August 25, 2021
With the rise in COVID-related hospitalizations across our state due to the Delta variant, we wanted to take this opportunity to share our assessment of our current safety measures and what we are doing to make our campus safer for students.
First, we firmly believe that our campus provides one of the safest environments for your child. In addition to our safety protocols, such as universal mask wearing and regular hand hygiene, our K – 12 faculty vaccination rate is over 97%. Our data about eligible students who are vaccinated also suggests that our community of families is significantly more vaccinated than the general population – 90% of our eligible students are vaccinated vs. 75% of the O‘ahu population currently eligible for the vaccine. Throughout the pandemic, the data have also consistently shown that the greatest risk to unvaccinated children still remains social gatherings, travel and household transmission, not school settings. Punahou remains, in short, one of the safest places for your children to be.
Still, no environment is totally risk free, and we do know that COVID can affect children. While vaccines have dramatically reduced the risk of serious illness for those who have received them, and reports of serious illness in children due to COVID remain rare, we are closely watching the impact of the Delta variant on children both in our state and within our school community. As always, we will be transparent in reporting these figures so that you are informed.
Over the past two weeks, we have been notified of 14 infections among our total population of nearly 4,600 students and employees. One individual was on campus while in their infectious period during a school day, resulting in one classroom having to quarantine. Fortunately, all of these cases have been mild and there have been no reports of on-campus transmission. We are grateful that in all of these cases, individuals have notified the School as quickly as possible.
This year, we enacted a revised set of on-campus safety protocols based on everything we have learned since the beginning of the pandemic. Our goal has been to do more of what we know works, and less of what we now know is less effective. For example, just as many of us no longer sanitize our groceries, Punahou no longer mandates the use of partitions in classrooms because of their limited efficacy. Instead, we have followed guidance from the CDC and Hawai‘i State Department of Health and focused on a core set of measures that, taken together, provide a scientifically proven, multi-layered approach to safety while also allowing for as much “normal” school experience as possible. We will continually review our measures and share any changes and additions we feel are necessary to keep our children safe.
What WE are doing to keep our children safe:
- Continued enforcement of campus-wide, universal mask mandate indoors and outdoors.
- Strong enforcement of the stay-home-if-sick policy and use of the Daily Health Check-in App.
- Any unvaccinated student who is out sick must receive a negative COVID test from a commercial lab prior to readmission.
- All K – 6 faculty will undergo weekly COVID testing, regardless of their vaccination status. (This new policy is designed to provide an extra layer of protection for our unvaccinated students in the Junior School).
- All K – 6 indoor activities will continue to be limited to individual cohorts.
- Meals will be held outdoors as much as possible, particularly in K – 6.
- All student athletes are required to be vaccinated in order to participate in interscholastic athletics.
- There will be no spectators at Punahou athletic events until further notice, consistent with state restrictions.
- There will be no student travel or field trips until further notice.
- Outdoor activities, such as recess, are considered low risk when children are masked. However, we will enhance playground supervision to ensure children observe personal space as much as possible.
- Ongoing sanitation of rooms and surfaces and encouragement of hand washing.
- Anticipated on-campus vaccination clinics once the vaccine is approved for those under 12 years of age.
- Continued sharing of information in a timely manner on our punahou.edu/health website.
What YOU can do to keep our children safe:
- Make sure that all eligible individuals within your household are vaccinated.
- Keep your children home if they are sick and immediately notify the School through the Daily Health Check-in App or by contacting email@example.com.
- Limit social gatherings, parties and events, particularly those where masks are not worn around people outside your households.
- Reduce extra-curricular activities for your children, particularly those that take place indoors.
- Avoid taking your children to crowded restaurants, movie theaters and indoor food courts.
- Have your children wear well-fitting masks made of non-woven materials (such as those found in a medical mask sized for children).
- Talk to your children and practice how to maintain personal space around others outside your household.
- Avoid all non-essential off-island travel.
There is a lot that we can do individually, but even more that we can do together. The strong partnership between the School and our families is an essential part of our approach to safety. We will continue to share information and policy updates with you and, as always, welcome your thoughts and suggestions.
Thank you for your ongoing support and care for our community,
The Pandemic Response Team