ALBEMARLE COUNTY, Va. (WVIR) - A private school in Albemarle County may have the first case of coronavirus in central Virginia. Due to the limited availability to testing, this case has not been confirmed by the Virginia Department of Health.
David Lourie, the head of St. Anne’s-Belfield, says a doctor diagnosed the family of a preschool student as “presumptive positive” for COVID-19. The physician is calling the case presumptive based on the symptoms and recent domestic travel.
STAB made the announcement Friday, March 13, also stating that its campuses will be closed through April 3.
Governor Ralph Northam has ordered K-12 schools to close for a minimum of two weeks - March 16 through March 27.
As of Friday, state health officials have confirmed a total of 30 cases of COVID-19 in Virginia.
03/13/2020 Letter from STAB Head of School David Lourie:
I write today as a follow up to our previous letter about the School’s response to COVID-19. As all are aware, the last few days have been filled with rapid developments across the nation, the commonwealth, and our local area. We have continued to monitor this closely and assess how the rapidly changing nature of this illness impacts our ability to ensure the health, safety, and well being of our students and faculty while at the same time delivering the superb educational experience we all expect.
One significant development for our consideration is that we have what is being called a “presumptive case” of COVID-19 in our school community. A preschool family began to come down with symptoms in the days before spring break. A specific email has been sent to all preschool families and faculty and staff informing them of this and asking them to be especially vigilant about symptoms and to consider social distancing for the time being. Please note that this family’s physician calls this diagnosis “presumptive” based on the symptoms and recent domestic travel, but because of limited availability of testing, it has not been confirmed.
Nevertheless, this news and copious incoming advice from health professionals has led us to the decision to close our campuses and suspend all School activities and events through April 3. We believe this is a prudent measure, allowing us time to assess further the evolution of this illness in our local area, to continue to clean and disinfect our facilities, and to facilitate social distancing after Spring Break travel.
We will implement a distance learning program for all students from March 23 through April 3, utilizing online technology in age-appropriate ways. While not an ideal situation, our aim is to provide educational continuity for our students. We will be utilizing next week to prepare faculty for this online learning. Please be on the lookout for emails from Peter Quagliaroli and Shannon Montague with copious details of how this will be implemented and how the School will facilitate this for all of our families, including the availability of laptops or tablets as needed.
We have also made the difficult decision to close our dormitory and support our international boarding students in traveling home for the remainder of the school year. This has been a heart-wrenching decision, yet one which comes at the strong recommendation of health professionals, who advise that the close quarters of the dorm and the communal nature of our dining hall and dorm living carry far too much health risk for our students and faculty. Furthermore, as people return from European and domestic travel over the break, we do not have the capacity to facilitate adequate social distancing and potential isolation measures, if needed. We are working diligently to arrange travel for our students, and they will, of course, continue their studies remotely until the end of the school year.
We have also decided to cancel the ninth grade Doug’s Trip for the same reasons listed above, yet another painful choice during this difficult time. We will discuss if there is some way in the future to have a similar experience for the Class of 2023.
To call this situation and these circumstances unprecedented is a gross understatement. Like you, we are responding to new developments almost hourly. With each piece of news, we are aiming to combine the desire to act quickly and decisively with the need to act with sensitivity to the significant disruption these decisions will cause. Please know we are consulting with experts along the way, having thoughtful discussions within the School (including with the Board of Trustees), and ensuring that we are acting according to our mission and values. Again, our community’s health is our priority, and that fact dictates this prudent course of action.
We will continue to monitor events and reassess this decision as April 3 approaches. If there is a need to extend the closure and continue with distance learning, we will let you know as soon as possible. Until that time, both campuses will be closed for all activities, including no access to athletic fields and facilities and/or playgrounds.
If you have any questions or information to share with us, please contact us through this dedicated email: COVIDresponse@stab.org. We have a team that will check this regularly and aim to get you a timely response. We have also set up a dedicated webpage to share all school communications and resources and information: www.stab.org/coronavirus.
I appreciate your understanding and support as we navigate this crisis together. It is moments like this that the strength of our community sustains each one of us.
Head of School