Private schools relying on outdoor space, sanitizer to keep students safe

Private schools relying on outdoor space, sanitizer to keep students safe

ALBEMARLE COUNTY, Va. (WVIR) - Some private schools in the Charlottesville area have been able to continue in-person learning during the coronavirus pandemic with a little help from the outdoors even as the temperatures begin to drop.

“A lot of our comfort is tied to our access to outside and we’re a little more concerned as it’s getting colder,” Whitney Thompson., head of school at Tandem Friends School, said.

Students at Tandem Friends School have been learning in-person since September.

“Right now we only have half of our students here at a time for 7th through 12th grade, and the only limitation on that is we don’t have enough classrooms,” Thompson said.

With no reported COVID-19 cases on-campus, Thompson says their mitigation strategy is working.

“We have 6 feet distancing at all times, we have additional air filtration, UV air filtration, particularly keeping the windows and doors open to our classrooms so there’s constant fresh air moving in and out,” Thompson said.

As it gets colder, students at Tandem will have to bundle up.

“We are making a choice to keep our windows open even as the temperature drops because fresh air is a really important aspect of our strategy,” Thompson said.

For 8th grader Maggie Winter, the wind chill never bothered her: “We were already outside a lot, so eating outside isn’t that much of a change and I have a blanket so I’m nice and warm,” she said.

At St. Anne’s-Belfield School, about 700 of their students have been in-person since mid-August.

“We have a mandatory mask covering for everyone throughout the day, except when students are eating lunch,” Autumn Graves, head of school at St. Anne’s-Belfield School, said.

Earlier this fall, there were six reported coronavirus cases from members of the school community, but Graves says all of the cases were contracted outside of school.

“We’ve accomplished remaining open because the community has bought into the value of being here and being open and so they’re willing to make adjustments in their personal lives in order to keep our community safe,” Graves said.

Even if you have a slight case of the sniffles, at Tandem and STAB you must be cleared from a doctor before returning.

“In a normal year, teachers would come to school slightly sick. People can’t do that now. If someone is slightly sick they need to be out,” Thompson said.

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