Return to Learn and Work

September 16, 2021

Dear Colleagues and Families,

I hope your week is going well.  I am sharing an additional update with you on behalf of the Monitoring Committee based on a very busy meeting Tuesday with this very dedicated group:

  • Student trips home continue to be restricted. The worst case trend right now shows a national COVID case peak at the end of September. We are pleased that IMSA’s COVID rate remains below 1%; however, we’re not yet comfortable to enable free movement without pre-arranged approval because Delta is still impacting the state of Illinois significantly. With conditions improving, Dr. Glazer will re-evaluate week to week and adjust our protocols based on improvements in community health and trends in the state and nation. For now, families can request an exemption to check out their student if they have previously arranged a medical appointment or another significant need that is non-social in nature. Please submit any exemption requests for review on this form. Note our preference is the off-campus appointment is short term. While we are on campus, our Residential Life and School Leadership teams will continue to keep students engaged in a fun and safe manner.

  • We expect students to go home for the long weekend Oct 7-11. Depending on public health at that time, we will implement health mitigation measures upon return to campus (such as limited movement on the day they return).

  • As a reminder, families can visit their children on campus if they first check-in with Security, meet with their child outside, stay on campus and wear masks. Family members do not need to check in with Security if they are dropping students back off on campus (and are not remaining on campus/visiting outside). Additionally, spectators attending outdoor athletic events do not need to check in with Security.

  • Masks are required for all spectators at athletics events, including outdoor events. If students are more than six feet apart outside, they may remove their masks unless they are a spectator at an athletic event. As a protective measure, visitors are not permitted to attend indoor athletic events in September.  Indoor athletic competitions can be watched via livestream.

  • A student focus group is forming to provide the input to the Monitoring Committee.  Students serving will represent the student voice, but also come equipped with solutions on how to make our environment better and safer. The expectation is that the student members of the focus group will be the contacts for their peers to go to with concerns and/or feedback. They will be active and solicit student feedback and solutions to any issues that are brought forward.

  • The number of days a colleague or student can be off campus without proof of a negative test is reduced from 7 days to 5 days due to the emergence of the delta variant incubation period. The initial alpha strain was 7-10 days.

  • We are piloting a new protocol for bus transportation given the statewide shortage of buses and bus drivers. Students riding in IMSA vehicles should maintain three feet of physical distance and sit one person per bench sheet when possible.  When not possible, the following additional mitigations will be required to allow for two persons per seat:

    • A seating chart must be created and the students must sit in the same spots driving to and from the event.

    • No eating or drinking on the bus.

    • Masks must be worn at all times.

    • Windows should be lowered for increased ventilation. If this is not possible, the vehicle’s air ventilation system can be used to circulate air, provided that the outside intake setting is used and not the interior recirculation setting.

These new protocols comply with IDPH guidelines. Stops to and from the event should not be made unless it is absolutely necessary, e.g.
obtaining gas, emergency bathroom stop, etc.  As a reminder, this is a pilot. If students are unable to follow these rules, the decision to
revert back to “one student per seat bench” will be reinstated. Cameras are on each bus and will be reviewed as a tool to evaluate this
pilot.

If we missed anything, you would like to ask a question, or bring forth a need for clarification, please submit it here and we will add it to the FAQ document for the benefit of our community.

Thank you for your support of our health and safety mitigation efforts intended to keep the IMSA Community well.

Be well,
Tami
Tami J. Armstrong, M.A.
Interim Chief Strategy Officer
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September 13, 2021

Dear Colleagues and Families,

I am pleased to provide a weekly update to the community about COVID transmission and the work of the Monitoring Committee.

With regard to a COVID transmission report, for the week ending September 10, 1,588 COVID tests were performed. 1,587 tests were negative and one was positive. The positivity rate was less than 0.1%. Please visit the Community Transmission Dashboard for weekly test data. As a reminder, we will not distinguish faculty, staff and students in our reporting, or share the names of individuals who test positive for COVID-19 according to privacy laws governing the use of health information. Also, please understand that a student or colleague unable to participate in-person does not signal a positive case and should not be assumed as such. There are many reasons our community members need to temporarily learn or work from a distance.

Please be reminded that students and colleagues are required to test twice a week upon the direction of the Kane County Health Department through September 23, 2021.

Our Monitoring Committee will hold its regularly scheduled meeting on Tuesday.  I intend to report on outcomes from the meeting and adjustments to the Return to Learn and Work Plan as part of my regular cadence next Monday.

Thank you for your support of our health and safety mitigation efforts intended to keep the IMSA Community well.

Be well,

Tami

Tami J. Armstrong, M.A.
Interim Chief Strategy Officer

September 10, 2021

Dear IMSA Students,

I hope the first three weeks of school have gone well for you and you are making good friends. I appreciate your patience and feedback as we have worked out a few wrinkles, such as food service and COVID testing. I hope you have seen improvements. The adults in the building also have scientific and engineering minds — we look at data to make decisions, and then refine our approach to yield better outcomes.

We are a community that values being a laboratory for inquiry and imagination. We believe great ideas can come from anyone on campus, and now I am pleased to share that we want to offer up to $2000 in financial support for ideas that reflect the Academy’s priorities of well-being, Equity and Excellence and impact. Please see the solicitation for proposals, due October 1, and let me know if you have questions. I look forward to reading about your great ideas and initiatives and hope to support as many as possible.

Tomorrow is the 20th anniversary of 9/11, a day of tragedy for our country, where thousands of innocent lives were lost. I know you weren’t alive then, but  you may know plenty of people who were.  I’m confident that day will stick in their minds forever because of the impact it had (and still has to this day). One of my colleagues lost his brother in the attack on the Pentagon, and the mother of my friend’s roommate was on one of the planes that hit the twin towers. Most recently I lived in New York City and have heard the first-hand stories of people who were assigned to dig through the rubble. Please know there are many people who will pause tomorrow in remembrance of those who perished and those who also fought for our freedom.

We are also living through a tragedy right now because hundreds of thousands of Americans have died due to COVID. I’m confident you will tell your children one day you remember the time you had to stay home for a year and learn over Zoom, and all of the restrictions put in place at IMSA. I realize it’s uncomfortable for some of you because you do not have the same independence and openness that you so much desire. You have to make personal sacrifices for the health of your peers, and more importantly, the people among us who may be more vulnerable with their health. Please don’t think being vaccinated is enough. Yes, it’s incredibly important; however, we’ve had some breakthrough cases due to the Delta variant. Every single one of us has to be conscientious that our personal actions can affect the community as a whole, and I want to give a shout out to those of you who speak up to reinforce safety. These types of actions protect your RCs who live with you, protect your teachers who so much value teaching in person and of course, your roommates and fellow teammates.

Last, a newsletter from Student Affairs will go out today to talk about weekend activities. We want you to know we think about your well-being and having something to enjoy in a safe manner. These types of activities don’t have to be initiated by adults — they can be created and led by anyone on campus. Our residential life team is awesome and has already done a lot to take care of you, so please chip in to help when you can. As you know, there are limitations on leaving campus in an effort to keep our community safe. I will share that some students have been granted permission to leave for necessary appointments. For example, some of you are taking the SAT/ACT. My wish is that you checkout and check back in on the same day because our COVID cases are most often traced to home situations. If you are home for an evening, I ask that you be vigilant in every way possible to avoid social activities and maintain physical distancing so that we can ensure you are safe and our campus community is safe upon your return. Please do your part when no one is watching.

Thank you for being the thoughtful, curious, respectful and caring people I have come to know over the past few weeks. I love being around you and worry about your health and safety every day. Let’s work together to keep our community strong and healthy.

Titans Together,

Dr. Evan M. Glazer
President

September 8, 2021

Dear IMSA Students and Families,

I hope you have enjoyed the start to the school year. It has been delightful to see students and colleagues in person with our wide variety of health and safety mitigation measures. I hope you watched this welcome video, which has a fun math rap, and so far I’ve personally enjoyed helping students with math questions throughout the campus. On August 23, we launched the year with Convocation, featuring school-spirited remarks from our Student Council President, Jakob Bachhausen ‘22,  personal reflections from alumnae Lacey Thomas ‘08 (keynote speaker) and a performance from Neil Wary ‘18. This past weekend, I hope you had a chance to participate in our annual Carnival, with fun-filled games and rides, and if you’re like my children, you also had your face painted.

I imagine most of you are keeping an eye on tighter COVID regulations across the state, first with mask wearing in schools and now mask wearing in indoor settings. Professionals in schools are now required to get the vaccine. This is in response to the growth in the Delta variant of COVID-19 cases.

The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation offers helpful data that illustrate trends and projections. You can see from this graphic we are at a pivotal point where conditions can become much worse if additional proactive measures are not put in place.

Therefore, IMSA will also now alter its approach in an effort to maintain a healthy community and in-person learning. First, under the guidance of the Kane County Department of Health, during the month of September, we will conduct a COVID test for all community members on campus twice a week, regardless of vaccination status. While unvaccinated community members have been testing positive more frequently, we have also seen vaccinated community members also test positive. Since we have been undergoing surveillance screening, we have been detecting COVID with little to no symptoms; simply put, it’s not obvious when someone is a carrier. Right now, this is manageable with a positive rate below 1%, however it can get worse without proper intervention. It is imperative you share with us when a family member tests positive, particularly if that should occur during Labor Day and your student is at home. For those students identified as close contacts, those students should remain at home and will be given access to classrooms remotely.

We have noticed a majority of COVID cases are a result of being in direct contact with family members or friends outside the IMSA community. Therefore, we will institute a few more precautions in the coming month. First, as you return from the Labor Day extended weekend, we are asking all students to remain within their hall upon their return and not visit other halls. We will conduct COVID testing the next day to verify health status. Second, we will begin restricting trips home after Labor Day. The worst case trend right now shows a national COVID case peak at the end of September with conditions improving in October, however we will evaluate week to week and adjust our protocols based on improvements in community health. I recognize this is not a desirable situation for students and families as they wish to have access to family time and home cooking. And, at the same time, I hope you recognize we must put some controls in place to limit potential spread and maintain learning in person. Recognizing the impact on potential personal needs, we will offer some accommodations. Families can arrange to see their children on campus if they first check-in with security, meet with their child outside, stay on campus, wear masks and are not in range of other students. In addition, families can request an exemption to check out their student if they have previously arranged a medical appointment or another significant need that is non-social in nature. Please submit any exemption requests to me for review on this form no later than September 9, and note our preference is the off-campus appointment is short term. While we are on campus, our Residential Life and School Leadership teams will work closely with students to keep them engaged in a safe manner.

I appreciate your cooperation and understanding during this pivotal time during the pandemic, a time when we can find the light at the end of the tunnel if we put all mitigation measures in place. Please don’t hesitate to reach out if you have questions or ideas to support our efforts.

Titans Together,

Dr. Evan M. Glazer
President

September 8, 2021

Dear Families,

With the Labor Day Holiday this past Monday and a second meeting of the Monitoring Committee held yesterday, I thought my weekly update on COVID transmission and adjustments to the Return to Learn and Work Plan would be more thoughtful and informative today, Wednesday.

With regard to a COVID transmission report, for the week ending September 3, 1,687 COVID tests were performed. 1,686 tests were negative and one was positive.  The positivity rate was less than 0.1%. Please visit the Community Transmission Dashboard for weekly test data. As a reminder, we will not distinguish faculty, staff and students in our reporting, or share the names of individuals who test positive for COVID-19 according to privacy laws governing the use of health information. Also, please understand that a student or colleague unable to participate in-person does not signal a positive case and should not be assumed as such. There are many reasons our community members need to temporarily learn or work from a distance.

The Kane County Health Department requires us to test twice a week through September 23. After that point, unless our health department advises otherwise, we will pivot to a once per week surveillance testing schedule.

While we are pleased to report weekly positivity rates below 1%, the Monitoring Committee is keeping a sharp eye on shifts to the RLWP necessary to maintain our in-person learning and working environment. We thought it would be helpful to list a few reminders:

  • Please enter and exit only through the Main entrance door and use your key fob. The purpose of entering in one location is to ensure each member of the community is temperature checked.  The purpose of one exit is to ensure we are aware of how many community members are in the building at one given time which is a state of Illinois reporting requirement we must comply with when there are COVID cases.

  • Please be reminded that colleagues and/or students who receive a positive test will be put in touch with a member of the Contact Tracing Team who will work with the individual and the Kane County Health Department to monitor their health status.  The health department determines the date of return based on the presence of symptoms and other factors.

  • Please be reminded that beginning this weekend a few more precautions are in place, likely through October 1, based on COVID-19 projections.  We will make adjustments based on community health and prioritize approaches that reduce health risk. Given the rising concerns about the Delta variant, outside visitors will be restricted with most events, including a large admissions event, being virtual.  Also, trips home for students will be limited where exceptional circumstances are reviewed by the president. We have noticed a majority of our COVID cases are a result of being in direct contact with family members or friends outside the IMSA community.  This is a temporary extra layer of proactive mitigation in order to ensure our community is healthy and IMSA can continue an in-person environment. Please submit any exemption requests to Dr. Glazer for review on this form no later than September 9. Students who leave campus without prior permission will not be allowed to return to campus until permission is granted by the president or his designee.

  • Please be reminded that the student sign out/sign in process has been amended. Parents/guardians are asked to enter the residence hall only for the purpose of signing students out to depart campus. Upon return, parents/guardians should refrain from entering the residence halls and drop students off curbside. Students should report directly to the RC office to sign in. If parents need to use the restroom, they may do so in the main building.

In addition, a list of refinements recommended by the Monitoring Committee and approved by Cabinet include the following:

  • Allowing students to visit other hall common spaces with permission from their RC and after the RC calls the other hall to confirm there is appropriate capacity available.  Students are still not permitted in wings other than their own.

  • With the COVID pandemic potentially taking a turn for the worse, it is critical that our mitigation protocols are strictly followed, so we can prevent the spread as well as closure of campus.  The following items have been put into place:

    • Only IMSA students and colleagues are permitted at indoor athletic competitions at IMSA.  External spectators for indoor athletic competitions are encouraged to watch via livestream. All spectators are permitted with masks and physical distancing for outdoor athletic competitions.

    • Infringements upon the mitigation and safety protocols in place as outlined in the Return to Learn and Work Plan will result in the following:

      • Students

        • First offense: Students are notified of the violation and redirected to the correct behavior. Parents/guardians are notified via phone or email. A letter is emailed to the student and the parent to acknowledge the violation.

        • Second offense:  A letter is emailed to the student and the parent with a scheduled disciplinary hearing date and time. If found responsible, a Tier II-A violation will be on the student’s disciplinary record and appropriate sanctions will be imposed, up to and including a warning, social probation, reflections and/or apology letter.

        • Third offense: If found responsible, a Tier II-B violation will be on the student’s disciplinary record and appropriate sanctions will be imposed, up to and including up to a 3-day out-of-school suspension and other sanctions, as outlined above.

I would like to recognize members of the Return to Learn and Work Committee and publicly acknowledge them by thanking them for their time and dedication to our health and safety monitoring work:

  • Angela Rowley, Center for Teaching and Learning
  • Angie Shoener, Health Office
  • Chris Kornsey, Facilities
  • Connie Villa, Security
  • Dana Ginnett, Student Affairs
  • Evan Glazer, President
  • Joe Mastrocola, Human Resources
  • Sandy Shackelford, PAC
  • Michael Hancock, IMSA Council/Faculty
  • Michelle Bemis, Strategy Office
  • Rich Busby, Project Management Office
  • Robyn Norton, IMSA Council/RCs
  • Connie James-Jenkin, Principal’s Office

Thanks also to you, our families, for your support of our health and safety mitigation efforts intended to keep the IMSA Community well.

Be well,

Tami J. Armstrong, M.A.
Interim Chief Strategy Officer

September 1, 2021

Dear IMSA Students and Families,

I hope you have enjoyed the start to the school year. It has been delightful to see students and colleagues in person with our wide variety of health and safety mitigation measures. I hope you watched this welcome video, which has a fun math rap, and so far I’ve personally enjoyed helping students with math questions throughout the campus. On August 23, we launched the year with Convocation, featuring school-spirited remarks from our Student Council President, Jakob Bachhausen ‘22, personal reflections from alumnae Lacey Thomas ‘08 (keynote speaker) and a performance from Neil Wary ‘18. This past weekend, I hope you had a chance to participate in our annual Carnival, with fun-filled games and rides, and if you’re like my children, you also had your face painted.

I imagine most of you are keeping an eye on tighter COVID regulations across the state, first with mask wearing in schools and now mask wearing in indoor settings. Professionals in schools are now required to get the vaccine. This is in response to the growth in the Delta variant of COVID-19 cases.

The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation offers helpful data that illustrate trends and projections. You can see from this graphic we are at a pivotal point where conditions can become much worse if additional proactive measures are not put in place.

Therefore, IMSA will also now alter its approach in an effort to maintain a healthy community and in-person learning. First, under the guidance of the Kane County Department of Health, during the month of September, we will conduct a COVID test for all community members on campus twice a week, regardless of vaccination status. While unvaccinated community members have been testing positive more frequently, we have also seen vaccinated community members also test positive. Since we have been undergoing surveillance screening, we have been detecting COVID with little to no symptoms; simply put, it’s not obvious when someone is a carrier. Right now, this is manageable with a positive rate below 1%, however it can get worse without proper intervention. It is imperative you share with us when a family member tests positive, particularly if that should occur during Labor Day and your student is at home. For those students identified as close contacts, those students should remain at home and will be given access to classrooms remotely.

We have noticed a majority of COVID cases are a result of being in direct contact with family members or friends outside the IMSA community. Therefore, we will institute a few more precautions in the coming month. First, as you return from the Labor Day extended weekend, we are asking all students to remain within their hall upon their return and not visit other halls. On Monday, access to the main building will be limited to ensure students are within their own residence hall groups while studying and dining. We will conduct COVID testing the next day to verify health status. Second, we will begin restricting trips home after Labor Day. The worst case trend right now shows a national COVID case peak at the end of September with conditions improving in October, however we will evaluate week to week and adjust our protocols based on improvements in community health. I recognize this is not a desirable situation for students and families as they wish to have access to family time and home cooking. And, at the same time, I hope you recognize we must put some controls in place to limit potential spread and maintain learning in person. Recognizing the impact on potential personal needs, we will offer some accommodations. Families can arrange to see their children on campus if they first check-in with security, meet with their child outside, stay on campus, wear masks and are not in range of other students. In addition, families can request an exemption to check out their student if they have previously arranged a medical appointment or another significant need that is non-social in nature. Please submit any exemption requests to me for review on this form no later than September 9, and note our preference is the off-campus appointment is short term. While we are on campus, our Residential Life and School Leadership teams will work closely with students to keep them engaged in a safe manner.

I appreciate your cooperation and understanding during this pivotal time during the pandemic, a time when we can find the light at the end of the tunnel if we put all mitigation measures in place. Please don’t hesitate to reach out if you have questions or ideas to support our efforts.

Titans Together,

Dr. Evan M. Glazer
President

August 30, 2021

Dear Families,

Last Friday, I sent a note about sending you weekly community transmission updates and refinements to the Return to Learn and Work Plan (RLWP) based on community health and feedback from the Monitoring Committee.

At this time, we do not have RLWP refinements to report because the Monitoring Committee will meet for the first time this week.

However, we have a COVID transmission report. For the week ending August 27, 937 COVID tests were performed. 933 tests were negative and four were positive. The positivity rate was 0.4%. As a reminder, we will not distinguish faculty, staff and students in our reporting, or share the names of individuals who test positive for COVID-19 according to privacy laws governing the use of health information. No close contacts of the positive cases were excluded from learning and working. Visit the Community Transmission Dashboard for weekly test data.

With regard to testing, we encountered a system error last week with the SHIELD test administered by the University of Illinois and are pleased to share that our BinX Now Antigen test method served successfully as our backup. The system error has been corrected and SHIELD testing will resume today. Also beginning today, as an added layer of precaution against the Delta variant, we will test all colleagues and students, regardless of vaccination status, twice a week for the next 28 days. 

In our positive COVID cases thus far, we are noticing most are from unvaccinated individuals who have been a direct contact from someone who tested positive in their home or a personal friend outside of IMSA. We are fortunate that our COVID screening identifies individuals rather quickly to prevent further spread.  However, we must insist that everyone report illness among family members and friends that you have seen recently, so we can take additional precautions before returning to campus. Please contact the Health Office at nurse@imsa.edu in those situations.

We also want to share with you that our health partner, Kane County Health Department, has directed us that unvaccinated students who have been identified as a close contact will be subject to additional testing and will be unable to participate from extra-curricular activities, including athletics, for 14 days regardless of a negative test.

As a reminder, getting the COVID-19 vaccine is the best mitigation approach to community health, and vaccinated students without symptoms will not need to quarantine when they are in close contact with a person who tests positive. On that note, we want to share how proud we are of the IMSA Community and the high vaccination rates of 85% for students and 80% for colleagues as reported the first week of school. We are preparing to distribute “Vax Up Titans” t-shirts to those students and colleagues who have been vaccinated.

Thank you for your support of our health and safety mitigation efforts intended to keep the IMSA Community well.

Titans Together,

Tami J. Armstrong, M.A.
Interim Chief Strategy Officer

August 25, 2021

Dear Families,

I wanted to share with you a communication cadence you can expect around COVID-19 mitigation and safety measures, community transmission and refinements to the Return to Learn and Work Plan based on feedback and community health conditions.

Each Monday, I will send an email to families with two updates:  A COVID-19 summary from the prior week; and adjustments to the initial Return to Learn and Work Plan based on changes to community health, CDC guidelines and input from the Monitoring Committee which will have representation from faculty, resident counselors, parents and staff.  We will not distinguish faculty, staff and students in our reporting, or share the names of individuals who test positive for COVID-19 according to privacy laws governing the use of health information. Additionally, we will provide a link to the public facing web page that shares weekly transmission rates.

Students will be notified directly if they have been identified as a close contact to someone who tested positive, and the corresponding course of action. Certainly, any student who needs to have a parent pick them up to quarantine at home will be notified as soon as possible. As a reminder, getting the COVID-19 vaccine is the best mitigation approach to community health, and vaccinated students without symptoms will not need to quarantine when they are in close contact with a person who tests positive.  In addition, we will notify faculty directly whenever there are students in a class who need remote learning accommodations whenever they are not permitted to be on school grounds as a result of health reasons.

My hope is that clear, frequent communication regarding adaptations to the Return to Learn and Work Plan and community transmission of COVID-19 will serve to keep our community safe and healthy.

Titans Together,

Tami J. Armstrong, M.A.
Interim Chief Strategy Officer

July 30, 2021

Dear IMSA Families,

It gives me great pleasure to share the IMSA United Return to Learn and Work Plan with the IMSA community. This valuable guidance is intended to provide students, families and colleagues with clear and consistent expectations as IMSA looks toward welcoming everyone back to campus in the coming weeks. I would like to thank our Return to Learning and Working Committee which included diverse voices from the community. They have been working actively through the spring to build upon our previous re-opening efforts to account for updated health policies from the CDC and IDPH.

Our plan outlines extensive mitigation measures we are taking to protect the health and safety of our students. We’ve been fortunate to run some of our summer programs on campus to test out many of our mitigation efforts, and it feels great to reconnect with students and teachers in person. You can help us right now by getting vaccinated, as that will support our community health efforts. Since students can travel home on weekends, parents are encouraged to get vaccinated, too.

We recognize there will be questions that aim for more clarity on our health and safety measures and adjustments that will need to take place starting in August. To that end, IMSA will host Return to Learn Q&A Sessions for parents and students on August 5 from 4:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m. and on August 9 from 7:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m. featuring frequently asked questions about our plans and an opportunity to ask live questions.


| |

Call into August 5 Q & A Session: Meeting ID: 993 6415 7526, Call: +13126266799,,99364157526# US

Call into August 9 Q & A Session: Meeting ID: 919 3606 8227, Call: +13126266799,,91936068227# US


The plan goes into effect on Monday, August 2, 2021. Careful attention will be given to realigning guidance continuously based on a safe reopening, the health and well being of the IMSA community and the progress of community health conditions. We will also use your questions as a guide to refine the plan in an effort to make it comprehensive. Announcements and updates related to changes to IMSA’s guidance can be found on the Return to Learn and Work Plan web page.

On a personal note, I want to invite you to visit my webpage where you can learn about me and have access to my communications. I invite you to submit fun questions that can be shared with the community so we can get to know each other better. With our safety measures in place, I look forward to re-igniting that sense of community that makes IMSA feel like home, and look forward to engaging in and supporting one another’s transition back so that a deep sense of belonging can be found on campus again.

Titans Together,

Dr. Evan M. Glazer
President