COVID-19 Information Center
Updated Covid Policies: 3/3/2022
Dear Waldron Mercy Academy Community,
Since the beginning of the pandemic, we have made innumerable decisions regarding the health and safety of our students and staff. We know that you at home have also had to make an incredible amount of decisions, both small and large, so the mental toll of these past few years is not lost on us. Our decision making process, then and now, has always been centered around keeping your children and our staff safe, healthy, and learning/teaching in-person. We are committed to those goals and have taken various steps to ensure their success that will remain in place, not the least of which includes improved ventilation systems, enhanced cleaning services, and physical distancing strategies.
Our Health & Safety Advisory Committee now advises us that considering updated information from the Montgomery County Office of Public Health and the CDC, local conditions and metrics have improved to such an extent since the Omicron surge in January that we are at an inflection point in dealing with COVID. While realizing that this news will be greeted with hesitancy by some and joy by others, we are changing our mandatory mask policy to a “Masks Welcome” policy, effective Monday, March 7.
We chose the verbiage of “Masks Welcome” very specifically, as we intend to fully support any child or staff member whether they choose to wear a mask or not. Masks may be optional, but bullying or harassment regarding their presence, or lack thereof, will not be tolerated in any fashion. We ask you to speak with your children regarding the importance of respecting their classmate’s choices to help promote sensitivity, tolerance, and respect around individual families' decisions.
Please know that masking will still be required in certain circumstances. All students, staff, and visitors will continue to mask for liturgies, assemblies, and events that take place during the school day in large group gatherings. Masks are still required for all bus transportation to and from school while school district mandates remain in place. We strongly encourage van riders to consider masking while on the van due to the limited ventilation and mixing of families. We continue to encourage COVID-19 vaccinations and boosters for all eligible community members. We ask that you also be aware of the following, noting that more information will be provided in the future:
Daily RUVNA health screenings must be completed and will continue to be collected and monitored by our nurses. In order to successfully implement this new policy it is of utmost importance that our families continue to be diligent in symptom surveillance. Please do NOT send your student to school if they are sick.
All students will be expected to have 2 clean masks on their person or in a school bag in case circumstances or activities occur where mask-wearing would be deemed necessary.
WMA will follow the MontCo OPH and CDC school exclusion guidelines for quarantine/isolation should a positive case be reported.
Masks may also be required for specific time periods for people returning from isolation or quarantine, or who fall into other criteria defined by MontCo OPH.
Masks may be required at any point should incidence rates within our school population increase to a point where we need to deviate from mask-welcome to safeguard our school community.
The CDC recommends that masks should be considered for COVID-19 unvaccinated students, or those with underlying medical conditions.
Our Health and Safety Committee is discussing and finalizing a return-to-school protocol regarding illness-related absences.
We want to give all of our families the time to discuss their wishes with their children and prepare for this change.
Parents of students in Montessori and Preschool to Grade 3 should notify the homeroom teacher if mask wearing is their choice for their children.
Parents of students in grades 4 - 8 should ensure their children are aware of their wishes regarding mask wearing.
We especially want to state our gratitude for your patience and understanding in recognizing our commitment to keeping everyone safe by listening to our H&S Advisory Committee, using data and recommendations from the MontCo OPH/CDC, and thoughtfully considering impact as we evaluate and update policies and procedures that have kept our students and staff safe for nearly two years now.
We truly appreciate the respect you have given us during this pandemic and ask that you continue to “Live Mercy” as these new decisions are made and put into effect. Catherine McAuley once said that “a community in which this universal charity reigns, is capable of surmounting all difficulties,” and we believe in our hearts that our WMA family will emerge from this stronger and more merciful than ever before.
Updated Covid Policies: 2/18/2022
Dear WMA Families,
As the number of Covid positive cases in Montgomery County continue to fall, we want to provide you with an update on changes to our Covid mitigation policies and procedures. Over the coming days and weeks we will continue to inform you about policies that will remain in place through the remainder of the school year, those that have already changed or are being changed in the near term, and those where updates are being discussed but are not yet finalized.
We first want to remind everyone that all of our policies and procedures are developed by examining guidance from the MontCo OPH, the CDC and the team of physicians that make up our Health and Safety Committee. We are aware that the Archdiocese of Philadelphia made an announcement regarding a change to their masking policies scheduled to occur on Monday, 2/28. While it is helpful to know what our colleagues and especially our competitors are doing, we do not develop policies and procedures based on those of other schools in our area. As we have repeatedly stated, first and foremost we must follow the requirements of our local Health Department (MontCo OPH). We are obligated to do this even if their requirements differ from those of the CHOP PolicyLab, who also recognizes the need to follow the directives of the local health department. Our policies will change solely based on recommendations from the MontCo OPH, CDC and our Health and Safety Committee.
Given the above statements, below is our current update:
Windows and doors will remain open through the end of the school year allowing for as much ventilation in the classroom as possible. Advanced filters on all air-conditioning units and individual air filters placed in each room will remain in use for at least the remainder of the school year.
Frequent hand washing will continue to be encouraged, especially as students return from lunch/recess. Purell stations will remain in place at all entrances for the remainder of the school year.
The use of desk shields is now a family/student option, rather than being mandatory at lunch.
Recent Change: Desk shields are now optional in the classroom. The MontCo OPH does not acknowledge the use of the shields in contact tracing.
Desks will remain 3 feet apart in the classroom through the end of the school year.
Recent Change: With Covid numbers decreasing, the arrival of our new cafeteria tables, and the opening of the new kitchen, we have returned to allowing one grade of students at a time to eat lunch in the cafeteria. Students are spaced apart as much as possible, at times less than three feet to accommodate a full grade at one time, while all facing the same direction. This is subject to change as public health guidance changes.
Under Discussion: Further changes to cafeteria seating, including both the possibility of increasing capacity to the normal two grades at one time, and the possibility of students utilizing the benches on both sides of the tables.
Visitors and Volunteers
Visitors, those in the building for a short amount of time with little to no interaction with children, must remain masked while inside. Volunteers who work with children must be vaccinated and masked while in the building.
Recent Change: With Covid numbers decreasing, we are once again allowing visitors and volunteers in the building.
New change: Effective immediately, any adult can attend Community Gathering as long as they remain masked while in the building and sit in the designated area. Effective immediately, we will not be limiting spectators at sporting events. All children/students must attend events with an adult.
We will continue using Ruvna through the remainder of the school year. Each day, as school starts the nurses also monitor the results and call parents to clarify responses as necessary. We are appreciative that everyone is faithfully filling out Ruvna each day.
New change: Effective immediately, we are removing the redundant morning Ruvna checkpoints in our car lines, freeing up our administrators for other purposes. Since the nurses will continue to review the Ruvna responses each morning, we expect parents will continue to complete the screening so the nurses do not have to spend time pulling students out of class to be screened. This decision will be reviewed if it is not successful.
All students and adults who are in the school building during school hours are still required to wear a mask unless they are eating or drinking. Masking outdoors remains a student/family preference. Masking remains mandatory on all buses/vans both to and from school.
Recent change: Students playing indoor sports no longer need to wear a mask while participating in play/practice. Masks are still required while on the bench, waiting for play to begin, and in a bus riding to/from a game.
New change: Effective immediately, adults attending adult-only meetings that occur in the building can choose whether to wear a mask or not. This does NOT apply to any parent-teacher meeting at this time, where masks remain a requirement for now. Additionally, the speakers at Community Gathering will have the option to pull their mask down when speaking.
Under discussion: Discussion is underway to increase the number of students able to attend our Mercy After Care each day. Discussion is also underway to consider updating our policy to “Masks Strongly Recommended” while indoors. As we move closer to the Covid pandemic becoming an endemic, we do recognize this is a matter of when, not if.
Issues we need to consider regarding masking changes:
We have not yet spoken to our faculty about their concerns regarding changes to our mask policies. We do know that faculty members who feel more comfortable requiring masks to be worn in their classrooms will need to be supported in doing so.
WMA had 15 cases in this building over the four months before Christmas, and 60 in the 7 weeks since Christmas.
The PCR test positivity rate in MontCo of 9.8% drops us down to a substantial level of transmission, but the case count, which is currently still over 100 cases per 100,000, is still considered a HIGH level of transmission by the CDC.
Our student vaccination rate as per the RUVNA screening is approximately 78%, but we only have vaccination cards for approximately 35% of our students. We need to receive all vaccination cards.
If/when mask policies change, if your student(s) feel more comfortable wearing a mask, he/she will be supported in doing so. Any bullying related to masking will not be tolerated, and will be dealt with according to our discipline policies.
At this time we understand that contact tracing will continue to be required. Going mask optional makes contact tracing more difficult as some students will be unmasked for the entire day. More children in addition to those in proximity during lunch will be considered to be exposed to a Covid positive student. While this will not impact vaccinated students’ time in school, it will affect our unvaccinated students (unless otherwise stated by the MontCo OPH).
If/when mask policies are changed, there may be times when masking is still necessary, such as during large gatherings of students. Consideration also needs to be given to large adult/student mixed events.
Right now anyone who tests positive for Covid-19 or anyone exposed and unvaccinated can return to school on day 6 as long as they wear a mask all day for the next five days. Anyone vaccinated and exposed can return to school as long as they wear a mask all day for 10 days. We need to consider how this would play out in a classroom, as a teacher cannot become the “police” in making sure the correct students are masked.
Consideration needs to be given to the youngest students in the classroom where no one can be vaccinated.
Diligent symptom surveillance will be a very important mitigation effort if/when masks become optional.
As we consider this important policy, we continue to encourage all who are eligible to receive their Covid vaccination. Vaccination continues to be an important step in the mitigation of the spread of Covid-19. The MontCo OPH school exclusion guidelines still allow those who are vaccinated to stay in school after an exposure as long as they remain symptom free, it is very helpful to have the vaccination cards from all vaccinated students. Additionally, our vaccination rate will likely be a discussion point in our masking decisions, so please send in a copy of your student’s card as soon as possible.
As we close, we want to once again thank you for recognizing that our only goal is to keep your children safe and in school. It is important to repeat that we are not “listening” to any media or other well-intentioned opinions. Rather we are committed to paying attention on a daily basis to data and recommendations from the MontCo OPH / CDC and thoughtfully considering impact as we roll back policies and procedures that have kept our children and staff safe for almost exactly two years now. We appreciate the respect you have given us as we continue to navigate these difficult times and ask you to continue to “Live Mercy” as we move forward and recognize these future decisions will be easy for some and difficult for others.
Ann Marie Braca, Principal
Candace Flowers, RN
Joanne Ferdinand, RN
A Message from the Principal - September 2021
I am pleased to present you with the Waldron Mercy Academy 2021-2022 Health & Safety Plan.
This plan was developed with our COVID-19 medical task force and guidance from national and local health authorities. Please be advised that many of the same mitigation measures from last year will be in place.
Some highlights of the plan are:
In-person learning for all students.
Indoor masking for all, regardless of vaccination status.
Daily RUVNA health checks for all students and staff will continue (New families - you will automatically be texted and emailed a link to the health check each morning.)
Hand sanitizer will be available at entrances, in hallways, in classrooms, and in other high traffic areas throughout the school.
We are not requiring vaccinations at this time for any individuals, but we strongly recommend that all members of the WMA community who are eligible receive a vaccination against COVID-19.
Please understand that the plans and policies below are subject to change in accordance with guidance from the CDC, MontCo OPH, and in consideration of local and community conditions.
Ann Marie Braca, Principal