Our Future Is Strong, Protocol Update (Edition #21)

Dear Good Shepherd Families,

In the January 5, 2022 issue of Our Future is Strong, we announced a shift in the timeline on our plan to ease into a mask recommended (not required) policy. This email will update you on the status of that plan and our current plans for phase one of our mask recommended (not required) policy. 

Mask Protocol Update:

As you recall, the process to ease into the mask recommended (not required) began on December 6, 2021, with our 7th and 8th graders having the option to remove their mask when inside classrooms with students from their own grade level. Depending on where we were in the pandemic, our next step was for the entire school to shift to a mask recommended (not required) policy on January 10, 2022. On January 5, 2022, we announced a shift in the next step of our mask recommended (not required) policy date to January 24, 2022. We had hoped to see a decline in cases by this date. 

In our Protocol Review Team meeting this week, we evaluated the latest information on the Omicron surge, as well as data from all other sources we typically use. We wanted to inform you we have decided to continue our current mask required policy for an additional two weeks, shifting the next step of our mask recommended (not required) policy date to February 7, 2022. There were several factors leading to this decision:

  • In Dallas County and in the Good Shepherd community, cases may not have peaked yet. We are seeing other places around the country, impacted by the Omicron surge earlier than us, beginning to decrease their case counts, leading us to hope that this extension will be our last.
  • The Dallas County Health Department has sent a letter to all independent or private schools in the county asking all to shift back to masks required until at least February 4, 2022 because of the Omicron surge and the toll it is taking on our area hospitals.
  • We continue to have staffing challenges as faculty and staff illnesses have only slowed a bit. We are working very hard to keep the school open for students, and we know that masking is helping with our ability to do so. 

In the hopes that cases will be decreasing by the time this extension is over, we have made an updated plan for phasing into a mask recommended (not required) policy. 

Updated Phase One of Mask Recommended (not Required) Policy:

As we phase into a mask recommended (not required) policy, we will continue to monitor cases to determine if conditions will allow for this policy shift on the timeline shared below. We will be in contact with any changes. 

On February 7, 2022, our middle school will begin the mask recommended (not required) policy. The new policy will include the following: 

  • Students and faculty in middle school will be mask recommended (not required) when in their classrooms with students from their grade level. 
  • When students are indoors, mixing grade levels (hallways, chapel, etc.), and on buses, masks will be required. 
  • Any indoor events on campus (sharings, class parties, etc.) will require a mask.
  • Outdoors, masks are always optional. 

On February 14, 2022, our lower school, early childhood, and all staff will begin the mask recommended (not required) policy as outlined above.

Again, this timeline is dependent on a decrease in on-campus positive Covid-19 cases, as well as cases within the larger DFW area. We will continue to monitor the situation and the opportunities for more mask recommended (not required) times during the school day. 

“Our Future Is Strong” is a series of brief, informative emails/posts which began April 30, 2020 to keep the community informed about our preparations for our return to campus and the ways we will live together as a community during the pandemic. “Our Future Is Strong” will continue periodically on an as-needed basis. We have also posted this series on the Coronavirus (COVID-19) section of our website for your reference.  

Together we are #gsesStrong, 

Julie McLeod, Ph.D.

Head of School