Covid-19 Protocols at BASIS DC
Dear Mr. Rose-Henig,
We, parents and caregivers of sixth graders at BASIS DC, are extremely concerned about the prospect of Covid-19 transmission at school, and ask you to move urgently to implement safer conditions in school and mandate outdoor lunch and PE, weather permitting. In addition, we ask for a more robust learning plan for students who are quarantining, and making schoolwork available in a timely manner.
Indoor lunch in the cafeteria is a high-risk super spreader event with unmasked students sitting in close proximity to each other and with multiple groups of students coming in and out of the same room. We know it is difficult to keep children masked during meals and have also heard from our own children that many kids do not stick to their assigned seats. Many of our children say that they do not feel safe during lunchtime. Being outdoors for lunch would help to decrease these risks. We base this assessment on CDC’s guidelines for layered approach to preventing Covid-19 in schools as well as a recent Q&A session with leading epidemiologists. As Dr. Fauci mentions in the video, the infection transmission occurs during lunch when students are unmasked and not maintaining social distance, and his advice is for students to eat lunch outside when feasible.
In past town halls, you have mentioned that outdoor lunch is not feasible due to lack of staff to monitor it. We ask that students are taken outside to lunch daily at the Navy Memorial Plaza and propose that this be done with the help of parent/caregiver chaperones to lessen the burden on monitors. The Navy Memorial Plaza offers a convenient lunch spot for students, and we are willing to recruit and coordinate parent/caregiver volunteers to chaperone outdoor lunches every day. A number of sixth grade parents have already expressed their willingness to volunteer for this role. We can provide you with a more detailed proposal for how this might work, and would work with the school to adapt it to the complexities of this arrangement.
We also ask that students are taken outside for PE, weather permitting. We strongly believe that the school’s proximity to the National Mall should be utilized more. Our children report that they are often made to run up and down the school stairways for PE. Furthermore, the floor of the gym, which also doubles as a cafeteria, is often littered from lunch, and they are asked to do push-ups among food scraps. Vigorous exercising in narrow crowded spaces should not be happening in the middle of a pandemic.
Providing clear learning options for quarantining students
Our other major concern regards students who are following quarantining requirements of being out of school for 7 days following exposure to a covid-positive individual. Many of them are finding it difficult to access daily assignments from home and to communicate with teachers in a timely manner, and are in danger of falling irreversibly far behind in their schoolwork. Attending student hours when they return to school is not enough to make up for this lost time, and presumably puts a major burden on the teachers to “catch up” many students during their limited student hours. Having the ability to access lessons and homework online through the Spork platform, which already exists and does not require further setup, would enable students to keep up to some degree; they would still need to make up some work when they return, but the gap would not be as great. Again, we would like to work with the school to develop a practical plan for keeping the students on track when they must quarantine.
We, as parents and caregivers of students who are not yet eligible to be vaccinated and thus are very vulnerable to Covid-19, see ourselves as partners in helping the school improve a situation that is stressful and disruptive for everyone—the school as well as families. We are highly invested in preventing transmission, and the students having outdoor lunch and PE is one important step in this direction. Ensuring that students are able to consistently access schoolwork from home would help mitigate some of the learning loss from the 7-day quarantines that will inevitably arise.
Thank you for your attention to these issues.
 https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/schools-childcare/k-12-staff.html - reducing-risks-school-worksites
 https://www.nytimes.com/2021/08/12/science/fauci-kids-and-covid-event.html ; cue to 41:50 up to 43:10 for outdoor school lunches.