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Head of School Update: 1/03/21



(Please see below for a full transcript of the video)


Dear McGillis Families,


As we welcome the new year and the opportunities that lie ahead, I’d like to take a moment to reflect on 2020. While we recognize the hardships of this past year, we also recognize the silver linings. If nothing else, 2020 taught us all to be a bit more patient and kind with one another, as well as ourselves. 2020 also demanded perseverance and endurance in us as individuals, as well as our collective community.


Looking into the new year, we’ll likely need to continue to draw on our patience, perseverance, and endurance as we continue to face the challenges presented by the pandemic. Despite these challenges, and in some ways as a result of these challenges, we will continue to find ways for our community to thrive.


Despite the challenges of COVID-19, McGillis has been able to provide a safe learning environment for our students. We’ve been able to do so as a result of our entire community working together. This includes the:

  • work of our planning teams over the summer to develop a roadmap for reopening the school year;
  • dedication of our teachers to adapt and learn new teaching strategies;
  • resilience, support, and understanding from our students and families; and
  • expertise and guidance of our COVID-19 Task Force.


And these efforts haven’t stopped. We continue to evolve and adapt each day in navigating this ongoing public health crisis with our guiding principles guiding our actions. 


I’ll provide a more in-depth state of school on Thursday, January 14. In the meantime, there are several updates I’d like to share with you: 

  • Considerations for returning to School after the Winter Break;
  • New CDC and State guidelines…  and what they mean at McGillis; and
  • A health snapshot and how we’ll communicate new COVID-19 cases in our community. 



It is important for the School to continue to understand the health of our community and we rely on each member of our community to continue to do what’s in the best interest of the collective whole. Therefore,

  • If you or anyone in your household was diagnosed with COVID-19, please inform immediately and prior to returning to in-person learning.
  • If you traveled over the break, or if your family joined with people outside of your immediate household, even extended family members, we strongly recommend learning remotely for the week of January 4.
  • If your child experiences any symptoms in the days leading up to our physical return on Tuesday, January 5, yet feels better on that day, please consider keeping them home for another day or two to evaluate their health, particularly if you were active outside your household.
  • Please resume submitting daily health screenings via the AUXS mobile app beginning Monday, January 4.


When classes restart on January 4, we will continue in our Hybrid Teaching & Learning model, supporting both our in-person and remote learners. And we intend to continue in this model, offering both in-person and remote students the flexibility to switch between learning modes based on their needs, as well as the needs of our families.



  • On December 17, Utah Department of Health updated quarantine guidelines for exposures within schools. These updates include when you DO or DO NOT need to quarantine for exposures only within the school and therefore applying to students, teachers, and school staff.
  • Quarantines are no longer required if any person exposed to someone who tested positive were all wearing masks. Those exposed must also not be displaying any symptoms of COVID-19.
  • If at any time during the 14 days after their exposure a person develops symptoms of COVID-19, he or she should isolate and get tested right away. If the person does not have symptoms, he or she should wait 7 days after they were exposed to get tested.
  • If either person was NOT wearing a mask at the time of exposure, a quarantine is necessary for anyone exposed.
    • The individual exposed may end quarantine on day 10 without testing and if they have no symptom of COVID-19.
    • The exposed individual may also end quarantine with a negative test result. You can get tested on day 7 of your quarantine and end quarantine if your test is negative and you do not have any symptoms of COVID-19. You must wait at least 7 days after the exposure to be tested. The test can be a PCR or rapid antigen test. You must continue to quarantine until you get your test results back.
  • There may be certain situations where you may need to get a 2nd test before you can return to school before day 10.
  • If you live with someone who has COVID-19, it is called a household contact. Household contacts are at a much higher risk of getting infected with the virus and should quarantine for 10 days from the last day of exposure to the person who tested positive. You must finish the entire 10-day quarantine, even if you don’t have symptoms or test negative. You may not end quarantine before 10 days.


The CDC continues to provide evidence of the effectiveness of face masks as a barrier to help prevent respiratory droplets from reaching others and help prevent the spread of COVID-19. McGillis will continue to lean into mask-wearing as an important mitigation measure at school.


McGillis is adopting the State’s updated quarantine guidelines and will continue to handle each COVID-19 case identified within the school community with great caution, taking the necessary actions case-by-case including:  

  • Coordination with the Department of Health to conduct contact tracing and identify possible exposures
  • Coordination with the Department of Health and families to determine return to school dates for anyone that has tested positive for COVID-19 and for anyone that needs to quarantine due to exposure when NOT wearing masks.
  • Coordination with families in tracking anyone that develops symptoms of COVID-19 during the 14 days after exposure, yet able to return to school due to mask-wearing. 
  • And coordination with the Department of Health and families to determine return to school dates for anyone that lives with someone, a household contact, that has COVID-19.



We remain committed to communicating with our families the overall health of our School, as well as in-classroom exposures.


The School will continue to inform parents of students in a grade level of any positive cases in the student’s grade. We will also continue to notify parents of any students that are identified as a close contact, regardless of whether quarantine is required.


The School will notify our entire community of positive cases weekly via our COVID-19 Dashboard on Canvas. This dashboard is updated at the end of each school week and will continue to be shared in Sunday’s Magpie Messenger. The dashboard provides a weekly snapshot of weekly snapshot of the School’s health including:

  • Active COVID-19 cases
  • Active quarantines
  • Absences due to COVID-19 related symptoms
  • Absences due to close contact pending test
  • HERO Project tests 
  • Student health screening app participation



While one case of COVID-19 is one too many, we’re grateful the number of cases in our school community has been minimal. During the 17 weeks we’ve been in operating in our Hybrid Teaching & Learning model, with a combination of in-person and remote learning, we’ve had a total of 9 members of our community diagnosed with COVID-19. 

  • Faculty/Staff: 3
  • Lower School Students: 4 in-person + 0 remote
  • Middle School Students: 1 in-person + 1 remote


Of these cases, neither the Department of Health nor the School’s Task Force have identified any in-school transmission. We attribute this to the mitigation tactics we’ve put in place, as well as the commitment and actions of our community.


We’re excited to learn the State of Utah is prepared to provide vaccines for all K-12 school employees; this includes administrators, custodians, lunch staff, AfterSchool staff, and substitute teachers. Schools have not yet been scheduled for the vaccine due to its availability. However, the State anticipates vaccinating teachers and staff the last week of January into February. Of course, this timing could change based on vaccine availability. We are in contact with the Salt Lake County Health Department to coordinate this first round of vaccinations and will update our teachers and staff once we have additional details.


As for students, it will still be a while -- possibly another year -- before we know about the availability of vaccines, largely because the first trials for the new vaccines have not yet been completed with kids.



Our community has done an admiral job living up to our community commitment. We know the months ahead are going to be harder than the prior months. We want to see our health remain strong and it’s essential we don’t let our guard down and become complacent. We ended our final school week of 2020 with 91% participation with our daily health screening. It is essential we get this number upwards of 100% as we begin the new year and through these difficult months ahead. I’m calling on us all to double down on our efforts to live up to our community commitment. Please continue to keep your children home with any signs of symptoms, even minor. Please complete the health app each morning. You may need to refresh your app as we restart on January 4. Please continue to communicate closely with regarding all COVID related issues or questions you may have. Please have your child arrive at school each day with water, a mask, a back up mask, and proper clothing to eat outside. It takes us all partnering together, and looking out for each other, to maintain a healthy McGillis community.


Together we can.


Happy 2021!


Jim Brewer

Head of School