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Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Message from the School

March 31, 2020

Dear SJS Community,

With today's announcement of the "stay home, stay safe" order remaining in effect through the end of April, St. John's School will extend its remote learning program until Monday, May 4.

Your child's respective division head will continue to be in touch, and Class 12 parents and students will be receiving a message soon regarding plans for the Commencement ceremony.

List of 6 items.

  • March 16 Message from the Headmaster

    Dear St. John's Community,

    I am writing to update the community on the surreal and unprecedented impact of COVID-19. One of the most heroic figures emerging in our national efforts to address this pernicious virus is Dr. Anthony Fauci who recently commented about containment strategies by using Wayne Gretsky's words, "Skate to where the puck is going, not where it has been.” We will be taking this advice.

    Given how rapidly evolving the situation has become, and understanding that many within our community are traveling over spring break, we will be adjusting the implementation of our distance-learning program by one week. In other words, we will "officially" start back with distance learning on Monday, March 30. We make this move to provide our faculty and parent community the opportunity to make the necessary adjustments for us to help "flatten the curve" of COVID-19. Having no official school responsibilities from March 23–27 is our attempt to give you the time to prepare for what will be a far more intensive and restrictive daily life experience than any of us had imagined even a few days ago.

    Your child's division head will be reaching out midway next week via email to communicate in greater detail what will take place. As of March 17, St. John's School administrators, faculty, and staff (with limited exceptions) will begin working remotely. On-campus operations will be essentially shut down in order to comply with state and federal recommendations to practice social distancing to help mitigate the spread of the COVID-19 virus. In addition, our distance-learning program will continue through at least Friday, April 10. We join our colleagues from all Houston and surrounding-area public schools who recently made this decision as well.

    This is a difficult communication to write. We all have been impacted to varying degrees by the relentless and powerful spread of COVID-19. Like many of you, I worry about my parents whose current age makes them a prime target of this virus. I've had one son sent home early from college and a daughter who was ordered to work remotely in Midland, TX. My oldest daughter is self-quarantined in her apartment in San Francisco while her husband, a St. John's alum, is fighting this outbreak on the front lines as a medical resident in the ICU at The University of California at San Francisco. Finally, I have a son who is a senior at St. John's. It's been hard to communicate the avalanche of bad news that seems to roll out of my mouth on a regular basis. I know I'm not alone. Each adult reading this either has already been impacted or soon will be impacted – and perhaps in much more serious ways.

    Yet while it is challenging to deliver disappointing news, my heart is filled with admiration for so many within the St. John's community – including current parents, former parents, alumni, and grandparents – who are doing remarkable and amazing things every day to stem the tide of this outbreak. The collective power of the St. John's community will continue to unleash itself and steadfastly fight on until this contagion ceases to leverage its seemingly complete control of our lives.

    We need to support and lean on each other now more than ever. Our community is here for you, and we will continue to partner with you as we start truly to dig in. If you have not already read Peggy Noonan's most recent column in The Wall Street Journal, I offer it to you as a pastoral family reading. She puts things in perspective and provides one last piece of advice that would make even Dr. Fauci smile: “Don't ‘wash your hands’; wash your hands like Lady Macbeth with obsessive-compulsive disorder.”

    Be safe,

    Mark Desjardins
  • March 12 Message from the Headmaster

    Dear St. John’s Community,

    I write to bring you up to date on the School’s approach to managing the COVID-19 outbreak. Please know that we continue to touch base with medical experts, peer institutions, and leadership from regional and national educational associations, and remain in constant contact with local and state public health officials. As we closely monitor the impact of COVID-19, I am at a loss to recall a situation in my 34-year career that has created this amount of uncertainty and presented such a variety of complex challenges. As one of my colleagues recently noted, “We are building the ship as it sails.”

    Given the rapidly evolving COVID-19 situation, we believe that it is in the best interest of our community to cancel classes tomorrow, Friday, March 13. Also, in consideration of the widely planned travel that many of our families will undertake during spring break, we will cancel onsite academic classes the week of March 23-27. As such, students will be asked to bring books and study materials home so that they will be able to participate fully in a remote learning setting.

    The decision to cancel classes was not made lightly. I understand and appreciate that for many families this decision will be inconvenient and highly disruptive to your normal routines. Our primary motivation is to protect the health and safety of all members of our community. Following the recommendations of the CDC, the impetus of this decision is to limit large group gatherings and other meetings that require being indoors and in close proximity of others for prolonged periods of time. By doing so, we hope to contribute our part in mitigating the spread of COVID-19 within the larger Houston community.

    The plan for the week of March 23-27 is to engage students in our remote learning program. On Monday, March 23, and Tuesday, March 24, teachers will assign independent work for their students; then starting on Wednesday, March 25, teachers will begin a modified schedule to include online instruction for students. A detailed plan, including the status of extracurricular activities, will be addressed in forthcoming emails from each division head and will be posted on this webpage.

    In an effort to help us monitor the travel activity of our community over spring break, we ask SJS community members who will be traveling internationally to fill out this Google form.

    While we are certainly in uncharted waters, we are buoyed by the excellent work of our faculty and staff. They have worked tirelessly over the past several weeks to help keep our community safe and have strived to maintain a level of normalcy during this time of heightened anxiety. We have confronted difficult challenges before and have emerged stronger and more united as a community. I ask for your continued patience, empathy, and support as we work together to address and overcome this latest obstacle.

    With appreciation,

    Mark Desjardins       John Moody
    Headmaster             Chairman, Board of Trustees

  • March 8 Message from the Headmaster

    Dear St. John’s Community,
    We apologize for intruding upon your Sunday afternoon with this communication, but as the impact of the Coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19) outbreak continues to widen, we want to address international and domestic travel for spring break. We acknowledge the stress and uncertainty that many in our community are experiencing, especially those who are serving in the medical community and those individuals whose normal routines have already been disrupted.
    In light of the unusual nature of this outbreak, we have been speaking and consulting with colleagues across the country about how best to protect members of our community and mitigate the potential spread of this virus to the best of our ability. In consulting with the SJS Clinical Services Team and in keeping with the practice of using an abundance of caution, we are asking for your cooperation in adhering to the following travel protocol.
    Following guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), we ask that you avoid personal travel to CDC Warning Level 3 areas (currently China, Iran, Italy, and South Korea) and Alert Level 2 areas (Japan). If you do intend to travel to these areas, we ask that you immediately contact the appropriate SJS division head since travel to these areas triggers the CDC’s 14-day self-quarantine period. While your child’s absence will be excused, we will need advance preparation to help generate an alternative plan for educational outreach during the time of self-quarantine. Please note that because of the inconvenience factor in preparing an alternative course of study, those families who choose not to inform us of their travel plans into CDC-elevated areas prior to their actual travel will not receive an “excused” absence. We truly appreciate your genuine cooperation and partnership with us.
    Based upon the advice and counsel we have received from both medical professionals and several of our peer associations in secondary and higher education, as of today we are canceling all school-related spring break travel, including athletic competitions, academic symposiums/contests, professional conferences, and any other St. John’s-related work. At the time of writing this message, states of emergency or public health emergencies have been declared for the states of California, Florida, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, and Washington.
    Please note: These decisions to cancel travel are not intended to generate panic or fear, but rather to mitigate any risk associated with this rapidly evolving situation. Limiting school-sponsored travel for now is one way to contribute to our national effort to contain the COVID-19 outbreak. Containment is the most effective strategy we have at our disposal, and effective adherence to this practice will have the most significant impact on the health and well-being of our students and the broader community.
    While the School takes no position on individual family decisions related to domestic travel, we advocate visiting local public health information sites to ascertain levels of risk and following the guidelines that they have created.
    For anyone traveling during spring break, whether student, faculty, or staff, please be sure to take any materials (books, laptop, etc.) you need to do your work in the event that changing circumstances could affect your ability to return to campus in the near term.
    As a reminder, tomorrow morning will be a K-12 delayed start at 9:30 A.M. due to a K-12 faculty meeting. Campus will not be open until 9:15 A.M. This includes all gates to the academic campuses. We will have a larger security staff present to help direct traffic, but anticipate higher traffic than usual. Tardies will not be counted tomorrow morning.

    The main purpose of tomorrow’s late start is to afford the entire faculty the opportunity to begin the process of coordinating our remote learning plan in the event that we are asked to close school. The specifics of this plan will be communicated soon. While the plan will not attempt to replicate the full school day, our objectives will be highly focused on delivering curricular content and maintaining a sense of community. We will have a predictable and structured sequence of learning activities Monday through Friday with at least two active online sessions per day. We have already benefited greatly from speaking with our colleagues across the globe who have been forced into prolonged remote learning situations. We plan to incorporate “lessons learned” from them as we design our own program. At the time of writing this message, we learned that Lakeside School in Seattle, whom we view as a peer institution, has closed and is implementing its distance learning program. We will have the benefit of working with them as we tweak our program.
    We appreciate your patience and empathy as we begin to undertake the challenges associated with this outbreak. Please continue to monitor this webpage for additional information and updates. We will do our best to limit communications to “essential” matters and continue to post important and relevant information on the Quicklink. Given the need for our families to start making the necessary adjustments related to spring break travel, we wanted to provide you with important information to guide your decision.
    Mark Desjardins
  • March 4 Message from SJS Clinical Services Team

    March 4, 2020

    Dear SJS Community,

    We write to ensure you that our leadership team is carefully monitoring the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. As mentioned in earlier communication, our utmost priority is the physical and emotional health of our students, faculty, and staff and the broader St. John’s community. We also want to provide timely, effective, and data-driven communication to minimize fear and the dissemination of inaccurate information. Our partnership with you is critical as we navigate this evolving situation.

    What We Know:
    The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the World Health Organization (WHO), and state and local public health departments are excellent sources of up-to-date information. The following are highlights from these expert resources of what is currently known about this disease.

    The COVID-19 infection is caused by a newly identified coronavirus which likely came from an animal to human transmission in China in December 2019. Coronaviruses are respiratory viruses, and other strains can cause the common cold and rarely, more serious respiratory infections. Currently, over 80,000 people worldwide have been infected with this novel or new coronavirus strain. The risk of infection in the United States remains low.

    Common symptoms include fever, cough, and shortness of breath. The infection has been more prevalent in adults with fewer than 2% of clinically detected infections occurring in children less than 14 years of age. More serious infections have developed in 16% of patients, and the vast majority of these patients have been over the age of 70. Currently, the fatality rate is 1.4%, and advanced age and pre-existing chronic illness have been contributing factors in these deaths.

    Transmission of the disease in the community is largely person-to-person. The virus is spread by respiratory droplets through coughing or sneezing and close contact (within three feet) of others. Another mode of transmission is through touching a contaminated surface followed by touching one’s face or mouth.

    What We Are Doing:
    We have instituted additional hygiene measures to address the spread of all viral respiratory infections, including influenza and the common cold. These measures are not specific to COVID-19. It will be helpful if you review these practices with your children and diligently practice and model them yourself. These include:
    • Emphasis on frequent and thorough handwashing
    • The use of an alcohol-based hand sanitizer (which is widely available on our campus)
    • Avoidance of touching the face and mouth
    • Frequent wiping of commonly touched surfaces with disinfectant
    • Encouraging proper “cough and sneeze” hygiene by using tissues followed by handwashing
    • Substitute “fist-bumps” for handshakes in social situations and following athletic competitions
    • Staying home if sick
    • Discouraging the use of face masks. There is no evidence that the use of face masks prevents healthy people from getting sick, and the use of face masks may limit the supply to healthcare providers who may need them.
    Travel During Spring Break and Beyond:
    Please refer to the CDC website for the most up-to-date travel advisories. It is important to recognize that the situation is evolving, and countries that fall under travel restrictions can change. As countries evaluate travel into and out of their regions, limitations and bans are being put into effect, often with little or no prior warning. Please give careful consideration to your travel plans over spring break and beyond.

    Currently, there is no restriction for travel within the United States. At this time, there is no plan to cancel SJS athletic team trips over spring break; travel is within the continental United States. We will continue to monitor any recommendations from the CDC or health departments regarding travel restrictions and will communicate any changes if they become necessary.

    Working Together as a Community:
    Thank you for your continued support and partnership as we navigate this situation. Please continue to visit the Quicklink on the SJS website for posting of updated communication and helpful resources.


    Tesa Stark, MSN, CPNP, Director of Clinical Services
    Staci DeGregori, RN, Middle School Nurse
    Lorri Wolff, RN, Lower School Nurse
    Scott Dorfman, M.D., Medical Director
  • March 4 Message to the Community

    March 4, 2020

    Dear SJS Community,

    As we continue to monitor Coronavirus (COVID-19), the School's top priorities include the physical and emotional health of our students, faculty, and staff and the broader St. John's community. We also want to provide timely, effective, and data-driven communication to minimize fear and the dissemination of inaccurate information.

    On Monday, March 9, there will be a K-12 delayed start at 9:30 AM due to a meeting for teaching faculty. Do not drop off early; campus will be inaccessible and drop-off will not begin until 9:15 AM. This meeting will allow for necessary contingency planning as related to delivering educational programming online in the event that there is the need for a prolonged school closure. When these plans are finalized, they will be shared with the community.

    In the next 24 hours, you will be receiving an email from the SJS Wellness team about COVID-19. In addition, please continue to monitor this webpage for any additional resources.

    We continue to monitor this highly fluid situation and ask for your continued patience and partnership as we work through the potential implications of how the virus may impact our community.
  • March 2 Message from the Headmaster

    March 2, 2020

    Dear SJS Community,

    Even though there have been no reported cases of the novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) in Houston, I write to reassure our community that we are carefully monitoring this highly fluid situation. We remain in close contact with officials from the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) and the Independent Schools Association of the Southwest (ISAS), and we are monitoring communications from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and local public health authorities. Please visit the links provided on the right for more information on this topic.

    Per the information we have collected, we strongly encourage everyone to continue practicing diligent, healthy hygiene as we remain in the midst of cold and flu season. You can help prevent the spreading of viral infections by adhering to standard protocol of washing hands and avoiding touching eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands. Most importantly, keep your children home if they are ill and do not allow them to return to school until they are symptom free for a period of 24 hours. Please do not hesitate to seek out the nurse in your child's respective division if you have specific questions.

    We will continue to monitor this situation and be in touch with any important updates. This Quicklink will serve as a conduit of important and timely information related to COVID-19. In addition, members of the School's leadership team will be meeting in the coming days to review various contingency plans related to the possible spreading of this virus. This will include developing a plan for continuing educational outreach in the event of a prolonged school closure. Those plans will be made available to you once they are finalized.

    Concerns for the safety and well-being for all members of our community continue to be and will always remain our highest priority. I can assure you that every decision we make will be made out of an abundance of caution for the purpose of reducing risk, which stems from our responsibility and duty to protect both our students and members of the St. John's community.


    Mark Desjardins

Event Cancellations

April 7: Boys' HJPC Golf Tournament

April 7: US/MS Orchestra Show

April 8: Girls' HJPC Golf Tournament

April 15: HJPC Tennis Tournament

April 15: US/MS Band Concert

April 17: US/MS Choral Concert Show

April 17-18: Boys Lacrosse SPC

April 20-21 & 23: Spring HJPC

April 22-23: Institute for Social Emotional Learning (SEL) Workshop

April 22-24: Class 5 T Bar M Trip

April 24-25: Alumni Reunion Weekend

April 24-25: US Dance Show

April 25: MS Dance Show

April 27-28: Golf SPC

April 30-May 2: Spring SPC

St. John's School

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