On Monday, two non-academic staff members at Bullis School in Potomac tested positive for COVID-19 and are self-quarantining.
The private school’s track own tracing team “immediately informed those in the Bullis community who may have had contact with the staff members,” the school wrote in a statement. Anyone who was in contact with either or both of the employees also are self-quarantining and will not return to the campus until it is safe for them to do so, according to a school spokesperson.
The two employees were “encouraged” to work with the state contact tracing process, “which they immediately did, according to the spokesperson.
Since learning about the positive tests on Aug. 17, the school has conducted a deep cleaning of the campus, with particular attention to the areas where the individuals worked, according to the spokesperson.
Two days after learning the employees had tested positive, Bullis informed the Montgomery County Health Department of the situation. The department was notified Aug. 19 at 9:16 a.m.
The school still intends to open utilizing a four-phase flexible plan.
When it first learned of the positive tests, Head of School Christian G. Sullivan sent an email addressed to “Bullis Families,” alerting them to the situation.
He noted that both employees “are doing well” and that the campus would close for two days on Tuesday and Wednesday for the deep clean.
Sullivan promised in the letter to “be transparent, and not hesitate to do the right thing, even when difficult. When school starts, I will write a Health and Safety email every Friday. That email will describe the work of the Health and Safety Committee, and share relevant data. Obviously, if we do have any infections, those who come into contact with an infected person will be informed and quarantined immediately.”
Meanwhile, the county continues to urge all nonpublic schools not to open their doors yet. “We continue to feel strongly that it is not safe,” County Executive Marc Elrich said during an Aug. 19 session with the media.
The county has yet to receive specific guidance on what a school must do to become considered safe to open during the global pandemic. These schools do not require county government permission to welcome students into their buildings but has offered to assist in preparing the schools for students.
The county has only seen opening plans for four of the 140 nonpublic schools in Montgomery County, and only two of those plans were submitted by the schools. The others came from families, according to County Health Officer Dr. Travis Gayles.
Between 16 and 18 percent of new COVID-19 cases in the county are occurring in school aged children up to the age of 19, Gayles said.
While the county doesn’t play a direct role in deciding the standards for opening schools, it does for businesses.
Earl Stoddard, director of the County Office of Emergency Management & Homeland Security, noted that no citations or forced closings occurring this past weekend at any of the establishments his office checked out. There were only “minor issues,” he said.
Less than 10 percent of the calls to the state hotline to report violations, including nonenforcment of the mandatory mask rule, involved Montgomery County, Stoddard said. Of the 94 complaints, only nine mentioned businesses in the county.