Western Reserve Academy temporarily suspends classes, extracurriculars over COVID-19 cases
Western Reserve Academy is temporarily suspending classes and extracurricular activities through the end of February because of a "small number of COVID cases," the school said in a statement released Friday.
The school called the suspension a "pause on instruction for one week," which it said "allows recovery time for our small number of COVID cases and grace for those who are in quarantine because of contact tracing."
"It affords us the opportunity to best prepare our reserves for the intended resumption of in-person learning shortly," the statement reads.
According to the school's data, there have been 33 confirmed COVID-19 cases at Western Reserve, including 20 confirmed student cases and 13 confirmed employee cases. Of the 33 overall cases, 18 cases are currently active at the school.
The coed boarding and day school for grades 9-12 has about 400 students, made up of about two-thirds boarding students and one-third day students.
"Since the beginning of the pandemic, Western Reserve Academy has taken thoughtful but bold moves in the interest of the physical, mental and emotional wellness of our students and community," the statement reads. "With the support and close advisement of the medical community, we have conducted in-person school all year. We are committed to continuing this delivery method because in-person learning fosters joy, connection and consistency, things all teenagers need."
In a letter to the Western Reserve community dated Feb. 15, Head of School Suzanne Walker Buck noted that in the past week, the school saw an increased number of COVID cases and candidates for quarantine.
At that time, Buck wrote that she believed the school had "crested this wave and will therefore proceed with our current modality of instruction" but cautioned "we can not let down our guard or our commitment to each other," with temporary distance learning being introduced "if at any time the administration and our medical professionals feel it prudent to do so."
"I understand that pandemic fatigue is real, but I beseech us to dig deeper, to double down on our efforts to keep ourselves and others safe," she wrote.
Three days later, on Feb. 18, Buck sent another letter to the school community announcing the school would be suspending classes, athletics and extracurricular activities beginning Feb. 19 through Feb. 28 "in light of the growing number of student and employee COVID cases and candidates for quarantine on campus."
Buck noted the change was not a shift to temporary distance learning. Classes will commence the week of March 1, and COVID testing will occur prior to the return to school, Buck wrote.
Boarding students can go home or remain in dorms, and boarding students on campus will be provided with a structured supervised schedule and meals, Buck wrote. Day students should remain off campus.
"While the decision to suspend school is not one I take lightly, I do so in concordance with the counsel of our medical professionals and committed leadership team," Buck wrote. "WRA cares deeply about the safety and wellness of our community. As a school we look forward to providing robust and healthy learning experiences in the days to follow."
In a Jan. 18 letter, Buck announced the easing of some limitations "given the success of our Pioneers and the desire to support the emotional wellness needs of all."
Those changes the week of Jan. 18 included permitting visitation of residents within the same dorm; welcoming day students to participate in meals, weekend and evening activities; permitting hockey practices; and allowing boarding students to sign out for weekends, although they could not bring guests.
Changes the week of Jan. 25 included the resumption of interscholastic competition of varsity sports, without spectators, and permitting students to participate in athletic and arts activities outside of Western Reserve.
Buck noted at the time that she was "optimistic about WRA's success trajectory" but cautioned "our protocols are dependent upon our performance, the greater COVID landscape, and what is deemed to be in best practice given the facts available at the time. At any time, in the event that our protocols need to change, I will be in communication."