Thaden School has been highly proactive in responding to the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. On this page, you will find resources that may be helpful in managing and mitigating the risks of COVID-19 and answers to frequently asked questions (FAQs).
Thaden School's point of contact for COVID-19 related questions or concerns is our School Nurse, Pam Chrisco. You may contact her by email or phone (479-245-4626).
The dashboard below provides up-to-date information about COVID-19 cases in the Thaden School community since the beginning of this academic year (August 16, 2021). It is updated Monday to Friday by 4:00 pm as information is reported and verified.
9/23/2021 4:00 pm CST
Active: The total number of positive cases currently within our community, new and existing.
New Today: Daily new positive cases within the Thaden School community.
Cumulative: The total number of cases reported and verified since August 16, 2021, active and non-active.
Current COVID Risk: Key Metrics
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
We address below a number of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Thaden School's response to the COVID-19 pandemic. We will continue to update these FAQs as conditions change.
1. Does the school require students and employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19?
No. While the high rate of vaccination among our eligible students and employees provides our greatest protection against the Delta variant, we encourage, but do not require, eligible members of the school community to get vaccinated as soon as possible.
2. How does the school know which students and employees have been vaccinated?
3. Does the school require masks?
Yes. We require all employees, students, and visitors to wear properly fitted masks on campus when using indoor spaces. We also require that students wear masks while riding in school buses and vans. Of course, we recognize and respect that many will prefer to wear masks throughout the day, indoors and outdoors.
We recommend that students bring at least two fresh masks to school each day (as well as a plastic bag or container in which to store them). We will encourage students to switch over to a fresh mask after lunch.
We hope the need for this indoor mask requirement will be short lived, but for now it is an important part of our efforts to protect the health of our school community and the continuity of our educational programs while we assess the nature of the Delta variant and its impact on our home region. Further context for understanding how and when the school will decide when it may be appropriate to modify this policy can be found in FAQ #18 below.
4. In addition to requiring masks indoors, how will the school mitigate the risk of infection on campus?
Last year we upgraded our HVAC system and we continue to optimize it to increase the flow of outside air and reduce return air.
In addition, we will offer two lunch services to reduce the number of students seated at any given table in the Great Hall. We have also furnished an outdoor space for dining and teaching, and have ordered tents and furniture for additional outdoor seating. Grade 6 will have priority access to outdoor spaces because most students in that grade are not yet eligible for vaccination.
5. Will instruction on campus be physically distanced?
No. We intend to resume our innovative teaching methods and programs after a long period of dormancy. A Thaden education is designed to be much more interactive and dynamic than has been possible under the fixed conditions of physically distanced classrooms and online platforms. We are excited to bring our seminars, laboratories, workshops, maker spaces, teaching kitchens and gardens, and many other instructional spaces back to life with the full variety of hands-on learning that our campus was created to support.
6. What does the school expect from families and students in terms of self-screening?
We rely on families to ensure that their children do not show COVID-19, cold, or flu-like symptoms prior to sending them to school. We will no longer conduct daily health screenings on campus, nor will a morning text reminder be sent to families.
7. What are your COVID-related policies and practices for athletics this fall?
Student-athletes are expected to wear masks during indoor practices and games at AAO except when engaged in drills, conditioning, and other types of high-intensity activities. They must also wear masks while riding school transportation.
Members of the Thaden School community are also required to wear masks when attending indoor home games.
8. How will the school's policies and practices for COVID safety affect school trips and other co-curricular programs?
We plan to resume all educational programs and co-curricular activities, including those that involve trips off campus (such as college trips for Grades 10 and 11). Our students will be required to wear masks when they are indoors, on and off campus.
9. How will meals be served?
We will begin the year with a buffet-style service for breakfast and lunch with a limit of four students per table in the Great Hall and designated seating in outdoor covered areas with four to six students per table. Students in Grades 6 and 7 will have priority access to these areas. We will also offer two lunch services, one for each division, to create additional space between seats at each table. Students are expected to wear masks in the Great Hall when they are not dining (e.g., going through the buffet line or clearing their plates).
10. How will the school undertake contact tracing in the event of a positive case on campus?
In the event of a positive case on campus, Pam Chrisco, our Nurse Practitioner and designated Point of Contact with the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH), will perform contact tracing to identify students, employees, and possibly others who might qualify as a “close contact” with the positive case.
Using criteria established by the ADH, Nurse Chrisco will determine whether any of the potential close contacts need to be tested and/or required to quarantine. Nurse Chrisco will promptly inform the parent(s) or guardian(s) of any Thaden student whom she determines to be a close contact. This information will be treated as confidential and shared with others only as necessary to manage risk and undertake the contact tracing process.
All positive cases and close contacts requiring quarantine will be reported to the COVID-19 School Hotline/Arkansas Department of Health.
11. How long is the quarantine period?
Unvaccinated persons must complete 7 full days of quarantine from date of last contact with the positive case. Rapid antigen or PCR testing must be performed after completing 5 days of quarantine. If the test is negative and the close contact remains symptom free, they will be allowed to return to school on day 8. If the close contact chooses to not be tested, they will be required to quarantine for 10 full days.
Fully vaccinated persons who have a known exposure to someone with a presumptive or confirmed case of COVID-19 should be tested 3-5 days after exposure, regardless of whether they have symptoms. They should also wear a mask in indoor public settings for 14 days or until they receive a negative test result.
12. Will the school consider vaccination status and mask usage when recommending quarantine for "close contacts"?
Yes. Under CDC guidelines, vaccination and mask usage are both potentially relevant factors when determining whether the quarantine of a close contact is appropriate.
Consistent with CDC guidance, vaccinated persons who have been in close contact with a positive case will be required to be tested 3-5 days after exposure but quarantine only if they test positive or are showing symptoms of COVID, or have been exposed to a significant degree that calls for additional precaution (e.g., the “close contact” lives with the positive case and was exposed in close quarters where they were unmasked for extended periods). However, unvaccinated persons will automatically be subject to quarantine if they come into “close contact” with a positive case, even if they are not symptomatic. The CDC makes this distinction between vaccinated and unvaccinated persons in the context of quarantine decisions because the former are less at risk of becoming infected, all other things being equal.
Whether a close contact was wearing a mask may also be relevant to the determination of whether quarantining is appropriate under CDC guidelines in at least one situation: students who were exposed within 3-6 feet of a positive case at school do not need to be quarantined if both parties were wearing properly fitting masks during the entire time of the exposure.
13. If my student has been identified as a close contact outside of school, should I notify the school?
Yes. Please do so as soon as possible. That information enables us to identify promptly any persons who might be considered a close contact if your student develops COVID. Prompt notification of positive cases is key to minimizing exposure and quarantine.
14. Will you offer online or blended learning for students in quarantine?
No. Quarantined students will continue their academic work from home on their own time, but we will support their learning through conferences with teachers via Zoom and other methods. Allowing quarantined students to participate virtually in live, campus-based classes (the “blended” model) is not feasible or effective given that our teaching methods will be much more fluid and interactive this year. However, if the number of quarantines within a certain grade level were to become particularly high, we would consider reinstating online or blended learning models on a temporary basis for those students.
15. How will the school cover classes in the event a teacher is quarantined?
Fortunately, the rate of vaccination among Thaden faculty members is high (93 percent as of August 6). However, if a teacher is quarantined, we will cover that teacher’s classes with live substitutes. If for some reason the number of quarantines among faculty were to become particularly high, we would consider reinstating online or blended learning models on a temporary basis for certain classes.
16. Under what circumstances will the school test students for COVID?
If a student develops symptoms during the school day, their parent(s) or guardian(s) will immediately be notified. No student will be tested without the verbal or written consent of their parent(s) or guardian(s).
With the proper consent, we will use a rapid antigen test on campus, which usually gives us results within 15 minutes. In addition, we can obtain a swab for PCR testing for processing at NWA Pathology Associates in Fayetteville, which usually gives us the results within 24 hours. There is no out-of-pocket expense to Thaden families or employees for either method of testing.
If a student or employee is required to quarantine as a close contact, they may come to the school on day 6 of their quarantine for testing in the parking lot on 10th Street (behind the Home Building). Testing will also be available on day 3-5 for anyone with a COVID exposure who is fully vaccinated.
17. Will the school host additional vaccination clinics?
No. COVID vaccines are widely available at a number of local pharmacies. The federal government is providing the vaccine free of charge to all people living in the United States, regardless of their immigration or health insurance status. Visit vaccines.gov to find providers near you. If you need help finding a location, please do not hesitate to contact Nurse Chrisco.
18. How will the school decide when it is appropriate to make further changes in its policies and practices?
The state of the pandemic in Northwest Arkansas and our understanding of the Delta variant continue to change rapidly. We will monitor the situation closely and modify our policies and practices accordingly. In making any such decisions, we will weigh a variety of quantitative and qualitative factors, including but not limited to the following:
- local infection levels
- local hospital capacity
- school quarantine levels
- school vaccination levels
- indications of contagion within the school community or specific groups (teams, grade levels, etc.)
- new scientific information regarding the nature of the Delta variant and its virulence
- weather conditions and availability of outdoor space
- guidance from the CDC, ADH, and other relevant authorities
- social-emotional wellness of students
Please note that these factors are not listed in order of importance and that all will be given full consideration as we strive to meet our primary objectives: protecting the health and safety of our school community while keeping our campus open for live instruction free of the disruptions caused by high levels of quarantining.
Decisions to modify our policies and practices will be made by the Head of School in close consultation with the administrative leadership team and the Board of Directors.