COVID Updates and 12/04/20 Testing Information

Dear Hackley Families,

I hope that you enjoyed a restful break during the Thanksgiving holiday. As we resume in-person instruction next week, I want to share information regarding modifications to our approach during the colder months ahead. Additionally, you will find information below regarding Friday’s sample collection.

Sample Collection on Friday, December 4
Please deliver your child’s saliva sample to “The Nest” area of the Johnson Center on Friday, December 4, 7:30 - 10:30 a.m.

Our team of medical professionals will be ready to accept and log samples. Lanyards with QR codes for students in grades K-4 will already be in the Johnson Center to simplify sample registration. Students in grades 5-12 (or a parent/guardian) must bring their QR code to drop off samples. To ease child care issues that morning, students are permitted (but not required) to accompany adults dropping off samples.

Consistent with prior practice, all students must participate in pool testing to return to campus the following week; no outside test results will be accepted. We purposefully delayed the start of classes this Friday to accommodate saliva sample collection.

Testing Supplies
Over the last several weeks, we have found that an increasing number of families are requesting additional vial kits to replace those lost or misplaced. Testing supplies are in high demand nationwide and we have already experienced several challenges on this front; test supplies are precious resources. We ask that you please keep close track of your sample kits, ensuring that Hackley can continue to test everyone weekly, while also controlling the costs of testing.

Cold Weather Modifications
With colder months ahead, sustained opportunities for using outdoor spaces will be reduced. Most of the tents around campus have been removed in advance of any early snowfall, and will return in early spring. Throughout the fall, we observed that one of the greatest uses of outdoor spaces was for lunch. To provide sufficient distancing during lunch, we will make the following modifications beginning on Monday, December 7:
  • We have designated indoor spaces for Upper School students to eat lunch, including using the Johnson Center. Faculty, staff, and administrators will help supervise lunch periods.
  • Lower and Middle School students will continue to eat in classrooms, just as happened throughout the fall during inclement weather. At any one time, only half of the class will be unmasked and eating, allowing the rest of the group to remain masked and distanced.
Weather permitting, outdoor spaces will continue to be used for recess, snack, and lunch in the Lower and Middle Schools.

Additionally, fresh air will be introduced throughout various buildings through cracked windows, especially during transitions and lunch periods. Fresh air venting and the HVAC improvements made this summer are integral to creating a healthy environment for all. Given the use of open windows in some areas, students are encouraged to dress warmly, as buildings may be colder than normal.

Maintaining In-Person Instruction
School leadership remains mindful of our obligation to the health and safety of the entire community as we continue to monitor positivity rates in our area and nationwide. As rates change, we are working to understand the factors driving the change, the dynamic nature of the government’s response, and how each of these may impact the Hackley community. The steps we have taken to date, especially weekly testing, have been critical factors in our ability to meet our duty of care while remaining in-person throughout the fall.

As the weather turns cold and the pandemic persists, Hackley endeavors to continue with our in-person model, an approach consistent with Governor Cuomo’s recent announcement regarding schools. School leadership will continue to review the factors articulated in our reopening plans and to follow public health and governmental guidance. Positivity rates are important, and they are but one factor that will impact our thinking; there is not an automatic threshold by which we move to distance learning. If the situation warrants it, we will communicate any changes as soon as they are known.

United, We Help One Another
The Hackley community has done something remarkable this fall, working together to ensure that students are able to attend school in person. I remain especially grateful to faculty, staff, and administrators, all of whom are working differently this school year. Their creativity, dedication, and professionalism is on display daily, from adapting teaching practices and lesson plans, to accommodate students participating in-person and via Zoom, to volunteering for additional supervisory roles, to rethinking entire programs and approaches during a pandemic.

Similarly, families have been invaluable partners in supporting changes in programs and policies, creating new home routines, and staying abreast of a constant stream of communications from Hackley, all while reinforcing important messages at home. Please continue to emphasize to your student several critical habits during this next period of time:
  • Wear masks
  • Maintain 6-feet of physical distancing wherever possible
  • Maintain good hand hygiene
  • Remain at home if you can’t pass the daily health screening
  • Continue to adhere with the COVID-19 community pledge found in the divisional handbooks

Additionally, if you traveled over Thanksgiving break, please adhere to the New York State quarantine and testing guidelines.

As always, please reach out with questions via

Thank you again for your partnership and support in what has been a challenging year for everyone. All of us recognize the benefits of being together on the Hilltop, and our ability to do so requires that we remain vigilant both on and off campus. By continuing to work together, we can continue to mitigate risk for our community.

Forward together,
Michael C. Wirtz P ’29 ’31