Summary of Major Updates to First Church Preschool Covid Safety Policies

Starting March 7th, 2022

Dear FCP Community,

As you are aware, the CDC released new guidelines for masking last Friday shortly after FCP shared our updated Covid Policies. After reviewing the components of the new metrics, First Church Preschool has amended its Covid Policies to allow “Optional Masking” for children and staff. The new policy will be implemented March 7 to allow us to work through some staffing issues this week.

Optional masking will be dependent upon the following criteria:

· During periods of Low or Medium Covid-19 Community Levels in Fairfield County (as calculated and reported by the CDC) masks will be optional for all staff and children.

· During periods of High Covid-19 Community Levels, masks will be mandatory for all staff and children inside the buildings; masks remain optional outdoors.

· FCP may require short periods of mandatory masking if deemed in the community’s best interest (e.g., positivity rates within our own school community spike).

· All children and staff (regardless of masking choice) will be required to wear a mask upon returning to school following a close contact quarantine (on days 6 – 10).

Given the feedback that we have received from parents and teachers over the past two weeks, we fully expect many children and staff members will continue to wear masks and we fully support this. Please remind your children that masking is an individual family decision, and while your family may feel comfortable removing masks, others may not. Encourage your children to show kindness and respect to each other, as teachers will be reinforcing this message with the children as well.

Regardless of your masking choice for your child, we ask that you continue to take extra care to keep your children home from school if they exhibit any illness symptoms or appear under the weather (regardless of the specific cause of the illness). The CDC and other medical experts stress this need for shared responsibility and vigilance to keep our communities safe as we transition to optional masking. FCP families have always been very thoughtful and supportive in this regard, and we would like to encourage you to continue making decisions to protect your family, as well as others, as we enter this new phase of the pandemic.

If you wish to have your children remove their masks while inside the school building, please sign and return the Mask Optional Release Form to the office by this Friday, March 4, 12pm (form is under the Covid-19 tab on our website). We will prepare a list for the teachers so they will know the wishes of each child’s parents. Children for whom we have not received a signed form will need to wear a mask, and FCP staff will do their best to encourage and help them to do so (per our current practice).

Please be reminded that our First Church Preschool community is a small, compassionate, caring group of families, teachers, and staff who have one incredibly important, shared goal – helping our precious children grow intellectually, socially, and emotionally. Please treat others with the respect and empathy that you expect in return. As we watch the terrible struggles unfolding in Europe, we are reminded of what a wonderful privilege we all enjoy in being able to voice our own opinions, without ridicule or fear of retaliation and retribution.

The updated Covid Policies have been posted under the Covid-19 tab on the website for your review. Thank you for your ongoing collaboration and partnership!

Your First Church Preschool Board of Directors

As of February 25, 2022 

Travel: All travel-related quarantine and testing requirements have been removed. The Board recognizes that at this time, the risks associated with travel are not unique and families should continue to practice prudent preventive measures regardless of their location. 

Screening Tests following school breaks: Screening tests upon return from extended school breaks will be suspended for the remainder of the year due to significantly reduced transmission rates; if infection rates suddenly spike, the Board may reconsider this policy. 

Quarantines: 

· Children under the age of 3 who come in close contact with an individual who has tested positive will now follow the same 5-day minimum quarantine requirement as the rest of the school (rather than 10 days per OEC guidance). FCP’s experience has been that children who have contracted Covid through in-school transmission have all tested positive by day 5 of quarantine. While this change minimizes the child’s absence, it could also present an increased risk of transmission, especially with our youngest children who struggle to consistently wear properly fitted masks. Parents should feel free to keep their children home longer if they prefer. 

· 90-day post Covid exclusion from quarantine – our current practice is that asymptomatic individuals who have tested positive within the past 90 days are not required to quarantine. We have updated our written Policies to reflect this practice. 

Testing

· Families may now choose PCR or Antigen tests when required. Specific details are provided in the Covid Policies, but in general, one PCR or two antigen tests, taken 24 hours apart, will be required. 

· Asymptomatic individuals who have tested positive within the past 90 days will not be required to test in most situations. 

Masks: Masking will continue to be required inside the building at this time. The Board will continuously evaluate local conditions and guidance and will make further adjustments as warranted. 

· The Board looked to several sources of medical and educational guidance on masking, and strongly considered the wishes of all parents. Guidance from the American Academy of Pediatrics and the CT Office of Early Childhood weighed heavily with us, as both organizations are uniquely focused on children’s emotional wellbeing as well as physical health. As stated on Jan 27, 2022, “The AAP currently recommends universal masking in school, with an emphasis on indoor masking” to enable safe in-person learning. On Feb 15, 2022, the OEC’s guidance “continues to recommend mask wearing … this guidance is based on the fact that children under 5 cannot be vaccinated, leaving them at higher risk for infection and for spreading the virus.” 

· While several of our FCP children have already contracted Covid, and were fortunate to have mild cases, many have not. As we have been reminded by several of our FCP parents and medical experts, the long-term effects of Covid are still unknown, and while not prevalent, extreme cases among children have been more frequent with the Omicron variant. 

· While it may be of little solace to some of our parents, children are not required to wear masks outside, and as the weather improves, teachers will be scheduling even more class time outdoors. All classes go out at least one time each day for a minimum of 20 minutes, even throughout the winter months, so children have those opportunities to interact and communicate without masks. 

Classroom Closures: The 48-hour mandatory classroom closure for cleaning following an in-school exposure will be eliminated. Our experience over the past 45 days has shown that we are able to complete all cleaning protocols in normal course without the additional closure. This will reduce absences for those children who are not required to quarantine. 

Vaccinated children: It appears from the survey comments that there may be some confusion regarding protocols for vaccinated children. As they become fully vaccinated, your children will follow the protocols for vaccinated individuals as detailed in the Covid Policies (e.g., if asymptomatic, no need to quarantine when exposed to an individual who has tested positive).

Looking for PCR testing? Here are some suggestions:

Quarantine Activities

Is your child currently in quarantine? Here is a list of resources and activities to keep them engaged and learning while at home!