Final Pool Test Results and a Look to the Fall

Dear Hackley Community,

I am writing to share the results of the final surveillance test for the 2020-2021 academic year, as well as to share thoughts on the 2021-2022 school year. We tested 1046 samples collected on Wednesday, June 9, yielding no positive cases. 

Over the course of 42 consecutive weeks, Hackley tested 40,548 individual samples, detecting 55 positive cases for a 0.14% total positivity rate and an average weekly positivity rate of 0.2%; during this same period, Westchester County’s average positivity rate was 3.1%. 

An additional 32 cases were reported to Hackley that required the quarantine of close contacts. Because we do not know the total number of tests taken by individuals in the community, we are unable to determine an overall positivity rate. These 87 individuals represent just over 8% of the total testing population of students and employees. The graphical results for full year’s results can be found here

Reflections on 2020-2021
Numbers do not tell the full story of our success, nor of the challenges. With support, input, and conversation with the community, Hackley opened last fall for full-time, in-person instruction grades K-12 from the start of the school year. Sending students to school and coming in to work at that time represented an enormous leap of faith on the part of the community, yet week-by-week, we grew more comfortable with the idea of being together. 

Weekly testing was key to being in-person, identifying cases early to minimize the spread of COVID-19 and giving Hackley students what was unfortunately an all-too-rare experience for children across the country: an in-person education with peers and teachers. 

I want to extend special thanks to Mary Anne Schmitt-Carey and Donald Carey for introducing Hackley to Mirimus Labs last summer. Many others helped make our weekly testing a success, and I want to extend special thanks to Peter Sawkins, Phil Variano, and Jed Dioguardi for their roles in administering the program. I am grateful to Shannon Smith for working with individuals who tested positive, walking them through next steps and providing support. I also want to thank Teresa Weber and Aisha Laspina-Rodriguez for managing the communication of results each weekend. Hackley’s COVID-19 Medical Advisory Group — Brenda Ayers, David Gluckman, Michelle Lee, Renu Mital, Samantha Rai, Vin Sandhu, Mary Anne-Schmitt Carey, Edwidge Thomas, and David Weinrich — was always ready for a consult, and their guidance proved invaluable throughout the most challenging days of this school year. This program, like so much we did this year, was a team effort.

The challenges were many, and they were most acutely experienced by those directly impacted by COVID-19, whether as an individual who contracted the disease, someone who lost a family member or friend, or someone required to quarantine as a result of being a close contact. Over 300 community members were quarantined or were otherwise restricted from campus this year, some multiple times. We have come a long way since the late fall and early winter months due to access to the vaccine, continued support from our community, improved weather for outdoor activities, and the resulting low area positivity rates. I want to again thank students, families, teachers, staff, and administrators for pulling together this year. This year would not have been possible without your tremendous efforts and support, and I think what we accomplished together is something about which we can all be proud.

Looking Forward
While 2020-2021 was the year in which we did without, I am looking to 2021-2022 as a year in which we adapt and return to activities that both build community and are so meaningful to the lives and development of our students. The Hackley community is nothing if not resilient and flexible, and we will apply those characteristics in full for 2021-2022 to have as normal a school year as possible.

We acknowledge that as great as it was to be in person this year, the classroom experience was different. We are eager to return to pre-COVID classroom configurations, mindful of requirements from state and local agencies. Additionally, we are planning for the return of performances and recitals, field trips, a full schedule of interscholastic athletic competitions, after-school clubs and activities, the return of the Tuck Shop and Hornets’ Nest, and in-person gatherings, including class socials and Stings. School should look much more normal next year, and each of these activities will be managed in accordance with public health requirements and a sensible view of the risks and benefits for our community. 

Student Vaccinations
The key to the healthy, safe, and normal school year described above is the vaccination of students, and you do not need to take my word for it. Ava Troso ’23 and Bella Fauber ’23 created this video filled with cameo appearances by their peers to encourage other students to get vaccinated. Like these students, Hackley continues to strongly encourage all eligible individuals to get vaccinated. Our students want and deserve a normal school year, which will only be possible through vaccination. 

As shared previously, Hackley will finalize and communicate a decision by July 1 regarding whether the school will require eligible students to be vaccinated. Please consult the New York, New Jersey, or Connecticut vaccine websites for information on sites close to you. A parent or legal guardian will likely be required to accompany children under age 18. If you have questions about the vaccine and missed the panel discussion with members of the COVID-19 Medical Advisory Group, you can review the recording here
I could not be more proud of this community for demonstrating flexibility and grace when it was needed most. I offer my congratulations and appreciation to all of you as we look forward to our end-of-year celebrations, culminating on Saturday with Commencement and our celebration of the Class of 2021. On behalf of Hackley School, I wish each of our students, families, faculty, staff, and administrators a restorative and joyful summer.

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