COVID-19 Updates

Dear St. Matthew’s Community,
 
We’ve crossed the finish line and made it through another successful school year! We couldn’t have done it without your incredible flexibility and support. Your commitment to partner with us in the education of your children has been nothing short of awe-inspiring and lives as a strong testament to the true strength and connectedness of our amazing community. Thank you!
 
I also want to share my deep appreciation and gratitude for our students. Never have I witnessed such a show of determination, grit, stamina and resilience. Our students’ ability to adapt to a new way of learning and a new way of connecting to their teachers and classmates helped turn the lemons of our shared experience into lemonade. Go Falcons!
 
In last week’s newsletter, we shared some details around our Fall Re-Opening plans. If you missed it, I encourage you to revisit it. Thank you to all the families who have taken the time to fill out our surveys. This is a preliminary step to ensure that your family’s and children’s needs are considered as we design the future. While there are still a few days before we finalize our preliminary intake, it’s already clear that our community overwhelmingly favors a Fall Re-Opening that, as much as possible, resembles a normal, traditional, on-campus experience.
 
In our efforts to honor this goal and reconvene the new school year on September 9, 2020 in a manner which observes all health and safety guidelines, our six COVID-19 Task Forces have been working diligently to plan and prepare a framework for returning to in-person instruction on campus, while making it possible for those in vulnerable categories, or those who may need to isolate temporarily, to continue their educational experience remotely.
 
Due to the incredible blessings of our campus and facilities, and unless guidelines change drastically, the outlook leans toward our being able to re-open in the fall, with a normal Monday through Friday scheduleand caveats to observe the safety guidelines of the CDC, State, County and LAUSD agencies. At this time, we also intend to preserve the traditional school year schedule without extensions into next summer.
 
Though many details will continue being worked out through the summer, our final plan will address several requirements for a safe, prosperous re-opening including:
 
  • Measures to diminish the risk of transmission on campus
  • An educational approach to support multiple, simultaneous scenarios
  • Measures to prevent the SARS-CoV-2 virus from entering the campus
  • Measures to provide for testing
  • Measures to provide for contact tracing, when cases may be identified
 
We intend to architect these plans in a way that is sustainable for our faculty, students, families, and staff, while continuing to deliver on our promises of academic excellence, connected community, unrivaled character development, engagement, and a fun, well-rounded educational experience for our student body. This is a significant undertaking. Though our faculty cannot perform superhuman feats of double duty, our team is confident that we will present a robust solution that builds upon the framework, technology, and experience of this past spring.
 
While we develop the details and operating plans for the Early Childhood, Lower, and Middle Schools, I can share with you that our return in the fall will require the embrace of a “new normal”. From our current vantage point, we anticipate changes in the following areas:
 
  • Access to campus, including revised drop-off and pickup routines
  • Movement about campus
  • Assemblies, common areas, restrooms, and playgrounds
  • Seating arrangements and classroom layouts
  • Transportation and Food Services
 
We will continue to keep you abreast of updates throughout the summer. We are grateful to our tour-de-force community of teachers, staff, and parents who will continue coming together over the summer to help us adapt and make the best of a shifting future landscape.
 
Finally, I’d like to acknowledge that, as we devise plans for our future, brave souls in our nation and across the globe continue the vigilant fight against racism and inequality inspired by the tragic death of George Floyd and countless other innocents. As a community, we at St. Matthew’s are united by a mission that celebrates love, inclusivity, respect for, the dignity of, and equality for all. If your family or children partake in any social justice actions, please share them with us by emailing our Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion Coordinator, Mr. Macías (rmacias@stmatthewsschool.com). We love to see our community in action!
 
Thank you for your continued perseverance and commitment to raising upstanding citizens who serve, lead, and flourish under the love of God. 
 
With deep gratitude and appreciation for you,
Ed Kim
Dear Families,
 
As we near May 1, I’m writing to share my two-week update regarding our timeline for return to campus. The decision to resume in-person instruction at St. Matthew’s at some point in the future is proving to be as complicated, if not more so, than my initial decision to commence distance learning and remote instruction back on March 11. Putting aside the mixed messages and reporting from the media and the economic or political arguments for an early, gradual or delayed reopening, our decision for return will be based on community health and the safety of our students. To be clear, we will return when it is safe for us to do so. The challenge is that our students, teachers, and parents want answers about things that are farther into the future and beyond the reach of our current data and information. As a crisis consultant recently stated, “We can reasonably forecast two weeks out, but our community wants answers six weeks out.”
 
Though the rate of growth of new daily cases appears to have peaked in California and seems to be flattening or decreasing, there are intermittent spikes. The May 15 Safer at Home directive remains in effect for our area and the risk for transmission continues to exist. Social distancing practices are working but cannot guarantee that a second wave won’t come in the fall. Governor Newsom has outlined six goals for reopening for businesses and services. We will consider how that affects us and the physical and procedural modifications that need to be in place in order for us to move forward. It is unlikely under these current conditions that I foresee a return to school this spring for instruction, and thus we will continue with remote instruction and distance learning through June 9. However, with the right conditions and safety measures in place, I am holding on to the hope that we may be able to return in smaller numbers for traditional functions and events. Once the State Order has been lifted, I will provide my next update.
 
We understand that planning is difficult with these shifting variables. Therefore, I have decided to fix some core calendar dates to control some of the uncertainty, reserving the right to make changes to the calendar within the core dates as circumstances demand. The last day of school this year and the beginning of school next year will not change:

Last Day of Classes : June 10, 2020
School Opens : September 9, 2020
 
In the meantime, we will continue to fine-tune our virtual teaching and learning experience for the remainder of the year. Next week I will communicate news about our summer plans (Summer Session) after coordinating with St. Matthew’s Church (Summer Camp). The Board of Trustees have committed themselves to working through the spring and summer and will provide leadership and guidance regarding the opening of school in the fall. We’ve established special task force committees to assist me and the administration as we work through different scenarios regarding health, safety, facilities, technology, etc.
 
I realize you are all experiencing varying degrees of quarantine fatigue. These are difficult times and I want to express my gratitude to everyone for the collective efforts to adjust our lives and make sacrifices for the common good.
 
May you have blessings of health and well-being.
 
Sincerely,
Ed Kim
Dear St. Matthew's Families,
 
Below, please find an important letter from Bruce Freeman, Rector of St. Matthew's Church.
 
Sincerely,
Ed Kim
 
Parish
 
Dear Members of the St. Matthew's Community,

I pray that you and your loved ones are well. This is a challenging and disruptive moment for all of us when we are understandably disoriented and are seeking signs of hope and solace. My prayer is that all of you who are connected to St. Matthew's in some way will now lean into our shared values of deep faith, mutual support and gentle compassion.

I am continually amazed with the innovative ways in which we have quickly remodeled our ministry efforts and given them new life during this unique time. As a community, our channels of communication have changed, but our values remain intact and flourish. Our Sunday and Wednesday morning services never missed a beat - thanks to live streaming - while Emmaus Groups and Confirmands continue to meet via video conferencing. Scouts keep working toward their merit badges, frequently checking in on each other’s progress, and the Outreach Commission tirelessly connects agencies in service to others with volunteers in our midst. Students of St. Matthew’s Parish School arrive ready for a full day of creative, interactive classroom activities each morning from the comfort of their own homes. The Thrift Shop diligently maintains its mission to serve those in need through grassroots outreach efforts while the store is temporarily closed. The Music Guild stays in constant communication with its members and musicians and St. Matthew’s Day Camp has been known to make special guest appearances on our popular Bedtime Story series on Facebook. Without a doubt, our community is rising to this moment with collective determination and kindness.

Like other businesses and institutions, St. Matthew’s must adhere to protocols enacted by our City, County and State governments in accordance with Safer at Home orders. In thoughtful consultation with our Director of Facilities, Greg Heidt, I have made the difficult decision to close the campus for the safety of all of those who are a part of our community. We believe this is imperative to comply with the law – and to protect all of God’s children. Please help us in this regard by staying off the St. Matthew’s grounds for the time being, no matter how appealing. We look forward to strengthening our virtual connections until we may once again gather together on the grounds we love.

Social distancing is an essential tool in the fight to mitigate the novel coronavirus, but this doesn’t mean you must be isolated. St. Matthew’s is much more than its buildings. It is us. You and me: all of us who connect with and through Christ, through God and now -- through technology. Stay connected with us and each other on Facebook, Instagram and the St. Matthew’s Mobile App for Android or iPhone. Walk safely amongst our brothers and sisters in the neighborhood, wave hello, share a greeting, but please do so from a distance of at least six feet. And smile. Though things are difficult now, we are blessed with brilliant medical minds who will find a way through this. And we are blessed with each other.

Thank you for your patience during this time. Please tune in to our services online and do reach out if you need support or want to be of service to others. Despite the current challenges, we remain stronger together. Together we remain a community of love, support and faith.

With love,
The Rev. Bruce A. Freeman
Rector, Parish fo St. Matthew
Dear St. Matthew’s Community,
 
At the end of last week, Mayor Eric Garcetti issued the “Safer at Home” directive to all L.A. residents in an attempt to slow the spread of COVID-19 in our area, and Governor Gavin Newsom provided statewide instructions and guidelines limiting nonessential movement by individuals. This order covers the entire state of California and will continue to be in place until further notice. Certain activities that are needed for critical services and operations are exempt. This includes K-12 schools which will remain “open”, ensuring continuity of education through a distance learning platform.
 
Our early action and thoughtful preparation position us well to be in compliance with this order. We are staggering hours and spacing those employees who need to be physically on-campus to support distance learning. Although the St. Matthew’s campus is not currently fully locked down, certain areas, like our playgrounds, are now closed and/or restricted. I urge anyone who needs to be on campus, to be mindful of these mandates and aggressively practice social distancing while on the property.
 
It has been two weeks since I suspended in-person learning, and as of today we will have completed seven days of remote instruction - but our work is not done. We are evaluating our progress and listening to student and parent feedback in order to enhance our students’ experiences. Given the uncertain “end date” of the social distancing mandate I am asking our teachers to prepare instruction beyond the designated “classes resume” date of April 14. I wish I could provide you a more definitive return date, but it appears that we need to exercise patience until medical experts can analyze the available data and trends in order to offer direction. We are now operating under the expectation that we will not be back to normal until the “Safer at Home” order is lifted, and that is unlikely to be before April 14.
 
Additionally, I have been contemplating if under these circumstances certain community events can continue. I am sad to say that as of today, I have canceled one of our most cherished traditions - Town Fair. Though the Fair is not scheduled to take place until mid-May, the planning and logistics for such a major event takes months of preparations, and given the commitments that would have to be made now, I have decided that I could not in good conscience have us proceed as usual. Our Town Fair Committee Chairs and the Parents’ Council will work through the contingency plans.
 
This news will be difficult for many of us to hear. But I am confident that the strength and support within our community will see us through this. Thank you for your patience and understanding.
 
Sincerely,
Ed Kim
Dear St. Matthew’s Families,
 
As we work tirelessly to ensure that learning as usual continues in this most unusual time, there are a few points I want to share with you.
 
We are grateful, well-informed and prepared.
Since the coronavirus first appeared, we have been closely monitoring the situation with the help of the Board of Trustees and the remarkable physicians serving on it— Board Chair Dr. Callie Momtazee and Development Co-Chair Dr. Pedram Salimpour. By the time the coronavirus came to Los Angeles, our administration, faculty, and staff were already working to adjust the school’s existing contingency plans. As a result of this careful planning and preparation, we are prepared to launch virtual instruction on Tuesday, March 17. You will receive regular communication and important information to help your children get started on their distance learning program. Nevertheless, we ask for your patience as few plans survive first contact.
 
End Point.
At this early stage of our unprecedented journey, we are not able to offer a date certain for the return to on-campus classes. Our faculty will be prepared to provide online curriculum through our regularly scheduled spring break. I am hopeful that our School will return to normal after spring break, on or about April 14. We will, of course, continue to monitor reliable sources and follow progress towards mitigation of this pandemic and keep you informed at each step.
 
Social Distancing.
The purpose of moving to a virtual classroom is to lessen the possibility of community transmission. By employing social distancing, it is our hope that St. Matthew’s will remain free of coronavirus cases and that we will do our part to mitigate the likelihood of its spread in our wider environs. Social distancing employs three mitigating factors: the number of people; the proximity of people; and the duration of the contact.
 
The School does not have a policy on social distancing, but since parents have asked, here are my thoughts. It’s quite difficult to narrow the proximity of children when they’re playing with their friends, so you may wish to discourage playdates altogether. However, in considering personal situations, playdates might be necessary if families cannot provide individual childcare because of parental work schedules. We can only do our best to make sure families understand the purpose of social distancing, and if a playdate (or equivalent) were necessary, to ask families to try to mitigate the factors as much as possible. Additionally, if you or anyone in your household is diagnosed with COVID-19, please alert the School.
 
All of us are adapting to major changes in our work, School, and social lives and there is likely to be more change ahead. We want to ensure that children are not under additional stress and will continue to post resources on a variety of topics related to this disruption. Please remember to check your Parent Portal regularly.
 
The coming weeks will bring new adventures as we navigate these unchartered waters. But we will navigate our way through this. Together.
 
May God bless all of us.
 
Ed Kim
Head of School
 Dear St. Matthew’s Community,
 
In light of the ever-evolving Novel Coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19) outbreak, and in consultation with medical experts, local school heads, and our Board of Trustees, I write to you today to inform you of my decision to close St. Matthew’s Parish School at the end of the school day today after athletics. Online instruction will begin Tuesday, March 17. We will continue to update you on a regular basis with important information, including when we believe on-campus classes can safely resume.

As an Episcopal School, we take our mission to Serve, Lead and Flourish seriously. This includes helping protect not just our own students and faculty, but also to help minimize transmission of the virus to those who are immunocompromised and vulnerable in our greater community. School closures are thought to help mitigate the propagation of viral infection in a localized area. Many of our peer schools are also going to online schooling during this difficult time.
 
This decision was not taken lightly. The senior administration and the Board of Trustees have reviewed the known facts and health department guidelines and have come to the conclusion that it is necessary to be proactive and take this step. Today, the World Health Organization announced that COVID-19 is officially a pandemic. At noon today, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health announced the first death from COVID-19. The number of reported cases is now at 27, with two cases of “community transmission” meaning they have had no known exposure to COVID-19. Again, please note that this is a proactive measure. There is no identified case of COVID-19 or known exposure within our School community.
 
We are fully prepared to enact our Remote and Distance Learning protocol. Our teachers have already prepared a six-day cycle’s worth of work to help students bridge their learning during school closure. Students in Preschool- Grade 4 will use their Grade Level websites as a tool for providing instruction, lesson plans, and activities for parents and students. Grades 5-8 will utilize the Schoology platform to conduct virtual classes following a prescribed schedule. You can expect more detail in separate communications from our principals that will answer questions and provide resources.
 
  • Students have been instructed to take all of their materials home with them at the end of today
  • Faculty will meet tomorrow and Friday to finalize their online curricula
  • All extracurricular and athletic activities will be suspended until further notice
 
We understand that this is a significant disruption for your student and your family and will cause disappointment. As a community, we should continue to help support one another through these ever-changing times. We are, however, confident that following an abundance of caution is the right move at this time and appreciate your support.
 
Sincerely,

Ed Kim Callene Momtazee, MD
Head of School Chair, Board of Trustees
 
Dear Families,
 
I have made the decision to cancel Grandparent’s Day 2020. While we cherish our traditions at St. Matthew’s Parish School, we believe that choosing a precautionary approach is most prudent at this time. We have taken preventive measures in dealing with the news regarding COVID-19 and have ramped up our hygiene practices; however, we understand that short of closure there is always a risk of transmission. Different groups of people are reacting to this virus in a variety of ways. It has been reported that unlike younger people, the elderly and those with underlying health conditions are more likely to have a severe reaction and complications due the virus. The director of the National Institute of Infectious Diseases, Dr. Anthony Fauci, recommended yesterday that this population should limit exposure to travel and large crowds.
 
Though we believe that the risk of transmission on our campus is currently low, unrelated community spread is increasing in other parts of the country. We are still learning about the virus’s epidemiology and impact and are assuming that the virus will spread more broadly. In preparation, we are instituting a series of practices based on the concept of social distancing thus limiting the instances that require us to gather in large groups or spend extended periods of time in close proximity for this susceptible group. This is difficult for schools like St. Matthew’s that are accustomed to a welcoming community that gathers often, but I am appreciative of our collective support of these practices given the current environment. Thank you for your patience and assistance in creating and maintaining a community that cares for one another.
 
Please note: Dismissal times on March, 27 will remain as scheduled. 12:00 PM for Early Childhood and 12:15 PM for K-8 students.
 
Sincerely,
Ed Kim
Dear St. Matthew’s Community,
 
We write today as part of the School’s proactive approach to coping with the current Novel Coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19) outbreak worldwide. In this letter, we’d like to address the upcoming Spring Break.
 
Current projections indicate that the Novel Coronavirus 2019 may peak during the end of March and early April. Spring Break at St. Matthew’s is scheduled for Saturday, April 4 through Monday, April 13. Classes resume on Tuesday, April 14. Because many families choose to travel during this time, we ask that you consider COVID-19 if possible when choosing your destination by checking the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) travel advisories frequently before your departure as well as for 14 days after you return home. On behalf of our community, we request that you do not visit travel advisory zones that have been designated a level 3 or 4 by the CDC. Families that do travel to these zones will be asked to observe self-quarantine policies set forth by the CDC and stay home from School until cleared by a physician.
 
St. Matthew’s belongs to the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) and the National Association of Episcopal Schools (NAES). Recent communications from NAIS stated that because of COVID-19 many independent schools will use a self-reporting and self-policing method for family travel during spring break season. St. Matthew’s will also adopt this policy to aid in minimizing the potential transmission of COVID-19 amongst our school community. We hope we can count on your assistance in reducing the risk of infectious disease spread on campus by voluntarily sharing information with the School about your travels which are outlined below in this letter. See some important points below:
 
What is self-reporting?
Self-reporting means that all St. Matthew’s families and faculty/staff members are strongly encouraged to advise the School of their travel plans in advance for the month of March and April. Please include all out-of-state domestic and international travel for any members residing in your household using this online reporting tool (linked here). We realize many parents travel extensively for work and may feel this is an onerous task, but please consider that there are many outbreaks evolving rapidly in various counties within the United States. We suggest you designate one family member to report all activities to avoid duplication.
 
Do I have to self-report?
No. Reporting is voluntary but please keep in mind that we are a very tight-knit and close community. Given the information we have available currently, self-reporting is a good option for helping the School minimize the spread of COVID-19 at this time. We strongly encourage you to use this tool. This will give St. Matthew’s one more way to keep our children and the greater community as safe as possible.
 
If I self-report, does that mean the School will be responsible for telling me to self-quarantine?
No. Parents and faculty/staff members are ultimately responsible for following current and future CDC recommendations for self-quarantine if you travel to a Level 3 or 4 Travel Advisory Zone (see resources below). You are also responsible for informing the School immediately should you need to self-quarantine. This is the “self-policing” part of our COVID-19 strategy and it will require vigilance on each family’s part. Return to work or School will then require a physician release.
 
What will the school be doing with the self-reported travel information?
St. Matthew’s will be frequently checking the CDC travel advisories and Los Angeles County Department of Public Health guidelines regarding self-quarantine. Many families are busy and may forget to continue to check guidelines up to 14 days on return from travel. As new counties and countries are added to the Level 3 and 4 Travel advisory list, we will be cross-referencing and checking which community members may have inadvertently been exposed to COVID-19 and will contact them as necessary. This will aid as a double checking and informational tool. St. Matthew’s will then discuss with the family if the need for evaluation by a physician and/or self-quarantine may exist.
 
Who will have access to self-reported travel information?
This information will be kept confidential and accessed only by senior administration at St. Matthew’s Parish School.
 
You are only collecting out of state and out of country travel information; what if a county in California becomes a travel advisory zone?
If this event occurs, St. Matthew’s will resend further communication asking who may have traveled to the area of California in question.
 
What should I do now and how can I help?
As was stated in our March 3 letter, the most important thing you can do is to please stay home if you or your child have a fever or cough. Continue to wash your hands frequently with soap and water. And read all future correspondence on this subject from the School as we will be updating you frequently.
 
We thank you all for your continued support during this difficult time in these rapidly changing and uncharted waters. Please contact the School with any questions.
 
Sincerely,

Ed Kim Callene Momtazee, MD
Head of School Chair, Board of Trustees
 
Travel related COVID-19 links:
 
Please take an opportunity to review travel guidelines with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) prior to departure and for 14 days after returning home as circumstances change: https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/destinations/list
 
Frequent travelers are advised by the State Department to consider enrolling in the Smart Traveler program to obtain real-time updates when abroad: https://step.state.gov/step/
 
Travel Advisory Levels:
Level 4 - Do Not Travel
Level 3 - Warning; Avoid Nonessential Travel
Level 2 - Alert; Practice Enhanced Precautions
Level 1 - Watch; Practice Usual Precautions
 
Dear St. Matthew’s Community,
 
We write to you today about a topic at the foremost of many people’s minds, that of the Novel Coronavirus 2019 (or COVID-19). While the unknowns about this virus in terms of spread and virulence cause understandable anxiety, please note that the School is taking many proactive steps to ensure the safety of students, faculty and visitors above and beyond what we normally do each flu season. Communication is key and our Kindergarten-Grade 8 students and faculty were addressed in Chapel on Monday. We discussed the importance of increasing handwashing, staying home when sick, and retaining our welcoming nature through smiles and fist bumps even while we may be unfortunately decreasing our handshakes with one another temporarily. Please also refer to the article in the Falcon Flyer last Thursday, February 27.
 
The Board of Trustees and the Senior Administration of the School are in continual communication with one another on this topic. St. Matthew’s has been in touch with our Los Angeles County Public Health Department (LACPHD) and will be apprised of any changes to recommendations or protocols. No school specific advice has been given yet on this topic by our local, state or federal government authorities. New updates that relate to our local school community will be sent to you as they become available and will also be posted on the School website.
 
We are a global traveling community in 2020. Therefore, we ask that if you or someone in your household has traveled to or travels in the future to an area of the world that has been identified as a Center for Disease Control (CDC) travel advisory zone related to coronavirus, that you please notify the school and cooperate with any self-quarantine for you and your student recommended by up-to-date standards. If you or anyone living or working in your household has potential contact with a known coronavirus patient please contact the School immediately in accordance with CDC recommendations. These travel advisories and guidelines are ever changing, so we refer you to the CDC website below for up-to-date information.
 
There are many good resources to learn about COVID-19 and we include several links below. However, first and foremost we ask that families discuss the importance of staying home when ill with a fever or cough. Do not send your child to school until they have been afebrile for 24 hours off of fever lowering medications. Parent volunteers and faculty should also stay home if ill. It’s important to note that hand washing at home and at School is the number one way to prevent virus transmission. The School faculty have been instructed to request that students wash their hands with soap and water prior to eating and when coming in from play.
 
As you know this topic is rapidly evolving. St. Matthew’s will continue to address this issue directly and reassess daily. There have been no changes to our School calendar as of yet, and none are recommended by current health resources. We are exploring technology-based work and teach from home options that could be used in the event of any extended school closure in the future (e.g., illness, fire, earthquake). But please note that the school will evaluate each week based upon the best evidence and guidelines available to discern the safest course of action and will advise parents and our community in real-time.
 
Sincerely,

Ed Kim Callene Momtazee, MD
Head of School Chair, Board of Trustees