12 Tevet 5781
December 28, 2020
Dear ICJA Family,
I hope this vacation has been relaxing, and I look forward to seeing everyone in one week.
While there is so much happening at school, I am writing today to answer questions I have received about our return to school.
While most ICJA families chose to remain home for this vacation, some have opted to travel. Many of those traveling sent their travel plans for review by our medical committee, and in almost all cases, those plans were approved.
Why? Because as they have stressed from the beginning, safety from COVID is more a function of behavior than location. Simply put, a family who stayed in Chicago for vacation but was not careful with wearing masks, maintaining social distance, and washing their hands frequently, may be at a greater risk than one who traveled.
Nevertheless, concerns about others’ behavior when vacationing is real, and therefore, please note the following guidelines for students and staff returning to school on January 4th:
1. We will be testing all of our students on Monday, January 4th. If a student cannot be tested on that day, we will require a PCR test with a negative result before returning to school.
2. Until our school-wide test results are returned, students who are not in the same family “pod” should not be driving in cars together (even if masked) and should not be going out to eat lunch together.
3. Any student who was indoors and unmasked with people other than their family “pod” – i.e., in an indoor restaurant – will be required to quarantine at home for 7+3 days (PCR test after 7, return to school on day 11 from the date of exposure).
4. Students who were outdoors, unmasked, but within six feet of others not in their “pod” for more than 15 minutes will be required to quarantine at home for 7+3 days (PCR test after 7, return to school on day 11 from the date of exposure).
5. Students who traveled to Israel will need to quarantine at home for 7+3 days (PCR test after 7, return to school on day 11 from the date of exposure). This is due to the length of travel and the reality that on those flights, people are not masked during meal times.
While it is true that some schools are opting to be remote for a few days or more following vacation, our medical committee has agreed that it is safer to start school with everyone in place. The reasoning behind this is:
• Our building is a relatively safe environment, with 75% outside air, MERV-13 filters, and sufficient space to allow for social distancing.
• Our vacation is two-weeks in length. If G-d forbid someone was exposed to COVID, it is unlikely that this exposure occurred only on the vacation’s final days. As a result, if someone was contagious, symptoms would have appeared before the resumption of school. If a person was asymptomatic, the precautions we have in place at school should protect everyone from further exposure.
• Our testing has proven to be efficient and successful, and we should have the results within 24-36 hours.
• It is unreasonable to expect our teenage population to test on Monday and remain isolated until the results are received. Experience has taught us that there is a wide range of behaviors when people are supposed to be isolated. As a result, spending 8-9 hours in school, masked and under supervision, is a safer environment for many students.
ICJA remains committed to the safety of our entire community and the education of our students. Together, we have been a model of responsible behavior, inspired learning, and safe engagement.
We thank you for your continued partnership and encourage you to reach out with any questions or concerns.
Rabbi Leonard A. Matanky, Ph.D.