State of the School 10/23/20: COVID Update

October 23, 2020 | Thomas Postema

Head of School Tom Postema updates the community about the school’s response to its first COVID case.


Good afternoon Mustard Seed School Community,

We have come to the day that we have expected: we have our first positive COVID test at school. This is the day that we have prepared for. I want to thank you, your children, and the faculty and staff for everything that you’re doing to help keep everyone in our community safe. The fact that we have a positive test does not indicate a failure on anyone’s part–the student, the family, the teachers, the school. I want to say it again: this day was expected. We were able to execute our plan and communicate clearly the steps we have taken. And it’s a reminder that we must continue to be vigilant and rigorous in our safety procedures. 

Along those lines, I want to take this opportunity to give you more information about how the school is responding.

First, I want to say that we will always protect your privacy and medical information, just as we are now protecting the privacy and medical information of the individual and family who have had a positive test. As soon as we had confirmation of the positive test, we moved quickly with our action plan, which included multiple calls and emails to the Hoboken Health Department. All necessary quarantining was put in place for the affected people. Families of students in the affected cohorts were notified right away and the cohorts were moved to distance learning for two days so the rooms could be thoroughly cleaned. Then we notified the wider school community. We will always give you the information that you need to make decisions for your family. But I ask you to respect the privacy of the children and families in our community. 

Second, we have said that we will follow CDC, state and local guidelines, and we have. Now that we are navigating our first case, we are learning that we need to further clarify what “close contact” means in our school community.  Today we received new guidelines from the New Jersey Department of Health that we are examining carefully. We believe that it is prudent to exceed the definition of “close contact” that has been set out by officials so far.  We’re being thoughtful and careful as we do this work. In the meantime, all students and teachers in the 4th grade Adventurous cohort have been moved to distance learning and quarantine for a period of two weeks, ending Wednesday, November 4. I communicated this yesterday.

I realize that this is not easy news. I know that you might be feeling anxious and I want you to know that we are prioritizing safety. At the same time, I know that the switch to distance learning for those in the Adventurous cohort is a burden. But a burden we seek to ease with thoughtful design that works for both on- and off-campus learning. We do not make these decisions lightly. Staying home is not what anyone wants. We hope that by doing this, we will avoid further spread and minimize the impact on the entire community.

As I record this address, you can see that I’m at home. Last weekend, I traveled to Michigan for my son’s wedding. It was a small, beautiful event, outdoors in frosty Michigan weather. As I departed, Michigan was added to the State of NJ travel advisory list and so I will be working at home for another week. I hope to see you when my quarantine ends on Election Day.

In the meantime, if you have any questions or concerns, please reach out to me or your child’s program director. We are here for you. Thank you for your care, consideration, and prompt communication as we all work together to teach, learn, and care for each other in the safest ways possible.

Have a fine weekend.

Thomas Postema

Head of School

Mr. Postema was the Head of School from Fall 2011 to Spring 2021, when he retired.

An educator for over 35 years, Mr. Postema taught math and was a school administrator at international schools in Japan and South Korea, as well as schools in the USA (New Jersey and Alaska). He taught at Mustard Seed from 1989-1991 when Mr. Cuervo and Mr. Johnson were MSS students!

As Head of School, Mr. Postema successfully led the school through the NJAIS accreditation process and the Together for Tomorrow endowment campaign, which raised over $3M to benefit MSS students. Mr. Postema loves to tell the Mustard Seed story and continues to be passionate about the mission even in his retirement.

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