Coronavirus (COVID-19) Updates

The Emery/Weiner School continues to monitor the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) in our region. This page will contain all communications from the School regarding the situation.

Communications from the School

List of 10 items.

  • March 31, 2020

    A Message from the Head of School
     
    Dear EWS Community,
     
    First, we hope that you & your families are healthy – physically, ofcourse, but also mentally & emotionally during this strange and difficult time.
     
    Second, in terms of your kids’ education, hopefully the distance learning experience is feeling more comfortable as time passes. Obviously, it’s sub-optimal in almost every way imaginable, but maintaining a daily routine and doing the work that’s assigned is very important. If your child (or you!) is struggling, please don’t hesitate to reach out to the relevant teachers or administrators. We’re here to help. 
     
    One related piece of advice: Getting away from the computer every day – leaving email, Google & Zoom behind for a few hours – especially for exercise (ideally outside) is essential.
     
    Third, in light of the most recent governmental orders regarding social distancing, we expect that our campus closure will remain in effect at least through the end of April. We will not announce a re-open date until we have a much better sense of the situation.
     
    Finally, consistent with the connectedness and uniqueness of our schoolculture, members of our community have found several creative ways to stay in touch virtually – including having an admissions webinar for prospective parents and Friday assemblies for both the Upper & Middle Schools. Links to those events and all past messages are posted on a specially-dedicated page on our website, which you can access here.
     
    As always, I thank you for your patience, flexibility & support.
     
    Warmly, 
    Stuart J. Dow
    Head of School
  • March 24, 2020

    Dear EWS Families,
     
    As we enter week number two in these almost surreal, anxious-filled days of our school closure, I wanted to provide a few updates:
     
    • We understand that your kids were disappointed that they had to be “in class” rather than on the spring trips last week. However, our sense was that using this time to begin distance learning was the best choice under the circumstances – especially given the natural concerns we have about covering curriculum in this new academic environment.
    • That said, we are still negotiating with airlines and hotels about costs related to the trips. Assuming the trips don’t take place this year (which is unfortunately likely), please know that we will find a way to reimburse families to the extent that the school itself is able to recoup expenses. Put another way, Emery/Weiner will not retain monies that rightfully belong to our families – specifically with regard to food services and experiential education.
    • Regarding the Graubart Trip to Poland and Israel for our 12th graders, we’re still hopeful that somehow we can make something special happen for our soon-to-be graduates. At this time, however, it’s too early to know what that might be; so we’ll be in touch with these families directly in the coming weeks.
    • Our current priority is ensuring that this new world of schooling and instruction doesn’t negatively impact your kids toosignificantly. To that end, our Academic Dean and both Division Heads are constantly checking in with teachers, and will soon craft a formalized assessment to help us determine not only the level of student engagement, but the extent of their learning. 
    • Finally, if you have specific questions or concerns that haven’t been answered in our mass communications, all of which are re-posted on our website here: link, please don’t hesitate to reach out. Just send a short email and we’ll get back to you with an answer.
     
    In the mean-time, the link below provides a powerful perspective from a modern-day hero whom all our kids should know about. Thanks so much for your ongoing patience and flexibility. 
     
     
    Sincerely,
     
    Stuart J. Dow
    Head of School
  • March 19, 2020

    Dear EWS Community,

    I’m writing to let you know that an Emery/Weiner parent has recently tested positive for COVID-19. It’s not clear if other members of the family also have it – but presumably they do. The timing of the viral contraction is such that we cannot confirm whether the affected student was on campus when contagious, assuming they were or are positive now. Still, in an abundance of caution, we wanted to share this information as a reminder that Corona is unmistakingly in our community, thus reminding us to take all of the necessary precautions that experts and the CDC have been recommending – including social distancing, handwashing, and careful monitoring of loved ones.

    Stuart J. Dow
    Head of School
  • March 17, 2020

    Dear EWS Families,
     
    The ongoing and widening impact of COVID-19 continues to be something we’ve never experienced before. The viral outbreak and attendant crisis have disrupted every aspect of our daily lives – social, professional, personal, emotional, spiritual, financial, and of course, educational. 
     
    Today marks the second day of school-wide distance learning at Emery/Weiner, and we hope that you and your families are starting to adjust to this new approach. Thankfully, we created the position of Director of Instructional Technology a few years ago and began preparing for this possibility weeks ago, so our faculty are well-versed in a variety of tools they’re now using to teach your children.
     
    Every day, our academic leadership team “visits” virtual classrooms and reviews course bulletin boards in order to get a sense of what our students are experiencing. So far, our sense is that things are off to a good start – which is what we’ve heard from parents – but if you or your child has any issues, please be in touch with the relevant teacher or division head.
     
    In the mean-time, as EWS education takes on a new form, our physical campus is officially closed. All non-digital school events (on campus or off) should be considered postponed or canceled until further notice. Similarly, given the unpredictable nature of the situation, we are reluctant to announce any specific dates for re-opening. Our best guess is that distance learning will continue until Passover break – but we will continue monitoring and communicating as new developments transpire.
     
    Finally, perhaps the two hallmarks of the Emery experience are our sense of joy and sense of community. Needless to say, these two attributes are hard to come by these days; but our hope is to find ways to bring some smiles and create some meaningful connections in the coming days and weeks despite our social distancing– so stay tuned. 
     
    Thanks for your ongoing patience and flexibility. Be safe.
     
    Warmly,
    Stuart J. Dow
  • March 12, 2020

    Dear EWS Community,

    The question of how we best respond to the Coronavirus pandemic is incredibly complex – intellectually, emotionally, and even ethically. Consider the following.

    Even as a non-scientist, I know that social distancing – which now dominates the news – is an effective way of slowing the spread of a contagion. But people are social beings. So before deciding on extreme measures in this regard, policy makers must consider a host of issues, including the relative danger of the contagion and an assessment of the advantages and disadvantages that flow from those measures. In the case of closing the rodeo, for example, it’s a question of entertainment and economics. With schools, it’s different. Here, it’s kids and education.

    Of course, not all schools are similarly-situated. A private school’s student population will typically have access to technology that many public schools’ do not. In fact, just across the street from Emery/Weiner is an elementary school in which over 90% of the kids are on the Federal free lunch program. So if that school closes, not only will many of those students not have access to remote learning – many will also miss meals. Considered in this light, the decision to cancel, close, or quarantine for the sake of reducing pressure on health care providers comes at a different societal cost. This perspective is shared by a professor from Johns Hopkins in her New York Times essay here.

    And yet, there are those who see it differently. For example, another professor from Johns Hopkins argues that helping reduce the spread of a deadly disease should be a priority – even when doing so is inconvenient. His essay in The Atlantic is here. And to be sure, even though kids seem largely unaffected by Corona, we can rightfully worry about their ability to transmit it not only to each other in a school’s close quarters, but to staff and teachers – many of whom are themselves more vulnerable and many of whom have more vulnerable loved ones. In short, for a school that teaches the primacy of Tikkun Olam, repairing the world and caring for our neighbors, the notion of sacrificing for a larger good is a powerful lesson.

    In the end, this isn’t just a hard decision, it’s an excruciating one. The question isn’t just whether to close, it’s if so, when and for how long?

    In the end, after several days of reading competing articles, scouring various websites, and conferring with local experts, colleagues and the Executive Committee of the Board of Trustees, I’ve decided that Emery/Weiner will cancel all on-site classes and activities during the week of March 16-20. Accordingly, students should bring all of their books and study materials home at the end the school day tomorrow, Friday, March 13, so they’ll be able to participate fully in a remote learning setting. Please note, on-line instruction will begin Monday, March 16. Our Distance Learning Plan can be found: here. Detailed instructions from division heads will be sent out soon to parents and students and posted on our website.

    (Incidentally, but importantly, local area public school districts just announced closures – a decision that impacts several of our staff with children in those schools, thus further complicating the situation for us practically-speaking.)

    Thankfully, our teachers have been preparing for distance teaching and have been preparing our students for remote learning. To be sure, it won’t be the same as classroom instruction – and not being on campus with their peers or participating in extra-curricular activities can affect the emotional well-being of our kids. So my hope is that our closure won’t last too long, but we haven’t determined specific end-dates. Instead, we will monitor the situation on an ongoing basis and provide weekly updates.

    In sum, I think it’s fair to say that this is an unprecedented situation – it’s certainly nothing most of us have experienced. I know there’s not only a great deal of confusion, there’s also a large degree of anxiety among many. As such, I thank you for your trust, patience, & understanding as we seek to navigate unchartered (and admittedly choppy) waters. We will continue to be in close touch, and please recall that our website has a new page devoted to this situation, which includes previous communications, updates, and information on our distance learning plan and protocols.

    Thanks very much,

    Stuart J. Dow
    Head of School
  • March 10, 2020

    Dear EWS Community,
     
    I’m writing to update you on the School’s plans in light of the Coronavirus.
     
    First, I’d like to share information provided to me by Dr. Daniel Musher, Distinguished Professor at the Baylor College of Medicine and Chief of Infectious Diseases for the VA Hospital. With regard to the various precautions being taken in response to the outbreak, Dr. Musher says this:
     
    “Scientifically speaking, all of these precautions are only going to delay the worldwide transmission. Ultimately, everyone in the world will end up in one the following categories: (1) innately immune, a large unknown, but some people just won’t be infected; (2) sub-clinically (unrecognized) infection, only detectable by finding antibody to the virus after the major epidemic is over; (3) clinically infected, which should have minimal impact on otherwise healthy young adults; (4) seriously clinically infected. A public health advantage to slowing the spread of disease by various quarantine precautions is to prevent overload of health care facilities, which can only provide supportive care. An existing antiviral drug might be found to be effective and could allow 'off-label use.' But a new drug would not possibly be tested and approved for use within a year. Same with a vaccine.”
     
    In other words, the vast majority of our students and staff are not likely to be seriously harmed by the virus and yet, Dr. Musher went on to say that there are very good practical reasons to limit travel (especially by plane) in light of several factors, including the potential need to quarantine were someone to become ill during a trip. And doing so for two weeks while away from Houston would be highly challenging.
     
    Thus, after much deliberation, considering many different factors, we have reluctantly decided to cancel all EWS spring trips for grades 6 through 11. This does not include 12th grade internships. In addition, please note the following:
     
    1. The Middle School will be in session next Monday thru Wednesday (closed Thursday & Friday, as previously planned & announced).
    2. The Upper School will be in session next Monday thru Thursday (closed Friday).
    3. For both divisions, the daily rotation will be 9,10, 9, 10. 
    4. On Monday & Tuesday, our Middle School faculty will experiment with distance learning tools and strategies in case we need to close school for an extended period of time, like several colleges have already announced. Our Upper School faculty will do so on Wednesday & Thursday. However, students are still expected to come to campus – the experimenting will happen with kids and teachers in their classrooms. 
    5. Given the understandable disappointment that so many are feeling in light of the trip cancellations (especially the students, of course), teachers may depart from their typical curricula and instead use next week for lessons, discussions, and activities that are more unique in nature – something several faculty have mentioned and working to implement.
       
    Please note that the School has not made any decision yet with regard to the Graubart Senior Trip to Poland and Israel or the voluntary summer trips for Upper School students.
     
    Additional precautions we are taking to safeguard the wellness of the Emery/Weiner community include these:
    • We are asking anyone who has knowingly come into contact with someone who has tested positive for Coronavirus to self-quarantine and not come onto campus for 14 days. If someone is showing any signs of the flu, we’re asking them to remain home. Remote learning will be available to any affected students;
    • We are making changes in our food services protocols to help reduce possible transmission, as well; and
    • We are continuing to actively monitor what the CDC is recommending and what our peer schools are doing to ensure that we are abiding by best practices.
    Finally, as one of my colleagues aptly put it, there are not good solutions in this awful situation – just less bad ones. I hate that we’ve had to cancel the trips, but I sincerely believe it’s the right decision in light of all the information. I hope you understand and will help your kids do the same. Thanks very much.
     
    Sincerely,
     
    Stuart J. Dow
    Head of School
  • March 6, 2020

    Dear EWS Community,
     
    We continue to carefully monitor the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. As always, the health and safety of our community is our highest priority and we remain committed to making the best data-based and expert-driven decisions for our community. For the most up-to-date information, please visit our website here: https://www.emeryweiner.org/coronavirus-updates.
     
    What is COVID-19?
     
    COVID-19 is a new variant of a common family of viruses called coronaviruses. These viruses typically cause respiratory tract infections ranging from the common cold to more serious illnesses like severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS). 
     
    What is the current risk assessment?
    • For the general American public, who are unlikely to be exposed to this virus at this time, the immediate health risk from COVID-19 is considered low.
    • Of all clinically-detected infections to date, less than 2% have been in children under 14 years old. The most serious infections have developed in approximately 16% of cases, and the majority of these patients have been over the age of 70.
    • Travelers returning from affected international locations where community spread is occurring are at elevated risk of exposure.
    CDC has issued guidance to help with risk assessment and management of people with potential exposures to COVID-19.
     
    What are the symptoms?
     
    Symptoms related to COVID-19 coronavirus infection range from mild to severe respiratory symptoms. Most patients have fever, cough, and body aches. In more severe infections, symptoms may include shortness of breath and/or pneumonia. Symptoms typically appear between two and 14 days after exposure to an infected person.
     
    How is EWS responding?
     
    We have established elevated hygiene practices and procedures to address the spread of all viral respiratory infections, including COVID-19, colds, and influenza. These include:
    • A deep cleaning and sterilization of the entire campus this coming weekend, 
    • An emphasis on frequent and assiduous hand-washing,
    • Placement of alcohol-based hand sanitizer around campus,
    • Encouraging proper cough/sneeze hygiene including use of tissues and hand-washing,
    • Encouraging "social distancing" when appropriate, particularly by avoiding handshakes and hugs in favor of waves or a nod of the head,
    • Discouraging students, faculty, and staff from attending school if sick, and
    • Discouraging the use of face masks. There is no evidence that masks prevent healthy people from getting sick, and supplies are growing limited for healthcare providers who need them.
    In addition, we are preparing for the possibility of school closure if COVID-19 emerges in our community. Faculty and staff are assembling plans to maintain continuity of teaching should this become necessary.
     
    What about spring trips and senior internships?
     
    For the time being, we plan to move forward with spring trips and senior internships. Currently, no national or international health organization is recommending against domestic travel within the United States. We will reevaluate this decision as necessary, and deliver updates in a timely fashion.  
     
    How should I talk to my student about COVID-19?
     
    A global event such as this can certainly have a psychological impact on people, and can be particularly difficult to process for children and young adults. This New York Times Article (link: click here) provides helpful strategies for talking to your kids in order to help reduce their anxiety.
     
    Shabbat Shalom,
      
    Stuart J. Dow
    Head of School
  • March 5, 2020

    Good evening, all,
     
    This afternoon, planners for the ISAS Arts Festival notified all attending schools of their decision to cancel this year’s festival. 
     
    This is the language from their message:
     
    “We are writing to share the unfortunate news that out of an abundance of caution it has been decided to cancel the ISAS Arts Festival 2020.  
     
    The safety of our students is always our top priority and we heard concerns from a number of you regarding the risk involved in bringing together over 3500 students and faculty from 43 different schools. While medical professionals have not yet made recommendations prohibiting domestic travel, various institutions and groups are cancelling and/or placing restrictions on large group gatherings.”
     
    We do not yet have further details regarding financial commitments made, but the EWS business office is working to mitigate all costs in order to enable the greatest possible refund to our families.
     
    I know we are all disappointed not to be able to showcase our incredible artists and arts programs at this year’s festival. We appreciate your understanding and patience as we wait for further information, and will be in touch with more details and instructions as they become available.
     
    Thank you,
    Jen Bauer-Conley
    Director of Fine Arts
  • March 3, 2020

    We continue to monitor the situation related to the novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) and remain in ongoing contact with health professionals, the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS), and the Independent Schools Association of the Southwest (ISAS) for the most up-to-date information. 

    As we are also in the midst of cold and flu season, we encourage the EWS community to continue practicing diligent hygiene. If your student is showing any symptoms, please keep them at home and report it to the school. Students running a fever should also stay at home. Please keep them home a full 24 hours fever-and-symptom-free before returning to school.

    Our grade level spring trips are scheduled to continue as planned. However, if health officials advise otherwise we will make necessary adjustments.
  • February 28, 2020

    Dear EWS Community,
     
    As you are no doubt aware, Federal health officials recently issued a briefing on the potential for community spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) in the United States. Emery/Weiner continues to follow proper health and safety precautions to ensure the well-being of our students, faculty, and staff.
     
    At this time, we do not anticipate any changes to our school schedule, including the upcoming grade-level trips, or the trips related to the Sports Analytics Conference or AIPAC Conference. If your child was planning to attend one of the latter two trips and you would prefer that they stay home, please reach out directly to the relevant chaperone.
     
    For more information on the COVID-19, please visit the Centers for Disease Control and Preventionhere:https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-nCoV/summary.html. You can find more information onCDC travel recommendations and advisories here: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/travelers/index.html.
     
    In the mean-time, please know that we will continue monitoring the situation closely and will provide updates should they become necessary.
     
    Best wishes for a Shabbat Shalom.
     
    Stuart J. Dow
    Head of School