Hello Parents and Students,
I am saddened to write that, after consultation with school and board leadership, we will be delaying our move into Orange mode by three weeks, until Tuesday, September 29.
Since last weekend, I know a number of you have been wrestling with your families about your personal decision to come back to campus for classes. We also know how important it is to return to some semblance of on-campus learning. When I wrote last Friday, we were fully expecting to be able to transition to Orange mode after Labor Day. We spent this week trying to will that to happen, seeking ways to look past or de-emphasize the clusters at NC State and Chapel Hill that have been announced daily.
Unfortunately, this virus continues to humble us. Despite our best efforts and good wishes, we have to respect it.
Every one of our local metrics about COVID spread is heading in the wrong direction. Our R0 (naught) rate of community spread in Wake County has spiked to 1.09, from a low of .85 less than two weeks ago. Rates of positive tests and cases per 100,000 residents have also climbed considerably. With so many college students now leaving their campuses and heading back home, we are in a new — but hopefully temporary — phase of uncertainty. It is just too early to be able to assess how widespread the community transmission will become and whether it will move into K-12 schools. As much as we wanted, in the end we could not overlook this new risk.
Despite this disappointing news, I remain optimistic. We have seen that we can control the spread of the virus. And, while our current Mixed Mode (now labeled Tangerine by many) is not perfect, it is allowing us to connect. For the next month, we will continue with limited face-to-face interactions through flex days, athletics, and activities. Students who had informed us that they would be virtual can continue to participate in all of these activities with their peers. We will ask again for families to let us know if they’d like their students to stay virtual once we confirm we are moving in to Orange at the end of the September.
I wish this message could have contained better news. It frustrates us as much as you that we will not be phasing into more on-campus learning yet. The school has committed significant resources and energy to making this happen, but we will not be driven by consideration of sunk costs or by the decisions taken by other schools. We know we cannot eliminate risk (ever), but at this moment we do not believe a transition is in the best health-and-safety interest of our employees or students.
Ultimately, uncertainty and anxiety are not conducive to learning, so I hope that knowing what is in store for the next month brings at least a little relief for our students.