their peers feel supported, included, and that their voices are valuable and necessary.

    Today’s student-led Day of Learning is certainly giving students the opportunity to practice agency, to lead, be led, and learn from one another. The faculty are alongside the students and have availed themselves to offer a listening ear, provide guidance when needed, and demonstrate care in general.

    I am grateful to our community for coming together to reflect our humanity, discover new behaviors, and reinforce ways of being that promote belonging. This helps us build a greater sense of optimism where students can make a difference in ways that are meaningful and important to their societal views.

    Please feel free to reach out to let me know if you have any questions, concerns, or thoughts to share. I am always open to meet over a cup of coffee or tea.

    Please take care,

    Ray

  • May 18 Letter from Head of School

    I write to let you know that our students and faculty who participated in the March Goes On Summit returned from this experience inspired not only to help the school community heighten its awareness of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, but to create opportunities for thoughtful engagement and discussion about societal matters that are impacting our community.

    The members of this group have developed a full day program that includes interactive workshops in which students will choose their own sessions, participate in affinity group discussions and conversations across identities, and collaborate on a community art project that will serve as a culminating example of how we can strengthen our actions to build a stronger community of belonging.

    While it is clear that students and faculty bring many layers of identity to campus each day, without question, we all want to feel appreciated for the gifts and talents we possess and are able to share when we feel included, valued, and safe. Next week, students and faculty will be called upon to be present (both mentally and physically) and to realize the role that each of us plays in fostering a community that exemplifies belonging.

    The program will cover topics including the intersectionality of racism, sexism, classism, and other forms of oppression, and their impact on the Northwest community and society at large. The topics will be scaffolded for middle school students so they can fully participate in developmentally appropriate ways. The student planning committee is receiving support and guidance from faculty. All involved are committed to ensuring that the day is engaging, challenging, and unites our community around the important work of creating a more just and equitable world.

    I am sure many of you are aware of the tragic loss of life that occurred over the weekend during mass shootings in Buffalo, NY, and Laguna Woods, CA. The racial hatred that contributed to these acts of violence has created feelings of anger, fear, sadness, and for some, a loss of hope.

    Our students are growing up during a period of time in which mass shootings, racially motivated hate crimes, and violent acts against marginalized groups are happening all too often. There is a risk that our society will accept this as a normal occurrence, and that a sense of numbness will permeate our students’ psyches and leave them feeling powerless.

    Northwest has and will continue to help our students gain self-awareness, an understanding of societal conditions, and the agency to become catalysts for change. Our time together next week will take us another step in this direction, and our community will be stronger and more united as a result.

    Thank you,

    Ray

  • May 11 Letter from Head of School

    As we continue to explore the eight conditions outlined in the Aspirations Framework, here is a recap of the three conditions covered so far: belonging, role models, and a sense of accomplishment. The next condition, fun and excitement, refers to students who are actively engaged and emotionally involved in their schoolwork (Student Voice, p. 25). The authors’ comment, “More learning occurs when students are having fun, and better teaching occurs when teachers are having fun too” (Student Voice, p. 88).

    One example of this condition in action is the annual 9th Grade science class catapult competition. In teams, students designed and built a catapult that would propel a small ball into a frisbee located at least 15 feet away. In the days leading up to competition, I witnessed the groups testing their catapults in the hallway of the main school building. Test after test, despite numerous failures as students sought to find the perfect technique, they were having fun. I heard a few groups exclaim, “Yes, we did it!” when their ball made contact with the frisbee.

    The catapult launch competition took place during Community Meeting – our first in-person for the school year – and the gym was filled with excitement for this highly anticipated event. The teams, one by one, launched their ball towards the frisbee. While some got closer to the target than others, two teams landed on or made contact with the frisbee. Launch after launch, both teams hit their target to the delight of the crowd. Students’ smiles and high fives, even among the teams that did not advance to the finals, demonstrated fun at its best.

    I have to add that the two science teachers were having fun as well. They helped students prepare for the “big day” by providing guidance and feedback during the design and building process, as well as suggestions and encouragement during the testing phase. I had to smile when I saw them exchange fist pumps when a test was successful and offer kind words when a test flight overshot the target. Additionally, the teachers worked collaboratively to ensure their students were prepared for the competition.

    Fun and excitement as a condition serves as a conduit, connecting students to the purpose of their school experience. We believe teaching and learning should be both enjoyable and meaningful. When our teachers share their expertise with excitement, their students become even more inspired. The catapult project is a prime example of the kind of teaching that fosters student engagement, fun and excitement.

    Closing


    Reminder: I look forward to seeing you during our “State of the School” Zoom call tomorrow night, May 12, at 6:00 pm Pacific time.
    I am excited to spend the evening sharing reflections on the year and previewing the year ahead. Please register here in advance to ensure your space.

    Please also join us for our final “Movies with a Mission” for the school year. Between now and next Wednesday, watch Food Inc. and Global Junk Food for an eye-opening look at the fast food industry in this country and abroad. Then, on Wednesday, May 18, I hope you will tune into Zoom from 7:00 - 8:30 pm when three expert panelists will discuss the intersections of corporate responsibility, food consumption, health, sustainability, and the impacts on communities and culture. This event is open to the NWS community, family, and friends. Meet our panelists, including our own Director of Dining Services Bethany Fong, get the movie links, and learn more, here.

    Please use this link to get our latest COVID-19 update from Ya Davis (or, see below), and view the Dashboard here.

    Thank you for your continued partnership!

    Take care,

    Ray

  • May 11 COVID Update from Health Coordinator, Ya Davis

    Dashboard:

    Our Dashboard is updated to reflect NWS COVID statistics as of Tuesday, May 10, 2022.

    COVID testing for Prom:

    Below, is an excerpt from an email that went out to Seniors today. It outlines our approach to COVID testing and screening measures at the event.

    Every senior and their guest must take a rapid antigen test on Friday afternoon before Prom.

    The school will provide you with a test, and it is your responsibility to take it prior to attending Prom. Only those with negative tests may attend: please notify Ya Davis, and begin isolation if you are positive. If you are bringing a guest from another school, we will gladly supply a rapid test for them as well. Furthermore, we are asking guests from other schools for proof of vaccination at the door. All unvaccinated individuals must provide proof of a negative rapid test taken the day of the event.

    Refresher on current school mitigation policies:

    Students and faculty:

    • Daily symptom screening is conducted before school and before school-sanctioned events/performances.
    • Masks are optional but encouraged. There is a supply at the front desk for those who need a mask throughout the school day.
    • Rapid antigen tests are administered at school for individuals participating in “Test to Stay,” or who develop symptoms during the day.
    • All community members are expected to follow the school’s sick policy (stay home when sick and seek diagnostic testing or medical attention if needed).
    • Minimum 5 full days of isolation enforced for those who test positive. A negative rapid antigen test is required to return to school and confirmed with our Health Coordinator.

    Performances/concerts/dances:

    • Rapid antigen tests are required for all student participants on the day of the event. Screening testing will be conducted at school unless otherwise noted.
    • Student participants may not attend an after-school event if they did not attend school the same day.
    • Audience members must provide proof of vaccination. Unvaccinated audience members must provide proof of a negative rapid antigen test taken the day of the event. This information must be presented to the front door staff.
    • Audience members must be symptom-screened at the door.
    • Masks may be required at the discretion of the venue or hosting organization. See your event communication for specific details on masking requirements.

    Visitor and guest policy:

    • Individuals must provide proof of vaccination. All unvaccinated individuals must provide proof of a negative rapid antigen test taken the day of their visit to the school.
    • Individuals must be symptom-screened by their school host.
    • Masks may be required at the discretion of the school host. Ask your host for their mask policy.


  • May 3 Letter from Head of School - COVID Update

    As I continue my exploration of the Aspirations Framework, the next condition is a sense of accomplishment. According to Student Voice, a sense of accomplishment is “the recognition of effort, perseverance, and citizenship – along with academic achievement – as signs of student success," (pg. 24). In school, students must be acknowledged for their approach to learning, for actual learning outcomes, and for their ability to respond to their teachers’ assessment or suggestions for improvement. While it's important that they find joy in learning, being acknowledged for their hard work during the process can be an additional source of motivation.

    A sense of accomplishment can also happen outside of the classroom. I remember my time (4-year starter) playing basketball for UC Santa Cruz. During those years, I loved the game, approached it with great seriousness, and worked hard to strengthen my skills and shooting accuracy. At the end of each season, I was acknowledged for setting records for 3-point shooting – both the total number in a season, and the average made per game. During the season, I was not focused on records. Instead, I focused on being the best I could be and putting in the work to get better. Some other major accomplishments included becoming number one in the country for the number of 3-point shots made (104) during my sophomore season. Heading into my junior year, I was named a Preseason All-American. My final two seasons continued to yield additional records for 3-point shots. By the time I finished my career, I set the school’s record for 3-point shots made during a career (354) – a record that still stands 30 years later. While my goal was not to light up the scoreboard, the acknowledgment of coaches, teammates, fans, and even my personal records buoyed my sense of accomplishment.

    My years representing UC Santa Cruz on the court serve as a constant reminder of the importance of acknowledging students’ hard work in the moment, their steady improvement, and most importantly, their overall accomplishments. This acknowledgement may look like a high five, a verbal exchange in the classroom, or an email expressing support. In general, the adults in our school community must find appropriate ways to commend students for their accomplishments. In doing so, we help students feel seen, valued, and heard. And, they feel a sense of belonging.

    As with the previous conditions, I invite you to share a moment from your school days when you were acknowledged for your accomplishment(s). Please use this form to share.

    COVID-19 Update (Ya Davis, Health Coordinator)

    Please follow our community trends here. As a reminder, please keep your student at home if they are experiencing any COVID-19 related symptoms.

    King County cases continue to increase. This week, we saw a 17% increase in daily average cases compared to the previous week. At NWS, we saw an increase of 3 total confirmed cases compared to the previous week. No cases have been linked to each other, but with overall trends increasing, we encourage you to revisit your safety practices as you see fit. While not required, community members have the option to wear a mask at school. We have an ample supply of KN-95 and surgical masks available at the front desk. Additionally, should your student feel ill during the school day, we can administer a rapid antigen test on-site.

    If your student tests positive for COVID-19, please email our Health Coordinator, Ya Davis, to receive further instructions on the isolation timeline and to gain Zoom learning permission. Remember, your student must isolate for 5 full days and provide proof of negative rapid antigen test results in order to return to school.

    Closing

    I look forward to seeing you during our "State of the School" Zoom call next Thursday, May 12 at 6:00 pm. The Senior Leadership Team and I are excited to spend the evening sharing our reflections on the year and previewing the year ahead. Topics covered will include teaching and learning, school finances, enrollment, DEI and Belonging, and more. Please register here in advance to ensure your space on the call.

    I owe a huge thanks to Director of Development Julie Lombardo and her team and volunteers for an exciting Pizazz event last Saturday. Faculty member Christian Stallworth kept the event moving along smoothly by serving as an excellent emcee. Additionally, the evening included terrific live music provided by our in-house bands led by Erin Keeton-Howard. This year’s Pizazz focused on support for The Northwest Experience Fund, which covers additional costs beyond tuition for our families on financial aid. Thanks to our generous community, we exceeded our goal for the night by nearly $70k for a total of $318,027. Equally important, we were able to return to an in-person event punctuated by connections with friends and new families, not to mention a delicious meal and tasty desserts. Again, thank you to everyone who made the night a success.

    Take care,

    Ray

  • April 27 Letter from Head of School - COVID Update

    Last week, I focused on belonging, the first Aspirations Framework condition. When combined with the additional eight conditions, belonging will foster a school environment that enables students and faculty to work in partnership towards ensuring students feel seen, valued, and heard.

    In this correspondence, I will focus on the second condition, role models. While the text uses the word heroes, I am choosing to use role models because this term reinforces the idea that every adult in a student’s life is a role model whether or not we believe or want to accept this designation. In a school setting, all faculty serve as role models. In the book Student Voice: Instrument for Change by Russell J. Quaglia and Michael J. Corso, the authors note, “... it is not up to us to decide to be a role model, but rather to determine what kind of role model we will be. Our daily decisions impact whether we will be a positive or negative role model to the young people in our care.” (Student Voice, pg. 62.)

    We believe in the importance of referring to all school employees as “faculty” and in the power of teaching through relationships. Our Summits program is an excellent example of role models in action as administrative and classroom faculty collaborate in order to share their wisdom, expertise, and real world experiences with students over a two-week period. When faculty serve as positive role models, they help strengthen students' self-worth, and therefore, their aspirations. (Student Voice, Pg. 62.) I am a firm believer in the importance of serving as a positive role model for our students. Behaviors such as being punctual, taking accountability for missteps, showing compassion, and treating others with respect are just several examples of visible cues that signal positivity for our students.

    I am aware that while no one can be mistake-free, everyone can take advantage of opportunities to be the best version of themselves. As faculty, we demonstrate the joys of life-long learning and aim to impart this joy to our students inside and outside of the classroom. Through fairness, kindness, appropriate boundaries, and meaningful feedback, our students should find themselves in the company of role models throughout their daily engagement at Northwest.

    As we did last week, I want to invite everyone to share a story about role models in your lives. Remember that your entries may be shared as examples for our community, but your name shall remain anonymous. Please use this form to share.

    Faculty Updates

    I am pleased to share some exciting personnel news with you. I invite you to join me in welcoming these three talented individuals – two of whom are current members of the NWS community – into their new leadership positions.

    Please welcome Amina Loftin as Northwest’s first Assistant Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. Amina has served Northwest since 2018 as our Accounts Payable and Payroll Coordinator. Since 2020, she has expanded her engagement in our community to serve as facilitator of the Faculty of Color affinity group, advisor to the Black Student Union, and a member of the Advancing Equity and Belonging Team. Amina has also served on the Faculty Executive Committee and is a regular search committee member. She has facilitated and presented workshops on DEI topics outside of Northwest in roles such as the ISEEN Fall Educators Workshop, the PLACE Summer Civics Program, and was a steering committee member for the NWAIS Equity & Inclusion Speaker Series.

    In her letter of interest, Amina shared her personal goal “to help create a world in which my son and young people especially, but all people in general, can feel safe, valued, seen, and loved.” We look forward to witnessing more of Amina’s excellent work in her new role.

    I am pleased to share that Julie Lombardo is Northwest’s Director of Development. Julie has served as interim Director of Development since January 2021. After a national search, we are happy to announce that she will continue in this role as the permanent Director. Julie joined Northwest in 2017 as our Assistant Development Director. She first connected with Northwest in 2002 when her eldest son joined the 6th Grade. She previously served as the Communications, Outreach, and Events Manager at Bellwether Housing.

    We are thrilled Julie will continue as our Director of Development and excited about our development initiatives under her skilled leadership.

    I am also delighted to welcome Risa De Gorgue as Northwest’s new Director of Communications and Marketing. Risa joins Northwest on May 9. She comes to us from the University of Washington where she has served as Senior Director of Marketing and Enrollment Services for the UW Continuum College since 2011. Risa has served the Continuum College since 2007 and has led re-branding and enrollment efforts resulting in a meaningful increase in student enrollment for the college.

    COVID-19 Updates (submitted by Ya Davis, Health Coordinator)

    NWS cases are still holding steady, and no transmission has been identified within school walls. However, King County recently reached the CDC’s medium COVID-19 community level. Despite moving into the medium category, the fundamentals of our in-school mitigation strategies will not change.

    We will remain mask-optional, while continuing to require Magnus symptom screenings every morning. We are also encouraging students and faculty to stay home when sick and to provide diagnostic testing when students develop symptoms during the school day.

    In a King County Public Health media briefing yesterday, Dr. Jeffrey Duchin announced the county will not issue any new recommendations or requirements at this time. He reported the most recent change in community level serves as a “yellow light” in that we as a community should use this as an opportunity to reassess our risk tolerance and reconsider steps we might take to mitigate spread. For some individuals, this might take the form of masking up at school. For others, it might mean eating lunch outside. There are many opportunities to increase your mitigation approach, and we encourage you to have a conversation with your student to discuss what steps you feel comfortable taking as a family.

    Closing

    Our scheduled House Meeting on May 12 will be a “State of the School” address. The meeting will take place at 6:00 pm via Zoom, and every member of the community is encouraged to attend. Members of the Senior Leadership Team and I will provide an overview of the year that will include highlights and challenges, along with a look ahead to the 2022-23 school year. Some specific topics will include financial updates, academic insights from Middle and Upper School leaders, snapshots from our College Counseling team, our enrollment status, and more. I am excited about this evening because it will be an opportunity to showcase The Northwest School’s 41st chapter. Please register for this Zoom event here.

    The upcoming Head of School Book Club #2, will explore The Spark: Igniting the Creative Fire that Lives Within Us All, by Lyn Heward and John U. Bacon. This is a last call for anyone interested in joining the participants who have already signed up. Use this link to register. Our meetings will take place on the following dates: May 4, 17, 25 (all will start at 7:30 pm PDT).

    Take care,

    Ray

  • April 20 Letter from Head of School - COVID Update

    As we enter the last chapter of the school year, there is laughter in the halls and a palpable sense of excitement. The changes to our lunch program, which allow everyone to eat in the dining hall with “real” dishes and silverware, has ignited a burst of optimism – one that I trust will generate lasting memories.

    As I mentioned in my letter last Tuesday, in the coming weeks, I will lead a process that will enable us to examine our student and faculty experiences through the Aspirations Framework. In essence, this framework involves setting goals for the future while putting forth effort in the present to reach those goals. The Aspirations Framework has eight conditions that, when operationalized, foster an environment in which every student is provided opportunities to achieve their dreams (pg. 23, Student Voice).

    The first condition, belonging, is the belief that while students are valued members of a community, they are still able to maintain their uniqueness (pg. 24, Student Voice). At Northwest, there is an unwavering expectation that every member of our community is supported to feel seen, valued, and heard. While there are times when these expectations are not met, there is always an opportunity to recalibrate behaviors, reflect, and improve. Belonging describes a school environment that is warm, welcoming, and friendly, as well as a place in which students and faculty feel connected and supported. Equally important is that students should feel accepted for who they are by teachers and peers and believe that teachers care about their problems and feelings (pg. 57, Student Voice).

    In my conversations with students and faculty, I am amazed at the level of care and support our faculty exude on a daily basis. While care and support look different for each student, the underlying commonality is that our faculty lead with their hearts. This approach makes it possible to acknowledge successes and to provide meaningful feedback. As a school community, belonging has been a part of our ethos since our founding in 1980, and it continues to be an integral part of our focus 41 years later.

    To our parents and guardians, I am asking you to recall moments during your schooling when you felt a sense of belonging. Please use the following form to share your experiences of belonging and what made them possible. Please know that your entries will be shared as examples without names attached. Thank you in advance for sharing!

    COVID-19 Update (submitted by Ya Davis, Health Coordinator)

    There are no new COVID-19 policy updates for this week. While community case rates are increasing, in-house cases are holding steady at a very low level. No transmission has been identified within school walls. As a friendly reminder, please keep your student home when sick, and seek diagnostic testing if they display COVID-19 symptoms. View the dashboard here.

    Closing

    We are fortunate to have a diverse community of people who celebrate many religious, spiritual, and cultural traditions. Since the beginning of March, members of our community have engaged in religious and/or cultural observances for Lent, Ramadan, Passover, and Easter. These important days each possess distinct meaning and importance for community members who follow their messages and teachings.

    The Senior Leadership Team and I have compiled a religious/cultural observance calendar that will enable Northwest to promptly and accurately acknowledge the myriad holy days observed within our community. The calendar will also present an opportunity for community members to share a little about their own religious and cultural traditions which hold meaning and significance so that we may all feel a greater sense of connection and belonging.

    Take care,

    Ray

  • April 12 Letter from Head of School - COVID Update

    As the sun shines on our paths, I am reminded about the pure joy of school and the important role it plays in the development of young people. Over the course of a student’s journey from elementary through high school, they will engage with different teachers, make new friends, and discover new information in novel ways. Along the way, they will discover how they learn best, determine their threshold for rigor and challenge, and most importantly, acquire the skills and confidence they need to navigate any learning environment.

    In the text, Student Voice: Instrument for Change by Russell J. Quaglia and Michael J. Corso, the authors present the Aspirations Framework, which at its core has three guiding principles – self-worth, engagement, and purpose. At Northwest, these principles are manifested through our mission and day-to-day program.

    Additionally, the guiding principles are supported by eight conditions that make a difference:

    1. belonging
    2. role models
    3. sense of accomplishment
    4. fun & excitement
    5. curiosity & creativity
    6. spirit of adventure
    7. leadership & responsibility
    8. confidence to take action

    Over the next several weeks, I will highlight each condition and share its applicability to Northwest. In doing so, I will provide opportunities for you to share your own stories that connect directly to the framework, principles, and supporting conditions. I look forward to this community-wide exploration as a precursor to ongoing partnerships focused on strengthening our work together.

    COVID-19 Update (submitted by Ya Davis, Health Coordinator)

    View the current dashboard here.

    Closing

    I am excited to see many of you at the upcoming PGA-sponsored gathering for families on April 24 at Seward Park. This will be a great opportunity to say hi to friends and meet new families in a beautiful place. Thank you in advance to our PGA leadership team for planning this thoughtful opportunity for fun and engagement.

    As I conclude this letter, I am off to a special dinner sponsored by our Boarding Community. I look forward to spending time with our students and residential faculty during this enjoyable, spirit-filled event. We will benefit greatly from the warmth of today’s sunshine as we share a meal on the rooftop soccer field. I wish you a sunny evening too.

    Take care,

    Ray

  • April 5 Letter from Head of School - COVID Update

    Welcome back from Spring Break! I am excited about the start of Summits, the upcoming return of the Environment Program, and the continuation of the vibrant and purposeful learning that takes place in our classrooms. Spring brings a renewed energy that will carry our community forward until the last day of school in June. Additionally, spring is typically the busiest time of the school year with many events, athletic games, culminating projects, and arts performances and showcases.

    With this in mind, I want to emphasize the importance of community membership and engagement. There will be plenty of opportunities for every student to demonstrate a skill or passion that is important to them personally and to our school community as a whole. Our teaching faculty, who are skilled in bringing out the best in our students, will work collaboratively to ensure each student's success.

    I look forward to our continued partnership as we enter the home stretch of the year. Thank you for your ongoing support.

    COVID-19 Updates (Submitted by Ya Davis, Health Coordinator)

    Testing positive during Summits

    If your student tests positive for COVID during Summits, please notify:

    1. Health Coordinator Ya Davis
    2. Your student’s Summit leaders
    3. Your student’s Division Director (James Joseph for Upper School, Maria Moses for Middle School)

    Given the experiential nature of our Summits, how we accommodate a student's learning may look different depending on their Summit. Together, the faculty team will provide you with a plan for your student’s participation in the Summit while absent.

    Revised isolation policy

    A student who tests positive must isolate for a minimum of 5 days. The first day of symptoms, OR the first positive test, counts as day 0, and the next is day 1. Previously, individuals were advised to isolate for a full 10 days, but updated CDC and DOH guidelines support early termination of isolation if your student meets the following conditions:

    • Is fully vaccinated
    • Tests negative with a rapid antigen test
    • Is asymptomatic
    • Is fever-free for 24 hours without the use of fever reducing medication

    This means your student is eligible to test out of isolation on day 6, 7, 8, 9, or 10 provided they meet the above conditions and show proof of a negative at-home rapid antigen test. Please send the negative result to me. I will then clear your student to return to school that day. Once at school, I will test your student again. Two negative rapid antigen tests are needed in order to leave isolation early.

    An alternative option is to isolate for the full 10 days without “testing out.” Your student may then return to school on the 11th day and get a rapid antigen test with me upon arrival. Please notify me if this is the option you prefer.

    Closing

    In recognition of the morning schedule change due to Summits, families are welcome to drop their students off at the regular school time of 8:10 am. Students arriving before doors open at 8:40 am are asked to enter at the front door for screening. Students should go to the library until the doors open at 8:40 am. Summits begin promptly at 9:00 am.

    Please reach out if you have any questions or concerns.

    Take care,

    Ray

  • March 22 Letter from Head of School - COVID Update

    Since our founding 41 years ago, the Environment Program has been a vital part of our DNA. This program brings students and faculty together to take care of the spaces around us. This meaningful collaboration includes regular cleaning, mopping, dusting, vacuuming, recycling, and doing special projects that serve to beautify the campus while cultivating healthy relationships. One unique feature is that the entire community is placed on environment teams under the leadership of a member(s) of the senior class.

    We lamented the fact that we paused the program due to constraints imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic. After careful consideration, I am excited to share that the Environment Program will resume after a lengthy hiatus. In preparation for the first “regular environment period” on April 28, grade levels and advisories will use the two weeks beforehand to review team meeting locations and responsibilities. We look forward to re-engaging with this program that uses cross-graded teams, led by seniors (and supported by faculty), to ground our sustainability ethic in attention to, and care for, our immediate surroundings.

    COVID-19 Updates (Ya Davis, Health Coordinator)

    Our COVID-19 dashboard is available here.

    Returning from Spring Break

    As a reminder, when we return from Spring Break, we do not plan to test all students. Instead, we require that you test your student at home on Sunday, April 3 using a rapid antigen test available at any drugstore or pharmacy. You can get free COVID-19 tests from WA State through the “Say Yes COVID Test” campaign, or through the Federal government here. If you would like to receive a free test from the school, please complete this google form, and we will send a test home with your student tomorrow, on Wednesday, March 23.

    We will not require a PCR or molecular NAAT test, nor will we require proof of a negative test. Instead, we are adding a new question to the morning Magnus health screening. This new question will be a self attestation that you have tested your student and they tested negative within 24 hours of arriving at school. If for some reason you answer no, we will provide limited on-site testing to ensure everyone returns to school with a negative test result.

    Attendance policy reminder

    If your student stays home sick for any portion of a school day, they are not eligible to participate in any after school activities. This includes, but is not limited to, music performances, athletic practices or games, theatre shows, dance rehearsals, and field trips.

    Closing

    I am grateful to the 22 people who signed up for the Head of School Book Club in the fall. We have held four sessions (last one is tonight) exploring the book, Anatomy of Peace. Through rich discussions supported by agreed upon protocols and confidentiality, our meetings have been a true highlight of the year.

    Looking ahead to the next book, The Spark: Igniting the Creative Fire that Lives Within Us All, by Lyn Heward and John U. Bacon, I invite anyone interested to join me for the next round of the Head of School Book Club. Use this link to register. Our meetings will start the week of April 18.

    Take care,

    Ray

  • March 15 Letter from Head of School - COVID Update

    This Thursday and Friday, we will have the pleasure of welcoming our incoming Middle School Director, Latrisha Chattin, to campus. During her two-day visit, Latrisha will attend classes, meet with her new colleagues, and spend time with middle school students during lunch. We will schedule a virtual "Meet and Greet" with middle school families after we return from Summits.

    Soon, I will announce our annual State of the School meeting that will take place later this spring. This meeting will present an opportunity for me, along with members of the school’s senior leadership team (directors of key programmatic areas), to offer reflections on the year and to provide an overview of the year ahead. We will cover topics including the academic program, school finance, staffing updates, DEI, and more. The goal of the evening is to make sure everyone is able to hear first-hand about wonderful moments from our 41st year along with challenges that emerged. I’ll share details in the next few weeks.

    COVID-19 Updates (Ya Davis, Health Coordinator)

    Website updates

    We have updated our COVID-19 website pages to reflect revised CDC and WA State DoH guidelines. Please peruse this information at your leisure, paying special attention to the face coverings, physical distancing, and staying home when sick tabs. I will make minor updates to the quarantine and isolation tabs later this week.

    Optional masks

    This marked the first week of our optional mask policy. On Monday, NWS students were able to choose whether or not to wear a mask at school. Overwhelming feedback from students, parents, and faculty has been positive. Many shared excitement and joy about this new dimension of social interaction. We continue to support and converse with those who feel uneasy and have questions about how the policy applies in various contexts. We hope you can empower your student(s) to advocate for themselves and reach out to faculty for support.

    Returning from Spring Break

    Looking ahead to our return from Spring Break, please note that we do not plan to test all students. Instead, we ask that you test your student at home on Sunday, April 3 using a rapid antigen test available at any drugstore or pharmacy.

    You can also get free COVID-19 tests through WA State through the “Say Yes COVID Test” campaign, or through the Federal government here. If you would like to receive a free test from the school, please complete this google form, and we will send a test home with your student on Wednesday, March 23.

    We will not require a PCR or molecular NAAT test, nor will we require proof of a negative test. Instead, we are observing the honor system and hoping you test your student prior to Summits and that you will keep them home if symptomatic.

    We are making this change because our staffing will be significantly diminished due to Summits. In addition, our last round of testing after Mid-Winter Break was extremely successful and yielded 0 positive cases. Our community is maintaining an extremely low case incidence rate, and our weekly testing is capturing little to no positive cases. With this said, our stance is subject to change if there is a spike in community transmission and we feel a structured on-site mass screening is needed.

    Future changes to COVID-19 policies

    Transitioning to an optional mask policy is a huge step for our school and for the Seattle community. Adjusting our mitigation layers requires considerable planning and operational procedures, so please be patient.

    Closing

    As we prepare to launch Summits, there is growing excitement and enthusiasm for the return of this dynamic program. Together, our faculty and students are finalizing plans and logistics for their two-week programs. While many of the programs are local, several require travel. We are working to ensure ample safety measures are in place along with itineraries that will provide a robust opportunity for collaborative teaching and learning.

    If you are like me, you are enjoying the extended daylight each evening. I am hopeful that many of you can find time to get outside for a walk or spend time with family or friends. Our students are slowly but surely making great use of the outdoors during the school day by eating lunch in the courtyard or spending time with friends in spaces where fresh air and sunlight are plentiful.

    I want to close by saying thank you to each member of our community. Thanks to your ongoing support and partnership, we are able to continue to call Northwest home. Our home is warm and welcoming, even in the face of some challenging moments. Please continue to reach out with questions, concerns, wisdom, and of course, words of encouragement.

    Take care,

    Ray

  • March 9 Letter from Head of School - COVID Update

    As a reminder, the school is shifting to a mask-optional policy beginning Monday, March 14. Since the announcement was made last week, we are continuing to explore how to make this transition in a manner that respects everyone’s needs while underscoring the importance of honoring each community member’s decision about whether or not they will continue to wear a mask.

    Some members of our community may require special accommodations. For example, anyone who is medically required to have those in close proximity wearing masks will need our support. For this reason, it is imperative that every student bring a mask to school in case their classroom environment requires this accommodation. Any student(s) with an approved note from their medical or mental health provider stating the need for a special accommodation must submit the note to Ya Davis, our health coordinator, as soon as possible.

    At our Community Meeting today, we acknowledged the tension point that this shift can cause and reiterated the values we hold dear as a school. Maria Moses, our Middle School Director, said it best, “What I love about Northwest is that we are a school where everyone belongs, and a new masking policy does not change this truth.”

    I know that as we proceed in the days ahead, more questions may arise related to our COVID-related protocols. If you have any questions, please email safety@northwestschool.org.

    COVID-19 Updates from Ya Davis, Health Coordinator

    As we reported last week, the decision to make masks optional beginning Monday, March 14 was based on current downward hospitalization and community case rates, updated guidelines from the CDC and WA State DoH, and low incidence rates among NWS students and faculty.

    Even though cases are declining and restrictions are being relaxed, we are still navigating a pandemic. It’s important that while we begin to lift our mitigation measures, we remain flexible and ready to pivot when necessary.

    Closing

    Before next Monday, we hope you will talk with your student about the best decision for your family. We also hope you can address the variety of feelings this may evoke and offer support and comfort. Most of all, we hope you can help remind your student that everyone now has a choice, and we need to be respectful of everyone’s choices. We value inclusivity and empathy, and it’s extremely important that we ground ourselves in these values as we make this transition.

    Thank you for your partnership,

    Ray

  • March 2 Letter from Head of School - Faculty and COVID Updates

    Governor Inslee's recent update about the change to the mask mandate beginning Saturday, March 12 has been met by many in our community with mixed emotions. What we know is that masks will not be required at Northwest beginning Monday, March 14. Instead, each member of the NWS community will have the option of wearing a mask at their own discretion.

    With that said, I acknowledge the range of feelings and views and the potential tension between those who choose to leave their masks at home and those who will continue to wear them. At our faculty meeting yesterday, I emphasized the importance of honoring each person’s choice without judgment, particularly if their choice is different from your own. This is an important point that I ask all families to discuss prior to Monday, March 14.

    We will continue to follow the mandates, incorporate guidelines and recommendations from health officials, and revise our protocols accordingly. As a community, we will continue to be in partnership with one another as we navigate this new phase of the pandemic.

    Faculty Updates

    Our Director of PE, Health, and Wellness, Ryan Griffiths, will be departing Northwest on Friday, March 4. Throughout Ryan’s 5+ years at Northwest as a teacher, coach, and administrator, he has served as a beacon of light for many students and colleagues. His unwavering commitment to our students’ well-being has made a lasting impression on students and their families. Ryan also led our volleyball program with passion for the sport while teaching and inspiring the players who participated in the program.

    I am excited to share that after a national search, Dr. Latrisha Chattin will join Northwest as our next Middle School Director in July. She follows Maria Moses who has made a tremendous contribution as our interim Middle School Director this year; I am so thankful for Maria’s partnership and wisdom. Please see the full announcement for Latrisha’s appointment.

    I will continue to inform the community throughout the year of colleagues’ departures and arrivals as necessary. The next faculty update will come out in late April.

    COVID-19 Updates (submitted by Ya Davis, Health Coordinator)

    It was exciting to welcome all of the students back to the campus on Monday. As part of our return to campus plan, we tested all students on Monday and will retest all students again on Thursday. The testing is part of our strategy to ensure a safe in-person learning environment. As a reminder, you can track our COVID-19 data on our dashboard here.

    Closing

    Over the past several months, I have had the wonderful opportunity to be in conversation with parents and guardians, as well as several colleagues as part of the Head of School Book Club. Our current book talks exploring The Anatomy of Peace, have served as a unique pathway towards fostering a strong sense of belonging amongst all participants. Our last session is later this month, and this is where the next book selection will be determined. I will announce the next book title in the E-news on March 24.

    Take care,

    Ray

  • February 15 Letter from Head of School - COVID Update

    As an educator, it is always important to be available for students, especially when they want to provide feedback. This week, I received valuable feedback from a student who cares deeply about Northwest and about the way in which our community acknowledges the different layers of identities within our school.

    This student pointed out that as a school, we missed the opportunity to acknowledge International Holocaust Remembrance Day on January 27. The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum website shares that the United Nations General Assembly designated January 27—the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau—as International Holocaust Remembrance Day. On this annual day of commemoration, the UN urges every member of state to honor the six million Jewish victims of the Holocaust and millions of other victims of Nazism and to develop educational programs to help prevent future genocide.

    There is no doubt that acknowledging this important day would have been a visible sign of our commitment to belonging. Although I believe the student who spoke with me feels seen, valued, and heard as a result of sharing this feedback, we must take the time to structurally and systematically acknowledge important moments, events, and other significant milestones that are held as important by the members of our school community.

    On that note, our Black Student Union provides a weekly announcement over our intercom that includes examples of African Americans who helped to build, create, or contributed to the formation of important cultural practices, inventions, or programs in the United States. While these announcements are made in honor of Black History Month, acknowledgement of these contributions should not be relegated to one month of the year.

    I continue to believe in our students’ potential to positively impact their local and global communities. When they take the time to provide valuable feedback or to make important announcements, our entire community benefits. This kind of partnership also supports our students during an important time in their adolescent development. I am hopeful that students will continue to use their voices and strategic thinking to help Northwest become the best possible version of itself.

    COVID-19 Updates (submitted by Ya Davis, Health Coordinator)

    Overall:

    Our COVID case numbers are slowly shrinking which reflects the overall declining trend in community cases. Here is a link to our dashboard.

    Masks:

    We are closely monitoring the masking guidelines and positions set forth by different government agencies. The WA State DoH is anticipated to release updated guidance for K-12 schools soon, and we are actively determining how to best incorporate the guidance in accordance with our school’s needs. We fully recognize our NWS community’s diverse needs, and we want to ensure that our response is measured and incorporates a phased, step-by-step progression.

    Return from Mid-Winter Break:

    All students will be tested on Monday, February 28 and Thursday, March 3 during the week we return from break. The testing schedule will be identical to the one we used in January. All students should report directly to their first period classes. They will be individually brought in for testing.

    Closing

    Looking ahead to Mid-Winter Break, I wish everyone a restful time with family and friends. Taking a week from school routines will enable each of us the opportunity to reflect on Trimester 2 with an eye toward forward momentum as we head into Trimester 3. Please reach out to me should you have any questions about the term ahead.

    Take care,

    Ray

  • February 8 Letter from Head of School - Personnel and COVID Updates

    Taking time to reflect has always been helpful in my professional life. Reflection comes in the form of writing, talking with others, or just sitting quietly for a few moments each day. My reflections about this time of year include thoughts about our students’ experiences, our faculty members’ workload, and our parents’ and guardians’ engagement. With each group, I come away feeling a high degree of optimism. I want to share how committed we are to ensuring the school community is thriving in all the ways that are important – academically, culturally, and socially. As always, I welcome your thoughts about how we can continue to cultivate an environment in which all members of our community are able to thrive.

    Our teaching faculty continue to embody and deliver on our programmatic goals of intellectual curiosity, student-centered instruction, and positive reciprocal relationships with students. It is through these relationships that The Northwest School delivers its mission to prepare our students for their academic endeavors to come, while also helping them build confidence in their ability to make a difference in the world.

    I want to reiterate the need for parents and guardians to stay connected to the school and engaged in opportunities designed to provide greater awareness of adolescents' unique needs during what can seem like a never ending cycle of challenges. One such opportunity occurred this past Saturday with a workshop sponsored by Forefront Suicide Prevention. The workshop was led by a current parent and the parent of an alum. During the session, I was moved by the comments each participant shared, by the insights we gained, and by the hope that we all hold as we work to foster healthy teenagers. I came away from the experience with a deeper connection to each participant and a reinforced understanding that as a school, we must support the partnership between our students and their families.

    Administrative and Teaching Faculty Updates

    This time of year is considered the hiring season for independent schools across the country. Northwest is no exception. As departures are announced, we develop and post position descriptions, convene hiring committees, and meet with these teams to ensure continuity throughout the process. With that said, there are several departures I am sharing with you now. The roles will become vacant in a couple of weeks.

    • Jenny Cooper, Director of Environmental Education and Sustainability, will depart The Northwest School on February 25. Jenny joined us as the first Director of Environmental Education and Sustainability in 2016. During her five+ years at NWS, she has made an impact far and wide. She is responsible for the creation of the Farm & Garden, she served as leadership on the team that transferred our endowment to a 100% ESG investment portfolio, and she has been a collaborator across the school’s departments to help engage students and faculty in our sustainability mission.
    • Amy Painter, Director of Communications and Marketing has resigned from her position as a result of health issues. During her time at NWS, she has developed a strong strategic communications framework plan outlining goals, objectives, and strategies for the school’s marketing communications. She has also begun planning for a new website and developed a strategic identity initiative that will help us further characterize the school and define our messaging for the coming years. I would like to thank Amy for her leadership and hard work, and for her excellent decision to hire Carlos Pedraza as our Social Media and Website Coordinator. We will miss Amy, but she has agreed to stay on with us in a remote capacity for the next month or so while we search for a new director.
    • Some of you may be aware that the Director of PE, Health, and Wellness position will not carry forward next year. Instead, the responsibilities that this position was responsible for will be distributed to other roles within the organization. This means that the current director, Ryan Griffiths, will not be in this role next year. With that said, the school remains committed to students’ mental health and wellbeing. We will continue to offer Peer Mentoring and Health classes next year.

    If you have any questions about any of the changes above, please let me know.

    COVID Updates from Ya Davis, Health Coordinator

    We do not have any COVID updates this week. We are doing remarkably well and are confident in our current policies. Community transmission rates continue to decrease both in Seattle and in King County overall. You can track the county rates here, as well as our NWS rates here. We have managed to secure a healthy inventory of rapid antigen tests and will continue to leverage them as needed.

    Currently, we are requiring testing for any school sanctioned event whether it be athletics, performing arts, musical performances, or field trips. We are also requiring a negative rapid antigen test upon return from isolation and for those participating in the Test to Stay Program. We maintain our testing policy to include any student regardless of vaccination status, and if possible, booster status. We encourage you to get your student boosted if they are eligible.

    Over time, vaccine efficacy wanes, so a booster shot is essential to potentiate the immune system and restore the body to a level of protection that guards against infection and serious illness.

    We are closely monitoring the rapidly changing COVID landscape and will continue to adapt our policies as needed. If you have any questions, please reach out to our Health Coordinator, Ya Davis.

    Closing

    On a different note, I wanted to let you know that basketball playoffs are underway. Our varsity boys won their 1st round playoff game, 77-51, last Friday. They play at Seattle Academy TONIGHT at 7:30 pm. Win or lose, they’ll play again later this week. Our varsity girls played a good game but lost their 1st round playoff game last Saturday to Cedar Park Christian. Since the conference tournament is a double-elimination, they will play again this Friday.

    Spectators are allowed tonight (up to 100 from Northwest, on a first-come, first-served basis starting at 7 pm) and on Friday for the girls’ game at either Sultan or Kings. The spectator policies for all games will be posted here. If you’d like to see how the tournaments progress, you can follow along here: Girls Boys

    In addition, I am also excited for the Middle School production of Anne of Green Gables, which debuts this week.

    Take care,

    Ray

  • February 1 Letter from Head of School - COVID Update

    When the school year began, we ushered in belonging as our theme. As a community experiencing a transition to new leadership, I felt it was best to move into this new chapter of the school’s history with a shared purpose – one that requires each of us to participate.

    Today, I am excited to share with you the release of our video series called “Chapter 41.” The theme for this first video is belonging. This series will visually capture Northwest moments and highlight examples of belonging throughout the school.

    After viewing the video, please feel free to share with me your examples of belonging at Northwest. Your stories could appear in future communications. Thank you for your partnership as we continue our journey through our 41st year as a school community.

    COVID-19 Update

    Dashboard:

    We are continually updating our dashboard to reflect the trends and data of our community. This resource is updated every Tuesday afternoon.

    Magnus Health screening changes ahead:

    We are in the process of revamping the morning health screening questions to align with our new policies. If you have a question, please contact Ya Davis.

    Update on hybrid learning policy shift:

    If your student wakes up feeling sick, please keep them home. This is a critical tool to prevent the potential spread of COVID-19 at school. We recognize the stress and anxiety this may put on students who miss class, so we have amended our remote learning policy to support students who are staying home because they are symptomatic. Any student who does not pass the morning Magnus Health screening is allowed to attend online classes. Please contact attendance@northwestschool.org to obtain an excused absence, and contact Ya Davis to coordinate a safe return-to-school plan.

    Vaccine clinic on campus this Friday, February 4:

    Our partners at Pliable will offer a COVID-19 vaccine clinic on-campus this Friday, February 4 from 3:00 - 6:00 pm. This clinic is open to students, faculty, family, friends, and neighbors. Feel free to share the registration link. Walk-ins will be accepted, but registration is encouraged. All COVID-19 vaccinations are available for primary and booster doses.

    We will offer Pfizer for >12 y/o, Pfizer pediatric formula for 5-11 y/o, Moderna for >18 y/o, and J&J for >18 y/o.

    Closing

    The school community celebrated the Lunar New Year with performances, decorations, and education provided by our international students. All members of our community should have an opportunity to share important aspects of their identity. This sharing brings us closer and serves to highlight not only our differences, but how very similar we are. The Northwest School is home to so many expressions of identity through you – our students, faculty, parents, and guardians. Taking the time to share and celebrate in those identities is what makes Northwest a warm and welcoming environment.

    Take care,

    Ray

  • January 25 Letter from Head of School - COVID-19 Update

    Yesterday, I had the good fortune to spend my lunchtime with students as part of the “30 for 30 Conversation Program.” Together, we enjoyed pizza and sparkling apple juice as well as time to engage in thoughtful discussions about the students’ experiences at Northwest. This ongoing program will enable students across all grade levels to share their experiences, discuss facets of school life they wish to change, and engage in dialogue with each other and with me about various topics, including my impressions of Northwest. Yesterday, we touched on advisory, Community Meeting, and shared reflections on our recent MLK Day Celebration. The overall takeaway was that students are longing for more opportunities to connect in person; and, like many of us, they yearn for the day when we can assemble in person for Community Meeting and gatherings.

    I spent Friday evening attending “Fan Night” and cheering on our basketball teams. An added treat was the pep band. The band provided energetic music throughout the evening, and spectators enjoyed half-time performances by a dance class and bands. Each team played hard and benefitted from the high level of vocal support. I look forward to attending upcoming games later this week, and I hope to see you in the bleachers!

    There is another community-building event I’d like to invite you to participate in. Last week, we announced our second installment of "Movies with a Mission'' titled “Racial Justice and Access to Outdoor Spaces.” The event features the films Black Ice and Spirit of the Peaks which you can stream at home between now and February 2 when the series culminates in a live virtual event. Please mark your calendars for this event on Wednesday, February 2 from 7:00 - 8:30 pm when we will be joined by panelists Malik Martin, visual storyteller from the film Black Ice; Connor Ryan, Lakota professional skier, activist, and storyteller from the film Spirit of the Peaks; and, Tasheea Nicholson, author of Camping Noire: The Black Girls Guide to Surviving a Weekend Unplugged. This esteemed group will discuss the intersections of racial justice, access to outdoor spaces and experiences, and community building through experiences in the outdoors. I would really like to see you there. Learn more, and find streaming and event links here.

    COVID-19 Updates

    • There is a statewide shortage of rapid antigen tests. The DoH anticipates that at least for the next two weeks there will be insufficient testing supplies to meet all statewide K-12 needs. The State will prioritize schools that are utilizing the “Test to Stay” program. This includes us. When available, we expect to receive either Abbott BinaxNOW or BD Veritor rapid antigen tests.
      • Given this information, we will be rationing our tests to support school-sanctioned programs including but not limited to: basketball (weekly testing is required by WIAA), field trips, performances, symptomatic students, and students participating in Test to Stay.
    • We are discontinuing contact tracing. Contact tracing was effective and necessary prior to vaccinations but is no longer necessary as our student body is 99.6% vaccinated. Only unvaccinated individuals need to quarantine after close contact with a positive COVID-19 case. We will notify families with unvaccinated students if they are identified as a close contact to someone who tests positive.
      • Additionally, we want to shift our efforts away from containment and towards mitigation. This means enforcing better masking, better distancing, better sanitizing, and better safety education.
    • The level of community transmission in King County continues to hold steady at “high.” In addition, the degree of contagiousness and asymptomatic spread associated with Omicron supports the theory that everyone is a close contact to someone who has COVID at least once every day. King County Public Health and Washington State DoH officials note that only unvaccinated individuals should participate in “Test to Stay.” However, Northwest is going above and beyond these criteria and requiring anyone who is notified that they are a close contact to participate in our program. If you are notified by a friend or relative, the WA State Notify App, or an official at school, please email Ya Davis, and she will develop a testing plan for your student.
    • Students are eligible to attend remote classes if they test positive for COVID, are quarantining as a result of a close contact, or fail their morning Magnus health screening. This is an important update to our previous policy which only permitted COVID-positive students to attend remote classes. To better support our mitigation efforts and our request to remain home when sick, any student who is feeling symptomatic, but well enough to engage in online class, may Zoom into their classes.
    • Booster shots are highly effective at both preventing infection and hospitalization from COVID-19. If your student recently completed their two-dose series, they are protected against both. However, if it’s been a while since their second dose, their level of protection has likely waned, and they are much less protected against contraction of the virus. We encourage all eligible students to get boosted as soon as they become eligible. Here are some links to evidence that supports booster shots:1,2,3,4.
      • We are still awaiting confirmation for an onsite booster clinic. In the meantime, The Bush School is holding a clinic next Sunday, January 30. Please see details below:

    Bush 12+ COVID-19 Booster Clinic: Sunday, January 30 In partnership with Safeway/Albertsons Pharmacies, The Bush School will host a voluntary Pfizer COVID-19 Booster Clinic for Bush and Northwest families on Sunday, January 30.

    • Immunization available: Pfizer COVID-19 Booster
    • Date: Sunday, January 30
    • Time: 9:00 am - 12:00 pm
    • Location: Bush Garage, located off E. Harrison Street and 33rd Ave E.
    • Ages: 12+ for Pfizer COVID-19 Booster
    • Cost: Most costs are covered by your insurance (please check prior to arriving).
    • Eligible: Bush and Northwest School community members including students, faculty, and staff.

    Registration: Click here to sign-up for the Pfizer COVID-19 Booster for ages twelve and over. Sign-up required prior to the event.

    Closing

    As we approach mid-winter break, I am hopeful that each of you will be able to find the time to recharge with rest, relaxation, and time with family and friends. In the meantime, please feel free to reach out to let me know if you have any questions or concerns that you would like to discuss over a Zoom coffee. I look forward to hearing from you.

    Take care,

    Ray

  • January 18 Letter from Head of School - COVID-19 Update

    The Tuesday after Dr. Martin Luther King’s birthday weekend is always met with questions about how people spent their time on the actual holiday. While I know there are myriad ways to acknowledge Dr. King’s legacy and his impact on society, I always spend the day reflecting on my own life’s journey and ways I can continue to improve as an educator who cares deeply about the students and colleagues I work with daily. I believe in the humanity that is within each of us and the promise we share in doing the right thing, even when doing the right thing is not always easy.

    Dr. King, by example, discovered his purpose in life and worked tirelessly to actualize that purpose. His inspirational speeches, numerous awards, including the Nobel Prize for Peace at age 35, have served as reminders of the importance of following your heart and having faith that you can make a difference. I believe that The Northwest School has the responsibility to prepare its students for a life of purpose and service. Our students are compassionate and care deeply about one another and the world in which they inhabit. I am confident that as we continue our annual celebration of Dr. King, we will strengthen our commitment to his ideals and vision for a brighter future.

    Departure

    I also write today to share with you that Assistant Head of School, Meg Goldner Rabinowitz, will leave The Northwest School at the end of the school year. She has accepted the role of Associate Head of School at Georgetown Day School in the District of Columbia. Meg began her tenure at Northwest in 2018 and has shepherded the school through unprecedented times over the past several years. Meg’s contributions are significant as is the quality of her care for colleagues and students. Her facilitation of a new observation program, the hiring and support of faculty, and her willingness to step into different roles during her time here are all examples of the ways her leadership has made an impact. While Meg’s presence will be missed, I am excited for her and hope you will join me in wishing her all the best.

    COVID-19 Update

    Dashboard:

    Please see our updated dashboard here and compare it to that of King County here. Since Winter Break, our case rates have steadily declined even amid a level of “high” community transmission.

    Upgrade your masks:

    Last Friday, the CDC updated their recommendations for masks, stating that N95’s offer the highest level of protection. If you are unable to access an N95, KN95s, and doubling up on surgical masks are acceptable alternatives. Northwest strongly discourages the use of a sole cloth mask. If your student arrives at school with a cloth mask, we will ask them to double up with a surgical mask underneath.

    Our shipment of KN95’s just arrived this afternoon, and we will distribute them starting tomorrow morning. We will hand them out at the front door upon arrival. If your student is already wearing a KN95, that’s great! If your student is wearing a surgical or cloth mask, we will ask them to wear one of our KN95 masks instead. Since our supply is limited, we can provide two masks per student and request that you purchase your own supply. Please note that these masks are for single use only, meaning they should not be used over the course of several days.

    Stay home when sick: As a reminder, please keep your student home if they are sick. Seek testing if COVID-19 is suspected. Otherwise, they may return to school once they are fully symptom-free. If you need help finding rapid antigen tests, please use this link as the government just released a program supporting four free, at-home rapid kits.

    Booster shots and clinic:

    Studies show that vaccine protection against COVID-19 wanes over time and efficacy decreases due to changes in the variants. We highly encourage you to make a COVID-19 vaccine booster appointment for your student. Please see this chart from the CDC for timeline and eligibility information. Boosters help increase the immune response and improve protection against COVID-19.

    We are planning to host a vaccine/booster clinic on campus. This will be open to families and community members in addition to students. The clinic will likely be held toward the end of this month or beginning of February. Please fill out this survey to express your interest. We need at least 100 people signed up in order to host this clinic. (Please fill out the survey even if you already did so last month.)

    Closing

    I look forward to our upcoming House Meeting on Thursday, January 20 at 6:00 pm. Please remember to register in advance and submit any questions you want addressed on the call. The previous House Meetings have been wonderful opportunities to hear directly from families about matters that are important and need to be addressed. It is through these meetings that the partnership between families and the school is strengthened.

    Take care,

    Ray

  • January 11 Letter from Head of School - COVID-19 Update

    This is undeniably one of the most challenging periods of time for schools. Locally and nationally, each school community is keeping their students' well-being and their learning experiences at the center of every decision made. At Northwest, we hold the highest priority of maintaining continuity in learning by committing to in-person learning, staying up-to-date on guidelines and recommendations from health officials, and ensuring our faculty have all they need to carry out their roles and responsibilities. With that said, it is evident that as a community, we must continue to stay in partnership as we support our students through this most recent surge in cases and the unknown landscape that lies ahead.

    COVID-19 Update (provided by Health Coordinator Ya Davis)

    Updated isolation policy: From the CDC: “Everyone who has presumed or confirmed COVID-19 should stay home and isolate from other people for at least 5 full days (day 0 is the first day of symptoms or the date of the day of the positive viral test for asymptomatic persons).” Information about the CDC guidance for isolation protocols and timeline is here. We also recommend that you review the FAQ, “What we know about quarantine and isolation,” particularly the question “When does the clock start on the five days of isolation and quarantine?”

    • This means if a student/faculty member tests positive via a rapid antigen test on-site or PCR test outside of school, the first day of their 5 days of isolation should begin the day after the test; or, if they are symptomatic, the first full day after they develop symptoms.
    • On day 6 of isolation, an asymptomatic and fully vaccinated student/faculty member may return to school and take a rapid antigen test on-site first thing in the morning. Please contact Health Coordinator Ya Davis to schedule a test.
    • If they test positive, they must continue to isolate for the remainder of the 10 days. After a total of 10 days, they may return to school.
    • If they test negative, the student/faculty member is cleared to return to school.
    • More information can be found on the CDC’s Quarantine and Isolation webpage in the section titled “Ending isolation for people who had COVID-19”; there is a section for those who had symptoms and those who were asymptomatic.
    • Important change to winter sports: any winter sport athlete who is asymptomatic and tests negative at school on day 6 may also return to their appropriate sport. They must wear a mask during practice and games for the next 5 days.

    Mask reminder: Growing data is showing that cloth masks are not as effective at preventing the transmission of COVID-19, especially the Omicron variant. We highly suggest you send your student to school with a KN-95 or N-95 mask. If unavailable, we suggest double masking with a surgical mask and cloth mask over top. The key to protection is a well-fitted, multiple-layered mask with no gaps around the face. NWS has purchased a bulk order of KN-95's for all students and faculty (adult and child sizes). We expect the masks to arrive sometime this week. In the meantime, please follow the above guidance to the best of your ability.

    COVID vaccine reminder: The hard deadline to complete the vaccination series is next Monday, January 17. If you would like a medical or religious exemption please email Ya Davis as soon as possible.

    Closing

    As we look ahead to our annual Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration Day this Friday, I invite you to listen to several speeches that Dr. King delivered: The Other America (1967), What is your Life’s Blueprint (October, 1967), and his acceptance of the Nobel Peace Prize (1964).

    Student leaders, in partnership with the Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, designed this community-building day in which everyone will engage in purposeful discussions, generative activities, and community building outcomes. More details will be available in E-news this week.

    Take care,

    Ray

  • January 4 Letter from Head of School - COVID-19 Update

    This week, we welcomed our faculty and students back from Winter Break with energy, excitement, and caution. On Monday, the faculty engaged in professional development focused on delivering instruction to students who need to attend classes remotely while also providing instruction to those who are physically present.

    We are well poised to ensure continuity of instruction via our technological platforms. Additionally, we administered a rapid antigen test to all faculty at the start of the day and were pleased to see zero positive results.

    Students participated in our testing program this morning and attended classes on the regular school schedule. Of the 473 tests administered, 98% of the results were negative. It is our goal to continue our school-wide testing program tomorrow (all faculty) and Thursday (students). It is important to note that we continue to emphasize our safety protocols for both the classroom and lunch periods. As I walked around throughout the day, I was pleased to see students and colleagues engaging in teaching and learning at a high level.

    I remain optimistic that as a school community, we will progress through this phase of the pandemic in a manner that ensures we are able to support one another and to provide compassion to those who have tested positive. Please continue to reach out to safety@northwestschool.org if you have questions about our protocols or your own needs.

    COVID-19 Update (provided by Health Coordinator Ya Davis)

    Dashboard: Please see our COVID-19 Dashboard to track our school’s progress. It is updated every Tuesday.

    Second vaccine dose: Due Monday, January 17, 2022. Continue to send updated vaccine cards to Ya Davis.

    Isolation policy: We are upholding the 10 day isolation policy as previously recommended by the CDC. Currently, the WA State DoH does not recommend k-12 schools adopt the new guidelines. We are carefully monitoring the incidence rate among the greater Seattle community as well as within our own NWS community. Until further notice, we will uphold the 10 day standard.

    Quarantine policy: We have updated our quarantine policy to align with the WA State DoH guidance for k-12 schools. Please see our website for quarantine options and for details on our Test to Stay Program.

    General expectations if your student is sick: If your student wakes up feeling unwell, please keep them home. Prior to the pandemic, this was still the expectation and standard. It is in the best interest of your child to stay home when sick so they can focus on recovering.

    Mental health resources: As a school, we recognize the variety of feelings one may experience in relation to the uncertainty and evolution of COVID-19. We have a wonderful team of counselors who have extensive knowledge and resources to help students cope with their emotions and concerns. Please reach out to Lynn Heramis or Erin North for assistance or referrals.

    Closing

    The beauty of working for a school is that we are constantly reminded of the most important aspect of our work – our students. Our teaching faculty continue to discover dynamic ways to deliver curriculum in a way that engenders curiosity and engagement while the administrative faculty continue to utilize their creativity and expertise as they successfully manage the school’s operations. As a team, we keep students at the center of all that we do in the House. The start of 2022 enables us to reset our intentions, recalibrate our practices, and proceed with confidence in knowing that as a community, we will make it through this period of time together.

    I look forward to the time ahead and wish you all the best.

    Take care,

    Ray

  • December 30 Letter from Head of School - Protocol for Return from Winter Break

    I write to you today to share the plan for our students’ return to school from Winter Break. As we navigate the snow and cold temperatures, the COVID-19 reality continues to evolve — now with the Omicron variant. When we entered break, there were several positive test results within our community, and during break, there were more reported positive cases of COVID-19. All together, we have had 15 new student cases during the past three weeks.

    Looking ahead to next week, I have outlined our plan to bring faculty and students back to campus. This decision is based on the importance of maximizing students’ in-person learning, identifying positive test results as quickly as possible, and minimizing the need to move into remote learning in the future.

    Return to Campus

    Monday: Faculty testing and professional development day Students will remain at home on Monday during the academic day. All faculty will return to campus for testing and professional development. Our professional development will focus on equipping faculty to successfully teach in remote and/or hybrid learning situations. If, and when, students need to quarantine, we are dedicated to providing continuity in learning. There may also be times when our teaching faculty will need to quarantine and teach from home. In either scenario, our teachers must be prepared to deliver instruction.

    Note: After school athletic practices will continue to take place as scheduled. All athletes and coaching staff must report for testing from 2-3 pm in the Commons before going to practice. Only those with a negative test on file may participate in practice.

    Tuesday: Students return to campus

    All students will return to campus and will be tested at the beginning of the day. Students must have a negative test result in order to remain on campus. Those whose test results are positive or inconclusive will be sent home immediately and asked to begin our isolation protocols.

    To complete testing in an efficient and safe manner and minimize disruption to learning, individual classes will be assigned testing windows throughout the morning. Strict masking and distance guidelines will be in place, and students will not engage in group or partner work that morning to minimize contact.

    In the event that your student’s test is positive or inconclusive, it is essential that you are able to pick them up from school in a timely manner so they can be isolated as soon as possible.

    If you prefer to seek outside testing, the test must be taken within 72 hours of the start of school (on or after Saturday, January 1) and submitted prior to your student’s arrival on campus on Tuesday, January 4. Please submit outside test results to safety@northwestschool.org.

    If your student arrives at school without an approved negative test or a valid testing consent form permitting us to test them on site, they will be sent home. Families who do not have a consent form on file will be notified individually by the end of the day on Friday, December 31.

    Wednesday: Regular schedule

    All faculty will be tested prior to the beginning of classes at 9 am.

    Thursday: Regular Schedule

    All students will be tested again using the same procedure as Tuesday. Again, those who opt out of our on-site testing program will need to provide another negative test result (taken on or after Monday, January 3) before coming to class. Please submit outside test results to safety@northwestschool.org.

    Friday: Regular schedule

    A random sample of students and faculty will be tested at the beginning of the day.


    COVID-19 Update

    We continue to monitor the latest recommendations from the CDC and health officials in Washington State and King County and are confident we are making informed decisions in the best interest of our students’ learning, mental health, and safety.

    Closing

    As a community, we have demonstrated resilience throughout the pandemic and success in maintaining the continuity of in-person learning. Our ability to adapt and to remain nimble will enable us to continue to provide a strong and consistent learning experience for students. With that said, please reach out to us if you have any questions or concerns.

    On a related note, the snow has added another layer to our planning considerations. Our facilities and transportation departments have been working over the break to salt and clear pathways around campus, to check our heating systems, and to ensure the buses are ready for next week. We will update you if any snow- or cold-related changes to the school schedule or transportation are required.

    I also wanted to let you know that for the safety of our community, we have decided to postpone the January 9th on-campus event for our newer families. We will share the new date as soon as possible. Thank you for your patience and understanding. If you have any questions, please contact the planning committee.

    I look forward to seeing everyone next week.

    Take care,

    Ray

  • December 14 Letter from Head of School - COVID-19 Update

    As we enter Winter Break, I recognize it is important to provide additional clarity regarding our COVID-19 protocols. After reading the following, please feel free to reach out to me or Ya Davis, our health coordinator at safety@northwestschool.org.

    COVID-19 Updates from Health Coordinator Ya Davis

    Travel recommendations
    The holidays are fast approaching, and we want to send out a reminder to families to be safe and responsible this season. Here are some resources for travel requirements from the Washington State Department of Health along with the CDC’s guidelines for travel, and travel recommendations by destination.

    If you travel outside of the country, we ask that you notify safety@northwestschool.org. We will work together to determine the best strategy for your student to return to school.

    Returning to school in January
    Looking ahead to our return on Monday, January 3, 2022, we plan to test all students and faculty within the first two days of return. We plan to test all 6-9th graders on Monday, and all 10-12th graders on Tuesday. If you wish to use an outside testing service, please send the results to safety@northwestschool.org by Monday, January 3 so your student will be able to attend classes in person.

    There will be minimal changes to our daily operations and safety procedures. Please be vigilant and monitor yourself and your family for any COVID-19 symptoms or exposure.

    Booster shots for teens ages 16-17
    On Thursday, December 9, 2021, the CDC strengthened its booster recommendations and expanded the population of eligible individuals. Students aged 16 and older are now eligible to receive a booster shot. Initial data suggests that COVID-19 boosters help broaden and strengthen protection against Omicron and its variants. A booster won’t guarantee full immunity, however it adds another layer of protection. The CDC recommends a booster if it has been 6 months since the initial Pfizer vaccine.

    In order to increase accessibility and ease, we are seeking to hold a vaccination/booster clinic on-site. Please fill out this survey to indicate your interest. In order to hold a clinic, we need a minimum of 100 participants. If enough interest is expressed, the clinic will hopefully be held in late January/early February.

    Additional resources to get your child vaccinated/boosted include:

    Seattle Children's Hospital

    Vaccinate Washington

    Kaiser Permanente

    City of Seattle

    UW Medicine

    Continue to submit COVID-19 vaccination cards
    As a reminder, please submit completed COVID-19 vaccination cards to safety@northwestschool.org. We understand if you wish to receive a medical or religious exemption. If you do, please contact safety@northwestschool.org to receive the form, and bring it to your doctor to complete.

    Athletics and competition
    Several concerns have been raised about recent basketball games and varying COVID-19 safety protocols and enforcement at hosting schools. All of our student athletes are fully vaccinated and subject to consistent weekly testing to ensure we are able to safely and quickly catch any breakthrough cases. Please see the Washington Interscholastic Athletics Association FAQ's and position statement on indoor sports policies. We are in on-going conversations with the schools in our conference regarding clarity and practices around safety protocols.

    The Northwest School will not tolerate schools who do not comply with these guidelines. If an opposing school is not upholding public health standards and is found to be putting our teams at risk, we will not send our athletes to competitions at these sites.

    Staying home when sick
    Staying home when sick with COVID-19 is essential to keeping infections out of our school. Students and faculty who have symptoms of infectious illness such as influenza (flu) or COVID-19 should stay home and seek medical evaluation. This may include testing for COVID-19 and other respiratory infections.

    As a reminder, these are the common symptoms of COVID-19:

    • Fever or chills
    • Cough
    • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
    • Fatigue
    • Muscle or body aches
    • Headache
    • New loss of taste or smell
    • Sore throat
    • Congestion or runny nose
    • Nausea or vomiting
    • Diarrhea

    If your child wakes up feeling any of these symptoms, please keep them home for that day. As soon as their energy and symptoms improve, and once they have had no fever for 24 hours without the use of fever-reducing medication, they may return to school. On the date they intend to return to school, please email safety@northwestschool.org and we will place your student on the morning testing list to ensure they are healthy and safe to re-enter our community.

    As per the isolation guidance on our website, anyone who reports COVID-19-like symptoms at school will be immediately isolated from others, sent home, and referred to diagnostic testing as soon as feasible. While waiting to leave school, the symptomatic individual will be isolated in a designated isolation space and will be monitored by the Health Coordinator. The isolation protocols below apply regardless of vaccination status.

    Symptomatic Isolation Protocol (Positive COVID-19 Test) If a person tests positive for COVID-19, and they’re experiencing symptoms, they can return to campus when the following criteria are met:

    • 10 days since symptom onset AND
    • 24 hours after fever resolves without use of fever-reducing medications AND
    • Symptoms have improved

    Symptomatic Isolation Protocol (Negative COVID-19 Test) If the COVID-19 test comes back negative, they can return to campus when the following criteria are met:

    • 24 hours after fever resolves without use of fever-reducing medications, AND
    • Symptoms have improved

    Asymptomatic Isolation Protocol If a person tests positive for COVID-19 but has not had any symptoms, they can return to campus when the following criteria are met:

    • At least 10 days have passed since the date of the first COVID-19 test AND
    • They are still not experiencing any signs or symptoms

    Please email safety@northwestschool.org to add your student to the list on the morning they return to school.

    Closing

    I am pleased to announce that while keeping the safety of our community as our top priority, our theatre team has designed sets for the upcoming performances of Little Women and Anne of Green Gables that allow us to invite a small audience while maintaining social distance. The play will run Jan 27 – 30 in the 401 Theatre. Look for more information coming soon about how you can reserve your seats for these exciting shows. Until we return, I wish you all a wonderful Winter Break!

    Take care,

    Ray

  • December 7 Letter from Head of School - The Densho Project and COVID-19 Update

    As we inch closer to Winter Break, I want to take this opportunity to acknowledge that 80 years ago, on December 7, 1941, the Imperial Japanese Navy launched an attack on the U.S. Navy and Army stationed at Pearl Harbor in Oahu, Hawaii. Four years later, the United States military dropped two atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan. In addition, during the second world war, the United States government authorized the internment of Japanese Americans, many of whom resided in the Pacific Northwest. In addition to internment, many Japanese Americans were subjected to discriminatory treatment and were the targets of racist behavior.

    Over the years, The Northwest School has partnered with a local organization, The Densho Project, to provide our students an opportunity to learn more about this important event in U.S. history and about the legacy of the aftermath on the local Japanese American community and in this region.

    Five years ago today, while at a different school, I gave a talk to my class titled, “The Japanese-American Experience during World War II,” which included a guest lecture by Tom Ikeda, Executive Director of The Densho Project. During his talk, Tom shared the conditions that led up to the attack on Pearl Harbor, the eventual internment, and how he and his family were impacted by the experience. He also shared that young people today have an opportunity to dismantle the barriers that have for far too long served to divide groups through unjust practices and policies.

    It is clear that The Northwest School is committed to serving as a resource and partner to local organizations that are mission aligned, student-centered, and most importantly, purposeful in their approach to societal improvement. I am encouraged by our academic program offerings and the expectation that our students engage in civic engagement projects during their senior year. Overall, we are poised to make the world a better place!

    COVID-19 Updates

    We are excited to announce a new dashboard (online and also, see above) that reflects our school's vaccination status. We will update the dashboard every week.

    At a glance:

    As you may have heard, the new coronavirus variant called Omicron has been classified as a variant “of concern” by the World Health Organization and has been detected in Washington State, with one positive case in Seattle. While much is still being learned about this new variant, it is important that we remain patient and calm for new information and data to emerge. So far, Omicron appears to be a milder variant and is presenting with milder infections and breakthrough infections. It’s still uncertain if it is more, or less transmissible than the Delta variant, but researchers hope to offer some insight on this in the coming weeks.

    The Northwest School has taken a conservative approach to reopening our school and relaxing our mandates compared to several of our peer institutions. Our primary focus is on providing high quality, in-person learning, which can only be done if students are healthy. As we digest the continual flow of information and guidance from governing bodies and medical panels, the current message that the fundamentals of our approach should not change is clear. Daily testing, contact tracing, mask mandates, and social distancing will continue through the remainder of 2021.

    Last week King County experienced a +51% increase in confirmed COVID-19 cases, and reports a substantial level of community transmission. Additionally, there has been a 77.3% increase in adolescent confirmed cases. This information lends us pause and supports our conservative stance on protecting our community.

    Grade level announcement:

    We have asked that students now eligible for the vaccine receive the first dose by December 27, 2021. As we approach this timeline, please remember to submit your student’s completed COVID vaccine card to safety@northwestschool.org.

    The dashboard reflects current vaccination (or medical/religious exemption) status by grade level. Last week, adolescents in the 5–11-year-old range were able to receive their second dose. We anticipate our sixth-grade percentage to increase significantly in the coming weeks.

    Let’s continue to push towards our goal of full vaccination status by January 17, 2022!

    Updated close contact policy:

    If you receive a notification that you’ve been a close contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19, please see our updated guidance on what you should do. This is broken down by vaccination status, so please refer to this guide when needed: https://northwestschool.org/daily-life/covid-protocols/quarantine-policy

    At-home rapid tests:

    The Northwest School will not accept results from at-home rapid COVID-19 tests to clear a student back to school. If your student stays home with symptoms and feels better the next day, please notify safety@northwestschool.org of your student’s return and we will add them to our daily COVID-19 testing list. While at-home tests are a great tool for families to use for their own assurance and information, we will only allow a student to return to school with a negative rapid test collected on-site and under the supervision of trained Northwest School professionals.

    Closing

    Before the pace of the closing days intensifies, I want to take a moment to say thank you for your partnership over the past four months. Students, faculty, parents, and guardians have all played a vital role in helping Northwest navigate the fall trimester and the early days of trimester two. I look forward to the days ahead as our learning remains strong and our relationships grow even stronger.

    Take care,

    Ray

  • November 30 Letter from Head of School - Recent Court Cases and COVID-19 Update

    Yesterday, it was a pleasure to welcome our students and faculty back to the House – their energy and enthusiasm bode well for a positive beginning to our second trimester. Fall Break arrived at just the right time. It gave students a respite from schoolwork and daily routines while providing faculty time to recharge.

    Beginning this week, The Northwest School will be represented by over 10 faculty members and six students at the annual NAIS People of Color Conference and Student Diversity Leadership Conference. This conference provides participants an opportunity to learn in workshops led by educators from across the country as well as to make connections with peers. Additionally, our students will be able to engage in transformative work with fellow students from diverse backgrounds and schools. I trust the group will return to campus with new ideas for fostering a greater sense of belonging.

    I want to devote this week’s letter to the verdicts in the Kyle Rittenhouse and Ahmaud Arbery trials. As many are aware, Kyle Rittenhouse was acquitted on all charges while the three men in the Ahmaud Arbery case were each found guilty of murder and other related charges.

    Reactions

    In any court case, the verdict will bring closure and satisfaction to one side, and anguish and disappointment to the other. These cases were no different as their outcomes ignited reactions across the country – reactions ranging from disbelief that Kyle Rittenhouse was acquitted to relief about the guilty charges in the Ahmaud Arbery case to concerns that both trials were flawed in their execution.

    Verdicts: The Northwest School’s Response

    It is common for schools to make statements about societal events to clarify the institution’s position on a specific issue. Throughout my career, I have found these position statements to be more divisive than unifying. In some cases, the statements did not account for varying perspectives in the community.

    I will not present an opinion about the outcomes of either case because one opinion will not reflect the nearly 600 students and faculty in our community, let alone the opinions held by each of our families. Instead, I want to acknowledge that the two trials were examples of our judicial system in action.

    Each trial had similarities – jury selection, opening statements by the prosecution and defense, witness, and expert testimony, closing arguments, a judge who presided over the case, and an eventual verdict. Reactions to the outcomes should be focused on the execution of the trials – the lawyers’ strategy, the judges’ involvement, media coverage and its messaging, an observation of public opinion, and so forth.

    Our role as a school is not to tell our students what to think or which side to take. Instead, it is to help them develop their own opinions about the trials by discussing the facts and asking them what they think about the facts. Sometimes, adults in educational settings can signal students to think about a given issue in a certain way. Often, this way of thinking is an extension of the adult’s position on the issue.

    I admit that some societal issues and events can be so jarring that one cannot help but formulate a strong opinion. However, it is in these moments that we as adults must work extra hard not to overlay our opinions on the developing minds of our students. By leaning on the last line in our mission, ‘We graduate students with historical, scientific, artistic, and global perspective, enabling them to think and act with integrity, believing they have a positive impact on the world,’ we can ensure our students graduate with the confidence and skills they require to make a difference.

    Looking Ahead

    Our students are very astute when it comes to identifying injustices and their source. Since our founding in 1980, The Northwest School has maintained a commitment to social justice and to supporting students in their understanding of societal issues and events.

    I am encouraged by what I have heard from students who are considering careers related to the judicial system. Some have identified flaws or missteps in the Rittenhouse trial and expressed a sentiment along the lines of ‘if I were the prosecutor, I would have…,’ or, ‘if I were the judge, I would not have…’ These observations are indicative of our students’ ability to recognize how certain actions can contribute to negative outcomes, and to determine how they can be part of a solution.

    The Opportunity for Students

    The opportunity for students considering a career in the judicial system – lawyer, judge, law enforcement, etc., is to first understand the system and then determine how to preserve the positive and improve the imperfections. There is no denying that the system has weighed negatively for people of color in ways that have had lasting effects on generations. In recent days, there have been several African American men released from prison after 30 to 40 years of incarceration due to wrongful convictions as a result of the mishandling or concealment of key evidence during their trials. In these instances, it was the work of current lawyers and advocates who brought new information to light that made it possible for the original convictions to be overturned.

    I have every faith that our students, should they choose to engage in careers in the judicial system, would do so with the ability to recognize opportunities to make change and to strengthen an imperfect system.

    To the entire Northwest School community, I say THANK YOU! Your openness to examining core beliefs held closely in your homes, and your willingness to engage in meaningful discussions are both necessary and refreshing. For that, I am grateful to work in partnership with you to support our students as they prepare to contribute to societal change.

    COVID-19 Updates

    I’m continually impressed by Northwest students' commitment to creating a safe and healthy school environment. Expectations of behaviors are necessarily different this year, but our students have embraced the changes with positivity and resilience.

    We are continuing to test basketball students before and after each competition, and we are selecting random samples from our student and staff population to monitor the overall health of our school. As we dive deeper into this winter season, we ask that you be mindful and self-monitor for any COVID-19 symptoms. If your student feels ill, please keep them home. Moving forward, we would like to recognize some of the frustrations and concerns students have expressed and make steps toward restoring a more normal school environment.

    Vaccination Update

    This September, we set a goal that every student, age 12 and above, would be fully vaccinated by October 14. At this time, almost all qualifying students are fully vaccinated or have provided medical/religious exemptions.

    With the recent CDC endorsement of vaccines for children ages 5-11, we are setting a new goal of having all students fully vaccinated by Tuesday, January 18, 2022. This means that every student must have their first dose on or before December 27, 2021.

    If you require a medical or religious exemption, or have any questions or concerns regarding this timeline, please reach out to our Health Coordinator Ya Davis at safety@northwestschool.org.

    Modification to COVID-19 Protocols for Students

    After careful consideration of data, our high rate of vaccinations, and the increased testing regime, coupled with consultation with the faculty, beginning next week, seniors will have the privilege of signing out to go off campus during a free period and/or lunch. This change is the beginning of our shift away from our current protocols and onto a path where our students can begin to experience some semblance of normalcy during the school day.

    Closing

    The winter months are my favorite time during the school year because for nearly 20 years as a basketball coach, I carried the responsibility of injecting positive energy and school spirit through the performance of my teams on the court. I look forward to attending many basketball games this season, and hopefully I will see you there as well.

    In my last letter I extended an invitation to join me in reading The Anatomy of Peace. Please use this form to indicate your participation in a book club discussion that will kick off on December 15, at 7:00 pm via Zoom, with an introduction and framework for our time together. I am excited to engage in meaningful conversations about the text and to spend time with everyone who registers.

    Take care,

    Ray

  • November 16 Letter from Head of School - Fall Break and COVID-19 Safety Updates

    As Fall Break approaches, I am hopeful that everyone will be able to use this time to bring joy, engagement, and a respite from your daily routines. This is also a time when all students and faculty can disconnect from school and spend time with family and friends both near and far. Beginning this Friday, school will not be in session. Classes will resume on November 29.

    I acknowledge that this upcoming break will require you to take into consideration the possible reality of quarantines, required proof of vaccinations, and thoughtful discussions about overall health and safety. Historically, many have used this break to travel to connect with family and friends you may not have seen for some time. Others of you have welcomed guests and extended family members to your homes. In either case, please take the necessary steps to remain as safe as possible.

    While COVID-19 infection rates have been declining in recent weeks, here in King County, it is still important to be vigilant if traveling outside of the area. The Northwest School travel policy provides clear direction for returning to campus after the break.

    I wish everyone a restful and enjoyable Fall Break.

    Parent/Guardian Trimester 1 Surveys

    As you may have read in last week’s E-news, we have distributed the Trimester-1 Parent-Guardian Survey. This is an important action item for each family as the responses will provide helpful feedback and generate next steps for improving experiences heading into Trimeter-2. Our overall goal is 100% participation, so please take the time to complete the survey.

    COVID-19 Safety Updates

    Since the inception of our COVID-19 antigen testing program two weeks ago, we have administered to faculty and students a total of 421 tests. As of November 16, we have a 0% positivity rate. This achievement is a direct result of our collective effort to follow established health and safety protocols – so thank you, and let’s keep it up!

    As we continue to expand our testing capacity and streamline our procedures, our goal is to increase testing accessibility to best protect the health of our community. In order to do so, it is imperative that we receive completed consent forms as soon as possible. This form needs to be submitted only once, and you may access it in MyBackPack.

    For families whose children are participating in basketball this season, testing will be conducted twice a week as per requirements set by the Washington Interscholastic Athletics Association (WIAA). To ensure the highest level of protection and equity, we have elected to test all of our basketball players in both US and MS sports, rather than just unvaccinated individuals.

    We strive to uphold the highest standards of care, and if you have any concerns or questions, please feel free to contact us at safety@northwestschool.org.

    Thank you for your support in our efforts to provide an in-person school experience. Again, please remember to fill out a COVID-19 testing consent form (accessed via MyBackPack) as soon as possible.

    Closing

    Today’s House Meeting was lively as it covered topics ranging from COVID-19 protocols to Summits. In addition, the meeting was an opportunity to hear directly from families about your concerns, hopes for the future, and examples of positive experiences students are having. I also shared an idea about a Head of School Book Club in which we could gather to discuss books, beginning with one of my favorites, Anatomy of Peace. I will extend an invitation to an upcoming series of book talks beginning in January. More details to follow about how to register.

    Please enjoy the upcoming Fall Break!

    Take care,

    Ray

  • November 9 Letter from Head of School - COVID Update

    I woke up this morning to the blistering wind and rain that could have deterred me from coming to school today. But after some careful thought and an up-to-the-minute weather report, I made it to campus safely and entered the building to find a refreshingly warm hallway, smiling faces at the main entry, and a former teacher from the 1980s visiting the school because she happened to be in the neighborhood. This teacher shared great memories from her teaching days and remarked about how pleased she was to see that the school has evolved while staying true to its roots.

    As I continued to settle in, I began to think about how special and meaningful our community is to so many people, for so many reasons. Behind each reason is a foundational belief that each member of our community, past and present, is called upon to bring their whole self to the school each day. Each person adds a depth that over time enforces a strong foundation that can stand the tests of time.

    Just as the wind and rain from this morning had the potential to blow us away, today’s societal conditions can seem to threaten to blow us off our foundation. I am confident, however, that our students, faculty, and families will remain grounded as we navigate this journey together. I look forward to connecting with you soon.

    COVID-19 Updates

    Hiring a New Health Coordinator

    We have been fortunate to hire a new Health Coordinator, Ya Davis, to start on November 15. Ya is currently serving as an athletic trainer through our partnership with Children’s Hospital and is looking forward to expanding her engagement with Northwest in this new capacity. I am excited to welcome her expertise and medical background, as well as her deep commitment to students’ well-being. Ya will join me in continuing to monitor the Safety@northwestschool.org email address and in providing timely updates via this weekly letter.

    New Vaccine Eligibility for Students Ages 5-11

    With the newly released vaccination eligibility for our youngest grades (6th), I want to clarify the school’s position as stated earlier this fall -- that all eligible students be vaccinated or submit a religious or medical exemption. With that said, I recognize that each family will need to gather the necessary information to make an informed decision.

    Seeing that we are a week into the new status, I will continue to monitor the overall availability of the vaccine for this age group and explore the possibility of Northwest hosting a clinic on campus as we did earlier this fall. Please send any questions or concerns to safety@northwestschool.org and either Ya or I will respond in a timely manner.

    Health Advisory Panel Forming

    As we continue to move deeper into the fall, while simultaneously experiencing a decrease in overall cases in King County and a high vaccination rate on our campus, it is important that we discuss a plan to transition our community into an operational model that allows for increased flexibility and movement for our students. I am looking to establish a group of professionals in the areas of crisis communications, health, or any other field that would be helpful to the school as we further our planning and operations related to the pandemic.

    Some of the work this group would be instrumental in supporting includes: establishing markers that would signal the time to shift, aiding in data analysis, and most importantly, providing advice around communication. If you are interested in supporting the school in this capacity, please email safety@northwestschool.org.

    Closing

    I had the opportunity to view part of a rehearsal yesterday for the Fall Dance Showcase and found the students to be engaged and confident as they performed their parts of the dance routine. Our instructors care deeply about each student’s mastery of the performance and approached the rehearsal with precision and positive feedback. The performances this week will be spectacular.

    Lastly, I look forward to seeing you at our next House Meeting for parents and guardians on November 16 at 12 pm.


    Take care,

    Ray

  • November 2 Letter from Head of School - COVID Update

    Well, the rain has finally arrived! The gloomy skies and wet grounds can certainly influence one’s mood or outlook for the day. I, on the other hand, embrace the weather change and strive to find its beauty. Since arriving in the Pacific Northwest in 2013, I have heard horror stories about the weather and its effects, including seasonal affective disorder and the various ways people are impacted by the rainy season.

    Our teaching faculty are leaning into these upcoming weeks leading up to Fall Break with energy, creativity, and compassion. Each teacher values the student experience, aiming to meet students where they are and to help them grow. I know it can be somewhat counter intuitive to think that growth can happen during the rainy season ahead, but rest assured that the teaching and learning happening in our classrooms, hallways, and on the court/field has proven to be dynamic and inspiring.

    So, please join me in embracing this change in weather, and know that our teachers and students are doing the same. Looking ahead, Fall Break will certainly bring us the opportunity to recharge, spend time with family, and prepare for the period leading up to Winter Break. Until then, please stay dry!

    COVID Updates

    On Monday, November 1, we successfully tested over 50 students and faculty using the BinaxNOW Antigen Test; all results were negative.

    We are now in the advanced stages of planning for more frequent and robust testing capacity for both students and faculty. This effort is related to the testing needs mandated by our students' participation in sports (namely, basketball) and performance arts events, but also by our own goal to strengthen internal COVID protocols, as appropriate. For example, in the coming week, our goal is to test all participating students prior to the upcoming Fall Dance Showcase performances at Broadway Performance Hall on November 9-10.

    Going forward, we may prioritize testing students in advance of sports or performance arts events in addition to continuing to test students randomly.

    If you haven’t done so already, please take a moment to fill out the Rapid COVID-19 Antigen Test patient consent form, and get your student registered for COVID-19 testing. You can access the consent form for your student via My BackPack. You can register your student using the following registration link: https://simplereport.gov/register/62HJ6. These requirements must be completed ASAP.

    The BinaxNOW Antigen Test provided by the Washington State Department of Health is a self-administered anterior nasal swab. Results are available within 15 minutes. A positive test result will result in the individual following our isolation protocol. Test results will be disclosed to the appropriate public health authorities and as otherwise permitted or required by law. As a reminder, strict adherence to confidentiality will be enforced in all COVID-related matters, including testing, results, and notification.

    When your student is selected to be tested, you and your student will receive a notification via MyBackPack.

    If you have any questions or concerns, please send an email to: safety@northwestschool.org.

    Closing

    Thank you to all of the families who have agreed to host our Boarding students during the upcoming Fall and Winter Breaks. I know how important it is for students to be in a family atmosphere during these times. Spending break time in your homes will surely be a treat for each student.

    On a related note, our preliminary NWAIS accreditation visit went well last week. The co-chairs of the visiting team noted how special we are as a community and that we are READY for the full official visit in March.

    I look forward to seeing you at our next House Meeting for parents and guardians on November 16 at 12 pm.

    Take care,

    Ray

  • October 26 Letter from Head of School - NWAIS Visit and COVID Update

    The Northwest School is on the eve of welcoming the Co-Chairs of the NWAIS Accreditation Visiting Team to campus tomorrow for an all-day visit. Each member school of the Northwest Association of Independent Schools must go through an accreditation cycle that includes both a formal team visit and a self-report. The purpose of the process is to provide the host school an opportunity to conduct a deep analysis of its practices, policies, and procedures.

    The Northwest School has consistently renewed its accreditation by successfully meeting the standards and expectations expressed by NWAIS. Our preparation for the visit tomorrow began during the 2019 school year in anticipation of a team visit during the 2020 school year. Due to the pandemic, the visit was postponed to the current year. I am thankful for the teamwork required to bring this about and for the leadership of each of the following:

    • Meg Goldner Rabinowitz, Assistant Head of School
    • Frances Tee, Self-Study Coordinator
    • Kiara Littlejohn, Former Executive Assistant to the Assistant Head of School
    • Sarah Wong, Executive Assistant to the Assistant Head of School
    • Tiffany Lobner, Executive Assistant to the Head of School

    We are excited to welcome our guests tomorrow, followed by the entire visiting team later in March. Please know that this is an important and exciting time for the school to showcase, in a transparent manner, the richness that makes us unique. We are a vibrant community with many strengths, and there are also areas for growth. This process will provide affirmation and recommendations that will inform our work moving forward.

    COVID-19 Updates

    Yesterday, we initiated our COVID-19 testing program, testing over 50 students and faculty members. I’m pleased to report that we identified no positive cases. The testing program will continue on a weekly basis. Please be sure to complete the Rapid COVID-19 Antigen Test patient consent form, and get your student registered for COVID-19 testing. You can access the consent form for your student via My BackPack. You can register your student using the following registration link: https://simplereport.gov/register/62HJ6.

    Our Health Coordinator, Sierra Maxwell, will end her assignment with The Northwest School at the end of October. We recently initiated a hiring search for her position and are hoping to make an announcement in the coming weeks. Sierra was employed by Joffe Emergency Services, our health services contractor.

    In the interim, a Health and Safety transition team has been formed to manage all of our COVID-related procedures until we fill the position. The team is focused on accelerating our testing efforts, tracking and enforcing all COVID-19 protocols, maintaining confidentiality, and meeting the legal mandates associated with COVID reporting information to the appropriate health authorities. I will update you on this search in the coming weeks. In the meantime, please continue to direct any emails and information requests on this topic to safety@northwestschool.org.

    Closing

    The 2022-2023 admissions season began earlier this month with tours, an Open House last weekend, and outreach to prospective families interested in calling The Northwest School home. Our conversations with prospective families have been important in affirming that our program resonates with many who connected with us.

    I have also thoroughly enjoyed getting to know our 8th grade families — learning about their experiences in middle school and discussing the prospect of their continuation into the Upper School. As a 6-12 grade school, our goal is to have every student graduate from The Northwest School with confidence, knowledge, creativity, and the courage to make a difference in the world. I look forward to additional opportunities to share my thoughts, hopes, and our school’s mission with families during upcoming information sessions, tours, and admission fairs.

    Thank you all for your ongoing support of NWS!

    Take care,

    Ray

  • October 19 Letter from Head of School - Dining Program and COVID Updates

    Enjoying lunch together, as a community, has been a key part of The Northwest School experience since our founding 40 years ago. Our Dining Program has become a national leader as a result of excellent operational practices and a focus on wholesome meals rooted in nutrition, environmental sustainability, diversity, equity and inclusion, and global perspectives. During the COVID-19 pandemic, our innovative Dining Program team, led by Director of Food Services Bethany Fong, has done an outstanding job of bringing our community together to safely enjoy mission-oriented, nutritious, and delicious meals.

    During the past few weeks, many families have provided feedback about the lunch program through House Meetings and other conversations. Specifically, we have heard from you that the serving sizes should be increased. This is an issue for many students, particularly when coupled with a closed campus — students are currently not able to sign-out to visit local eateries. Given students’ varied levels of consumption, it has become increasingly evident that a change is necessary.

    Beginning tomorrow, we will increase our lunch portion size. Related to this change, we also explored the unintended impacts of increased portions and the inevitable outcome of increased waste. While we continually strive to align our operations and programs with our mission, and to reduce our environmental impact, we recognize that our impending change to the lunch program will appear to move us away from this goal. With that said, there are times when immediate needs, albeit temporary, necessitate such compromises.

    The Northwest School will always keep the needs of our students at the center of decision-making. For a behind the scenes look at The Northwest Dining Hall and our food system, follow along at @nws.kitchen on Instagram. Please let me know if you have any questions.

    COVID-19 Updates

    We will begin student and faculty COVID-19 testing onsite next week. As shared previously, we will start by testing a random 10% of our population each week. When your student is selected to be tested, you and your student will receive a notification via MyBackPack.

    If you haven’t done so already, please take a moment to fill out the Rapid COVID-19 Antigen Test patient consent form, and get your student registered for COVID-19 testing. You can access the consent form for your student via My BackPack. You can register your student using the following registration link: https://simplereport.gov/register/62HJ6. These requirements must be completed no later than Friday October 22nd.

    Testing will be conducted through Abbott Laboratories BinaxNOW rapid antigen tests provided by the Washington State Department of Health. The test will be a self-administered anterior nasal swab, and test results will be available within 15 minutes. A positive test result will result in the individual following our isolation protocol. Test results will be disclosed to the appropriate public health authorities, and as otherwise permitted or required by law. As a reminder, strict adherence to confidentiality will be enforced in all COVID-related matters, including testing, results, and notification. If you would like, you can click here to review the BinaxNOW Fact Sheet for Patients.

    If you have any questions or concerns, please send an email to: safety@northwestschool.org.

    COVID-19 and Fall Performing Arts Events

    Because the safety of our community members remains our top priority, we have made a decision about attendance at our upcoming fall performing arts events. Given current COVID-19 restrictions, we have determined that we do not have the capacity to invite audiences to performing arts events at this time. We will revisit this decision regularly and look forward to welcoming in-person audiences as soon as we are able to do so.

    Closing

    On behalf of the teaching faculty, I want to extend a hearty thank you to each of you for your attendance at Curriculum Night. We appreciate the outpouring of support for the academic program and are heartened by our students’ learning and experiences. I look forward to continued conversations and connections as we move deeper into the fall.

    Lastly, remember tomorrow night’s Movies with a Mission panel discussion takes place from 7-8:30 pm. Details about the Coded Bias film and the engaging Zoom discussion planned for tomorrow are also available on our Facebook and Instagram pages.

    See you soon,

    Ray

  • October 12 Letter from Head of School - Staffing and COVID Update

    We are gearing up for tomorrow’s Curriculum Night presentations and look forward to welcoming parents/guardians to our ‘virtual’ campus. All of the teaching faculty continue to demonstrate excitement and enthusiasm for working with each student and delivering a dynamic curriculum.

    Over the years, I have seen curriculum night serve as an opportunity to hear first-hand how students spend their days at school. Families arrive at the presentations prepared with questions about content, class expectations, and a desire for an overall description of what they need to know for the remainder of the term. The night will not include conversations about individual students — all specific questions should be reserved for another time.

    In my conversations with the Division Directors, I am confident in their ability to work closely with the teaching faculty to develop meaningful partnerships with students in the early stages of the year. Both Maria and James care deeply and are very knowledgeable about pedagogy, student experiences, and impactful leadership. All families will have opportunities to hear from each of them during the opening session tomorrow evening.

    I am looking forward to Curriculum Night and to hearing snapshots about what makes The Northwest School special.

    Staffing Update

    I want to let you know that Michele Sanchez, Director of Enrollment, will be ending her tenure at Northwest by the end of October to become the Director of Enrollment at Bertschi School. Michele has been a critical member of the senior leadership team and a wonderful colleague to everyone. Her strategic thinking and careful planning around enrollment have enabled the school to experience a robust enrollment season entering this current school year.

    A job posting is going live today, and I anticipate filling this position as soon as possible. With that said, please direct any interested candidates to our website for additional information.

    COVID Update

    As was mentioned last week, our vaccination rate for students is over 97%, and for faculty, we are at 98%. With this high rate of vaccinations, I am exploring the possibility of making adjustments to some of our protocols related to student movement on campus. I am aware that students want more opportunities to make decisions about where they can eat lunch, spend their free periods, and in general, move about the campus. Any changes would have to be weighed against the reality that our 6th grade students are not eligible for vaccinations.

    Closing

    I am encouraged by the attendance at our House Meetings thus far. The meetings are full of thoughtful questions and exchanges of ideas. I appreciate everyone’s support for our academic program, suggestions for improvement, and the overall excitement to be a member of The Northwest School community. Please feel free to reach out to me if there are any questions or ideas you would like to share.

    Take care,

    Ray

  • October 5: Letter from Head of School - Climate Change and COVID Update

    In his text, Climate: A New Story, the author, Charles Eisenstein, states, “Climate change portends a revolution in the relationship between nature and civilization, but this is not a revolution in the more efficient allocation of global resources in the program of endless growth. It is a revolution of love.”

    I open with this quote because it captures how I feel about my relationship to The Northwest School. Since my beginning on July 1, I have spent time understanding the accomplishments and challenges that we have gone through since the inception of our school in 1980. I have also come to understand that we have a wonderful opportunity in front of us as we move forward in our 41st year.

    One of those opportunities is to refine our academic program in ways that strengthen our students’ ability to understand and apply their knowledge to matters that are important to their daily experiences. These opportunities will undoubtedly present themselves in unique moments in the classroom, during assignments, discussions, and so on. It is in these moments of time that students should lean into the opportunity from a position of love.

    Students spend an inordinate amount of time on matters related to Northwest: their daily class schedule, homework, after school activities, and socializing with peers. It is important that students have an emotional connection to their endeavors instead of employing a task-oriented mindset. When students can emotionally connect with their engagements, they will see greater meaning and purpose beyond the immediate task.

    It is in this vein that Northwest has developed the Movies with a Mission series. This integration of DEI, environmental sustainability, and global perspectives invites engagement and provides an opportunity for deep connections and nuanced exploration of themes and their application to the world around us. I am excited about this new program and look forward to rich discussions and growth.

    So, when I think about climate change, I think about it in the context of an opportunity for all of us to proceed with an interdependent mindset — one that draws upon the richness that comes with a sense of beauty and appreciation for our surroundings and the people within. At Northwest, we believe in acknowledging the unique layers of identity that make up our entire community. In doing so, it becomes increasingly clear and important that our acknowledgement must be done with love, care, and compassion. These are essential as we continue to cultivate a climate of Belonging — our theme for the year!

    COVID-19 updates

    We are very excited about our current vaccination progress. As of October 5, 97% of our eligible students have been fully vaccinated. Once your student has been fully vaccinated, please make sure it’s reflected within Magnus.

    If you have not already uploaded your student’s COVID-19 vaccination records, please do so by following the instructions below.

    1. Open the Magnus Mobile V2 app and select “Student Health Tracker” in the bottom left of your Magnus home screen.
    2. Select “COVID-19 Vaccine Record Request.”
    3. Select “Submit Requirement.”
    4. Select “Add File.” This will prompt you to either take a photo, select an existing photo, or file from your device.
    5. Once you see the file has uploaded, click the circle to the left of the uploaded file. Make sure you see the check mark next to the uploaded file.
    6. Click “Submit.”

    Closing

    The month of October is filled with numerous ways for you to engage The Northwest School community. Whether it is the BIPOC Parent/Guardian event tonight, Curriculum Night next week, or Movies with Mission, the goal is to provide opportunities for collaboration, interactions with other members of the school community, and sources of valuable information. Please remember to read E-News on Thursday for a list of events for the month of October. I look forward to seeing you soon.

    Take care,

    Ray

  • September 28: Letter from Head of School - Seeking Hosts & COVID Update

    I hope this letter finds you well as we near the end of the first month of school. Students and faculty are settling into routines and are making new connections daily. Our athletics program is well into the season, and all of our teams are demonstrating resilience, high skill levels, and camaraderie. I look forward to getting out to see our teams in action in the upcoming weeks.

    Opportunity for family engagement with our Boarding Program

    The Northwest School seeks local families to host our boarding residents over the Thanksgiving Holiday and during our Holiday Break. The dormitory is currently scheduled to close from Wednesday, November 24 at 6 pm until Sunday, November 28 at 9 am, and from Sunday, December 19 at noon until Saturday, January 1 at 9 am.

    The need for hosts is particularly strong this year as many of our international residents will not be able to travel home for the holidays due to international travel restrictions and other COVID-19-related complications. We hope this will provide opportunities for meaningful connection, integration, and shared memories between available domestic families and our international community members.

    All host families should have all eligible family members fully vaccinated against COVID-19, agree to adhere to COVID-19 precautions in public and to follow other health and safety measures (list to be provided later), and must be able to pass a Washington State Patrol Background Check.

    If you are interested in hosting a dormitory resident or have inquiries about this, please contact Justin Peters, Dean of Residential Life at Justin.Peters@northwestschool.org. Your availability to host for a portion of the longer holiday break may be helpful.

    House Meetings

    Our first House Meeting today was attended by nearly 50 people and generated a rich discussion. We covered topics ranging from academic excellence, contact tracing, social distancing, and my reflections about the start of the school year. While this meeting demonstrated an open dialogue, it was clear that every parent or guardian on the call is invested in their child’s educational experience. I look forward to our upcoming meeting this Thursday morning, September 30 at 7:30 am. The entire House Meeting schedule can be found here. The meetings are also scheduled on the school calendar available from our home page.

    COVID-19 update

    As part of our final preparation for implementing our testing program, families will receive a consent form via My Backpack. Please review the form carefully and follow the instructions to return the form. This will help us in our efforts to coordinate the logistics needed to successfully administer the tests. As a reminder, strict adherence to confidentiality will be enforced in all COVID-related matters, including testing, results, and notification.

    Closing

    Thank you for your time, support, and ongoing partnership with The Northwest School. I look forward to seeing you soon.

    Take care,

    Ray

  • September 21: Letter from Head of School - COVID Safety Updates

    Updated Quarantine Policy

    After careful review of the CDC and Seattle-King County Public Health recommendations for quarantining following exposure to COVID-19, and coupled with the high transmission levels (inclusive of breakthrough cases), we have modified our quarantine policy to reflect the following:

    Quarantine Protocol

    A person identified as a close contact can return to campus once all of the following criteria are met:

    • At least 7 days have passed since the last close contact with the COVID-19 positive person, AND,
    • A negative COVID-19 test has been conducted on day 5 of the quarantine period. The test results must be sent to the Health Coordinator, AND,
    • Your student must be free of any COVID-19 signs or symptoms.

    Close Contact Definition

    Generally, a close contact is someone who was within six feet of a person with COVID-19 for at least a cumulative of 15 minutes over a 24-hour period during the period of time when the person with COVID-19 was infectious. The definition applies regardless of whether the case or contact was wearing a mask.

    In a K-12 indoor classroom, the close contact definition excludes students who were at least three feet away from an infected student when (a) both students were wearing face coverings/masks, and (b) other prevention strategies were in place.

    Note: This exception does not apply to teachers, faculty, or other adults in the indoor classroom setting. The ultimate determination of close contact is made by the local health jurisdiction during its investigation.

    COVID-19 Testing Update

    We have partnered with Learn to Return to design and implement our customized COVID-19 testing strategy for the 2021-2022 school year. School-based testing and other safety measures are effective tools for allowing schools to stay open safely for full-time, in-person learning. COVID-19 testing is critical for identifying cases of COVID-19 in our school, preventing the spread of disease, and keeping our students, teachers, and other faculty members on campus.

    We are excited to announce that starting the week of October 4th we will begin conducting free onsite COVID-19 testing. We plan to test at least 10% of our population, including students and faculty members, each week.

    Testing will be conducted through Abbott Laboratories BinaxNOW rapid antigen tests provided by the Washington State Department of Health. The test will be a self-administered anterior nasal swab and test results will be available within 15 minutes. A positive test result will result in the individual following our isolation protocol. Test results will be disclosed to the appropriate public health authorities, and as otherwise permitted or required by law.

    In addition to our weekly testing model, we will also have several of these tests available for those experiencing signs/symptoms consistent with a COVID-19-like illness. In the event your student is experiencing signs/symptoms, the Health Coordinator will call parents/guardians to obtain consent before a COVID-19 test is administered. Test results will be available within 15 minutes. A positive antigen test result would require the individual to self-isolate according to our isolation protocol.

    You will receive a COVID-19 testing consent form through My BackPack to enroll your student in our testing program. If you would like, you can click here to review the BinaxNOW Fact Sheet for Patients.

    If you have any additional questions or concerns, please send an email to: safety@northwestschool.org.

    Take care,

    Ray

  • September 14: Letter from Head of School - COVID Safety Updates

    We are off and running this week! Students have arrived on campus and have brought with them an outpouring of energy and excitement for in-person learning. As I walk the halls, I have seen and heard teachers delivering curriculum in dynamic ways that have captured the imagination and attention of their students. The preparation of the teaching faculty to start the year with a focus on maintaining a challenging and positive academic experience is evident in the early stages of the term.

    I am excited about the work of the PGA leadership and the collaboration between this group and my office. Throughout the year, we will co-sponsor opportunities for me to be in conversation with families in an open discussion format. We feel it is important for us to create and sustain a consistent method for parents and guardians to hear directly from me, while at the same time, develop opportunities for me to hear from families about their experiences. I look forward to meeting more families as the upcoming weeks approach.

    Below, you will find the latest COVID-related information since last week’s communication. Please continue to send us your questions or observations as they are helpful in our continued progress.

    Reminder: COVID-19 Vaccination Policy (Updated August 31, 2021)

    We recognize that access to immunizations varies by family. We are asking that everyone currently eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine, receive at least one dose prior to the start of the school year. With that said, it is our expectation that all eligible students will receive their second COVID-19 vaccine dose no later than September 30. This will ensure that all eligible students are fully vaccinated no later than October 14. This time frame is consistent with the vaccine administration timeline.

    We are also very excited with our current vaccination progress and look forward to watching our numbers increase as we get closer to the start of the new school year. As of September 14, 92.79% of eligible students have been fully vaccinated.

    Daily Health Screenings (Updated September 14, 2021)

    Thank you for completing this important step each morning. When students arrive on campus, they are efficiently completing the screening and doing so with greater ease each day. The faculty at each entrance are connecting with happy and confident students who are ready to start their day.

    Click this link for a reminder about how to set up Magnus in case you need a refresher from last week:

    Covid-19 Testing Plan Update

    Sierra and I have explored several testing options and are nearing completion of that process. We aim to start weekly testing no later than the week of September 27. The ramp up to implementation is more involved than we had anticipated. A more detailed communication will be sent out in our upcoming communication next Tuesday.

    Community Building and Belonging in Action

    Thank you to the Upper School PGA leadership for organizing a delightful back-to-school outing at Lincoln Park on Saturday. We had a strong turnout and everyone adhered to the safety measures that were in place. It was great to see families and students engage in heartfelt conversations and games, as well as share some hopes that they have for the upcoming year. One of my hopes for the year is that we continue to find moments of joy as members of The Northwest School.

    Take care,

    Ray

  • September 7: Letter from Head of School - COVID Safety Updates

    Students arrive for orientation this week. The energy is increasing around campus as our faculty ready the campus for dynamic in-person engagement. The Main School building has received new carpet that will be a refreshing change for the start of the year. The classrooms are set up to reflect our distancing protocols. Our athletics program is off to a strong start with practices, and the Boarding Program just held its Student Welcome and Orientation.

    We look forward to welcoming all of our students to campus later this week and to engaging in meaningful conversations at the grade level Zoom events for parents/guardians. Lastly, the upper school back to school event at Lincoln Park on Saturday will be another opportunity to meet one another and to build a warm and welcoming community.

    Sierra and I are working daily to keep ourselves informed about changes and expectations related to COVID-19 protocols. We are connected to peer schools and are exchanging information as we implement our mitigation strategies. In addition, we meet weekly with our internal operations team to establish our daily procedures for students and faculty. Our latest session focused on our expectations for daily health screenings. (See below.)

    Reminder: COVID-19 Vaccination Policy (Updated August 31, 2021)

    We recognize that access to immunizations varies by family. We are asking that everyone currently eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine receive at least one dose prior to the start of the school year. With that said, it is our expectation that all eligible students will receive their second COVID-19 vaccine dose no later than September 30. This will ensure that all eligible students are fully vaccinated no later than October 14. This time frame is consistent with the vaccine administration timeline.

    We are also very excited with our current vaccination progress and look forward to watching our numbers increase as we get closer to the start of the new school year. As of September 7, 86.8% of eligible students have been fully vaccinated.

    Daily Health Screenings

    We will be using the COVID-19 Daily Health Screening assessment in the Magnus Health mobile app to track the health of our students and faculty members. In an effort to keep our community safe, all parents/guardians will be required to complete this daily health screening for each student attending in-person classes/activities at NWS prior to their departure to school or an event.

    The ‘Magnus Mobile V2’ app will allow parents/guardians to complete this assessment easily from a smartphone in just a few clicks. This screening process will help us to create the safest possible environment for your students and our faculty by avoiding screenings at the door where person-to-person transmissions could take place.

    All parents/guardians must submit the screening each morning no later than 7:50 am. Please reserve 1 to 2 minutes per student to complete this each morning. At the completion of the quick survey each morning, you will receive a message with the student’s attendance instruction for that day. If your student does not pass the daily health screening, keep them home and notify the Health Coordinator as soon as possible.

    How to Setup a Magnus Account & Download the Magnus Mobile App

    1. For the best experience, start by using a browser on a computer. Log into Magnus by first logging into your parent MyBackPack account.

    2. Navigate to the Magnus Login link, found in the Message Center of My BackPack.

    3. At the Magnus Health Login Screen Prompt, please log in.

    4. Once logged into Magnus via the browser on your computer, hover over your name (top left of screen).

    5. If you have not already done so, choose “Change Credentials” to set up the Magnus Mobile App account. This step is essential for you to complete your COVID-19 Daily Health Screening.

    6. Download the “Magnus Health” app from the Google Play Store or download the “Magnus Mobile V2” app from the Apple Store and login using your newly created username/password combination. If your device allows it, you can also set up the biometric login for easier access.

    7. Log onto the Magnus Health mobile app on your mobile device with the credentials you set up. Once logged into the mobile app, you will see your student(s). Follow the steps below to complete the COVID-19 Daily Health Screening.

    How to Complete COVID-19 Daily Health Screening

    You will need to fill out the COVID-19 Daily Health Screening for each of your students every time they participate in in-person learning or activities.

    1. Tap your student’s name and then the “COVID-19” icon

    2. Answer all the questions that populate in the screening

    3. You will need to take and record each student’s temperature at home and enter it into the daily health assessment

    4. You will receive a confirmation message upon completing the screening that either says “Go” or “Stop”

    5. If you receive a “Stop” message for your student, they should not come to school. Notify the Health Coordinator.

    What is Magnus?

    Magnus is a web-based student medical record solution designed specifically for use in schools. The primary focus of an SMRA is streamlining the collection and secure storage of student health information. This program allows you, the parent or guardian, to securely and accurately communicate your student’s health information. In return, it allows key personnel in our school the ability to access that information to provide your student with safe, timely care in the event there is an illness or emergency. As this is a web-based system, you will have continuous access to your child’s health record as well as the ability to make updates when needed to any health history. All health form updates will be able to be completed through the new app as well.

    We thank you in advance for your cooperation in this daily health screening as it will be an imperative function of our safety protocols.

    Questions or Problems with Magnus?

    For any technical issues with the mobile app such as login problems, or problems completing the screening, please contact customer support at Magnus Health SMR by phone at 877.461.6831 or by email at service@magnushealthportal.com.

    Help Desk Hours:

    July - August: Mon - Fri 7am-6pm ET

    September - June: Mon - Fri 7am-6pm ET

    Also, please feel free to consult the Magnus Health Privacy and Security page at www.magnushealth.com/privacy-and-security/.

    Thank you for taking the time to review these updates. You may also access this information here: http://northwestschool.org/daily-life/covid-protocols. Feel free to send any questions you may have about our protocols to Sierra or to me.

    Please understand that as more information is learned about COVID-19, and as different guidelines or recommendations are issued by public health officials, we will continue to update and modify our policies and procedures accordingly. Our goal will always be to prioritize the health and safety of our community members while staying true to our mission and values.

    Take care,

    Ray

  • August 31: Letter from Head of School - COVID Safety Updates

    The faculty and I are entering into the home stretch of preparations for the start of the school year. Our preparations have included an on-campus leadership team retreat, new faculty orientation, and our all-faculty orientation this week. In addition, the Boarding faculty has done a great job of preparing and welcoming residential students to campus. Overall, we are proceeding at a pace that will provide students a calm and welcoming start to the year.

    Below, are a few updates since last week's COVID-19 communication. Please review, and let us know if you have any questions.

    COVID-19 Vaccination Policy (Updated August 31, 2021)

    We recognize that access to immunizations varies by family. We are asking that everyone currently eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine receives at least one dose prior to the start of the school year. With that said, it is our expectation that all eligible students will receive their second COVID-19 vaccine dose no later than September 30. This will ensure that all eligible students are fully vaccinated no later than October 14. This time frame is consistent with the vaccine administration timeline.

    We are also very excited about our current vaccination progress and look forward to watching our numbers increase as we grow closer to the start of the new school year. As of August 31, 79.76% of eligible students have been fully vaccinated.

    On-Site Vaccination Clinic

    This clinic will be available to those who are eligible to receive a booster shot, those outside of our immediate NWS community, those who have recently become eligible due to recent birthdays, and those who need to receive their second dose. We understand that due to the late announcement of our vaccine policy, some may not meet the criteria of being fully vaccinated prior to the first day of school.

    Weekly Testing (Updated August 31, 2021)

    We will implement on-site COVID-19 screening testing throughout the upcoming school year. For the first month of the 2021-2022 school year, we plan to test every faculty member and student each week. This method allows us to identify cases immediately and prevent secondary transmission from occurring on campus. In these moments of high COVID-19 activity within King County, weekly testing supports our goals of keeping our doors open and our community members safe. As we learn more about COVID-19 and the role testing can play in mitigating the risk of contracting and spreading COVID-19, we will reassess the frequency of the testing and make modifications as needed.

    We are finalizing details with our testing vendors and will share more information once it’s available.

    Thank you for taking the time to review these updates. You may also access this information here: http://northwestschool.org/daily-life/covid-protocols. Feel free to send any questions you may have about our protocols to Sierra or to me.

    Please understand that as more information is learned about COVID-19 and as different guidelines or recommendations are issued by public health officials, we will continue to update and modify our policies and procedures accordingly. Our goal will always be to prioritize the health and safety of our community members while staying true to our mission and values.

    We look forward to welcoming students to campus next week!

    Take care,

    Ray

  • August 24: Letter from Head of School - COVID Safety Updates

    We are all aware of the latest order that Governor Inslee announced last week that all school employees must be vaccinated or have an approved exemption on file. As of today, more than 98% of our faculty are fully vaccinated. As expected, we have under 2% of our faculty with exemptions that fall under approved legal guidelines. As a school community, we are in full compliance and look forward to making continued progress with strengthening our safety measures for the start of school.

    Through our weekly communication focused solely on COVID-19, all families will be informed about updated Northwest School policies and/or protocols resulting from shifts in guidelines and/or recommendations set forth by Public Health – Seattle & King County (PHSKC); the Washington State Department of Health (WA DOH); the Washington Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI); and, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

    Updates since last week’s letter dated August 17, 2021:

    Vaccination Policy

    Over the past many months, we've learned that vaccination is the single most important way to keep ourselves and our community safe. Therefore, all eligible NWS students must be fully vaccinated for COVID-19 prior to the start of school.

    For those already fully vaccinated, please upload vaccine information via Magnus by September 9. Families not able to vaccinate their eligible students should contact Health Coordinator Sierra Maxwell by September 1 to discuss our exemption policy.

    As of August 23, 54.5% of eligible students are fully vaccinated. We anticipate that as we approach the start of school, the number will increase, especially since the announcement of full FDA approval of the Pfizer vaccine.

    Please note that we are keeping a close eye on vaccine approval status for students under 12, which is important to many Northwest School families with younger students or siblings at home.

    Northwest will plan to host a vaccine clinic on campus in September on a date to be announced in a future communication.

    Face Coverings

    Correct use of face coverings or masks helps prevent the spread of COVID-19. Masks are required when indoors for all students, faculty, and visitors regardless of vaccination status. Masks may only be removed when actively eating or drinking during lunch. In moments when masks are removed (i.e., during lunch or break), a minimum of 6ft of distance must be maintained at all times.

    We have additional 3-ply surgical face masks available should anyone need a replacement for any reason.

    Physical Distancing

    Public health officials have noted that physical distancing requirements should not prevent a school from offering full-time, in-person learning to all students/families in the fall. We will maintain physical distance to the degree possible and reasonable that allows for full-time, in-person learning for all students. All of our classrooms will be set up to allow at least 3ft of distance between each student. When masks cannot be worn, such as when eating lunch, students will be distanced at least six feet apart from one another.

    Submitting Immunization Records

    The only immunization we are collecting via Magnus is the COVID-19 vaccine. All other immunization records need to be emailed directly to the Health Coordinator. Please email your student’s medically verified immunization records to our Health Coordinator, Sierra Maxwell (sierra.maxwell@northwestschool.org) before the first day of school.

    Thank you for taking the time to review these updates. You may also access this information here: http://northwestschool.org/daily-life/covid-protocols. Feel free to send any questions you may have about our protocols to Sierra or to me.

    Please understand that as more information is learned about COVID-19 and as different guidelines or recommendations are issued by public health officials, we will continue to update and modify our policies and procedures accordingly. Our goal will always be to prioritize the health and safety of our community members while staying true to our mission and values.

    We look forward to welcoming you all back to campus in September!

    Take care,
    Ray

  • August 17: Letter from Head of School - Full COVID Safety Protocols

    We are excited to welcome everyone back in person this fall! Below is information for your planning purposes. Specifically, you will notice that all eligible NWS students must be vaccinated for COVID-19 prior to the start of school. Additionally, we have updated our testing and travel policies. After reviewing the details regarding our health reminders, please feel free to reach out to me or Sierra Maxwell, our Health Coordinator.

    Fall Opening Protocols

    As you continue your summer experiences, you should know that we are gearing up for the start of school—we are focusing on completing student schedules, program offerings, and curriculum planning, and we are refreshing our health and safety protocols. We plan to open for 100% in-person learning in September as we continue to monitor the ongoing health situation in Seattle. We will maintain the safety protocols that were in place this spring when we returned to in-person learning, including the required use of masks indoors and when using school-provided transportation, as recommended in recent guidance from local, state, and federal health officials.

    Keeping our Community Healthy: COVID-19 Mitigation Strategies

    We believe there is nothing more important than safeguarding your student’s health. Our policies and procedures for the upcoming school year are informed and guided by recommendations and requirements from Public Health – Seattle & King County (PHSKC); the Washington State Department of Health (WA DOH); the Washington Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI); and, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Please take note of the following reminders and review them with your family as we begin our next school year together.

    We are implementing the following mitigation strategies for the upcoming school year:

    • vaccinations
    • face coverings/masks
    • physical distancing
    • improved ventilation
    • handwashing and respiratory etiquette
    • regular cleaning
    • disinfecting
    • travel policy
    • staying home when sick and seeking evaluation
    • on-site vaccination clinic
    • COVID-19 testing
    • contact tracing in combination with quarantine and isolation
    • appropriately responding to cases of COVID-19, and meeting the reporting requirements to public health agencies

    Each strategy is covered in more detail below.

    Strategy Specifics

    The following strategies are intended to help reduce the risk of exposure to, and transmission of, COVID-19 within our community. Our intent is to provide a safe environment for our students, faculty, and community at large. NWS has taken a multi-layered approach to campus safety to provide a low-hazard environment in which to learn, teach, work, and visit.

    Vaccination Policy (updated August 31, 2021)

    Over the past many months, we've learned that vaccination is the single most important way to keep ourselves and our community safe. Therefore, all eligible NWS students must be vaccinated for COVID-19 prior to the start of school.

    We recognize that access to immunizations varies by family. We are asking that everyone currently eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine receives at least one dose prior to the start of the school year. With that said, it is our expectation that all eligible students will receive their second COVID-19 vaccine dose no later than September 30. This will ensure that all eligible students are fully vaccinated no later than October 14. This time frame is consistent with the vaccine administration timeline.

    For those already vaccinated, please upload vaccine information via Magnus by September 9. Families not planning to vaccinate their eligible students should contact Health Coordinator Sierra Maxwell by September 1 to discuss our exemption policy.

    Since the vaccines became available, more than 98% of our faculty have chosen to receive it. As expected, we have under 2% of our faculty with exemptions that fall under approved guidelines. We are also very excited about our current student vaccination progress and look forward to watching our numbers increase as we grow closer to the start of the new school year. As of August 31, 79.76% of eligible students have been fully vaccinated.

    Please note that we are keeping a close eye on vaccine approval status for students under 12, which is important to many Northwest families with younger students or siblings at home.

    On-Site Vaccination Clinic (updated August 31, 2021)

    This clinic will be available to those who are eligible to receive a booster shot, those outside of our immediate NWS community, those who have recently become eligible due to recent birthdays, and those who need to receive their second dose. We understand that due to the late announcement of our vaccine policy, some may not meet the criteria of being fully vaccinated prior to the first day of school.

    Weekly Testing (updated August 31, 2021)

    We will implement on-site COVID-19 screening testing throughout the upcoming school year. For the first month of the 2021-2022 school year, we plan to test every faculty member and student each week. This method allows us to identify cases immediately and prevent secondary transmission from occurring on campus. In these moments of high COVID-19 activity within King County, weekly testing supports our goals of keeping our doors open and our community members safe. As we learn more about COVID-19 and the role testing can play in mitigating the risk of contracting and spreading COVID-19, we will reassess the frequency of the testing and make modifications as needed. In the event someone tests positive for COVID-19, the isolation and quarantine protocols below will be followed.

    We are finalizing details with our testing vendors and will share more information once it’s available.

    Face Coverings

    Correct use of face coverings or masks helps prevent the spread of COVID-19. Masks are required when indoors for all students, faculty, and visitors regardless of vaccination status. Per the Secretary of Health’s Mask Order, face coverings are not required outdoors, regardless of vaccination status. We have additional face masks available should anyone need a replacement for any reason.

    Physical Distancing

    Public health officials have noted that physical distancing requirements should not prevent a school from offering full-time, in-person learning to all students/families in the fall. We will maintain physical distancing to the degree possible and reasonable that allows for full-time, in-person learning for all students. When masks cannot be worn, such as when eating lunch, students will be at least six feet apart from one another.

    Ventilation

    All of our mechanical ventilation systems have been upgraded with medical grade filtration and retrofitted with Needlepoint Bipolar Ionization technology. Needlepoint Bipolar Ionization is the gold standard for indoor air quality. We have also added air scrubbers to provide additional purification throughout the main school building. In areas without access to mechanical ventilation, we will have windows open with fans placed for appropriate air intake/outtake and will also have stand-alone, medical-grade filtration units strategically placed to maximize air filtration/ventilation in those spaces.

    Handwashing & Respiratory Etiquette

    We have several hand sanitizing stations located throughout campus. At a minimum, students and faculty should wash their hands prior to arriving to campus, before and after meals, after going to the restroom, after using a tissue for coughing or sneezing, and before leaving campus. Hands should be washed between all activities. Washing your hands is the single most effective way to prevent the spread of infections.

    Cleaning and Disinfecting

    We have a detailed, methodical, multi-layered process for cleaning and disinfecting our campus daily. Our plan uses EPA-approved products, is deployed by various stakeholders throughout the course of a day, and is focused on occupied areas throughout campus.

    Travel Policy

    Unvaccinated Persons Traveling Domestically

    All unvaccinated persons planning to travel out of the state must complete the following before returning to campus:

    1. Quarantine for a full 7 days AND
    2. Get a COVID-19 test 3-5 days after your trip AND
    3. Confirm test results with the Health Coordinator (sierra.maxwell@northwestschool.org)

    OR

    1. Quarantine for 10 days

    Vaccinated Persons Traveling Domestically

    All vaccinated persons planning to travel out of the state must self-monitor for COVID-19 symptoms upon their return. If at any point symptoms develop, notify the Health Coordinator, isolate, and get tested as soon as possible.

    Staying Home When Sick

    Students and faculty who have symptoms of infectious illness, such as influenza or COVID-19, should stay home and seek medical evaluation, which may include testing for COVID-19 and other respiratory infections. If your student is sick or not feeling well, please keep them at home and notify the school as soon as possible. Our Health Coordinator will help plan a return to campus based on your specific situation.

    Isolation

    Anyone who reports COVID-19-like symptoms will be immediately isolated from others, sent home, and referred to diagnostic testing as soon as feasible. While waiting to leave school, the symptomatic individual will be isolated in a designated isolation space and will be monitored by the Health Coordinator. The isolation protocols below apply regardless of vaccination status.

    Symptomatic Isolation Protocol (Positive COVID-19 Test)

    If a person tests positive for COVID-19, and they’re experiencing symptoms, they can return to campus when the following criteria are met:

    • 10 days since symptom onset AND
    • 24 hours after fever resolves without use of fever-reducing medications AND
    • Symptoms have improved

    Symptomatic Isolation Protocol (Negative COVID-19 Test)

    If the COVID-19 test comes back negative, they can return to campus when the following criteria are met:

    • 24 hours after fever resolves without use of fever-reducing medications, AND
    • Symptoms have improved

    Asymptomatic Isolation Protocol

    If a person tests positive for COVID-19 but has not had any symptoms, they can return to campus when the following criteria are met:

    • At least 10 days have passed since the date of the first COVID-19 test AND
    • They are still not experiencing any signs or symptoms

    Quarantine

    Quarantine is when someone who has been exposed to COVID-19 stays home and away from others for the recommended period of time in case they were infected and are contagious. In the event someone tests positive for COVID-19, all close contacts will be identified and made aware of our quarantine protocols. A close contact is someone who was within six feet of a person with COVID-19 for at least 15 cumulative minutes over a 24-hour period during the period of time when the person with COVID-19 was infectious.

    If at any point during a quarantine period someone experiences signs/symptoms consistent with COVID-19, they will discontinue quarantine and begin following the isolation protocols above.

    Quarantine Protocol

    A person identified as a close contact can return to campus once:

    • At least 10 days have passed since the last close contact with the COVID-19 positive person AND
    • A negative COVID-19 test has been conducted on day 7-8 of the quarantine period. The test results must be sent to the Health Coordinator AND
    • No symptoms are present

    Close Contact Quarantine Exemption for Students

    • In a K-12 classroom, the close contact definition excludes students who were at least three feet away from an infected student when (a) both students were wearing face masks, and (b) other prevention strategies were in place.

    This exception does not apply to teachers, support faculty, or other adults in the indoor classroom setting. The ultimate determination of close contact is made by the local health jurisdiction during its investigation.

    Magnus Reminder

    Please be sure to have all your student’s health records uploaded to Magnus. The following requirements need to be completed via Magnus before the first day of school:

    • Complete/review the Vital Health Record
    • Upload your student’s COVID-19 vaccine record if they have received it
    • Complete the Over-the-Counter Medications form
    • Complete the Physical Exam Form
    • Review the Concussion & Cardiac Arrest Forms with your student
    • If your student has asthma, allergies, diabetes, or suffers from seizures, complete and upload an Action Plan
    • If your upper school student will participate in upper school seasonal sports, complete the Athletics Waiver & Athletic Trainer Consent-to-Treat Agreement
    • If your student will reside in the dorm or will have local guardians, please complete the Required forms for Dormitory or Day students

    If you need any assistance with this process, please email: nws-mbp@northwestschoo.org.

    If you experience technical issues with Magnus, please visit: https://helpdesk.magnushealth.com/customer/portal/emails/new.

    Immunizations

    Please email your student’s medically verified immunization records to our Health Coordinator, Sierra Maxwell (sierra.maxwell@northwestschool.org) before the first day of school. For more information on this process, please review the message on your My BackPack account.

    Thank you for taking the time to review these health reminders with your family. We appreciate your patience and understanding as we navigate yet another unpredictable school year together. Please understand that as more information is learned about COVID-19 and as different guidelines or recommendations are issued by public health officials, we will continue to update and modify our policies and procedures accordingly. Our goal will always be to prioritize the health and safety of our community members while staying true to our mission and values.

    We look forward to welcoming you all back to campus in September!

    Take care,

    Ray