From the Head: Moving to Mask Optional & More

Dear Aidan Families,

On March 8th, the District of Columbia released new COVID-19 guidance for schools and child care facilities. There are many implications for Aidan Montessori School in that guidance. The most notable changes are that the District has lifted the mask mandates for schools and child care facilities and physical distancing is no longer required while DC remains in LOW or MEDIUM transmission. 

This means that Aidan Montessori School is moving to a MASK OPTIONAL policy as of Thursday, March 10, 2022.

As with most things COVID, some in our community will welcome this change, and for others it will cause concern. There will be students, faculty, and staff who continue to wear masks for a variety of reasons, and our community must and will respect that.

As a community, we respect individual decisions about whether to mask or unmask. In concordance with the values of Aidan Montessori School, we will model acceptance and inclusion. 

While we transition to a mask optional policy, we will continue to follow the mitigation strategies we have employed throughout the school year. These strategies include:

  • Use of our new Direct Outside Air HVAC system;
  • Enhanced cleaning of the building;
  • Use of weekly COVID-19 testing and Test-to-Stay strategies;
  • Availability of masks on site;
  • Requiring those who are participating in Test-to-Stay or are experiencing COVID-like symptoms to wear a mask;
  • Daily wellness screenings by way of the Magnus App.

We will continue to ask that families err on the side of caution when considering sending an ill child to school–please, keep them home. We also know that quarantining when ill greatly reduces transmission, and we will continue to follow the DoH for guidance regarding ongoing quarantine requirements.  

We wanted to get these important changes communicated out to all of you as soon as possible, given that these changes will begin on Thursday. There are many other implications as a result of this new guidance, and you should anticipate a more fleshed out set of information forthwith. 

We also anticipate that your child may have questions about this change in the mask policy. Here are some recommendations from our school counselor, Ms. Labson, on how to prepare children for the end of the masking requirement. 

  1. Reassure your child that you are confident that it is now safe to be maskless because the smartest scientists and doctors have carefully studied it.
  2. There are lots of things that have led the experts (and Aidan) to decide that it's safe to be maskless at school: most of us are now vaccinated, the numbers of cases of COVID are now very low, and we are still being careful in other ways such as hand washing and staying home if we become sick.
  3. Validate any feelings the child is having about the change. It's perfectly normal to be nervous about a big change like this when your parents and teachers have been reminding you about careful masking for so long (for many of our students, more than half of their life!).
  4. Understand that it may take some time for your child to feel comfortable without the mask. If your child wants to continue wearing the mask, after doing (1), (2) and (3) above, don't push it—let them continue to wear a mask. Chances are that after being at school for multiple days with most classmates and teachers maskless, they will start to feel comfortable with the idea and choose to go maskless themselves. Check in frequently with your child on their feelings as the change is implemented at Aidan.
  5. Reach out to your child's teacher or Ms. Labson if the change is creating anxiety that does not quickly pass. We want to support you.

As we look ahead to the next phase of the pandemic and the updates to our mask policy, Aidan will also continue to support and strongly encourage vaccines for age-eligible children, and this will be a requirement of enrollment at all schools–public and private–in the coming school year, per the DC Department of Health.

The health and safety of our faculty and students is of paramount importance. There are many short- and long-term health implications for anyone who contracts COVID-19. As we reduce mitigation measures, we must not let our guard down entirely. 

The cooperation and conscientiousness of all Aidan families is what has enabled us to have such a stellar record on COVID-19 in our tight-knit community. Let’s continue to keep Grace and Courtesy at the fore of our thinking through this next phase of the pandemic. 

Sincerely,

Kevin Clark

Head of School

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