Our Guiding Principles
Health and Safety
The health and safety of our students, employees and community remain our priority and our plans include measures to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission and keep everyone safe. Our efforts are designed to lessen the probabilities of COVID-19 spread within our community, while at the same time developing comprehensive plans in the likely event that we do experience instances of the virus on our campus during the 2020-21 school year.
We continue to be guided by the vision of Frederick Gunn as we educate students for character and encourage them to become wise, active, engaged citizens in their communities and the world. We are energized by the anticipated return of students in the fall, yet we recognize that some students will not be able to join us on campus due to circumstances beyond their control. We are committed to providing these students with equal access to our curriculum, along with promoting a healthy balance of activity outside of the online learning environment.
A holistic residential learning model
We believe in a holistic learning model that ensures not only the intellectual growth but also the social, emotional, and physical well-being of our students and equips them to understand themselves as integrated humans with the support of caring, attentive, hope-filled faculty so that they can go out into the world and be a force for good. We are committed to delivering on this model for students whether they are on campus or off, as we did in the spring term.
Through the use of technology, we have been able to create a vibrant global community of learners and meet students wherever they are, whether they are participating in person or via distance learning, and offer experiences and opportunities that keep the community at the center of everything we do.
The Planning Process: Our Team Approach
The Frederick Gunn School’s planning process has been informed by three primary inputs: 1) internal leaders largely focused on program considerations; 2) internal and external health care experts connected to health and safety considerations and 3) collaboration with other boarding schools, the Connecticut Association of Independent Schools, and the State of Connecticut on a regular basis.
Peter Becker, Head of School
Seth Low, Associate Head of School
HEALTH AND SAFETY
Kristi Beck, M.D., Medical Director
Mary Ewing, R.N., Director of Nursing
Michel Williams, Director of Safety and Security and COVID-19 Coordinator
CURRICULAR AND CO-CURRICULAR PROGRAMS
Emily Gum, Assistant Head of School for Teaching and Learning
Michael Marich, Director of Athletics
Ron Castonguay, Director of the Arts
Ashley LeBlanc, Dean of Students
Jim Balben, Director of Residential Life
Lauren Lord, Assistant Dean of Students
Amy Paulekas, Director of Studies
Ed Surjan, Educational Technology and Library Director
Mark Showalter, Director of Facilities
FINANCE AND OPERATIONS
Christopher Cowell, Chief Financial Officer & Business Manager
Doug Day, Director of Marketing & Communications
Our planning efforts have been carefully considered, and will continue to be, built around flexibility. We ask in advance that families join us in viewing the next academic year as an opportunity for extraordinary partnership with the school, while simultaneously embracing a flexible mindset. Best practice guidelines and executive orders from government leaders are changing on a constant basis, and while our planning has made its best efforts to account for this, the one certainty is that our best presented plans will require adjustments along the way. As a school, we have increasingly been energized by embracing flexible planning models and hope that our broad community can embrace this mindset as we all join together to forge ahead into the coming school year. We are excited about what will undoubtedly be a memorable year ahead.
Boarding students within driving distance of campus will be asked to do a “drop-off” of their belongings between August 24 and September 4 on a pre-scheduled basis. This will allow for a more streamlined start to school and a less crowded campus on move-in days. Students will begin the process of returning to campus on September 8. Each student will be assigned a return date and will be notified of this later in the summer. All boarding students returning to campus for the start of school will be expected to have arrived no later than September 13. The first day of classes will be on September 14, with students departing campus on November 20. Students will not return to campus, other than international students and varsity athletes if necessary, following the Thanksgiving break. Instead, students will join our three week online Winterim curriculum, which is discussed in greater detail below.
Our school year will be segmented into six modules, each covering approximately five weeks. This provides maximum flexibility in the event that the school or individuals are required to fully transition to our distance learning program at any point during the school year. Equally important, our annual schedule design has allowed us to maximize the number of days on campus and in the classroom.
August 24 - September 4: Drop-off of belongings
September 8-13: Students arrive in phases
September 12: Day student registration
September 14: Classes begin
September 14 - November 20 On-campus classes and activities
November 30 - December 18 New Winterim Program, remote in 2020/21
January 4-5: Students arrive in phases
January 6: Classes begin
March 5: Classes end
March 8 - 28: Spring Break
March 29-30: Students arrive in phases
March 31: Classes begin
May 28: Last day of classes
May 30: Commencement
June 4: Academic year ends
(Dates Subject To Change Based On State Regulations)
Our daily academic schedule model continues to be refined and will be available to our community later this summer. The daily schedule will be designed to have more teaching blocks than our typical academic schedule provides. This adjustment allows us to decrease the density of students and faculty in any given building at any given time and is helpful in accommodating students across multiple time zones. This model will enable our academic day to be longer than it was during the spring term. We anticipate three class meetings per week for a total of 180 minutes per week in the classroom for the typical academic schedule, compared to 120 minutes during the spring term. All courses will embrace a truly “hybrid” model, where alongside this in-person class time, students and teachers will engage in meaningful learning opportunities outside of the classroom, facilitated by our core technologies: Highlander Nation, Google Suite, and Zoom. All classes, including Advanced Placement, will meet their learning outcomes through this approach, and students will be supported by teachers, advisors, and our Center for Academic Excellence to fully utilize the hybrid model.
We do not expect to have Saturday classes for the 2020-21 school year. We believe that Saturdays can offer important moments of extended rest for our students, all the more important as we prioritize health and well-being amid the pandemic. While extended rest will be a feature of Saturdays on our campus, we will continue to develop programming initiatives and co-curricular activities on Saturdays in order to keep our community intellectually engaged and physically active. Though countercultural, we believe that Saturdays are a great day for students to learn, create, and play.
Weekend Travel and Visits
Students are generally accustomed to traveling on “open” weekends as needed to return home, have meals with family, and attend off-campus commitments. We understand the importance of this travel, and while we do not envision closing our campus entirely to weekend visits and travel, we will ask families to limit these requests at least for the beginning stages of the academic year. We will provide additional details on weekend travel and visits in our August 5 update.
Day students will join the rest of the community to take in-person classes and to participate in our co-curricular offerings. We may require more frequent COVID-19 PCR testing of day students (and any boarding student approved to leave campus – see below) and anticipate that day students, though they will be given a dorm affiliation as usual, will have limited access to dorm buildings, at least for the start of the school year. This is an unfortunate departure from our normal day student protocols, yet adjustments are required this year as we work to mitigate campus health risks associated with COVID-19 for all members of our community. We are working to ensure that day students feel as integrated to our community as ever through dorm-organized residential life programs, advisor groups, co-curriculars, and School Meeting. This has long been a hallmark of our school and we remain committed to it in an ongoing manner.
Survey feedback from parents, students and teachers collectively reported a strong online learning experience in the spring term. As we approach the 2020-21 school year, we anticipate a hybrid learning environment where as many students as possible will be in a classroom and others will join via our online platform. This presents new challenges for our community and to this end we are investing resources into the professional development of our faculty with One Schoolhouse and Global Online Academy. Each of these partners are category leaders in the realm of online learning and will importantly help support our faculty as they prepare to transition to our hybrid model. We are also making good use of the free and open resources being provided by industry leaders NAIS (National Association of Independent Schools) and TABS (The Association of Boarding Schools). Our faculty have also shared a variety of areas where they would like to individually enhance their online teaching skill sets, and to this end we have both provided every faculty member with financial support to pursue professional development that meets their own teaching and learning goals for the upcoming school year and also will be leading an intensive two-week retreat at the end of the summer to ensure standards across courses.
FGS Global Online
For students who are not able to join us on our campus, we are working diligently to build on the success of the distance learning platform used during the spring term. Our guiding principle from day one of FGS GO has been to maintain connectivity between students, teachers, and classmates. We asked in the spring that this connectivity be met by increased learner agency, and we continue to refine the ways that we scaffold students in their own growth as learners. What these two commitments together will yield is a continued distance learning model that will match the in-person learning experience. We learned a tremendous amount through the spring, and based on survey inputs from students, faculty, and parents, we will be offering longer class days via our distance learning platform, along with expanding the number of class blocks in order to offer more real-time classroom sessions.
We are excited to announce a three week, mission-driven, online learning program following the Thanksgiving holiday. Students will not return to campus following the Thanksgiving break until January 3, allowing us to think creatively about our curriculum during this window of time. While final details of this program are still being reviewed, the concept of this three-week program is that students will be able to select from a variety of classes and learning approaches not offered in our normal curriculum, allowing them to explore areas of interest beyond our standard offerings.
Building on the decision to maintain the core features of our grading system in the spring term, we will continue to adhere to the guiding principles of our grading philosophy in the 2020-21 academic year. Grades are a means of communication between teachers, students, and other educational institutions, the purpose of which is to increase the learning experience of students themselves, their growth, and their achievement. Although we will divide our annual academic schedule into six modules in order to preserve planning flexibility, grades will be converted into our normal trimester transcript presentation. This will provide flexibility of interpretation by families and will importantly provide seamless information to colleges considering our students at all points in the future.
Students will formally meet with advisors twice per week, providing regular adult mentoring designed to help students navigate the vicissitudes of the upcoming year, set and track holistic goals, mature as self-directed learners in our hybrid learning environment and to promote regular physical activity. The Frederick Gunn Toolkit serves as an example of the types of conversations advisors are engaging in with their advisees. While the academic progress of students is paramount, we know that a life well-lived is more complicated than just that. As always, advisors will work with students to search for a broad definition of success and equip them with the skills and mindsets to thrive at and after The Frederick Gunn School. In many ways, our advisory program will be as it always is, yet in other ways it will be adjusted to meet the current moment – notably working with students to develop strong time management skills as they navigate a new academic schedule model that requires more work outside of the traditional classroom.
In anticipation of bandwidth needs associated with our hybrid learning model, we are in the process of doubling our network capacity on campus, which will ensure the bandwidth capabilities required for our hybrid learning model by the beginning of the school year.
Co-Curriculars (Athletics, The Arts, and Outdoor Program)
Beyond our commitments to varsity athletes, our co-curricular program will focus on the following attributes: 1) fitness training; 2) health and wellness offerings; 3) outdoor programs; and 4) arts programming. We will provide additional details in our August communication as guidance from the state, NEPSAC and decisions by peer schools clarify our options. We are committed to offering a robust co-curricular program that includes many opportunities to take advantage of the incredible beauty of our area in ways that we have practiced since Frederick Gunn first led students along paths adjacent to campus. Student-athletes focused on particular sports will have the opportunity to develop skills and experience in those sports. We remain hopeful that at least varsity-level sports will resume in the fall. Given that we do not entirely control this outcome, we are committed to providing student-athletes with the following: 1) continuous work with varsity coaches to develop skills; 2) exposure to our Strength and Conditioning staff in our newly introduced Emerson Fitness Center; and 3) guidance navigating the recruiting process for student-athletes with aspirations to compete at the collegiate level.
Community members will eat in assigned dining periods for all meals, utilizing our traditional dining hall along with other areas of campus. There will also be grab-and-go meal options throughout the day in order to accommodate reduced seating capacity in the dining hall. The daily schedule has been adjusted to allow for these changes.
Health and Safety
The State of Connecticut has developed guidelines to reopen businesses and schools in the safest way possible. We are already adhering to the state’s guidelines and general safety rules as well as the following requirements to keep everyone safe and healthy throughout the school year.
Pillars of Health and Safety
Informed by CDC guidelines, we will embrace the following pillars of health and safety:
- wear masks
- wash hands frequently and thoroughly
- maintain at least six feet of separation between yourself and others
- add additional spaces for classes and dining
- enhance building ventilation
- practice enhanced cleaning protocols of all common and personal spaces
- expand daily schedule to a model that promotes smaller class sizes and stronger social distancing
- monitor daily symptoms of all community members
The school is committed to minimizing the risk of COVID-19 returning to campus in September. As such, students and faculty will be required to have a negative COVID-19 PCR test four days before returning to campus. Test results must be emailed to our Health and Wellness team at firstname.lastname@example.org prior to arrival. Students traveling from outside the United States will be subject to the same requirements. Assistance can be provided by contacting email@example.com. In consideration of the safety of our community, we will not allow students on campus without proof of this test performed four days before returning to campus. We will not be able to make exceptions to this policy under any circumstance and appreciate your cooperation and understanding.
We will follow the guidelines set forth by federal, state and local authorities. State of Connecticut quarantine guidelines are changing daily for domestic families residing outside of the state. Federal guidelines continue to evolve for international families as well. Students required by federal or state law to quarantine prior to returning to campus will need to make arrangements to do so. As noted below for international students, the school can provide guidance to families as needed. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org with questions.
Pre-arrival Quiet Period
We ask that all families and all school employees develop a 14-day quiet period prior to returning to campus. Specifically, we ask that all individuals planning to join our campus in the fall be prudent and discerning in their travel and social interactions in the 14 days prior to returning to campus in an effort to minimize potential exposure to symptomatic and asymptomatic COVID-19 individuals.
Continuous Testing Program
Based on state mandates and following the return of students and faculty to our community, we will randomly require COVID-19 PCR testing of approximately 5-10% of community members every week. We expect this testing to be performed on campus and will provide additional details in our August 5 communication.
Students and faculty reporting COVID-19 symptoms will be immediately tested on-campus via our recently purchased Sofia 2 diagnostic testing machine. Testing results will be available within 15 minutes.
Daily symptom checks
All students, faculty, and staff will be asked to self-check for symptoms daily and seek medical attention if experiencing symptoms. Details regarding these protocols will be included in our August 5 communication, including the likely implementation of a phone app that can be used to record daily symptoms confidentially.
We have identified multiple dedicated areas on campus – all within close proximity to our Health Center – that will be available to immediately isolate any member of our community that tests positive for COVID-19 until they can be picked up by a parent or guardian.
We will require that all students identify a guardian available to pick them up within 12 hours of testing positive for COVID-19. We recognize that this will be difficult for some families, particularly our international students, and have been actively evaluating local companies equipped to provide guardian services at a fee. Our preferred provider for such services is Student Health Advocates. Additional information about these services can be found at this link.
We are also working with Gunnery families who are willing to host a student who tests positive for COVID-19 who cannot get home easily. Please contact email@example.com if you are interested in being a host and thank you for your willingness to care for another family’s child in this unusual time.
Students or faculty testing positive for COVID-19 will be required to isolate until they are cleared for return by a physician and in accordance with applicable local, state, and federal guidelines. . We will not be able to isolate students on campus beyond the period of time it takes to have them picked up by a parent or guardian. We recognize that this will be difficult for some families, particularly our international students, and have been actively evaluating local companies equipped to provide isolation/quarantine services at a fee. Our preferred provider for such services is Student Health Advocates. Additional information about these services can be found at this link. Student Health Advocates also provides quarantine services. If families have questions about these services, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Based on CDC guidelines and State of Connecticut recommendations, contract tracing of those in close contact with a person testing positive for COVID-19 is essential in helping to reduce further transmission of the virus. As a result, we will have a contact tracing team in place by the start of the school year. All members of this team will have completed the contact tracing program offered by Johns Hopkins University.
Masks and Thermometers
All members of our community will be required to follow school and state mask guidelines at all times on campus. Community members will be required to wear masks inside buildings, and outside whenever physical distancing of six feet is not possible. Detailed guidelines and mask cleaning protocols will be provided in our August communication. Each student will be required to bring at least 10 masks to campus that comply with CDC guidelines. Masks will be available for purchase at the School Store. We also expect that all students will be required to bring a digital thermometer to campus in order to monitor daily symptoms.
Beginning in April, our cleaning teams initiated enhanced cleaning protocols such as more frequent cleaning of high touch surfaces, expanded availability of hand sanitizer stations at building entrances and in high traffic areas and usage of best-in-class cleaning and disinfecting cleaning supplies. The school has made an additional investment in Viking Pure equipment in order to provide the ability to clean with electrostatic sprayers, which is particularly helpful in our daily regime to clean important inside spaces around campus. Plans are in place to add cleaning staff as needed in the fall.
International Student Considerations
How can international families get questions answered?
Peter Becker will host a Town Hall Q&A session for international families on July 10 at 8:00 a.m. EDT. The Town Hall Meeting can be accessed via this link and questions can be submitted before the meeting via this form. For families unable to attend the Town Hall Meeting, a recording will be emailed to families following the Town Hall and will also be available on our website on the Back-to-School page beginning July 13.
Supporting Online Learning Students
We understand that some international students will face unique challenges traveling to the U.S. It is with this in mind that we are expanding our daily academic schedule to better support students in distant time zones.
Recognizing the unique travel challenges of our international students, we will offer on-campus room and board during extended breaks during the 2020-21 academic year. This service will be offered for a modest fee that simply allows the school to cover its expenses for this service. Families anticipating an interest in this offering should contact email@example.com.
Recent survey results from international families have reflected a strong interest in the school helping to find local solutions that can offer guardian services in the event that a student contracts COVID-19 while living on campus. Our preferred provider for such services is Student Health Advocates. Additional information about these services through this link.
International Student Fees
In the event that your student is unable to arrive on campus as a result of a campus closure, travel, or visa restrictions, or if your student is immunocompromised, The Frederick Gunn School will discount the international fee on a pro-rata basis up to 30%.
Current Safety in the United States
Understandably, some international students are asking about the safety profile of the United States in light of recent news reports. It is undeniable that our country is confronting many challenges, such as ebbs and flows related to the COVID-19 outbreak, race relations and presidential politics. We understand the images seen on media outlets may be unsettling, yet in our beautiful corner of Connecticut, things are peaceful and mostly normal. Further to the point, should an international student arrive at an airport in New York City, Boston or any other port of entry, the experience will be just as it always has been, other than many people wearing masks in the interest of public health. If families have specific safety concerns, please share them with firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP)
We are aware of adjustments for SEVP stakeholders that were announced on July 6 about the program’s guidance for F and M students and SEVP-certified students for the fall 2020 semester. As stated in the SEVP announcement, the situation related to COVID-19 continues to evolve and SEVP will continuously update its procedures.
The school is taking three immediate action steps to address this development: 1) all international students will be issued new I-20s; 2) Alex Ince, Director of Enrollment, will be meeting with our SEVP representative on July 9; and 3) we are actively engaged with NAIS and TABS contemplating solutions for international families including advocating on their behalf with federal authorities. This is a rapidly-developing issue--for example, Harvard University and MIT have sued the federal government over this new policy. We expect to have more information at our July 10 Town Hall Meeting with international families.
International Family Survey
We will send out a survey to international families following the Town Hall Meeting on July 10. Your participation and feedback will be extremely helpful to our planning process and allow us to better understand specific concerns that your family may have.